Are You a Lazy Leader?

There has never been a time when it was easier to find excellent information on what it takes to be an effective Authentic Leader. There are many outstanding TedTalks and books and blogs on developing yourself as a leader. Much of the content available online is free. You only need to be willing to invest in yourself. 

Unfortunately, as the saying goes, too often some of that content falls under the category of “you get what you pay for.” Along with the excellent content there is stuff provided by hacks who have no business talking about leadership. Actually, they have no business talking at all. 

I came across one such blog post a few weeks ago. The author made the suggestion that leaders should NOT take the time to get to know their people personally. Getting to know someone on a personal level is not necessary. They said you are better off keeping to yourself than wasting time talking with people about non-work topics.

They said connecting to people on a personal level could be misleading and cause them to think you cared about them. It could even lead to the “disastrous” thought that you like them. 

At first I thought the author was being facetious. But as I continued reading it became clear that his recommendation was serious. It also became clear that has was a knucklehead. 

But I’m sure some people in leadership positions agreed with what he said. That’s most likely because while they may be in a leadership position they are certainly not leaders. They are too lazy to invest the time required to Authentically Lead. They won’t invest time to know, understand, and appreciate the people they are supposedly leading. 

Authentic Leaders know that their people want to connect with and get know their leaders. Authentic Leaders get to know each person on their team, their history, their goals, and their aspirations. They understand getting to know their people on a personal level helps them establish rapport and make deeper connections. People generally want to know that those they work with care about them and respect them for their contribution to the team’s success.

Leaders make decisions and judgments about their people that have a tremendous impact on their lives. Authentic Leaders know they can’t do that well without knowing those people. By the way, I should point out that making judgments about a person’s ability to contribute to a team’s success is not the same as judging them as a human being. Authentic Leaders don’t judge people, they make judgments. If you struggle to understand the difference then you’ll likely struggle to lead as well.

It doesn’t take a huge investment of time to know the people you lead but it does require an intentional investment. Don’t think you can learn about your people in your free time…cause there ain’t no such thing as free time for an Authentic Leader. 

Instead set aside 5 minutes EVERY DAY to conduct an “Innerview” with one of your team members. Not an “interview.” An interview is what you do when you’re hiring someone. An “Innerview” is what you do when you want to understand someone enough that you can help them grow, as a person and as a team member. You ask questions to gain an “inner” view of who the person really is. Their goals, personal and professional. Their challenges and struggles, again, both personal and professional. 

Yes, you can do that in 5 minutes a day. IF you do it everyday. Pick a different person each day, if you have a small team you may have several conversations with each of them a month. If you have a very large team then dispatch other leaders in your organization to conduct “innerviews” of their own. 

Knowing your people is vital to helping them grow and develop. If you can’t invest 5 minutes a day to do that then you might be a lazy leader. Too lazy in fact to Authentically Lead.

On a another subject…Donald Trump and Joe Biden both say they “never miss a video from LeadToday on Twitter!” Well… they would say that if they had ever heard of me, or if one of them hadn’t been kicked off Twitter. The videos they aren’t talking about are something new I’m trying 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 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. 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.

Engaged Leadership

I’ve never been a huge fan of companies doing culture surveys. Most companies that use them do the surveys every couple of years to take the “pulse” of the company and determine what the employees are thinking. 

The survey questions typically ask about how the company is treating them. How the leadership of the company is doing. If they “like” working there and on it goes. 

I suppose asking once every couple of years is better than not asking at all but not by much. What I really hope is that no company that conducts a culture survey is surprised by the responses. 

If a company’s leadership team is surprised by the results of a company survey then that company’s leadership team is not engaged with it’s employees. If the survey was about the culture of the company and the leadership team is surprised by the results then it’s very likely the culture is not very good.

I’d much prefer to see an organization’s leadership team doing mini culture surveys on a daily basis. An EVERY SINGLE DAY basis. The easiest way to do that is to have members of a company’s leadership team do five minute “innerviews” with at least one team member a day. Note I did not say “interviews,” I said “innerviews.” An interview is what you do when you hire someone. An “innerview” is what you do when you want to know how they, are the company are doing. 

For an Authentic Leader those five minutes are frequently their most important minutes of the day. First, they discover how they and the people they lead are doing. Are their people engaged and prospering? Do their people have ideas that could help the organization be better? Do that have family and friends who would be a good addition to the organization? What changes would they make if they were in charge? 

The second thing an “innerview” accomplishes is showing that the leadership team is listening. It shows that the leadership team is engaged. It demonstrates that the leadership team cares.

Conducting daily “innerviews” requires the leadership team to be “out there” interacting with every level of their organization. It gives them visibility within the organization and breaks down barriers that are common in companies with poor culture. 

If you hold a leadership position in your organization then you must understand that you need to be seen to be relevant. You need to be IN the organization not merely at the top of it. 

So ask yourself these questions: How many different people in your organization did you talk with last week? We’re they the same ones you talked to the week before? And the week before that? Were they all near the top level of leadership in the company?

If you’re only interacting with other senior leaders in your organization then the information you’re receiving is heavily filtered. It is filtered by the experiences and biases of the other senior leaders providing the information. If they got the information second hand or third hand then by the time you hear it you might as well not have heard it at all. 

The culture of an organization is incredibly important. Many would say it’s more important than all the strategies and tactics you’ll ever have. As a leader you don’t evaluate your strategies every couple of years. You should not evaluate the culture in your organization every couple of years either. 

Take the pulse of your organization every single day. Be an engaged leader. Lead by walking around and while you’re walking, stop frequently to talk with people to see how you, and the organization you lead, are doing. 

If you occupy a leadership position and you’re not regularly engaging with people at all levels of your organization then you may be managing the business but you’re not leading it’s people.

Do You Know the People You Lead?

I suppose the title of this post is silly because of course you know the people you lead. You know their name. You know their job description and you know…?

What more do you know? You make decisions regarding the people you lead on a daily basis and it’s very possible that when you really stop to think about it you don’t actually know that much about them. 

When was the last time you straight up asked the people you lead what they are passionate about? Have you ever asked them what work they would do for free if they could afford it? Have you ever, even once, asked them how you could honor them or recognize them. When was the last time you asked about their family? What about their hobbies and interests outside of work, when was the last time you asked about that?

Most people in leadership positions say they don’t have time to get to know their people at that level. What they actually mean is that it’s not a priority for them. Authentic Leaders make knowing their people, really knowing them, a top priority. 

They invest time each day, each and every day, to conduct an “innerview” with one or more of the people they lead. It might only be 5 or 10 minutes but they would tell you it’s the most important 5 or 10 minutes of their day. 

It is not an “interview,” that’s what you do when you’re hiring someone. An “innerview” is what you do when you want to know your people on a level that truly allows you to lead them. To know what motivates them. To understand their goals in life. To understand their thinking and their actions. 

Most people would say that their people are their organization’s greatest asset. Then they tell you they can’t spare 5 minutes to invest in that asset. Instead they spend their time on something they said was less important…that is not a recipe for successful leadership.

If knowing your people is not a priority then you may be a boss, you may be a manager, but I’m sorry to tell you it’s unlikely that you’re much of a leader. 

Invest time this very day and each day to get to know the people you lead. Until you do they are probably not really following you and this much is certain, if no one is following then you ain’t leading. 

Get to know your people and Lead Today!

Five Minutes That Can Change Everything

As you lead you need good judgment. You also cannot afford to be judgmental. That’s never more important than when considering the potential of the people on your team.

If you’re like most leaders you’re always watching your team to determine how effective they are in their roles. That’s good leadership. But good leadership is not good enough if your goal is to grow your organization.

Growing an organization requires great leadership and great leadership requires more than simply watching your people. It requires consistent two-way communication.

If you’re not “out there” interacting and talking with your people in an intentional manner then you’re probably missing out on the information that you need to advance from good to great leadership.

When I say “intentional” I mean very very intentional. You must make it a point to invest time each day, every single day, to learn something about someone on your team. Here’s one way to do that:

Every day invest the time to conduct an innerview, no I didn’t mean interview, I really meant innerview. An interview is what you do when you’re hiring someone. An innerview is what you do when you’re interested in keeping them, and building their success. You must see their motivations and lives from the inside to truly understand why they do what they do.

Invest five minutes a day, every single day to innerview at least one member of your team. Ask about them personally, about their goals, their challenges and most importantly, how you can help them get to where they want to be.

Way too many leaders have told me that the “innerview” is a nice thought but that they just can’t afford the time. This is often right after they have told me that their people are their most important asset.

If you want a great organization then you are going to have to be a great leader. Put your time where your mouth is and don’t just say your people are important, show it. Show it by using the innerview to make certain that when you’re making judgements about your people you know exactly who you are judging.

When you use your point of view to judge your people you’re almost certain to be judgmental. When you use your people’s point of view you can leave the “ment” behind and more clearly judge.

It requires just five minutes a day but it’s five minutes that can change everything about how you evaluate and lead your people.

Social Leadership

I’m a big fan of employee surveys. I like employee surveys because I like predictable things and few things in business are as predictable as the results of an employee survey. Anyone with a decent EQ can spend a week or so inside a company talking with employees and predict the results of your typical employee survey with reasonable accuracy. 

If you’re unfamiliar with EQ it is an individual’s ability to understand other people, what motivates them and the ability to work cooperatively with them. Psychologists generally agree that among the ingredients for success, IQ counts for roughly 10-25% and the rest depends on everything else, especially EQ.

Here is a very general statement but I think it is fairly accurate: most people in leadership positions have at least a decent level of EQ.

They just aren’t social enough to use it.

To be a Social Leader requires that the leader be “out there” with the people they lead. They need to constantly take the pulse of their people. Social Leadership provides the leader with insights that no survey will ever provide them. 

It gives them insight and awareness to how their people will react to organizational change by understanding what is important to them and what motivates them. Social Leadership gives the leader an opportunity to develop the empathy to understand their people’s attitudes towards organizational issues and provides a clear line of sight to the team member’s points of view. 

The trouble with surveys is that they are typically an annual “event” and because of that they measure nothing more than a moment in time. People’s responses are affected by their emotions of the moment and because of that the survey results are of limited value. There was certainly a time when annual surveys where considered “state of the art” for HR professionals but that time has passed. 

Direct downward social interaction is the new “best practice.” Social Leaders use technology to get themselves “out there” like never before. They use Facebook, Twitter and Blogs to inform their people of what’s happening and get instant feedback from their followers. I’m obviously a believer in those tools but nothing, nothing, will ever beat face-to-face human interaction. So along with those tools I urge Social Leaders to conduct daily “innerviews” with a member of their organization. To be clear, this is not an interview of the kind you would do when selecting a new employee. This is an INNERview, a conversation to determine the thoughts, mood and morale of an individual team member. It’s about a 5 minute process where with a few thoughtful questions the Social Leader gains a perspective about their organization that cannot be gained any other way. Social leaders pick one individual a day from their organization and have a learning conversation.

Now I’ve shared the innerview concept long enough with countless numbers leaders to know the most common reason leaders give for not using it. “I don’t have time” is the usual objection. It’s the same reason many leaders give for not taping into social media to connect with their people. 

Think about that, these are the same leaders who would proudly say that “their people are their greatest asset.” In the next breath they say they “don’t have” 5 minutes to invest with their greatest asset to determine how they are doing. 

It not hard to become a more Social Leader, it simply requires a commitment to invest a piece of yourself and a bit of your time in your people. It’s one of the few investments you will ever make that has a guaranteed return. It’s a return that makes leading not only easier but more fulfilling as well. 

Are you willing to make the investment to become a Social Leader? 

Leadership for the Ages – Conclusion

Not admitting to the differences between generations will not make the differences go away. 

If you’re going to do more than just occupy a leadership position, if you’re going to actually lead, then you’ll have to understand and use those differences.

One of the challenges in writing a series like this is that in the interest of time you almost have to use some generalities in your writing. When I finally get around to writing my book on leadership I promise I’ll add more specific detail.

If it is true that each generation is different, and it is true, then it is also true that there are differences within each generation as well. So many differences in fact that I couldn’t list them all, even in a book.

As a leader it is incumbent upon you to know those differences in your people. The fact that they come from a particular generation can give you some idea as how to lead them but it is a picture  painted in shades of gray. To truly lead you must have a picture of your people painted in vivid color.

This is a picture not painted with a brush but with information. It requires information to truly know your people. To acquire the type of information needed for this picture you’ll have to talk WITH your people, not TO them. It will help immeasurably if you’ll listen too.

I frequently recommend to leaders that they periodically conduct innerviews with their people. No, I didn’t misspell that… I mean innerview, not interview. An interview  is something you do when hiring someone. An innerview is something you do when you really want to know them.   

It is maybe a five minute conversation about the person you’re innerviewing; it gives you the opportunity to discover what’s important to them, what motivates them, what their goals and objectives are. You’ll better understand their specific values and background. You’ll know how they want to be led and they will know that they and their ideas matter to you and their organization.

If you can invest 5 or 10 minutes a day to talk with the people of your organization, everyday, with all generations, you’ll lead more effectively than you ever thought possible.

The number one concern I hear from leaders when I share the “Innerview” concept is the time required to do it. 5 or 10 minutes a day, everyday. I’m amazed by the number of “leaders” who tell me they can’t afford the time. 


If you don’t have the time to invest in your people then you simply don’t have the time to lead. You may need to move out of the way and let a “Kid” take over. I’d rather have an experienced leader who truly leads than an experienced person who merely occupies a leadership position.

So, feel like leading today? Then go do an innerview.

How to do an Innerview

InnerView_LOGOFirst let me point out that I did not misspell “interview’, I indeed meant to say innerview. There is a rather large difference between the two and the difference in the outcomes of each is even bigger.

Almost 20 years ago, when I was still selling Dale Carnegie Training, I made a sales call on the owner of what I believed to be a smallish company in a southern Minnesota city.

Now keep in mind I was there to sell training programs but the entire call quickly became one big learning opportunity for me.

Upon arriving at the company I was shown into the owner’s office and introduced to the owner and his General Manager. The company was an office supply firm with about 300 employees that also operated a few retail office and stationary supply stores in the Minneapolis/St.Paul area.

The owner almost immediately told me that before we could do business together I would need to know something about how they did business and with that he set about giving me a tour of his operation. At every stop, the front office, the warehouse, the loading dock, everywhere we went, he would stop and talk for a moments to a few of his employees. After one or two stops it became apparent to me that he knew every one of his employees by name. Not only did he know them by name, he knew something about them too, he would ask about their kids or hobby or just how they were doing.

I didn’t realize at the time what I was watching but I came to understand that it was an impressive display of leadership, perhaps the most impressive I have seen to this day.

When we returned to his office I couldn’t help but comment on what I had seen and heard. I told him how remarkable I thought it was that he knew everyone’s name and something about them. What he said next would change how I thought about leadership forever.

He said that “his people” were the key to his success. He said that without them he had no company. He said that “his people” were his greatest asset and that he “invested” the greatest amount of his time with them.

In the ensuing years almost evey organization I would work with would “say” that their people are their greatest asset but I have yet to see another leader back that up with their actions the way this leader had.

So I asked him the obvious question: How do you get to know so many people so well? What he said this time would change how I taught leadership forever.

He said that you can’t lead people without caring for them and he said that you can’t, or won’t’ truly care about people that you don’t know about. He said that his most important “job” as head of this company was to truly know his people. With that in mind, everyday, absolutely everyday, he would take 5 or 10 minutes to conduct an “innerview” with one or two of the people in his organization.

He explained the difference as he saw it between an “interview” conducted while recruiting new employees and the “innerview” conducted with those with whom he had already entrusted with a part of his company. The “innerview” allowed him to ask much more meaningful, sometimes personal questions about a person’s well-being. About what they wanted from life and how he might help them achieve it.

He would ask them about how the company was doing “for them” and how they might work together to make it work better.

From this 5 or 10 minute investment of time he forged real relationships with the people who controlled the success of his company. He knew, with great specificity, why they came to work each day and how he could help them have a better life. He invested in them and they invested back.

I haven’t talked to that leader in several years and I’m reluctant to use his name without his permission but let me share just a little more about this remarkable person. Remember when I described his company as “smallish”? Well, I might not have done all the preparation for that sales call that a professional salesperson should have. You see, while it’s true that the particular company I was calling on had 300 or so employees, that was just one small part of what I can only call his empire. It turned out that he owned some other “stuff” like Major League Sports Franchises, other worldwide manufacturing and investment firms. In fact, as it turned out, I received this unforgettable life lesson from one of the 10 richest men in the world.

Now think about that for a minute. It’s something of an understatement to say that this guy had a lot going on, he was one busy man. Yet he made the time, everyday, every single day, to invest in his people. Everyday!!!

As I’ve shared this story through the years I am amazed by the number of “leaders” who say that their people are their greatest asset while in their next breath tell me they don’t have time to conduct an innerview.


Let me be perfectly blunt here as I share what I’ve come to believe about leadership the last decade or so: If you don’t have time to care, then you don’t have time to lead.

Invest your time in your people, it will provide you with the greatest return of any investment you will ever make. And hey, it just might make you some money too!