Category Archives: Leadership
Last month Peter Barron Stark, an executive coach on San Diego, tweeted about this leader who had a question about “this vision thing”.
Recently an #executive asked me “Is this vision thing overrated?” What do you think? Do you think that #vision is overrated? #leadership https://t.co/FlF6agmKAr— Peter Barron Stark (@peterbstark) April 1, 2019
It brought up some thoughts as to why some leaders don’t really get “that vision thing”.
They don’t see past the “action-results” dynamic. As Stark iterated, vision drives behaviors whether they’re positive, status quo based or negative. Many leaders get stuck in the thinking that results are the by-product of actions, so actions must be driven. That creates results, but many of them are mixed, some positive, some status quo and some negative. Leaders need to back up a step to create a vision that drives the actions towards positive results.
Some don’t truly understand what drives human behavior. Not employee behavior, but human behavior. People, especially the younger generations of Millennials and iGen. They want the vision to much of what they do, not a “do as I say” culture. People are connected best with the big picture, buying into what it means for them. It creates connected partners with more passion and at stake in the results versus compelled workers who mostly try to hang on.
Don’t value vision as a priority. It is said that what you do is what is important to you, and what you don’t do, you don’t value. Simply stated, if a leader doesn’t create vision, it’s not important to them. it’s never too late to get a vision clearly established, but to claim there is no time or it’s not important will hamper your overall goals.
Vision challenges their leadership style. Vision will often expose the efforts of leaders whose styles include being solely results-oriented, a micro-manager, top-down-chain-of-command or managing on a need-to-know basis. Vision creates transparency and accountability as everyone is committed to the behaviors that will achieve it.
They’re dominated by short-term thinking. This year’s budget is all that matters with no set up for the overall culture or future goals. That might be good to hit numbers, but it never drives a lasting and sustainable organization. Long-term vision and people development get sacrificed for the results of the fiscal year when this year’s numbers are preeminent.
Understanding vision is to understand human performance. Without vision, people and organizations perish. With it, they not only succeed but thrive.
A few weeks back I heard a podcast interview with Carey Lohrenz. She was the first female certified to fly the Navy’s F-14 Tomcat.
While her accomplishments are nothing short of spectacular, she mentioned something that she told listeners to think about and it still resonates weeks later.
The military trains and places an incredible amount of trust into these young 18-25 year olds. She explained the level of trust an aircraft pilot needs to have on a carrier deck in their peers, and how the military trusts these young men and women to carry out those tasks where millions or dollars and millions of lives are dependent on them.
For every person who has complained that Millennials and iGen are poor workers, there is at least someone in those younger generations who is working hard.
The problem as studies are showing is that they want to trust those in older generations and leadership.
Leaders that gain the utmost trust from their people are those who first train then place that trust in their people.
Consider any military branch across the globe. They train 18 and 19-year-olds to have discipline to choose mission over self, to learn skills and to take on enormous responsibility for decisions that may alter many lives.
They also delegate amazing responsibility of millions of dollars of equipment and technology to pilot, drive, position and handle huge machines, computers, aircraft, ships and such that could potentially be destroyed with even the slightest mishandling. Think particularly of naval branches where these young women and men handle huge jets and the trust they have to have of each other and the tight workings of the aircraft carrier are critical to success virtually every second.
If a military can build up their young women and men to be aligned and also delegate huge responsibility to them, then what is our excuse for not doing the same?
Millennials and their successors – iGen – tend to get a bad reputation and are painted with a broad brush as to their work behaviors. Truth is, they just exhibit the same human needs as any other generation, and we need to recognize this and adapt our leadership to meet those needs.
One of the major points Millennials want is vision and autonomy. They want to be able to know the larger picture of what they’re involved in and be able to have the influence to make that vision happen. iGen, from what we gather, are seeking authenticity and trust in a divided world, disenfranchised with poor leadership they see in all aspects of their lives.
Many military services inherently meet the needs of this in their culture while still carrying out the values of each branch. Here are just three examples of such:
- Not a fear-based work but a mission critical working as a team. Unit achievement over individual achievement is what military culture drives towards. And many young adults in these generations have a deeper sense of community involvement in that they would rather see the vision realized than have any glory in themselves.
- Trust is not earned but given. Many employers in the workforce feel trust must be worked for and proven before they dispense it. For the process of boot camp, the military have already created that culture in their recruiting and onboarding. They train their recruits to take on that responsibility from the start. And while it is verified over time, the understanding is the job will be done because an individual was trained then trusted to carry it out. It’s a basic need no matter what generation someone is from.
- Bonds are key to their culture – leave no soldier behind. Teamwork is the core essential in any military training. They develop a deep sense of unity (through diversity as well) that further drives trust across each member of the unit. People should always be wiling to carry someone through a defeat or trying period. Cross training and assisting one another only strengthens teamwork. Building a cooperative and complimentary spirit appeals to the younger generations and this culture meet those needs as well.
The lessons we as leaders can take away from this examples should help change our minds not only about what Millennials and iGen need, but who we are as leaders as well.
Basic human needs never change form generation to generation. But great leadership identifies the varying applications of the day to meet those needs.
As leaders there are many traps we can fall into with regards to our decision making.
For instance, there have been many leaders who are told about an issue with an employee who rush to judgement and make a poor decision based on a small fraction of the truth. The resulting effects have led to terminations that were unfounded, jeopardizing both the employee’s career and the reputation (and potential lawsuit) to the organization and leader as well.
Sometimes leaders make a hasty decision to go forward on an initiative with little research to back it up. I’ve seen small start-ups open and close within a short time frame because they assumed everyone would love their product or service and they had little knowledge of the industry and reception in the marketplace.
Other leaders have made grave errors in product development (such as New Coke in the 1980s) that greatly diminished market share and resulted in wasted expenditures and lost revenue, which in truth never gets recovered.
Conversely there are leaders who quickly decide against a course of action as they don’t believe in the merits of the consumer data, emerging technology or other industry shifting indicators. They make a quick default decision (usually as a safety net) that ultimately costs their companies in the long run.
For any decision, whether in strategic scaling, R&D, employee management or daily operations, the following framework will challenge all leaders make better decisions. It helps with snap decision needed to be made quickly or urgently as well as those that are long-term strategies.
Pause. Stopping to give attention to the decision to be made ahead is always the most important step. If a leader makes knee-jerk decisions based on their years of experience or taking on the perceived urgency of a matter they fall into the trap of not processing the entirety of the situation. Lifeguards at the local pool will always take a moment to scan the area before deciding how to help the struggling swimmer. Pausing can be a few seconds or a longer period, but it’s essential to stop before going forward.
Ponder. Call it processing, call it thinking. To properly ponder the decision to be made, you need to consider all aspects, including those that haven’t brought to the table yet. An employee issue may be a problem with their boss and not the employee per se. An accident investigation may have other factors contributing that weren’t preventable. A change to return policies to prevent loss might actually have a negative impact to your customer experience. Consider all the necessary variables that have brought this to the present decision, and how those variables – including all people impacted – will be affected by the decision in the short and long-term future. And most importantly, get others involved in the thinking process. Many leaders fail because of their own biases here especially when the issue can be a reflection of their leadership style. Counsel with others in varying levels and views on the team to ensure as many opinions as possible are considered.
Plan. This is where you develop your approach to the decision. Sometimes this can be accomplished in tandem with pondering, but often best to be finalized after all the data is gathered. Some leaders write out their plan to help better understand the situation. Consider all the positive impacts as well as the challenges and how you pan to navigate them as they unfold. Mind mapping and decision trees can be helpful in this stage. Involve those you counselled with when pondering as well as those who will be impacted as well.
Proceed. This is the execution of the decision. Making sure your product roll-out is promoted with a consistent message. Handling the employee situation with integrity and empathy. Making the bug fix on your app or website be seamless and continue to watch the impact of the new code. Getting feedback from your staff as well as your customers to ensure the plan is going smoothly can help make any needed course correction or adjustments that couldn’t be foreseen. The proceed phase is the execution and follow through of your decision to ensure is continues to be the right one.
Stop, Think. Map it out. Then go forward. Making these phases an intuitive reflex in your leadership will go a long way to ensure consistent, thoughtful – and even ethical – decisions that will create better results in any situation.