Thursday, June 30, 2016
Tuesday, June 28, 2016
Thursday, June 23, 2016
Tuesday, June 21, 2016
Thursday, June 9, 2016
Tuesday, June 7, 2016
Thursday, May 26, 2016
Tuesday, May 24, 2016
Thursday, May 19, 2016
Tuesday, May 17, 2016
Thursday, May 12, 2016
I used to think that it was dishonest to change my message as I interact with different people. I wanted to be myself and expected everyone to either like it or lump it.
With some gray in my hair, I’ve come to realize that the ability to adapt communication to other people is critical. In leadership, most conversations are about sharing ideas and encouraging behaviors. In both cases you really need to make it as easy as possible for people to get it.
That’s why you always have to think about who you’re talking to, and talk in the best way to be heard. That best way is based on what they value. People will always plug into their own values; only the most altruistic will go through the work of plugging into yours.
So when you’re talking to your boss, you talk about organizational goals. When you’re talking to your peers, you talk about helping them solve their problems. When you’re talking to your team, you appeal to what they want out of the work. For some that’s self-fulfillment. For others, it might be security in the status quo, or the excitement of change.
This isn’t cynical button-pushing. It’s recognition that everyone has different reasons for why they show up every day. All you’re doing is showing them all why doing the right thing is the right thing for everyone.
Thursday, May 5, 2016
Tuesday, May 3, 2016
Thursday, April 28, 2016
Tuesday, April 26, 2016
Thursday, April 21, 2016
Tuesday, April 19, 2016
Thursday, April 14, 2016
Tuesday, April 12, 2016
Thursday, April 7, 2016
Tuesday, April 5, 2016
Thursday, March 31, 2016
Tuesday, March 29, 2016
Thursday, March 24, 2016
Tuesday, March 22, 2016
Thursday, March 17, 2016
Tuesday, March 15, 2016
Thursday, March 10, 2016
Tuesday, March 8, 2016
Thursday, March 3, 2016
Tuesday, March 1, 2016
Thursday, February 25, 2016
Tuesday, February 23, 2016
Thursday, February 18, 2016
Tuesday, February 16, 2016
Thursday, February 11, 2016
There are a lot of great leadership lessons to be drawn from the military, and from athletics. Here’s one that’s true in both of those arenas that I have to remind myself of daily: I become a leader when nothing’s going on; I prove I’m a leader when the crisis hits.
The ordinary days are when we develop our habits and train our skills. In his seminars and books John Maxwell often says, “The secret of success is in your daily schedule.” By that he means that what you habitually do, every day, determines what you become as a leader.
Here’s how your calendar can help you: it can reinforce daily habits. It can provide the framework to develop discipline. It can ensure you don’t forget things. And it can prompt you to take time for your own development. So if you don’t already use one, you should start. I’ll write later about how I use mine.
Here’s the bottom line: train as you’ll fight; train the way you’ll actually play the game. Use those ordinary days to develop and reinforce the habits of coaching, communication, planning and vision-setting that you’ll need on the bad days.
Tuesday, February 9, 2016
You can’t be something different than what you do. You can say you love the environment but if you don’t recycle and monitor your carbon footprint you’re still an exploiter. You can say you’re healthy but if you smoke and eat too much, you’re not.
And you can say you’re a leader, you can want to be a leader, but what are you really doing? How do you choose to spend your day?
If you don’t spend time with your team, you’re not leading. If you don’t show them a vision of a better way, you’re not leading. If you don’t coach and model, you’re not leading. Bottom line, if they aren’t becoming something different and better because you’re there, you probably just supervising or administrating.
John Maxwell says, “The choice you make, makes you.” If you want to be a leader, or you have that responsibility, then choose leadership actions. Choose people over paper. View people as the priority, not the interruption. Be out among your team, not in your office.
A lot of people who claim to be leaders aren’t, because they don’t. The only way to be one is to get out there and lead.
Thursday, February 4, 2016
Our Safety Administrator at the plant just reminded me of a critical leadership truth. In challenging me on our safety record, he said, “You can’t say you have a safety culture if you’re not doing things safely.”
There’s a lot of chatter about culture, but what it comes down to is what are people doing? You can say you have a customer-first culture, or a family-oriented culture, but if people ignore a phone call because it’s break time or are afraid to ask for time off for Grandparents Day at school, you don’t.
Culture is defined by both saying and doing. It’s important as a leader to clearly state what the desired culture is. But then you have to coach it, you have to model it, you have to hold people accountable for it. You can’t ever allow a breach of culture to go unchallenged.
That’s the hard thing about culture: molding culture requires you to spend a lot of time with your people. But that’s what you should be doing anyway, if you’re really leading them.
Tuesday, February 2, 2016
Young leaders have an advantage over me. They are fluent in social.
What I mean by that is they can communicate as easily on Twitter, Snapchat, or whatever the new thing is that I haven’t even heard of yet. That’s an advantage, because every year a larger slice of the workforce communicates that way. Already nearly a third of our team members are Millenials or Gen Z. They may not use social media for everything, but they use it for enough things that you’re going to miss something if you don’t.
More critical, though, is the mindset behind it. They use social media because they want to always stay in touch. They fear missing something, and four hours is too long to go without an update.
Being fluent in social doesn’t just mean understanding social media. It means feeding that desire to always be connected. You have to start being just as chatty about your expectations and their workload as they are on Hangouts.
You can choose not to, but you’re going to lose the people who are your future.
Thursday, January 28, 2016
“Go with your gut.” I heard that unlikely advice many times in my military career, where you would expect information gathering and careful analysis to drive decision-making. But experienced Army officers know well that at the end of the day, the data only takes you so far.
The reason for that is people. Every plan has to be executed by people. Every goal will be accomplished by people. Leadership is the art of moving people from where they are to a better place.
To do that, you have to leave the world of facts and rely a lot on your feels. Lead by intuition.
And now you’re thinking, “Hey, Greg, your last blog was all about the data.” My point there was you have to know the truth, you can’t let emotions blind you. My point here is that, within the context of the truth, you lead with emotions, not data.
People’s emotions kick in way faster than they understand, and people seek comfort first of all. As Angela Ahrendts, CEO of Burberry, put it, “People value feeling over knowing.” And you do too. You’re more likely to follow based on feelings like trust and loyalty than because what you’re doing has a 77% likelihood of helping 50% of your customers.
Once you have all the facts, you still have a choice about what to do. Go with your gut. Look at your people, think about your history together, and do what feels right for your team.
Tuesday, January 26, 2016
You’ll never be a Colin Powell or Steve Jobs or Jack Welch. But there’s something you can excel at as a leader that none of them can.
What is it? I have no idea. You do, though. You know the thing that makes you uniquely you. It’s up to you to turn that into a leadership advantage.
Uniqueness usually comes from a combination of traits. I’m a weird mix of operator (usually data-drive, efficiency-focused, get-er-done people) and communicator (usually anecdotal and chatty). The leadership advantage I’ve been able to mold from that is a lot of clarity in my organization: I have very clear and concrete goals that I talk about all the time to everyone.
Marcus Buckingham, who helped develop StrengthsFinder, said, “There is no perfect leadership profile. Leadership is idiosyncratic. Techniques are not easily transferred.” In other words, while you can learn a lot by studying other leaders, chances are you can’t do what they do.
The what of leadership never changes: set the vision, communicate and motivate, and nurture your people. The how of leadership is almost infinitely variable. Not only are you free to do your own thing, doing your own thing will make you the best leader you can be.
Thursday, January 21, 2016
I like being with engineers and chemists, because they focus on the data. Sometimes I get really frustrated by engineers and chemists, because all they focus on is the data.
These days everyone is making a big deal out of emotional intelligence, which is your ability to understand people’s feelings. What gets lost in this focus on perception and emotion, though, is the truth.
As a leader, one of your key responsibilities is to find the truth. Despite what you’re told, truth isn’t relative. In any problem, there are a set of facts: times, dates, amounts, test results, process parameters, labor hours, dollars, contracts. If you don’t first of all find out what those are, and know what really happened or is happening, all the touchy-feely in the world isn’t going to help.
My recommendation is that the first thing you do is dig out the facts. Build a timeline. If you can graph it, do that. Anything to make the facts easy to see and understand. The facts will tell you what you’re really dealing with. And, in addition to getting you closer to the truth, focusing on data will chill out the emotions.
Then, when the time is right, you can use what actually happened to guide a conversation about how everyone feels.
Tuesday, January 19, 2016
There’s a big challenge every leader faces: how do you know what people are thinking?
The problem is, some of your team have ideas you need to hear. Others have objections you don’t know about. You think you have it all because you have meetings. You discuss things. You solicit input.
In any group, there are vocal people and silent people. There are introverts and extroverts. There are articulate people and people with simple vocabularies. And the chances are, what you think you know about your team’s opinions came from the vocal, articulate extroverts.
I once hear then-CNN Anchor Soledad O’Brien say, “True leadership starts in the conversation. You have to get the truth on the table. You have to give a voice to everyone.”
That’s your job. At some point, quiet the vocal people and ask the silent ones. Calm the extroverts and draw out the introverts. Give the folks who aren’t fluent time and space to form their thoughts.
Until everyone speaks, you don’t know everything you need to know.
Thursday, January 14, 2016
Here’s an amazing piece of advice Andy Stanley, founder of North Point Ministries, gave in a seminar: never make a choice that will make you a liar for life.
See, we make two kinds of choices. We do things we’re proud of, and we do things we don’t want people to know about. When we make the second kind of choice, we want to lie about it. Stanley says here’s the key question when you’re tempted to do the wrong thing: “What story do I want to tell?” Do it the way you want to tell it.
The leader’s version is, “How will I explain this to my team?” If the explanation you come up with is anything less than completely honest, then your choice may not be the best thing for them. Do it the way you’d want to explain it.
Tuesday, January 12, 2016
There’s a feeling I vividly associate with my memories of night patrols: total disorientation. Moving in total blackness and as silently as we could, my senses did me little good in providing me with context. Often the only thing I could see was the two little strips of luminous tape on the back of the helmet in front of me. I would lose track of time and direction, and start to think we must be lost.
It’s human nature to want to be able to see what’s ahead of you and have a map and compass for what’s out beyond the range of your eyes. We like traveling familiar routes. We hate the uncertainty of having no idea what we’re doing.
Here’s the deal, though: uncertainty is the only reason leaders are needed. Your team doesn’t need you if they already know where to go
Uncertain times are when you prove your worth. In fact, the more chaotic, the more you’re needed. There are learnable skills that will make you the master of chaos, but first you have to stop fearing it.
So instead of avoiding uncertainty, seek it out. You know it’s out there – key people leave, budgets dry up, customers go bankrupt, laws change. Your job is to know where uncertainty has reared its ugly head, and keep it from making your team anxious.
Thursday, January 7, 2016
Tuesday, January 5, 2016
There’s some new research that has some interesting implications for leaders and teams. Researchers found that mixing up students by capability when assigning group projects doesn’t work well for any of them.
The smart kids resent it because they think they’ll carry most of the load. The slowest kids expect to be carried, and odds are good at least one of the average kids will decide to skate. As a teaching technique, those teams taught a lot of the bad stuff we see on teams.
Now the smart folks are suggesting a better way: teams of equals. If you put together a team of high achievers, they’ll spark each other; this is where your innovative leaps will come from. A team of average workers will get a lot done, because there won’t be a “smart kid” to lean on. And a team of less experienced people may not get as much work done, but they’ll learn faster because they’ll all be engaged in noodling through it together.
It’s natural to want to put your sharp people with the new guys when assigning group work, but next time try teams of equals. They won’t all perform the same, but I’ll bet overall your team does better, and they’ll enjoy their work more too.