Leading with Trust

6 Ways Workplace Optimism Creates Trust and Community

Thumbs Up GroupWe are in desperate need for a new model of leadership in organizations. The type of leadership we’ve seen the last several decades has produced record low levels of trust and engagement in the workforce, so clearly what we’ve been doing isn’t working. Every day the spirits of millions of people die at the front doors of their workplace as they trudge through another day of work that lacks inspiration, purpose, and is disconnected from all other parts of theirs lives.We need a leadership philosophy grounded in the knowledge and belief that the most successful leaders and organizations are those that place an emphasis on fostering trust, community, and optimism. We need a new approach to leadership; we need people-centered leadership.

In his new book, The Optimistic Workplace: Creating An Environment That Energizes Everyone, Shawn Murphy, my friend and fellow advocate of human worth in the workplace, offers six straightforward strategies leaders can employ to develop a sense of community and belonging in workplaces that builds trust and collaboration.

1. Send employees to learn other parts of the business — Early in my career I worked in the funeral service business. Yes, I said funeral service, as in cemeteries and funeral homes. I worked in the corporate headquarters of the cemetery division, far removed from those on the “front lines.” In order to help everyone learn the business and build collaborative relationships with those who worked in the field, all new employees were sent to work at a cemetery or funeral home for three days. It was an experience that transformed me. I came away from it with greater understanding of the business, more appreciation for colleagues working with our customers, and an increased connection to the important service we were providing.

2. Inquire regularly into the team’s effectiveness — Peter Drucker said that nothing good ever happens in organizations by accident. It takes intentional planning and effort and that’s especially true when it comes to staying in touch with how your team members are feeling and performing. It’s easy to fall into the practice of “no news is good news.” An important way to foster trust is to have regular check-in meetings with your team members. We advocate 15-30 minute one-on-one meetings every 1-2 weeks. The agenda is driven by the team member and it can be anything on their mind: how they’re feeling, discussing how things are going at home, direction or support they need on a particular task, or just sharing an update with you about their recent accomplishments. Knowing what’s going on with your team members removes barriers that often derail collaboration.

The Optimistic Workplace3. Hire people with collaborative tendencies — In his book, Murphy shares an example of how Menlo Innovations tests job candidates for collaborative tendencies. Candidates are put into pairs, given a challenge to solve, and told that their goal is to make their partner look good. People with a tendency to collaborate make it to the next stage in the hiring process. Instead of asking your job candidates if they like to collaborate, devise some sort of exercise that allows them to demonstrate their skills. Murphy points out that collaboration is not merely an action, it’s also a mindset.

4. Develop routines that reinforce collaboration — You know those committees that get formed to plan holiday parties, team BBQ’s, or other group activities? They can be really frustrating, can’t they? But they serve an important purpose: they reinforce social and team norms that allow people to collaborate and bond with each other. Many of these practices seem out of date in today’s technology-enabled world. Who needs a committee when you can just create a Facebook event and invite everyone, right? Wrong. Leaders who foster high-trust and collaborative environments look for opportunities to bring people together.

5. Create spaces for random collisions — I love this recommendation! We all know that many times the most important decisions or creative breakthroughs happen in the hallway or lunch room conversations after the formal meeting. Murphy recommends we look for ways to structure our work environment that allow people to naturally and routinely “collide” with each other. When people collide in these natural ways, they feed off each others’ energy. It leads to deeper engagement between team members which results in more creative exploration of ideas and concepts. For some organizations the open work space concept works well, while for others it doesn’t fit their culture or business needs. Whatever approach you use, look for ways to help people interact in positive ways.

6. Make time for face to face meetings — Knowledge workers are increasingly isolated as we move to more people working virtually. It’s no longer necessary for everyone to congregate in the same location to get work done. Work is not a place you go; it’s something you do. In this environment it’s even more important to foster human connections. Webcams, Instant Messenger, and other technologies are good starts, but nothing replaces face to face interaction. It’s critically important to bring your team members together at regular intervals so they can deepen their relationships with one another. Trust and commitment to each other is built during these times and it’s the lubrication that keeps relationships working smoothly.

The climate of our organizations set the tone for how people “show up” on the job. Unfortunately, too many leaders are thermometers, reflecting the poor climate of their teams, rather than being thermostats, the climate controllers. Murphy’s book offers a wealth of tips on how leaders can take a proactive approach to being those “thermostats” that create more optimistic workplaces where people flourish.

4 Steps to Develop Your Personal Brand at Work

Brand Me...PleaseWhether you realize it or not, you have a brand image at work, and if you don’t take charge of it, someone else will.

Your brand image is not only how people perceive you (your reputation), but also what differentiates you from everyone else in your company. When your colleagues think of you, what is it that comes to their minds? If you can’t answer that question, then you have a problem. A brand image problem.

Tom Peters, the guru of personal branding, says, “If you are going to be a brand, you’ve got to become relentlessly focused on what you do that adds value, what you’re proud of, and most important, what you can shamelessly take credit for.” Now, I’m not into shamelessly bragging about personal accomplishments, but I do think it’s important, and possible, to tactfully and appropriately share your successes. It’s part of what it takes to succeed in today’s workplace.

Forget your job title. What is it about your performance that makes you memorable, distinct, or unique? What’s the “buzz” on you? Forget about your job description too. What accomplishments are you most proud of? How have you gone above, beyond, or outside the scope of your job description to add value to your organization? Those are the elements that make up your brand.

If you’re not quite sure what your personal brand is, or how to go about creating a brand, here are four steps to get you started.

1. Identify your core values – Your values guide your beliefs and actions. A brand is a trusted promise which requires clarity on what motivates you from the core of your being. Consider popular brands like Apple or Nike. Apple’s brand conveys the values of being creative, passionate, and visionary. Nike’s brand of “Just do it” reflects the values of excellence and dedication. What values reflect the way you “show up” in the workplace? Mine are trust, authenticity, and respect.

2. Identify your strengths/personal attributes – A personal brand combines what you value with what you do well. What is it that you’re really good at? What unique personal attributes do you bring to the table? Maybe it’s courage, decisiveness, enthusiasm, patience, perseverance, or trustworthiness, just to name a few. There are a number of surveys you can take to help you identify your character strengths and attributes.

3. Assess your current brand image – One of the best ways to understand your current brand is to ask those you work with to describe your brand image. In addition to asking others, you can use the following sentence starters to help you analyze your brand:

          • Inside the company I am known for…
          • Three things I’m really good at are…
          • Something about myself that I feel proud about is…
          • Some “WOW” projects I’ve worked on are…

4. Develop your brand – What if there weren’t career ladders, only great projects? What if you were your own brand manager? How could your career growth be different if the leaders you worked with were brand loyalists that backed you no matter what? What if you approached your performance review as a “portfolio” review where you highlighted your project accomplishments over the past year? If you viewed your job performance through these lenses, you would need to change the way you go about things. Set the following goals to develop your brand image:

By this time next year…

          • I plan to be known for these projects…
          • I plan to be known for these skills…
          • I plan to have added these contacts to my network…

And…

          • My principal resume-enhancing activity over the next three months is…
          • My public visibility program is…

Gaining clarity on who you are, what you love, and what strengths you bring to the table will help you understand your brand identity, while continuing to master your craft and assembling a portfolio of successes will fulfill the promise of you being a trusted brand that others can rely upon.

Moving From Peer to Boss – 5 Steps to Success

Peer to BossCongratulations! You’ve just received the news that you’re getting a promotion to supervisor! You’re excited, thrilled, eager to get going…and scared out of your mind! You don’t have a clue about where to start and you’re nervous about how your team members will react to you now being the boss. You’ve worked all these years to build great relationships and friendships as a team member and colleague and now you’re faced with the prospect of having to be tough, lay down the law, hold people accountable, enforce the rules, and all that other mean boss stuff. You’re starting to question yourself before you even get started: Do I really want to be a manager?

Well, before you get too riled up and freak yourself out, or worse, go on a power trip and start making enemies, take a deep breath and put a plan together. Remember, someone promoted you because he/she has confidence in you. You’ve also proven yourself as a high performer and that track record of success will give you credibility as you transition into a managerial role.

However, if you’re like most people in most organizations, you haven’t received any kind of specific leadership training to prepare you to move into the role of leading people. Success as an individual contributor does not guarantee success as a manager. Leading people is a whole new ballgame.

That’s why you need a plan. Far from being a complete treatise on the subject, here are a few key steps you should consider taking as you move from peer to boss:

1. Acknowledge the awkwardness – There’s no two ways about it; moving from a friend and peer to being the boss is an awkward transition for everyone involved. That’s why it’s best to acknowledge it up front. Lay the cards on the table by having open conversations with your colleagues about the transition. Communicate your desire to be open and authentic during the process, all the while recognizing that some things will definitely change about your relationship. You won’t be able to be “one of the guys/girls” in the same way you were before, but you will settle into new norms that will add depth and dimension to your relationship that didn’t exist before.

2. Focus on building trust – The number 1 priority…number 1…should be building trust with your team members. Every person on your team is eagerly watching your every move to see what kind of leader you will be now that you have access to more power and control. Your primary focus the first few weeks/months in your new role should be to show your team that you mean them no harm and you have their best interests at heart. That doesn’t mean you let the inmates run the asylum or let them run roughshod over you. Keep enforcing the rules as needed but make it a point to not go on any power trips. Focus on acting with integrity, learning the basics of your supervisory role, building relationships with people, and keeping your commitments. If you have your team’s trust, you open the doors to all kinds of possibilities. Without it, you’re dead in the water.

3. Get leadership training – Leading and managing people requires a specific set of skills and abilities that is likely quite different from those you mastered as an individual contributor. If your organization offers formal leadership training then take advantage of it. If not, find your own through books, online courses, You Tube videos, or blog articles. There is no shortage of leadership content out there to help you become a better leader. Part of your leadership training should also be to get a mentor. Find someone you respect with a track record of success as a leader and ask if he/she would be willing to offer you insight and advice. There’s nothing quite as valuable as wisdom from those who have walked the path before us.

4. Clarify expectations and intentions – If performance expectations aren’t clear with your team members, spend some time making sure goals are clear and people know what’s expected of them. As a general rule, I think it’s easier to start a little “tighter” with your team in terms of clarifying expectations and holding people accountable and then loosening up over time, versus starting too loose, have things get out of control, and then have to tighten the reins. Having said that, it’s important you make sure your good intentions are expressed as well. Let your team members know that you believe your role is to serve them and help them succeed and you’ll do whatever it takes to support them. Most importantly, make sure your actions align with your words. If you say one thing and do another you will quickly erode trust with your team.

5. Catch people doing something rightKen Blanchard has said that if he had to choose one thing to remembered by as a leadership guru, it would be the value of catching people doing something right. So many positive things happen as a result of the leader reinforcing good performance: trust is built, people’s self-esteem grows, team morale is improved, and good performance becomes contagious. It’s a virtuous cycle – people who perform well feel good about themselves and people who feel good about themselves perform well. Catching people doing something right should be a primary focus of your leadership.

Moving from peer to boss is a career milestone for most people. It’s a time of growth and opportunity and it’s important to start off on the right foot. These five steps can get you going in the right direction.

For those of you who have already made this move into the ranks of leadership, be sure to leave a comment with words of advice about other things a new manager should consider.

 

5 Freedom-Fostering Ways to Develop High Performing Teams

FreedomLast week I shared four ways to tell if you inspire freedom or fear in your team members. You can tell you’ve created a culture of freedom in your team if you see your people taking appropriate risks, speaking truth to power, readily admitting their mistakes, and sharing their heart with you.

What if your team doesn’t display those signs? Does that mean you’ve done something wrong? Not necessarily. In fact, you probably haven’t done anything wrong. The more likely scenario is you just haven’t devoted intentional effort to building the culture of your team. Now that you have an idea that things could be better, here’s a way to get started fostering freedom within your team to enable them to perform at their best.

1. Be trustworthy – The bedrock of any successful leader or team is trust. As Warren Bennis said, it’s the lubrication that makes organizations work. It’s the oil that keeps your team’s engine humming at its best, and without it, your team’s production will grind to a halt. A primary component of your leadership role is to model trustworthy behavior. It sets the tone for how you expect team members to treat each other. Building trust is a never-ending quest. It’s a journey, not a destination. For a primer on being a trustworthy leader, see The ABCDs of Leading with Trust.

2. Be open – To infuse your team atmosphere with a sense of freedom, it’s imperative that you lead with a philosophy of openness. You demonstrate openness by sharing information freely because you know people need information if they are going to act responsibly in their roles. Openness also means being forthright and genuine when you share information or interact with team members. You don’t spin the truth to manipulate the way team members interpret information, but you share the truth candidly and appropriately. Openness means your team members know there are no hidden agendas with you. What they see is what they get (you’re authentic).

3. Establish clear expectations – Fostering freedom within your team doesn’t mean “anything goes.” Freedom doesn’t mean a lack of responsibility or accountability. In fact, it means just the opposite. It means everyone is clear on the expectations for their role. It means they clearly understand what’s in their lane and what’s not. Freedom results because within the boundaries that have been established, team members have the full reign to operate according to their best judgment. If boundaries and expectations aren’t clear, it leads to people being hesitant to act, duplication of efforts, or even worse, someone dropping the ball because they assume the other person is supposed to be responsible. Clear expectations through the use of job descriptions, establishing key responsibility areas for positions, and setting SMART goals are all ways to clarify expectations.

4. Be receptive to others – You cultivate freedom in your team by actively seeking the input of others, truly listening to their ideas, and incorporating their feedback into your decisions and action plans for the team. This isn’t the same as being open, as I mentioned above. Think of openness as what you communicate out to the team, and think of receptivity as what you take in from the team. Team members want to be invested and display a sense of ownership if only leaders will give them the opportunity. Availability is a key aspect to being receptive, because you can’t be receptive if you’re in meetings eight hours a day and never available to connect with your team members. When they do bring ideas or input to you, listen non-judgmentally. Don’t instinctively look for all the holes in their ideas, but explore ways to make their ideas (or parts of them) work.

5. Don’t micromanage – You can excel at being the most trustworthy and open leader, set clear expectations and be receptive to the input of others, but if you micromanage your team to death, freedom will never gain a foothold. Micromanagement creates discouragement and resignation on the part of team members. It beats down the spirits of your people to the point where they “quit and stay” on the job. They’re physically present but not engaged in their work. They eventually develop the attitude of just doing the minimum amount of work acceptable and nothing more. If that’s the kind of team you want, then be my guest. Micromanage away! If it’s not the type of team you want, then avoid the temptation to over control. Your team will thank you for it.

Five ways to foster freedom in your team: be trustworthy, open, establish clear expectations, be receptive to others, and don’t micromanage. By no means an exhaustive list but a good start nonetheless. Practice these big five and you’ll be on your way to developing a high performing team.

5 Pieces of Advice for all Those “Average Joe” Grads

Graduation CapsI attended a high school graduation this past Friday. It was similar to all the other high school and college graduation ceremonies I’ve experienced over the years. The graduates filed in to their seats accompanied by the notes of Pomp and Circumstance, the high achieving graduates received special recognition and a stream of awards, then the valedictorians (the highest achievers of the high achievers) gave speeches, followed by the mass roll call of all the graduates as they crossed the stage to receive their diplomas.

A new thought struck me as I watched the ceremony on Friday. When you take out the time allotted for the graduates to march to their seats as well as the time for the roll call awarding the diplomas, 90% of the graduation ceremony is focused on 10% of the highest achieving students.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with being a high-achiever. I think every student should aim to perform his/her best and those outstanding performers definitely deserve special recognition. However, those are the exceptions, not the norm. Most people won’t graduate with a 4.87 GPA and plans to study Neurobiology at John Hopkins University. The fact is that most of us graduate with little clue as to what we want to do with the rest of our lives. What sort of leadership advice should be passed on to those “average Joe’s?”

Well, from one average Joe to another, here’s what I would say:

1. Don’t stress, it’s normal to not know what you want to do with the rest of your life. Most of us are bozos on the same bus; we’re figuring out life as we go. Very few of us have a crystal clear purpose of what we want to do in life, and even many of those high achievers giving the graduation speeches will take unexpected turns in life that deviate from their original plan. It’s called life. We learn, grow, and mature (hopefully) and our wants and desires change over the course of time. But somehow life has a way of working out. We all eventually find our niche and you’ll find yours.

2. Don’t compare yourself to others. Playing the comparison game is a guaranteed way to make yourself miserable and unhappy. There will always be someone who has a better job, makes more money, owns a bigger house, or accumulates more “stuff” than you. But that doesn’t mean they’re happier than you. Learning how to be content in all circumstances is one of the secrets of life. If you can find contentment, gratefulness, and thankfulness for what you do have, then you’ve got it all.

3. Be patient. More than any previous generation, today’s graduates have grown up in an instant gratification society. Many young graduates expect the work world to operate the same way. It doesn’t. Get used to it. However, you are among the brightest and quickest learning people to enter the workforce in ages and that has its own strengths. Work hard, listen more than you speak, learn from the experience of others, and prepare yourself to take advantage of opportunities when they arise. You’ll get your shot, but it will take some time and hard work.

4. Live for something bigger than yourself. If you haven’t yet learned this universal truth, I hope you will someday soon. Life really becomes meaningful and filled with purpose when you learn you aren’t the center of the universe. Life is not all about getting that job with the corner office or the handsome paycheck. It’s not about vacationing in Europe every summer or making “bank” as my 19 year-old son likes to say. Life becomes worthwhile when you realize it’s about giving more than you get. It’s about serving others, not yourself. One of the mysterious paradoxes in life is the more you give your time, talent, and treasure to others, the more deep-seated satisfaction you receive in return. I don’t know how else to describe it and I don’t think there’s a way you can learn it without doing it. Give it a try. Sooner rather than later. You’ll save yourself a lot of wasted living.

5. Don’t give up. Life throws you curve balls and sometimes you strike out. Other times you get beaned by the pitch and you’re on the disabled list for a while. But if you keep getting back in the box and swing at enough pitches, you’ll get your fair share of hits. It takes time, effort, and patience but it will eventually turn your way…as long as you don’t give up. You matter. You are important. No one else in this world is like you and we need you. Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.

None of this is rocket science; much of life isn’t. It’s the basic fundamentals of life, that when practiced well, lead to success and happiness. Not being the honor grad with plans for a grand future doesn’t mean you’re a loser…it just means your normal. And normal is a pretty fantastic thing when you consider how amazingly gifted you are (even if you don’t realize it or believe it).

Congrats all you grads! There’s a fantastic life waiting for you. Go out and live it!

8 Ways to Tell if You’re a Good Boss or a Bad Boss

Glinda the Good Witch of the NorthAre you a good boss or a bad boss? That question reminds me of the scene from the Wizard of Oz when Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, first encounters Dorothy in Munchkinland. Glinda asks Dorothy “Are you a good witch, or a bad witch?” Dorothy replies that she’s not a witch at all, and besides, witches are old and ugly. After being informed that the beautiful, young Glinda is a witch, Dorothy says “You are! I beg your pardon! But I’ve never heard of a beautiful witch before.” Glinda responds, “Only bad witches are ugly.”

I think only bad bosses are ugly.

How do you know if you’re a good boss or a bad boss? A few years ago, Google’s People Operations group unveiled the results of a two-year study into what separates bad bosses from good bosses in their own company. They performed extensive data analysis on performance reviews, feedback surveys, and nominations for top-manager awards. They came up with eight behaviors that distinguished the best bosses at Google. How do you stack up against this list?

1. Be a good coach

  • Provide specific, constructive feedback, balancing the negative and the positive.
  • Have regular one-on-ones, presenting solutions to problems tailored to your employees’ specific strengths

2. Empower your team and don’t micromanage

  • Balance giving freedom to your employees, while still being available for advice. Make “stretch” assignments to help the team tackle big problems.

3. Express interest in team members’ success and personal well-being

  • Get to know your employees as people, with lives outside of work.
  • Make new members of your team feel welcome and help ease their transition.

4. Don’t be a sissy: Be productive and results-oriented

  • Focus on what employees want the team to achieve and how they can help achieve it.
  • Help the team prioritize work and use seniority to remove roadblocks.

5. Be a good communicator and listen to your team

  • Communication is two-way: you both listen and share information.
  • Hold all-hands meetings and be straightforward about the messages and goals of the team. Help the team connect the dots.
  • Encourage open dialogue and listen to the issues and concerns of your employees.

6. Help your employees with career development

  • Be a mentor and advocate for career growth.
  • Help people develop their skills so they are better positioned for new opportunities.

7. Have a clear vision and strategy for the team

  • Even in the midst of turmoil, keep the team focused on goals and strategy
  • Include the team in setting and evolving the team’s vision and making progress toward it.

8. Have key technical skills so you can help advise the team

  • Roll up your sleeves and conduct work side by side with the team, when needed.
  • Understand the specific challenges of the work.

Kind of a no-brainer list, huh? It reinforces the idea that leaders can make tremendous strides by simply following the basics: Be interested in your folks, help them achieve their goals, provide the resources and support they need and get out of their way, communicate and share information, and have a vision for where the team needs to go.

Hopefully you’re a good boss and these behaviors are already part of your repertoire. If they aren’t, don’t worry. They’re all things that are very much under your control and you can incorporate them into your leadership practices. After all, you don’t want to be a bad boss. Bad bosses are ugly.

The 1 Thing That Will Ultimately Determine Your Success as a Leader

Helping HandLeadership is a complex endeavor, but it doesn’t have to be complicated.

We tend to make things more complicated than they need to be and that’s definitely true in the field of leadership. To prove my point, go to Amazon.com and search their book listings for the word “leadership” and see how many returns you get (but wait until you finish reading this article!). What did you find? It was 138,611 as of the writing of this post.

Browsing the titles of some popular best-sellers would lead you to believe that in order to be a successful leader you just need to find the magical keys, take the right steps, follow the proper laws, figure out the dysfunctions, embrace the challenge, ascend the levels, look within yourself, look outside yourself, form a tribe, develop the right habits, know the rules, break the rules, be obsessed, learn the new science, or discover the ancient wisdom. Did I say we like to over-complicate things?

What if successful leadership isn’t really that complicated? What if I told you there was one thing…not a title, power, or position…that determined whether people followed your lead? What if you understood there was one aspect of your leadership that was a non-negotiable, must-have characteristic that must be in place for people to pledge you their loyalty and commitment? What if you knew there was one element that defined how people experienced you as a leader? Would you be interested? Can it really be as simple as one thing?

That one thing is trust. It’s the foundation of any successful, healthy, thriving relationship. Without it, your leadership is doomed. Creativity is stifled, innovation grinds to a halt, and reasoned risk-taking is abandoned. People check their hearts and minds at the door, leaving you with a staff who has quit mentally and emotionally but stayed on the payroll, sucking precious resources from your organization.

However, with trust, all things are possible. Energy, progress, productivity, and ingenuity flourish. Commitment, engagement, loyalty, and excellence become more than empty words in a company mission statement; they become reality. Trust has been called the “magic” ingredient of organizational life. It simultaneously acts as the bonding agent that keeps everything together as well as the lubricant that keeps things moving smoothly. Stephen M.R. Covey likes to say that while high trust won’t necessarily rescue a poor strategy, low trust will almost always derail a good one. Trust is essential to your success as a leader.

But trust doesn’t come easy and it doesn’t happen by accident. It’s advanced leadership and requires you to work at it each and every day. It starts by you being trustworthy. The ABCD Trust Model is a helpful tool to help you understand the four elements of being a trustworthy leader.

Leaders build trust when they are:

Able—Being Able is about demonstrating competence. One way leaders demonstrate their competence is having the expertise needed to do their jobs. Expertise comes from possessing the right skills, education, or credentials that establish credibility with others. Leaders also demonstrate their competence through achieving results. Consistently achieving goals and having a track record of success builds trust with others and inspires confidence in your ability. Able leaders are also skilled at facilitating work getting done in the organization. They develop credible project plans, systems, and processes that help team members accomplish their goals.

Believable—A Believable leader acts with integrity. Dealing with people in an honest fashion by keeping promises, not lying or stretching the truth, and not gossiping are ways to demonstrate integrity. Believable leaders also have a clear set of values that have been articulated to their direct reports and they behave consistently with those values—they walk the ttrustalk. Finally, treating people fairly and equitably are key components to being a believable leader. Being fair doesn’t necessarily mean treating people the same in all circumstances, but it does mean that people are treated appropriately and justly based on their own unique situation.

ConnectedConnected leaders show care and concern for people, which builds trust and helps to create an engaging work environment. Leaders create a sense of connection by openly sharing information about themselves and the organization and trusting employees to use that information responsibly. Leaders also build trust by having a “people first” mentality and building rapport with those they lead. Taking an interest in people as individuals and not just as nameless workers shows that leaders value and respect their team members. Recognition is a vital component of being a connected leader, and praising and rewarding the contributions of people and their work builds trust and goodwill.

Dependable—Being Dependable and maintaining reliability is the fourth element of trustworthiness. One of the quickest ways to erode trust is by not following through on commitments. Conversely, leaders who do what they say they’re going to do earn a reputation as being consistent and trustworthy. Maintaining reliability requires leaders to be organized in such a way that they are able to follow through on commitments, be on time for appointments and meetings, and get back to people in a timely fashion. Dependable leaders also hold themselves and others accountable for following through on commitments and taking responsibility for the outcomes of their work.

Trust – the one requirement for successful leadership. Do you have it?

I originally published this post last week for Blanchard’s LeaderChat blog under the title of Your Success as a Leader Depends on This One Thing and I thought the Leading with Trust audience would enjoy it as well.

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.

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.

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.

Duke’s Coach K’s Secret to Leadership Success

In the spirit of March Madness and taking the Easter holiday off from writing a new post, enjoy this article originally written in November 2011. It’s about Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski and the role trust plays in his success as a leader. Coach K has since amassed nearly 1,000 wins in his career and tomorrow night will play for a chance to win his fifth national title.

November, 2011

“In leadership, there are no words more important than trust.
In any organization, trust must be developed among every member of the team if success is going to be achieved.”
Leading With The Heart ~ Mike Krzyzewski

This past Tuesday Mike Krzyzewski became the winningest coach in Division I college basketball history when Duke defeated Michigan State 74-69. This was Coach K’s 903rd victory in a 35 year career that has included four national titles, 11 Final Four appearances, and just four losing seasons.

In a post-game interview with ESPN’s Rece Davis, Coach K was asked the following question: “What’s the single most important characteristic for a coach to have to achieve the things you’ve achieved?”

Mike Krzyzewski’s answer is simple, yet profound, and is one that leaders everywhere should take to heart if they want to maximize their leadership influence. Here’s what he said:

“I think you have to be trustworthy. You have to take the time to develop a relationship that’s so strong with each individual player, and hopefully with the team, that they will trust you. They let you in, and if they let you in, you can teach. If they don’t let you in, you’re never going to get there.”

When Coach K references his players “letting him in,” he points to the heart. It’s not just a casual, conversational gesture. He’s making a specific point about tapping into his players’ heart – the emotional core of who they are as a person. Coach K intentionally focuses on developing a trusting relationship with each of his players because he knows without that absolute level of trust, he won’t be able to teach them how to transform their potential into performance.

The same principle applies to leaders in any organization. In order to achieve success, you have to take the time to establish meaningful, trust-based relationships with your team members. If your people don’t trust you, they won’t be receptive to your coaching on ways they can improve their performance. If your team can’t trust that you’ll have their back when they fail, they won’t take the necessary risks needed to move your business forward.

Conversely, trust enables your team to confront the brutal facts of their performance and find ways to get better. Trust allows individuals to set aside their personal ego for the betterment of the team and commit wholeheartedly to pursuing a common goal. Trust is what allows leaders to tap into the hearts and souls of their team members and achieve greater levels of success together than they could ever reach individually.

Beyond the career milestones, and he’s had plenty, leading with trust is Mike Krzyzewski’s most enduring legacy. In that regard, we should all try to be like Mike.

6 Steps to Leading Like a Badass

The Most Interesting Man in the WorldI’m a fan of the Dos Equis “The Most Interesting Man in the World” commercials. Some of my favorite sayings about The Most Interesting Man in the World include:

  • His personality is so magnetic, he is unable to carry credit cards.
  • Even his enemies list him as their emergency contact number.
  • People hang on his every word, even the prepositions.
  • He can disarm you with his looks or his hands, either way.
  • He can speak French in Russian.
  • He once taught canaries the art of falconry.

That guy is a real badass, isn’t he? Imagine him in a leadership role…badassery at it’s best! You can be a badass leader too, although it’s probably not what you think.

What does a badass leader look like?

He confidently marches to the beat of his own drum, not swayed by popular opinion or the need to please others. He doesn’t put on airs, pretending to be something he isn’t, but stays true to his principles and values in all that he does. He doesn’t have to talk about being a badass (that’s a poser) because he knows he is a badass. A badass leader isn’t an uncooperative jerk, indiscriminately ticking people off. A badass leader knows his limits and takes pride in working with others to achieve the goals of the team. Understated, purposeful, and pursuing excellence in all he does. That’s a badass.

Examples of well-known badasses:

  • Abraham Lincoln – Presidential Badass
  • Condoleezza Rice – Diplomat Badass
  • Derek Jeter – Baseball Badass
  • Leonardo da Vinci – Renaissance Badass
  • Mother Teresa – Spiritual Badass
  • Albert Einstein – Intellectual Badass
  • Aristotle – Philosophical Badass
  • John Wayne – Western Movie Actor Badass

Get the idea? So how do you become a leadership badass? Here’s six ways:

1. Develop your competence – Competence breeds confidence, no two ways about it. If you want to be more secure in your leadership abilities then you need to keep learning and growing. Read books, take classes, get a mentor, and learn from others. Badass leaders aren’t content with the status quo. They are always striving to improve their craft.

2. Be vulnerable – Huh? Isn’t that the opposite of being a badass? No! Leaders that display vulnerability show they don’t have anything to hide. Posers are those who lead with a false sense of confidence, trying to hide their weaknesses from others. Badass leaders are acutely aware of their strengths and weaknesses and aren’t afraid to admit when they don’t know something. People crave authentic leadership and badasses are nothing if not authentic.

3. Focus on building trust – Trust is the foundation of badassery. You have to earn people’s trust before they will follow you and give their all. Badass leaders focus on building trust by being good at what they do, acting with integrity, caring for others, and following through on their commitments.

4. Build up other people – Badass leaders don’t feel the need to build themselves up by tearing down others. Secure enough in their self-worth, badass leaders take pride in the accomplishments of their team members and do everything they can to set them up for success. Badass leaders know that their success comes from the success of their people.

5. Get stuff done – Badass leaders don’t make excuses, they make things happen. They remove obstacles for their people, find the tools and resources they need, and provide the right amounts of direction and support they need to achieve their goals. Badass leaders are about doing, not talking. Badass leaders get stuff done.

6. Go against the grain – Doing what’s right is not always the popular choice, but badass leaders aren’t afraid to go against the grain when it’s the right thing to do. Badass leaders know they can’t base their self-worth on the applause of others and they aren’t afraid to ruffle a few feathers on occasion.

Every leader has the ability to be a badass. It’s an attitude, a belief, a way of being. Don’t lead scared, letting fear drive your behavior, but tap into your inner badassness and lead with confidence and assurance. Before you know it, people will look at you and say, “Now that’s a badass leader!”

Feel free to leave a comment and share your thoughts on what it means to lead like a badass.

%d bloggers like this: