Tag archive for "Leadership"

Leadership Means Making Hard Decisions

by Bill, Leadership

Leadership Means Making Hard Decisions

No Comments 29 October 2014

HardChoicesAheadSignRecently, after a New York City-based physician returning from treating patients in Africa turned up with the Ebola virus (after having also traveled the streets of New York), and a nurse returning from similar duty seemed to evidence precursor symptoms of the disease, the governors of New York and New Jersey both reached decisions to involuntarily quarantine those deemed to pose a risk to the population.

At the urging of generals and military families alike, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has drawn a somewhat firmer line, announcing that, for the near term, military personnel stationed in Africa will (not might) be quarantined for twenty-one days before returning home.

The howls from the media, medical professionals, and others have reached, dare I say, a fevered pitch, and that’s okay. We’re all entitled by the Constitution to voice our opinions. There are two things we need to understand, though:

  1. Our rights as individuals end at the tip of our neighbor’s nose, lip, ear, what have you. I have every right to say what I want and to risk my own life, but that right doesn’t extend to shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater or imposing my risk on my neighbor, let alone an entire population. Those rights that we enjoy come with certain responsibilities.
  2. Whether in the workplace, government, or military, leaders bear the burden of making decisions that impact both individual and collective rights. That’s what they are appointed and get paid to do. Sometimes we like those decisions and sometimes we don’t.

For those of us who hold a leadership role, formally appointed or otherwise, I will submit that we have at least three obligations with respect to our decision making:

  1. To actually make the decision. Those who would follow us need to know that when a decision is required, we will actually make one. Making no decision is in itself a decision, and almost always the wrong one.
  2. Our decisions should be timely. Perhaps the 2nd greatest failing in our decision-making (next to not making a decision at all) is deferring the decision until it’s too late. In his book, My American Journey,  Gen. Colin Powell advocates against waiting until you have all the information: “Use the formula P=40 to 70, in which P stands for the probability of success and the numbers indicate the percentage of information acquired. Once the information is in the 40 to 70% range, go with your gut.” In other words, don’t wait until you reach the end of your runway to take off.
  3. Utilize an appropriate fact-gathering process, then make your decision(s) on the basis of what you genuinely believe to be the right thing to do, NOT  what is popular, politically correct, or aimed at pissing off the fewest people. In the aforementioned book, Gen. Powell’s 18th precept is that, “Command is lonely.” Yes it is, General… yes it is.

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A pathfinder in the arena of leadership and employee engagement Bill Catlette is an Executive Coach, Advisor to Management, Conference Speaker, and Business & Workplace Author. He helps leaders connect the dots between People, Passion, Performance and Profit, hone their leadership skills, and achieve demonstrably better outcomes. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, visit their website, or follow them on Twitter @ContentedCows.

 

by Bill, Leadership, Think About It...

Ebola and a Lesson on Leadership

No Comments 20 October 2014

Since passage of reform legislation in March 2010, the U.S. healthcare industry has struggled with wrenching change brought on by movement of the tectonic plates underneath the delivery and payment sides of the industry. With the introduction of competition from new sources (e.g., diagnostics and urgent care via Doc In a Box), and the early melting of fee for service payment models, much of the industry is under tremendous pressure to adapt to completely new realities.

Particularly among hospitals, which are seeing demand for their services and assets shift, and in some cases decline, new fiscal pressures abound. As is too often the case whenever there is belt tightening going on, one of the first shoes to drop inevitably lands on the organization’s training regimen, as if working your way out of an earnings problem by dumbing down the organization is ever a workable idea.

We saw some of that play out on the world stage recently with the Ebola episode in Dallas, where it became painfully evident that protocols for handling even one Ebola-infected patient had not been fully worked out, let alone communicated and trained. The patient died, and a lot of good, talented people were unnecessarily exposed to potentially lethal health risk. So what’s that got to do with leadership, the focus of this blog? In a word, everything.

As leaders, our first obligation to the women and men who follow us into work every day is NOT to improve market share or optimize next quarter’s earnings, but to make sure that they leave work at the end of the day in the same (or better) condition than they got there. Second, it is our duty to see to it that they are equipped, by virtue of training, tools, and trust to do their very best work, and accomplish their mission. In other words, they deserve a fair shot at success. Indeed one of the cruelest things we can do to someone is to put them in a position where they are destined to fail (or worse).

As you go about your business this week, take stock of how well prepared and how safe the people on your team are. Do they have what they need in the way of training, tools, information, and trust to do their jobs successfully? Safely? Make sure, damn sure, unless you want to get to write a letter like this:

http://texashealth.org/images/letter-to-the-community-101914.jpg

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A pathfinder in the arena of leadership and employee engagement Bill Catlette is an Executive Coach, Advisor to Management, Conference Speaker, and Business & Workplace Author. He helps leaders connect the dots between People, Passion, Performance and Profit, hone their leadership skills, and achieve demonstrably better outcomes. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website, or follow them on Twitter.

by Richard, Exemplars, Favorite Folks, Leadership

Truett Cathy: A Life Well-Lived

No Comments 08 September 2014

truett-cathy A mighty tree fell in the forest of business leadership today, with the death of 93-year-old Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-fil-A. Truett was a pioneer, an innovator, and a true gentleman of character and courage. He improved the lives of millions, way beyond “sellin’ chicken”, and leaves a legacy that makes him a real standout in the annals of American business.

I’ll quickly dispense with the elephant in the blogpost and acknowledge that not everyone likes Chick-fil-A, whether it be their food or their values. But I’ll allow to speak for itself the fact that their supporters overwhelmingly eclipse their detractors. Just drive by any Chick-fil-A restaurant any day of the week (except, of course, Sunday, on which they’re closed), and you’ll see what I mean.

It was my privilege to meet Truett on a couple of occasions, while we were conducting leadership training for Chick-fil-A, and he was gracious enough to let me interview him in 1997, while Bill and I were writing our first book, Contented Cows Give Better Milk.

 

Here are 3 things I know about Truett Cathy:

 

1 – He was authentic. Truett’s faith was his life, and he uttered no apologies for it. He went from millionaire to billionaire years ago, but continued to teach a boys’ Sunday School class at his church until his health failed. You could count on his word. Many, many people did, and have built very successful businesses and fulfilling careers.

2 – He was a giver. In addition to his personal philanthropy, Truett’s company has given more than $68 million to more than 700 educational and charitable organizations in the last three years alone. Since its inception, the company’s Team Member Scholarship Program has provided more than $30 million to help more than 30,000 employees attend more than 500 different colleges and universities. Through its WinShape Foundation, it has invested millions in programs directed toward helping young people. And the company regularly donates food to people who are hungry, and provides organized relief for victims of natural disasters.

3 – He was a forgiver. Here’s a story we relate in our 2007 book, Contented Cows MOOVE Faster: It was told to me by Truett’s son, Dan, Chick-fil-A’s Chief Operating Officer, when Dan invited me to travel across the country with him on a whirlwind grand opening tour to the Midwest and California.

Dan and his father were walking around the original Dwarf House restaurant (the forerunner of Chick-fil-A) one evening, inspecting the premises. It seems that a gaze upward revealed a fresh collection of empty beer cans on the roof of the Dwarf House. As alcohol never has been on the menu of the Dwarf House, or Chick-fil-A, it was determined that, unfortunately, the spent vessels most likely came from an employee engaging in off-label activities on the job. As much as Truett didn’t like to think of any of his beloved employees drinking at work, he suspected a middle-aged fellow named James.

When Truett confronted him, he gently extracted a genuine confession. What happened next owes to James’s greatly improved judgment in having told the truth about the incident and to Truett’s exceptional maturity. Name any employer. Drinking beer on the clock and then littering the premises with the evidence would pretty much be grounds for dismissal without intervention from even the most liberal of unfair labor treatment folks.

Instead, Truett forgave James. James didn’t get a lecture about how wrong it was to drink on the job. Truett figured James was an adult and therefore knew what he did was wrong. He didn’t get fired. He didn’t get written up. He barely got a reprimand. He got forgiven. Which is not to say his deed got overlooked. By forgiving rather than firing James, Truett took the bond of trust between the two men to a completely new level, something that was not lost on James over the balance of his long career with the company.

Many prayers, including ours, are being said today for the Cathy family, and in thanks for a life well-lived. Godspeed, Truett.

 

Richard Hadden is a leadership speaker, author, and consultant who helps organizations improve their business results by virtue of a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He and Bill Catlette are the authors of the popular “Contented Cows” leadership book series, and Rebooting Leadership. Their newest book, Contented Cows STILL Give Better Milk, published by John Wiley & Sons, is now available. Learn more about them and their work at ContentedCows.com.

by Bill, Leadership

A Physics Lesson for Leaders About the Use of Power

No Comments 27 August 2014

The first lesson learned by every new leader, one that should be permanently tattooed onto their gray matter, is that by virtue of occupation they have inherited a simple, high school physics problem – There are more of “them” than there are of you. Repeat, there are more of “them” than there are of you. Translation – You are outnumbered, perhaps vastly by the group of people whom you are expected to lead. You shouldn’t let that rattle you, but neither should you forget it.

In Einstein’s theory of Mass-Energy Equivalence, Energy [E] equates to the Mass [M] of an object, times the Speed of Light [C] squared. It rather elegantly ties together the relationship among three seemingly disparate elements. Having slept through high school physics, that’s about the extent of my physics knowledge.

But here’s something I do understand. In human interactions and especially the workplace, the “Energy” of a group of people relates to their Number (mass) times the Leadership that is applied. A group of people, even a tiny group, well led, can accomplish truly amazing things. Conversely, that same group of people led poorly (or not at all) can and will become disengaged, uncooperative, or downright unruly.

Witness recent events in the town of Ferguson, Missouri, just outside of St. Louis, where, following the tragic shooting death of a young man, the town’s police attempted to put down a street demonstration with automatic weapons-toting officers wearing gas masks and dressed in battle fatigues.

It didn’t turn out well. Yet, the very next night, an even larger crowd was considerably more peaceful and better behaved as the result of fresh leadership in the person of Missouri State Highway Patrol Captain, Ron Johnson.

What Captain Johnson clearly understands, and what every leader needs to grasp, is the fact that just because you have a big stick doesn’t mean that you’re well advised to wave it around or use it indiscriminately, especially when the power of your personal presence and persuasion will work a lot better. Captain Johnson didn’t just permit another night of demonstrations, he led them, from out front, using his personal presence to set the tone, a more orderly and peaceful tone.

Some lessons for us:

Keep Your Powder Dry – A leader’s position power is a necessary tool, and we mustn’t be afraid to use it, but use it sparingly. There is a finite supply, and once you’ve deployed it, you have nothing left to resort to.

Keep Your Ego in Check – Being in a leadership role is not about you. Rather, it’s about your team and its mission. You needn’t remind people of your position and the fact that you can shut their water off. They get that already, and don’t react well to having it rubbed in their faces.

Envision – Jack Nicklaus, doubtless one of, if not the greatest golfer in history, encourages players to envision their shot before swinging. See the ball arcing past the oak tree, landing ten yards short, and running onto the green, pin high. Leaders should similarly think through and mentally rehearse their next move, especially if that move involves a use of position power.

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A pathfinder in the arena of leadership and employee engagement Bill Catlette is an Executive Coach, Advisor to Management, Conference Speaker, and Business & Workplace Author. He helps leaders connect the dots between People, Passion, Performance and Profit, hone their leadership skills, and achieve demonstrably better outcomes. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website, or follow them on Twitter.

by Richard, Leadership

Be the Boss You Always Wished For

No Comments 18 August 2014

good-bossWe’ve all worked for bad bosses – people who attained their lofty positions by virtue of one of the following two qualifications: 1. They were good at their non-management job, or 2. Their last name happened to be spelled exactly like the name on the building. I once reported to a boss who felt her job had not been done until she’d demoralized every member of the team into quitting; another was a nice enough guy, but had the backbone of an amoeba, and all the organizational skills of the painter Jackson Pollock. No hate mail, please. It’s a metaphor.

Although I, too, was made a manager far too early in my career, with a hard-earned Bachelor’s Degree in Management from an accredited university, but scarcely an hour’s worth of leadership training, I did give a considerable degree of thought, during my pre-management days, to what a good manager should be like.

I’ll bet you have, too.

At one point, to divert my attention from griping about the clowns I was working for at the time, and do something a bit more productive, I decided that when I became a manager, I would do my level best to be the kind of manager I’d always wished for. Mind you, I had had, in the past, two or three really great leadership examples as bosses, and so I was hardly starting from scratch.

This is anything but an exhaustive list of leadership qualities, but it represents three of the traits and attributes I hoped to emulate and develop when I was entrusted with the leadership of others. Perhaps these three rose to the top of my list because they had been so sorely lacking in some of the bosses I’d toiled under:

  1. Focus
  2. Compassion
  3. Encouragement

Here are some ways I’ve learned to develop each:

  1. Focus: go to your team, today, and ask this simple question: “What do you believe to be our top three business priorities?” Compare the responses you get. That will tell you everything you need to know about the current focus of your team. If you don’t like what you hear, don’t blame them! Tighten your focus. And then teach your team what the real priorities are. This is where repetition can really help. I’ll say it again. This is where repetition can really help.
  2. Compassion: No, I’m not talking about being a pushover, or falling for every excuse in the book. But I am talking about engaging your heart, not just your head, in the leadership of those you need to follow you. I heard a great CEO/leader once tell his management team, “When a team member is enduring a personal hardship, go the extra mile for that employee. When you do, you’ll have their full attention when you talk about going the extra mile for your customers.”
  3. Encouragement: Here’s something else you can do today. You know that team member of yours who’s having a rough day? Yeah, that one. Find something encouraging – in their work or elsewhere, and go out there and remind them of it. An act like this has one of the highest ROI’s going.

 

 

Richard Hadden is a leadership speaker, author, and consultant who helps organizations improve their business results by virtue of a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He and Bill Catlette are the authors of the popular “Contented Cows” leadership book series, and Rebooting Leadership. Their newest book, Contented Cows STILL Give Better Milk, published by John Wiley & Sons, is now available. Learn more about them and their work at ContentedCows.com.

by Bill, Leadership, Management

Struggling Supervisors – Coach ‘em Up or Move Them Out

No Comments 04 August 2014

Confirming what many had been sensing for some time, Dallas Federal Reserve Bank President, Richard Fisher said recently that increasing numbers of workers are quitting their jobs voluntarily, and concomitantly, employers are finding that it’s taking longer to fill open positions. Those are two fairly strong indicators that the job market is heating up.

But they aren’t the only indicators. For several months, we’ve been watching managers going into a defensive crouch and lowering their work performance standards in an ill-advised effort to hang onto people rather than coach, discipline or terminate, and then face the prospect of replacing them. In many cases they’re turning a blind eye to problem performers, the existence of whom is aggravating to fellow workers and customers alike.

Why? Three reasons:

  1. They’re not yet well-assured that they can get quick internal approval to replace.
  2. They know that hiring a replacement off the street will take time (the talent pool isn’t deep yet for many positions), and it will likely cost them more money.
  3. There’s more than a little guilt involved, as the involved managers know in many cases that the individual is struggling because they themselves have not had (‘er taken) the time to properly train and coach their staff members.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the case of level 1 supervisors and managers. And, sadly, nowhere do we pay a higher price for this condition. Having an inept or uncommitted level 1 manager wreaks havoc in an organization. Think about it. These are the folks who represent the “last mile” in the management communication and strategy execution chain. They have more daily touchpoints with frontline workers than anyone else, and thus have the capacity to disenfranchise greater numbers of solid performers – the very last people you want to lose.

Three suggestions:

  1. Take a hard look across your organization at your level 1 and 2 managers. Which of them seem to be struggling or experiencing abnormally high rates of regrettable turnover? Find out why, and get them some help if needed. If it’s too late or they are misplaced in their role, take action now, while you still have options.
  2. Resolve to make leadership ability a “must have” for anyone placed into a management position. Specifically, before putting someone into a leadership role at any level, there should be credible reason to believe that they have the courage to make and communicate tough decisions, the humility to realize that they put their pants on just like everyone else, better than average judgment and interpersonal skills, and that they are comfortable in their own skin. Absent any one of these factors, it doesn’t matter how smart or talented they are. Keep looking.
  3. And speaking of looking, you could do a lot worse than to spend time daily working on your talent pipeline. Make daily efforts to give internal candidates, your leaders of tomorrow, some coaching or encouragement. And at the same time, make sure that your external pipeline is well stocked.

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A pathfinder in the arena of leadership and employee engagement Bill Catlette is an Executive Coach, Advisor to Management, Conference Speaker, and Business & Workplace Author. He helps leaders connect the dots between People, Passion, Performance and Profit, hone their leadership skills, and achieve demonstrably better outcomes. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website, or follow them on Twitter.

by Bill, by Richard, Leadership, Management

Three Things That Will Improve Employee Engagement

No Comments 03 July 2014

Recently I read a piece in the e-version of a major business publication which, by title and implication suggested that seventy percent of Americans hate their work. The piece used as its factual anchor the oft-quoted “State of the American Workplace Report” by Gallup, which suggests that only about 30% of American workers are truly “engaged” in their jobs, leaving 70% or so in one level or another of disengagement.

Without doing too much ballet on the head of a pin, let’s make a distinction, an important one. My strong belief, after a couple decades of effort in this arena, is that by and large, people don’t hate their work at all. In fact, most of us rather like our work. Some of us even love it. What we dislike, and what we have difficulty ‘engaging’ with is our jobs, that broader context within which our work resides, and does or does not get done. The “job” encompasses a lot more than the task(s) that we get paid to do. It includes the terms of the deal, the people we interact with and answer to, the support that we get (or lack), the culture that permeates and defines the workspace, et. al.

Indeed, satisfaction and engagement surveys, which our firm has done for longer than I care to admit, suggest that quite often the greatest source of disengagement stems from people and processes that keep us from doing our very best work. In other words, that utterly stupid purchasing policy, or clueless manager who frustrate, rather than enable our best effort are among the primary culprits causing us to disengage. If we didn’t like our work, or want to go home at the end of each day feeling that we made progress, that stuff wouldn’t bother us. But we do, and people and things that block our work progress do more than cause disengagement – they make us crazy! Following are three things that most leaders can do (or refrain from doing) to improve employee engagement levels:

1. Become More Intentional and Selective in Hiring: By most measures, the burner underneath hiring in this country has been turned from “Off” to “Low”, and recently to “Medium” heat. In parts of the energy and tech landscape, it remains on “High.” Ergo, it’s more important than ever that, beginning right now, we use methods and processes that yield more talented, more compatible people. Put plainly but crudely, our staffers (particularly the better ones) don’t want to work with turkeys. Few things are more disengaging than working alongside people who can’t do the work, choose not to, or just plain don’t fit in.

So, as we go about the process of adding staff, it is imperative that we find people who have a penchant for doing terrific work, and whom others want to work with. If they don’t fit the culture, do NOT hire them, regardless of how talented they may be. And, it is also important that we move more quickly to identify and de-select those folks, including managers, who fail to measure up. Doing otherwise is unkind and a disservice to all involved.

2. Get Serious About Learning and Development: Every dentist office is equipped with a sign that says something to the effect of: “Do I have to brush and floss my teeth? Only the ones you want to keep.” The same thing could be said for training and developing our workforce. Engagement surveys consistently tell us that one of THE most important engagement drivers is the opportunity to learn, grow, and yes, build your resume. Yet, owing perhaps to a formerly soft job market, the response from most quarters has been a big, collective yawn.

Nowhere is that more evident than in the realm of so called “soft skills” training, especially leadership development, which for too long now has been a DIY proposition. And it shows. We are now seeing people move into every level of management, including the C-suite, without the benefit of even a shred of training. Consistent with the recent shared ownership of the healthcare equation in the U.S., we would do well to engage our staff members in earnest discussion about their professional development, and work with them toward a more jointly owned development process that is uniquely tailored to them. Beyond getting a more engaged workforce, we’ll also benefit from much better execution.

3. Don’t Fool* With the Gravy: Legend has it that not long after he sold the Kentucky Fried Chicken chain to Heublein Inc., Col. Harland Sanders began taking issue with some of the changes imposed by the firm’s new owners. Upon reaching a point of exasperation, the Colonel invited himself to a Heublein management meeting. When asked the purpose of his visit, he allowed that, for the $285 million purchase price, the new owners probably had the right to exercise bad judgment in changing store layouts and the menu, but, he nonetheless had five words of advice for them… “Don’t fool* with the gravy.” (*Legend also has it that the Colonel’s choice of verbiage was, like his chicken, a little spicier than mine.)

The lesson for us is that, as we continue to innovate, streamline, and economize, we must be mindful not to callously ignore the hard earned knowledge and opinions of those who are, and have been doing the work and who might, just might be able to prevent us from making big, expensive mistakes. Doing a better job on the listening front isn’t just a tool for avoiding mistakes though. Anyone with as few as five gray hairs in their head can affirm that one of the quickest ways to disenfranchise a workforce is to ignore (disrespect) them.

Better listening is a product of hard work as well as technique. A tip given to me not long ago is to try to “read” the words as they come off of someone’s lips. It’s akin perhaps to the advantage that great baseball hitters get by seeing the ball come out of the  pitcher’s hand and then tracking it all the way to the plate. Try it, I think you’ll like it.

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A pathfinder in the arena of leadership and employee engagement Bill Catlette is an Executive Coach, Advisor to Management, Conference Speaker, and Business & Workplace Author. He helps leaders connect the dots between People, Passion, Performance and Profit, hone their leadership skills, and achieve demonstrably better outcomes. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website, or follow them on Twitter.

 

by Bill, by Richard, Leadership, Management

Three Things You Can Do to Help Your Team Perform Like a Champion

No Comments 24 March 2014

climbing-mountainAs an executive coach, part of my job is to help clients learn from and avoid getting their own version of some of the scars on my back. One of those scars came at an early age. As a young, 20-something leader I did my best to ensure that my team had its share of talent, a firm grasp of our mission and priorities, and as much preparation as we could arrange. We performed at a consistently good, but not great level.

 

In retrospect, I was unknowingly limiting our progress by playing too tight, playing not to lose, specifically, not to lose my job. As a result, I wasn’t having much fun at work, and the people around me weren’t either. And then a day came when my boss took me out to lunch, and when we finished, we were really finished, with only one of us still having his job.

 

After some reflection and getting a new job (a better one), I realized that getting fired wasn’t the worst thing in the world, and resolved to double up on my self-awareness, and loosen the necktie just a bit going forward. As a result, some things changed in my approach to being a leader, and our results got better, a lot better.

 

I really hadn’t thought much about that episode in my life until recently when I read an article written by Michael David Smith about Seattle Seahawks coach, Pete Carroll. In the interview, Coach Carroll said, “It really took me getting fired a couple times, getting kicked in the butt, to get to where I am now.” In case you missed Super Bowl 2014, where Coach Carroll is right now is a pretty good spot.

 

It would have been hard for anyone watching Super Bowl 2014 not to notice that, though the players on both sides of the field were immensely talented and well coached, Carroll’s players, from the very start, were playing the game a little looser, and visibly having more fun.

 

Indeed, the Bronco’s jitters showed early when the Seahawks scored on the very first play from scrimmage after Denver’s center prematurely snapped the ball over Peyton Manning’s head. Before they knew it, the Broncos were down heavy, and the game was out of hand.

 

Okay, so how does this translate for the average, non-NFL manager who is simply trying to get the wash out every day? Here are three things to keep in mind:

 

1.     You’ve got to manage you before you can hope to lead others.  And that starts with you being an optimist, keeping some fun in the game, and making sure that your players aren’t slowed down by fear (yours or their own). A Chinese proverb suggests that, “A man without a smile must not open a shop.” That applies just as much to the role of a leader as it does a shopkeeper. People will not follow a sour, grumpy pessimist for long. After being told by a client many years ago that I needed to smile a little more, I’ve made it a habit, particularly on days that I know are likely to be stressful, to wear a rubber band on my wrist as a private reminder to smile. It works. (I guess it’s not private any more, though.)

 

2.     Be “the iron.” It has been said that it’s not the mountains we have to climb, but the grains of sand in our shoes that keep us from doing our best. That axiom is certainly true in the workplace. Our jobs as leaders involve spending time removing the impediments from the path of our team, making sure they have the tools, the processes, the wherewithal to do their very best work each day, every day. My co-author and business partner, Richard Hadden likens that to the effect that a hot iron has on a wrinkled shirt, as he advises leaders to, “be the iron.”

 

3.     Let people know that you care about them, not just as players or cogs in the wheel, but as real, pulsating human beings. You don’t have to become buddies, in fact, it’s better that you don’t, but you can still demonstrate in lots of ways, some large, but mostly small, that you care about them. Start by taking an interest in them, what’s important to them, what their goals, aspirations, and fears are. In order to do this, it is vital to listen, really listen. One tip that works for me is, when talking with someone, to make careful note of their eye color, and then, in real time, “read” the words coming off their lips. If I’m doing that, it’s much harder to engage in what I call the opposite of listening, which is waiting to talk, while formatting what I’m going to say next.

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  A pathfinder in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He is co-author of the Contented Cows leadership book series, and Rebooting Leadership. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website, or follow them on Twitter.

 

Avoiding Burnout, by Bill, Leadership, Management

Go Ask Your People

2 Comments 12 January 2014

One of the traps that newly appointed managers at any level commonly fall into is in believing that, to be worthy of their job title and pay check, they must have at the ready the solution to every problem, and the answer to every question. I’m speaking from experience. I’ve been there. As a young, 20-something manager, I spent a couple of years choking on the self-imposed burden of instantly and unilaterally producing the correct response to every issue that arose. Fortunately for me, that was in an era when the pace of the game was about one-tenth what it is today.

 

 

Indeed, this trap often becomes the downfall of those who don’t realize quickly enough that appointment to a position of leadership does not (repeat, does NOT) mean that they have the market cornered on brains and ability, or that they are responsible for doing all the thinking. Anything but.

 

 

To be sure, we are paid to anticipate problems, to solve them, and to fill information voids, but the burden of leadership seldom (if ever) mandates that we be the sole source provider of knowledge or solutions. Some suggestions:

 

 

1.     Go ask your people. If you’ve done even a moderately good job of staffing, there are people on your team, and others within your network who are smarter than you, and who probably have a much better view of the situation. Ask for their ideas, and then have the good sense to listen, both to what they are saying and what they aren’t saying. Bill Marriott, whose name is over the door of a lot of our favorite hotels is fond of saying that the four most important words in any manager’s vocabulary are, “What do you think?”

 

2.     You get paid to think. As reflected in chapter 6 of our book, Rebooting Leadership, good leaders make it a point to carve out thinking time (you read that correctly) in the course of their day. There is simply too much stuff coming over the transom on a daily basis for managers to do otherwise. As writer William S. Burroughs was known to have said, “Your mind will answer most questions if you learn to relax and wait for the answer.”  Our advice is that you carve out a half-hour (more if you can) of dedicated thinking time in the most focused part of your day. Try it for a couple of weeks. We don’t think you will regret it.

 

3.     Some fires need to burn themselves out. As a former baseball player, youth-league coach, and student of the game, I learned fairly early on that enthusiastically swinging at every pitch is a quick path to exactly one place – a seat back on the bench after an unproductive turn at bat. The same holds true for managers.  Above all else, we must be vicious masters of our time, priorities, and resources, and we can’t do that if we’re swinging at everything that comes into view. Some of the opportunities and indeed some (perhaps many) of the problems that come our way are best dealt with by leaving them alone. Let them burn themselves out or find another rightful owner. To be sure, once in awhile you’ll guess wrong on these and find it necessary to go back and put out what has become a bigger fire, but it is still the better option.

 

 

 *******

 

A pathfinder in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He is co-author of the Contented Cows leadership book series, and Rebooting Leadership. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website, or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ContentedCows

 

by Bill, Leadership

On Broken Glass, Apologies, and Obamacare

No Comments 15 November 2013

Baseball - Broken WindowWhen I was fourteen, I took over a friend’s paper route for the summer. I don’t quite remember how that came to pass (I doubt that I was jumping for joy at the notion of getting up every morning at 4AM), but here’s something I do remember from that experience.

     One of my ‘customers’ on the route was a bit of a grouch, and of greater importance to me, he made it a point to never answer the door when I went around collecting for my services. So, on the last morning that I had the route, I made one of those unfiltered, split-second decisions that you often later regret. I decided to wake this guy up at 5:00AM on a Sunday morning with a big, fat newspaper delivered at a high rate of speed to the aluminum panel at the bottom of his storm door. So, with my very best Nolan Ryan imitation, I launched Mr. Grumpy’s paper toward the door with everything my right arm could muster. Having failed to consider the impact of adrenalin and the difference in altitude between where I was and where the door was, the paper’s path was straight and true, but about a foot high. As it blasted thru the glass in Mr. Grumpy’s storm door, I got instant gratification from the certainty that I had awakened him, followed immediately by an introduction to the term, ‘collateral damage.’

     When I got home, I told my folks about my little mishap. They insisted that, within the hour I walk back to Mr. Grumpy’s house, clean up the mess, apologize, and tell him that I would make arrangements the next day to replace the broken glass in his door. That lesson has stuck with me ever since, and today it serves as a basis for advice I offer coaching clients and larger management audiences about building and maintaining trust.

     Recently, President Obama and members of his staff have broken some glass in rolling out the Affordable Care Act, aka ObamaCare. Given that this is doubtless the largest government-induced change in my lifetime, I think it’s natural to expect some missteps and unintended consequences along the way. In all likelihood there will be more. Thinking people realize that our healthcare system simply must evolve. We can no longer keep our heads in the sand about the inefficiency and ineffectiveness of the existing 50 year old model.

     Unfortunately, the President didn’t have the benefit of my mom’s advice* on the art of cleaning up one’s messes. As the result of waiting way too long to acknowledge, apologize, and react to mistakes and poor execution, he has invited feelings of mistrust, and howls from the home team, visitors, and the cheap seats alike.

     And, in fairness, if the rest of us had gotten some of my mom’s advice as well, we would know that when someone offers a genuine, albeit late apology to you, you would do well to accept it and move on.

Bill’s Mom’s Advice for Cleaning Up Your Messes

  1. Be quick to own your mistakes and apologize.
  2. Do it (apology) right, and do it once. Don’t go on a guilt tour.
  3. To the very best of your ability, make it right.
  4. Move on.
  5. When someone apologizes to you, assume ‘positive intent’ and accept their apology.

 *******

A pathfinder in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He is co-author of the Contented Cows leadership book series, and Rebooting Leadership. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website, or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ContentedCows

 

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