THE Telltale Sign of Poor Leadership

One of the questions I’m asked most often, particularly after I’ve done a presentation on Leadership, is why I haven’t written a book on Leadership. The simple answer is, I don’t think I have anything new to add to the incredible books already written on the topic. 

I believe any book I could write would at best be a “me too” book. I might have different stories and examples in my book but they would all lead to the same conclusions. Leadership is about people. Leadership is NOT the same as management. And while some people do indeed seem to have more “born in” leadership traits, the reality is that leaders are made, not born.

But there is one very insidious trait that poor leaders have that I don’t see discussed often enough. This trait is not easily identifiable. Unless like me, you intently study leaders to observe what separates Authentic Leaders from those who merely think they are leading. 

People who experience leaders with this trait most often can’t put their finger on exactly what about the person is sending off the bad vibes. They know there’s something “off.” They can’t exactly trust the person but unless they are paying attention it’s more of a feeling than anything else.

Most people with this trait who find themselves in leadership positions struggle to lead. That’s because most of them have not identified this trait within themselves either. They often place the blame for their poor leadership on the people they are supposed to be leading. Turnover in their organizations is high and as long as this trait persists it will remain high. In organizations where one or more leaders possess this trait employee engagement will be too low for obstacles to be overcome. Goals will not be achieved. 

This trait is called the “I trait.” “I” as in “I’m” telling you. Or “I” expect this. Or worse “I” accomplished great things this year. 

“I” is the least inclusive word someone in a leadership position can use. Many people in leadership positions lack awareness of how many times they say “I.” Some unfortunately are very aware and use it intentionally. Sometimes to take credit away from their people and other times to make themselves seem more important to their organizations than they actually are.

“I” is the preferred pronoun of people who think they are leaders when they aren’t. The more a person in a leadership position uses “I” and it’s possessive form, “my” or “mine” the less likely it is that people will commit to following them. Absent that commitment there is no true leadership.

I was on a call not long ago where a person who believes that are a leader used “I,” “my” or mine over 70 times in a one hour call, and they only spoke for a part of it. I wouldn’t normally count how many times a person uses a particular word in conversation. As I became aware of it’s overuse early in the call I starting counting. That’s why I said over 70, it was likely way over because I didn’t start counting right away. 

The more someone in a leadership position uses “I” the more they separate themselves from the team. Whether it is intentional or not. 

Poor leaders use “I” far far more than effective Authentic Leaders. The overuse of the word “I” is the one sure sign of poor leadership. The more a person in a leadership position uses it, the less engagement they can expect from their people. That’s an absolute fact.

If you’re in a leadership position, have someone listen in on your conversations. Ask them to track how often you say “I” when “we” would have been more appropriate. If that isn’t an option then record some of your conversations and listen to them yourself. Practice eliminating “I” from your vocabulary, it can most often, and most effectively, be replaced with “we.”

“We” indicates your leadership is about the people you lead. “I” indicates it is all about you. “I” indicates YOU have a lot to learn about leading people to their full potential. It indicates you’re a long way from reaching yours as well.

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 just 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.

Are You a Doer Who Over Does It?

I love people who have a “get it done” mindset. Nothing happens until someone makes it happen and I think the world would be a better place if there were a few more “doers” in it.

But I struggle mightily with doers who can’t turn it off and who expect everyone else to be a doer like them. 

Successful organizations need doers. But they also need talkers. Talkers are people who can communicate a vision with the passion to help others make the vision their own. Organizations also need thinkers. Thinkers are people who help create the vision. Thinkers see things that could be and think “why not.” Organizations need planners too. Although doers may not always realize it, the planners provide them with the path to getting things done. 

An organization with too many of any of those types of people will be unbalanced and that imbalance can cause problems.

Leaders are also made up of those four types of people, often possessing more than one of those qualities. But the “doer” mentality is most prevalent amongst leaders. That is often a good thing. Often, but not always. 

Being a doer can at times put a leader so far out in front of their people that the people “lose sight” of the leader. When that happens people can’t really follow anymore. The other negative is that the leader can expect their people to always keep up. Even if that means working nights and weekends answering emails and messages pretty much around the clock.

That is not realistic. That burns people out. If you’re leading a thinker then you must give them time to think. If you’re leading a talker then you must at times be silent to give them space to talk. If you’re leading a planner then they will need time to focus and build the plan that will help you get more done. 

I’m all for providing people a push now and then to challenge them to be better and accomplish more. It’s just that if the pushing never stops it’ll start to feel more like a shove and the place you’re most likely to shove them is right out the door.

As they say, too much of a good thing isn’t so good. That includes over doing it and trying to force others to be a doer just like you. 

Measuring Authentic Leadership

I was asked recently what characteristics I look for in an Authentic Leader. Well that’s a big question and the answer would consume several blog posts. But perhaps the most important “characteristic” isn’t a characteristic at all. It also isn’t “in” the leader. 

If I want to know how authentic a leader is, and how effective they are, I don’t look at the leader. I look at the people they lead. I look to see if their followers are authentic as well. Are they committed to the leader? Are they engaged and consistently motivated? Are they accomplishing extraordinary things?

Most important, what percentage of them are moving beyond Authentic Followership to become leaders themselves?

The most common shortcoming of limited leaders is they fail to help their followers become leaders. I can’t even begin to count the times I’ve seen people in leadership positions lose an opportunity for promotion. The opportunity was lost because they had not built even one of their followers into a leader capable of taking over their role. 

I frequently see leaders who move on, either to retire or move up into a different organization, and there is no one on their team prepared to step in and lead. It happens again and again. In every organization. Every single day. 

If you’re in a leadership position and you’re not working with your people to help them grow from follower to leader then you may possess certain characteristics of an Authentic Leader but you are not leading authentically. 

Authentic Leaders do not create more followers, they create more leaders. Leaders who grow more leaders leave behind a legacy that limited leaders can’t. 

If you’re trying to determine if someone is an Authentic Leader look at the people they lead. If they are transforming from follower to leader then it’s very likely the person leading them is a true Authentic Leader. If not then they are in all likelihood being led by a leader who is at least somewhat limited. 

Leaders who help followers become leaders have the potential to unleash explosive growth within their organization. They have the potential to help ordinary people achieve extraordinary accomplishments. Their leadership outlasts their time as a leader. 

When you see a leader like that you know you’re looking at an Authentic Leader. That‘s true even if you can’t see the obvious characteristics of Authentic Leadership.

Are You a Model of Success?

One of the things that frustrate many people in leadership positions is their people not doing what they are told to do. They don’t follow directions and frequently ignore what the leader says. 

It’s kinda true that many people don’t listen to what their leader says. That’s because they are too busy watching what their leader does. 

Authentic Leaders know that their actions speak louder, much louder, than their words. They know that people will do what their leader does about 1000 times faster than they will do what their leader says. Authentic Leaders know that they are the model for the behavior of their people. Not only are they the model for behavior, they are the model for their attitude as well. 

If you’re in a leadership position then you must be hyper-aware that your people are watching you. Always. They watch to determine if what you say is what you mean. If your actions match your words then they will do what you say. If your words say one thing and your actions another then they typically discard your words and do what you did. 

They know that while they may misinterpret your words they can clearly see what you’ve done. Doing what you do is “safer.” What you do likely helped put you into a position they would like to be in one day. It only makes sense that they would follow the example you set for them. 

You confuse them when you get frustrated because they did what you did. You may not realize that you’re leading by example but you most certainly are. Whether you intend to or not. 

Whatever behavior you “model” for your people is the behavior your people will give you. 

It works the same with the attitude your people display. If you demonstrate a negative attitude to your people then don’t be surprised when your people demonstrate one to you. If you’re leading a group of people with a negative attitudes the source of that attitude most likely looks back at you from the mirror every morning. 

Most people in leadership positions don’t like it, or agree with it, when I say that. They believe they are the sunshine in everyone’s day. Let me encourage you to look at yourself again. Maybe hit record on your smartphone and “listen” to yourself for a few hours. You may be surprised at how negative you sound…if you listen with an open mind. 

As a leader, do you cultivate an atmosphere where negative attitudes go to die or do you allow an atmosphere where negative attitudes can thrive? 

Authentic leaders know that when it comes to behavior and attitudes they will most likely get what they give. That’s why they work to consistently model an attitude of success and the behavior that goes along with it. 

You’d Better Do More Than Say You’re Listening

4.3 million people quit their jobs in September as the “Great Resignation” continues to pick up steam. This as thousands of companies continue to pretend that this won’t have any impact on them. 

In a recent survey of people who quit their jobs within the last 12 months a full 79% reported a major reason for leaving was the feeling that their efforts were not appreciated by their organizations. 

But the question is, where did that “feeling” of no appreciation come from?

In many cases it came directly from “management” not listening to their employees. I’d hazard a guess that many of the companies that lost employees told their people that “we are listening” to you. Some likely made a big deal out of their desire to listen to their employees.  They encouraged their people to “speak up.” 

Maybe those companies actually listened and maybe they didn’t. And therein lies the problem. The employees have no idea if they are being listened to because they receive no feedback on their suggestions, questions, or complaints. They don’t see any changes come about because of their efforts to communicate. 

The lack of change or feedback leads people to believe that management doesn’t value their input, experience, or knowledge. Looking at it objectively I’d have to say the people are almost certainly right. 

It’s always been that way to some extent. Today, for a variety of reasons, people are more likely to leave the company than put up with it. 

To be clear people are quitting their jobs for a wide variety of reasons but if you don’t solicit input from your people they are likely to leave faster. If you do solicit input and then appear to do nothing with it they leave even faster. 

If you are a leader in your organization you must make certain that EVERY suggestion, question, or complaint is responded to. You must make every effort to receive those suggestions, questions, or complaints with an open mind. You must be willing to guarantee that no matter the feedback from employees there will no retaliation of any kind. 

Most of all you must be willing to change what makes sense to change. You should also be prepared to explain, with some detail, why something cannot change. 

Explaining a policy or why things are done a certain way does not make you a weak leader. Someone asking why something is done a particular way is not challenging your leadership. In most cases they are trying to help. They are trying to make a difference. 

Communicating with the people you lead makes them feel valued. Feeling valued is more important than money and benefits. It’s so important that people would rather quit their jobs than sell their souls for a paycheck. If you’re running a business and you haven’t figured that out yet then you best be buying a whole bunch more “help wanted” signs cause you need a lotta help.

Some organizations will indeed be impacted less by the Great Resignation. That’s because they do more than merely listen to their people, they do something with what they have learned by listening.