Bad Leadership Perpetuates Bad Leadership

July 11th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

“A great person attracts great people and knows how to hold them together.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

What’s the quality of leaders you are selecting?

Every one of us has either experienced first hand or heard horror stories about the impact of bad leadership. All too often it feels like good leaders, let along great leaders, are in short supply. Unfortunately bad leaders typically select individuals who lack the necessary skills to be an effective leader, which simply perpetuates the cycle of poor leadership.

Determining whom to promote into a leadership role is one of the most important decisions you can make for your team and organization. The natural temptation is to promote your highest performer and/or subject matter expert. Surely if they know the most about the role they will be a good leader, right? Wrong!

Your highest performer might be the last person you want to make a leader. Rather than simply considering an individuals technical knowledge, you need to consider how well they interact with others. Leadership is about creating a vision and developing a team to achieve that vision.

A leader’s vision is worthless if he or she is unable to inspire a group of individuals to help bring it to life. When making the decision to promote someone into leadership, consider who projects a calm presence and is able to relate to a wide range of people. Look for the individuals the rest of the team naturally gravitates to for help and who demonstrate patience while offering help.

Leadership in the 21st Century is not about having all the answers. Leaders today must possess the desire and ability to empower their team to use their strengths to help the organization achieve its vision. Success begins with making the right decision when selecting a leader. Whatever you do, don’t take this decision lightly!

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., PCC

Don’t Focus on Results

April 25th, 2016 § 2 comments § permalink

“As a leader, we are not responsible for the results. As a leader, we are responsible for the people who are responsible for the results.” —Simon Sinek

What’s your priority as a leader, results or building a team to achieve results?

Leaders are ultimately evaluated by their ability to achieve the organization’s goals. However, it’s impossible to reach the goals without the help of their team. Many leaders put the cart before the horse and primarily focus on achieving results.

Failing to recognize the importance of building a team, leaders often resort to issuing orders and forcing compliance. They fail to recognize that their top responsibility is to create an environment that enables team members to contribute the best they have to offer. I recently read an article referring to this tendency as over managing and under leading, which I think is very fitting.

Without a great team, and environment that inspires them to give their best every day, long-term goals will remain out of reach. Rather than obsessing on results, the best leaders focus on hiring the right people and fostering a sense of commitment within the team. They understand that once they have a committed team in place the results will naturally follow.

Let go of your desire to control the outcomes. Instead, focus your energy on building a spectacular team and unleashing their creativity. You will be amazed at what they can accomplish.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., PCC

A Leader’s Top Responsibility

January 11th, 2015 § 6 comments § permalink

 

“The responsibility of leadership is not to come up with all the ideas but to create an environment in which great ideas can thrive.” – Simon Sinek

What type of environment have you created within your team?

Effective leadership isn’t about giving orders or having all the answers. Although this might have been acceptable 30 years ago, it’s a recipe for failure today. Success as a leader depends on your ability to maximize the talent of your team in order to achieve results.

The key to getting the most out of your team begins with the environment you create. An increasingly complex business world leads to increased specialization. It’s no longer realistic to expect to be able to stay current on the latest knowledge and skills all by yourself. You must develop a team of empowered individuals you can rely on to be the experts in their respective areas.

However, you can’t just tell your staff that they’re empowered. Effective delegation requires you to clearly outline the objectives and parameters (keeping them as wide as possible) while allowing your team to determine the best route to take. It’s also ineffective to take a “hands off” approach. I’ve seen many leaders attempt to avoid micro-management by moving to the other extreme, failing to provide their team the support they need. Make it a point to check-in with your staff along the way to see how they’re doing and help address any obstacles in their way.

In addition to delegating to your team, it’s critical to spend time coaching them. When they run into obstacles don’t simply tell them what to do, rather ask questions to help them identify their options. This will challenge them to slow down and improve their critical thinking. It’s also important to coach when a task you delegated doesn’t go well, which is inevitable. Use open-ended questions to help your team consider what didn’t work and what can be learned from the situation.

Finally, seek and offer feedback to your team to help them grow. When you’re facing a challenge, ask for their ideas. They’re the ones doing the work every day and likely have several ideas about how to make improvements or new innovations. Also be sure to provide them feedback about their performance. Recognize their accomplishments and how their strengths make a positive impact on the team. And when they are struggling, coach them to figure out how to improve.

Your most important role as a leader is to create the environment in which your team can fulfill it’s potential. In Simon Sinek’s TED Talk: Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe, Sinek comments that when leaders fail to create the right conditions we’re forced to spend time and energy protecting ourselves which weakens the organization. When you create an environment in which your team is acknowledged for their strengths and empowered to make a difference, trust and collaboration are a natural by-product.

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Identify one action you can take to create an environment that fosters trust and collaboration.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., PCC

Trust Creates Leaders

August 3rd, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

 

“When we tell people to do their jobs, we get workers. When we trust people to get the job done, we get leaders.” —Simon Sinek

Is your leadership style outdated?

Historically, we’ve been led to believe that leadership is about giving direction and telling others what to do. While someone in a leadership position may have been able to get away with this approach fifty, twenty, or even ten years ago, this is no longer an effective way to lead. Leaders that cling to this traditional leadership style will find themselves ill equipped to lead in the 21st century.

We are in desperate need of more leaders throughout the world. In our businesses, governments, churches, communities, and homes we need more people who are prepared to step up and exercise leadership. If you’re in a formal leadership position, you have a responsibility to develop those who choose to follow you so they too can step into leadership roles, whether formal or informal.

A sure fire way to stifle the development of future leaders is to dictate and micro-manage their actions. A traditional leadership approach discourages independent thinking and problem solving. When you fail to delegate responsibility for meaningful projects and challenge your staff to develop solutions for their problems, they become dependent upon you for every step they take.

Unfortunately, a sense of dependence is exactly what some leaders want to foster. They believe that if everyone has to come through them to accomplish their goals their power base will grow and they’ll never become obsolete. The reality is quite the opposite. As the business world becomes increasingly complex it’s impossible for one person to have all the answers. Additionally, in some cases your staff may have access to more information than you do and if you aren’t leveraging their knowledge then you’re team’s performance will suffer.

Finally, Generation Y simply won’t tolerate this style of leadership. They expect collaboration, transparency, and the opportunity to be developed. As this generation becomes the majority of the workforce over the next 5 – 10 years, they will demand this type of leadership approach or they’ll simply go where they can find it. Any leader, or organization, that doesn’t adjust to this style will find themselves stuck with a team of mediocre individuals and will soon become obsolete themselves.

Command and Control leadership is obsolete and now is the time to evaluate your leadership style to see if a makeover is in order. With the business world becoming more complex every day and the growing number of Generation Y entering the workplace, you can’t afford to delay. Your success, and the success of your organization, depends upon your ability to develop leaders that are independent thinkers, not on simply giving orders.

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Identify one step you can take to demonstrate more trust and independent thinking with your team.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., PCC

Hire Up

July 27th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

“You’re only as good as the people you hire.” —Ray Kroc

What do you look for in a candidate?

Hiring the right individuals for your team is an art. Sometimes you’ll hit the mark and occasionally you’ll come up short. The key is to ensure you are looking for the right qualities. Do you want a candidate with high energy who hopes to have your role some day or will you settle for a warm body that appears to have experience you want?

Who you select to join your team is one of the most important decisions you’ll make as a leader. Surrounding yourself with the right mix of talent and mindsets directly impacts your team’s ability to excel. If you hire individuals content with the bare minimum, your team will never exceed the standards you’ve established. Additionally, without anyone thinking around the corner about how to solve tomorrow’s problems, innovation will be non-existent.

On a personal level, without the right team in place your ability to get promoted will be thwarted. When you can’t trust your team to take initiative you’ll be reluctant to delegate increasingly challenging tasks. Without these opportunities to stretch themselves, they’ll never develop the skills necessary to become a leader. Although you may strive to move up within the organization, you’ll be seen as a micro-manager who doesn’t know how to develop leaders and promotional opportunities will simply slip away.

Challenge yourself to hire people who are better than you. Maybe they’re smarter or have more experience. They might be strong in an area where you are weak. If you aren’t great with technology, hire someone that is and provide them opportunities to shine. As you build a team of individuals with complimentary strengths, give them opportunities to make an impact on the organization and you’ll be amazed at what your team can accomplish.

You must let go of your fear of losing control. It’s natural to feel a little uneasy about delegating and trusting your staff to use their strengths. However, the more control you try to exert the less you actually have. True success as a leader is determined by your team’s accomplishments. Your job is to develop a team of individuals prepared to step up and take initiative when needed while simultaneously working effectively with their teammates. Settling for the first warm body that walks through the door will keep you mired in mediocrity.

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Identify the skill sets and mindsets you are looking for on your team.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., PCC

Praise Generously

April 6th, 2014 § 4 comments § permalink

“When you lavish praise on people, they flourish. Criticize, and they shrivel up.” —Richard Branson

 

How often do you praise your staff?

Providing your staff positive feedback on a regular basis is one of the most important things you can do as a leader. A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the importance of hiring people with passion. Several readers commented that they agreed while also mentioning the importance of creating the right environment for people to be engaged.  Acknowledging the strengths each of your staff bring to the team is a key element for creating an engaged workforce.

Everyone needs praise. It doesn’t matter how accomplished or confident you are, we all feel good when someone acknowledges and appreciates the impact we are making. We also need to receive feedback about how we can improve. However, we often hear significantly more criticism than praise. Research has shown that we need a ratio of 4 pieces of praise for every piece of negative feedback.

Unfortunately most leaders fall woefully short of this ratio. All to often we take for granted and don’t even notice when one of our team members has done something very well. Unless they do something “above and beyond” we will chalk it up to them simply doing what they are paid to do.  Typically we only offer praise when we believe an individual has gone “above and beyond”. However, this inadvertently sends the message that these routine tasks aren’t very important.

Additionally, most of us naturally focus on and look for what is wrong in a situation. We’re quick to notice when someone has made a mistake and are apt to address it quickly. Our 4-1 ratio becomes flipped in the wrong direction. Before long, anytime your employee sees you coming they immediately begin assuming the worse. This will put them in a defensive posture and eliminate any chance of them learning from genuine constructive feedback that will help them grow.

In order to develop a team of engaged individuals who are continually growing you have to make an intentional effort to provide more praise than criticism. Ken Blanchard refers to this as “catching people doing things right”. Keeping this phrase at the top of your mind will help you change your focus and you’ll begin to notice the little, and not so little, actions your team is taking that make a difference.

You need to discipline yourself to recognize at least one person each day. Focus on reinforcing how they’re using their strengths and skills to make an impact. Ensure your feedback is genuine and don’t withhold praise in one area just because they’re struggling in another area. If you aren’t acknowledging what they do well, then you’ll have no credibility with them when you give them feedback on how they need to improve.  To build a successful team and organization you must carve out time in your busy day to recognize your staff.

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Create a recognition journal so you can begin tracking how often you praise each of your team members.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker M.Ed., PCC

Hire for Passion

March 16th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

“If you hire people because they can do a job, they will work for your money. If you hire people because they believe what you believe, they will work with blood, sweat, and tears.” —Simon Sinek

What do your employees work for?

Employees who are only concerned about money are draining. They aren’t engaged and typically not overly concerned about how well they serve your customers. No matter what you do for them, it seems they’re never happy and always want more. The best way to avoid getting caught in this trap is to hire individuals that demonstrate passion for the work of your organization or team and is energized by the opportunity to make a contribution through their talents.

I personally believe most people don’t work purely for money. Although we all have to pay our bills and/or provide for our families, for most of us work is about so much more. We spend a significant amount of time at work and many people want a career not just a job. They want an opportunity to utilize their knowledge, skills, and talents to make a difference. As a leader it’s up to you to spot the individuals who posses the type of passion you need to make your organization successful.

When interviewing a prospective candidate, don’t settle with reviewing their resume and asking about their experience. While this is important information to cover, also ask what interests them about the position. Answers like “I think it’s a good fit for my skills”, “I’m looking for more flexibility”, or “I want to get my foot in the door” don’t speak to the person’s passion for the role. While these may be legitimate criteria for a candidate considering a job, if I heard this as a hiring manager I would run the other way.

You want to hear the candidate talk about why they enjoy the type of work you are hiring for and what excites them about making an impact in your organization. Additionally, ask them what they liked most about their past roles. Pay close attention to how they talk about their past positions and the opportunities with your position. You’ll be able to tell if they are genuinely excited or simply reciting a rehearsed answer.

As the business world becomes more complex the need for engaged and passionate employees becomes ever greater. Success is dependent upon your ability to build a team of empowered, accountable, and passionate professionals. Hiring the right people is one of your most important decisions as a leader. The biggest mistake you can make is to rush the process and succumb to the “warm body” syndrome.

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Identify three questions to assess the passion of potential candidates.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., PCC

 

The Art of Leadership

February 16th, 2014 § 2 comments § permalink

“Leadership: The art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” —Dwight Eisenhower

Is your staff compliant or committed?

Leadership is a complicated endeavor. Success is dependent upon your ability to build a team that is committed to your vision as well as the aims of the organization. Leaders don’t simply give orders and enforce compliance; they inspire commitment within each member of the team.

Effective leaders understand that the key to influencing their staff is to make it personal. They recognize that each member of the team has a unique set of motivations and that money is not their highest priority. Additionally, they understand that each individual wants to master a task, which will enable them to make a positive contribution.

Your responsibility as a leader is to understand your employees’ values, passions and strengths. In order to foster commitment within them, it’s important to help them understand how they can utilize their unique talents and passions to make a difference for the team, organization, customers, and community as a whole.

Once your staff understands and appreciates the impact they can make, provide the autonomy they need to make it happen. Encourage them to collaborate with the rest of the team to identify strategies for utilizing their strengths, which they may not recognize. Finally, when they encounter challenges along the way help them consider various approaches to overcome the barriers they face.

There are no shortcuts to success as a leader. Simply giving orders won’t work. If you want to be successful as a leader, you must invest the time and energy necessary to build the commitment within your team. Once you do, you will have created a team full of enthusiastic and energetic individuals that are inspired to achieve the shared vision.

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Make time to talk with each of your staff about their passions, values, and strengths.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., PCC

Leaders Grow Leaders

September 22nd, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is about growing others.” – Jack Welch

What are you doing to develop others?

Success as a leader is about working through others, not getting things done by on your own. This is one of the most challenging and critical transitions for a new leader. If you fail to develop your team, they’ll be unable to meet the challenges of today’s evolving business environment and you’ll find that your career will stall out.

Business today becomes more complex every day. You need to challenge your staff to continually refine their current skills while simultaneously developing new ones in order to prepare them for rapid change. It’s important to challenge your team’s perspectives as well. Don’t allow them, or yourself, to become complacent with the status quo. You’re either moving forward or backward, standing still is not an option.

You also need to build a leadership pipeline within your team. Don’t limit yourself by focusing only on your replacement. Consider other leadership positions within the organization your staff that might be a good fit for your staff.

Additionally, don’t fall into the trap of withholding development in an effort to protect your position. If you don’t develop your staff and delegate effectively, you’ll never find time to develop strategy and participate in key projects.

The bottom line is: if you want to grow yourself, you have to start by helping your team grow. Only then will you have the time to develop higher-level skills yourself. Without these skills and an opportunity to demonstrate to senior management what you’re capable of, you’ll find yourself passed over for one promotion after another.

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Identify one person who could potentially step into your role and delegate a key task to help them grow.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., PCC

 

Leaders Inspire

August 25th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

“People ask the difference between a leader and a boss…The leader works in the open, and the boss is covert. The leader leads, and the boss drives.”

—Theodore Roosevelt

 

Is your leadership inspiring?

Simply holding a leadership position doesn’t make you a leader. As the popular adage states, if you don’t have anyone following you then you aren’t a leader. And manipulating your staff to comply with your orders doesn’t count. If you want people to follow you, you must provide them with a compelling reason to do so.

The bottom line is that each of us chooses whether or not we are going to follow a particular leader. This reality will become even more significant once the looming labor crisis hits. As the competition for talent heats up any organization that doesn’t shift their leadership approach will find themselves out in the cold.

Your future success as a leader will be predicated on a couple of key factors. First, you need to provide a sense of inspiration for your employees. While being able to make a fair wage will always be important to people, it’s no longer sufficient to sustain the engagement and fulfillment of your staff. As Dan Pink notes in his book Drive, individuals want a sense of purpose in their work. It’s your responsibility to help them recognize how they can make an impact in a cause greater than them.

You also need to demonstrate that you trust your staff. Show them you trust their judgment and believe in their abilities to help your organization by being open about the opportunities and challenges facing the organization. If you believe you have employed competent and trustworthy individuals, you shouldn’t worry about whether they can handle the difficult as well as the good news.

Finally, genuinely ask for your staff’s input. I’m not talking about making a token gesture where you ask for ideas but implement none of their suggestions. Develop cross-functional task forces charged with addressing some of your most pressing issues. Treat the recommendations seriously and if you aren’t sure one of the ideas will work, develop a pilot to test it out. If something they suggest simply won’t work, level with them and tell them why. When you approach them as mature adults they’ll respond as mature adults, even if they disagree with you.

Leadership in the 21st Century requires a rejection of the command and control style. We need leaders who know how to inspire and develop staff through a collaborative and coaching style. Leaders who rely solely on technical proficiency will find themselves woefully unprepared. Are you prepared to be the type of leader we need?

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Identify what you need to adjust in your style to prepare for success in the future.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker M.Ed., PCC