Anamcgary's Blog

Leadership thoughts from PeopleFirst HR

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Attitude and Leadership

This week I attended the Society of Human Resources (SHRM) conference in Atlanta.  I had the opportunity to listen to Dr. Condoleezza Rice, who was the key-note speaker at the conference.  I have always been a fan, but after listening to her I believe she demonstrated what it meant to be extraordinary, to be passionate and to be a leader.

Over the years I have had the privilege of working with many different leaders from all walks of life.  The one thing all the successful leaders have in common including Dr. Rice is they never become a victim of circumstance or anything else for that matter.  They look for opportunity even at the worst of times and she certainly had her share of bad times when she served as Secretary of State.

Dr. Rice achieved her success because she refused to yield to traditional barriers.  During her speech she told a story about a little black girl who grew up in Alabama and couldn’t go to certain schools, drink from some water fountains or eat in certain restaurants.  But her parents convinced that little girl that she could still grow up to be president and eventually she became Secretary of State.  That gave me chills.  She is truly inspiring and once again I am reminded of the impact ones attitude has on life.  We all have a choice everyday on how we will embrace the day. You can’t control your circumstances, but you can control your response to the circumstances, and that’s the difference between truly successful leaders and others.

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Does Your Company Draw Top Talent?

I had a meeting the other day with a prospect and we were discussing why some organizations always have people applying for jobs wanting to work for them while others have a difficult time filling similar positions. I believe it’s all about a company’s reputation. Everyone wants top talent, yet few are willing to do the work that is required to be deserving of these people. That’s great news for those who are serious about becoming the type of workplace where everyone wants to work.

It’s hard to change perception, but it’s not impossible. Here’s how:

Be open to change. I’m tired of hearing business owners and leaders say that the reason things are done a certain way is because they’ve always been done that way. This kind of thinking won’t help you become the type of workplace that attracts people who are innovative. In fact, the opposite is true. People who are stuck in their old ways will remain thereby leaving you with a workforce that will never go above and beyond the status quo.

Rid yourself of toxic employees. Nothing brings a workforce down quicker than toxic employees. All it takes is one or two lousy managers to taint the workplace. I’m not going to tell you how to identify these people, as you already know who they are. Take action. Eliminate those who are making your workplace a stinky place to work.

Energize your workplace. Companies have been running mean and lean for so long that it’s now become the norm. Employees are dragging their butts to work every day and slogging along. Candidates who are interviewing with your company will sense the negative energy the moment they step foot in your door. Start investing again in your business. Begin by restoring pay cuts and by making some visible investments that will let your employees know your company is back on the move again.

Tell your story. You may be a great company to work for, but what good will that do if no one else knows about this? Revisit your mission statement and include a section on your company’s philosophy toward your people. Start a company blog, redesign the career section of your website, ask employees to tweet, hire a PR firm. Just do something!  Everyone wants to be on a winning team. Change up your strategy, trade some players and create the type of organization where only exceptional people need apply.

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Focus Your Leadership

Successful business relies upon the ability of the organization to have a strong purpose.  That fact has never really changed regardless of economic or other unforeseen circumstances.

I find that some leaders tend to want to find someone to “blame” for their challenges.  If you’re looking for some concise tips to focus your leadership, here are eight from the wisdom of the late Peter Drucker:

1. Make sure that what makes a difference gets done.

2. Check your performance against previously defined goals.

3. Say no to things that don’t contribute to the real mission.

4. Know early when to stop trying doing something that can’t be done.

5. Organize travel and leverage new technology if it’s possible.

6. Have a maximum of two organizational goals at the same time.

7. Make sure the people around you understand your priorities.

8. Build on your strengths. Find strong people to do the other necessary tasks.

To fully digest the expanded wisdom of Peter Drucker, pick up a copy of The Essential Drucker or any of his books. If you are a practicing manager you’ll find them crisp, to the point, and genuinely useful.



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Real Leaders Don’t Boss

Real leaders are rare in today’s fast-moving, financially driven world. In their place are fast-track wannabes and imposters, intent on instant gratification in the form of quick (and unsustainable) bottom-line results.  Real and effective leaders today—from the executive suite to the assembly line–quietly and consistently follow the seven principles of effective leadership “Real Leaders Don’t Boss” as written by Ritch Eich.

Eich observes, there are far too many bosses and not enough leaders. Bosses who are too narrowly focused, see employees as tools, respect positions and controls rather than empowering, and sets expectations for others that they wouldn’t wish on themselves.

Real leaders inspire others to lead wherever they find themselves in the organization. Eich identifies and then dedicates a chapter to each of eight essentials of effective leadership:

  1. Rea leaders don’t boss. They are calm in their style, yet have zero tolerance for bullies, who, in any capacity, undermine performance and morale.
  2. Real leaders have a central compass. They aspire to do what’s right and be a part of something bigger than themselves.
  3. Real leaders communicate with clarity, honesty, and directness, and know how to listen.
  4. Real leaders have a unique make-up. Their passion translates into a strong corporate culture.
  5. Real leaders value and support everyone they lead, out front as well as behind the scenes.
  6. Real leaders know when to get out of the way.
  7. Real leaders are accessible. They are humble and easily approached.
  8. Real leaders know the difference between character and integrity, and why it takes both to succeed.

These eight essentials are about treating people right. They also reflect an extended range of responses to people and situations that “bosses” either don’t possess or exercise.

Leadership isn’t something you are necessarily born with; it is something that is thoughtfully developed throughout life.  Most real leaders aren’t born with some innate ability transforming them into magnets that attract others to follow them. They may have expectations placed on them to rise above their present situation or environment; they may even have an inborn strong desire to serve others and accomplish something unique. In most cases, however, leadership skills are developed and honed in the battlefield of life, where leaders discover their drive, passion, and wisdom.  It is these opportunities to rise above our present situation and environment that we should be seeking out and providing for our children—the next generation of leaders.