Anamcgary's Blog

Leadership thoughts from PeopleFirst HR

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“Leadership” Is not in a Title

I have worked with many new managers that feel their new titles should earn them respect from their staff.  They couldn’t be more wrong.  Too many leaders still believe that they are owed and/or command some level of (unearned) respect just because of their position in an organization.

In our environment today, leaders must change their state of mind and become more responsible with their actions and accountable for the effect their influence has on their employees and, the organization.

Leaders need to become more mindful of how they are leading mindful of how they are leading others and how they are being perceived.

I am always respectful of someone’s position of authority and responsibility. However, it doesn’t mean that I necessarily respect “the person” behind the title. Respect, trust and loyalty are earned over time. Ultimately, it is the quality, consistency and presence of one’s character that makes me respect a leader.

When you think of great leaders who are honored and respected, they weren’t always necessarily well-liked. But they were respected for how they led and made those around them better. Over time this earned respect in a positive manner and secured their place in history (e.g. Ronald Reagan, Mother Teresa, Abraham Lincoln, Steve Jobs)

Today’s uncertain workplace requires leaders to pay close attention to others. Leaders must be active and attentive listeners, practice patience, appreciate the unique talents and capabilities of their colleagues, and be noticeably grateful for the effort and performance of their teams. People are carefully observing their leaders, looking for reasons not to trust them (because they have been burned so many times in the past), but ultimately wanting their leaders to be worthy of their respect and loyalty. Unfortunately, leaders often make this task difficult as many of them are not naturally wired to lead, or emotionally intelligent enough to be aware of the consequences of their insensitive leadership style and demeanor.

Actions are stronger than words, and this is personified by the respected leader.  These leaders set the tone and are huge 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.

Are you that leader?


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‘The Prospect of Good’

This post was written by Gregg Hake a few weeks ago and its one that makes you really think so I wanted to share.

“I have a new philosophy. I’m only going to dread one day at a time.” ~ Charles M. Schulz

Illness has a way of narrowing down your scope of concern. The more severe it is, the more it seems you must withdraw into your heart and mind to deal with it. Long-term fears and dreads tend to fade from consciousness or are perhaps crowded out by more pressing immediate concerns and if you’re lucky, the process can actually put life back into perspective.

Charles Schulz’ “new philosophy” is funny in a painful kind of way, but life is generally a thorough mixture of matters pleasant and disagreeable. You may have come to realize that the mixture is a given and largely beyond your control, but how you face the mixture is completely up to you. Further, you might have noticed that you really do have an option when it comes to the way you think about the future.

Think about it this way: you can give the prospect of good more weight in your heart than you do the dread of evil. The moment you do, the tide of your life will begin to turn. You cannot exert a radiance influence on the world around you when you are paralyzed with dread, but you can have a tremendous impact when you are buoyed by the prospect of good.

You needn’t contract a terrible illness to come to terms with these realizations. You needn’t wait for a life-changing moment to change your life. You can be a force of change in your world, an agent of creative change, by simply allowing for a change in emphasis. Give weight to the prospect of good. Stop wasting time and energy dreading ill things.

The circumstances you face will be what they are, but you can be who you determine to be when you open the door to greet them.

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Attitude Impact

The first habit in Steven Covey’s book; The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is “Be Proactive”.  In his book Mr. Covey says that being proactive is about taking responsibility for your life. He writes that our life doesn’t just “happen;” that whether we know it or not, our lives are designed by none other than ourselves.  He goes on to say that we make our own choices.  We choose happiness. We choose sadness. We choose decisiveness. We choose ambivalence, courage, fear and numerous other things.  He tells us that we make new choices in every moment and every situation, and in doing so, we have an opportunity to do things differently to produce more positive results. 

I am reminded this week how this first habit can impact your life.  In seemingly the same situation those who made a conscious decision  to be happy and not feel angry or hurt any longer, seem to weather the storms in their lives so much better. 

For me it really comes to light when you interact with someone everyday and sometimes secretly wish you had their life, mostly because they are so happy and have no problem or a care in the world.  Life for them seems like a fairytale.  Come on admit it, you have dealt with this feeling at some point in your life.  More amazing is when you somehow learn this individual has had not one or two but several catastrophic events in their life, and some they are still dealing with.  Yet they never once gave you or anyone else around them an indication that they were upset or life wasn’t fair, etc.

We’ve all been there, a situation we didn’t expect that turns our world upside down.  And I for one wish I always reacted positively and constructively, afraid not, but trying. Yet when I witness individuals like this, I am inspired and I commend them for their sense of humility and courage, as well as their desire to be the creative force of their life rather than being the victim to current circumstances.    When we experience painful situations it’s hard to gain the self-awareness to choose to be positive.  But I will say it does give you a sense of freedom, rather than surrender.


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.