A Leadership Experience

This past week, I had the privilege of watching a group of leadership program candidates graduate from their experience.  As a Board Member for a local trade association, I was there as this program is a Board sponsored program. 

There were some important lessons that I took away from this dinner, aside from the fact the dinner, was AWESOME!  All of these lessons are more “duh” moments when you sit back and think about it, however, they definitely served as reminders that you have to take the time to get  back to the basics from time to time as leader.

1. Leadership is a journey, not a destination
2. Each person has their individual spin they put on leadership
3. Have a dream; develop a plan; execute on your strategy
4. No two leaders execute in the same manner, nor are their experiences the same
5. Just because leadership styles are different, doesn’t mean one is more right than another
6. If you are learning in a homogeneous environment, you lose diversity in thought and experiences
7. Successful leaders are always networking and exchanging ideas
8. Leaders must be open to differing perspectives and allow results to happen as a consequence of execution
9. Leadership is not about the leader
10. Leaders must take the time to “smell the roses” and celebrate the success of their teams and organizations
11. Leaders need to be facilitators for growth and development, not managers of activities
12. Leaders don’t need to be the smartest person in the room, but they need to have vision and effective communication skills

These 2013 graduates of The Austin Contact Center Association Service Leadership Academy did a great job in their journey.  Several of the graduates are already on their way to successful adventures inside their organizations, but also outside of their organization.  I don’t think that they realize how much they taught this member of the audience.  I hope they do now.

Have a great week!


Where are you going, and why?

So, you are in transition, but are have you prepared yourself for your next big thing?  Maybe its not a “big” thing, maybe its just your thing.

With graduations occurring over the next couple of months, many students will be asked so what are you going to do now?  Many expect to be making 60K+ because that is a lifestyle they have become used to.  They have become used to their parents lifestyle, but they really don’t remember how their parents started off, in most cases.  What is worse, is that many students are entering a world of debt that they are not prepared for. 

There has been much written in blogs, journals, and other publications about the debt that new High School and College Graduates will be saddled with, however, when working adults transition in their lives, are they truly ready and prepared?  Debt is one aspect of transition.  The more important aspect of transition, in my opinion, is how prepared is a person ready for the challenges of their next role?  For some, it is a promotion.  For others, it is a demotion.  For others, it is a total career change.  What people forget is how their experiences in a prior role can translate into a new adventure.

Here is an example.  Working in a contact center is not a lifelong dream of most young people.  Most contact centers, however, are staffed with individuals that bring a unique “flavor” to their employer.  They may have sold insurance; be technically savvy; have a legal background; sales background, etc.  They may have coursework that range from very little to PhD’s, those that have college degrees, and others that have GED’s.  The main point is that they prepared themselves as a professional in some way that makes them valuable to their employer.

As a person embarks on their next challenge, they need to ask themselves some very simple questions, regardless of the industry they are in.

  • Why am I embarking on this challenge
  • What do I hope to gain from this experience
  • Who will mentor me
  • When will I know if I am successful
  • Where do I see myself in 6 months, a year, five years
  • How is this experience going to allow me to improve or increase the tools in my toolbox

Education is an investment in a persons future, however, education without experience often leads to frustration.  When new college graduates expect to be earning 60K+ directly out of school, they don’t realize the importance of experience.  Some are able to land high paying jobs directly out of school with very little experience, however, those are the exceptions.

Education and experience can come from many different places.  Be open to coaching, mentoring, constant development whenever it is offered to you.  This will allow you to become more well rounded as your career evolves.  Understand where you are at currently, know where you want to be, but most importantly know that your path is going to have a myriad of directional changes which will prepare you for the next fork in the road. 

Have a good week!

A Formula for Success

Another High School Baseball seasons is drawing to a close.  This is a sure sign that the school year is ending shortly.  As a parent of two high schoolers (both of whom are baseball players), I realize that the end of their high school academic career is also coming to a close (fortunately my boys are a junior and freshman this year).  This post has nothing to do with baseball, however, it does have to do with being prepared for transition.

This spring and summer many graduates will be interviewing for their first “real” job, but are they prepared?  Much like a ball player stepping up his/her game are graduates or job seekers truly ready to step up their game?  What I coach people on is where you are today, should not be where you expect to be tomorrow.  It is important to have a basic formula for success, such as:

Preparation + Opportunity = Success
By looking at this very simple formula, it can lead you in the direction you are seeking. 
Preparation – have you invested in yourself and equiped yourself with knowledge and experience that others will recognize?  What do you know about the path you are choosing and do you understand not just the glitter associated with your choice, but do you also understand how to avoid the quicksand that can derail your journey?
Opportunity – carpe diem!  Seize the moment!  When you are in a position to put all of your preparation to action, do you take advantage of the moment?  Don’t be hesitant, just go for it!!
Success – Celebrate your success!!!  Understand what got you to the point and appreciate those who guided, coached, and mentored you through all of your preparation for the moment that you were able to capitalize on. 
Like an athlete moving up levels of competition, it is important to remember where you have been and what brought you to the moment of success that you are in.  Keep preparing for the next level of your career and never stop being a student of not just your trade or vocation, but of life.
Remember P+O=S.
Have a great week!

Recharge Your Batteries!

Are your batteries recharged?  This week, my batteries got recharged and I am motivated to do so much! 

I was in a Leadership Development course this week.  As most leaders, we have attended many of these sessions, but for some reason this one was exceptional! 

How were my batteries recharged?  Even though the content was similar to other leadership training, the timing of this was excellent, and I was able to attend with peers in our organizations’ Sales vertical, as well as my intact Operational team.  This created a very interesting dynamic that really recharged my batteries to enhance collaborative team relationships in our workplace.

At the end of the day, it is important in any team environment, that you are able to see the challenges that others face in meeting their goals.  At the end of the day, we all face similar challenges, but approach the process from different angles.  It is important that in the workplace, leaders can bridge the cross-functional gap.  This is difficult to do when, when you don’t have a lens into others silo’s.

When you are having challenges with cross-functional peers, take the time to network through collaborative work groups.  In doing so, you will gain an understanding of their challenges, and they will better understand yours.  At the end of the day, the customer your organization serves will reap the benefits. 

Recharge the passion in your career.  Get back to the basics.  Most importantly, put your customers as your workplace priority by reducing time spent on non-customer focused topics.  Define the goals you need to attain with your customers, and don’t just plan the work, but work the plan!

Thank you to the trainer for creating this experience, and for those in the class that really made this a valuable couple of days!

Have a great weekend!!

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!

Leadership Lessons from Mom

On this Mother’s Day it is important to remember the CFO’s in our lives.  That is Mom, the Chief Family Officer.  I first heard this term on a commercial on the radio, and today on Mother’s Day it seems appropriate for remembrance of these unsung hero’s.

From the day that each of us are born, typically it is our Mom’s that not only provide nurturing, but also provide us guidance through the good times and bad.  When tough decisions need to be made, we turn to Mom.  When financial decisions need to be made, we need Mom’s blessings.  Through our years, it is our Mother’s that have the hope their development of us will allow us to reach our full potential. 

As a Chief Family Officer, Mom really has final say over Dad, whether he wants to admit it or not.  Dad’s will take their direction from Mom and each child understands the hierarchy in the family can make what decisions.  As we progress past High School and into College and the workforce, we translate the understanding of who decision makers are in the workplace.  We gain an understanding that the professional organization, much like a familial organization, must have a person who is truly looking our for the best interests of each individual and the organization as whole.  In most families, Mom is this person.

As each person embarks on their careers, we remember the lessons of our family organization.  How tough decisions are made, how we communicate with one another, when to play, and when to be focused.  The business organization is one that we spend 40+ hours per week at and where we need to effectively communicate, make tough decisions, work hard, and play hard with our professional family.

At the end of the day, we learn more about how to interact with others through watching the interactions of our mother’s.  We are successful, as a result of the drive and desire to succeed that our mother’s instill in us.  Think about how your first interaction with a CFO was really your mother, the Chief Family Officer.
Today, I leave you with some quotes and thoughts…  Remember your Mother today on this Mother’s Day.

Being a full-time mother is one of the highest salaried jobs… since the payment is pure love. ~Mildred B. Vermont

Mothers hold their children’s hands for a short while, but their hearts forever. ~Author Unknown

I remember my mother’s prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life. ~Abraham Lincoln

Everything Grows…

Everything grows when it rains.

In nature, in order for things to grow, there must be rain.  As I drove past a field that had been scorched a year ago during a wild fire, there is a lush green field now.  As a leader, we are always challenged to take negative situations and turn them into a positive.  If we find ourselves in situations where we have been burned, we need to look for the opportunity to grow again.

Rain can take many forms.  Rain in this discussion is centered more about the decisions we make in the workplace.  All of us at one time or another have made a poor or ill advised decision in the workplace.  It happens to everyone.  We find ourselves in situations that we often aren’t thinking clearly, and as a result, end up in a place that we didn’t intend to be.

Do you have a reliable weather forecaster, a professional mentor that can guide you through your individual rainstorms?  These mentors are in the places that you least expect them to be and usually the person that you least expect them to be.  Your weather forecaster is someone that you trust to evaluate situations after the fact, and assist you in growing and maturing to not have another negative experience.  They are there to equip you to weather the daily storms that each person encounters.
When looking at rainy periods, it is important for you to understand how the rain developed.  Most of the time it was not El Nino or La Nina, but a series of events that led to a personal setback.  How you weather the storm will determine how sunny the future will be.  At this time, it is critical to spend a few minutes with your weather forecaster, look at the maps (how the situation came from point A to point B) to understand how the series of decisions led to the outcome that occurred.  The growing piece is gaining an understanding of how to avoid bad decisions and make better decisions in the future. 

I had the privilege to attend a panel discussion of senior leaders this week who spoke of having a mentor.  Mentors who would shoot straight with them and encourage them as they developed in their careers.  These mentors are your weather forecasters, the have been there, done that, and earned a t-shirt for the efforts.  Listen to what your forecasters have to say and they will guide you through the juggernaut that is your professional career.  You will have many forecasters throughout your life.  If you tune them out, you will continue to be bitter and scorched, you will never grow.  However, if you reflect on the feedback given to you, and incorporate the feedback to your particular situation, your decisions will be stronger and more decisive as you become more experienced. 

Pay it forward.  Become a forecaster for others and look for opportunities to share your experiences with those who are a little green so that they are able to grow and mature.

In my career, to quote a James Taylor song, “I’ve seen Fire and I’ve seen Rain.  I’ve seen Sunny days that I thought would never end.”  Rain is not always bad, and sun is not always good.  The sunny days always follow the rainy days.  Use those sunny days to grow and mature and I guarantee you will have more sun than rain.  Trust your forecaster to guide you.  Don’t take anything or anyone for granted.

Have a great weekend!