Category Archives: Connection & Engagement
Over the weekend I came across a series of content by a leadership author who heavily discounted what they would proclaim as so-called leadership experts.
As I mulled over their claims, I realized how many people in higher levels of leadership discredit others because their credentials don’t seem to be to their standards.
Let’s calibrate our understanding of what experts are:
- a person having a high level of knowledge or skill in a particular subject (Cambridge Dictionary)
- having, involving, or displaying special skill or knowledge derived from training or experience (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
We should also review the definition of a leader:
- a person who manages or controls other people, esp. because of his or her ability or position (Cambridge)
- a person who leads (Merriam-Webster)
It is essential here to point out that in none of these definitions (or others) is there a criteria for PhD’s, MBA’s, being on a board of directors, authoring books, teaching at universities or needing any other qualifying experience or education.
Unfortunately people who look down on others in this fashion tend to do so from an aura of superiority, resting on their own laurels. Experientially these people tend to be the least teachable and most difficult to create an engaged team that will trust and rally around them. They place themselves in a position of higher criticism and use their sole judgement to assess who is worthy of credibility.
And what these folks do is exhibit the same poor leadership behaviors that they denounce in their content. They place roadblocks into building another person up or giving them a platform for voice and value in what they know.
Here are some real-life situations in which someone has discounted another’s opinion because it didn’t meet the person’s prejudices:
- Engineering experts who told Henry Ford his V8 engine idea was impossible
- A restaurant executive who discounts others input because no one who is not a chef can talk about food at their knowledge level
- Critics of Gary Vaynerchuck simply because he struggled in school and just rants about social media
- Tenured university professors who discount the education and real-life experience of adjunct faculty
- Football leaders and experts discounting Tom Brady in their scouting report
- Leaders of all kinds of levels and organizations who devalue the input of front line managers
Leaders and experts don’t need to have letters behind their name or have high-level positions.
As I have mentioned before, teenagers and the person you meet in everyday life can be effective leaders. All someone needs to be an expert is experience and the application through study and practice of their daily sphere.
The greatest experts in the field of leadership will tell you lifting others up, giving them value and a voice, and offering them a platform to showcase their talents is what true leadership is about.
Being an expert and leader is more than just letters after a name. It’s about the application of real-life principles to teach, lead and positively influence your sphere.
The power of the spoken word is immense.
It has the ability to inspire, motivate and lead others to an amazing effect. It also has the ability to humiliate destroy and the more allies a person is value and self-worth.
Words can build up or tear down, the choice is yours.
Because most of our communication – whether it is spoken, transcribed or digital – we need to be cognizant of its impact on other people. It’s easy to point fingers at other people‘s words but it needs to start with each of us individually and how we can edify (or detract from) another person’s value.
Be mindful of our words that criticize, embellish, are colorful and unprofessional, that are used to elevate yourself above someone else. We may do this under the guise of telling it straight but in reality it can cause divisiveness, disengagement and loss of credible influence.
While we all want to be honest in our communication, great leaders and great people know how to balance the any conversation with an overwhelming desire to use words that build, restore, inspire, encourage and create a positive impact on those they are intended, and not intended, for.
Use your words wisely.
Some time ago I conducted a training session for a number of restaurant employees. I prefaced my training session with an explanation of how restaurants made money, and that the average restaurant makes about a 5% profit.
As soon as this fact rolled from my mouth, a number of servers who were present with their owner turned to her and questioned “Is that right?” The owner nodded and confirmed “Some months, yes.”
The staff then turned around to me and many of them exclaimed, “Well, we’ll need to help Cathy make more money then.” The sense of teamwork to rally and help their boss make her business more profitable was the most incredible aspect of that training.
Usually in consulting with business owners, I find that most of them never share the financials with their employees.
The usual excuses abound:
“They don’t need to know.”
“I can’t trust them, why should I show them the books?”
“It’s not their job to know.”
“We can’t show them what we really make.”
“They’ll want a raise!!”
Then there are always the unspoken excuses that being open-book will reveal issues, such as impropriety, false reporting, bleaker financial pictures, and so on.
Business owners and leaders who want to increase engagement can easily develop trust by adopting an open-book culture that lets employees know the financials, a more connected and positive workplace results. This study from the University of Michigan underscores some of the benefits of this approach.
Here are some of the other benefits of adopting an open-book culture:
- It give employees information to make informed decisions
- It builds trust in all directions of the organization
- It enables people to make decisions to better increase bottom line, without being told so
- It gives employees a better understanding of how strategy and goals are, or are not, meeting financial goals
- It holds leadership and the entire organization accountable for financial stewardship
- It indirectly asks people to give input on ways to help make revenue, and save on costs
- It gives people a deeper insight as to your industry so they can develop their knowledge more thoroughly
- It also builds more experts in your industry and deepens your organization’s competency and acumen
While it’s clear there are so many advantages for open book leadership, there is one disadvantage however – holding unethical leadership accountable. The case is pretty clear, if you want people to open up and engage, you will need to open up your books first.