Listen to be heard

I was watching an excerpt of an interview with Lebron James recently where he spoke about losing last years NBA finals was the worst experience of his career.  He said that experience he was able to turn into a positive situation by ensuring he grew from that experience.
Are athletes the only ones who can draw strength from setbacks and have those negative situations become catalysts for positive future outcomes?  It can be argued that each of us as individuals and as leaders can turn negative situations into positives, we just need to listen and understand how those situations came to be. 

It is easy for leaders to want to “tell”, but the best leaders allow their teams to “experience”.  It is our leadership responsibility to guide people through developing their own experiences, so they can be stronger performers and leaders in the future.

As in the case of an athlete, a coach can preach to a multi million dollar athlete all day, however, it is not until the inexperienced player becomes a seasoned and mature veteran that they really understand and respect the coaching they received early in their careers.  This is why many young, but talented players never are able to win a championship, and why many talented young professionals never reach their full potential. 

Spend more time over the course of the next week listening to your teams, and less time directing.  Hear what they have to say, and they will begin to hear more of what you have to say.  Listen to be heard.

Allowing for experiences is a process.  Allow the process to naturally occur, within a pre-defined framework of established feedback opportunities.  That feedback should be equally provided and needs to allow for a free flow of ideas based upon the experiences obtained since the last feedback opportunity.  Remember, to listen in order to be heard.

Have a great week…


Inspect what you Expect

One of the greatest attributes of a leader is to be able to develop those whom are being led, as well as become a leader among their peers.  As a leader of people, it is drilled in that in order to be successful an effective leader must delegate.  What happens often times is that leaders delegate tasks, however, they do not effectively follow through to make sure assigned tasks are completed competently and on time. 

When assignments are not effectively executed, many leaders become managers, or even worse, micro managers because in their minds, they can not trust that when they delegate the task is able to be completed.  As a result, a leader can never truly develop their direct reports. 

It is important to remember that most tasks fail not as a result of the person the task is delegated to.  They typically fail because the assignment of the task has not been set up properly.  There are a myriad of leadership classes that leaders can learn the principles of effective delegation, but here are a few key reminders.

  • Provide background  – What is the problem that is needing to be resolved and why is it important to the organization?
  • Gain commitment – Is this a problem that has relevance and is not perceived as simply busy work.
  • Resources needed – Who and what is required for effective execution?
  • Time frame – When does the task need to be completed?
  • Checkpoints – When will there be progress reports?
  • Review – Once the task is completed, ensure that feedback is provided to the person that the task is delegated to.

Feedback throughout an assignment is essential, but in setting up the task assignment, it is important for the leader to allow two way feedback to all of the above points.  A sure way to see a task fail is if the person responsible for completing the task gets the feeling that they are flying blind.

By allowing mistakes and course corrections to occur, leaders develop others by providing them valuable experience and instilling confidence in others abilities.  At the end of the day, we always need to be thinking succession planning.  The best way to do that is by allowing others to drive results and providing individual feedback when timely and appropriate.

Remember, leadership is not about us, it is about the constant strengthening of the organization and applies to all organizations.

Have a great end to the week!

Directional Leadership

In 1984, singer Joe Jackson had a hit song with a line in it that said, “You can’t get what you want, until you know what you want”.  As a leader, the most important questions that can be answered is where are we going, and why are we going there?

Typically, business are started to solve a problem.  Whether the business owner is attempting to create a new product or to improve on an existing concept, they are fundamentally wanting to solve a problem.  The leaders reporting to the business owner must believe in the vision and direction that the owner has.  Leaders must engage the front line employees in the direction of the organization in order for the business to be successful.  As a result successful operations have top to bottom synergy.

In customer facing roles, the worst response that can be provided to a customer is “They say I need to follow this procedure, even though it doesn’t make sense”  If successful operations must have top to bottom synergy in direction, why would customers receive this response from front line employees.  Has the direction of the organization changed, and the top level management just hasn’t caught up or vice-versa?  This is a problem.

How do you know what you want?  What direction do you as a leader want to create?  It is essential to continually be taking temperature checks of the organization both formally and informally to ensure if conditions have changed in the market, that leaders are creating the direction and are being response to the intel provided to them at all levels.  Leaders that dismiss feedback, are doing themselves and their organization a big disservice. 

Once you have created organizational synergy and are providing directional, responsive leadership, you are then able to ensure the organization is being effective and efficient in the execution of the vision and mission of the the organization.  You can get what you want, if you know what you want.  As a leader, you need to invest not only the monetary and intellectual resources to creating organizational direction, but you must invest your human resources for long term organizational success. 

A baseball team would love to have a lineup of all .400 hitters, but what is the cost of doing so, pitching effectiveness, defensive ability.  What’s the benefit of scoring 15 runs a game, if you are giving away 16.  Balance and team work are imperative for baseball organizations.

This same balance and team work are imperative in other environments as well.  The difference is the directional leadership that is being provided and if the organization buys into the leaders direction.  You really can get what you want, if you know what you want!

Have a great week!