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    Entries in Leadership (13)


    The Pride of Humility

    Recently, Harvard Business Review posted an article entitled "Why Less Confident People Are More Successful."  Other than being a terrible title...I had some issues with what the article claimed.  Confidence is not a negative trait.  Example: A surgeon...working on your heart:

    less confidence = makes a mistake
    too much confidence = makes a mistake
    just enough confidence = performs well

    Yes, this is strikingly similar to Goldie Locks & the 3 bears...but it's true!  Confidence itself is not's over-confidence or misplaced confidence that is very problematic.  What the author should have stated was that the attribute of humility is critical to success.  But that's not new...Jim Collins' "Level 5 Leader" is bathed in humility.  The fact is, it's critical for leaders to demonstrate humility by listening, engaging and being committed to life-long learning in order for them to achieve and maintain professional (and personal) success.

    One of the issues I see with those that pump humility to extreme ends is the foundational pride that exists within the fabric of the conversation itself.  Many times, what is really being said is, "Be more me!" Unfortunately, humility on its own isn't do anything, but rather it's putting on humility as an attitude and characteristic while doing what you hope to accomplish.  In the case of the above named article, it's relating to employees and leading an organization.  Under the "it's all about humility" mindset...why get someone with skills, aptitude and drive...let's just find the most humble person we can...and put him as President of the United States...or CEO of General Motors...?

    Not a great idea.

    Humility does not mean you think less of yourself. it means you think of yourself less
    - Ken Blanchard

    When set to the right context, and applied with care, confidence is crucial to success.  I can't think of one person I know in any industry that has attained success at any significant level that did not maintain some form of confidence and self-assurance.  Goal-setting and delivering value are the fuel that fires confident and successful leaders, and if harnessed properly, an organization and thrive under their leadership.  Ambition and drive set to the right beat make music...but when out of sync create pure chaos.



    Own it & Fix it!

    It's an all to common scenario.  We meet in our respective teams, and discuss how we can improve.  A healthy exercise for sure, but unfortunately, the outcome often does not align with the initial goals defined at the outset.  Despite a commitment to "where did WE win and lose" it moves to "were did YOU win and lose."

    If we took a break from the madness of blame-game and all took ownership of every issue under personal control...wouldn't everything be on the table and ready for correction.  Rather than pointing at where members of the team went wrong, and volunteering how you could've fixed or helped...the ship would with no doubt right-size and the team could move on.  Instead, we try to solve issues by picking of micro-concerns 1-by-1 and shooting team members like they were playing Duck Hunt.

    When meeting with your team, prepare with a list of the areas that you let others and the team down, with a plan on how you can improve.  Most will follow, and the team will benefit.

    Own it...Fix it!




    It's a sign that we learn at a very young age.  Right now we're teaching my oldest daughter (who's almost three) about the different meaning of the colors on a traffic light, as well as what you are supposed to when you see a big red STOP sign.

    As expected, she's become a little police officer quite quickly, warning me of upcoming stop signs and red lights 50+ feet away.  As the cuteness of it fades, I began to think about the reasoning behind what she was doing.  She knew that something was coming...something that she wasn't sure if I she wanted to warn me.  At the time of warning, I have two paths to choose:

    1) Listen.  Stop.  Avoid injury. 
    2) Don't Lisen. Blow through the warning and the sign. 3) Risk injury and even dealth.

    Seems pretty simple.  The sign is designed to protect me, and my resident police officer is telling me to listen to the sign to avoid suffering.

    Unfortunately, life doesn't have big red signs and doesn't always provide you with a 3-year old giving you advice at will.  That being said, we can quickly blow through the stop signs.  Here are three lessons I've learned through both listening and NOT listening to the signs that were in front of me.

    1) Ask Around - You're not the only one with a problem.  We all have out own, and chances are...someone you know has been where you are.  There is wisdom in the council of it and listen.

    2) Perform an Efficient Autopsy - This is often the hardest one.  Typically, people either want to forget and move on OR dig deep and spend to much time in analysis of "what could've been."  There is a very fine balance of looking at where you went wrong, stoping to reflect and then moving on.  The balance is in the time spent and the action plan that comes from the lessons learned.  Learn them. Move on.

    3) Intuition is not Overrated - I can recall many occasions when I went against my "gut" feeling on an issue and later had wished I had listened.  Based on #1 (advise from others) and #2 (lessons from past experience) your intuition can be a valueable asset.  Don't solely rely on it, but vette it as a credible source of value in the decision making process.

    I've blown through stop signs and it never ends well.  Look for the signs...Follow the instructions.




    Being a leader is lonely work.  Sacrifice & hard work...the only people that understand it are the people that are in it.  The question often arises "How do I become a better leader" and it's really simple.  At the heart of every successful leader must be a commitment 3 key principles.

    1) Development - At the core of every successful leader that I have ever met, this principle has always been at the center of their success.  A continued commitment to learning is critical.  The quote "If your not growing you're dying" is very applicable to any leader.  Read good books, Cast big visions, Listen to other great people.  In addition to developing yourself, it is critical that you are developing others.  Great leaders multiply.  Whether it's Collins, Godin, or any of the other Leadership-Gurus...there is consensus...Leadership is by definition NOT self-seeking, but rather looks to promote the objectives of the team, and multiply personal strengths in those around.

    2) Excellence - Mediocrity just doesn't do.  One of the disciplines that I have picked up for myself is to pick up a piece of garbage when I see it.  Small thing...yes...but by competing this mundane task, I put into my practice that even that little scrap of paper on the ground stands in the way of reception looking EXCELLENT.  By practicing excellence daily and in the small things, it makes the big things simply a continuation of routine

    3) Perseverance - Life can be hard.  This comes down to Gladwell's Outliers principle of 10,000 hours.  To become an authority or expert in anything, it takes first 10,000 hours of hard work and/or study.  Press on, work hard, do the tough stuff...because 99% of people won' when you will be an expert.


    Management By Walking Around (MBWA)

    There are many different "styles" to management.  Some good, some bad, and others just pointless.  One of the styles (or better: strategies) that I employ is MBWA: Management By Walking Around.

    There's are many ideas about what this form of management entails (like HERE, HERE, & HERE), but one of the things that I these examples lack is the the discussion surrounding the intentionality and depth of relationship that can come about through MBWA.

    One article discusses the risks of employees feelings "spied on" while the other two place the focus largely on "chit-chat."  I believe if done correctly and with a goal in mind, MBWA can be one of the most effective forms of management around.  Here's why:

    - Focus on people AND product
    - Measurable & promotes accountability
    - Keeps dialogue open and constant, without clogging communication lines
    - Allows management to maintain a pulse on the front lines of their department

    I have developed 3 specific connections that I look for out of any MBWA conversations I have.  They are:

    1. Be Personal.  Relationships are not built on professional connections alone, but rather through connecting on issues or discussions of common ground.  From sports, to family to <gasp> politics...these help to create a basis for the other 2 connections to have legitimate depth and substance.  How can I ask for transparency through accountability with no trust or goodwill.

    2. Be Productive. Monitoring staff productivity is just a part of management.  Not babysitting, but true managing.  Based on the foundations of the personal connection, it is actually easy to simply be updated on what is going on at that snapshot in time.

    3. Be Proactive. Most people want to manage a team that is full of passionate and hungry employees.  Staff that are eager to learn, work hard and enjoy (most of the time) their job.  I believe it is a managers job to push their staff to think proactively and always be looking to pick up the next; file, client account, idea, opportunity, etc.  Without being distracted from the task at hand, having a team that does not sit idle does not just encourage growth in the bottom-line, but helps promote value on the balance sheet, creating teamwork and a climate of innovative discipline.

    When it all gets boiled down to the basic, MBWA is effective because it uses the benefits of spontaneity (if a meeting is planned, people have time to come up with their B.S story of why the work isn't done) why channeling the personal touch of being in relationship (to varying degrees) with each person you manage.

    The big DISCLAIMER on this whole post however is that obviously, each situation requires a "made to fit" approach.  MBWA works with an informal, yet structured work environments with teams more than 3 but less than 15.  If a manager of 100 people tried MBWA, it wouldn't be would be exercise!