The Motivational Leader

When I do Leadership presentations and workshops I’ll frequently make the statement that people are naturally motivated. Not some people, ALL people are naturally motivated. 

That gets as much pushback as almost anything I say. “Leaders” in the room will respond with silly comments like “you’ve never met some of my people.” Or “I’ve got people you couldn’t motivate with dynamite.” 

My response is always some variation of “sounds like a leadership problem to me.” I say it jokingly but I’m not joking. I ask who is responsible for motivating people in your organization? I generally get no response. That’s understandable because they just told me they have unmotivated people. To admit it’s their responsibility to motivate them would be admitting that they are not actually leading. 

But everyone in that room knows that one of the primary responsibilities of leadership is to motivate and encourage the people they lead. But, like almost everything else worth doing, that is easier said than done. 

Here’s the thing. No one wakes up in the morning hoping their day will suck. No one begins life with the desire to drag themselves through every day. Everyone wants to do something that matters. That’s how we all start off. But somewhere along the line many people lose that enthusiasm and motivation. It is most likely stolen from them by bosses who couldn’t lead or they caught the “unmotivated bug” from friends and family who have given up on their own dreams. But they want to be motivated, they just need a little push.

If you’re in a Leadership position and you want to help your people get and stay motivated the first step is to STOP complaining about unmotivated people on your team and start actually leading them towards greater motivation. 

Next, schedule consistent one-on-one time with them. Ask them how they would like to structure this time together. Remember, for this time to be productive it must benefit you AND your people. This is your time to set clear goals and expectations and to discuss how those expectations will be measured. People NEED to know what’s expected of them and how those expectations will be measured. 

This is their time to share ideas, suggestions, and issues. People value relationships with their leaders and these one-on-ones are all about building those relationships. 

Here’s a crazy idea for discovering how to motivate your people. During the one-on-one ask them directly what motivates them and how you can help them remain more motivated. Do you know the goals, aspirations, and interests of the people you lead? It becomes far easier to motivate someone when you know what motivates them. Here’s the caveat to this question…they may not know the answer. At least not off the top of their head. That’s fine, ask them to think about it. About where they want to be in five years. About what they want to accomplish. For some of your people they may have never considered those questions before. 

If you want your people to know you care for them as people then ask about them as people. Yes, “the job” is important but as a leader you cannot afford to forget that “the job” is done by people. Real live human beings. 

Once they know what motivates them, and you know what motivates them, you can work together towards that common motivating goal. Authentic Leadership is about making human connections and there isn’t anything more human then helping another person achieve their life goals. 

It is very possible the pursuit of those goals will require learning new skills. As a leader one of your other primary responsibilities is to help your people grow. Now you know where to help them grow. Their commitment to you and the organization strengthens as you help them grow. So does their motivation to improve. They are not only motivated to do a better job for themselves, they are motivated to do a better job for you. 

When your people have doubts about their ability to grow, SHOW your belief in them by giving them purposeful work. Show them how their work makes a difference for you, for the organization and especially for themselves. Trust them to do the work without micromanaging the motivation out of them. 

Your belief in them might be the exact nudge they need to remain motivated when obstacles appear. It’s even possible you’re the first person who has shown them that level of trust and belief. 

Above all, create a culture where motivation thrives. Where people are encouraged to excel. Where mistakes are accepted as part of the growth process. A culture where people feel they matter. 

When you do all that there is no question about your leadership because you’ll have demonstrated that you are in fact, an Authentic Leader. You’ll even be a Motivating Leader!

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.

Before You Fire That Person

Being terminated from employment is one of life’s greatest stressors. It’s right up there with death of a loved one and a terrible medical diagnosis. 

Thankfully, I think most people in Leadership Positions understand that and make firing someone a last resort. Unfortunately some do not. But maybe they would if they stopped to think long enough about what firing someone actually means. 

It means in every case a great failure on the part of a leader. There are two and only two reasons that someone is so underperforming in a job that they should be fired. The first reason is that they were hired for a job they weren’t qualified for or they didn’t “fit” with the organization. Either way, they should not have been hired in the first place. That is a failure of leadership. 

The second reason is that they were not given the tools and training to do the job effectively. That is also a failure of leadership. 

That means that if you find yourself needing to fire someone it’s on you, not on them. You can blame them all you want for their poor attitude or the lack of respect for the organization. You can call them stupid. You can call them lazy. You can say whatever you want. 

But one fact remains…you or another leader in your organization hired them. 

So now you’re likely to tell yourself that they weren’t stupid when you hired them. They didn’t have a poor attitude when they started. You rationalize that they were a better employee on their first day. They changed!

So what you’re saying is that you took a perfectly effective individual and put them in an environment where their attitude went to hell? You’re admitting that you took a bright, intelligent and engaged person and transformed them into an idiot? 

Wow, that’s something to be proud of. Or maybe not so much. 

I get that a large percentage of people embellish their qualifications when applying for a job. I understand that they are on their best behavior. I have been “fooled” during an interview process like every other person who hires people has. 

I also understand that there will be times, for several reasons, when separation from the organization is the only path available. 

But…if you are going to have the audacity to call yourself a leader then you had best be willing to stand up and admit your mistakes. If you even want to be thought of as an Authentic Leader then you must be willing to work with that person to help them develop into the very best version of themselves. As a leader it’s your responsibility to motivate to be on their best behavior every day, not only on days when they are interviewing for a job. 

Even if they fooled you into thinking they had a positive attitude when they didn’t, you need to ask yourself if you’re providing an atmosphere where poor attitudes can thrive or is the culture your cultivating within your organization one where positive attitudes are so contagious that negative attitudes can’t survive. 

Accepting a leadership title is very easy to do. Accepting the responsibility for people that goes with it is not easy. Accepting the responsibility for the success of those people is harder still. 

But Authentic Leaders do it anyway. Authentic Leaders know the trauma a termination can cause people. They know it’s effects can be devastating and long lasting. That’s why they hire carefully and work tirelessly to develop the people in their organizations. 

Think about that the next time you become so frustrated with YOUR leadership abilities that your tempted to fire someone because of it. Be certain that termination is truly your last resort and not your first one. 

A Leadership Disposition

I have known many people over the years who aspired to hold a leadership position. Many of them were even willing to put in the work they believed would earn them that position. Most of them did in fact manage to get promoted to a leadership position. 

But many of them never realized that while they were promoted to a position of leadership they were not promoted to leader. They didn’t know that no one could promote them to the position of leader. They also didn’t realize that having a leadership position or the title of a leader doesn’t make you one. 

They simply bought into the greatest of all leaderships myths. The myth that where someone is on an organizational chart determines their level of leadership. The reality is, all that position does is provide them with an little easier opportunity to earn the privilege of leading someone. 

Many “position leaders” assume that upon being promoted to a position of leadership that they have arrived. Upon “arriving” at this position their learning about leadership too often stops, assuming it ever started. It’s almost like learning to drive a car. Has anyone ever took more driver education classes right after getting their driver’s license? Many people in leadership positions don’t need any leadership development because they already “lead” every day. 

Except they don’t. They most likely attempt to manage people. I say “attempt” because it is if fact impossible to manage another human being. 

By far, the most effective leaders were leaders long before they ever held a position of leadership. They knew early on that leadership was way more about their disposition than it was about their position. Leaders who understand that fact are Authentic Leaders. They don’t need a title or position in order to lead. What they need is a decision that says “I choose to make a positive difference in the lives of others.” I choose NOT to wait for a position or title to make that difference. I choose to Lead Today. 

They do not wait for a position that people will “have to” follow. They work to become the type of person that people will want to follow. 

Authentic Leaders invest their experience, time, energy, and resources to help other people grow. Potentially, they help those people grow into leaders themselves. They know that to help other people grow they need to constantly be growing themselves as well. When they do find themselves in a position of leadership they don’t see it as “arriving,” they see it as part of their never ending journey of self-development. 

If you want to one day hold a position of leadership then don’t work to impress people who can promote you to a leadership position. Instead, work to earn the followership of people you help succeed while on your own journey to success. The people who can promote you to a position of leadership will notice. 

You won’t just have earned a leadership position, you’ll have earned the opportunity to authentically lead. 

On a another note… Everyone can use a “nudge” towards success. 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 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.

An Overlooked Quality of Authentic Leadership

Much has been written about the qualities and characteristics of Authentic Leaders. But one essential quality of Authentic Leadership is seldom discussed. 

That quality is self-discipline. Developing the quality of self-discipline is part of leading yourself. Leaders sometimes forget this fact but if a person can’t lead themselves it is almost certain they can’t lead anyone else. 

Building self-discipline requires that you understand, develop and follow your priorities. If you can’t clearly state what your priorities are you will always struggle with time management. People who tell me “they don’t have time” get frustrated with me when I challenge that statement. The fact is they have as much time as any person on this planet. They struggle to get things done because they don’t understand their priorities. 

Not understanding their priorities causes people to spend time on seemingly urgent tasks rather than investing their time on important things. It’s the important things that pay long-term dividends. When you get your time under control you’re on your way to living a self-disciplined life. 

To further develop your self-discipline you need to challenge your excuses. That process begins by understanding the difference between an excuse and a reason. The example I most often use to explain this difference is being late. 

If you show up late, to anything, and say, “sorry I’m late but the traffic was brutal” that’s an excuse. An excuse indicates that you accept no responsibility for your tardiness. It also shows you have no intention of doing anything different to prevent it from happening again. 

If you show up late and say, “sorry I’m late, the traffic was brutal and I failed to take traffic into account this time of day. I’ll pay more attention to that next time.” That is an example of a reason. It indicates that you accept responsibility for being late and you will take steps to try and prevent it from happening again. 

Excuses are plentiful and easy to find…or make up. Just remember people who are good at making excuses aren’t very good at making progress. If you allow yourself too many excuses you’ll limit your ability to life a disciplined lifestyle. 

Living that disciplined lifestyle requires that you focus on results. Success is a process and results often come slowly. Success seldom follows a straight line, it’s more of a zig zag. Accept all results as a win, no matter how small and no matter how slowly they arrive. 

Living a disciplined lifestyle can seem like a daunting task. It may feel like we can’t be disciplined and have fun. Develop the mindset that being disciplined is fun itself. Also realize that you don’t have to be disciplined every day, you only need to be disciplined one day…and that day is today. When you wake up tomorrow you’ll discover that tomorrow is another today. 

As a leader you likely want the people you lead to be disciplined as well. It is vital, and this is why self-discipline is such an essential quality of Authentic Leadership, it is vital that you always keep in mind that you are the model of successful behavior for your people. 

If you don’t display self-discipline then don’t expect to see it from anyone you lead either. 

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. 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.

Saying Thank You is Not a Weakness

Isn’t that a ridiculous title for a post on leadership? I mean why would anyone think that thanking someone could ever make you look weak?

Except for too many people in leadership positions, that is exactly what they think. I often encourage leaders to thank their people for a job well done. Most of them see the wisdom in committing to that basic human relations principle. Most, but not all. 

The response I get from a surprising number of people who occupy leadership positions is that their people get a paycheck, that’s enough thanks. I also hear that when you start thanking people for doing their job they begin to expect it. But perhaps worst of all is the “I’m not their mommy, they do their job and we pay them…that’s where it ends.” 

Even though I’ve written about this before and even though I’ve said it a thousand times, let me say it again. If you don’t possess the most basic ability to be nice to the people you’re supposed to be leading then whoever elevated you to a leadership position made a mistake. 

Sometimes even the best leaders get busy. So busy that they “forget” that basic principle of of saying thanks to their team members. It is important to note here that “forgetting” to show appreciation for your team causes the same lack of engagement issues as choosing not to appreciate them.

Being nice costs you nothing but it can mean so much when it comes to keeping your people engaged and motivation. Being nice is the fastest, easiest way to demonstrate that you see the people you lead as actual human beings. It shows you care about them as people and not just an “asset” that fills some role or does a job. 

It’s probably a good idea if we look for a second at the difference between being nice and being kind…yes, there is a difference. Being kind to someone means doing something for them. It likely has a cost to you associated with it. Most often that cost is in terms of time but it can also be financial. Helping someone with a project at work when there is no benefit to you is an example of being kind. Going out of your way to give someone a ride home is another example. 

Saying hello to someone, holding the door for them, and yes, saying thank you, are all examples of being nice. It’s that simple.

If you want to be an actual leader, rather than merely occupy a leadership position, then you must realize that truly leading comes with a lot of responsibilities. One of those responsibilities is earning the commitment of your people. If your people think you don’t care about them as human beings they cannot commit to you. 

Many times being nice, which includes saying thank you from time to time, is all it takes to show you care. If you can’t even do that then you can’t actually lead either.

On a 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 leadership topics, sales tips and ideas for better overall relationships. I’m assuming there will be far fewer Super Followers than regular Twitter 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.

Forgetful Leadership

Here’s a common trap that busy leaders too often fall into. Even very good leaders frequently have this happen to them. The busier they are the more likely it is to happen. 

The trap is simply forgetting to lead. They forget about the huge difference between managing and leading. Leading is a challenge that brings with it many rewards. Attempting to manage people seems easier but it brings a host of “people problems.” When leaders get especially busy they can revert to trying to manage people rather than lead them. 

That’s a problem but here’s what makes it an even bigger problem than you think. The busier your organization is the more stress everyone who works there is under. When the people you lead are stressed that’s when they most need your leadership. But you’re busy too and you forget that leading never stops, or at least it shouldn’t stop. 

When your people most need your leadership is when you’re most likely to forget to lead.

It’s why I recommend that busy leaders actually set reminders in their smartphones. Reminders to make certain they are doing the basic “blocking and tackling” of leadership every day. Especially when they and their people are particularly busy. 

A few of the basics of leadership would be things like recognizing a team member. Coaching for corrective action with a person who may be struggling. Coaching someone who is doing particularly well to reinforce their positive behavior. Showing your people that they matter and that you care about them. All of those things are important, they are even more important in times of stress. 

Slowing yourself down in order to come along side of your people when they most need you pays terrific dividends. Dividends in the form of increased productivity, better morale and an overall culture of success. 

But…easier said than done right? Well tell me one thing worth doing that isn’t easier said than done. Most people reading this would tell me their people are their greatest resource. Then they say they don’t have time to slow down long enough to lead that “greatest resource.” 

Think about what that means. It means that you are intentionally making the decision to focus your attention on something other than your greatest resource. When your greatest resource most needs your attention.

Does that sound like a recipe for success? Does it sound like effective leadership? Does it sound like that would ever be a good idea?

Authentic Leaders do their best leading when leadership in most needed. Limited leaders often forget to lead when their leadership could have the most impact on their greatest resource. 

Don’t fall in the trap of forgetful leadership. Your people will reward you with their commitment when you put them first rather than the 100 other things vying for your attention. 

Don’t forget that either!

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.