The Easy Way vs. The Right Way
Leaders must be willing to have tough conversations. But the temptation to find a way to avoid those conversations is strong. If we’re committed, as we should be as leaders, to helping those we lead to succeed then we must be willing to do the hard thing. Here are a few of the common cop outs that we’re tempted to use instead of having a tough conversation:
Continue reading Don’t Cop Out on Good Leadership
Advancement Requires Change
“What got us here won’t get us there” is a truism that applies as we advance from one level of organizational leadership to another. When someone with professional or trade skills does their craft well they may be promoted into leadership roles – often without training in how to lead. The same is true when people are promoted through leadership ranks, say from supervisor, to manager, to VP, to CEO. They are frequently left to figure out on their own what the new role requires. At best, that’s inefficient. At worst, they never figure it out and keep doing what they did before without recognizing the changes required to do their new role well.
Continue reading Bends in the Leadership Pipeline
Rule #1 of Performance Management
Brett was excited about his upcoming 90-day performance review. He knew he had gotten off to a rough start, missing some deadlines and overlooking some important details. But the goals his supervisor, Sherry, had set for the last month were reasonable, and Brett had hit them all. He felt like he had finally hit the stride for success in his job.
So it was quite a shock when Sherry rated his performance as “Unsatisfactory”! How could that be when he had hit all of his goals? Sherry said she was trying to set goals to stretch him to grow, but his “beginner goals” were a fraction of what he really needs to be able to produce. So she raised the bar for the next month with tighter schedules and fewer errors. She even added new goals for things he didn’t know about before. Brett wondered if he could ever be successful in this role. Continue reading No Surprises!
It’s Easier to Do It Myself…
You’re probably good at what you do. That’s why you’re in the position that you’re in. But now you’ve become the bottleneck. How can you possibly find time to do the tasks you’re expert at and lead others?
The answer is…You can’t!
Something Has to Give
As your organization grows, the demands on you also grow. If you want to model the Peter Principle and “rise to your highest level of incompetence” just try doing it all yourself.
So you have a choice. Continue reading Delegate? But I Do It Better!
When Leadership Seems Too Costly
Good leadership takes time. Time you don’t have. Higher pressure demands leave no time to invest in helping others be successful. That, by the way, is leadership: Investing in the success of others.
How to Grow Your Organization
Growth isn’t the only goal worth pursuing, but most organizations want to grow so let’s frame our discussion of leadership in that context.
You want to grow, and growth keeps you busy. Being good at your craft is what got you where you are. The more you grow, the more of what you’re good at there is to do. The bigger you get, the busier you get. We’ll assume you’ve successfully shed lower-level tasks so you can focus on your core skill. But eventually you become the bottleneck because your organization can’t grow past your ability to do what you’re good at. What’s the solution? Continue reading Too Busy to Lead
Influence is a Process, Not an Event
Instant oatmeal, same-day deliveries, on-demand video – we don’t like to wait. Our culture doesn’t cultivate patience. So naturally, we expect instant buy-in to our ideas. Instant Influence: If you can bottle that and sell it you’ll become instantly wealthy!
The Big Pitch
You walk into the boss’s office ready to pitch your latest great idea. Convinced he’s going to love it, you passionately lay it all on the table. “That’s interesting”, he casually responds, “but I don’t think we’re going that direction.”
How can he not see the brilliance of your game-changing idea?
Let’s assume for the moment that your idea really is brilliant. Your idea isn’t the problem, it’s your skill at influence that fell short. Continue reading Moving the Needle
Not “The Arrogant or the Wimpy Leader”
Is it possible to be confident and humble at the same time? If you equate confidence with arrogance and humility with uncertainty then you would probably say, “no”.
What is Confidence?
One of Webster’s definitions of confidence is, “faith or belief that one will act in a right, proper, or effective way” . That describes the kind of confidence we want to have in our leaders and want others to have in us as leaders. If we take another of Webster’s definitions, “a feeling or consciousness of one’s powers or of reliance on one’s circumstances” , that sounds like self-confidence that could be good or bad depending on how we use it.
Let me suggest a tweak to that second definition that I believe better describes the self-confidence of a healthy leader: “a feeling or consciousness of our team’s powers or of reliance on our team’s ability to navigate the circumstances”. Continue reading The Confidence of a Humble Leader
Authority vs. Individualism
Electricity is a good thing until it electrocutes someone. Authority is like that – a good thing until it’s not.
Not to be political, but the example is too obvious to overlook: America is seeing its founding strengths of freedom and independence morph into an extremist individualism that is hindering our ability to work together and make progress. We’re increasingly unable to trust and unwilling to submit to authorities.
What does that say to us about authority within our organizations? We might like to think our employees’ separate their attitudes about government authority from organizational authority. Maybe. But I suggest the default posture is that authority is authority whether in the home, work, government, or elsewhere. If you want to be seen in a different light, it’s up to you turn on the lamp. Continue reading Being and Being Under Authority
Leveraging the Power of Opposition…
Tensions: Maintain high standards…cut them some slack. Focus on the task at hand…don’t lose sight of the big picture. Be yourself…continually improve yourself. Be consistent…know when to make exceptions.
The Power of Tension
The human thumb is an amazing appendage shared by only a short list of other animals. Its power comes by working in opposition to our other fingers. Imagine how limited we would be if our thumbs just lined up parallel to our other fingers. The tension created by our thumb opposing the other digits creates extraordinary new capabilities.
Good leadership also requires us to harness the tensions produced by opposing ideas. Continue reading Getting the Tension Right
Stop Resisting – Learn to Use Them Well
I grew up around the construction trades. Before I was even a teenager I owned my own power tools: A drill, jig saw, and circular saw. I still have the jig saw. But the circular saw had a problem. It was misaligned and it was hard to cut straight with it. I learned then that bad tools get bad results.
Good tools, on the other hand, make getting good results easier – assuming you know how to use them well.
Since a leader’s job is to influence, most of a leader’s tools involve communication. For many leaders, meetings are a powerful tool in their shop that they haven’t learned to use well. Continue reading MEETINGS: Tools of a Leader’s Trade