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Leadership thoughts from PeopleFirst HR


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Respected Leaders

Consistently Strong Work Ethic; Set the Standard

Actions are stronger than words, and this is personified by the respected leader. Great leaders despise false promises and people who create lots of unnecessary noise to get attention. There are many leaders that play the part on the outside but have very little substance on the inside. Respected leaders are those who consistently prove through their work ethic that they are reliable and trustworthy on the inside and out.

These leaders set the tone and are great role models. The tangible and measurable results of their consistent work ethic influence new best practices and cultivate innovation. Ultimately, their leadership defines the performance culture for the organization. They set the standard and leave behind an indelible impact.

Not Afraid to Take Risks; Admit Wrong Doing

Respected leaders are those who are not afraid to take risks. They are bold enough to change the conversation and seamlessly challenge the status quo for the betterment of the organization and their competitive advantage. They can anticipate when a paradigm shift is in order and are courageous enough to act on it.

The other side of this admirable quality is the ability to admit wrong doing. Respected leaders do not hesitate to make the most difficult decisions and will put themselves out on the frontline to lead by example. They gravitate towards what many view as a “leap of faith” and willingly accept the challenge – knowing very well that the odds may not be in their favor given the personalities and inherent obstacles that surround them.

Sponsor High-Potential Employees; Serve Others Rightly

Respected leaders think about making others better. They don’t leach, they lead. They are mindful of those that give a 100% effort to their responsibilities. Respected leaders find ways to discover the best in people and enable their full potential. When they detect high-potential talent they impart upon them their wisdom and provide a path for long-term success.

Leaders that “sponsor” their employees put their own reputation at risk for the betterment of the individuals they are serving. This is an admirable quality and one that is highly respected amongst a leader’s peers. For example, my career was shaped and defined by one of my bosses in the early stages of my professional development. She witnessed my raw talent and saw that it needed refinement. Sh took an interest and exposed me to complex problems far beyond my skills at the time.

This challenged me to make decisions and tested my ability to think and use my instincts. She lifted me up and guided me rightly each time I failed along the way. My boss taught me all his tricks and trusted me to use them in ways that represented my personality, natural style and approach. Others noticed and didn’t always think that I was worthy of her sponsorship – but in the end I proved my abilities.

My boss earned a lot of respect from the organization and other leaders began to model her sponsorship approach.

Powerful Executive Presence; Long-Lasting Impact

The most respected leaders are the most authentic people. Their executive presence is genuine and true. They make those around them feel that they matter, and they welcome constructive dialogue regardless of hierarchy or rank. Respected leaders trust themselves enough to live their personal brand and serve as powerful role models to others. Their presence creates long-lasting impact that leaves a positive mark on the organization and the people they serve.

Respected leaders are passionate, impact-driven people. Their presence is felt when they walk into the room; their reputation and their track-record precede them.

Have Their Employees’ Backs; Deflect Their Own Recognition

Too many leaders are recognition addicts and want all of the credit. They spend too much time breaking-down rather than building-up their teams. They don’t take the time to genuinely learn about other’s needs. Leadership is ultimately about knowing the people you serve and giving them the guidance, inspiration and navigational tools to make their lives better and enable more opportunities.

Leaders earn respect when they reward and recognize their employees and colleagues. They take the time to appreciate and understand the unique ways they each think, act and innovate – and are always on the lookout to enable their talent. They are trusted, admired and respected because they make it more about the advancement of others, rather than themselves. They share the harvest of the momentum they build with others.

Earning respect is a journey and requires leaders to focus on how they can “deliver beyond what is expected” of their role and responsibilities. It’s about always being on the look-out for ways to step up your game and being mindful of ways to make the workplace better and the organization and its people more competitive and relevant.

What will you do as a leader today that you haven’t done in the past to be more respected?

 

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Lessons Learned

4 years ago I left the corporate world and started PeopleFirst. As I reflect back I’ve learned much about a lot of things and I wanted to share some of that reflection here with you. I share these today for your benefit, for these lessons, when applied, will help you lead better, learn better and live better.

Human beings are learning beings

We are built to learn, and at some level we all learn every day. What we don’t do enough is learn intentionally. From hundreds of conversations I have learned that people are at their best when they are learning. When we are learning we feel alive, we feel meaning, we feel purposeful. Learning quenches the human drive of curiosity and when we do this intentionally we feel better, and perform better too. One of the most powerful ways to learn is to do what I am doing in this document – reflecting. Everyone can do it and it costs nothing but some focus and a bit of time. Our lives are complicated and the challenges we face are significant – so to succeed and make a difference in this world we must be learning.

Understanding change changes everything

One of the most popular requests I get as a consultant is to help companies change. Why? Because it is all around us, it is complex and our lack of understanding of it causes consternation, frustration and much more. We experience change personally and organizationally. Change is a pervasive part of our world and life, and when we begin to understand how it happens, why it happens, and how we choose it, it makes us more proactive, more understanding, and better able to help others too. Time spent understanding how change happens and how we choose it will fundamentally change your understanding of and ability to succeed in the world.

The contradiction of personal accountability

Here is the contradiction – We control very little, but can influence all most everything. This is a fundamental truth in life that most of us at one time or another try to change, ignore or deny. When we take personal responsibility for what we can control – our choices, our reactions, our emotions, our actions – we are more effective people. When we deny our ability to influence our world and other people by the choices we make, we become victims. And when we live in the land of the victimized, we can’t grow, improve or get better results. The bottom line – while we can’t control anything but ourselves, that is plenty to work with, and when we live from that reality we will be happier, healthier, and more successful.

Development is development

Personal development or professional development, what is the difference? Not much in my mind. When we go to work, we bring our whole selves – and most things we learn at work transfer to application in the rest of our lives anyway. Sure, you may never need to use a specific procedure outside of work, but almost all of our work is about interaction with others, influence, communication and so much more. When we begin to think about every developmental opportunity as both professional and personal, we will become more successful in all areas of our lives faster.

Everything is about choices – and they all matter

We have choices on everything – and how we exercise that choice makes all the difference in our results. Some choices we have relegated to habit and our sub conscious, but all of those are still choices and could still be changed. We often think about the big choices, as well we should. But it is the smaller ones – the mindless TV instead of the book, the carrot cake instead of the carrot, and rolling out of bed after the snooze versus ten minutes of purposeful morning planning – that change our lives. Og Mandino, author of
“The Greatest Salesman in the World” wrote in one of his books, “use wisely your power of choice.” It is a power and the choices are ours to make – and they all make a difference.

These five lessons aren’t the only five I could have chosen – in fact I kept trying to add more as I was writing, but these five have made a huge impact for me. In reading them, I hope they provide you with a challenge to explore how these lessons can make a difference in your life and work.


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Showing Others How To Lead

When you move on to your next opportunity, who will you leave in your place? Will it be one successor who has been carefully groomed to fill your specific job title? Or will you depart having developed the capabilities of as many people as possible?

One definition of leading is “to show the way to by going in advance.” When you use this definition of leadership, you’ll see all sorts of opportunities to develop people, and far beyond just promoting them to a management title.

At some point in their lives, everyone has the chance to “show the way.” When you provide your team members with an opportunity to exercise their leadership muscles, you’re giving them a tremendous gift.

Leadership development is not just for those who aspire to an official job title. And, you don’t need to spend large amounts of money. The key is seeing leadership development opportunity in everyday situations.

Common workplace scenarios where development opportunities lie in wait:

Setbacks. Character is the foundation of leadership and nothing builds character like a project that fails. If you as the leader frame the failure as a learning opportunity, you will set in motion a powerful motivator to grow. I once led a high-visibility project that fell short of expectations. My leader adopted an approach of “get back up on that horse.” She expressed confidence that I could learn from my mistakes and that I would be a better leader on the next go-round. And I was.

Transition. Any time there is an imminent change, you have a prime opportunity to coach people to lean into leadership, either formally or informally. Possible opportunities: promotions, appointment to project leadership, department restructuring or procedural changes. Look for any situation that requires that others be “brought along” into a new territory. Then, identify someone on your team who has both the competence and enthusiasm about the change to act as a lead.

Technical expertise. Do you have a highly skilled “technician” on your staff — someone who excels in a particular skill that others would benefit learning about? Work with that individual to help him craft a series of “lunch and learns” for your team. You can also look for ways you can showcase your team members’ talents beyond your department — send them in your place to meetings or have them make presentations at all-company meetings.

Differing opinions. In the workplace, there’s an abundance of opinions. When those viewpoints clash, your team needs leadership to help bring the group to consensus. That person doesn’t always need to be you. When you help others in your team develop the skill of facilitating dialogue, there are multiple paybacks. Not only do your discussion leaders gain key business skills, but your team works together more smoothly.

Tom Peters has said, “Leaders don’t create followers; they create more leaders.” There are ample chances to grow leaders each and every day. When you know where to look, it’s surprising just how many “leadership development” opportunities there really are.

 


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Fostering A Work Environment Where Leaders Can Thrive.

 

The long-standing debate: Are leaders “born” or “made”? We all can recognize some people who appear to be “born leaders”, but many leaders are made. If you have employees who have the potential to step up as leaders but haven’t done so, there are several things you can do to help them develop.

Provide employees with decision-making opportunities

Good leaders have the confidence to make decisions on their own. One of the best ways to build up this confidence for other employees with leadership potential is to give them the power to make some important decisions on their own. Not only does empowering employees to make decisions boost confidence, it allows them to think critically and in the best interest of the company.

When an employee is responsible for making decisions without relying on a manager, it requires them to weigh the best interest of everyone involved and become more in tune with the project or organizational goals. The responsibility of decision-making gives employees a greater sense of ownership and accountability over his or her work, which leads to better employee engagement. The next time an employee asks how he or she should move forward, instead of giving them the answer, ask, “What do you think we should do next?”

Encourage employees to pursue their passions

There is no better motivation to accomplish great things than loving what you do. Another way to shape employees into leaders is to talk to them about what they are passionate about and where they would like to see themselves, their department or the company. Allowing them to see projects through that, will help accomplish that goal demonstrates your interest in their vision and that you value their input.

Revealing what excites and motivates your employees and giving them the chance to follow through with those ideas can help them feel more fulfilled. Even if what an employee is most interested in is something that would occur outside of the office, such as participating in sports or volunteering, encourage them to organize these activities and get co-workers involved. Satisfaction with one’s accomplishments is not something that can be taught, but it is a feeling that can spread to and motivate other employees.

Facilitate learning

Knowledge builds confidence and empowers people. Good leaders are continually learning and questioning how things can be done better. By suggesting books, articles and blogs to read, employees can become motivated to learn on a regular basis. Encouraging employees to attend webinars, watch videos, go to networking events and workshops can also help emphasize the importance of learning. The more experiences and knowledge employees gain, the more they can contribute to the growth and success of ideas and their work.

Acknowledge accomplishments

Acknowledging your employees’ hard work not only builds confidence, it also fuels a sense of pride in what they are doing. Investing time and money into staff well-being and happiness will also strengthen the company culture and bring out leadership skills. Whether it’s public praise at a staff meeting, an award at a company gathering or a gift card, tokens of appreciation are encouraging ways to assure an employee that he or she is on the right track. Additionally, if your employees notice you praising others, they may be more open to peer encouragement, which will continue the cycle of positive reinforcement and the behavior you want to see in a leader.

Good leaders, whether they are born or made, are often at the crux of a successful company.  Whether you are a manager or an executive; it’s important to foster a work environment where leaders can thrive.


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It’s Not “What” you say It’s “How” you say it!

The delivery of the message is more than half the battle, especially in leadership. Of course what you say matters, but how you say it, how you relate to people, is what differentiates great leaders from the pack.   That means you can have innovative ideas, indeed you must, but if you can’t deliver them in a way that connects with people and relates to them in a meaningful way, you won’t get results.

Over the years working with many CEO’s I’ve seen those that started out brash, aggressive and only worried about their success and driving results. That only gets you so far.  The smart (and really successful ones) learned the importance and motivational impact of genuinely connecting with people in a meaningful way.

That transition doesn’t happen all at once, it’s a process of continuous improvement and the learning never really stops. So, wherever you are in your journey to the top, these 5 tips will help to improve your delivery so people will want to be a part of whatever it is you’re doing.

Look people straight in the eye and really “see” them. If you take one thing away from this post, this is the one. It’s huge.  When you look someone straight in the eye, you’re initiating a potentially deep connection that can’t be achieved any other way. It also shows respect, i.e. there’s nothing more dismissive and demeaning than not “recognizing” someone by looking directly at them.

Increase your self-awareness. How you say things is more about how you feel than what you think. If people have trouble relating to you or respecting you, chances are you’re not as self-aware as you think you are. The only way to change that is to find out what employees, peers, and your boss like and don’t like about how you communicate. Being open to feedback is the only place to start.

Be direct and genuine. The big problem with political correctness is that it’s hard enough to be straightforward and direct with people as it is. The whole Political Correctness thing just adds layers of complexity that make it so much harder to be straightforward in a work environment. Actually, the more direct and genuine you are with people, the greater their sense of trust and the more respect they’ll have for you.

Executive presence isn’t about power and domination. This is perhaps the biggest misconception about executive presence. It doesn’t come from command and control, it comes from connecting and relating, from sharing your passion in a way that’s meaningful to others. It breaks down barriers.

Learn to be a storyteller. People relate to stories and storytellers. People don’t remember facts and figures or even logical arguments as well as they remember stories. They also find it easier to connect with storytellers. If you really want to relate to people in a deep way, tell them stories they can relate to.


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Transitioning from peer to boss – part II

The transition from peer to manager cannot occur overnight, even though the day after your promotion expectations change drastically. It takes a lot of time and effort, so it’s helpful to think of the transition as a journey. The changes require time to take root, usually years.  You may be lucky enough to have had great mentors along the way, but I find in many cases the opposite is true. That means it’s really up to you.  You make progress on your journey through trial and error.

Fortunately, most managers begin to make progress, but many fail to complete their journeys. They stop short of acquiring the necessary skills, knowledge, values, outlook, self-knowledge, judgment, and especially emotional competence.

Most new managers start out receptive to change and learning because of their initial discomfort in their new position. But as they begin to learn the ropes and no longer fear imminent failure, too often they grow complacent.

Every organization has its ways of doing things — rules of thumb, policies, standard practices, unspoken rules and guidelines — such as “promote by seniority,” “smooth over conflict,” and a host of others. Once learned, they are ways of getting along, and new managers use them to get by. Instead of confronting a performance problem, they fill out the obligatory annual performance appraisal and simply negotiate the wording with the person involved.

They do enough to meet the status quo because that’s all that’s required of them. Indeed, they stop thinking of what’s possible and focus on what’s expected.

They hire people who are just good enough. They progress to the point that management no longer feels new and strange. When they no longer fear imminent failure, they grow comfortable. They “manage,” in the worst sense of the word. That’s why years of experience are not necessarily an indication of effective management.

This surely accounts for the wide range of mastery among managers, even those with considerable experience. Based on what I have seen, most organizations have a few great managers, some good managers, a horde of mediocre managers, some poor managers, and some awful managers. Like most of us, you’ve probably had, at one time or another, a boss whose ineffectiveness made you wonder how could someone like this become or remain a manager?

With all the time commitment required, and the fact that most organizations fail to provide enough initial help and resources for inexperienced managers, it’s not surprising that so many stop short of completing their journey. Full mastery comes slowly, as with any serious skill, and requires steady progress in a world that keeps throwing up ever more complex challenges and opportunities.

I know highly competent managers that believe they are still learning even after years of experience. They have taken the initiative and time to challenge themselves to become better every day. They accept and look for criticism, so they can explore solutions.  In the end these type managers become future mentors.


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Inspiring Communicators

In two decades (that sounds old) of working with CEOs, business owners and other senior leaders, I cannot recall one who I would have deemed to be stupid (ok maybe 1). But seriously most were intelligent, talented people. Yet, when faced with the challenge of change, or a crisis, many succeeded and some failed. Those who failed usually lost their jobs or businesses.

When I listen to the ones that succeeded consistently, I listened to inspiring communicators.

To be inspiring, however, was not the same as being a great speaker.   To be inspiring, you had to learn how to be a better listener, you had to fundamentally understand what was in the hearts and minds of the people in your audience, and you had to speak with passion and authenticity.

You could stumble and stutter over your words, but if people saw you speaking to the things you truly believed, and felt that you truly understood them and respected their views, you were far more likely to make the vital connection that would attract them to your vision.

HR leaders have recognized that leadership has changed. OUT has gone the command and control style of leadership, and IN has come a new, more empathetic, emotionally intelligent style of leadership where communication becomes one of the top two skills that you need to succeed. (The first is raw intellect and the ability to develop the right strategy.) The ability to understand, motivate and inspire others is the characteristic that is now second most important when recruiting senior leaders or anyone headed in that direction.

Great leadership ensures that the right conversations are taking place right across their businesses, for they understand it is those conversations that drive change and ensure progress.  Leaders have to learn how to engage people in and through conversations. They have to learn how to tell stories better, and they have to learn how to be themselves, only better if they want to lead in our changing world.

The task of a leader is to inspire others to achieve great results. It sounds simple, but leaders today are operating in an incredibly demanding environment. The difference between competent communication and inspiring communication can be the difference between poor performance and outstanding results.

In speaking with leaders I admire the most, two words that I consistently hear are relationships and trust. You cannot lead if you cannot establish relationships of trust, both inside and outside your company.

Effective communicators:

  • Address the concerns of the audience BEFORE delivering their own messages,
  • Learn to listen better and master the most difficult communication skill of all,
  • Develop strong points of view on key issues,
  • Use more stories to capture hearts and imprint messages on memories,
  • Are aware of the power of unintended signals and messages,
  • Prepare properly when appearing on public platforms, and
  • Keep reviewing and developing your communication skills.