Everyone NEEDS to Feel Worthwhile

Authentically leading can be very challenging. That’s because leadership is about people. People will frequently surprise you. If you asked 10 people what they liked best about working for a particular company you could well receive 10 different answers. At least a few of those answers would be surprising. 

It’s hard to find a room full of people who will agree on anything, especially these days. But one thing that we do know about people, ALL people, is that the have a basic human need to feel worthwhile. They need to know that they matter. 

Authentic Leaders show the people they lead that they matter. They show them how they matter, they show them how what they do impacts the organization and the lives of the other people who work there. Authentic Leaders make showing people they matter a priority. They make a big deal out of it. 

And it is indeed a big deal. 

It’s a big deal first because people really do matter. Authentic Leaders know that they don’t really run a business, they lead the people who run the business. They know that their most “expensive” employee is not the person who is paid the most. They understand their most expensive employee is the least engaged employee. 

When people know they matter they get engaged with their job and they stay engaged with the job and organization. They know their efforts are appreciated and they know exactly how their efforts contribute to the organization and the other people who work there. 

When people know that they matter and that what they do makes a difference, they do it better. They are more committed. They care more about the “outcomes” they produce. 

So let me ask you this…and your answer is more for you than for me. Actually, your answer is for the people you lead. What, SPECIFICALLY, have you done in the last 7 days to SHOW one of the people you lead that they matter? How have you shown one (or more) of your people where and how their efforts impact the organization? What actions have you taken to make sure your people know they matter. 

Authentic Leaders don’t assume their people know any of that. They intentionally and consistently make the effort to show them. It is one of their top leadership priorities. 

Think about that. Put reminders in your calendar to remind yourself that showing your people that they matter is a big deal. It will pay substantial dividends for your organization and it will be huge for your people. 

Some of you know that I’ve been trying out something relatively new over on Twitter. It’s called SuperFollow. That means I post some tweets that are for subscribers only. The tweets I post for subscribers are video only. I post two each weekday, mostly on leadership but also sales and living a better life in general. I’m also way more available for questions from SuperFollowers than I can be for the million plus regular Twitter followers. The investment to see these “SuperTweets” is $4.99 a month, that’s about 17 cents a day. The videos continue to grow in popularity so clearly a lot of people think they are worthwhile. 

Not only can you invest in yourself with solid video coaching, you can also make a difference in the world too. All the income from my subscribers on Twitter go to help kids with Down Syndrome. 

Just click the purple “subscribe” button next to the regular follow button  on my Twitter profile page IN THE TWITTER APP or on a web browser. http://twitter.com/leadtoday Give it a try if you’re so inclined, and if you are, be sure to let me know how I’m doing and what topics you’d like to see me address.

Where Authentic Leaders Invest Their Time

Authentic Leaders know that one of their primary responsibilities is developing future leaders. Leaving behind leaders who can step into their shoes is vital to the long term success of an organization. When you consider any of the “levels of leadership” models all of them require that a leader develop their successor, or a series of successors to achieve the level 5 status. 

Yet many leaders, even some very good leaders, miss that key responsibility. There are many reasons for that. One of the big ones is that they get caught up in the day to day managing of the organization and let their leadership responsibilities fall to the bottom on their priorities. Sometimes they can’t see the leadership candidates in their organizations. That is also a result of being too “busy” to actually lead. 

I remember a conversation several years ago with a Director of Sales for a division of a company. He was leaving his role as Director and moving into a new role within his company. Just before he left his current role he asked me to critique his performance. 

He was a good leader. His people liked him, and more importantly, respected him. He was results driven and he helped his people get better. You’re probably thinking that all sounds good, and it was. But there was one big gap in his leadership. 

So I shared much of the good things about his leadership. Then I shared the gap. As he left his current role there was not one person on his team of a dozen or so people prepared to step into his role. That was a huge failure of his leadership. I knew that most people who asked to be “critiqued” really want to hear that they are doing great. Most aren’t actually looking for constructive criticism, they are looking to hear they have no need for improvement. So he wasn’t exactly happy with my input. But it was 100% accurate. 

I finished up with the rest of what he was doing well as a leader and offered to help him develop leaders in his next role. As disappointed as he may have been with my feedback I’m happy to say he took me up on my offer. 

So where exactly does a leader find future leaders in their organization? In a word, everywhere. 

Many organizations have some sort of talent pool. This is a select group of employees targeted for development. I don’t know much about how that works because I’ve never been in a pool like that. But I do know this…once somebody is in that pool it seems nearly impossible to get them out. Conversely, it appears that once you’re passed over for the opportunity to swim in that pool you’re never getting in. 

And that’s where leaders, sometimes even very good leaders, make their biggest mistake. They assume that the people they need have a certain “look.” They are of a certain demographic. They talk a certain way and dress “the way” a leader dresses. 

Leaders who fall short in developing future leaders don’t realize their entire organization is a talent pool just waiting, hoping, and needing to be developed. When only a small group of “select” people are allowed into that developmental pool many potential leaders are overlooked. 

If the organization is lucky those potential leaders will leave the organization and go on to greatness somewhere else. If the organization is unlucky those potential leaders will allow their potential to be wasted by staying with the organization that doesn’t see their value. They become the disenchanted and disengaged employees who cost organizations limitless amounts of money. 

If you’re a leader and you’re wondering where to invest your time my answer is everywhere. At some point your future leaders will show themselves and you can invest extra time with them. But never stop working to grow ALL your people. Not everyone rises to the top with the same speed. Some people develop faster than others. 

People will surprise you. I’ve seen over and over some of the best swimmers left out of the talent pool because they didn’t “fit” someone’s preconceived notion of what a “winner” or a “leader” looks like. 

As a leader it is your responsibility to make sure that doesn’t happen in your organization. You can delegate the task of developing future leaders to your HR and Training Departments but you can’t delegate the responsibility. 

Remember that and your pool of potential future leaders will get a whole lot bigger. 

Are You a Leadership Fool?

Some people like being fooled so much that when they can’t find somebody to fool them they will fool themselves. One group that fits into that category is people who somehow find themselves in leadership positions but are most definitely NOT leaders. 

They have no aptitude for leading. They have no leadership training. They have no interest in helping the people they are supposed to be leading. Their only interest is in claiming whatever title and perks come with the leadership position. 

They fool themselves into thinking they are actually leading when in fact they don’t even know what Authentic Leadership is. The worst part of fooling themselves is that it prevents them from growing into an actual leader.

If they were interested in actually leading they would learn the difference between managing and leading. They would learn that “things” can be managed but people cannot. They would discover that people need leadership. 

That would hopefully cause them to learn the characteristics of Authentic Leadership. They may even attempt to internalize those characteristics. Those characteristics include, in no particular order…

Self-awareness. Authentic Leaders reflect on their decisions and corresponding actions. They consider their own strengths and weaknesses with the goal of continuously improving their leadership skills. They accept responsibility for their decisions. While they frequently pass on compliments to their team you will never see them pass the buck.

Empathy. Authentic Leaders know that leadership comes from the heart. The relationships they develop with their teams can go very deep. They develop those relationships using empathy, listening skills and courage. 

Integrity. Strength of character is vital for an Authentic Leader. They say what they mean. People trust them because they honor their commitments. They work daily to earn the respect of their people. They understand that if their people can’t trust them then their people can’t follow them. 

Judgment. Authentic Leaders have great judgment. That doesn’t mean they are correct 100% of the time but they get the big decisions right. While making judgments about people they refrain from being judgmental. Authentic Leaders know the difference between the two. 

Listening Skills. Authentic Leaders know that can’t learn anything when they are talking. So they frequently listen more than they talk. They listen not only with open ears but with an open mind and an open heart. They are willing to consider ideas different from their own. They are willing to change their mind and their course when it makes sense. 

Consistency. Authentic Leaders are not fickle. They make principled decisions based on their Core Values. Their people know what to expect. They know that while they may not agree with every decision the decisions are made for the benefit of the team and organization, not only the leader. 

Vision. People want to know where they are being led. Authentic Leaders lead with purpose, vision and passion. They add value to the lives of the people they lead. Not only in their professional lives, but personal lives as well. They set high standards for themselves and the people they lead. They bring their vision to life in such a way that their people can see themselves in it. And they like what they see!

The greatest leadership “myth” of all is that a position or title makes someone a leader. Never never ever fool yourself into believing that myth. Leadership is serious stuff. It takes dedicated effort to develop yourself into an Authentic Leader. 

The rewards for helping people reach their full potential makes that effort very worthwhile. In fact, I’d challenge you to find one Authentic Leader who would say otherwise. And if they do they might just be fooling with ya. 

What Employees Want

I hope, particularly if you’re in a leadership position, that you don’t learn a thing from this post. That’s because you should already know everything in this post. It would be best if you learned it from the people you lead. It would be better than best if you learned it by asking them directly. 

But in case none of that is true, here we go. 

It’s a given that your people want a fair wage and decent benefits. When you determine what you can pay them it’s likely you do so based on what you can afford. They determine what they should be paid based on what they think is fair. You’ll likely have to meet in the middle but know that if you don’t you’ll have motivation and turnover issues galore. 

What you may not realize is that money alone is a pretty poor motivator. Once a person’s basic needs are met money becomes a “nice to have” not a “must have.”

More important than money is a future in the organization. The more defined that future is the better. Many people, especially people in the younger demographic groups, have left their companies during the Great Resignation precisely because they couldn’t see a future with their current companies. If you want engaged and committed employees then work with them to chart out potential opportunities for them within your organization. 

While employees may not go the extra mile for mere money they will give you extraordinary effort in return for earned recognition. The expectation of recognition on the part of employees who have earned it does not make them divas, it makes them human. 

Organizations with enthusiastically committed employees have systems in place to make recognition intentional. Haphazard recognition can be as bad as no recognition, especially for the unlucky individual who earned it and didn’t receive it. Don’t allow recognition to be a matter of luck in your organization. Be consistent in giving recognition and your people will be consistent in responding. 

Everyone needs to matter and everyone needs to know that they matter. The most effective way to show your employees that they matter is to listen to them. They have opinions and ideas about the organization and how it could be better. LISTEN to them. When employees determine that their voices aren’t being heard they disengage. If you want disengaged employees give them a check and ignore them. But don’t blame them, their lack of engagement is on you for failing to show them that they matter. 

They simple act of listening, really listening, to what your employees tell you is also a sign of respect, which is another thing employees crave. 

Finally, the big one. Employees want to know how they are doing. They want to know it more than once a year. They want to be crystal clear on exactly what is expected of them and how those expectations will be measured. Not knowing what is expected of them is the number one reason people give for being frustrated with their organizations. Most say they would rather be told they are performing poorly than being left to wonder what their boss thinks of their performance. 

I hope you knew all that already. But knowing and doing are two different things. It’s good to know what your people want, but you must provide it to them if you hope to have the kind of people who will help your organization grow. 

So they question isn’t did you know this stuff, the question is are you providing this stuff. 

Answer honestly or there’s no need to answer at all! 

On a another subject…I’m trying something new on Twitter. It’s called “Super Followers.” For $5 a month, that’s 17 cents a day, people can follow a part of my Twitter stream that is for subscribers only. It features short videos of me discussing leadership topics, sales tips and ideas for better overall relationships. I’m assuming there will be far fewer Super Followers than the million or so people who regularly follow me on Twitter. That will give me the opportunity to answer questions more throughly than I can on regular Twitter. Most of the answers will come in the evening cause we all have day jobs, right? Think of it as ”mentoring on demand!”

My goal with SuperFollowers is to build a better connection, one where I can perhaps help more and have a greater impact. I’m hoping it gives me a chance to mentor to a wider audience. It’s still new, we’ll see how it works. It’s a $5 dollar investment that may be the extra “push” you need to get to where you want to be. I’d be honored to be able to help get you there. 

You can find more information by clicking the Super Follow button on my Twitter profile page IN THE TWITTER APP. http://twitter.com/leadtoday Give it a try if you’re so inclined, and if you are, be sure to let me know how I’m doing and how I can be of even more help.

The Problem With Job Descriptions

If I were King I would issue…guess I’m not sure what Kings issue, so I’d issue an order that permanently did away with job descriptions. Job descriptions are an outdated and ineffective method for describing the roles, responsibilities and desired outcomes from any position in a modern business. 

They are nothing more than a laundry list of tasks. They don’t explain the reason for the task. They don’t say anything about how a person’s effectiveness in doing the task will be measured. They don’t say anything about the desired outcomes as a result of successfully completing the task. 

Job Descriptions lead to one thing…the dreaded annual review. The only thing I’m unsure of is who dislikes the annual review process more, the reviewer or the individual being reviewed. 

Because there is no “depth” to a job description it is full of grayness. The reviewer says “you’re kinda lacking in this area” and the person being reviewed simply deflects the comment away with, “I disagree, I think I’m doing fine in that area. Job Descriptions may, not likely but may, help in hiring someone but they do nothing when it comes to helping develop the person who was hired. 

I’d replace the Job Description with a Position Results Description (PRD). The elements of PRD are a statement about what the position entails. It lists the Key Result Areas (KRA) that must be successfully accomplished for the job to have been done well. It lists EXACTLY how “well” will be measured. These measurements are called performance standards. 

When discussing the performance of an employee the PRD becomes the guiding document for the discussion. Because the performance standards for each KRA are so precise the “grayness” is gone. A PRD makes it crystal clear whether or not a Key Result Area was successfully accomplished. 

It is the precision of the performance standards that eliminates most of the emotion that happens in a performance review. Performance standards also make every coaching conversation more impactful. “You have to do better” is not effective coaching. 

When you have a PRD in place effective coaching sounds something like this. “You are doing well with your first two performance standards for your Key Result Area of Building Customer Relationships. Your effort with the 3rd standard of entering every customer contact into Salesforce by 4:30PM each day is lacking. Let’s talk specifically about how I can help you be more consistent with that performance standard.” 

Here’s why most people in Leadership Positions shy away from tools like a PRD…they require effort and intentionality. They require that the leader sees developing their people as an investment of their time rather than an expense of their time. 

Are you a leader who takes the easy way of using job descriptions or are you a leader who puts forth the effort to truly develop your people with documented and precise performance standards? 

To succeed in business today, and tomorrow, you need the right people in the right place at the right time. Job Descriptions do not help you do that. Position Results Descriptions do. Which one do you think you should be using? 

On a completely different subject…I’m trying something new out over on Twitter. It’s called “Super Followers.” For $5 a month, that’s 17 cents a day,  people can follow a part of my Twitter stream that is for subscribers only. It features short videos of me discussing the kind of things I tweet and blog about. But the best part is I’m assuming there will be far fewer Super Followers than regular followers. That will give me the opportunity to answer questions more throughly than I can on regular Twitter. Most of the answers will come in the evening cause we all have day jobs, right? Think of it as ”mentoring on demand!”

You can find more information by clicking the Super Follow button on my Twitter profile page IN THE TWITTER APP. http://twitter.com/leadtoday Give it a try if you’re so inclined, I can’t promise it will last for a long time but I can promise the content will be helpful as long as it does.

The Least Unqualified Person

A bunch of years ago I was managing a small training team within a much larger company. One of my team members accepted another position with the company in a different division. That left me with a position to fill, one in which there were no obvious internal candidates.

The person running the division I was in came to me with a “suggestion” on who could fill the position. The problem was he was completely unqualified for the position. When I pointed that out I was asked if anyone in the company was qualified for the position and my answer was “not that I’m aware of.” 

He replied, “so what’s the difference?” Just move “my guy” into the spot. When I pointed out that “his guy” was likely the least qualified of all the unqualified people he was okay with it. He said something along the lines of “since whoever we put in the role will likely not be qualified it might as well be his guy.” 

Luckily cooler, also likely smarter, heads above him prevailed and we found someone substantially more qualified to take the position. 

But how did we get to a place where putting a unqualified person in an important position was even considered?

We got there because I came up woefully short in a key responsibility of leadership. I had not been developing, looking or even considering who would fill the positions I managed if any of the people occupying them left, for whatever reason. I was like the vast majority of managers; I didn’t think much about a position until I had to fill it and that lack of forethought was expensive.

Waiting for a position to open before developing people to move up in your organization can be, and usually is, a very costly mistake. Effective leaders are always thinking ahead. They consider the “what ifs” at every level of their organizations.

We saw the benefit of having good “what if” strategies when the pandemic started. I don’t know how many organizations were fully prepared for that. I do know the ones who had thought out and prepared for the unexpected were clearly better off. 

Think about the key people in your organization. Do you realize that any of them, for a variety of reasons, could be gone tomorrow? What would you do then? You NEED to know and you’ll be a whole lot better off if you know before it happens. 

I asked about the key people in your organization because if you don’t have a succession plan for them it’s very unlikely you have one for anyone else in your organization. That will come back to bite you in places you don’t want to be bit. 

Have you identified the next generation of leaders in your organization? Do you have a plan in place to develop them. I mean a real plan. A couple of canned Leadership training courses a year won’t get it done. 

You need a well thought out, consistent, long-range plan. If you don’t always have people in your developmental pipeline then one day you’ll end up having a discussion about who is the least unqualified person to move up in your organization. 

Trust me on this…you won’t enjoy that conversation.

On a completely different subject…I’m trying something new over on Twitter. It’s called “Super Followers.” For $5 a month, that’s 17 cents a day,  people can follow a part of my Twitter stream that is for subscribers only. It features short videos of me discussing the kind of things I tweet and blog about. But the best part is I’m assuming there will be far fewer Super Followers than regular followers. That will give me the opportunity to answer questions more throughly than I can on regular Twitter. Most of the answers will come in the evening cause we all have day jobs, right? Think of it as ”mentoring on demand!”

You can find more information by clicking the Super Follow button on my Twitter profile page IN THE TWITTER APP. http://twitter.com/leadtoday Give it a try if you’re so inclined, I can’t promise it will last for a long time but I can promise the content will be helpful as long as it does.

How to Spot an Authentic Servant Leader

In 2002 Pastor Rick Warren wrote an outstanding book entitled “The Purpose Driven Life.” I will always remember the very first sentence in the book… “It’s not about you.”

Every Authentic Servant Leader I’ve ever met, and I’ve been fortunate to meet a few, lived their leadership according to that simple sentence. They intentionally keep the focus on the accomplishments of the people they lead. They don’t simply share credit for success, they humbly give it all away. 

Authentic Servant Leaders measure their success by the success of their people. The goal of an Authentic Servant Leader is to grow people, to help them be “better” in every way a person can be better. 

They invest a piece of themselves in every person they lead. The do not prejudge anyone. They recognize that every individual has strengths and gifts. They work to make certain that their people are in positions where they can use their strengths. They do not set their people up to fail. 

Authentic Servant Leaders come in all shapes and sizes. They come in all colors and they can be a man or a woman. They can be old or young. They can come from the finest of formal educations or have a completely informal education. An Authentic Servant Leader could be almost anyone. But they are still easy to spot. 

You know one when you see one because they are they ones who through every word, every action and every interaction SHOW that they understand, without a doubt, that their leadership is not about them. It’s is always and only about the people they lead. 

If you aspire to be an Authentic Servant Leader then always always keep in mind, “It’s not about you.”