Category Archives: Leadership Strategies

What Leaders Can Learn From Accident Scenes

Have you ever noticed how emergency service providers – EMT’s, police, firefighters, doctors, lifeguards – don’t rush right into the scene of an accident? And have you ever considered why that is?

Think about what happens in our daily lives. We can get so bogged down by details and seeming urgencies that we lose sight of the landscape, and oftentimes the really important and critical matters that will make the largest impact to those we lead and serve.

This is the premise for responding to a scene of an accident. When the ambulance arrives, they don’t rush in and start reacting. They walk carefully into the heart of the scene to understand the incident and size up any potential danger. They don’t stop and treat the first injured person they see; instead they survey those injured and make note of the critical versus the minor injuries. From that, they can assess who needs the most urgent attention and can have a greater chance to save lives versus treating as they come across and missing a critical injury further down the scene.

This approach can serve our leadership influence well. A great leader will take these steps out of an emergency service providers’ playbook to be more effective in any matter:

  • Get to the heart of the matter. Don’t stand on the sidelines, but get in the trenches to understand the issue.
  • Don’t rush in. Take the time to delve into the situation, carefully observing all the variables and factors. Don’t prejudice your understanding before you truly know.
  • Remove danger. If there is a critical matter that will profoundly and adversely affect everyone, address it and remove the situation by resolving it. As EMT’s remove people from an exploding gas tank, leaders need to remove their people and organization from those volatile situations before they can treat the other issues at hand.
  • Triage. It’s easy to think you’re effective treating the first surface issue that comes across. yet you’re more effective and helpful when you see everyone involved and what the greatest and most urgent needs are.
  • Touch every affected person. People affected by even collateral damage in a situation need to be identified and treated as well. Make sure your approach is complete and everyone is accounted for.
  • Clean up. Once the scene is controlled and everyone is tended to, then create a clean up plan. Changes in systems, preventative measures, training, and perhaps noticing the signs that caused the incident will prevent future issues down the road.
  • Most important – STAY CALM. A doctor or lifeguard that panics or gets excitable or overly emotional will cause nothing but anxiety in those they are supposed to be helping. Calming down a situation involves keeping yourself calm in order to instill a sense of control and hope in others during these crisis.

Great leaders make this a deliberate habit in their lives. By understanding these steps, you can meet any situation and come to the rescue to make your organization and people safer, stronger, and more secure down the road.

Have a story or strategy along this thinking that works in these situations? Would love to hear your input!

(image: pixaby)

The 90/10 Leader

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For those of you who haven’t heard of him, Jeffrey A. Fox is a management and executive consultant, and a great leadership author. I enjoy reading his books for a number of reasons, some of which are because he succinctly gets to the core point of what he’s saying. Each chapter is a precious nugget of richness, solid in truth and invaluable to those yearning to grow.

While not his latest book, “How To Be A Great Boss” is a read that I have thoroughly enjoyed every page of the way. One of the chapters hits the nail on the head about where your time should be spent among your people. It’s entitled “Spend 90% of Your Time With Your Best People”.

It seems that so much of leaders’ time that they spend on their staff is consumed with the so-called “high maintenance” employees. They are the ones that literally cost the company precious time and money due to their lack of performance, disruptive behavior, or both. A few years back I reported to a C-level executive who confided in me that 80% of their time was lost constantly on 20% of their “problem children”. While they didn’t know how to swing that around (and couldn’t see how they themselves had created this culture that they were drowning in), I used my personal experience to shed some light and help them understand what Jeffrey Fox layed out for the rest of us.

Years ago I knew a manager who was charged with creating a new department for an entertainment company. This department was an offshoot of an existing one, yet it was to run co-dependently at first then become self-sufficient within 60 days. It was an on-the-fly task that was literally dumped on him; part of his benefit package for being promoted.

The staff that he and his supervisory team were given were the employees that none of the other supervisors wanted to invest time in. They were deemed “unproductive” and by jettisoning them to this new area, they were relieved of any further obligation to work with these employees. So this manager had a staff of about 50 untrained and unmotivated employees to start a department with.

He immediately started to recognize three types of employees: those that worked hard no matter what, those that worked well but not always consistent, and those that were never motivated and failed to do the job at all. Unconsciously, he started investing the bulk of his time with the hard workers, as he needed them to anchor the day to day tasks. He then spend most of the rest of his time with the second group, realizing that they had potential but were never properly trained or shown they had value. He did spend time with the unmotivated group, mostly in corrective action, but never let them consume his valuable time.

Well, a peculiar trend started to happen in this manager’s new department. He noticed that the hard workers dug in and worked harder, and set a great attitude and pace for the entire team. He then saw that the middle group felt needed because they were given attention finally, and, seeing the first group energized, started to perform on a pace close to the hard workers. But what the manager saw in the unmotivated group literally shocked him. He noted that many of these workers, previously deemed problematic, started to perk up and step up their game. Their attitude and performance improved remarkably. When asked, they generally said that they had never been a part of such a team before, and didn’t want to be left out, or left behind. Granted, there were a few dissenters that needed to be groomed out, but the vast majority clicked with the team dynamic and their first year brought incredible sales success and profitability that they did not forecast they would attain for at least 3 years.

By focusing on your 90%, Fox states, you invest in the biggest return in your company. If you invested in those underperforming stocks, you would most certainly look for better returns in higher potential stocks. Why should it be any different with your staff? Invest where it counts, and you’ll be surprised at the results. And so will your team.

(image: joshuapitka.com)

Guest Post by Jack Quarles: Decision-Making: A Hidden Source of Fatigue and Inefficiency

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Today’s post is offered by Jack Quarles, author whose new book “Expensive Sentences” launches this week. 

In “Expensive Sentences”, Jack’s lays out how terms like “It’s too late to turn back now”, “We trust them”, and “it’s crazy busy around here”  are cliched wisdom that offers nothing more than wasted time, excuses, and lost opportunity. Jack breaks apart these phrases and challenges our thinking to reject how we fall back on those mindsets that cost us tremendously.

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In honor of his book launch (which I highly recommend you get a copy), Jack has offered the following post about how we process decisions each day. 

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Let me take you back for a minute. Can you remember the first week of your current job, or the first month you lived in a new city?

If you’re able to recollect your state of mind in those days, it probably included a good measure of exhaustion. You were tired.

Part of the reason change is so exhausting is that a new environment deprives us of routine and habit. At a new job, for example, we can’t go get a cup of coffee on autopilot, because we may not even know where the coffee is. We can’t drift through a normal day because there is no normal yet… we have to learn about our environment and make decisions on how to spend our time.

Decisions Require Energy

Decisions take energy. The more decisions we have to make, the more tired we are likely to become. It’s also true that our energy to make decisions is finite; there are only so many high-quality decisions we can make in any one day. With this in mind, we might consider how many decisions we have on our plate, and when we have them.

Rob Hatch says “decisions are distractions.” That’s not to say that decisions are unimportant and can simply be ignored. Yet we can and should manage when and how we make our decisions.

One application of managing decisions is used in many different approaches of time management: task planning. Your morning will be almost certainly be more productive if you decided what your priorities and plan was the night before.

If you arrive at your desk with an open slate, it’s easy to spend 45 minutes spinning in startup mode and sorting through different tasks to figure out the right order. On the other hand, when you are looking at a list that tells you your top priorities and the order of their importance, no motion is wasted on wondering where to begin.

What is your Plan?

Can you make your plan for tomorrow morning? Or, if you’re already into the day, try taking ten minutes to plan the next three hours. Then follow through on your plan, and look back at the end of the day.

Did your focused “deciding session” make you more productive?

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 Jack Quarles is a speaker, trainer, consultant, and author of Amazon #1 bestsellers How Smart Companies Save Money and Same Side Selling, as well as the upcoming Expensive Sentences. He has saved companies tens of millions of dollars over two decades in the field of expense management. Jack has co-founded several companies, serves on two non-profit boards, and received degrees from Yale and Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Business. Connect with Jack on LinkedIn or Twitter (@JackQuarlesJQ).  

(image courtesy of Weaving Influence)

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