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!

A Sense of Purpose

Today’s topic is one that is discussed frequently as a leadership topic, providing a sense of purpose.  I take credit for this not in my workplace, but in the work that my two son’s began this weekend. 

Allow me to table set for a moment.  First of all, they are both A students in high school.  One has been accepted to his dream college on early admission, but is keeping his options open as before he fully commits as he has a desire to play baseball at the collegiate level.  My other son is a sophomore who is definitely coming into his own personality and is very focused in his own right.  They are both focused on being successful in school, but at times it seems they are satisfied with doing enough to stay ahead of their peers.

They began assisting a family friend this weekend on a new business venture that they are assisting him with market research on.  What a better source on how social media is influencing people than with a couple of teenagers.  A great idea for my friend, plus it provide some valuable work experience that allows them not to come home covered in hamburger grease.  A win-win in my book.

Here is the leadership lesson.  They came home fired up and motivated to do well (after a 9AM meeting on a Saturday morning), not just because there was money involved, but they were talking about all the potential they saw and wanted to become part of a greater purpose.  They understood the value of what they were doing and the impact it would have on our friends business.

In our own workplace, are including in our day to day activities a way to integrate a sense of purpose into our culture?  While there are may be a variety of roles and responsibilities in our environments, are we taking the time to make sure that our teams and organizations understand the value of each persons contribution to the “why” we are in business.

I am fortunate, I get to share a story of contribution and success with the rest of the organization I work for in the morning.  Daily my team shares encouragement and stories of success with each other.  As a result, the team has a shared sense of purpose and value.  They support and encourage each other and motivate our leadership to want to do more for them on a daily basis.  At the end of the day, having the shared purpose, creates a shared vision of what success looks like, and we work on it daily.

Take a few minutes this week to recognize those you work with.  Tell stories, because you want to, not because you have to.  They will be much more meaningful to the recipient than if you are going through the motions and simply checking a box.

Have a great week!

Ever Feel Like a Pigeon Sometimes?

Whether you are in the workplace or in your personal life, do you ever feel like a pigeon sometimes?  What exactly does this mean, you might ask?

If you are an information and knowledge junkie, you probably have an insatiable thirst to know and learn more.  You don’t just want to know when decisions are made, but why they are made.  Yes, you probably have your hands in alot of different places, and juggling multiple projects at any one time, but you are never satisfied.

Feeling like a pigeon occurs when you rely on others for the scraps of information that are being thrown down to you, hoping that each morsel will fill you up.  Pigeons will hang out around beings (usually humans) that can satisfy the pigeons need for food, and ultimately satisfaction.  Pigeons, when they can not obtain satisfaction in one location, they move to another location, hoping to have the desires satisfied.

As humans, our morsels of food are the nuggets of “why” things occur.  If you are in an organization where decisions are made by those disconnected from the processes and drivers, you are probably shaking your head thinking, “what were they thinking”?  Sooner or later you either become complacent and settle for mediocrity, or you decide to take action and move locations where hopefully your desires can be satisfied.  The thing about pigeons though, they never stop trying.  They will continue to come around, until a piece of bread is thrown their way.  The human thinks that the pigeon is satisfied, however, the satisfaction is only temporary, the pigeon will undoubtedly return for more.

As leaders, we need to expect that our teams have this desire to know why decisions are made, and it is up to us to keep feeding that need.  Teams and individuals understand confidentiality, they don’t understand secrecy. 

Feed the need, and productivity will take seed.  Don’t give teams and individuals a reason to look elsewhere for their morsels, because the outcome will usually not be what you ultimately want. 

How about you?  Do you ever feel like a pigeon?

AAAAARRRGGGHHHH!!!!

The title of this blog says it all!!  It is what each of us feels at some point in time during the course of our busy days!  However, why do we get to this point?  Here are a few thoughts I have…

  • We think we are on an island in a fast moving stream.  If we dare to upset the the current, we may lose everything that this island provides for us.
  • We believe that no one else wants to hear about what is frustrating us.  That is the furthest from the truth, unless you are an infinite complainer that does not have the capacity to see the positive in any situation and as a result those around you tune you out.  Take time to see the upside in every situation, no matter how challenging it may be.
  • Mediocrity breeds complacency.  If you buy in to the thought “it has always been done that way”, you are stifling creativity.  Again, don’t upset the apple cart, it is how we are fed.

I am certain that they are other reasons that we get to the point of AAAARRGGGHHHH!!!  It is important that we understand the triggers in ourselves and work to diffuse the situation prior to frustration setting in.  This is easier said than done, but I will tell you, if you provide yourself an outlet (non-habit forming hopefully), you will find that you are in more control of situations than you think you are.  You will find that you will be easier to step back from situations and see them at the 10,000 foot level rather than mired in the weeds, your frustration level will decrease.  This will result in better decisions being made and hopefully a reduction in stress.

I had a post a that discussed how your mountains are others molehills, and vice versa.  If you learn to control what you can control, and engage only when there is a need to engage a situation, you will find your productivity and sanity levels will improve.

It is easy to focus on negativity and continually complain about situations.  However, to be a true professional, leader, and in many cases a friend, it is important to be able to see the positive in every situation.

Turn that frown, upside down and have a great rest of the week! 

Bosses Day Thank You’s!

Today is Bosses Day!  While not a very important day (not a national holiday), it is a humbling day for bosses, in my opinion.  It is important for each leader, not boss, to remember where they came from and who our influences were as we increased our levels of responsibility. 

So, today, I want to recognize some of my Bosses with a short sentence or two on how they influenced me.

John Sprague – Taught me the importance of “WORK” and focus, and most importantly responsibility.
Jon Hobble – Taught me how to take a chance and “go for it”!  If I didn’t listen to Jon, I wouldn’t have taken my first plunge into leadership.
Rick Simmons – Taught me about the importance of being tenacious and driven in the workplace.
Roger Sedlacek – Made me first think about leadership, not management.  I still find myself asking the question, am I people leader, or a technical leader?
Lee Ervin – A mentor to me.  Taught me the importance of integrity in results.
Erica Mortenson – At the end of the day, all people will remember is a name and is your name associated with positive or negative thoughts.  Erica reported up to me but this conversation has resonated with me for years.
Angela Dossey – A mentor, and a friend.  Taught me how to be human at work and never forget where you came from.  Through Angela, I realized the importance of having fun at work and not to sweat the small stuff.  “Is it a hill worth dying on?
Sean Dickson – A mentor and fellow Jayhawk!  Taught me the importance of relationships from the aspect that I work in a small, but large industry, and everyone knows everyone. 
Terence Hayes – A mentor, and a friend.  Taught me the importance of humility in the workplace.  Success is not about the individual but about the team that worked together to achieve it.  Through Terence I really learned the difference between leadership and management.  Always inspect what is expected!
Shelia Dunlap – A friend, and a mentor.  Through Shelia I have started to recognize my potential as a leader.  Through Shelia, I have realized that credit is not as important as execution.  Take the time to inspire others to reach their potential.

There are many others that I have had the privilege to work with and for.  Remember, as a leader, each of us have an impact on those around us, both directly and indirectly.  Take the time each day to recognize the impact of your actions on others.

Have fun, work hard, enjoy life!  Happy Bosses Day!

Morale and Motivation

What is the source of motivation?

Can motivation be instilled, or is it something that individually control?

In workplaces today, you may hear comments that morale is down, what is the leadership going to do improve morale?  I don’t see this is a leadership issue, but more as an individual issue.  The part of morale that can be improved through leadership is when it comes to influencing a positive culture where team members are self motivated and feel valued.

As a leader, the right question that should be asked of your team is what motivates people individually in the workplace?  Why do people come to work everyday, and what drives them to continue to give 100% each day?  If, as a leader you are having those types of one on one conversations with your team, regardless of the level, you are well on your way to having positive and engaged morale within the workplace. 

In my environment, I feel very disconnected from what is going on when I have those days that I am behind closed doors.  It’s as important for me to be out with team seeing what is working, or not working for them; coaching them when the opportunity presents itself; and if nothing else just having informal conversations about what is going on with people individually. 

It is important that individuals feel connected with all levels of leadership, maybe not on a personal level, but at least on a genuine, interpersonal level.  It is important to remember where we came from in the workplace, and how we can use our experiences to mentor others for future success.  I have found that these connections are key to keeping morale positive, and individuals motivated to do their very best.

By nature, I am huge introvert, although, most that interact with me will wholeheartedly disagree.  If you invest connecting with people where they want you to connect with them, trusting relationships occur.  It is incumbent on us as leaders to develop and maintain those trusting relationships on a daily basis to ensure a positive culture exists.  When the culture is positive, morale is high and self motivation is increased.  People want to contribute more as a result.

The best environments are where team members feel that they “get” to come work and “want” to be part of something larger than themselves.  I love the fact that I “get” to go to work everyday, because I am motivated to have a positive impact on others everyday!

Have a great week!!

The Importance of Culture

Each work week, we each of us spend at least one-third of the weeks hours at our offices, for those of us that do not work remotely.  What we tend to do is forge strong relationships with our co-workers and get to know each of them personally, not just professionally.

In each of our roles, there are some team members that are innovators, motivators, individual contributors, and leaders.  The glue that bonds all of these people together and keeps them focused and wanting to return each day is not the paycheck (although that does help).  The bonding agent is the culture of the workplace.

As a leader, it is important to understand the cultural aspects of what makes a success team within an organization.  In call centers I have worked in, I have seen where those that can hit high numbers, were not always the best fit for other teams.  I am believer that if you can create a culture, and hire team members that embody the cultural aspects of the environment, the results will take care of themselves. 

As I have talked about in other posts, it is like a peer of mine reminded me about the movie Finding Nemo.  If you remember towards the end of the movie, when the fish begin swimming in the same direction, they are finally freed from the net.  Not one fish individually was able to become freed on their own, however, all the fish working together were able to become freed.  Having a common goal makes teams very effective.  Are you applying the Nemo Principle to your hiring practices?  Are you hiring those individuals that are team goal focused?  Are your front line leaders bought into this concept?  Are you compensating and rewarding your cultural values?

Developing the culture is a daily challenge for all leaders and one that will require constant work.  Once you get it where you think it needs to be, you will need to make adjustments, but keep your cultural beliefs at the core of your decisions.  In buying into this concept, your results will take care of themselves.  Attrition will be lower, as team members will not only hear that their perspectives matter, but they will see it in action.

Here is the first step…  Ask your teams what they like and dislike about their work environment.  Then ask them what they value in the ultimate work environment.  When you determine why they continue to spend one third of their week with you and their co-workers, you will begin having a stronger culture, and a stronger, more focused team.

Have a great week!!!