Change starts with you

How many times have you ever heard friends, relatives, or strangers in the grocery store telling stories about how things would have been so much better if…(insert long diatribe here about what comes after the if)? I bet it’s more than just a small handful if you think about it in life and you may be prone to it yourself without realizing it as we all can be.

I was listening to a friend tell such a story recently, listing problem after problem with life, whether it is the weather, lack of sunshine, or just too many commercials in between the television programs he was watching that day. I started thinking about his plight and realized that the biggest problem is realizing that change must come from us, not from elsewhere. We can blame others for a lot of things, many of which are quite true concerning external factors that we have no control over, but we must take charge over what we do have control of and make it work for us. This applies to us in general in life, but especially as leaders.

I think of our current economic crisis, much of which we did not have direct control over, but being wary of such events and being willing to make hard decisions to change our business models, our lifestyle, or the number of hours we have to put in to keep ourselves afloat come down to ourselves. It is always easiest to lay blame elsewhere, but we have to learn that we are the masters of our own destinies in life and when change is required, we have no one to rely on but ourselves to start the changes and look for the support and analyses of those surrounding us to accomplish whatever change is required.

This is a more broad generalization than I have used in previous blog posts, but I’m looking for any thoughts, opinions, or experiences from others to add to the conversation and thought a different take on the topic of leadership was due. Always looking for you comments and challenge you to leave one!

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Change really is the only constant

I have heard the saying in different ways, but the idea is always the same: the only constants in the universe are death, taxes, and change. I don’t think there is argument about any of those items, but change is the topic I have been thinking of today.

I read an article earlier that got me thinking about change and other pieces have just fit with the theme today, alongside another blog post about why change is difficult. The article mentioned is about a company co-founded by Michael Porter, one of the most studied authors of business techniques and strategies for the last couple of decades in business school, filing for bankruptcy recently. One of the questions is about how a company co-founded by someone who’s teachings are at the forefront of our studies in business school can end up in bankruptcy court and the following question becomes “does Porter’s Five Forces Model” for business really work if a company of his is now bankrupt.

I arrive early to one of my classes every week, in part because I live so far away from my university, so I have to leave early in case traffic, accidents, or otherwise will slow my trip down, but the other part is that my professor lets her class just prior to mine get out slightly early most of the time and I get to talk to her about most any topic, one of which comes to mind with this blog. We were speaking about research and that little hasn’t already been researched about in some way, shape, or form, and I said I laugh a lot when I see physicists that love nothing more than to say how they proved Einstein was wrong about something on television programs. The reason I laugh is that, in his time, Einstein’s theories were farther reaching than others and he was able to show evidence supporting his theories, but they worked in his time with the equipment he had available, as well as the knowledge he had beforehand from experiments and theories in history. It is only a natural progression that with more experiments, more ideas, and further research, when coupled with new technology, do we learn that old theories were incorrect or only partially true, and one day present day theories will fall in the same pattern. I think of this when looking at the question about Porter’s Five Forces-it works in theory and for certain situations, but we move past with new problems that arise and new explanations have to be found for present situations.

It’s always a matter of change-it really is the only constant. We should never be surprised by it and should learn that no matter the topic, change is constant, but it is especially important and ever present for us as leaders.

As with all posts, I’m looking for comments, opinions, and ideas pertaining to any of the topics presented in this blog and look forward to hearing what your experiences have been!

What do you mean…open communication?

 

What do you mean by open communication? Telling my deepest, darkest secrets and innermost thoughts? No, this is certainly not what I mean, but I have referenced the idea before in other blog posts and thought it best to define it.

One article I read tries discussing some of the various thoughts about open communication and some of the benefits of using it. Key takeaways are: that you and your followers are able to speak about anything, that the freedom to speak about anything means that everyone speaks without worry of repercussions, and people also praise each other when it is deserved. Open communication also means that the leaders at the top of any organization get their message to everyone without being filtered through extra levels of management-speak to everyone and give them all the same message. Lastly, it is about keeping everyone in the organization aware of what is going on with the organization, whether good or bad, so that people can help out in the cause if it’s bad, but also to keep doing what they are doing well if the organization is doing good.

An example of a company that has done very well with open communication, both internally and externally, is Zappos. The company has done exceedingly well, partly from using the internet as a selling point, but also because its employees are able to resolve issues with customers themselves without having to ask for permission. The company believes in being open, within and without, as stated in the link to the company.

In my own experience, I found that telling my subordinates what needed to be done to keep the higher levels of management happy, how to succeed in the organization, and that I appreciate their efforts, both individually and collectively, have always paid off with better performance, better engaged subordinates, and the willingness to work for you, even if not asked.

I’m always looking for people’s comments and opinions about my blog posts. It gives others more insight than what I have experienced and helps teach others to become better followers, leaders, and individuals.

Making life easy takes effort

 

Making life easy takes effort? Sounds like a paradox if ever one was stated, correct? That ranks up there with the sun is shining, but it’s snowing. Although I have seen snow falling when the sun is shining in the Sierra Nevada mountains, making life easy as a leader is done through delegation. Delegation is also what leads to us having more time to make other decisions and actually go home at night, rather than sleeping in the office.

A few things come to mind when a person hears the word delegation. Some ask “why delegate it if I know how to do the task better” or “I can do the task faster.” Part of being a great leader is teaching others how to lead, fostering participation and communication in your team, and trusting others. These are difficult tasks, but I have mentioned them all in posts before as necessary to leadership in pieces and now we are beginning to show how they fit together as a whole.

We have to pick the right person for whatever task we decide to delegate authority on and this is usually decided on the nature of the task, whether it is critical, organization breaking or not. It is best to start small and work to larger spheres of authority for followers and this will take both time and patience. Some steps are included in an article I read with a few similar notes on the steps in this article. They keys are to allow for mistakes, give the authority to the delegate to have control of the task, and accept the outcome.

This brings an example to mind. One of the best leaders I have ever served under had one fatal flaw in his leadership style-he was a micro manager and did not like to give authority to anyone else. He was retired and lived only five or ten minutes away from the building our nonprofit organization was based out of, but he could never take trips anywhere because he did not want to give up control of the organization for even a little while. Later on, after he died, there were members that would have been willing to take over for him, but because he did not train or trust others to do any parts of the job, people had to learn from scratch. The benefits of delegation also include having options of good succession planning.

I am looking for your thoughts, opinions, and examples on this or any other leadership topic I have blogged about. I look forward to conversations with like minded people that want to share and help teach others the value of leadership.

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.

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?