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Monday, July 30, 2012

The Es of LEadership- Encouragement

A key component of good leadership training is a discussion on motivation.   Many times, this subject begins with a discussion of various motivational theories and how they might be applicable in the workplace.   One theory I find most applicable, when applied correctly is reinforcement theory. 

In simple terms, reinforcement theory works to encourage positive behavior or behavior you want to see repeated. and to punish behavior you don't want to be repeated.  Today, leaders should strive to motivate people with a carrot more than with a stick.  Here are some ideas for being a positive encourager in terms rewards positive behavior: 

1.  Timely-  All rewards should be given immediately after the behavior is demonstrated.  If someone completes a project on time and on budget, lands a new deal for your company or department, goes the extra mile to help a coworker, fixes a machine that has been down for over a week, etc., you should thank or reward the person for that effort right away.  Don't wait until next week and definitely don't wait until their next performance review.

2. Specific-  Reference what behavior or action you want to continue.  A pat on the back or a "that-a-boy" may leave someone wondering exactly what you are praising them for.    For example,  a good specific praise may be, "Jim,  I really appreciate how you stayed late to help John complete the quarterly mail outs.   It not only helped him understand how they are done, but it gave him the confidence to know that you care and that he can handle it on his own next time." 

3.  Sincere-  People can see through a rehearsed or forced reward or praise.  Don't say it or give it if you don't mean it. 

4. Personal-  This is where what motivates one person, may not motivate another.  Jim stayed late, so he may want an afternoon off to spend time with his family.  He would find this rewarding.  John, however, may value a gift card to the Starbucks down the street since he is addicted to those chi lattes.  The key to this one is to know your people. 

5.  Proportional-  All rewards should be in proportion to the time and effort expended on the behavior you want to continue.   Staying late one night may only warranted a sincere thank you.  Staying late all  all month may warrant a day off, or more.    If staying late for a month led to saving a key customer account and helping land another key customer that is going to double your revenue, a bonus check in proportion to the revenue or profit generated may be in order. 

What do you find is most encouraging to your staff? 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Es of LEadership- Expertise

As a "young" professional, I sometimes find myself frustrated when someone says, "He/she has 42 years of experience, they know what they are doing."  Another example of this is when a professor of mine in graduate school said,  "A requirement of being an executive coach is having gray hair." As a member of Generation Y focused on results,  I think I find this frustrating because working for 42 years in one field or having grey hair doesn't necessarily mean you have accomplished anything.

There is something to be said though, about the need for leaders to have expertise in their field, which can be obtained through tenure in a particular role.  I have a lot of respect for one of my colleagues that has been in economic development for many years (she started when she was still in diapers :). She is what I call "the source of all knowledge" and one of the keys to her gaining this title is her tenure in the field.  However, I think there is value gained in considering different ways to gain expertise in an industry or role beyond aging with your role.

All of these things center around the desire for lifelong learning.  Here are some ways to gain expertise outside of just biding your time in a particular role or industry:

1. Have a passion for what you do.  If you don't have a passion for it, you won't have a desire to learn more about your industry and gain relevant experience necessary for expertise.

2. Study what you do.  Read, read, read about your field whether it be through books, trade journals, blogs, online newsletters, etc.

3. Network with those in the field.  This can be done through professional societies and through professional social networking through LinkedIn.  Join groups through LinkedIn relevant to your field.

4.  Learn by doing. This does not necessarily need to be in a educational or professional setting. I recently read an article that stated that the world's leading video game company, IGN Entertainment, was selecting programming talent through a "Code-Foo" challenge where people applied by submitting their coding work irrespective of degree or experience.  Isn't this what Mark Zuckerberg was doing in his free time that lead to Facebook? And how old is he, 20 something?

This also involves asking for and seeking out assignments in the professional settings that allow you to gain valuable experience you don't already have. Seek opportunities that stretch your experience and challenge you.

5. Seek a mentor in the field and learn from their expertise.

Interested in considering more ways build credibility in your field?  You might find this article on Great Leadership by Dan by guest blogger Cara Hale Alter a good read.

What have you done to gain expertise beyond biding your time?

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Es of LEadership- Empathy

I challenge you to find any introductory training in leadership that does not cover the concept of empathy.  Sometimes it isn't described as empathy, or the "the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.", but it is always there.

Leaders have the ability to put themselves in other peoples' shoes. They do this before making decisions.   Really good leaders have the ability to not only put themselves in other peoples' shoes but are also able to completely remove their own shoes while doing so.  This is a tough one, because we are all motivated by self interest and tend to think first about how an issue or situation impacts us, not someone else. 

Let me give you an example of an empathy encounter I had with a leader of a manufacturing company. I was in a meeting with him discussing some consulting work we were doing for them.   A guy came in from the production floor, all sweaty and greasy, and looked like he was about to cry. The leader invited him in, and without prompting, the guy just spilled his guts.   

His dad had been dealing with cancer, and they had just gotten the news that it had spread.  They had given him less than a couple of weeks to live.   Without hesitation,  the leader told the guy to go home and take as much time as he needed.  

Two observations first come to mind about this encounter.   First, the leader was not his immediate supervisor, he was actually his bosses' bosses' boss (for lack of a better way to describe it).    The leader had to have displayed some type of empathy on regular basis for this guy to feel comfortable enough to come to him, show his emotion, and ask for help.   The leader was also obviously aware of the situation beforehand.

Secondly,  I knew that they were WAY behind on production when this incident occurred.   Being a small firm, this guy's presence on the job mattered to them in terms of meeting the production schedule, but he was nevertheless instructed to take as much time off as he needed to be with his family. 

Well you ask,  who wouldn't be empathetic in dealing with an issue like cancer?  I agree, its much easier in situations like this to feel another person's pain or emotion.   What if it is a more difficult situation, say you have someone that you suspect is stealing from your company.  Or, maybe less harsh, but frustrating to say the least, you have someone that is constantly late for work and it effecting the morale of others? 

Here are some ideas for seeking to be a more empathetic leader in all situations:

1.  Listen.   If you aren't listening to your people, and more importantly, listening to what isn't being said,  its hard to be empathetic and it is even harder for people to perceive you as empathetic. 

2. Be available.  An open door is an opportunity for you and your team to learn from each other and support one another.

3. Be present and ask questions.   Do your people see you on a regular basis? Do you ask them about their day, their kids, their weekend?  Finding out personal issues may help you combat work related issues before they begin. And if people know your going the extra mile to care for them, they will go the extra mile for you at work.

4.  Simply ask yourself "If I put myself in this person's shoes, what would I see or how would I feel?"  

5.  Think before acting or speaking.  Are you dealing with a difficult employee that you would really like to to just cuss out and then show the door?  Before you approach that person, think and plan your course of action before doing so and gather the facts before acting.  The end result may be the same, but the way you handle the situation will make all the difference in how your other employees perceive you.

6.  If you are having trouble responding to this above question, sit down with someone you trust who is removed from the situation and see what they think or how they would respond.  They may be able to give you objective insight into how to best approach the person and the situation, in particular giving you and idea of how the other person may feel.

What other ideas do you have for cultivating an empathetic attitude? 

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Es of LEadership- Energy

Over the next few weeks, I'll be talking about several "Es"  that leaders demonstrate.  I start today with one that isn't talked about as much as the others, and that is Energy.   Every leader has to have an energizer bunny somewhere within him or her in order to maintain success.

This realization struck me while watching the coverage of presidential political campaigns that are in full swing.  Can you imagine the amount of energy anyone running for president or being president would have to have?  It is a must. 

I think many people mark themselves out of the leadership game simply because they just do no have the energy that it takes to be successful.  

If lack of energy is blocking your success, here are some tips:

1.  Get enough sleep.  Nothing else is a substitute.

2. Exercise.  Again you can't substitute something else for this.  Schedule it on your calendar like it is an appointment.  If you do, you'll have more energy for all of your other calendar items.

As an example of this, my mother gets up in the morning usually around 4:45 am (she adheres to number 1 and goes to bed about 8:30 or 9:00 pm).   She gets an hour workout in and then comes home, and I swear the woman gets more done before most people are out the door to go to work.  She maintains this morning productivity surge because she starts her day off right with an energy boosting workout.

3. Eat right, and this includes avoiding the 5 hour energy type nonsense.  Those may work temporarily, but they won't sustain you for long term leadership success.

4.  Focus.   Sometimes a lack of energy may just be you're spread to thin.  Eliminate the things that don't lead to productivity and passion.

5.  Find your high energy time and maximize it.   Back to mom- she gets more done before 8 am than most, but call her at 4:30 pm and ask her to do something and she is likely to tell you she's done for the day.  Are you a morning person or a night owl?   Peak right before lunch or right after?  Maximize your productivity and your passion when its at its peak.

How do you maintain your energy level in order to succeed?

Monday, July 2, 2012

Borrowed Article: 9 Beliefs of Remarkably Successful People

I received this in an email last week and couldn't resist sharing it.  It trumped any thoughts I had this week about leadership!

9 Beliefs of Remarkably Successful People
The most successful people in business approach their work differently than most. See how they think--and why it works.
Description: man holding a picture of a blooming tree

Today's Editor's Picks

I'm fortunate enough to know a number of remarkably successful people. Regardless of industry or profession, they all share the same perspectives and beliefs.
And they act on those beliefs:
1. Time doesn't fill me. I fill time.
Deadlines and time frames establish parameters, but typically not in a good way. The average person who is given two weeks to complete a task will instinctively adjust his effort so it actually takes two weeks.
Forget deadlines, at least as a way to manage your activity. Tasks should only take as long as they need to take. Do everything as quickly and effectively as you can. Then use your "free" time to get other things done just as quickly and effectively.
Average people allow time to impose its will on them; remarkable people impose their will on their time.
2. The people around me are the people I chose.
Some of your employees drive you nuts. Some of your customers are obnoxious. Some of your friends are selfish, all-about-me jerks.
You chose them. If the people around you make you unhappy it's not their fault. It's your fault. They're in your professional or personal life because you drew them to you--and you let them remain.
Think about the type of people you want to work with. Think about the types of customers you would enjoy serving. Think about the friends you want to have.
Then change what you do so you can start attracting those people. Hardworking people want to work with hardworking people. Kind people like to associate with kind people. Remarkable employees want to work for remarkable bosses.
Successful people are naturally drawn to successful people.
3. I have never paid my dues.
Dues aren't paid, past tense. Dues get paid, each and every day. The only real measure of your value is the tangible contribution you make on a daily basis.
No matter what you've done or accomplished in the past, you're never too good to roll up your sleeves, get dirty, and do the grunt work. No job is ever too menial, no task ever too unskilled or boring.
Remarkably successful people never feel entitled--except to the fruits of their labor.
4. Experience is irrelevant. Accomplishments are everything.
You have "10 years in the Web design business." Whoopee. I don't care how long you've been doing what you do. Years of service indicate nothing; you could be the worst 10-year programmer in the world.
I care about what you've done: how many sites you've created, how many back-end systems you've installed, how many customer-specific applications you've developed (and what kind)... all that matters is what you've done.
Successful people don't need to describe themselves using hyperbolic adjectives like passionate, innovative, driven, etc. They can just describe, hopefully in a humble way, what they've done.
5. Failure is something I accomplish; it doesn't just happen to me.
Ask people why they have been successful. Their answers will be filled with personal pronouns: I, me, and the sometimes too occasional we.
Ask them why they failed. Most will revert to childhood and instinctively distance themselves, like the kid who says, "My toy got broken..." instead of, "I broke my toy."
They'll say the economy tanked. They'll say the market wasn't ready. They'll say their suppliers couldn't keep up.
They'll say it was someone or something else.
And by distancing themselves, they don't learn from their failures.
Occasionally something completely outside your control will cause you to fail. Most of the time, though, it's you. And that's okay. Every successful person has failed. Numerous times. Most of them have failed a lot more often than you. That's why they're successful now.
Embrace every failure: Own it, learn from it, and take full responsibility for making sure that next time, things will turn out differently.
6. Volunteers always win.
Whenever you raise your hand you wind up being asked to do more.
That's great. Doing more is an opportunity: to learn, to impress, to gain skills, to build new relationships--to do something more than you would otherwise been able to do.
Success is based on action. The more you volunteer, the more you get to act. Successful people step forward to create opportunities.
Remarkably successful people sprint forward.
7. As long as I'm paid well, it's all good.
Specialization is good. Focus is good. Finding a niche is good.
Generating revenue is great.
Anything a customer will pay you a reasonable price to do--as long as it isn't unethical, immoral, or illegal--is something you should do. Your customers want you to deliver outside your normal territory? If they'll pay you for it, fine. They want you to add services you don't normally include? If they'll pay you for it, fine. The customer wants you to perform some relatively manual labor and you're a high-tech shop? Shut up, roll 'em up, do the work, and get paid.
Only do what you want to do and you might build an okay business. Be willing to do what customers want you to do and you can build a successful business.
Be willing to do even more and you can build a remarkable business.
And speaking of customers...
8. People who pay me always have the right to tell me what to do.
Get over your cocky, pretentious, I-must-be-free-to-express-my-individuality self. Be that way on your own time.
The people who pay you, whether customers or employers, earn the right to dictate what you do and how you do it--sometimes down to the last detail.
Instead of complaining, work to align what you like to do with what the people who pay you want you to do.
Then you turn issues like control and micro-management into non-issues.
9. The extra mile is a vast, unpopulated wasteland.
Everyone says they go the extra mile. Almost no one actually does. Most people who go there think, "Wait... no one else is here... why am I doing this?" and leave, never to return.
That's why the extra mile is such a lonely place.
That's also why the extra mile is a place filled with opportunities.
Be early. Stay late. Make the extra phone call. Send the extra email. Do the extra research. Help a customer unload or unpack a shipment. Don't wait to be asked; offer. Don't just tell employees what to do--show them what to do and work beside them.
Every time you do something, think of one extra thing you can do--especially if other people aren't doing that one thing. Sure, it's hard.
But that's what will make you different.
And over time, that's what will make you incredibly successful.
Read more:
Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry. Everything else he picks up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest leaders he knows in business. @jeff_haden