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

Develop Leaders not Followers

April 4th, 2016 § 2 comments § permalink

 

“Weak leaders have the luxury of looking after themselves. Great leaders have the honor of looking after others.” —Simon Sinek

What’s your motive for being a leader?

Leadership isn’t about you; it’s about your team. If you’re in a leadership role because you like the power and get fulfillment from giving orders, than do yourself and your team a favor and get out now.

Weak leaders focus on simply giving orders. They’re worried about their personal success and are convinced that all will be okay if everyone just does what they say. In reality, that approach is ineffective in our complex world.

Great leaders don’t issue directives and micro-manage their staff. They understand that success is dependent upon their ability to articulate a clear vision and develop the leadership mindset within their team.

If you want to be a great leader, let go of the need to control. Set the vision, develop the knowledge and skills on your team, and get out of their way. You’ll be amazed at what they are capable of when you do.

What step are you taking this week to develop leaders?

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., PCC

 

Learn to Lead

September 27th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”

—John F. Kennedy

What have you learned lately?

We’ve all heard that life long learning is the key to success. However, it can be easy to simply dismiss this as a trite saying. In reality, this adage has never been truer than it is today.

In the book The Coaching Manager, James Hunt and Joseph Weintraub point out that it used to be possible to spend the first 20 – 30 years of our life amassing all the knowledge we needed and then rely on what we acquired for the next 30 years of our career. That approach is no longer effective. I recently read an article that stated the only thing it takes to be the smartest person in the room is a smart phone. The author’s premise is that it is the ability to learn that is important today and we need to focus on developing learning workers not simply knowledge workers.

With the pace of change today, you must continue to evolve or your will be left behind. It’s not acceptable to rely on a strategy or approach that worked a year ago, let alone five years ago. If your not pushing yourself to consider and explore new approaches you will eventually find that your skills, and possibly your organization, have become obsolete.

Challenge yourself to stay curious. No matter how much you might think you have the answers, remain open to the ideas of others. Seek out the perspective of your team and ask them to suggest improvements. It’s also critical that you stay up on changes happening within your industry. Regularly read industry trade magazines and attend conferences where you can learn about what other organizations in your industry are doing.

Although it is important to learn from your staff and about your industry, it’s equally critical to learn from areas outside of your industry. Seek out key innovations from a range of industries and in the field of science. You never know when new technology or techniques in one industry might spark an idea for your industry and organization. Finally, continually study the practice of leadership. Challenge yourself to evaluate your leadership style and make any adjustments necessary.

The bottom line is that in order to be successful as a leader today you must keep learning. Upon earning a leadership position, if you adopt the attitude that you have arrived, it is only a matter of time before you realize that you are being passed up. On the other hand, if you stay curious and open to learning, you will have the flexibility necessary to adapt quickly and will likely discover ideas that can help you and your organization thrive in a chaotic business environment.

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Identify one step you can take this week to learn something new.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., PCC

Your Response is Everything

August 30th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

“Experience is not what happens to you. It is what you do with what happens to you.” —Aldous Huxley

How are you responding in life?

We all know that life is full of high and low moments. One moment you’re feeling on top of the world and a few days, or minutes, later something happens and you feel like you’ve taken three steps backwards. Charles Swindoll famously said “Life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react.” Your response in these moments is critical to your success and happiness in life.

Responding to challenging situations is a choice. When faced with something difficult, most of us simply fall back on an instinctual reaction driven by the fight or flight part of our brain. In that moment we often feel threatened which triggers our ingrained behaviors to take over. This rarely produces a good outcome.

The first step is to remain calm, which is a lot easier said than done. Research has shown that under stress our field of vision shrinks to 30 degrees. We are literally stuck in “tunnel vision” which prevents us from seeing the situation clearly. However, if we can take a few deep breaths and remain calm, we give ourselves a chance to step back and objectively assess the situation. We can distinguish the facts of the situation vs. the assumptions we might be reacting too.

Once we have slowed ourselves down, we can determine how we want to respond. Our focus needs to be on what we can influence in the situation. It’s quite likely that there are many factors we can’t influence. Rather than wasting time complaining about those factors, choose to take action on what you can influence. While you can’t control what other people will or will not do, you can choose the tone and words you want to use when you respond to them.

It can be difficult to deal with challenging situations that aren’t unfolding the way we want them to. You can choose to react in a way that attempts to control the situation and the people involved or you could decide to complain about how powerless you are. Neither of these responses is helpful.

When you choose to remain calm in order to step back and assess the situation, you can take action in the areas you can influence and you won’t feel powerless. Although the outcomes may not play out the way you want, your approach will create the confidence and resilience you need to weather the inevitable peaks and valleys that life brings. Then, even during the challenging moments, you can honestly say that you are happy.

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Identify one strategy you will use to help you respond more effectively.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., PCC

Light Leadership

May 31st, 2015 § 4 comments § permalink

“He who has great power should use it lightly.” —Seneca

How do you wield power?

It’s critical to you use your power responsibly as a leader. You can choose to throw your weight around while issuing directives and barking orders. Or you can rely on attraction, where you inspire others and invite them to join you. How you choose to leverage your power will impact your long-term success as a leader.

Autocratic leadership styles aren’t effective over the long-term. If you attempt to rule through fear and intimidation, you’ll end up with two negative outcomes. First, you will run off the most talented people on your team. Individuals who are confident in their abilities know they don’t have to put up with this behavior. They trust in their ability to find a more suitable role and won’t hesitate to leave.

Those who don’t leave will retreat and become a shell of themselves. Your behavior will create a culture of fear where everyone is afraid to take risks. They’ll do the minimum necessary to get by and fly under the radar. Although it may initially appear that your autocratic style is the key to getting people to do what you want, the positive results will be short lived and it won’t take long before your results begin to suffer.

A better alternative is to employ a coaching and collaborative leadership style. Rather than dictating to others what they must do, help them understand why certain tasks and directives are important. When faced with a difficult challenge, seek their input. Make a point to tap into their knowledge and get them to help identify potential solutions.

Finally, help each member of your team understand their strengths and how they can use those strengths to impact the mission and vision of your organization. The more opportunity they are given to play to their strengths each day, the more engaged they will become. They’ll be excited to come to work and will continually look ahead to identify potential problems or opportunities before they even crop up.

Successful leaders understand that they don’t have to exert their power in order to be effective. Rather, they work hard to earn respect by showing respect to each member of the team. True leaders know that once they’ve cultivated a relationship of mutual respect they’ll have built a team that is committed to the organization and willingly step-ups to any challenge presented to them.

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Identify one challenge to seek your team’s input on.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., PCC

Excellence vs. Perfection

May 17th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

“Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing.”—Harriet Braiker

What are you striving for?

I like to say that I’m a “reforming” perfectionist. I have learned over the years to let go of some of my perfectionist tendencies but I still have plenty of room for improvement.

The idea of striving for perfection is very alluring. When you set perfection as your standard of success it drives you to work hard and may enable you to achieve significant accomplishments. However, it will often leads to a standard of unrealistic expectations, which lead to impatience, increased anxiety, or a general reluctance to take risks.

Excellence is a healthier target. Each of us will define excellence differently. What matters is that you are continually taking steps to fulfill your personal potential and make a positive contribution to the world. Rather than expecting to complete any task perfectly and free of mistakes, challenge yourself to make progress each day. As long as you are continuing to improve and developing new skills, approaches, and mindsets you will be taking a step closer to achieving your personal definition of excellence.

Replace the idea of being a perfectionist with the concept of being an optimalist. In the book: In the Pursuit of Perfect, Tal Ben-Sharar talks about how our desire for perfection is the number one obstacle to our ability to find happiness. Ben-Sharar states that perfectionists reject failure and expect life to be an endless stream of positive emotions, which means they also reject reality. On the other hand, an optimalist recognizes that failure and negative emotions are an inevitable fact of life and uses those experiences as learning opportunities to improve.

Choose to give yourself a break. When you recognize that the route to success isn’t a straight and flat path you’re able to accept and weather the inevitable peaks, valleys, twists and turns that life throws your way. While it’s important to continually challenge yourself to improve, choose to focus on excellence rather than perfection and accept that even when things don’t go as you planned there is an opportunity to learn and grow.

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Identify one area of your life where you need to replace perfection with excellence.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., PCC

The Difference is Why

May 3rd, 2015 § 2 comments § permalink

“Average companies give their people something to work on. The most innovative organizations give their people something to work toward.”

—Simon Sinek

Why does your organization exist?

Clarity about your organization’s purpose is critical to success. If you want your employees to care, you need to have a compelling reason for them to do so. Simply making money isn’t sufficient.

Most of us long to make a difference. We want to be a part of something that is bigger than ourselves and allows us to make a meaningful contribution. As an organization and a team, you must differentiate yourself so your staff is clear about the difference they make.

Discuss why your product or service is important to your customer. How does it make their life simpler? What would happen if you weren’t hear to provide your product or service? How does what you have to offer standout from your competitors?

Once you’ve helped your team understand what sets your organization apart, link each of your employees to this purpose. Help them see how their role plays a part in the overall organization fulfilling its purpose. Ask them to what would happen if they weren’t there to complete their role.

Additionally, when assigning a task, take time to discuss how the task impacts the larger purpose. Don’t assume they understand the connection. The more you reinforce the importance of your purpose, the more meaningful it will become.

Success in today’s business world is contingent upon a workforce that is excited to come to work each day. In order to get your team excited to bring their best to work everyday devote time to helping them connect what they are doing to a purpose that is meaningful and important. When you do, sales and profits will be a natural by-product.

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Clearly define the purpose your organization and team serves.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., PCC

Embrace Abnormal

April 19th, 2015 § 6 comments § permalink

“If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.” —Maya Angelou

Are you hiding behind normality?

You have a choice to make. Either you can decide to play it safe and follow the crowd. Or, you can choose to embrace what makes you unique and the gifts you have to offer. Normality is a myth and success depends upon your willingness to affirm who you are and what you have to offer.

It takes courage to be true to yourself. As you step out and let the real you shine through, there’s always a risk that others aren’t going to like you. Even those closest to you might not agree with your beliefs or approach. However, no matter what you do there will always be someone that doesn’t care for you. The greater risk is living a life of mediocrity.

A seed of potential exists within every one of us.  Unless we’re willing to take the necessary steps to cultivate our potential it will never blossom. The first step is to become clear about who you are.  Discover your passions, values, and strengths so you understand the impact you want to make.

Once you have this foundation of self-awareness in place you can begin to develop your potential. Actively look for opportunities to use your strengths. Start sharing your desires with close family, friends, and colleagues to see what ideas they might offer for practicing your strengths. The more you experiment the more clarity you will have about what is a best fit for you. Additionally, you will continue to refine your strengths.

Accept that it’s okay not to be normal. The concept of being normal is a myth and only exists when people continue to feed the belief that we have to fit in to some popularly accepted norm. No body is normal. We are each unique with our own set of strengths, challenges, desires, and fears. Recognize that these are the things that make you amazing and embrace who you truly are. Then you can begin the path to happiness, success, and fulfillment.

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Identify three strengths you possess and share one of them with someone.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., PCC

 

 

Inspire with Mission

March 29th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

“No company, small or large, can win over the long run without energized employees who believe in the mission and understand how to achieve it.”

—Jack Welch

 How inspiring is your mission?

Most people prefer to have meaningful work. It’s natural to want to make a positive impact in some way. In order for your team or organization to be successful, you must help your staff focus on something bigger. Otherwise they will view it as simply a job and only due the minimum necessary.

Your organization’s success is dependent upon the engagement and commitment of your employees. You need them to bring their hearts and minds through the door each morning, not just their bodies. When your employees are fully engaged their critical thinking will improve as well as their ability to identify innovative solutions to the challenges they encounter.

On the flip side, when you have a team that is simply going through the motions, they won’t step out to take chances or solve problems. Instead they’ll simply drop their challenges in your lap and wait for you to solve them. If you create a team that blindly follows your direction and seeks your permission every step of the way, you’ll find your organization is incapable of keeping pace and your competitors will begin to pass you by.

An engaged workforce begins with a clear and compelling mission. You need to articulate the main purpose of your organization. Clearly identify how your services or products make life better or simpler for your customers. Don’t focus first and foremost on improving the bottom line. While critical to your organization’s sustainability, it isn’t your reason for being nor will it motivate your team.

Once you have clearly articulated an inspiring vision, help each member of your organization connect it to his or her role. Don’t assume they understand the connection. Help them understand how the mission would be impacted if they weren’t their to play their part.

Finally, make it a habit to discuss your mission on a regular basis. Don’t just frame it on the Board room wall never to be thought about again. Share stories about how employees have made decisions and took actions that exemplify the mission, reward those who take risks in service of the mission, and any time a decision has to be made ask how the potential solutions support the mission.

Your organization’s mission or purpose is critical to your overall success. Don’t blow off this important piece of your foundation. The more time and attention you devote to defining and discussing your mission the stronger your foundation will become. On top of this strong foundation you can build a successful organization full of energized and engaged individuals excited to do whatever they can to fulfill your mission each and every day.

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Define the positive impact your service or product makes.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., PCC