When things don’t work out as expected, when people disappoint us, who dropped the ball? The answer is more complicated than it may seem at first glance.
Let’s suppose that an organization is functioning in a way that is not leading to good or desired outcomes. Things are just not working out the way we want. What to do?
This kind of dilemma can develop in families, in groups from teams to social gatherings, from corner shops to international businesses. Any time people get together with a goal or outcome in mind, there is the potential for bad or at least less than optimal outcomes. So what is the cause and, more importantly, what is the fix?
The underlying cause is usually some variety of the same issue. To understand how it happens, there are a few points that need our attention.
• Things are always organized and functioning perfectly to get the outcomes we are getting. Were we to start from scratch, wanting the outcomes we are currently experiencing, we couldn’t do better than to encourage everyone to keep up the good work, using only the resources and opportunities available to them today.
What are the key steps for any leader or for anyone who doesn’t want to simply maintain the status quo? Let’s think about that.
First, what do you want to happen? There are three possibilities. You may want things to improve or get better. Next, you may want things to change or be different in some way you define. Finally, you may want to prevent something from happening or prevent some danger or risk from actualizing. In short, you want to improve, change or prevent. Sure, you may want to achieve more than one of these outcomes at the same time.
Second, take a close look at how things are right now. List everything that will be different when you achieve one or more of the outcomes in the first step. What will be different when things improve, when things change or when the danger or risk have been prevented?
Third, step two gives you a list of things that have to be changed or modified. For each of those action elements, what will it take to change or modify each of those elements? That gives you a step-by-step strategy for disrupting the status quo by changing or realigning each of the items on the list from step two to align with the new status from step one. It’s much like remodeling a house. You first envision the newly remodeled house and then determine what needs to be changed or modified in the original house, along with specifying what stays unchanged. You then develop a strategy for making the needed changes or modifications.
Along with Kevin’s fine tunes, this episode includes a personal essay that unearths an unexpected conclusion. I won’t include a spoiler here so you can see for yourself how it evolved. That is followed by some important points on women in leadership.
Women in leadership positions seem to naturally manage some aspects of their positions better than do men in similar positions. Skilled men often do as well with these aspects as skilled women, but in general, women do better. In this episode of Audio Tidbits, we take a look at the aspects of skilled leadership where women tend to shine.
Skilled leaders deal with many types of people and situations every day. They know that they can’t just react to those people and events. That would be letting those people and those events call the shots, determine the game. That is what skilled leaders always try to avoid. They want to call the shots, want to lead. What is the alternative? Skilled leaders are proactive. In this episode of Audio Tidbits, I share some examples of what it means to be a proactive leader.
Skilled leaders have a special knack for getting things done, every time, on time. If they don’t, their days as “leader” are numbered. But how do they do it? What is the special magic in how leaders get things done?
If you closely observe, it first seems as if things just magically get done. The organization is running smoothly, and the pegs just fall into their designated slots. Sure, we know it’s not that easy, but how do they do it? In this episode of Audio Tidbits, I share with you the secrets of proactive leaders. It’s definitely not magic. Please press play and learn just how they do it.
aeda, John with Becky Bermot. Redesigning Leadership. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2011.
…courage is a noble form of stupidity that aids getting impossible things done.
Being prepared isn’t a matter of how much you practice. It’s about knowing that even if you fail, you won’t give up.
Doing right matters more than being right.
The primary challenge for a leader who is a natural doer is to discover the balance between the two; otherwise the specter of micromanagement can easily make a guest appearance.
Competency results in success results in complacency results in failure results in learning how to be competent again.
I’d rather be green and growing instead of ripe, ready to rot.
A leader’s job is to get people on board with his vision–and he’ll try whatever tools are at his disposal to do it.
orris, Tom. If Harry Potter Ran General Electric: Leadership Wisdom from the World of the Wizards. New York: Doubleday, 2006.
The greatest teachers are always masters of their subjects who lead, train, guide, and inspire their student apprentices to their own forms of excellence. They never just pass on information. The master is a model, coach, helper, and motivator as well as a teacher and trainer.
The best leaders teach by example and guide with encouragement.
What we haven’t ourselves received, we can’t pass on to others. … A great mentor is a person who has filtered his or her own prior personal experience, along with the experience of many others, analyzed it fully, and extracted from it the wisdom it contains.
Ultimately, he is a great leader because he’s a wise man who knows human nature, and who acts in everything he does with great character.
Without truth, people can’t work effectively. Without trust, people can’t work efficiently.
The best leaders in most circumstances tend to be just completely committed people with keen intelligence, great skill, focused energy, a clear vision, the courage of their convictions, a passion for what they’re doing, strong character, and a robust sense of concern for others.
We can mess up, and then clean up, and end up better than we started.
The deepest emotions are compatible with the highest rationality in any life that is in full control of all its faculties. But without proper self-control, no amount of passion or intellect can guarantee either great leadership or even long-lasting personal success.
…Ethics is really about creating strength. It is a matter of making choices that preserve those values and qualities most deserving of preservation. It’s about doing what’s right in any given circumstances, regardless of the consequences we might happen to predict, and it’s about becoming a properly formed, strongly virtuous person as a result. All of ethics comes down to the choices we make every day. And who we become is a result of those choices.
There are many aspects to strength of character. An ability to make the right choices hinges on all of them. Honesty is important, as is a proper sense of loyalty, an empathetic appreciation for the needs of others, moderated desires, and a grounded, appropriate personal sense of self-worth and dignity. Any leader should seek to surround himself with people who have such qualities.
If you want to be a great leader, be a great person. Work on embodying and living the classic virtues. Broaden and deepen yourself as a human being. Seek to govern everything you feel and whatever you do in accordance with your most fundamental beliefs and values. Believe in other people. Show that you care about them. Never forget the power of apprenticeship. Make it a habit to exercise appropriate control over all your emotions and actions. And remember to have fun whenever it’s at all possible.
ockell, Leslie and Adrienne Avila. The 100 Greatest Leadership Principles of all Time. New York: Warner Business Books, 2007.
Leadership is a matter of intelligence, trustworthiness, humaneness, courage, and discipline.
A leader is one who sees more than others see, who sees farther than others see, and who sees before others see. – Leroy Eimes
The leaders who work most effectively, it seems to me, never say “I.” And that’s not because they have trained themselves not to say “I.” They don’t think “I.” They think “we”; they think “team.” They understand their job to be to make the team function. They accept responsibility and don’ sidestep it, but “we” gets the credit … This is what creates trust, what enables you to get the task done. – Peter F. Drucker
A leader leads by example, whether he intends to or not. – Anonymous
Nobody rises to low expectations. – Calvin Lloyd
A community is like a ship: Everyone ought to be prepared to take the helm. – Henrik Ibsen.
alciccioli, Greg. The Enemies of Excellence: 7 Reasons Why We Sabotage Success. Crossroad: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 2011.
Few people consider how to sustain their success because they’re too busy trying to achieve it.
Most leaders want to be the best people they can be and to lead with excellence. They want to thrive, and they want the people around them to thrive. They have the best of intentions.
Success is inherently unstable. The skills it took to establish success cannot sustain it.
A high-profile leader is surrounded by people who are hungry for the leader’s success. They want him to succeed, and if the price for that is to overlook a few red flags here and there, so be it. The greater the success, the greater the danger.
To deal the fatal blow to egotism, you must identify what you desire as the outcome of your life and leadership. You need to ask yourself: Are you striving to reach just another self-centered summit, or are you leading people and the organization you serve towards something higher?
…influence, more than intelligence, is the sign of the greatest leaders.
Have you noticed that work is always present and, like fire, is never satisfied?
The best way to build character is to define it, practice it, and defend it. Once you define your character so that you clearly understand it, you can practice it in everyday life and leadership. This increases your character competency and prepares you to defend it when you face the Enemy of Indulgence.
We need to invite the right people into our lives and grant them permission to review who we are and how we live. When we choose our own accountability partners, we gain people we can trust, and that trust leads to greater vulnerability. To be vulnerable is to be open to correction and criticism.
The self-deception of many leaders begins with the Enemy of Egotism. A leader believes “I really know what is best for me, my team, and this organization.” Notice I say that he believes it, not that it is true.
Yet herein lies the problem. Most leaders who enjoy rapid success experience a serious gap. Because success has come so quickly, and character is slower to develop than talents and abilities, their character is inevitably less developed than their talents. Yet, like all of us, they need character to sustain success.
A leader in emergency mode is just trying to put out fires in his personal life. He is too tired to do things right and well, so he tries just to “get it done.” This approach inevitably can’t solve problems, breeds more Bad Habits, and merely fuels the leader’s failure.
You need to succeed, but in fact, we all need you to succeed.
an Vugt, Mark, and Anjana Ahuja. Naturally Selected: Why Some People Lead, Why Others Follow, and Why It Matters. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 2011.
If you’re concerned about the amount of time your underlings spend around the water cooler – don’t be. Gossip is an entirely natural and frankly ineradicable method of winkling out unsuitable managers, although you might not be so keen on office hydration if you’re an office ogre.
Still, the fact is that we are ancient brains trying to make our way in an ultra-modern world; when shiny new corporate ideas rub up against our creaking, millennia-old psyches, the clash can make us feel uneasy. … nobody wants workplaces to become havens of primitivism, but we do seem happiest when our working environments echo facets of ancestral tribal life – a close-knit structure governed loosely by trusted elders, in which every member was valued for his or her unique contribution to group living and survival.
Every human society that has ever been observed contains a minority who lead and a majority who follow, which suggests that this time-honoured way of organising human society is driven by an ancient imperative.
…we instinctively regard good talkers as being good leaders.
ockerell, Lee. Creating Magic: 10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies From a Life at Disney. New York: Doubleday, 2008.
Each of the fifty-nine thousand Cast Members is trained to treat each and every Guest with the utmost care and respect. And they do this consistently because they are treated exactly the same way by the Disney leadership: with the utmost care and respect.
…they fail to appreciate the critical difference between managing and leading. I learned the hard way that managerial skills are absolutely essential for getting results, but they are not enough to drive excellence. Excellence requires common sense leadership.
…all everyone wants is to feel special, to be treated with respect, and to be seen as an individual.
…leaders have to set the proper tone by staying cool, calm, and collected under pressure. No matter what’s going on, they have to focus single-mindedly on doing the best they can with what they have instead of blaming, whining, or wishing that things would change.
Just as great parents pay attention to everyone in their family, so great leaders pay attention to everyone in their organizations, bolstering his or her self-esteem and self-confidence at every step. If everyone feels recognized, appreciated, and listened to, everyone will want to take every opportunity to learn and grow.
Make me feel special. Treat me as an individual. Respect me. Make me knowledgeable.
iseman, Liz and Greg McKeown. Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 2010.
It isn’t how much you know that matters. What matters is how much access you have to what other people know. It isn’t just how intelligent your team members are; it is how much of that intelligence you can draw out and put to use.
The Diminisher is an Empire Builder. The Multiplier is a Talent Magnet.
The Diminisher is a Tyrant. The Multiplier is a Liberator.
The Diminisher is a Know-It-All. The Multiplier is a Challenger.
The Diminisher is a Decision Maker. The Multiplier is a Debate Maker.
The Diminisher is a Micromanager. The Multiplier is an Investor.
Would your people describe you as someone who recognizes talented people, draws them in, and utilizes them at their fullest? Would they say they have grown more around you than any other manager they have worked for? Or would they describe you as someone who pulled them into your organization not as a talent to be developed, but more as a resource to be deployed and then left to languish?
Not all leaders are proactive leaders but you already knew that. What you may not know is the 3 tips I have included just for you. Give a listen and see if they will work for you.
A few years ago, I was sitting at the negotiation table with the staff negotiator for the UAW who was representing most of the staff of the human services agency I directed. We both knew where the final agreement would settle within a fairly narrow range, so the negotiation was somewhere between proforma at one end and details that didn’t matter all that much one way or another at the other end. As expected, the union made some proposals that we both knew weren’t going to be accepted and a few that were both reasonable and acceptable. The negotiation was to sort out those details and issues. We both knew that labor and management can have big issues at times but also knew that this was not one of those times; or so I thought.
In this round of negotiations, the agency would have been fine continuing the current contract but was quite willing to sweeten the deal some. Here is the problem. The UAW negotiator made the first offer from the union that he knew, and I knew would not be accepted. The agency then made its first counter offer that I knew, and he knew would not be accepted. We were setting the outside limits within which the negotiation was expected to focus.
To my surprise, the UAW negotiator immediately brought out his only real weapon. Instead of making a modified offer, he said that they would take an immediate strike vote if their first offer wasn’t accepted in full. What do you think my response should have been?
I admit that the temptation to play his version of hard ball was nearly overwhelming. Although I was far from speechless, the range of possible responses was flowing past so rapidly that I was temporarily dumbfounded. I finally said, “I doubt if that would be a very good outcome for either of us.”
His response was even more surprising than his starting the negotiation by refusing to negotiate. They would not negotiate. Either they got everything they wanted, or they would strike. To my suggestion that striking would not be a good outcome for either of us, he said, “I don’t care. I just don’t care what you think about the outcome.”