Posts Tagged ‘generosity’

5 Temptations Every Leader Faces

August 18, 2011 3 comments

leader selfLeading is treacherous work.

Like Odysseus sailing past the sirens we are constantly lured toward rocks and ruin by charming melodies that seem as harmless as they are desirable. They start small and innocent, but if not resisted, can destroy a leader.

Odds are you won’t face all of these temptations at once. Depending on your personality and preferences, you may easily avoid some, while others will continually harass you.

There are at least five temptations every leader faces:

1. Respect from others. Being respected isn’t a bad thing, but a desire to be respected that ferments into a need to be respected can have devastating results. That need for others to see you and regard you in a certain way, may cause you to attempt to become something or someone you aren’t. Combat this temptation with authenticity. Be yourself—nothing more, certainly nothing less.

2. Praise from others. Again, nothing wrong with being recognized for your accomplishments. It’s only when the desire for recognition starts driving your actions that trouble seeps in. It may start with not correcting an exaggerated report of your contribution, but it soon morphs into hoarding and taking credit from others. Fight this temptation with generosity—give away as much credit as you can whenever you get the chance.

3. Success at any cost. The ability to deliver results is a common expectation among leaders. However, it’s not the only measure of excellence. How you achieve those results is important. When the accomplishment of our mission supersedes the principles and values we stand for, then we lose our identity and purpose. Resist this temptation by clinging to honesty. When you fail, don’t just move the goal posts; assess reality and adjust as necessary.

4. Power over others. Every leader has—and uses—power over others. And that’s fine. Alarms should go off only when you start to see yourself actively trying to lord power over others just for the sake of having it. At that point your motives have become selfish and you’ve lost sight of why leaders exist. Battle against this temptation by cultivating a service attitude.

5. Target fixation. Focus is your best friend when it comes to successful execution. However when your focus is so narrow that you lose sight of the big picture, things starts to fall apart. Whether you’re neglecting one market for another, ignoring individual needs to accomplish a mission, or letting your family down while you concentrate on your career, it’s never sustainable. Avoid this temptation by maintaining perspective on your life and work. Schedule times to step back and take a holistic view.

Awareness of temptation is half the battle. If you sense one of these temptations is sucking you in, fight back—cling to who you are, be generous, tell the truth, seek to serve, and keep an eye on the big picture. These disciplines will help you navigate the potential pitfalls that every leader will face.

What other temptations are common to all leaders? What’s the best way to fight them?

7 Tips for Leading Top Performers

June 28, 2011 3 comments

leadership motivation25 years ago the best employees set their sights on the gold watch, a comfortable retirement, maybe a house in Florida.

Things have changed.

In today’s free-agent economy, top performers are building their personal brand, pursuing multiple careers, and choosing great opportunities over company loyalty.

So how do you create a culture where the thought of leaving is laughable? How do you establish an environment where the very best can thrive? Here are seven ways to lead the best of the best:

1. Keep your ego in check. Sometimes, your best performers are better than you. This is a good thing! Don’t let your pride get in the way of serving the best interests of your organization. Find a way to help them release their potential. Take care of them and they’ll take care of you.

2. Give them your time. It’s said leaders spend 80% of their time with the bottom 20% of their performers. Well, stop it. Deal with or eliminate the bottom 20%. Regardless, give your top performers the time, attention, recognition, development, and resources they need. Pour your capital into the investments that are working!

3. Let them run. Let them run fast. Give them responsibility, authority, flexibility and autonomy. Listen to their ideas. Establish clear, mutually agreed upon boundaries and then give them the freedom to exceed your expectations.

4. Don’t let them be unevenly yoked. Don’t rely on your top performers to continually pull the weight of slower members of your team. Yes, it’s important that their values and goals are integrated with the rest of the team and yes, they’ll pitch in to help when needed. But don’t make that the rule. Don’t shackle them to people who can’t keep up with them.

5. Tell them how much you appreciate them. Don’t take them for granted. Don’t think for a second that just because someone is good that they know they’re good. As long as you’re honest, you can never go wrong giving sincere positive feedback.

6. Talk to them about their dreams. Expect them to want bigger things. Where do they want to go? What do they want to do? Helping them work toward their personal goals will bind them to you and your team all the more.

7. Let them go when it’s time. Protegés get promoted. Kids leave for college. Star players move up to the next league. Don’t hold them back. You’ve got a limited amount of time—use it to develop your top performers into solid leaders. They’ll move on, but their gratitude and loyalty will remain.

Keep these seven tips in mind and you’ll keep your best performers happy—not to mention become a magnet for top talent in your organization, if not your entire industry.

What tips do you have for leading top performers?

The Gift of Receiving

June 8, 2011 5 comments

leadership skills giving receivingI’m a guy. I like to help. But sometimes I don’t get to.

I was waiting outside my apartment the other day, watching my kids play, when a neighbor drove up, opened the back of her SUV, and started to unload boxes of tile. Naturally, I offered to help.

To my amazement she replied—with a strained voice between gasps for air—”No…I’ve…got it.” I pleaded with her on her second trip, but was again denied as she struggled to get the heavy load through her door.

People not accepting help is one of my pet peeves. What’s going on here? From what I’ve seen, it usually due to one of four reasons:

1. Pride. We all have a tendency to believe that we don’t need help. Most of the time we actually do. But, even if we don’t need help, that’s still not a good reason to refuse it.

2. Fear. We live largely in a transactional world. If you accept help from someone else, there’s the implication that you now owe them. Most people can’t bear to live with that imaginary debt.

3. Culture. Some cultures are more individualistic or simply more private than others.

4. Lack of Trust. If you don’t know me how can you believe that I have your best interests in mind?

Each of these reasons—at its core—is selfish. They focus on the potential receiver, their ego, their fears, their comfort, their way of doing things.

Meanwhile, I think there are some great reasons for accepting help:

1. It Shows Humility. It takes real confidence to receive help. It demonstrates that you don’t think you can do it all yourself (even if you can).

2. It Helps the Helper. Serving makes people feel good about themselves. When you deny someone the opportunity to serve, you deny them a chance to feel good about themselves.

3. It Creates Better Products & Experiences. Working together usually produces better results with less effort in a shorter amount of time.

4. It Builds Relationships. Serving each other interweaves our lives. It allows us to use our strengths to meet the needs of others and vice versa.

How can you practice receiving today? Here are few ideas:

  • Don’t fight over who’s going to pay for a meal. When someone offers to pay, say thank you and mean it. Don’t promise to return the favor—just be genuinely thankful.
  • When someone opens a door for you, walk through it, say “thank you,” and don’t touch it (trust they’re strong enough to keep it open and fully accept the gift).
  • Try not to deflect compliments that come your way, no matter how uncomfortable you may feel. Honor the other person by listening to and believing what they say.

How good are you at receiving? Where do you need practice?

Can You Teach Social Media Skills?

April 18, 2011 8 comments

Tweeting Leadership“Can it be taught?” 

She asked me point-blank. She’s swimming upstream, trying to get her leaders to properly engage in social media—to capitalize on the potential. I hear this a lot. Some leaders won’t even consider it. Others stumble in awkwardly trying to peddle their wares and services from day one. The question was honest.

“Can you teach someone social media skills?”

“Yes,” I said, “however…” The caveat:

There are two types of rookie social media fumblers: The ones who have trouble connecting with others in any context and those who just aren’t used to this new environment.

For those who generally can’t connect with others, they need to grow their social muscles. First, they must see the need—they must understand why connecting with others is beneficial—both for themselves and for the people around them. Then they need to review (or learn) the basics. You know, the kindergarten stuff:

1. Treat others as you want to be treated.

2. Listen before you speak.

3. Don’t try to be something you’re not.

4. Smile.

5. Tell the truth.

6. Share what you have.

7. Help others out.

The second group, those who are just uncomfortable in new media, need to use the social muscles they already have. I freely admit that social media isn’t for everyone. However, before one can honestly make that decision, I think one should understand what social media really is.

Social media is simply another context for humans to connect with one another. Fundamentally, it’s no different from having a pen pal, calling your mother, or meeting someone for lunch. All the basics—including those listed above—still apply. My advice to social media novices:

1. Go hang out. Listen. Listen some more. Learn the language, the culture, the customs.

2. Don’t even think of selling anything.

3. Help. Give away something valuable—not the whole farm, mind you—but something worthwhile.

4. Enjoy yourself. Enjoy others. Build real relationships with people.

5. Be smart. Don’t give away sensitive or secure information.

6. Find a mentor or twelve. Find someone to follow and emulate.

7. Learn the tools and develop a strategy.

Bottom line, social media skills are just social skills. Whether it’s tweeting or public speaking, anyone can learn to connect if they believe in the benefits and are willing to do the work.

What advice would you give to those just diving into social media?

How to Share Credit without Losing Any

April 6, 2011 15 comments

LeadershipI made a mistake when I was twenty years old that has stuck with me my whole career.

It was the summer before my senior year at West Point and I was half-way across the world and half-way through a five-week stint playing the role of an Army aviation platoon leader. I had come a long way in the few weeks since I showed up as a clueless cadet. At the very least, I had figured out a few of the symbols on a status report, so I was no longer making a fool of myself at maintenance meetings.

The mistake came in a meeting I had with the company leadership. During the meeting, my commander asked me about the status of a few missions he had given me, one of which was transporting one of our tugs to another Army airfield. I had delegated the mission to my platoon sergeant, Staff Sergeant Fletcher, who had taken care of the whole thing and given me confirmation that it had arrived. When Captain Pippin asked if I had gotten the tug to Gieblestadt, I said, “Yes, sir. It arrived yesterday afternoon.”

After the meeting the XO pulled me aside. “You missed a big opportunity in there,” he said.

“Really?” I was genuinely surprised. I felt like I was finally getting the hang of this.

“Sure, you’re getting things done,” he admitted, “but, that’s the easy part. The hard part is the leading.”

“What do you mean?”

“When the CO asked if you got the tug to Gieb, you just said, ‘yes’. You should have said, ‘Yes, sir. Sergeant Fletcher made it happen. We heard from them yesterday that it had arrived.’ You see, if you had said that, you still would have gotten the credit—you’re the leader, you made it happen—but Sergeant Fletcher gets the credit as well. Never pass up a chance to let your soldiers shine.”

Reflecting on this later, I realized that I didn’t want to share the limelight with Sergeant Fletcher. I thought sharing the limelight meant I would get less of it. Not so. Sharing credit as a leader doesn’t diminish your share of the recognition, it enhances it. Which is more impressive: getting things done or equipping, encouraging, and empowering a team of others that gets things done?

How are you at sharing the credit as a leader?

Leading with your “Yes”

March 21, 2011 13 comments

Leadership We had a great Friday night planned. Homemade pizza for dinner followed by watching a movie and eating popcorn on the couch. But the most remarkable part of the night wasn’t in the plan.

With the last morsel of pizza still in her mouth, our 20-month-old daughter snatched up her translucent pink plate and pressed it against her face. Through her squished nose she asked the world, “Where’s Lucy?” Not waiting for an answer, she ripped the plate down and screamed, “There she is!” before dissolving in a cascade of giggles.

Her 3-year-old brother immediately joined in, pressing his translucent green plate against his face and adding, “and where’s Luke?” At this point what’s any self-respecting adult to do? Of course, in no time Sarah and I had crummy plates pressed against our faces.

After a few rounds of this new game, Luke announced (to no one in particular), “I need to have a dance party.” He then turned to me and asked, “May I have excuse me’s, please?” I had barely answered before he was telling Sarah, “Mommy, I need a hat.” Of course he did. We all needed hats.

In a matter of minutes the kitchen table was moved and the four of us—all with different hats and instruments—were dancing to Bobby Day‘s Rockin’ Robin. After three or four songs we wound down the party and got ready to watch the movie. The whole thing took 15 minutes at most, and we all loved it.

What does this story have to do with leadership?

As a leader you need to have your “Yes” at the ready. Whether it’s an idea from a rookie, a suggestion from a customer, or a smart business opportunity that comes your way, if you’re not open and available, you—and your team—might miss out on something great. It doesn’t mean you always will say “yes”, it just means you have to be ready to say yes.

To do that you’ll have to intentionally fight against two staunch supporters of the status quo, namely: “That’s just not the way we do it around here” and “That’s not what we had planned.”

I’ll be honest, as a parent, when my kids were playing with their plates a part of me was thinking, Oh, that’s not right. I can’t let them think this is appropriate behavior. The easy choice would be to squash the fun. The harder choice is to show my kids that sometimes silliness is appropriate and other times it isn’t—and to help them learn to discern the difference. It’s more work, but it’s also much more rewarding!

Tomorrow we’ll talk about leading with a No, but until then…

Where is your default answer a NO? Are you ready to entertain saying YES?

The Leadership Investment

January 27, 2011 13 comments

Leading InvestingI remember a time as a young platoon leader when I felt more like a liability than an asset.

We had just redeployed to Germany from Bosnia and I was swamped. I had to find a new apartment, pick up my car from the port, complete a slew of professional training — oh, and still do my job. When I told my company commander I felt like I wasn’t contributing enough at work because of all these other demands, his reply was quick and direct. “Geoff,” he said, “relax, take the time now to do what you need to do. You’re an investment.”

That last sentence hit me. You’re an investment. It put everything in perspective. I didn’t need to prove my worth to my boss, he knew my worth — probably better than me. In fact, he didn’t just know my present worth, he believed in what I would someday be.

How do you see your followers? Are they people you get to invest in or are they people you have to spend time and energy on? Are you an Investor or a Spender?

  • Investors look to Multiply Value. When I was a platoon leader all I saw in the mirror was a green lieutenant. My company commander, thankfully, saw a future captain. To him, my job wasn’t just to lead one of his platoons. My job was to learn how to lead a company someday. Investors seek to make others more valuable — to themselves and to the organization. Spenders just want to extract value from others.
  • Investors take the Long View. My three-year-old spilled milk all over the table this morning trying to put it on his cereal. Our response as parents? No problem, he can clean it up and try again tomorrow. A little spilled milk is a small price to pay for my son learning that he’s free to try things out, make honest mistakes, clean them up and move on. Investors focus on long-term growth. Spenders look for the quick return: What’s the most I can get today for the least cost?
  • Investors Start Early. It’s never too early to give someone a chance. You can groom people for leadership at any level — if they’re willing and able. Enable them to grow into their potential. Investors look for what could be. Spenders are only interested in sure bets.

So start investing in your people today — the dividends are well worth it!

What are some other ways to invest in people?