No shortcuts to being a great leader

27 11 2007

There are no shortcuts to effective sustained leadership.

It is not easy to be a leader, or to maintain a position of leadership.

There is no book, movie, seminar or short course that will turn one into a leader.

We can learn about certain elements of leadership that we may or may not possess, and incorporate these ideas into our lives and behavior.

But leadership is not about what information we possess, our good intentions, or a business title and corner office.

It’s all about what we show to others.

It’s about what we do.

Day to day actions.

Sustained leadership success comes from; listening, attention to detail, implementing ideas, perseverance in the face of adversity, willingness to embrace innovation, training and mentoring others, planning and risk identification, and the most important factor of all, providing a living example to others.

A true leader provides a model to others.

Leaders will consistently provide examples of; honesty, integrity, ethics, dignity, passion, diligence, capacity to learn, and unwillingness to be defeated.

A true leader will also provide examples of how to lose, how to accept defeat and move on, because leaders are not always winners

Leadership is not a 9 to 5 job, it’s a way of life.

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Broken promises

28 06 2007

“The best way to keep one’s word is not to give it.”  Napoleon Bonaparte

It’s too easy to make a promise.

We promise the customer that the product will work, solve their problem, and maybe change their lives.

We promise our coworkers that our part of the work will be delivered on time.

We promise our business partners and suppliers that we they can count on us.

We promise to follow up after the initial sales call, that we will always be there with customer service.

We promise that our priority is the customer and the customers satisfaction.

We promise to hit the sales goals and meet the budget.

All our promises are all full of good intentions, it’s what people want to hear, it’s what we want to deliver.

But, can we guarantee that we will deliver?

Never take a solemn oath.  People think you mean it.  Norman Douglas

The best way to ruin your reputation and lower your ability to lead and manage others is to promise something and not deliver.

We make a promise because it gives others confidence, it seems to make negotiations easier and it reflects our hope that all will go as planned.

“All promise outruns performance.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

A common error of new managers and leaders is the perceived need to make promises to their organization and team.

Don’t promise it.

Promises are very powerful compromises, but extremely fragile and difficult to achieve.  Take care when offering them to others.  

In the place of promises, offer firm plans, describe actions and possible outcome, dedicate the time and resources required.

Do more than you say you will.

Perform, don’t promise.

“It is an immutable law in business that words are words, explanations are explanations, promises are promises but only performance is reality.”  Harold Geneen





Improve your leadership profile

19 06 2007

Ever wonder if your leadership style should be less interactive, less personal with your team?

Do you believe that the “cold emotionless leader” approach will bring better results to the organization?

Teresa Amabile in an interview entitled How Team Leaders Show Support-or Not in The Harvard Business School Working Knowledge newsletter, outlines her study published in 2004 in The Leadership Quarterly, and gives insight into leadership characteristics and styles as they impact group performance and creativity in organizations.

She identified 4 key behaviors that will improve the perception of team leader’s support by the team members (and by association improve group attitude and final results).

The groups perception of the leader’s support were positive when:

  • they received on-time feedback and prompt response to problems. On-time decision making
  • they were supported in their decisions on a personal AND professional basis by the leader and a sense of relationship was developed through exchange of personal information. Create personal relationships.
  • they were recognized individually and in public for their achievements. Praise and recognition.
  • they were included and asked for ideas and input about decision making. Inclusion and participation of all team members.

Sound familiar?

They are fundamental characteristics of any leader or manager.

The groups perception of the leader’s support were negative when the leader:

  • Did not manage the work efficiently. Lack of timely decision-making, disinterest, disorganization.
  • Unable to provide clear role definition and objectives. Lack of focus and objectives.
  • Unable to solve problems or avoid them. Lack of strategy and planning.

Becoming a good leader is not all about barking orders or the implementation of revolutionary, new and improved ideas about data management and numbers analysis .

It’s about listening, doing your job and making decisions that affect others on-time.

It’s about dedicating time and applying common sense to create and maintain human relationships.

Related Links

How Team Leaders Show Support-or Not

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Leading your team to mediocrity

15 06 2007

“Too many chiefs and not enough indians ”

Slow Leadership has a post entitled Too Much Leadership that reminded me of a key concept required to effectively lead and manage people, and insure success in our organizations.

The willingness to pitch in and do the work along with the team.

There is no miracle formula to sustained success.

It’s about getting the work done.

It’s incredible important that we raise our hands to volunteer and roll up our sleeves, and not just point our fingers and give orders.

It creates a sense of camaraderie, provides an understanding of what are co-workers are dealing with, and shows a spirit of “doing what it takes” in order to make the business work.

The desire to “be the boss” somehow leads people to think that they are exempt from work, or entitled to give orders instead pitching in.

Being the leader involves identifying and eliminating the bottlenecks that affect your people in their work.

Supervision and coordination of work activities is part of that managerial responsibility.

Assuring that everyone gets their job done efficiently is what will make you a successful manager.

Best way to understand what that takes is to jump into the fray once in a while, listen, learn, work and think how to make it better or more efficient.

Do more and supervise less.

Start using your whole hand at work, and not just your index finger.

Related Links

Successful Managers should be breaking the rules

Slow Leadership:  Too Much Leadership

20 ways to guarantee failure as a manager 





20 ways to guarantee failure as a manager

15 06 2007

A guide for the new leader who wants to alienate all employees and fail as quickly as possible in their new management position

  1. Immediately purchase new office furniture and redecorate your office.  Spend a lot of money and make your office look very different from any other office in the company.
  2. Insist on new computers, cell phones and software for your use only.
  3. Spend several days working on your title, the press release announcing it and how your business cards look.
  4. Insist and “fight over” small insignificant details and decisions in meetings, leaving big decisions and “big picture” items in limbo.
  5. Treat the people in the organization as if they are there for your convenience and well being.  Be as rude as possible in your communications.  Demand, never ask.
  6. When in meetings and conversations, always answer the ringing telephone, type and send Blackberry messages, read and respond to all incoming email and instant messages.  Interrupt frequently and ask people to repeat themselves because you were busy.
  7. Plan company workshops or events aimed at creating a new atmosphere of “community” at work for weekends or after work hours, and preferable with short notice.
  8. Avoid sharing any information about your goals, ideas and strategies about the company with employees.  Always talk about theory, never get specific.  Keep it fuzzy and out of focus.
  9. Don’t listen to any ideas, solutions or complaints from employees or managers who report to you, especially if they have been with the company for a long time.
  10. Make strong permanent opinions about the company and employees, solely on the basis of discussions with top management and the business owners.
  11. Take lots of “business trips”  and attend every professional seminar and conference possible, do not take anyone from the company with you.  This is especially effective if the company is suffering from cash flow problems.
  12. Talk about implementing massive changes, re-inventing methods and strategies, promote innovation and tell everyone that money is not an issue for them to worry about, at the same time focus all your energy on cutting costs, and minimizing the organization.
  13. Immediately terminate some employees because someone told you to do it.
  14. Insist that everyone in the company learns how to work with a new software program that you like.
  15. Request reports and analysis from all managers and department heads, then several days later, repeat the request.  Don’t read or respond to any report and never acknowledge that you have received it.
  16. Schedule many inter-departmental meetings at odd hours, don’t provide an agenda, then cancel them at the last minute, or just don’t show up.
  17. Always refer to customers as if they were something evil and undesirable.
  18. Constantly remind employees that before you came to the company they were primitive and uneducated, without a clue as to what business is all about.
  19. Hire consultants, lots of consultants, expensive consultants are best.
  20. Never make a decision by yourself, always try and find total consensus on all issues.

Related Links

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Oil and water

30 05 2007

Oil and water don’t mix.

That’s what I believed until today.  Oil and water do mix after all

In an organization there are departments that don’t mix well, or not at all.  Sales, finance and production departments are notorious for having problems or “not mixing”.

Each of these groups has a different way of thinking, they create very different processes and final products, it makes sense that they will not agree to, or understand what the other departments are doing.

Tension, misunderstandings, frustration and chaos can result if left unattended.

Sales and marketing is concerned with creating or identifying demand for the product and negotiating an agreement.  It’s about people and relationships, emotions, taking advantage of opportunities, being creative innovative and adaptable, exploring new ideas, making sure the customer is satisfied.  Uncertainty is a large part of every business day.

Finance focuses on numbers.  What did we do in the past, what are we doing now, what will we need in the future and how do we reduce or eliminate our risk.  Structured, predictable, logical, they label everything.  Their evaluation and decision making is based on guaranteed outcomes and not on uncertainty.

Production is concerned with efficiency and is also numbers driven.  Processes are studied, analyzed and standardized in order to maximize control and eliminate  errors.  They prefer set plans and actively resist rapid or constant deviations and modifications.  Believers in contingency plans and backups, logical, not fond of uncertainty.

The goal is to acknowledge that every group is very different, with different points of view, and that these differences are essential to the success of any organization.

The entire system (organization) benefits from the interaction, questioning, and controls required by each department.

If there is total agreement, all the time, something is wrong.

Leadership’s role is to provoke, question, listen, analyze and push this chaos toward a goal.

Successful leaders know how to make oil and water mix,  and make it happen on a regular basis.

Related Links 

New Scientist – Oil and water do mix after all

Are we killing team performance by over communicating 

Leadership, want the job or just the title and benefits

Leadership – who do you want to lead





Are you on the right team?

21 05 2007

 When the focus at work is on providing a great product or service to the customer (maximizing) the perceived value of the product is higher for the customer, and they are willing to pay more.

This translates into more profit for the company.

When our focus is on maximizing profit for the company, management tends to rush toward cost cutting and/or reducing product quality (minimizing) many times resulting in reducing perceived product or service value for the customer.

The customers may not buy your product now, resulting in less profit for the company.

It’s all about providing a product or service that will be appreciated, sought out and embraced by the market.

Creating a product or service that is valuable to the market.

The more people want YOUR product, the more money they will pay for it.

It’s about listening to customers, creating new ideas, innovating, and taking calculated risks based on your expertise and understanding of your business.

It’s not easy.  Creating has never been easy.

Success is not guaranteed.  In fact the higher the risk the higher the potential payoff and profits.

But it sure is more exciting and rewarding than cutting pennies off manufacturing, administration, sales and logistics costs.

It takes a different type of leadership, management and employees to make this happen.

What team do you want to work with, lead or manage?

Related Links

The 6 Fundamental Concepts Behind Every Successful Business

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