Category Archives: Character-based Leadership

Great Leaders Learn From Anywhere

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As people we need a myriad of things in which to live and grow:

  • Air
  • Food
  • Oxygen
  • Sunlight
  • Proper Temperature

And within these items we have multiple needs within them. Take foods for example, we need a balance of food to get the correct nutrients in our bodies to facilitate growth and health.

In our quest to grow as leaders, we often look to grow from a variety of sources: books, podcasts, networking, seminars … the list goes on.

Now think of the things you use to grow as a leader. How many of those resources that you consume are made from the things that you like?

Now consider the things that you don’t like, and ask yourself this:

Can you, or will you, seek them to learn from those you don’t think you can teach you anything?

Take for instance the teen that doesn’t like broccoli or avocado or fish. They are missing some vital nutrients that are still beneficial. Even if they don’t like it, they can still benefit from it.

So if we apply this to our leadership development, we can virtually always benefit on those things we don’t like, or don’t think are good for us. We just need to be willing to try, willing to see, willing to hear.

The story goes of how Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart and his team toured some of their competitor’s stores. These stores were poor in their merchandising, assortment, and their execution. The team tried to get Walton to leave, saying that there was nothing they could learn from. Walton then spotted something and stopped to point it out to his colleagues. Excited, he exclaimed “Hey, why aren’t we doing that?!” and just then, what looked like a waste of time became a key component of the burgeoning company’s retail execution.

I often read books from people whose philosophy on leadership (and life) are not in line with my core values. Sometimes I’ll plug into a podcast from someone who is prideful and coarse but know that I’m going to receive a gem of wisdom from them.

My most profound leadership lesson learned was from a teenager whom was shortly fired for theft when I was a young manager. While his job performance would normally lend one to believe that one could never learn anything from him, his profound statement by his father has stayed with me for many years, still to this day.

Learn from whatever sources you can but keep this vital thought in mind at all times:

Don’t discount the information just because the sources is not what you agree or are comfortable with.

That goes not only for the author, speaker, or presenter, but also the format, the background, and the belief system or core values that generates those ideas.

With an open mind to be able to listen and learn something positive from anyone – even those in direct opposition or viewpoint to you – you can gain an advantage of learning and growing that you otherwise might have shut out due to our preconceived notions.

Keep your eyes, ears, mind and heart open and keep learning and growing.

(image: pixaby)

 

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Why You Need To Break Your Chain Of Command

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Organizations that operate using a “chain of command” hierarchy are quickly becoming an outdated management model.

A chain of command model takes it’s roots from the military chain of command. It’s the order in which authority and power in an organization is wielded and delegated from top management to every employee at every level of the organization. Instructions flow downward along the chain of command and accountability flows upward.
Proponents of this method feel that the more clear cut the chain of command, the more effective the decision making process and greater the efficiency. Military forces are an example of straight chain of command that extends in unbroken line from the top brass to ranks.

This model of leadership became very prevalent in the mid-20th century but ceases (outside of the military) to have any relevance in today’s organizations, especially those that are looking to have more employee engagement and voice into the overall performance of the company at large.

Where the shortcomings of “chain of command” leadership often happens can be seen in the following simplified example (to which I have seen repeated far too often):

  • Employee voices concern to manager based on objective criteria
  • Manager makes decision but discounts the validity of employee’s input
  • Employee decides to express concern to the manager’s boss
  • Manager’s boss says employee needs to follow the “chain of command” and talk to manager

The resulting interactions result in an employee caught in a no-win situation. They walk away feeling disregarded, less valued, and that they cannot voice their concerns if they are not agreed with by their direct boss. As issues continue to come up, and especially with more serious issues, the employee loses more faith in their leadership and will disengage more and more. And any attempt by the employee to circumvent the chain to find a voice for their concerns gets thrown back in the employee’s face for not following the hierarchy.

Where “chain of command” succeeds is enabling poor leadership to manifest, not be bothered by what they don’t feel is important, and keeping leaders at the higher levels less and less accountable for how they engage or value their people.

Where it fails is on all other levels. Leadership accountability, collaborative efforts, shared vision, voice, and values are often minimized or cast aside in favor of the hierarchical “chain”.

This type of leadership also succeeds in defending itself because if it doesn’t fit into the “chain” it will not be recognized.

The most successful and people-oriented engagement models in any organization are those that foster open input from all sources, give avenues for ideas and innovation as well as concerns, and keep upper levels of leadership accountable both from above and below.

Chain of command is a weak leadership mode. Take the time to break it.

(Chain of command definition http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/chain-of-command.html)

(image: wikimediacommons)

Is Your Employee Appreciation Week “Weak”?

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It’s a wonderful privilege to honor your people through the various Employee Appreciation Days and Weeks.

Whether it’s Nurses Appreciation Week, Administrative Professionals Day, Maintenance Appreciation Week, Customer Service Appreciation Week or any of the other recognized weeks, they give a tremendous opportunity to deepen the level of engagement in your organization.

And yet many, many organizations, and particularly the leaders of those teams or organizations, display a shameful treatment of their employees that reveal to all of their people how they truly value them. 

Consider some of these actual examples that leaders executed to show “appreciation” for their people:

  • Ice cream sandwiches. (Yes, that was it! That was all they received!)
  • Spotify gift cards – for new accounts only. Most of the employees had existing or shared accounts and ended up re-gifting these.
  • The Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts gift card with just enough on it for a free coffee, not even a Venti or a Latte. (This happens more often that you realize)
  • Leftover food from first and second shifts. (We appreciate the people on third shift but don’t want to stay up late to make that extra effort for them)
  • Company t-shirts, mugs or anything else that praises the company and not the employee.
  • Cheap nail clippers, name badge holders, pens, hats that no one will wear, and so on (you get the picture)
  • Holiday hams, but nothing for vegetarian employees
  • Letting budget be an excuse for not doing anything special (“That’s all we have budgeted for the week”)

These very examples (and many, many more) are just some of the reasons why employee engagement scores low in most organizations.

Great leaders know that while appreciating your team is an every day, purposeful event, when it’s time to focus such as the various appreciation weeks, going above and beyond will go a long way in keeping your culture intact.

If you want to make your people truly feel APPRECIATED keep these following principles in mind:

  • So something different each day and every day throughout the week. Food one day, cards the next, auction off some gifts another day … be creative. Mix it up day to day and year to year.
  • Have all the leaders spend whatever time is needed to execute and host and serve. (One year our leadership team spend all night making truffles and bagging them for the staff)
  • Be available at all times to personally serve and thank your people. If that means giving up sleep for 3rd shift employees, or coming in on weekends and nights, then that is what you need to do. Nothing is more impressive than when a staff member sees their leader traveling to the remote facility, showing up at 1:00am, or hopping in their truck or loading dock to meet them personally.
  • Don’t make a fool of yourself. Long speeches, drinking, or being inappropriate with your humor will do more harm than good.
  • Careful of making recognition fun that doesn’t connect. Watch your people for their reaction and change course as needed. Get employee feedback throughout the year for what they want.
  • Know your audience. If you give gifts that no one wants or can use (such as the holiday ham to the vegetarian), or show appreciation that misses the mark (such as humor or fun events that people think are boring or in poor taste, this can backfire on you. Study and know your people throughout the year to find what the culture of the team will appreciate.
  • Be there. Don’t schedule vacations, seminars, or board meetings during this time. They want to see you. If at all possible ride with them, work alongside them, or find a means to connect during their work week to understand them better as not just employees but as PEOPLE.
  • Spare no expense. That doesn’t mean to be unwise in your stewardship of company finances, but to be cheap (or frugal or however you justify it) will only make the employees feel cheap and undervalued. So many companies skimp on training and other initiatives for their people, that you will make a huge impact in letting them know the company and its leaders spent decent money on them.

Engagement and retaining talent starts with appreciation. Not only during a given week, but in every day, make your people know that they are appreciated in the way that THEY, not you, want.

(image: gratisography)

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