3 Awesome Attributes for Leaders

Happy Tuesday!  Today’s is an awesome day!  Isn’t it!?

Recently, I was talking with some colleagues about leader behaviors.  When I asked what attributes they valued the most, I found their responses intriguing.  Not surprising, but interesting.

While there are certainly many important attributes that are critical to a leader’s success, the three we pared it down to were well worthy of a mention.  A leader that does these three well will find themselves in a good place with their teams and colleagues.

What were they?

#1:  ACCESSIBILITY – People want access to their leaders.  This takes different forms depending upon the roles.  Good leaders are characterized by utilizing the “open door” mentality. This doesn’t mean that people can demand any specific time and or amount of time from their leaders, but it does mean that their leaders are available to them within reason.  It also means that team members feel comfortable knowing that their leader will be there for them when it really counts and that they will spend an appropriate amount of time addressing their needs and/or issues. 

Leader Actions:  For you leaders (again) your actions may vary by your role and circumstances, however, the key is ensuring that you set the expectations and ground rules for what accessibility looks like.  It could be, “I hold open office hours MWF from 8-10am”.  Or weekly recurring meetings with direct reports.  Or allow unscheduled in-person drive-bys.  Or quick response via email, text, IM, or whatever medium.  The key?  Make sure your people know how they can access you.

#2:  APPROACHABILITY – People want their leaders to be friendly, cordial, easy to talk to, and open to what they have to say.  This isn’t the same as accessible.  Just because you’re door’s open doesn’t mean that people will walk through.  They need to feel like it’s okay to walk through.  Unfortunately, I’ve actually heard someone say, “I’m not their friend, I’m their boss.”  Clearly this person misses the point.  It’s not so much about being BFFs as much as it is about people feeling like you’re open and engaged.  Approachability leads to greater communication, greater engagement, and greater morale.

Leader Actions:  The number one action you can take to be more approachable is to LISTEN.  Active listening tells people that you’re interested in what they have to   say.  Ask good follow up questions.  Mind your body posture and non-verbal cues – make sure they are sending the signal that you are invested in the person that is talking.  Don’t clock watch.  Be in the moment with that team member. Don’t be immediately dismissive of their ideas. Listen.  Don’t always be so serious.  Praise in public.  One of my favorite leaders always saidDon’t give some of the credit away, give it ALL away.   Smile and laugh WITH your team.

#3:  AUTHENTICTY – The most important attribute that people wanted from their leaders is for them to just be the ‘real deal’.  People have an uncanny way of seeing through facades – they may not always see it directly, but they can feel it.  They can tell when you’re not being yourself.  Even when well intentioned, not being yourself comes across as fake, disingenuous, and untrustworthy.   People want their leaders to be genuine and natural.  Trust is an earned relationship and one that works both ways.  Authenticity is a key to building a trusting relationship.

Leaders Actions:  Simply put – Be yourself.  Be real.  Be genuine.  Don’t put on fronts and facades.  Don’t make yourself out to be something you’re not.  Be a straight shooter and honest with others but always in a respectful manner.  Serve others.  Be humble.

Again, while there are many more attributes that are useful and necessary – these three felt right on spot.  And not just for formal leaders – but for the informal leaders as well.

Especially now, when the business environment is swirling with change, people need to anchor on their leaders.  And they need their leaders to be accessible, approachable, and authentic.

What leadership attributes to you see as critical?

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Retweet: Three Words That Will Transform Your Career

Today we’re going to take a little different spin.  

Personally and professionally, I find a lot of value in LinkedIn.  I love seeing what kinds of articles people post.  Yesterday, I came across a quick read by Bruce Kasanoff (entrepreneur, writer, speaker) that really has a great message that we need to remember and act on (often).  As it’s short and to the point, I will post the entire article below or you can click on the link here to access it on LinkedIn.  Enjoy!

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Three Words That Will Transform Your Career

Every time you encounter another person, think: help this person. It’s not altruistic. Nothing else can so quickly supercharge your career and improve the quality of your life.

When you walk into Starbucks for a coffee, think help this person about the barista who serves you. Instead of being frustrated that he isn’t moving fast enough, see if you can make him smile. Better yet, tell him to keep the change.

When the phone rings on a busy day, don’t get frustrated by the interruption. Think help this person while you answer the phone. Doing so will change your demeanor, your thought process, and the entire interaction.

If you have a subordinate who isn’t pulling her weight, instead of criticizing her, every time you see her think help this person. This doesn’t mean let her slide, or ignore her shortcomings. It means help her either improve her skills or find a position better suited to her strengths. But don’t just brush her aside; really help her.

But wait a minute – I know what some of you are thinking. What about the people who take credit for other people’s work? What about the rich and powerful who have gotten that way by crushing others? Doesn’t their success prove me wrong?

Not at all. Sure, there are some people who take the exact opposite strategy. But it takes real skill and focus to succeed by being evil, and most of us just don’t have the fortitude to pull it off. For those of us with a soul and a heart, the only real choice is to succeed by helping others.

By first thinking help this person, you will change the ways that others perceive you. There is no faster or more effective way to change your interactions and relationships. You will be viewed as a positive, constructive, helpful and dependable person. People will think you are more perceptive, attentive and understanding.

That’s why this way of thinking is not altruistic; it is selfish, in the best sense of the word. The single best way to help yourself is to always be looking for ways to help other people. Sure, you’ll be making the world a better place, and in the course of your life you will help many thousands of people. But don’t do it because you ought to, or because it’s the “right” thing to do.

Think help this person because you’re selfish, and proud of it.

Choose to Be #1

A couple weeks ago, my company had our annual Year Beginning Meeting.

For those of you unfamiliar with these types of events, picture a concert venue with 2,000-3,000 of your closest friends from across the nation gathered together to listen to the leadership team share the vision and direction for the new year and get fired up with some good ol’ fashion rah-rah-rah!

I love these meetings!  You can feel the energy and excitement crackle in the air!  But no meeting is complete without some catch phrase or mantra that whips the crowd into a frenzy.

And this year did not disappoint!  

As our senior leaders stood on the stage, they would shout, “WE CHOOSE TO BE…”

And the crowd would shout back, “NUMBER ONE!

Particularly dynamic was our EVP of Operations, Todd Harbaugh.  Todd is a fantastic public speaker and always seems to bring it all home.  His carefully crafted, yet genuine delivery makes you want to break through walls, swim oceans, and run through fire to be your best.

This particular message from Todd drove home the point that we have a choice every day to do our best….or not do our best.

If you think about this logically –‘doing your best’ more often than not has a fairly positive outcome.  NOT doing your best usually has a less than desired result.  So, why would we not want to do our best?  Have you ever woke up at the start of your day and thought, “Man, today I think I am just going to be #2.”  Or “I really don’t want to do my best today.”  No.  If this is who you are, you usually don’t think anything.  You slide by in your day only to wonder later where the day went and why you didn’t get anything accomplished or why you’re not progressing in your career.

Choosing to be #1 is a mindset shift.  It’s a purposeful choice.  You have to be intentional about delivering your best….and then have the moxie and will to follow through on it.

But what does “doing your best” really mean?

Todd further drove this home for the crowd.  Todd shouted, “We Choose to Be…” and the crowd would roar back “NUMBER ONE!”  Then he would continue, “…in Talent Development…” “…in Innovation” and so on .  There were five areas in all.  But with each topic, he explained exactly what he meant and what he expected.

Todd’s message focused on the things that were right for our company.  But what is right for you or your organization?  What should you be #1 in?  After all it’s a choice.

Is it sales?  Creative/artistic design?  Talent development?  Project management?  Innovation?  Customer experience?  Leveraging Influence?  Philanthropy?  Volunteerism?  A special pursuit? A specific skill?

It’s really up to you.  So, here’s the exercise.

Sit down with your favorite writing utensil and a post-it note.

At the top, write, “I CHOOSE TO BE #1 IN:”

Try to come up with 3 areas that you should (or want to) give your best in.  More is okay – but you don’t want too many as you lose focus.  Try not to exceed 5.

Once you’re done, read aloud – “I CHOOSE TO BE #1 IN …..”

Now, don’t be timid.  Say it like you mean it!

Repeat it until you believe it.  After all, the only person you have to convince is yourself.

Now take that note and post it somewhere you’ll see it at the start of your day (e.g., your bathroom mirror, on your coffee machine, on your treadmill, in your office, on your rear view mirror of your car, etc.).  They key is to remind yourself early in your day that you are choosing to be #1 at these things.  And when you see that note, read it out loud – with conviction!

As I said earlier, choosing to be #1 is a mindset shift.  You can’t be flippant about it.  Be intentional.  It will make a difference in your life.

Personally, I CHOOSE TO BE #1 in developing people, serving my customer, and innovating well-thought out solutions.

This works equally well in your personal life.  For me, I CHOOSE TO BE #1 as a husband and father.

WHAT DO YOU CHOOSE?

Put Some Jingle in Your Jangle!

I love this time of the year!  It’s so much fun!

Festivity abounds through the sights and the sounds; the giving and goodwill; the camaraderie of colleagues, family, and friends; and, well…..this time of year just makes me feel really good.

And for many of you, I bet this time of year makes you feel good too!

However, the holidays are not time to sit back on our leadership laurels and simply soak up the merriment and cheer.

It is the time for leaders to lead more than ever!  It’s time to put some pep in your leadership step.  Some extra glide in your leadership stride.  Some jingle in your leadership jangle!

“How do I do that?” you ask?

Here are 4 ways:

  • Set the Tone!  All year long, your teams look to your example for how to act.   I was about to say that this time of the year is no different, but that’s not true.  It’s very different.  This is the time of the year that is filled with all kinds of extra activities and demands on time – and quite frankly, your folks are going to be looking to you even more for what’s acceptable and what isn’t.  Should they go to the Divisional Christmas party or do they stay at their desk and work?   Should you go to the team charity event or not?  Should they pass out Christmas cards and gifts to each other?

You (the leader) need to set the tone for how to act and engage during the holiday season.  If there are rules to be followed, then say so and be clear and consistent.  Demonstrate the acceptable behavior.  For the good of the group, you may have to get outside of your own comfort zone to set the proper example (e.g., go to the department holiday party so that they know it’s okay to attend – even though you’d rather sit alone in your Grinch cave drinking eggnog by yourself).

  • Don’t get distracted!  While everyone may be worried if Santa Claus is coming to town or not, it’s not time to lose focus on what needs to be accomplished at work.  Set expectations and clearly communicate with your teams what needs to get done (and when) during this frenzy of activity, parties, parades, events, and vacations.  Without being Scrooge, help guide your teams to find the balance in their hectic schedules to make it all work.  Lead by example and make sure that you are getting your work done too!
  • Be highly observant!  While the holidays are generally a time of joy for most, there are those that may be struggling.  It could be that they miss their friends or family.  Or they have lost a loved one that won’t be there this year during the holidays.  Or maybe they are struggling financially to make ends meet for their family.  Regardless of the circumstance, you as their leader need to discern the situation and be sensitive to their plight.  It’s time to show compassion and care.  It’s time to provide encouragement and support.  Be a good shepherd and keep watch on all of your sheep!
  • Spread Joy!  This is one of the most important components of holiday leadership!  It is time to inspire and spread joy!  One of the best things you can do during this time of the year is share a smile, laugh, or word of encouragement or appreciation with those around you.  I wrote an article this last April that fits perfectly here.  Click here to learn 5 Ways to Spread a Little Joy!

What other ways can you step up your leadership game during the holiday season?

Get Out of Your Seat!

Day after day, I talk to lots of folks who are looking to improve any number of work place issues.  Whether its resolving a dispute, gaining performance out of others, understanding what people are thinking, or simply building relationships, people are looking for the good ‘how to’ answers.

While there are no silver bullets, I do believe that there is one simple way to solve the above issues (and more).

Simply, get out of your seat.  Go ask.  Go listen.  Go talk.  Go engage!

It’s amazing what a little direct interaction can do to solve your ills.  Back in the day, we didn’t have email, instant messenger, text, or other digital mediums to communicate through (or hide behind).  We actually had to talk face to face with each other.

While that may sound archaic, it’s extremely effective.  And those that do it well reap successful rewards.

So what can ‘getting out of your seat’ do for you?  Check out these three benefits.

Improve your health.  Really!  Instead of sitting and typing an email, get up and go talk!  I was recently reading an article by Michael Hyatt that highlighted the dangers of sitting in your seat for prolonged periods.  There was an infographic that stated that sitting 6+ hours per day increases your likelihood of death by 40% as compared to others that sit far less.  That’s a pretty compelling reason in and of itself to NOT rest on your laurels all day.   Make sure to read through the infographic  – it’s pretty interesting!

Solve issues faster.  More than once today, I talked with colleagues and was asked, “How should I deal with this person?”  My response each time?  Go talk with them.  Stop speculating, trying to interpret emails, and/or listening to the scuttlebutt dished by other people.  Take the initiative, be proactive, and go get face to face with the source.  If approached correctly, you will get to the root issue much faster and gain resolution much faster.

Expand your influence.  One of my favorite leadership tenets at my company is that of Coaching By Walking Around (CBWA).  This is an intentional activity where the leader engages with the troops where they are.  But more important than coaching, is listening.  A leader will learn far more about what is going on in the business, how employees feel, and what’s concerning them by getting out from behind the desk and asking.  The added benefits of this critical exercise, if done sincerely, are that you become more approachable, more appreciated, and more influential – which makes your coaching (when necessary) more readily accepted.

As with all things, you have to use common sense and know when to communicate in the right manner.  Learn to use your tools appropriately.  But when it comes to those issues listed in the first paragraph – get up and go!

So what are you waiting for?  Get out there!

Calling an Audible

I love American Football.  Besides the competitiveness and game itself, there are so many parallels to life and business.

I was reminded of one this last week; the art of the “audible”.

I found myself in a meeting with several senior executives.  My presentation was ready to go.  But then, as I listened to the pre-meeting conversation, tone, and watched the non-verbal cues, I decided to cut my presentation short and eliminate one of the elements.  I called an audible.  Did this work out for me?  Only time will tell.

For those of you that are unfamiliar, an audible is simply changing the play based upon what you are seeing.

Peyton Manning calling an audible. Source: Indystar

If you’ve ever watch a really skilled quarterback, they are amazing at reading what is in front of them and have a knack at making the changes to best deal with the situation to gain the best possible outcome.

The same is true in business.   You should be very familiar with this concept.  You probably do this often instinctively without thinking about it.  Your environment isn’t what you expected, so you adjust.

However, more often than not, we find ourselves calling audibles at times that we didn’t expect or over situations that we didn’t expect.  This makes us reactionary.  We end up having to rely on our gut, experience, knowledge, instinct, luck, and the ability to pull it all together suddenly to make it all work.  Some people are better at this spontaneous activity than others.  And sometimes it works out for us and sometimes it doesn’t.

What if you weren’t so reactive, but rather – proactive?  Would you improve the odds of your audible being successful?

As I mentioned earlier, there is an “art” to the audible.  So, my answer to the above is yes – you can improve your outcome.

What is this art?  If you study great quarterbacks, you’ll notice that they have a few things in common.

  • They are knowledgeable.  Simply put, they know their business.  They have a wealth of information and experience to pull from.  While this serves well in a reactionary mode, it is even more potent when it is used proactively and you are calculated in making adjustments.
  • They are skilled at reading their environment.  They pay close attention.  They notice every detail.  They are anticipatory.  They are aware of everything that is happening around them.  They understand what changes in their environment mean.
  • They have alternative plans.  They have pre-planned and created alternative scenarios.   Based upon specific changes in the environment, they already know what to do differently – and even better – what to tell the team to do differently.

How do you become good at calling an audible?   Certainly, practice will make you better.  Being knowledgeable and having good alternative plans involves knowing your own business, pre-planning, and knowing when to invoke which alternative plan.

Reading your environment though is a skill you have to develop.  Paying attention to what is happening around you is important.  Listening to tone and words.  Watching non-verbal cues (e.g., body language, eye contact, facial expressions).  Understanding what they all mean.

You can hone this skill by being deliberately attentive.  Try it in the next meeting that you attend.  Read your environment.  When you leave the meeting, take a moment to recap.  Was your read correct?  If not, what did you miss? This is a skill that will serve you well beyond just calling the audible.

As you’ve read through this post, you’ve probably thought of a few times where you’ve had to call an audible.  If you tried to count the number of times you do it, you will probably find that you do it more than you would have thought.

Calling audibles is a natural part of business, especially for leaders.  The goal, however, is to become good at it.

How good are you?  What can you do to become better?

3 Reasons to Embrace Your Scars

I was rummaging through some business photos the other day, when my youngest child said, “Daddy, what’s wrong with your face?”

The photo she was referring to was my “professional head shot” photo for work.

As I looked at the photo, I realized what she was referring to.

When I took the photo, the photographer immediately uploaded it to his computer and started doing his “magic”.  He said, “It’s amazing what the camera can see.”  When I asked him what he meant, he said, “I can see where your skin is damaged.  I can see blemishes you didn’t know you had.”  When I responded with an intrigued (and somewhat concerned) look, he said, “Don’t worry.  I can fix them.”

Then I watched him work.  He smoothed some skin out here.  Removed a scar there.  Gave me a little color.  Fixed my collar line.  At the time, I thought, “How cool.  This must be how they do it in the movies and magazines.”

What I didn’t realize at the time was that he wasn’t really capturing me.  He created a version of me that looked, well….”plastic”.   And my little one was sharp enough to pick up on that.

I looked deeper at the photo.  I started to account for the scars that were missing in the photo – and what each one stood for.  One from falling out of a tree.  Two from chicken pox when I was a child.  One from an outpatient surgery.   And others…

Scars mean many things.  They remind us of our adventures, risks, and even some of the dumb things we did.  Sometimes they remind us of success, while other times they remind us of defeat.  Sometimes they are a reminder of a funny story.  And sometimes they tell the tale of a painful and tragic event.

Regardless, they are a part of who we are.  And from the funny to the tragic, they tell the story of where we’ve been.

Personally, I have found that embracing my scars is an important part of my well-being.  I am mentally healthier because I allow them to remind me of:

  • Life lessons.  Most of us can account for every scar on our bodies – we know what happened, how, and when.  We remember the lessons that we learned – and are keen about not repeating our mistakes.
  • Identity.  Not all scars showcase a mistake, sometimes they tell the tale of who we are.   When I was a younger man, I worked for a short time for a farmer.  Before he hired me, he asked me to show him my hands.   When I did so, he nodded in satisfaction and said I could work for him.  Confused, I asked for an explanation.  He said that my hands had nicks and scars and that showed him that I wasn’t afraid to work.  Scars showcase experience and tell a tale.
  • Survival.  Regardless of whether the scar was caused by a major tragedy or a minor folly, they remind us that even in the worst of times – we had the fortitude to survive.   We persevered.  We endured.  And that reminder gives us hope the next time we face a difficult situation.

As I reflect on my own scars, I think not only about the physical scars, but emotional and psychological scars as well.  All of these together represent many lessons of risk and reward; recklessness and consequence; tragedy and triumph.  And it is up to me – it is up to you – to determine how to view our own scars.

We can try to hide and forget our scars and let them bring us down when we catch a glimpse.  OR we can embrace them, remember the lessons, and live stronger and wiser because of them.

Personally, I choose the latter.  These scars are part of who I am.  Their experiences have molded and shaped me into the person I am today.  I am thankful for them.

I have since retired my “professional head shot” photo.  I’ll go back and take another at some point, but this time, I’ll have the photographer leave the scars there – to properly reflect the real me.

How do you view your own scars?

I Conquered My Inbox Anxiety!

For years now, my email inbox has been a source of frustration, stress, and anxiety.

I receive lots of email.  But I’m horrible at managing my inbox!

I’ve tried all kinds of email tips, tricks and filing techniques.  I’ve tried unsubscribing to unimportant subscription emails.  Reduced the number of distribution lists I’m on.  I’ve tried auto-rules.  I’ve tried scheduling “email time” early in my work morning to keep up.  I’ve even tried just dumping things in to one big folder.

But nothing has seemed to work.  Until now.

I have found something that works for me.  And believe it or not… it’s simple.  So, here it is.

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I’ve taken my personal folders and turned them in to “years”.  Then I create sub-folders that are “months”.

I did this both for received emails and for sent emails.

Then when I’m done with my emails – I simply move them over to the proper month.  It’s fast.  It’s efficient.  It’s easy!

I told a few people about this, but they challenged me saying, “How will you ever find an archived email if you don’t file them by name, topic, project, etc.”?

First, I took a good hard look at how often I actually go back and pull up or need an old email.  Survey says?  Very rarely.

Second, I learned that most of the emails I do look for are things that have been sent to me within the last 4-6 weeks.  So, that means only looking in 1-3 sub-folders max.
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Third, searching sub-folders is easy.  I can sort by name, topic, or date.  I can also use key word searches.  And quite honestly, because the sub-folders are relatively small, the search doesn’t take very long to complete and I spot things quickly.
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This method may not be for everyone, but after one month – I am pretty happy with it!
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Now, there are no silver bullets when it comes to email management.  I do still delete unnecessary emails, unsubscribe, limit the distributions I’m on, and use auto-rules.  However, this new filing system has given me back time in my day and lowered my stress level.

If you try it, let me know if it worked for you too.

How do you keep your inbox clean?

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