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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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Leaders, Disconnect and be a better leader

Ahh technology, you can’t live without it.  But how did we ever function before, cell phones, lap tops, text, etc. Do you often find yourself sitting on the couch in the evening with your laptop reading e-mails and your cell phone nearby, just in case.  

It isn’t just happening at home. When was the last time you went to a meeting and found people focused entirely on the topic at hand – with no one ever holding or using their phone to check their email? Kevin Eikenberry writes that in his leadership workshops he challenges people to put their phones down between the breaks. And while these breaks are just 1 hour apart, many people can’t keep the phone in their purse or on the table; they seem compelled to take a quick peek, checking their texts and emails.

Don’t get us wrong we agree that Technology can improve and extend our communication options. These technologies can aid our productivity, especially when we work away from the office or have a virtual team. And, like in many other areas of life, too much of a good thing isn’t necessarily so good.

What problems does technology cause for all of us as professionals and especially for us as leaders?

It starts with our assumptions. Because we have a phone, a laptop and perhaps a tablet computer, it is assumed that we are always connected, always ready to talk, answer a question or make a decision. And the most dangerous assumption is that we need to be constantly connected, that if we aren’t something terrible will happen.

I agree that as leaders do we need to be accessible and available to provide advice, wise counsel and coaching.  We also need to be  flexible in the ways and times we are available, and be open to different communication mediums to accommodate the situation and the other person.  But, does that mean we can never silence our phone or that we can’t go a couple of hours away from email? Not at all.

I realize that there are some jobs where you’d better be available. Being an inbound Customer Service Rep, a police officer or Fire Chief come to mind. If your job truly requires you to be available and on-call 24/7 perhaps not every bit of this article applies to you (but check your assumptions – I believe that is very small percentage of those who will read these words). After all when was the last time you really had to put out a fire?

Have you ever wished you could have some unconnected time to think, to coach, to focus and perhaps get some important work done? Have you ever (or do you always) feel compelled to be connected or have a hard time un-tethering from your electronic devices?

I believe you will become a more effective, productive and valued leader when you re-evaluate your relationship to your beloved electronic devices. How can you do that? How can you, well Kevin has some suggestions on disconnecting and leading better.

Five Ways to Disconnect

Set expectations and boundaries. This is the big one and it cuts straight to the heart of the assumptions above.  If you are going to unplug and disconnect, be it for 45 minutes (sometimes baby steps are needed), four hours or four days, people need to know that.

If you have been wired 24/7 and you suddenly disconnect without talking to people about expectations, you will understandably create chaos and confusion. Let people know when you will be accessible, and the timeline they can expect to hear back from you.

Ever listened to a voice mail message and heard someone say when you can expect to hear back from them? That is the idea! It may take time for you and others to adjust, but would you rather adjust or watch your phone become permanently affixed to your hand?

Manage your interrupt-ability. Have you ever gone into someone’s office and had them turn off their phone, or put the ringer on mute?  Did you feel like your conversation was important to them? That is the point of managing interrupt-ability. You will find what is appropriate for you and when (see expectations above) It could mean turning off the email notification on your computer, putting your phone in silent mode, or any number of other things. Figure yours out and do them.

Schedule time to reply to emails.  Have you ever been travelling for the day and then looked at your email after several hours? If you have, you likely found three things: there was a lot of it, few if any messages required fast attention, and responding in batches took less time.  Let’s be clear. When you are constantly replying to email, you are training people (setting unspoken expectations) that you are always answering emails!  If you choose to set times aside during the day (or even during the hour, if you must) you will be more productive AND you will be taming the expectations that you are “always on.”

Set sacred off-line times. Do you really have to be on the phone in the public restroom? Is your email really the last thing you need to check before bed and the first thing in the morning? If your answer to any of these is “yes” I’d say get a life and get over yourself. The most important, busiest people in the world aren’t doing that, and you don’t need to either.

Change the medium. Pick up the phone. Walk to someone’s office.  All of our technologies are about communication. Not all of them are equally effective in every situation. Stem the email flow with a quick call.  Send a text instead of a call that will become a five-minute conversation. Go synchronous when needed, and take it off-line when possible.

These ways will certainly improve your productivity – allowing you more focused time for the task at hand.  But if you think of these as only time management suggestions you will miss an important part of my point. They will also allow you to be a more effective leader when used in a balanced way– showing your trust by engaging and encouraging people to operate without your input at a moment’s notice, every time.

If you are thinking you can’t change the culture in your organization in regards to these technologies, I urge you to reconsider. If things are aren’t working perfectly, someone must raise the question, change the conversation and adjust the behaviors.

If you agree with even a small part of what I’ve suggested, tell people about your new decisions. Try one or more of the suggestions above. That’s what leaders do – work to make things better.