Keep your crew challenged

 

Imagine yourself doing the same thing day in, day out. It doesn’t matter what you enter as this “thing,” whether it be a job, a task, cooking, or laundry because eventually you grow tired of doing it, no matter what it is.

I read an article recently that went over keeping your best talent in any organization, particularly to “grow, develop, and make progress” with them. I thought the post was great because we do worry about our lowest performers because they are slowing down productivity and probably causing us lost time and money. One thing people forget is to also look at the top performing talent in our organization, whether it be in business or nonprofit organizations.

I will use two examples I ran into with higher ups in the organization leaving top performers being bored. As the aforementioned article mentions, you have to watch out for recruiters looking for your top performers for their own organizations, but the performers may also look elsewhere because they are not being challenged enough. When I was involved with a nonprofit organization awhile back, I got so bored after accomplishing all educational tracts available for me, learning nearly all of the staff positions in the same organization, that I did not know what to do. I was told I was doing great quite often, especially for being far younger than most people doing the same jobs, but after I learned most jobs, it was either move up or move out because I was bored to tears with just twiddling my thumbs, doing the same tasks repetitively.
The end result was leaving the organization after moving up because there was no challenge left in the higher positions of leadership and the mind begins to wander, wondering what else to do.

On the flip side, and for the second example, I had a class last semester where someone in my group noticed I had the highest score in the group and that person stated “I’ll beat you on the next exam.” She did not realize that competition drives me like nothing else and because the university I attend does not grant A+ grades, just A’s as the highest, I don’t worry about getting higher grades than an A in any class because I will not be rewarded with anything for it. When the next exam came along, some 4-5 weeks later, I studied just a bit more than usual and when we received our tests back, I had received the best grade in the class. I asked the lady what her score was by asking “did you beat me?” She showed her test to me, which was also an A, but she didn’t have to ask what my score was because someone else in class had come up, hitting me on the shoulder, and saying “best score, huh?”

The take away is that we do have to look at our low performing team members, but never forget that those in the middle can be developed further and the top performers have to be praised, but also challenged, or else they may just find boredom and look elsewhere to feed the hunger created by it.

As always, looking for comments, your own experiences, and any opinions on my posts. My challenge to you is to leave comments for us all to continue learning.

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Leadership styles and when to use them

When you are on a family trip and are lost, you are frequently told to turn left by one person in the car, turn right by another, a third person reminding you that you should have asked for directions at a gas station 20 miles behind you, and children asking if you’re there yet, it is difficult to decide which way to go.

This is the scenario faced by leaders in all parts of life, whether it be a CEO, military leader, or captain of the little league team because there is so much information about which leadership style you are, which to use in which situation, and which ones have different effects with those you are leading. One article I found in a search for how to determine which leadership style to use in different situations lists 10 different styles with pros and cons for each and another article has a more exhaustive explanation and continues with determining which style you are most like. Both articles are good to read for more information, but sometimes we want to know in a little more concise manner.

The first note is that there really isn’t a best fit, but what works for you and that you are comfortable with, because you are the one responsible for whatever task you’re assigned to accomplish. Some rules of thumb do apply and a good first step is knowing which style you feel the most comfortable with and then branch out to learning those most closely related to it. Referring to a previous post, mistakes will be made, but learning from the mistakes is how you grow and learn.

The first thing to do is find the time frame or sense of urgency. If you are trying to get everyone out of a burning building, the urgency is high and the goal is to get everyone out, so you start telling people to walk out and concern yourself less with hurt feelings, which is a more autocratic style. More leader driven styles work in time of crises and this applies to economic downturns, downsizing of the organization, or a game you’re losing in the ninth inning-all having the need for quick results.

At the opposite extreme is having very long term objectives with little needed between now and then. You would benefit by using more creativity and leadership from your followers because they will learn you trust them, but it will make your job easier as well. We ultimately want to build better teamwork, foster communication and innovation from everyone in our teams, but the time frame dictates the style of leadership to the greatest degree. Assess your time frame and then adjust your style to fit it. With practice, you begin learning which style works best for you and under which circumstances, so go out and see what happens.

I challenge you to leave comments, your thoughts about what works best and when, and examples so that others just getting started can learn, and for those with years of experience to continue learning.

Where to begin

Most of us have dreams, concerning special items we would like to have, things we would like to do or accomplish in life, dreams of places in the world we want to travel to one day and this is not strange in the least. What is strange is that we do not capitalize on them.

I was looking into my university’s online system to apply for graduation recently and part of the requirements to submit the application was going to the adviser for my major and having her check to see that I have accomplished the coursework required for the degree. This is the first time I have ever met an academic adviser and the process from introduction to walking back to my car lasted less than five minutes. She said that I have only a few classes to go in spring, which I already had set up for the registration process for next semester, and she asked how I had done all of this without ever visiting an adviser. I said it was easy-I started with where I want to end up and worked backwards.

I was thinking of this again today because that adviser thought it so different that I had mapped out my work this way and yet, I do this for most everything in life. It has benefited me as a leader too because long term goals, being long to begin with, require not only a lot of work, but planning on how we will get to where we want to be. Managers in business can and should follow this same game plan and, in keeping with my notion that leadership should be learned at all ages, the same goes with this trait, as evidenced in an article I read on the same topic. In looking up this idea, I also found another blog post with the same theme to it, derived from an idea in a book by Stephen Covey in that instance.

Simple dreams we may think, but they will remain only dreams if we do not decide they can be accomplished and plan backwards in the journey getting there.

As always, I’m interested in comments, opinions, concerns, or stories from others on anything I post and look forward to hearing what you have to say on this topic!

Planning for tomorrow

In our time as leaders, we look at the decisions we make to grow our business, advance the efforts of our organization, recruit more help in nonprofit groups, and at the financial success or failure we have had. As time passes and we look to either advance further or retire, we may even think of the legacy we leave behind in the job we have done, but one mistake most people make is not picking our successor.

Quite a few years ago, there was a leader I thought a lot of in a nonprofit organization I was involved with. He was in charge of the organization at the state level and I remember him telling me that the first thing a person does after taking any position of leadership is to select your replacement. It took me a few years to realize what he meant by it, but many years later when I was in charge at the local level, sure enough his words rang through my mind. In a nonprofit organization, you want to be certain that someone is always ready to take over if you can no longer spend the time in leadership, but this applies to any management or corporate level situation too because we never know what is around the corner and when someone may be needed to take over.

In an article I read about how not to go about succession planning, this very idea of succession planning makes for smoother transitions in leadership too. In another clip regarding the same topic, and following with many of the blog posts I have made about leaders in general, you can help your organization continue forward by helping others understand your successes, failures, and the why to both parts to foster moving forward faster, more efficiently, and more easily. Succession planning also does not mean selecting just one person, but selecting a couple that may be potential candidates to fill your shoes and gets help by having open communication, coupled with learning, in any organization-corporate, nonprofit, or team you belong to.

I am always looking for comments, opinions, or ideas from my blog posts and invite you to do so! Part of life long learning is learning from others and their experiences and look forward to anything you have to say.

Integrity-spoken of far too much and understood so little

Buzz words abound in discussing leadership and one that is always brought up is integrity. Most definitions revolve around the idea of doing the right thing, but little more is discussed about what that means. I would like to have a discussion and provide some examples to help increase understanding on this important, but little known topic.

Integrity really is doing the right thing and I always add that it is doing the right thing even when no one would see you doing it, as well as not expecting reward from doing so. One of the things that bugs me in life, particularly because I run into it on any day I am on campus at college, is seeing trash not being put in a trash bin. You go to the restroom, wash your hands, and then get a paper towel to dry your hands and rather than people throwing the paper towels in the trash can, you can always see there are pieces of paper left on the floor by the trash can, instead of inside it. I always use the paper towel I am drying my hands with and pick up the pieces that are laying outside of the trash can and throw them away with mine. I am not a janitor on campus, but it is the right thing to do, helps keep our campus looking great, and shows respect for those that are employed to empty the trash cans.

Now, we have to be careful about saying “do the right thing.” I believe most things in life are always relative, so a few pointers about integrity are necessary. We all believe in different things being “right.” We would say our political party is right or our religious beliefs are right, but they are right for us, not necessarily everyone else in the world. We need to look for things that are right in just about any plane of existence or belief we can think of because some Nazi’s certainly believed they were doing the right things in exterminating human beings, so our definition cannot simply mean doing the right thing, but tailored to be a broad spectrum “right” thing. In mentioning Nazi’s, I think of an example in Oskar Schindler that did the right thing in saving people from extermination at the risk of his own life and fortune as an example in extremely trying times.

Another example I found just today is an article in the Salt Lake Tribune criticizing Mitt Romney. I should mention ahead of time that I am not stating support for one candidate or the other, just using this as an example. The article praises the candidate for some of his past work and also questions his ability to tailor speeches to the audience of the speech that may counter other stated beliefs or views of his. The reason I thought the article is a good example of integrity is a newspaper article coming from a traditionally Republican state questioning a Republican candidate. If I could find an article criticizing the President from a traditionally Democratic state, such as California, it would have the same kind of impact for an example here, thus stating I am not supporting one candidate or another, just using the article as an example.

Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one would see you doing the act, and not expecting a reward for doing so. It can be making a statement that may be unpopular with the masses, but needs to be stated; however, we must remember to check that the “right” thing is on a broad spectrum that is devoid of political or religious beliefs and right for a broad spectrum.

As always, looking for comments or opinions, and especially examples from others! I would love to hear what you think and your experiences with integrity and leadership.

To speak or not to speak…

Ever felt like people aren’t listening to you? Ever felt like you have said a lot and felt as though others did not listen or understand you?

I was reading a blog post that a classmate wrote recently about listening to others and how we can filter some people out and got to thinking about introverts versus extroverts in leadership. Most people would assume that extroverts make the best leaders for a variety of reasons. Some would argue that introverts, with their lack of communication, would make poor leaders because they don’t present the “take charge” image that most of have with leaders, getting out in front and giving orders. An article I read regarding the argument of introverts versus extroverts as leaders and the argument is made that introverts may edge out the normal belief of extroverts being better leaders.

Noted in the article is that introverted leaders are usually “more reflective and critical of situations” and that leaders should be selected that best fit situations, rather than relying on beliefs of which type is best. There are two examples of introverted leaders I will use to lend more credibility to the article’s note. My grandfather was the half owner and in charge of a multi-million dollar corporation and during most meetings that technology and equipment manufacturers had with his company would be in the board room, attempting to sell their products to improve output, quality, and the like. Usually, my grandfather, who was an introvert, would show up at some point during the meeting and spend only 10-15 minutes listening to the presentation and walk out. He was not one to wear a suit either and, at the end of the presentations, someone would usually ask the board members “who was that man that stepped in for just a few minutes?” The answer was always “that was who you were really trying to sell to” and their faces would show their shock. My grandfather knew that he had other things to accomplish and the other executive officers were already at the meeting, so he would show up just to get a few ideas about what was being offered, and then ask the team about the specifics later to make his decisions.

In my experiences over the last four years in business school (and in most situations I have been involved with in life), there are a lot of group projects that must be done. I too am an introvert, but more because I learned in life that listening was the best formula in decision making, and also basic strategy of not letting others know what you think in competition. One project I was involved with in class had a large group of people to do the semester long work. I did not volunteer to be in charge of the group, but only two weeks after others clamoring to be in charge, very little was being produced and I just began doing the work. The others realized that I knew more about the project than the rest and began coming to me to direct them in their portion of the work and the project ended up with a very high grade. I did not volunteer for, ask for, nor outright take charge, but ended up in the leader role because of knowledge, being critical of the work we had to do, and reflection on the work that was done.

As a note, I do not make the argument that introverts are better than extroverts at leadership, just that they are not worse leaders. Matching the situation with the people is still the best way to go.

I’m always looking for comments, opinions, and ideas on what is posted. What do you think on this topic? Do you have any examples of your own in either personality type?

Courage

 

 

Have you ever gotten the feeling that all eyes in a large auditorium were on you? Ever felt that the answer you give will be thoroughly scrutinized with your job hanging in the balance? What about feeling nervous about asking that special someone out on a date?

I’m certain these descriptions of uneasy feelings have come to us all in one form another, whether it was in a speech, a job, or in more daily activities, such as asking someone on a date, as the descriptions above portray. This uneasy feeling is usually thought of when a person begins speaking about courage and most would state that courage is just the ability to not be afraid. I read an article concerning the topic of courage in business that I thought was a good description of the effect small acts of courage can have. The same article also shows that courage is required of us in nearly any situation and we must remember that courage can be required of us doing anything at any time.

Courage does not have to be the usual thought of a fireman running into a burning building to rescue a small child, nor of a soldier jumping on top of a hand grenade to protect his squad mates. Courage can be found in very simple daily activities, as listed by another article I read concerning the same topic. After reading about the many overlooked acts of courage, I thought of an example my sister gave to me very recently. She flew into town on vacation to visit me a week ago and after the normal rounds of “hi, how are you…” “how have you been” and “what’s new,” she was telling me about one of her bosses at work that loves to criticize every detail of new employees’ work to make them get better. I would not say this is the best form of leadership in the business world (or any other arena for that matter), but it is the method her boss uses. When she was new to the company, she too was put through the same trials of this boss and what she told me is what I find the best example of courage-take the criticism to get better, learn what you can from the boss (who is a master at his craft, leadership abilities aside), and get closer to being a master yourself.

Just a small amount of courage can lead to great things. In the case of my sister, not only did she prove she had the guts to put up with the boss, but she did learn a lot from him, and finally his respect. Now she sees others going through the same trials and she knows what it means to have decided I will learn from him by taking a small chance-to have courage.

As always, please let me know what you think of the post. I’m always looking for criticism of my own, for examples you have in your own lives, and opinions about the subject too!