5 Leadership Lessons From a 100 Mile Bike Ride

Bike RidersYesterday I completed my first “century” (100 miles) bike ride…101.38 miles to be exact, but who’s counting? I took up cycling as a casual hobby a couple of years back, riding 10-30 miles at a time. Wanting to ride faster and farther, I purchased my first road bike 7 months ago and decided to set a goal for myself: complete a century ride sometime in the next year. Throughout the process of achieving my goal of completing a century ride, there were a few leadership lessons that emerged that may be helpful to you in your ongoing leadership journey.

1. You have to put in the training – In January I joined a training group sponsored by my local Trek bicycle store. Over the last 14 weeks we’ve completed a series of training rides over progressively more difficult terrain and distances, all working toward the goal of completing a century ride. Without this training I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish my goal. It prepared me physically and mentally to tackle the challenge of riding 100+ miles in a single day.

Becoming an effective leader requires training as well. Most people in leadership positions were promoted into their role because they were standout performers in their particular area of expertise as individual contributors. People leadership is a whole different ballgame that requires a different set of skills. You need a combination of formal and informal training as well as mentors to show you what it means to be a good leader.

Before training for my century ride I already knew how to ride a bike. I had even rode distances of 40-50 miles on my own. But I had never ridden in large groups, rode in a peloton, worked in rotating pace lines, or knew the in’s and out’s of proper nutrition and hydration on long rides. The proper training equipped me to achieve my goal. Don’t neglect your training as a leader. It’s essential to become the kind of leader others want to follow.

2. Pace yourself, it’s a long ride – Thinking about riding 100 miles can be overwhelming, especially when you look at the terrain on a map and see 5,000+ feet of climbing over the course of your ride. However, it seems much more manageable when you break it into four rides of 25 miles each. We had planned rest stops along the course where we could catch our breath, grab a bite to eat, and recharge our batteries for the next leg ahead.

Bike Riders 2Leadership requires you to have a long view of success. You can’t judge success solely on short-term results; you have consider long-term effectiveness. It’s tempting for leaders to rely on command and control leadership. “Do what I say and do it now!” We want results and it seems like the easiest and quickest way is to tell people what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. However, that will only yield short-term results. Long-term success is achieved by developing your team members to have the skills and abilities to achieve success even when you’re not there to guide them. That takes time and patience on your part as a leader.

3. Rely on your team members to help share the load – It can be up to 30% more efficient to ride in a peloton than it is to ride on your own. A core component of completing a group century ride is learning how to share the workload among everyone. Riders take turns riding at the front of the peloton, absorbing the brunt of the headwind so that everyone behind can pedal a little easier and conserve energy. After a few minutes in front, the lead rider drops to the back of the line and enjoys the benefits of the peloton while another rider takes a turn in front.

We like to make successful leaders out to be icons of individualism and self-achievement. The truth is that leadership is a team sport. Leaders are only as successful as the people on their team. If you want to be a great leader, surround yourself with smart, trustworthy, capable people. Give them the needed tools, training, and resources and let them do their thing. You’ll notice that your job as a leader becomes a whole lot easier and you can accomplish much more together than you could on your own.

4. Endure – 100 miles is a long way! My average speed of 15.1 mph meant I was in the saddle for 6 hours, 42 minutes, and 13 seconds to be exact, but once again, who’s counting? (Obviously I am!) When you factor in times for rest stops and mechanical fixes, the entire day of riding was 8.5 hours. I’ve been experiencing tendonitis in my right knee the last several weeks and I battled it during much of my ride yesterday. However, the combination of prayer, ibuprofen, Bengay pain relief cream, and a jolt of energy from a tasty Snickers candy bar enabled me to push through even though I had lost all strength in my knee over the last 10 miles of the ride.

Our leadership journeys are the same way. The daily fire fighting we experience combined with the long-term pressures of leading teams and organizations takes its toll. Sometimes we feel like we don’t have anything left to give, but we dig down a little deeper and we keep on keeping on. That’s why it’s so important to find ways to rekindle your leadership spirit. Take those vacation days, attend conferences, read new books, seek inspiration from mentors, and practice times of solitude and reflection…whatever it takes to keep you energized for the journey ahead.

5. Celebrate wins along the way – Part of what makes it possible to endure climbing up a long mountain hill is knowing you’ll get to celebrate the reward of going down the opposite side. We also had a few friends and family members who positioned themselves along the course and cheered us on as we rode past which was great encouragement. And of course, I knew my wife had a great celebration dinner planned with our family that made the finish line seem just a little closer and attainable.

It’s easy to get burned out so it’s important to celebrate your leadership wins on a regular basis. It’s even more important for your team. Your people need to experience your leadership as more than just slave driving or a constant focus on results. That wears thin after a while and eventually you’ll lose the commitment of your team. Be intentional about planning celebrations, whether it’s as simple as a potluck lunch or extravagant as an offsite team building event. Your team will appreciate the consideration and will reward you with higher and sustained performance.

P.S. By the way, May is National Bike Month in the United States, so if it has been a while since you’ve experienced the joy of riding a bike, pull yours out of the garage and go for a little spin.

Posted in Leadership, Sports, Success | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Are You Easy to Follow? 10 Things Great Leaders Know and Do

Easy Way or Hard Way“He’s a pretty easy guy to follow.”

That was the response from a friend when we were recently talking about how much she enjoys her job. She’s worked with this person for several years, they have a great rapport, and she loves her work. She said the fact that her boss is easy to work with is a primary reason for her success and job satisfaction.

Her statement got me thinking about my own leadership. Am I easy to follow? I’d like to think so, but of course, the only real opinion that matters is that of my team members. Considering leadership in general, what makes a person easy to follow? I think the answers are pretty straight forward and common sense, but often not common practice because our own personality quirks and baggage get in the way.

As I’ve considered this question, the following 10 leadership practices have come clear to me as characteristics of leaders who are easy to follow:

1. Be nice – It’s kind of sad this has to be called out but it does. Too many leaders are jerks. They let power go to their heads and think they have the right to lord it over their people. Don’t do that, please. Just be nice. Smile every once in a while. Say please and thank you. Ask people how their day is going. It doesn’t cost you a dime to be nice and you’ll be amazed at how much more engaged and productive your team will be if you treat them nicely.

2. Give people your time – The greatest gift you can give your people is a few minutes of your time. Leaders like to say they have an open door policy, but is that the case with you in reality? When people stop by your office, do you stop what you’re doing and give them your full attention, or do you ask them to schedule a meeting with you for the following week? Does everyone on your team know without a doubt that they can meet with you regarding any topic, or are there barriers (real or imagined) between you and your employees that prevent them from opening up to you? Giving people the gift of your time shows you value, respect, and genuinely care about them. I know from experience that the larger your team the harder this is to accomplish. Get creative by scheduling regular communication forums (quarterly meetings, town hall meetings, etc.) and make sure you leave enough white space on your own calendar to be available for those impromptu drop-in meetings. We often over-schedule ourselves to the point where we don’t have any availability for our own team members.

3. Don’t expect everyone to be like you – This can be challenging, particularly for leaders who have personalities that favor perfectionism. It’s great to have high expectations for yourself; that’s probably what helped you rise to a leadership position. It’s good to have high expectations for your staff as well, but remember, they may not do things exactly the way you would. Give people the freedom to be who they are and leverage their strengths to help them achieve their goals and those of the team. Don’t try to make them your personal mini-me’s.

idea light bulb4. Solicit and incorporate people’s ideas – Many leaders are great at asking for ideas; only a few actually do anything with them. One of the quickest ways to alienate your team members is to tell them you want to hear their ideas and are open to feedback, but not actually do anything with it when it’s shared with you. Incorporate the ideas of your team members into your action plans and they’ll be invested in the success of your team. People who plan the battle rarely battle the plan.

5. Be good at what you do – This one may see odd, but people want to follow leaders who are good at what they do. Set a good example for your team by continually improving your skills, both in your technical role as well as your leadership skills. Many people get promoted into a leadership role because they were star performers in their role as an individual contributor. Leadership is a whole different skill set so be sure to focus on developing the skills and abilities that will help you lead effectively.

6. Empower people – Empowerment was a popular buzz word in the 90’s and soon fell out of favor, however, the concept is still valid and effective. Good leaders establish the boundaries of the playing field for their team members, make sure everyone is clear on the rules and objectives, and then let them play the game. They don’t micromanage and dictate how the work should be done, but they manage to the outcome of what needs to be done.

7. Recognize and reward good performance – Leaders who are easy to follow are experts in finding people doing something right. They take the time to acknowledge the good performance of their team members and to celebrate their (and the team’s) success. When I conduct training sessions with clients and this topic comes up, I will frequently ask participants to raise their hand if they are sick and tired of all the praising they receive at work. No one ever raises their hand. People crave hearing positive feedback about their hard work.

trust8. Treat people with respect and create an environment of trust and safety – The spirits of too many people die at the office door each morning because they dread their work environment. No  one should have to feel bullied, intimidated, or afraid to go to work. It’s the leader’s job to foster an environment of trust and safety that allow team members to unleash their power and potential for the good of themselves and the organization.

9. Show a sense of humor; make work fun – Making work fun and showing a sense of humor is a hallmark of leaders who are easy to follow. They create a sense of camaraderie within the team and keep the mood light when times get tough. They know how to take work seriously but themselves lightly. Showing a sense of humor and laughing at yourself once in a while shows your vulnerability and authenticity that draw people to you, not away from you.

10. Maintain perspective on the most important priorities in life – Work is important; life is more important. Easy to follow leaders maintain the proper perspective about what’s most important in life. These kinds of leaders understand they have to lead the whole person, not just the worker who shows up to do a job eight hours a day. Kids get sick, employees have personal challenges, life happens….good leaders understand this and are sensitive to the needs of their team members. Show a little compassion and understanding with your team members and you’ll earn their loyalty, trust, and commitment.

Leadership is a complex proposition, but it doesn’t have to complicated. It’s these common sense principles that help us be successful leaders, if only we can get out of our own way.

What else would you add to this? What makes a leader easy to follow? Feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts and ideas.

Posted in Humor, Leadership, Listening, Management, Relationships, Success, Trust | Tagged , , | 21 Comments

Advice to Leaders: Building Trust is a Journey, Not a Destination

Trust Compass“So, Randy, how long does this whole process take?”

That was a question from a senior executive with whom I was recently working. His company is proactively working to build a culture of trust and engagement, something few organizations do intentionally. Usually senior executives only start paying attention to trust when it has been broken and they’re in dire straits. This particular company is going about it the right way, taking a purposeful approach to building a high-trust organization that will continue to fuel its success well into the future.

However, his question clearly revealed his current mindset about this strategy of fostering trust and engagement. He considered it another item on the to-do list, something he would need to devote attention to for a few months and then move on to the next priority. That’s not the way it works.

Creating organizational trust and engagement is a journey, not a destination. It’s not a box you can check and say “Done!” It’s something you have to build and nurture every day of the week. It’s much more about who you are as a leader than what you do. It’s about being clear on your leadership point of view—your beliefs about leading and motivating people—and leading in a way that builds trust with others.

You’re never done building trust.

The presentation below, far from a complete treatise on the topic, lays the foundation of what it means to lead with trust. Feel free to leave a comment to share your thoughts about leading with trust.

Posted in Authenticity, Engagement, Integrity, Leadership, Purpose, Relationships, Servant Leadership, Trust, Values | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

3 Secrets to Leadership Success from the #NewOneMinuteManager

New OMMWith over 13 million copies sold in 37 languages, The One Minute Manager is one of the bestselling business books of all-time and it continues to inspire leaders around the world with its practical wisdom on managing people. But a lot has changed in the world since this timeless classic was published over 30 years ago.  The exponential rise of technology, global flattening of markets, instantaneous communication, and pressures on corporate workforces to do more with less have all revolutionized the world in which we live and work.

Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson have re-written The New One Minute Manager to reflect today’s current business reality and incorporate the latest thinking on effective leadership. The elegantly simple techniques of One Minute Goals, One Minute Praisings, and One Minute Re-directs empower leaders and managers to be more productive, satisfied, and prosperous in their jobs and lives.

I was able to catch up with the One Minute Manager (OMM) earlier this week to discuss the publication of this new work and get his thoughts on how the One Minute principles help leaders build trust with their followers and achieve leadership success.

Here’s what we discussed:

Randy: Congratulations on the publication of The New One Minute Manager. Your story continues to inspire leaders of all generations. You must feel very proud.

OMM: I’m humbled that Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson felt my story was worth sharing and took the time to write about it. I’m gratified that it’s helped so many people.

Randy: I’m interested to know what you think leaders should be doing to build trust with their followers and stakeholders.

OMM: Well, I think having trustworthy relationships is the number one priority for leaders, and the three secrets support a leader in achieving that goal.

Randy: I thought the three secrets were techniques for managing people more effectively. Explain to me how they help leaders build trust.

OMM: One aspect of building trust is being competent in your role as a leader, and certainly practicing the three secrets displays your competence. Specifically, the first secret, One Minute Goals, allows leaders to build trust by setting clear performance expectations. People are more apt to trust you as a leader if you’re clear with them on what you expect them to do. Unclear expectations result in miscommunication, wasted energy, and ambiguity, which ultimately leads to mistrust of the leader.

Randy: So tell me how your second secret, One Minute Praisings, helps leaders build trust.

OMM: One of the easiest ways to build trust with others is to catch them doing something right! Recognizing and rewarding good work are key trust-building behaviors. When you take time to praise others, it shows that you value their contributions and you want them to succeed. If you fail to recognize the good work of your people, or even worse, hog the limelight and take credit for their work, you severely damage trust in the relationship. One Minute Praisings communicate care and concern, and when your people see that you care about them as individuals, they trust that you have good intentions toward them.

Randy: It’s amazing to see how One Minute Goals and One Minute Praisings support building trust. The third secret, One Minute Re-directs, seems a little counter-intuitive in regards to building trust. Help me understand.

OMM: On the surface it may seem counter-intuitive, but in reality, a One Minute Re-direct is another way of showing that you care about people and you want to help them succeed. When you give a One Minute Re-direct, you are redirecting the behavior, not the person, and you’re giving the redirect because you want to prevent that person from suffering the same mistake again in the future. People trust and respect leaders who give them honest, yet caring feedback about their performance. Leaders that hold themselves and others accountable create a culture of safety, security, and clear boundaries, which acts as a breeding ground for trust. A One Minute Re-direct is honest and caring feedback which is essential to have in a high-trust relationship.

Randy: Thank you for spending time with me. Your One Minute Secrets have helped me in my career as a leader and now I see how they’ve also helped me build trust with others.

OMM: It’s been my pleasure and I ask you to do just one thing: share it with others.

Ken Blanchard talks about the key updates to The New One Minute Manager.

Posted in Goal Setting, Leadership, Management, One Minute Manager, Success, Trust | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

There’s No Trust Without “Us” – 3 Truths About Building Trust in Relationships

Where’s the good in goodbye,
Where’s the nice in nice try,
Where’s the us in trust gone,
Where’s the soul in soldier on,
Now I’m the low in lonely,
Cos I don’t own you only,
I can take this mistake, but
I can’t take the ache from heartbreak

No Good in Goodbye ~ The Script

“Where’s the us in trust gone?” I was listening to this song this past week and of course that particular lyric caught my ear. The song describes a person who has done something to damage a love relationship and is lamenting the pain of the breakup. It got me thinking of the inherent one-to-one nature of trust.

Yes, trust can be applied on a generalized level such as the trust one has (or doesn’t have) in government, companies, or other entities. But in its purest form, trust is a psychological and emotional construct between two people and there are three important truths that apply to building trust in relationships:

1. Risk is required — You don’t need trust if there’s nothing at risk. That’s called certainty, a sure thing, a guarantee. But if there is risk, if there is a chance you might get burned extending your love, money, or faith to someone else, then trust is essential. A part of that risk involves someone making the first move in extending trust. Trust doesn’t happen by accident. In order for trust to develop in a relationship, one party has to make the decision to extend trust in the hopes it will be reciprocated. That’s the only way it happens. Ernest Hemingway summed this up simply yet eloquently when he said “The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.”

2. Trust cannot be demanded; it must be granted willingly — Trust, just like love, commitment, loyalty, and other relationship dynamics cannot be forced upon someone; it must be given. Each person is unique in regards to how they grant trust to another. Some have the philosophy of “I’ll trust you until you show me I shouldn’t” while others have the approach of “I won’t give you my trust until you earn it.” Our propensity to trust is shaped by many factors including our level of psychological and emotional maturity, risk tolerance, the balance of power in the relationship, childhood experiences with trust, and our morals and values. Regardless of how a person is “wired” to trust, you can’t demand they give it to you. They must decide on their own to give it to you.

3. Trust must be nurtured — Trust is not a one and done sort of thing. You don’t give or receive it and then forget about it. You must constantly protect and nurture it in order for it to deepen and give life and endurance to the relationship. Trust sustains relationships through the tough times. It’s the element that breeds safety and security in a relationship so each person knows that no matter what happens, I can trust you won’t hurt me or take advantage of me. In the garden of relationships in your life, trust is the water that keeps them growing, blooming, and maturing to fullness. Without trust those relationships will wither and die. Unfortunately, too many people only think about trust when it has been broken. Don’t let that be you. Never lose sight of trust and keep working to make it stronger day by day.

There’s no trust without “us.” You and me. Two people willing to take a risk and make themselves vulnerable to each other with the expectation the other won’t take advantage. We don’t demand it of each other, but we give it willingly because the other person has demonstrated their trustworthiness over time. And we constantly nurture the trust in our relationship so it continues to grow over time and works in a reciprocal fashion to constantly strengthen itself. That’s the “us” in trust.

Posted in Relationships, Trust | Tagged , | 3 Comments