Anamcgary's Blog

Leadership thoughts from PeopleFirst HR

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Delegating for Growth

When my children were younger they often asked me what I did at work.  As my career advanced my answer changed.  This particular time it was my son asking and I explained that my job was to help set the company’s strategy, help make people the best they can be, and ensure that our organization had the right resources and skills sets to execute our business plan.   My son’s response was, “So, you don’t really do any actual work.”

After my husband stopped laughing, I assured my son that I worked very hard and the work I was doing was critical to the success of the business. But in a way, my son was picking up on something important: I had gotten to a point in my career where my contribution to the company was better served by teaching others, rather than doing it myself.

A lot of leaders can’t get to this point because they either don’t know how to or they’re afraid of delegating. Maybe they think it will take too long to train someone effectively, or if they delegate too much, they’ll have nothing left to do. And often the more competent they are, the harder it is to delegate. They’re afraid the work won’t get done at all, or more likely, it won’t be done according to their high standards. It’s difficult to give up control, especially when you won’t tolerate anything less than the perfectionism and the high-level of performance you expect of yourself.

Trust me, I know because I am definitely one of those control freaks.  I am trying to reform, but sometimes I slip.  However, I have learned that I can’t do everything myself. The only way your career – and your business – will grow is by assuming increasingly higher levels of responsibility; the only way you’ll have time to do that, without spending your life at work, is to delegate. You have to work on your business and let everyone else work in it.

Below are some tips that may help you delegate with more ease:

Create a culture where mistakes are tolerated. All senior leaders must understand that mistakes are acceptable — as long as people learn from them. No one will accept more responsibility, try new things, or risk making a mistake if they get yelled at or penalized. This is essential.

In formal reviews, include a specific rating for delegation. Do not just mention delegation in passing. It should merit a specific grade. Discuss with managers how they can delegate one-third of their job to one or more of their direct reports. Ask them to develop a specific timeline with the peoples’ names to which they’ll delegate.

Communicate to your staff that pay increases come only with increased value provided. Increased value comes not only with increased effort, but also with a higher-level responsibilities and duties — some of those duties that you might be doing now.

It’s so easy to solve others’ problems by giving quick solutions, but that makes people dependent on you. Tell all your direct reports, and have them tell theirs, that when people want to know how to solve something, they must come with suggested solutions. They should be ready to discuss the factors that should be considered, and provide reasons why one solution seems better than another. Pretty soon people will become more autonomous, feel more empowered, need less supervision, and get people in the habit of thinking critically. That’s good input for determining succession planning and promotions.


Your Daily Impact on Others

Good leadership is important to me.  Like most of us I have seen bad and good.  But mainly it’s important because of all the people we interact with in our daily life, whether we talk to them or not.  Each individual we come across influences us in some way, even if by a thought.  We influence others in the same way, even if by just a simple action, smile or other expression. 

When you happen to be in an “official” leadership position; either by position, title or circumstance the impact you have is even greater.

I know I have mentioned these in some form or fashion before, but these ten things remind me of the influence I can have on others and the fact that I want it to be a positive one.  I hope they help you too.

1. Remember that everyone is watching.

One of the most important things to keeping mind is that all leaders are role models.    You’re constantly setting examples, be they good or bad. And your employees will follow your lead and do as you do. Therefore, you must constantly remind yourself that you are a role model.  Be cognizant of this truth and let it steer your actions.

2. Learn from bad examples.

At some point in your career, you‘ll likely find yourself working for someone you believe isn’t up to the job.  Don’t dismiss this experience as a total loss.  This is an excellent opportunity to learn a great deal about what not to do.

3. Make the right decision.

Decision making should be rather easy:  Simply ask yourself, “What’s the right thing to do?”  The right thing is usually easy to recognize, though it may not be the decision you want to make.  Nonetheless, doing the right thing almost never gets you into trouble. 

4. Say what you are going to do, and then do it.

If you tell someone that you will return a call, do it. If you tell one of your staff you will check into something for them, do it.  Few actions will cost you others’ respect faster than failing to keep your word.

5. When a tough decision has to be made, deliver the message yourself.

When call upon to make a difficult decision – be it downsizing a department, terminating a poor performer, taking business away from a long-time vendor or relocating your organization – take it upon yourself to deliver the message.  Don’t hide behind the staff, letting someone else communicate the bad news.  Handling it yourself will force you to contemplate your actions thoroughly and completely understand their implications.

6. Let them know where they stand.

Too often, performance reviews catch employees off guard.  To be a leader that people want to follow, you need to consistently let others know what they do well and what areas need improvement. A truly successful appraisal process will see employees receiving the outcome they anticipated because they were consistently advised of their strengths and weaknesses throughout the year.

7.  Always ask for others’ opinions.

When faced with a tough decision, ask your staff for advice.  By requesting their opinions on various matters, you show that you value their ideas.  You may even hear a suggestion that hadn’t crossed your mind.  Remember, you’re not obligated to do anything anyone suggests, but just asking will bring invaluable dividends.

8. Share your philosophy.

When making decisions, take the time to explain to your staff how you reached those decisions.  The more they know how you think, the better they will become at meeting your expectations.   Tell prospective employees during the hiring process what working for you is going to be like.  Tell them ahead of time what it will take for them to get ahead and what mistakes could cost them.  Expressing your philosophy is the first step to getting your staff to repeat your message on their own.

9. Personalize it.

Remember the little things, such as birthdays and anniversaries.  You don’t need to buy a gift, but handwritten notes go a long way.  And saying something specific shows that you think your people are worth spending extra time on.  Also, remember them during the holidays; give them all the same thing or personalize each gift.  Listen throughout the year for things they like, collect or do for a hobby.  Nothing builds camaraderie like showing your staff you have a personal interest in them.

10. Set high expectations.

Set expectations high for yourself and others.  Demand quality.  Don’t give in if you know the work could be better.  By setting high personal standards, you also show that your hiring standards are high.  This translates into a reputation that you only hire the best, which says a lot to the people who work for you: It means they must be great if you hired them.    They develop a great sense of pride in working for someone who only expects the best.


“Fear” The enemy of achieving your goals

...non fidarsi è meglio - my scared cat / gatto

Image by Paolo Margari via Flickr

We all know people who are talented, possess great ideas, values and goals. When they communicate their goals to you they are passionate and you can’t help but get excited about their journey.  And I believe they are sincere at that moment when they are talking. But as soon as it is time for them to follow through on their intentions with actions, it doesn’t happen. Somewhere between talking and action, they get caught up in something else, I’m too busy, there is a lot going on in my life, etc.  Succeeding is easy if nothing scares you. If nothing makes you hesitant, shy or nervous.

When you do not act, it is probably because some fear doesn’t allow you to follow through.  When you have a disparity between your goals and your actions, your actions will always be the truth.

It is difficult to move forward in reaching your true potential when you are stuck in fear and inactivity.  Yet we sometimes want all the stars to line up before we can take action.  Well, reality is the stars won’t always line up just right; however, you can do things that get them lined up close enough to take the plunge.

What goal you are working towards.  What are those things you need to do to meet that goal?  The things you do on a daily basis, are they supportive of your intention and the things you say you care about for yourself? If not, then what do you need to do to correct that? Are you willing to make those changes?

If not, then you may want to re-examine your goals. So often, people have created values and goals for themselves based upon what they think they “should” be doing or what someone else thinks is best for them. This approach might work for a while, but not for the long run.

Once you know what your true goal is, begin to take specific actions to move in that direction, establish some deadlines for yourself.  The next step is to let others know your action plan. Telling other people about your intentions is very important. You are making a public affirmation.

Remember leaders impact others by taking actions which reinforce their values. They have found something they truly believe in and are living by their values. Be a leader in your life. Be, think, feel and act in a way which is in accordance to your values and your goals for success. Opportunities will begin to appear.

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Dress For Success

 This Blog was written by Gregg Hake.

Company dress codes and people’s perception of what’s acceptable to wear in business has long been a debate.  I think Gregg says it the right way and more organizations should follow suit.  Thanks Gregg.

“Great men are seldom over-scrupulous in the arrangement of their attire.” – Charles Dickens

One thing should be clear: clothes do not make a man a gentleman or a woman a lady; and, by the same token, a real gentleman or a true lady is always a gentleman or a lady, no matter what he or she wears. The clothes you wear either magnify or cloak your personality and what you wear is in many ways less important than how you wear it.

I relaxed my company’s dress code today in hopes that there might be room for greater creative freedom, not just in apparel choices but in thought and deed. We’ve been heavily engaged in breaking down assumptions we’ve held that have prevented us in any way from making it easy for our clients to do business with us and this fashion statement was freshly pressed to that end.

The fashion choices we make are deeply personal. Like our food choices, they are based part on preference, part on need, part on availability and part on custom. Your clothing is a calling card to your personality, to your mood and to your outlook and your ability to dress appropriately can have a significant impact on how successful you are in any department of life.

It is possible to overdress. It is possible to underdress. At times it makes sense to overdress while it is less commonly advisable to underdress. The key is to dress in such a way that you do not hinder your effectiveness in life. Neutral or helpful is good. Hindrance is bad.

I’ve found that first impressions are important to people but at the same time I’ve always enjoyed the times when I’ve been surprised to learn that my initial impressions were incorrectly formed. Appearances can be deceiving and its worth remembering that fact lest you be caught in a web of prejudice.

In relaxing the dress code at my company I hope that everyone will rise to the occasion and take care to determine what is appropriate. We don’t live in a time like the Elizabethan era where what was worn when was formalized and rigid. That said, the art of appropriateness lives on.

There are those (often men) who say that they don’t really care about what they wear, but then when you look at them from one situation to the next they somehow end up not just fitting in but often matching what others around them wear. I was recently in a small town where every guy had a baseball cap on with sunglasses perched atop the cap. I was convinced of a fashion conspiracy, but were I to ask about it I’m sure that every one of them would have said that they put no thought to the ensemble.

There is no harm done in caring about what you wear, neither is there any problem in my book with not caring much about what you wear, unless your lack of concern gets in the way of you delivering the greatness that is yours to give. Clothing fitly chosen, like words fitly spoken are an aspect of your aesthetic and there is no reason to decrease the odds of someone receiving you due to a poorly composed aesthetic.

At the end of the day, it’s not so much what you wear but the goods you deliver that tell the tale. If you don’t have the resources to wear what you would like to wear, don’t be ashamed. Do the best you can with what you have and you can’t go wrong. As Albert Einstein said “If most of us are ashamed of shabby clothes and shoddy furniture, let us be more ashamed of shabby ideas and shoddy philosophies…It would be a sad situation if the wrapper were better than the meat wrapped inside it.”

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What’s your leadership impact?

Leaders set the tone for their followers and organizations.  Every leader from team lead to CEO makes an impact on others. Whether or not leaders know it, their followers monitor, magnify, and often mimic their behaviors. I worked with a company where the CEO did almost all of the talking in meetings, interrupted everyone, and silenced dissenting subordinates. His COO and other senior vice presidents complained about him behind his back, but as time went on, the COO started acting the very same way.  All the skills, experience and training that made him an effective COO began to change.

The ripple effects of this CEO’s style are consistent with findings from peer-reviewed studies showing that senior executives’ actions can reverberate throughout organizations, ultimately undermining or bolstering their cultures and performance levels.

Linda Hudson, CEO of BAE Systems, got this message after becoming the first female president of General Dynamics. After her first day on the job, a dozen women in her office imitated how she tied her scarf. Hudson realized, “It really was now about me and the context of setting the tone for the organization. That was a lesson I have never forgotten—that as a leader, people are looking at you in a way that you could not have imagined in other roles.” Hudson added that such scrutiny and the consequent responsibility is “something that I think about virtually every day.”

In your leadership role you too should think about the impact you make on future leaders.  The best leaders work tenaciously to stay in tune with this relentless attention and use it to their advantage. They know that the success of their people and organizations depends on maintaining an accurate view of how others construe their moods and moves—and responding with rapid, effective adjustments.

That view is invaluable for leaders as they try to carry out their first and most important task: convincing others that they are in charge. Leaders who fail to do this will find their jobs impossible, their lives hell, and their tenures short. Of course, taking charge effectively isn’t enough. The best leaders also boost performance by watching their people’s backs: making it safe for them to learn, act, and take intelligent risks; shielding them from unnecessary distractions and external idiocy of every stripe; and doing hundreds more little things that help them achieve one small win after another—and feel pride, respect and dignity along the way.

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“Change is inevitable, Progress is a choice.”

Dean Lindsey, author of “The Progress Challenge was recently interviewed by Miri McDonald, an expert of organizational development and strategic communications. Dean’s book adds a fresh perspective on change management. When asked to talk more about the concept behind his motto, “Change is inevitable, Progress is a choice.” Dean explained.

It’s natural to view change as negative. Nobody wants their change managed. No one plans to change. We plan to progress. We want to make things better. Companies usually focus on telling people what needs to be done, but not why or how it will be progress. Involve your team in progress not just process. How did Dean arrive at the “6 Ps of Progress?” I was studying the works of many of the world’s top minds on motivation and commitment. I became very interested in Viktor Frankl’s work, the founder of Logotherapy. I came to the conclusion that people make decisions on emotions and back it up with logic. In other words, everything we do is because we believe, consciously or subconsciously, that the projected consequences of those actions will be us feeling the right mix of six core feelings:

• Peace of mind • Pleasure • Profit • Prestige • Pain Avoidance • Power

How can organizations make use of the “The Progress Challenge,” especially if there has been a negative history with change?

• Get to know your team member’s parameters of progress. Really connect with people where they are, in emotion and in feeling. Have an open dialogue that leads to true consensus and commitment. Some people are amazing progress leaders, and there are others who haven’t taken team members’ parameters of progress into account. Then they wonder why initiatives don’t get implemented.

• Maximize your personal potential. Meaning, look sharp both mentally and physically. Make yourself attractive to other people so they see you as a positive force.

• Cherish and cultivate constructive communication.

• Help others choose to feel positive about their work and lives.

• Be human and humane.

• Share expertise.

The “Parameters of Progress.” is really looking at each person’s perspective on the 6Ps. What would bring each person the most pleasure, peace of mind, profit, prestige, power and pain avoidance? What are their goals? What do they want out of life? If leaders take time to learn about how their team members would answer these questions, they could show how the change is progress for them.

What does it mean to “Be Progress”?

Team members need to feel that you are progress long before something needs to be done differently. Sometimes people confuse being progress with making progress. People want to make progress. But you must be progress in the minds of those you wish to propel into positive action. Initiatives must be positioned as progress and not change. Not just by saying it but by showing how the progress will lead to the right mixture of their 6Ps. This will lead to more confidence in the company and when something new comes up, people won’t be as resistant to it. Help people find progress in the change. You can’t control what happens to you but you can control your reaction to it. People need help finding the progress or how they can create it for themselves.

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Can you help your “bad” boss?

WOW! Monday’s blog created much reaction.  One of the most interesting comments was “He is so bad, he doesn’t even know he is a bad boss”.  It is very easy to be critical of our leaders.  This comment made me think of how sometimes it may be more about perception vs. someone actually being an ineffective (bad) boss/leader.   If you think about it from the manager’s point of view his/her experiences and background has led him/her to their current managing style.

So my challenge to you is have you ever made an attempt to tell your boss what you need, how he/she can be more effective with you.  I believe an employee/manager relationship regardless of the level is a two-way street.  If your boss doesn’t know how he/she may be affecting you, how can he/she adjust their behavior?  I am going to use he/him after this, but you get the idea.

I know you’re thinking, is she crazy, my boss doesn’t care what I think or that’s a quick way to lose a job.  But, you would be surprised at how many good leaders have developed after someone told them how lousy they were as a boss.  You do have to do it with much more tact. 

Think about it for a minute, everyone is different and therefore like to be managed different, so a  hands-off manager may not realize that his failure to provide any direction or feedback makes him a bad boss. He may think he’s empowering his staff.

A manager who provides too much direction and micromanages may feel insecure and uncertain about his own job. He may not realize his direction is insulting to a competent, secure, self-directed staff member.

Or, maybe the boss lacks training and is so overwhelmed with his job requirements that he can’t provide support for you. Perhaps he has been promoted too quickly or his reporting responsibilities have expanded beyond his reach. In these days of downsizing, responsibilities are often shared by fewer staff members than ever before.  If any of these ring a bell, think about:

Telling your manager what you need from him in terms of direction, feedback and support. Be polite and focus on your needs. Telling the boss he’s a bad boss is counterproductive and won’t help you meet your goals.

Ask your manager how you can help him reach his goals. Make sure you listen well and provide the needed assistance.

You may be surprised by the outcome and be part of developing leadership skills in your boss and yourself.