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Real Leadership: New, Old, or Just What Works? (2048 words)

Real Leadership

Ultimately in real leadership, regardless of our situation as leader, manager, supervisor, or employee, we are all looking for a return on our investment (ROI). If you invest a few moments reading this article, I guarantee you a return. You will receive at least one idea that you can implement immediately.

Real Leadership Influencers

Like you, I have put in countless hours of windshield time listening to leadership and employee motivation gurus on cassette tape, then CD, and currently MP3. Unlike you perhaps; I personally know many of these influencers. Like you, I have attended numerous conferences, sat in on a myriad of keynotes, seminars, and workshops. Unlike you perhaps; I have also been the speaker at many of these, around the globe, meetings.

I believe there are a number of ageless truths that are applicable to anyone who attempts to successfully lead others. Good ideas are ageless, while continually emerging flavor-of-the-month leadership and management strategies fade without concern or impunity.

Have you ever wondered who influences the influencers? In my 30+ years of serving the world marketplace as an author, consultant, facilitator, keynoter, and seminar leader, there have been many that have left their indelible mark on me. I’ll talk about some of them as we progress. Before that I’d like to share with you some of the ideas that form the foundation of my work.

“Perception; the conversation I have with myself about you, is my reality.”

“Focus on getting things done rather than to obsess on being right.”

“Make your relationship bank deposits before you attempt to take withdrawals.”

At just about every public presentation I give, I make the above points. I believe these to be immutable truths for anyone that leads, manages, or follows.

“Perception; the conversation I have with myself about you, is my reality.”

Have you ever wished you could be a fly on the wall and listen to what your team, boss, or employees say about you? Be honest now—sure you have. Regardless of how you see yourself, it is how others see you determine how they feel about you. This can be a disastrous dynamic for any leader. This dynamic applies to partners, investors, suppliers, customers, and employees. In all situations a leader must know how he or she is perceived. This will frequently be either the deal maker or the deal breaker.

My good friend of over 20 years, Dr. Terry Paulson, is the author of several books on Real Leadership. One of his books, The Optimism Advantage, frequently shares the following idea with his audiences and is an idea for which I’ll always remember him. “If someone calls you a horse’s rear end (ass), ignore them. However, if several people call you a horse’s rear end (ass), perhaps it’s time for you to buy a saddle?” It is good to be honest with yourself.

For years I have used a quotation from Sun Tzu, author of, The Art of War; written about 2,500 years ago. I have found this quotation to be applicable in many situations and for many persons.

“If you know the enemy and you know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

For just about every real leadership or management situation, challenge, or conflict you can simply take out “enemy” and insert the person, group, or situation and the quotation makes perfect sense and is a sure strategy for your success. It’s old, and it just works.

I realize your next thought might be, “Thanks Ed, but how to I get to know my ‘enemy’ or insert here: person, group, or situation?” I have two ideas for you that have continually prove successful for my clients.

Real Leadership Relationship Value Updates

This is something that I synthesized from years of interviewing successful alliance leaders—the idea of extracting from others how they feel about a particular business relationship. This is real leadership. Many large companies go to extraordinary lengths to gain, process, and understand this relationship perception information; you can do it much more simply. Many organizations will do something similar with their customers or suppliers and the term that is generally used is scorecard or report card. You can use this both internally and externally.

For a simple Relationship Value Update there are three necessary elements:

  1. The value you/your company receive from this relationship.
  2. The value you believe I/my company receives from this relationship.
  3. Ideas for relationship improvement.

The method for use is: (a) put these three elements to paper, and the other person or organization to do the same. (b) Complete your update independent of the other. (c) Transmit or mail to the other, as the other also transmits theirs to you. (d) After each has reviewed, then have a face to face meeting to discuss differences and strategies for improvement. (e) Do this quarterly if possible. If you need even more help, you can find a long-form Relationship Value Update on page 72 of my book titled, Developing Strategic Alliances.

Real Leadership Using the 3 on 3

I learned this real leadership idea from Patricia Fripp back in the 1980s and have used it and taught it—and many have reported back their success in using it. To find out what another thinks, simply ask them. The process is as follows:

  1. Have this meeting in a neutral environment.
  2. Ask the person to share with you three things, which they do not care for about the way you (manage them, work for them, sell to them, buy from them, etc.)
  3. Your only comment to each thing they share with you is, “Thank you.” You do not justify or explain yourself. You may ask a question if you do not understand what they are saying or need additional information to better understand.  Remember, all you say is, “Thank you.”
  4. After they share the three negative, ask them to share three positive things—things they like about the way you (manage them, work for them, sell to them, buy from them, etc.) Again, all you say is, “Thank you.”
  5. At the end of your meeting tell the person that you’ll get back with them in a week or two, whatever works best, and you will have some ideas on how to use the information that they gave you.
  6. No matter what—have that second meeting in the prescribed passage of time, no longer. Tell them what you have put in place, changed, implemented, etc. Letting the other person know what you have done with their information goes a long way to improve the conversation they have with themselves about you, and your business relationship.

“Focus on getting things done rather than to obsess on being right.”

Would you like to better motivate the people around you? Great; real leadership means giving up the idea that you always have to me right. For years, in just about all my public presentations, I have been conducting a simple exercise. If you are willing, let’s do it:

  1. Understand this, in human conflict, humans operate from one of two emotional places; dug in on their position or trying to understand the other.
  2. Think about a recent argument that you had; at home, at work, wherever.
  3. See the other person in that argument, were they being difficult and unreasonable?
  4. See yourself, were you operating from a place of being right…or from trying to understand the other?
  5. If you said you were being right, I believe you. If you said that you were tiring to understand the other, I have one question. How could you of been trying to understand if you were arguing?

Real Leadership in Generational and Cultural Issues

We are living in an interesting time; an uncertain economy, low unemployment, and huge generational differences among workers. Sounds like a perfect storm. Really, it is a perfect opportunity—an opportunity to move forward by getting off the idea of being right and embracing the idea of understanding the generational and cultural issues of the persons with which you work, lead or follow. If you are a baby boomer, as are many of today’s business leaders, the GenX and the GenY most likely do drive you a bit crazy.

The GenX folks saw their parents get shafted during the “rightsizing” movement of the 90s. It is difficult for them to believe you when you tell them to keep their nose to the grindstone and they will have a bright future with your company. The GenY folks grew up with technology in such a way that it is ingrained into their personality DNA. You cannot BS them, they have the technological capability to effectively “check” whatever you say.

Now throw into the mix, the ever-increasing number of Hispanic immigrants in America and Islamic immigrants worldwide and you are dealing with a huge paradigm shift. The real leadership reality is simple; you do not know people like you think you know people. For the traditional white, black, and Asian Americans dealing with Hispanic employees I highly suggest my good friend, Carlos Conejo’s book titled, Motivating Hispanic Employees. This is the best, bar none, book available today on motivating Hispanic employees.

“Make your relationship bank deposits before you attempt to take withdrawals.”

Our world has givers and takers. Giving and taking needs a balance; to take someone has to give and to give, someone has to receive. While there is really nothing wrong with taking, in a business environment you will build quality relationships faster if you give before you try to take. Real leadership is understanding that giving is a relationship bank deposit and taking is a withdrawal.

My long-time friend, Robert B. Tucker, is the author of several books on innovation. In many of his keynotes and seminars he explains that real leadership is about how to take an idea to the point of implementation or production. He uses the analogy of a conveyer belt carrying your idea but continually on the left and right of the belt are influences trying to knock your idea off the belt. You cannot just place it on the belt and expect it to get where it needs to go. He says that you have to be diligent in protecting your idea to get it to that point of implementation or production. I call this, making your relationship bank deposits. Withdrawals come later—not the other way around.

For years I have used a Ziggy cartoon in my seminars to make the point of relationship bank deposits first. Visualize Ziggy with a dejected look on his face, standing next to the bank teller. She has just handed him back his withdrawal slip with a “REJECT” stamped on it. The caption states, “…Try not to think of it as overdrawn…we prefer to think of it as underdeposited…”

If you want to receive, and who in business doesn’t want a return on their investment, probably the best book available to help you make the smart and most effective “deposits” is Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini, Ph.D. In his book he covers: weapons of influence; reciprocation; commitment and consistency; social proof; liking; authority; and scarcity—detailing for you how to use each tool to influence others, or as I would put it, making relationship bank deposits.

Don’t Eat the Marshmallow…Yet! This book written by my friend of many years, Dr. Joachim de Posada, is awesome. The book about the benefit of delayed gratification, what I would also call; relationship bank deposits first. While the book has sold millions of copies internationally, Joachim has also traveled the world giving lectures based on the ideas. The concept of delayed gratification is one that is embraced throughout the world. I highly suggest you too consider delaying the gratification of relationship bank withdrawals until after you make your deposits.

I could write volumes about the people, books, and ideas that have influenced me but what I believe might be important to you are the ideas I gleaned and have influenced me to attempt to influence you about real leadership. Before you jump to the newest flavor-of-the-month leadership strategy, first take stock of what you already know but might not have used lately. Look at what used to work and ask why you no longer use it. New ideas are just fine, yet be mindful of what has proven to be successful in the past. Wishing you the best of success…

Will the Real Leader Please Stand? (1016 words)

Real Leader

Real Leadership

Real leadership should be the beacon for today’s organizational leaders as they have much working against their success. Sometimes leaders can be their own worst enemy. However, this is not cause to crawl under a rock and hunker down for the duration of these difficult times. Sure, the press almost daily is exposing yet another dishonest corporate executive, especially in the financial industries, but that’s not you. Business enjoyed a good half-decade run, following the 911 recovery, and here we are again up to our, rear-ends in alligators. Today, more than ever, is the time for action—for demonstrating to your employees that you have a plan—even if you don’t. Get out of sluggishness and into action, today!

Real Leadership…Make Your Rain Making Visible

Similar to the Native American rain dances of old, they were never performed in isolation, but in view of the tribe; to give the members of the tribe hope—your people need to see you leading the charge in action, not just in words. To build confidence within the people of your organization, they have to visually see your efforts to turn things around, including your personal rain making efforts. This gives them the hope they need to persevere during the current cuts, challenges, and fears caused by today’s economic realities.

This lesson was learned at Mitsubishi Motor Sales of North America, in the early 1990s—the executives learned the hard way; wasting one entire year in their efforts to change the organizational culture. The lesson learned was simple: people believe what they see, not what they hear. The executives were telling everyone what they wanted to happen but were not living the vision themselves.

Similarly, a friend’s mistake has always stayed with me. He and his investors went bankrupt on a golf course project in the 1970s. Their 20/20 hindsight revealed that their mistake was that of spending their money building the golf course before they built the club house. Potential members could not see the progress from the earth moving in the distance so many decided not to act on the special pre-opening offer; money the group badly needed to finish the project. Most people have to see it to believe.

Real Leadership…What’s Old Might be New

Robert Rickenbach, owner of a fiber optics connector fabrication company discovered that the railroad in India could use his connectors in a different application than for which they were originally designed and opened an unexpected international market for his company. What about you? What unexpected, or explored, markets could benefit from your products, services, and other offerings?

In your effort to develop new markets, new applications, and/or new products and services, how much time have you spent? It has been said by persons wiser than I, that most people spend more time planning their vacation than they spend planning their life. What about the success of your organization? How much time have you spent in REAL product/market development strategic planning sessions? For most, not much is the honest answer.

Who can help? The quick answer is: your suppliers, your employees, and your customers. Sometimes innovation is a happy accident and sometimes it is the result of intense organizational processes, individual champions, and intellectual properties—and most times, a result of tireless hard work. What are you doing to innovate?

Back in the mid-1990s I served as a trainer for the Dunn & Bradstreet Foundation, delivering full-day public seminars throughout the USA. One of the exercises I conducted when doing a seminar within a company required an unorthodox approach to problem solving. Interestingly, it was never the organization’s leader that came up with the solution but rather others generally in administrative or support positions. Proof for me that leaders need to encompass all in their organization for solutions to today’s pressing challenges.

Real Leadership…Your Responsibility and Accountability

Let’s face it; nobody really enjoys the mirror being brought up close. However, in times like we are now facing, that is exactly what is needed. No matter how good a leader you might be, you know that you can do better. And, if you are a lousy leader, you are unlikely to be reading this article. Listed below are some of the pitfalls, conscious or unconscious, to leading in a recession:

  • Not being aware of the depth of your organization’s situation.
  • Not having a “rainy day” contingency plan.
  • Not being open to innovation in market, product, and process.
  • Not honestly looking in the mirror.
  • Living off past glory.
  • Expecting others to act as rain makers.
  • Hunkering down expecting the current economic situation to quickly blow over like a tropical storm.

Your “to do” list should include the following:

  • Honest evaluation of your organizations current situation through the traditional SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis process with your company’s stakeholders; first your employees, then with your suppliers, and last with your customers. Oh yes, and LISTEN! Generally the SWOT analysis is done only in the bubble of the executive suite, thereby missing needed additional perspectives.
  • Step it up and lead the charge, even if it is only activity for activity’s sake. Activity begets enthusiasm, if positioned correctly and your employees see that you are putting in the time.
  • Look to other industries for answers in as much as you can adapt ideas. It is foolish to think you can adopt, however adaptation is an important form of innovation that will serve you well.

If your organization is zipping along, perhaps you have already conducted the steps necessary to thrive? Perhaps this article is merely an affirmation that you are on the right track? However, if your company is struggling—it might mean that your leaders, or you, have been asleep at the wheel. The good news is that there might be enough time to turn things around and put your company back on the productive path. Plant this thought in your subconscious mind: your employees have been there for you, helping you to make your organization what it had been. Don’t you think you owe it to them to show up and rebuild? It’s their livelihood also!