Becoming a more effective leader of people starts with being more personable.
Leadership is a hot topic but what makes someone a leader? The role of leadership can be assumed, assigned or affirmed. Learning to execute as a person in a position of leadership is key to success. Managing people is more effective when you are personable. Whether you are at the executive level, middle management or just starting your career, our PIAPOL concepts will help you navigate your course.
Break away from empty leadership talk
When speaking of leadership things, we often sink into the same shallow waters of platitudes. How many times can you hear the same words said in the same way with the same lackluster results? The truth is that those in leadership have to adapt to their environment. When we place leadership on a pedestal we invite myth and dysfunction.
Steps towards more effective leadership
Becoming a more effective leader starts with:
Being more personable will elevate your leadership
By understanding that leadership is not an exclusive club, rather there are only People In A Position of Leadership (P-I-A-P-O-L), we can better approach these roles and responsibilities.
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Identity, honesty and adaptability are key to growing as a professional as well as an organization.
Having a clear sense of identity is important for leaders and organizations. In the play Hamlet, William Shakespeare speaking through Polonius provides this fatherly advice, “This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.” A clear identity enables leaders and teams to be honest with each other as they seek to compete in business. Honesty among individuals as well as within teams facilitates real time adaptability to changes in the market that are critical to sustained success.
Let’s break down the quote from Polonius to peel through the layers that will enhance our growth mindset:
1. “This above all else…”
You must prioritize. There’s isn’t enough time, money or resources to do everything. There are limits and they can demotivate you or force you to take the smartest risks you can imagine. To activate your growth mindset you cannot lose touch with reality, you must learn the ever evolving terrain, rules, resources and limitations. Again, reality is not the enemy, it is essential to growth.
Author of Organizational Physics, Lex Sisney, has composed Three Covenants of operating agreements to help teams maximize input and buy in. Covenant 3 states, “The goal is frank and honest discussion of the facts before a decision is made, followed by total commitment to implementing the solution after the decision is made.” Those in a position of leadership do well to understand that they need as broad a net of inputs as possible from within as well as without their team.
Failure to listen to those who are in the field distributing your products or services, those frontline employees, is cutting your organization off from valuable perspectives. Leaders also must understand that conflict does not have to be negative. Creating an open forum where ideas flow without filters requires the allowance of dissension. The team can create healthy boundaries for discussion to remain civil while making clear the timeline for disagreement and the expectation of buy in once the decision is made. As Sisney put it, “Put another way, it’s OK to question a decision up front but it’s not OK to fight it or ignore it during implementation.”
2. “To thine own self…”
Organizations that struggle with their identify will struggle to clarify their value proposition in the market place. Organizational culture and identity sound like such lofty concepts but they are merely reflections of the teams day to day actions and the identity of the leadership. Your company culture is what you do. Your organizational identity often mirrors that of your leadership. We make culture and identity abstract when we try to create them rather than recognize what they are and then optimize them.
In The Real Life MBA, Jack and Suzy Welch write, “The only reason to talk about behaviors at work is that leaders need be very public, very clear, and very consistent about what kind of behaviors are needed in order to achieve the company’s mission.” Leaders must lead by example, it should be the working definition of leadership but often it falls short of action. When those in a position of leadership understand themselves they free up capacity to find and build other leaders who will round out the team needs so that the mission can move forward. When leaders don’t understand themselves they often lead by fear and hold the team back from reaching its potential.
Clarity comes from truth. Collaboration comes from a willingness to receive input. By combining clarity with collaboration, leaders, teams and organizations will unlock the capacity to compete.
3. “Be true…”
There is an emphasis on authenticity which is important for individuals as well as organizations. Yet, if you are failing or heading towards decline, it takes a strong person to admit they need assistance. In the rapidly evolving market everyone must be acutely aware that what worked last month may not net the same result this month. The need to adapt and adjust to the market is constant. Failure to recognize this reality is a recipe for certain failure.
Our values should be set in stone, in so far as they reflect our ethics and core culture, but our approach to the needs of our clients must be fluid. Lex Sisney shares more on how we remain true to ourselves and yet flexible, “If you want to scale your business successfully — without sacrificing innovation, core values, or execution speed as things get more complex — you’ll need to design on principles, not policies.” Good leadership recognizes the survival of the fittest, which isn’t so much that the strongest and richest survive but those who most adaptable to their surroundings. Recent history has shown how industry giants have been toppled by rigidity and replaced by entities that were willing to change their approach with the fluctuations of the market.
Being yourself and building an authentic company are not unreachable philosophical dreams. A leader who is listening will reap the benefits of real time feedback so that their team can adjust course expediently. Jack and Suzy Welch address innovation in this way, “It can and should be a continual, ongoing, normal thing. It can be and should be a mindset that has every employee at every level of the organization thinking as they walk in the door every morning, “I’m going to find a better way to do my job today.” Leaders who understand themselves can create teams and cultures that thrive. Competing in the market requires a strong identity with adaptability. My father in law wisely calls this rigid flexibility. Stay true to your core and nimble enough to adjust to the tides. Have a vision, work tirelessly to execute on your mission but don’t get so transfixed that you are unable to adapt.
Maintain rigid flexibility as you clarify your identify, build an authentic culture and adapt through collaboration.
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How organizations approach training and certification has a direct effect on development and retention.
In the property restoration industry we all have heard multiple employers complain that they sent their employees off to a water damage certification class only to lose them in a short period of time to their competitors. These same persons in positions of leadership believe that the issue is 100% on the employee side. If we take a step back to dig beneath the surface are we able to determine whether the symptoms give us more insight on the potential cause(s)?
Organizational approach to training
How does your organization approach training within your team? Is training a priority in the sense that those responsible come prepared to meetings with relevant information? Often designated training time approaches with no preparation and is utilized by leadership to air out opinions on how the team is coming up short on execution. When a team has experienced water, fire and hazardous restoration employees, there are plenty of resources to facilitate sharing of knowledge from within.
Questions leaders should ask about training
Organizational approach to certification
How does your organization approach certification with your team? Is certification something that is earned and celebrated? Most organizations are one of two extremes - A) certify everyone from day one or B) certify as few persons as possible.
Certification extreme A often puts the cart before the horse and produces employees who have the book smarts without any field experience which creates some tension with their trainers. Being able to quote the IICRC S500 standard reference guide for professional water damage restoration is only one of many steps to being able to successfully perform mitigation.
Certification extreme B creates an environment without opportunity to expand knowledge or promotion within the team. While those in leadership would say they value industry certification, they either value it too much or do not practice what they preach. The end result is that only a few designated representatives become the information silos in the workplace.
Organizational application of certification
Whether you certify everyone or only a select few, what do you do with certification on your team? If your competitors are lining up to pay your employees who have become more valuable by completing benchmarks such as IICRC S500 or EPA RRP, why are you not competing for your own internally developed resources?
Common organizational responses to certification
Optimizing training and certification
Lead by example. As a person in a position of leadership, are you still actively learning new things about your industry? While the leader should not be the only one acquiring certification, they should lead by example that on going education and personal development are important. When was the last time you learned and/or shared something?
Invest in your greatest assets. Do you invest in regular training to develop your teams abilities and opportunities? Employee retention in the current economy is more difficult and costly than customer acquisition. Certification alone is not the cure all to employee development but it should be viewed as a valuable tool for the team as well as the team members.
Celebrate achievement. Who doesn’t like to celebrate? What does your team celebrate? Do you celebrate certification both leading up to and following completion of the course? Do you make an effort to notice and share the day-to-day wins of your team?
Don’t allow negativity to steer the organization
Perhaps many organizations are speaking their future into reality when they view their team members in a negative light. If you are fearful or suspicious of your people leaving the organization rather than blame them for being unreliable, make an effort to create an organization that they wouldn’t want to leave. Easier said than done, but clearly focusing on blaming others and complaining to your friends with similar negative views isn’t fixing the problem.
How many times do you hear, “Someone needs to hold so-and-so accountable for their actions”? And the peanut gallery nods their head vehemently in agreement, “That’s right, it’s about time that so-and-so was held accountable for such-and-such.” People in a position of leadership (PIAPOL) are often fond of the peanut gallery, those that cheer them on in the execution of the leadership duties. Funny enough, the history of the peanut gallery comes from days past and referred to the cheapest tickets where the rowdiest vaudeville consumers heckled the performers. Needless to say, those in a position of leadership who only seek “yes men” to affirm their ever action seek the praise of those who are not fueled by vision or invested in progress.
Magnified Plaid, or MxPx as they have come to be known, is a indie punk rock band from Bremerton, Washington and they have a fitting song entitled Responsibility, the chorus of which belts out,
Responsibility? What's that?
Responsibility? Not quite yet.
Responsibility? What's that?
I don't want to think about it; we'd be better off without it.
If you like rock music with a splash of humor then you may find some enjoyment is viewing the video for MxPx Responsibility - see at end of article. It may also help serve as a sensory cue to invest in your accountability measures for your team, a rally cry of sorts.
For many organizations, the attitude is the same with regards to a practical or effective approach to accountability. Leaders talk about accountability as though the only measure of such is a good tongue lashing, preferably in front of as large a group of people as possible. So, let’s see if we can answer the what, when and how of establishing accountability.
Accountability? What’s that?
“If you are building a culture where honest expectations are communicated and peer accountability is the norm, then the group will address poor performance and attitudes,” says speaker and author of Necessary Endings, Dr. Henry Cloud. There is a progression in accountability, it does not appear out of thin air or materialize on its own. Accountability for a person and an organization comes from consistency in executing clearly established values. Effective accountability traces itself back to clarity in vision, communication of values and consistent effort from all levels within the team to live out those principles. As we have discussed many times, there are causes and there are effects or there are symptoms and there are sources, leaders are concerned with finding sources so that they can eliminate symptoms.
Accountability is the natural consequence of consistency rooted in clarity and conversely a lack of accountability is the natural consequence of inconsistency that stems from a void in institutional clarity. For an organization to build accountability they must clarify their vision and consistently communicate, train and discipline around their values. If an organization says they value A and B and yet they hire candidates that value C or have leaders who believe in D then that organization cannot expect A and B to be communicated clearly, executed consistently or accountability measures to be effective. As Dr. Cloud notes above, there is a beauty to developing a culture because one of the fruits of a clear culture is that those invested in the vision will enhance accountability by setting a standard and holding people to it.
Accountability? Not quite yet.
Consistency means doing what you have said regardless of the obstacles or the opposition. How many positive efforts die before they ever grow legs, before they are ever put in motion and how many more die the minute there is opposition. Those in a position of leadership are tasked with the responsibility to identify and implement programs, systems and changes that will grow their team. The best ideas don’t have to be complex or innovative to move a vision forward but they will have to be combined with commitment and endurance. Changes, especially those that net long term results, require energy and resources, they will cost money, time and will have to adapt to the path that unfolds but they should not die because someone decides they aren’t comfortable with change or don’t want to put the work in to see something through.
The peanut gallery cheers as long as they are not challenged, they heckle like petulant children when they don’t like something but they are not of the character to get in the trenches and move a team forward so their opinions should not be given value by those who are leading an organization from vision to action. When those in a position of leadership allow obstacles to deter them or fold under the pressure of internal opposition to change they send a clear message that their resolve isn’t set to defend their values. “A person who refuses to say ‘the buck stops here’ really isn’t a leader at all,” notes Dr. Travis Bradberry, author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0, “Being a leader requires being confident enough in your own decisions and those of your team to own them when they fail.” Leaders must be open to input where those engaged in the mission are sharing insights of repute but complaining by those who want to defend the status quo should be quelled.
A quick test to determine whether someone is complaining or providing constructive criticism is to simply ask, “Before you finish your statement – 1) if you are bringing me a problem are you also bringing me a solution and 2) if you believe you have a solution are you willing to put your skin in the game to see it through?” If the answer to either of these questions is no then it is a complaint and the person in a position of leadership should move on, quickly. No further discussion. (More on accountability – Conflict)
Accountability? What’s that?
Many organizations have vision and value statements but how many actually follow those words from top to bottom and from bottom to top? When an organization is clear on their vision and those in a position of leadership are consistent in their values and together they recruit, hire, train, discipline and build around those core items then there is a foundation for accountability (Video on discipline). Discipline is a key component of accountability. Yet, discipline is not just about yelling at people who aren’t doing their job or sending people home, or like one organization we worked with having a naughty board posted prominently in their employee center so that the record of team members failures could be observed by all, rather accountability flows from consistency and clarity.
Patrick Lencioni, the author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, shares, “The best kind of accountability on a team is peer-to-peer. Peer pressure is more efficient and effective than going to the leader, anonymously complaining, and having them stop what they are doing to intervene.” The kind of accountability that Cloud and Lencioni talk about is of the type that we hear about in championship sports teams where captains from within the team, as well as the team as a whole, buy into the vision and hold each other accountable. When an organization brings people in that enhance the culture, people of value are inspired. When a person in a position of leadership stands up to opposition and silences complainers, people of value are invigorated. When the team is clear about the vision and consistently executes the values the key ingredients are in the soil for a culture of accountability to flourish (More on culture).
I don’t want to think about it. We’d be better of without it.
It’s so much easier to maintain the status quo. Yet, with the rate of change and the demands in the market, status quo is the most rapid path to total failure. Change is painful but death is permanent. Doing the hard thing of turning something around requires commitment to work through obstacle after obstacle and to consistently progress through opposition after opposition only to wake up and do it again. No more so-and-so needs to do such-and-such. Clarity. Consistency. Accountability.
In The DYOJO our goal is to help you discipline your mind and habits for growth. More info.