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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Motivation – not the leader’s job?

28 05 2007

“It’s not my job to motivate my people, they should do this by themselves. It’s my job to make sure things get done right and on time.”

“I’m not here to hold hands and baby the employees, I’m here to make them perform and bring me results”

Ever heard that, or said that?

These comments are typically from leaders or managers who don’t believe motivated people are important in their business organization or results.

More than likely, they don’t have the “people skills” required to motivate others.

Sustaining motivation and enthusiasm at the workplace is one of the important factors in assuring business and personal success.

Leaders who tell me that motivating employees is not part of their job description, or not required for success are blind to the reality of working with other human beings.

Which group would you rather lead and work with, Group A, apathetic and unmotivated or Group B, focused and motivated?

A large part of motivation comes from the individual, it has to start here. There is no magic pill to give someone the desire and will to do their job with vigor and energy, striving for the best results possible.

You either have it, or you don’t. Hiring decisions should include an evaluation of an individual motivation potential.

Reinforcement and refocusing of personal motivation comes from the workplace, and workplace leaders.

Superior leaders know how to maintain momentum over time, keep the organization motivated, enthusiastic and focused.

Excellent results come from organizations that are motivated and are able to sustain their enthusiasm over time.

Failure to accept your role as leader and motivator at work is a a sure sign that you are not doing your job, and that your people and organization will not be performing at their best.

Motivating others is difficult and requires important social skills including listening, communicating, applied psychology and the art of negotiating.

All successful leaders share these skills or know how to find the right people in their organizations to keep their people motivated.

On your checklist of important goals and objectives for the organization this year add “maintain employees motivation” if you want to achieve all the other items on the list.

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Is your company noble, moral, virtuous or ethical

15 03 2007

The terms noble, virtuous, ethical or moral seem out of date.

In fact they seem to be words right out of a fairy tale.   Words and  concepts that have faded away with the modern world and it’s complexity.

Perhaps it’s not cool to be labeled as virtuous, moral or ethical.

Is it because we live in a complicated world that has us making more decisions about the “gray areas”?

We don’t read about organizations being ethical or noble.   In fact we hear about unethical companies and employees much more often.

Business magazines doesn’t write front page articles about virtuous executives and CEO’s (I hope this is because it’s not popular and not because there aren’t any).

Are there any reasons to promote and reinforce these values in your organization?

Are there good reasons to avoid discussion of them?

Perhaps the fact that unethical behaviour is reported, and considered scandalous, is a clear signal that it is outside of “normal” business conditions and draws attention.

Let’s begin with definitions, that should clear up some of the confusion.

Moral – Conforming to a standard of what is right and wrong, correct, trustworthy.  How could anyone want to work with others who don’t know right from wrong and behave?

Ethical – Principles of conduct governing an individual or group, a set of moral values, a guiding philosophy, decent, respectable.   OK, this one sounds like it should be part of the package too.

Noble – Moral eminence and freedom from anything mean, petty or dubious in conduct and character.  In simple terms doing the “right thing” all the time, excellence.  If it looks bad, don’t do it…pretty good advice and words to live by.

Virtuous – Implies moral excellence in character.   Not only knows good from bad, and adheres to it, but is exemplary in their behaviour and practice of their beliefs, honest, good, without reproach.  I can’t find any customer, shareholder or employee who wouldn’t want their company to be virtuous.

Which of the terms can your company live without in their employees?

Are any of these characteristics that should be found and promoted in your management and leadership?

Which of these concepts and behaviours are important to you, your customers and your organization now and in the future?

Do you have a written policy in place to promote, identify, and create noble employees and a virtuous organization?

Do you point out and recognize when a person or organization has done something noble, virtuous or ethical?

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Don’t find a solution, find a way to make it better

12 03 2007

We make a large error in our business and personal lives if we believe that every problem or situation can be solved immediately or in the short term through our decisions and application of resources.

Theoretically it’s possible, but our focus on solution instead of optimizing and making changes to make it better can blindfold us toward evolutionary processes that in the long term provide better, stronger and long lasting solutions.

I’m suggesting that every situation should be initially evaluated based on two basic criteria; can it be solved now, or can it be improved now.

The situations that can be solved now or in the short term, should be. The organization should dedicate the time and resources toward the solution.

An example would be a delivery service that has 3 trucks and cannot cover the current delivery area on-time due to an increase in customers and package volume. A possible swift solution would be the purchase of another vehicle and hiring of a new driver.

A situation that cannot be solved now or ever should be approached by identifying areas where improvement should be made. The time and resources of the company should be focused upon the improvement.

An example would be government’s attempt to eliminate poverty or disease from a population. A perfect solution is not possible or practical, but by focusing on specific areas one can find great opportunities for success or enormous impact (vaccinations for children against polio).

When we look at every situation as a problem that needs to be solved right now we may be missing the best solutions and strategies required to resolve the situation over the long term. Ask yourself:

  • Can we solve the problem quickly and efficiently with simply modification of variables or a shift in technology? If the answer is yes, then set the process and resources in motion.
  • What if the problem is not able to be solved quickly or has no practical or economically viable solution? This is where the approach of resolving and modifying parts of the problem comes into play.

This evolutionary approach to problem solving is not often requested or expected in business (the quick fix is always applauded and sought after), but often the best long term strategy is optimization and gradual modification.

This evolutionary problem solving process will provide new opportunities for change and solutions to be developed in the future.The identification of areas, processes or resources that are the bottlenecks in your organization become areas of opportunity.

Modifying and improving these bottlenecks will automatically create new bottlenecks, in new areas. The focus on identifying and solving these “new” situations leads to a process of continual improvement and a better, stronger organization.

This is one of the fundamental ideas behind the Theory of Constraints (TOC).

Common sense tells us that in a complex world not all solutions are simple, quick or painless. The “quick fix” is a great idea, but not often found in everyday life.

Observation of science, technology, philosophy and business ideas and strategies show us that change occurs through the rare revolution (paradigm shifts and new discoveries) and through the more common evolution (gradual modifications leading to continual change.

What can be changed, fixed or modified today to make the organization, process, product or service incrementally better?

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Using positive reinforcement to win customer loyalty

22 02 2007

We respond positively to positive feedback, recognition, and reinforcement of our behaviour and activities at work or home.

We get angry or lose interest in an activity, goal or organization if we don’t receive this “pat on the head” or “cheer-leading” on a continual basis.

Our customers also need reinforcement and recognition in order to maintain their motivation and good feelings toward your company or products.

What are you doing to make sure they get it?

Does the customer feel like you are just “going through the motions”?

Does it feel real?

Are you really showing that you care?

What sets you apart from your competitors AFTER the sale?

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Starting over

9 01 2007

Ever get involved in a project that requires modifications, and then those modifications led to more modifications and more and more?

Before you know it, the project has lost sight of it’s objectives, and the team is working on solving problems unrelated to the original goals.

I’m reminded of Rube Goldberg and his famous machines. We don’t intentionally try to complicate our work, but if we step back and look at the objectives, and the current processes and procedure in order to reach those objectives, we can often find distortions and diversions of comical proportions.

There are two simple actions that will eliminate and control our spiral into complexity and error.

  1. Step back and look at the problem, objectives and current procedures on a regular basis. What is working, what isn’t working, and why? What are you doing to modify or adjust the solution procedure or process instead of moving closer to a solution?
  2. When you discover that something is not working, and have analyzed why, don’t be afraid to START OVER. Throw out the current plan, and begin again.

We tend to avoid re-doing and restarting a project or activity because we want to salvage the time, money and effort that has been invested.

This inability to “do over” and start from scratch often prevents us from implementing better and more efficient solutions.

Our initial attempts to solve the problem have educated us about the requirements and environment. There is nothing wrong with starting over, in fact it may be the best and most efficient way to solve the problem.

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Doing Business in Mexico – cultural tips

1 11 2006

When doing business in Mexico you are very likely to see some, or all, of the following during a business trip. It’s part of the Mexican business and social culture.

  • Late arrival for meetings by participants. This might be up to 30 to 45 minutes late.
  • Cancellations at the last minute.
  • Changes in agreed upon plans and agendas.
  • Long lunches or dinners, where business talk is not the major theme.
  • Meetings that seem to go on for a long time before coming to the business issue.
  • People will gesture and use their hands a great deal while speaking.
  • There will be a degree of emotion in business discussions and presentations.
  • People will be very formal and polite.
  • People will sit very close to you when speaking, and often touch your arm or shoulder while talking.
  • Your Mexican partners will not be forth coming and explicit regarding bad news.
  • You will not hear the word NO a lot.
  • Deadlines may not be met for reasons that you don’t understand or don’t believe.
  • Until you establish a social relationship with your Mexican business partners, your business discussions will seem very vague, cold and unsatisfying.
  • Decision-making may be extremely swift or excruciatingly slow. You never will know why.
  • Dinners, parties, weddings and social gatherings last for hours. There is no such thing as a 2 hour cocktail party.
  • You will be encouraged to eat everything, drink plenty and enjoy yourself while in Mexico. Failure to do this is seen as a refusal of hospitality or a sign that you are not comfortable in Mexico or with your hosts.
  • In a social gathering the men will tend to congregate in one part of the room or table and the women in the other.

 

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