No MBA mumbo-jumbo, just stuff that's worked through 30 years of team-building in business and the military.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Day-to-Day Leadership is Easy

The best kind of leadership is also the easiest.

How many books haven't you read by or about great leaders, only to find that you struggle to do what they do, or what they recommend? How many seminars haven't you attended that inspired you at the time, but didn't change a thing?

There's a reason: You can't ever take a break from leading, so your leadership methods have to be as natural to you as breathing. That's not to say you don't want to change or learn, you do, but you have to approach leadership growth the same way you would a fitness program or a diet: It takes lifestyle change.

There are some big components of leadership, like setting the vision and strategizing, but day-to-day leadership comes down to two things: the passion you have (that's your energy source) and the things you communicate (how you translate your energy and vision into their action).

Lead from your place of natural passion. What gets you excited? Is it the environment? Then drive your leadership from your passion to make your workplace sustainable. Is it money? Then use your passion for wealth to lead to more profits. Is it socializing? Then spend your day with people, leading one-on-one. Is it service? Get your energy making work life better for your people.

In the same way, use your natural means of communication. Strong, silent types communicate by example, by doing. Talkers talk. Writers write. Presenters present. You have to do some of all of them, but day to day do what's most natural to let your people know what's expected and how to do it.

When you build your passion and do your communicating just by being yourself, the job is easy. When you try to be Colin Powell or Tony Dungy or Oprah, you'll work twice as hard and fail.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Sounded Better in My Head

My administrative assistant sometimes says, "That sounded better in my head." It makes me laugh, but it also states clearly the basic problem of communication: How do you make sure what's in your head ends up in theirs?

All you have to work with is words, so here are a couple of suggestions:

1) Make sure your words do their job: communicate the right meaning. My Tac Officer said, "Use precise terms precisely." For me, "Start at ten" means in your seat and ready by then; to our Sales Manager it means start getting ready to attend the meeting at ten - "In your seats at ten" works better for him. "Fix" means repair to a maintenance man but to an infantryman, it means to hold in place. To a paint-maker, it's a noun that means the stuff you need to correct a batch.

2) State your point in a single short, declarative sentence. "I want you to be on time" works a lot better than "You know, when the team has to start short-handed, there are a lot of outcomes that affect a lot of people." Say it the way you want them to get it.

That's it: Just use the right words, and then don't use more of them than you have to. Oh, and then ask enough questions to make sure they understand. The burden is on you to communicate, not on them.

There's a great conversation on the value of speaking skills over at Leadership Freak. If you've never been there, just Google it. You won't be disappointed.

Friday, January 20, 2012

When You Don't Feel Like It

A leader's work never ends. Your team demands your leadership every single day.

But sometimes you don't feel like it. Sometimes you're tired or out of sorts and you just want a quiet day with no hassles. Not gonna happen, so what do you do?

First, remember that your problems are yours, not your team's. If you need to vent or want to whine, see your pastor, call your mom, have coffee with your spouse. But don't dump on your team; not only will you drag them down with you, you'll scare them. At work you're like the mom or dad; the kids don't want to think things are too much for you.

Second, you can act your way into feeling. No, really, you can. Just start doing what you do every day. Get out there, talk to your folks, identify their problems and get to work solving them. Forecast demand, measure your resources, start planning. Get your eyes on the vision, that place that you're en route to with your team.

I promise, after an hour of grinding away at your normal leadership work, you'll be a lot more motivated. Your focus will shift from yourself, and the issues will engage you again. It might even be good therapy.

Yeah, the first hour of a down day sucks. But if you don't soldier up and get to work, the whole day is going to suck, plus you'll have to repair your relationship with the team.