Master Leadership

Leaders have learned the secret! Mastery, like anything, requires on-going practice. Your attitude towards learning how to achieve success requires developing a muscle. Adapting a “high-level” attitude usually signifies that you may have the title and compensation, but limited followers. Roll up your sleeves. Get involved. Earn respect.

Here are five critical components of being a leader others choose to follow.

Initiate and Make Things Happen. Create a direction for you and your employees that supports the Mission and Values of your business. Be seen as the leader. Walk the talk. This  is crucial for your employees, customers, vendors and communities to see you as a leader. Execute plans by focusing on how to get to where you want to go, step by step. Don’t buy into the usual array of excuses. Focused action plans are critical if you are to achieve your goals.  

Core Values. Tell the truth, but be tactful. Blurting out you don’t like the color of someone’s tie or dress will only hurt their feelings. Being afraid to ask good business questions, or being unable to answer them yourself, hinders your ability to build solid company practices and results! Relentlessly ensure your business is in compliance with the law and contracts. A handshake still means something in many companies. Always honor your verbal agreements.

Hire the Best. To grow the best business, consistently hire only the best. Reliance upon traditional hiring practices thwarts this critical element of leadership. Use scientifically validated assessment tools to help you better understand your employees and enable them to craft the career of their dreams! Build on talent. Engagement and inspiration occurs when you become a laser-like coach. Employees feel understood. They value your leadership. 

Get real! Putting frosting on mud does not make it a cake. It’s simply frosting hiding the mud! If you rely upon excuses to support your inability to achieve results, it’s time you learn how to operate outside your comfort zone. Stop making decisions based on tiny fragments of information; normally these bits and pieces have no truth to them! Don’t rush – get both sides of an issue – both factual and human perspectives. Make the right decisions and implement them in the right manner.

Build on your strengths. We all have inherent business strengths and weaknesses. Hire a business advisor to help you with the strategy. Hire an executive coach to ensure you’re doing all the things you should do but don’t really want to do, so you can achieve your goals. In the process you’ll learn a lot about yourself. You’ll become the strong leader others want to follow.

©Jeannette Seibly, 2011

Do you constrain ingenuity?

As bosses, too often we lament that our employees lack common sense or are unable to think. The reality? We rely upon our own thoughts and ideas to address issues or concerns, invalidating any ideas others may want to contribute. We disregard what could have been valuable input from employees and customers. So what happens? We cause them to leave and ultimately our competition gets the benefit of their ideas! While money may be perceived as the holy grail of business, there are many successful companies that started on only a shoe-string, with plenty of ingenuity and determination. Train your employees to be fiscally responsible yet simultaneously think outside the box.

The million dollar questions are: What are you doing to constrain their ingenuity? What can you do to unleash their resourcefulness? How can you use others’ input to stimulate innovation?

Fiscal Responsibility. Remember, the sky is not the limit to fulfill upon a client’s need or resolve an internal systems issue. Train employees to create and follow a budget based upon a plan and become fiscally responsible. Do not reduce their approved budget unilaterally. Review milestones with them when they are working on a project to ensure they are on-time and within budget. Remember, keep the goal sacrosanct. Take them out of their comfort zone (aka perceived limitations due to money) and help them realize that with some guidance, they can indeed achieve the intended results!

Stimulate brain activity. Human brains react to stimuli, so while a blank sheet can terrify some, others will feel inspired. Providing a clearly defined problem (since it provides parameters) along with a sense of urgency can help most people come up with ideas. Don’t stop there! Have them put together a do-able goal and plan for its implementation. Set Due Dates; procrastination can be the worst enemy of innovation and forward movement. Also, reward right behavior to see it recreated time after time. Celebrate successes, no matter how small!

Teach resourcefulness. Some employees are naturally cost-conscious and resourceful, but have them be responsible so quality is not unduly modified. Take time to test employees, as a group or individually, to create alternatives to issues and not rely upon the misperception there is only one way to resolve a challenge or act upon an opportunity. Have them conduct their own benefit/cost analysis. Stimulating employees to learn from you and others will build trust, establish sustainable systems that can be built upon, and create new opportunities beyond the team’s immediate thinking.

©Jeannette Seibly, 2011

Responding to Mistakes

Everyone reacts differently to mistakes. Some have no fear and admit them. Some learn from them and move on. Others regurgitate the facts to place blame on others. Ignoring your mistakes can have a detrimental effect on client and/or co-worker relationships. It’s a sure-fire way to derail your career now and can prevent future opportunities. The next time you make a mistake, or your team fails to fulfill a project’s intended goals on-time or within budget, resist the temptation to find excuses and blame others or situations.

What worked? What didn’t work? Take time to objectively review the elements of the project. Start with objective (factual) items that did work. There will always be some. Then, focus on objective items that did not work. (Objective facts can usually be quantified.) Come up with resolutions with your team. Then, present these results to your boss for  approval to resolve and move forward.

Talk it out with boss or coach. Sometimes we make things mean more than they do. Other times we may be obtuse and not accept the seriousness of our words or actions. Feeling bad does not erase the impact of the mistake. But failing to resolve it and hoping it will go away can be detrimental to your future with the company.  It’s better to talk it out with someone who has more experience and will provide learning opportunities. Resist starting a gossip mill in an attempt to place the blame elsewhere. Not only will doing this limit your ability to positively impact the concerns, you will loose your credibility as a leader.  

Stop mind-reading. Ask! Do not assume you know what others think. Gather their feedback. Allow them to vent, appropriately, if warranted. Actively listen so they will share their experience of the impact on them, or their company. Apologize first, then explain your own actions and intentions. Offer an equitable resolution. Give them time to think about it and set a time to come back to the discussion. The key? Keep communication lines open. Don’t stop talking until the issue has been resolved to their satisfaction, whenever possible. Failure to resolve the mistake sadly means this type of issue will occur again and again, until the lesson has been learned.

©Jeannette Seibly, 2011

Do you silently yell to be heard?

Many executives, managers, bosses and employees have been known to loudly yell from time to time. However, when yelling or shouting is the norm it can damage customer (internal and external) relationships irrevocably. This usually happens when the person has found yelling to work in the past and has no other objective model of how to effectively communicate. Most workers have experienced loud yelling. However, silent yelling can be more damaging.

Vanity is not a virtue. Frequent excuses about your inability to hear will inevitably curtail people from sharing critical news with you. If you have trouble physically hearing others, stop blaming them and set your ego aside. Get a hearing aid. Headsets can help too.

The silent impact. Cyber-space communication is becoming the norm. Unfortunately, email and other forms of electronic chatter can be easily misunderstood. They do not have the benefit of facial expression or voice inflection. Falsely believing it saves time, people have developed a bad habit of sending emails or text messages instead of talking it out with their employees, bosses or co-workers. Wait 24 hours to respond to any upsetting internet communiqué, thus allowing any misperceptions to de-escalate. Better yet! Talk it out face-to-face. Remember, most people only have a sixth grade reading (and writing) level.

Take responsibility. Some busy professionals can easily become upset, while others have too long a patience cycle. Both can be very detrimental when patience is lost! If this is the norm, talk with a therapist for emotional support. Seek objective support from your coach, or business advisor. Limit any venting to a selective couple of people. Please, be sure to ask permission to be candid; limit the time you spend venting. Disregard your ego’s need to exert undue pressure on others to support your view of the facts. Steamrolling only causes explosions, now and in the future. Formulate a win-win plan. When talking it out face-to-face, focus on shared goals and truly hearing their perceptions. If it’s a heated debate, include your boss in the discussions. All together, develop a new plan of action. Keep talking until it is resolved. Only rely upon conference calls as a second best alternative.

Don’t kill the messenger. When you react negatively to upsetting news, it can create defensiveness. You stop receiving critical business or office information from others. Making emotionally charged decisions in retaliation can backfire, making the situation worse (Think, “You’re fired!”). Employees will simply look the other way, or acquiesce, even when they know your mandated resolution won’t work. Or, hire an employment attorney. If you need to vent, ask permission first. It’s a great time to call your coach or business advisor. Learn to take time to collect your thoughts. Ask questions calmly. Listen to others’ replies objectively. Incorporate their ideas whenever possible.

Disagreements. In situations where there appears to be no agreement, it’s far more effective to say:  “It seems like we disagree about that.” Why? It’s a fact. Trying to out-talk them OR browbeat them into your point of view isn’t going to work. Raising your voice will be even less effective. The silent treatment can be deadly to ongoing relationships because they know you have refused to listen to their points of view. Often this behavior speaks loudly, and can be interpreted to mean you are less than professional in how your handle yourself and your business. Listen, learn and look for areas of agreement. Build upon these for a win-win solution.

©Jeannette Seibly, 2011

Fight the Good Fight with Leverage

Leverage is required in many situations to win a good business fight. In some cases, you may automatically have leverage due to your position, title or power to make the ultimate decision. However, you need to be responsible about how and when you use this leverage; future repercussions are inevitable. As an employee, customer or vendor, you need others to help you leverage a win-win outcome. There are cost vs. benefit ratios that need to be considered for the company, others and your own career. Playing the ostrich and hoping the issue will go away rarely works well for everyone involved.

You may win this fight. But lose the war. Even though we don’t have crystal balls to look into the future, talk with a trusted colleague to weigh the pro and con of possible outcomes, now and for the future. If this is a policy or legal issue, talk with human resources director or vice president. If it relates to a customer or vendor, set up a meeting with your boss and the person in charge of these relationships. Be clear as to the purpose and desired outcome. Be more committed to resolving the issue than forcing your own ideas as the only solutions.

It’s not about you. It’s often hard to set aside your own ego in these situations. Particularly, if the issue is you vs. your boss. This will require you to think beyond the current upset or violation of your trust. When the issue involves your client, employee or vendor, ask them what they believe is the needed resolution to keep a positive business relationship. Steamrolling everyone to agree with your decisions or opinions will only create a backlash for you in the near future, particularly, if you are wrong or lied about the facts.

Share the challenge selectively. Share your challenge confidentially only with someone who can help you and is in a position to do so. Follow their advice, even if it doesn’t seem like it will work and stay in communication during and after the resolution. The lone-ranger approach and reliance upon your own mental monologue will limit your future in the company. The worst practice for a business professional to engage in is to talk with everyone else! That creates liability for you professionally and financially. Create a learning opportunity from the situation and look with your coach (or business mentor) to see what you need to do in the future to prevent these types of issues from occurring.

©Jeannette Seibly, 2011

Ah-ha’s can be used successfully

Many of us experience ah-ha’s. As a result, we may develop a more positive attitude towards our jobs or clients. We might undertake an uncharacteristic, proactive role in resolving an issue or we may simply see a former blind spot that was getting in our way of being an effective leader. Too often, we realize we sincerely want to change and utilize our new insights. We say we’re going to do something. But unfortunately, we never do.

What’s an ah-ha or insight? Usually it’s an intuitive moment that has no real objective basis. It can be fleeting if we’re unaware. For example: You attend a seminar and suddenly realize you have poor listening skills. The challenge is follow-through. Even though you might write it down, it is forgotten come next week. Or you might remember it but don’t take any actions in a timely way to reinforce it (Think: maybe on Monday I’ll start to use my new listening skills. But by Monday nothing is farther from your mind.). These insights can disappear quickly if we don’t take concerted action. Paradoxically, it does no good to take action too quickly, without the reality of a focused action plan (e.g., decide your boss is the wrong one and quit).

It’s a three-step process. Too often we believe our ah-ha’s are the event! The end of all our current problems. We become “navel gazers” and simply wish to revel in the good feelings. Then, we get upset when that ah-ha disappears, or stops providing the difference it did when we first recognized it. First, understand an ah-ha is simply the start of a new journey. We don’t know where it will eventually lead. Second, put together a focused action plan. It’s not recommended that you submit a letter of resignation without having planned for the reality of being unemployed. Don’t restructure your department at work believing it will end all of your problems without taking into account all the ramifications a restructuring brings. Third, take action on your plan, step-by-step, after talking with your coach or boss to assess the details.

Share appropriately. We’re so excited by our new revelations. We tell everyone and insist they do the same! Unfortunately, it’s a great way to lose credibility at work, particularly if you’re the boss. Respect the fact that others may have a different view of your ah-ha, and it might not necessarily be a positive one. When sharing, share what actions you’ve taken and the difference it made for you. Do not insist others should have the same experience or perspective. They rarely do.

Balance human insights along with the more objective factual ones. The secret is to ‘try on’ your ah-ha immediately. When you buy a new coat or hat, you ‘try it on’ first. For example: ‘Try on’ the idea of being self-employed or living somewhere else. Talk with others first. Find out the realities (e.g., no steady paychecks, must be able to sell your product or service via human interaction, no friends or family close by, subtle cultural differences, etc.). There is no magic bullet in any new venture. It will take work. For more personal attributes, realize your old habits can be difficult to break, no matter how destructive they may have been. Consciously work with your new insight for 21 days. If that seems too confronting, take 20 minutes per day. Be open to fine-tuning with your coach or boss. Together, develop plans to build for future successes (e.g., join a community Board, be a team lead on a project, learn a new skill in accounting or human relations, etc.).

Putting your ah-ha’s into action can make a long-term difference!

©Jeannette Seibly, 2011

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Creating Excuses vs. Creating Results

Have you ever noticed? People are a lot better at creating excuses than they are at creating results!

They know if they don’t create a great story or rationale for not achieving results, they’ll look bad. Unfortunately, they fail to understand that failing to achieve required results hinders their company’s success in the marketplace. It hinders their own ability to transform their company, customer relationships and projects. Worse yet, this type of failure can derail their career irretrievably. 

It’s contagious. The biggest issue with allowing excuses to plague the board room is that excuses are merely rationalized reasons for failure. Some are very well rehearsed and we automatically buy into them, at the expense of ourselves and/or the company. We buy into them for various reasons (e.g., we like the person, we’re glad it’s them and not us on the hot seat, we have no idea how to get the results, we have no interest in the project or fear getting involved, etc.). Even the best of us can fall into using the “it’s not my responsibility” defense. Sadly, when this mindset spreads and permeates the company – as often happens – everyone has an excuse to give up. Set aside failure as fate accompli. Ask business questions that are on point and not just talking to talk. The answer is there! Brainstorm and listen for the gold.

Check all the boxes. Simply checking all the boxes isn’t going to move you ahead if you don’t include the human element in your checklist. Too often we focus solely on the material side of a project and forget the people involved. Or, we get so focused on the “feel good” of the project, we neglect making the hard decisions required (e.g., positive ROI). When we bypass setting up a tracking system to hold everyone accountable and manage poor attitudes, we derail progress. Use a business mentor to ensure that the milestones and focused action plans support the declared goal (think, impact on bottom line). Many times it may only require a slight change to get back on track. Other times an entire re-design may be necessary. Either way, do what you must to ensure forward progress.

Close the loop. As a boss or team leader, we fail to follow-up on the progress needed to achieve the results required. Our excuses: We’re too busy! We allow limited thinking or territorial issues to get in the way of doing the right thing the right way. Many times we make the process harder than it needs to be and buy into false accomplishment. Learn to truly listen to others. This is particularly important when you don’t want to listen or if they don’t seem to be making sense right away. There is an answer. To move progress forward during a meeting, write-up an agenda and follow it! Create a sense of immediacy and encourage engagement by distributing minutes (with assignments determined during the meeting!) within 48 hours.

How do you design a plan that works? How do you create unprecedented results? Learn how. 5D ResultsTM to be released soon!

(c)Jeannette Seibly, 2011