How to Succeed in Effective Communication

“The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” 

– George Bernard Shaw

Have you ever discussed something intended to be formal and set direction to your team or colleagues only to learn that no one can remember what you said or where they need to go? Unfortunately, this occurs many times when I talk or write.

It’s impossible to be an effective leader without learning how to be an effective communicator. I have learned that those who can communicate become the most influential leaders.

The good thing is we can all grow in our communication capabilities. 

Here are seven (7) standards for effective communication. These standards are realistically practical both in personal and professional communication.

1. Understand who you’re talking to – know who you are talking to, their concerns or interests, and what approach will result in effective communication.

CONSIDER: Who am I talking to, and what do they need or want to know?

2. Be Clear and Concise in Your Message – Be crystal clear and concise about your message. Everything you say or write should support your message. 

CONSIDER: What is it that I need to communicate?

3. Be Sure You Know What You Want To Accomplish Out of Your Conversation – When you speak or write, know what results you want to accomplish. If you don’t know what you want, they probably won’t either. If you don’t say it, you can’t expect them to guess accurately.

CONSIDER: What is the single most crucial outcome needed to accomplish with this message?

4. Actively Listen – Active listening keeps you engaged with your conversation positively. Active listening is the process of listening attentively while someone else speaks, paraphrases, and even reflecting on what is said without holding judgment and advice. When you practice active listening, you make the other person feel valued. Thus, active listening is the foundation for any successful conversation.

CONSIDER: Do I understand what they are saying and why? 

5. Cultivate Your Confidence. – Confidence is a combination of belief, ability, action, and humility. Suppose you believe in yourself – practice. If you lack the ability – ask for help. If you lack action – create accountability. If you lack humility–realize you don’t know what you don’t know.

CONSIDER: Which is my most important area of growth right now: belief, ability, action, or humility?

6. Have A Clear and Concise Outcome Expectation – What do you want a listener or reader to do with what you’ve said? Tell them. People are more likely to act when you’ve made the right action obvious.

CONSIDER: What response do I want from this audience?

7. Communicate Often – They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. But most of the time, people forget. Repeat important messages regularly. Don’t assume you only have to say something once.

CONSIDER: What different methods or approaches can I use to repeat or reinforce my message?

Great communicators choose their words well, understand their audience, and connect with them at the right time and place. By applying these tips and practicing, you can master the skills and learn to be an effective communicator.

By following these 7 standards you will become a Great Communicator!

Denis is an Executive Director at the John Maxwell Group, is a certified leadership coach, trainer, keynote speaker, and DISC Behavior, Consultant. Denis is currently the Director of Health & Safety for Ferguson Enterprises. He is a passionate person of influence committed to teaching and communicating practical and relevant influencing techniques.  His unique, passionate, and emotionally driven style resonates with many who desire to become influential leaders. 

You can contact Denis at dbaker@leaderinfluence.net for information on coaching, leadership, team and culture training, DISC Behavioral consulting, or to be an inspirational speaker at your next event.

Vision Statement Challenges

“Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible.”

Unknown

Almost every day, I am either talking about or mentally reconsidering the effectiveness of current vision statements or why there is a lack of statements. Typical discussion and/or thinking involves the use, misuse, and impact of mission and vision statements. 

Many times I have conversations with many of my colleagues and create very informative information. 

Here is a typical discussion with a couple of colleagues.

DENIS: I reviewed our current activity and realized we don’t have a written vision statement, so how do we know what we want or need to accomplish?

My bias is that we must create a vision statement to drive our plans and create a program. I see this as a critical piece in organizational success. 

More to the point, if a company does not have a written vision, then leadership needs to embed them deeply into the head and heart of the workforce. And, if they are not authentic and driven statements, then it’s pointless anyway.

BOB: I would agree with many of your points. The fact that it is what the company “does” with its statements is what is essential. In most cases, these statements have been neglected. 

JOHN: I agree that companies can spend too much time on massaging vision statements.

But I also think many organizations spend too little time on them as well. There must be a balance. When properly created, formed, communicated, and used, these statements provide a great deal of agenda harmony, synergy into the organization, clarity of priority in budgeting, effectiveness inaccurate staffing, and many other things.

Most importantly, it removes the fuzziness in the people’s minds and where the company is directed. If a statement is made well, the statement will identify gaps, relational deficiencies and will create energy, commitment, optimism and makes strategic planning more robust.

Of course, these statements can’t do anything; it’s all in the way they are integrated into the organizational system. The truth be told, though, most organizations already operate from a vision, but it’s usually informal and imprecise and carried out by a few influential leaders in the company.

A couple of questions to ask when interviewing for a job or if you are new to a company is;

  • If your company was at its very best, what would this look like? 
  • Where would people spend their time and resources to meet expectations?

These don’t directly address the vision. Because, If you ask, “what is your vision?” most people will recite what they read or may look confused. When asked subject-oriented questions, however, a picture emerges.

DENIS: Excellent points, everyone. I am a big fan of vision statements, IF they are fully communicated to the entire organization and the leadership is committed to fulfilling the stated vision. I agree with everything said.

  • vision statements help visualize the desired future
  • create a metric process for attaining identified goals
  • get buy-in and commitment from the workers and leaders

However, I have seen them generate little use in most areas, despite pleas and pushing from the leaders. 

Without a mission statement, you may get to the top of the ladder and then realize it was leaning against the wrong building.”

DAVE RAMSEY

To ensure we are moving in the right direction, we should have two types of statements.

  1. Vision statements are related to a specific project or position (think building program, launching a new safety campaign, or introducing new items to sale). They are needed, but they should be more flexible, temporal, and more quickly created.
  2. Mission statements are different. They deal with unchangeable values. 

Have one mission statement that defines your values and desires outcomes. Then, create multiple vision statements as time and projects dictate.

5 STAGES OF CULTURE CHANGE, The Beginning of Coaching for Safe Behaviors

“We can change culture, If we change behavior. If we change behavior, we eliminate incidents”

Denis Baker

We are all in a position of power—a manager, a team leader, or someone who has the ear of a leader—we can effect change.

Culture has a significant impact on everything from safety to employee engagement to productivity. In addition, it gives people a sense of belonging and self-worth in their workplace.

However, the stark reality is that organizational culture is a complex web of relationships, and as those relationships change and shift over time, everyone must embrace change. This will serve to maintain any positive change that has been affected and continue along a productive path. The ability to eliminate unsafe behaviors is determined by the quality of relationships we have with people. Regardless of your position or title, you are in the place of growing, developing, and improving people. And those people are relying on you to train, communicate, and coach them to perform their jobs or tasks safely. 

Coaching is a skill that every safety professional and leader must master. The implementation and integration of behavioral change is a crucial aspect of achieving a sustainable safety culture. 

Coaching facilitates a culture transition through the stages of behavior change to achieve safe habits. Effective behavioral change requires that we identify what we are changing, why we are changing it, how we change it, and then create a strong plan of action to maintain effectiveness.  

In this blog series, I will focus on creating a culture change through individual behaviors.

WHAT IS BEHAVIOR CHANGE?

Before we get too deep into how to change a culture, let me identify what behavior change is. Behavior change refers to the “transformation or modification of human behavior,” with a new or altered safe behavior being the end-point.

“To change a habit, make a conscious decision, then act out the new behavior.”

Maxwell Maltz

I have identified five stages to achieve culture change. However, the process of implementing and maintaining change seems to be a spiral rather than a straight line. I have found that most people regress in the beginning stages, so constant and consistent coaching is required.

5 STAGES OF CULTURE CHANGE

Throughout my career, I focused my expertise on changing culture and ultimately changing behaviors. As a safety professional, when you first start at a company or facility, you must become familiar with the current culture, identify areas of concern, and identify a strategic improvement plan. Safety professionals play an integral role in a company or facility culture change. Therefore, you must be accurate in your evaluation and plan.

To get there, I have outlined the Five (5) stages to change a culture. While every company and facility is different, the culture change process is still the same. By following these five stages, you will help to ensure an actual culture change.

Setting the foundation

Before behaviors can be changed, organizations must identify the areas of focus needed to understand why the current behaviors exist. These areas typically include; missing policies or procedures, lack of training, leadership failure, et. Still, they may also be in the pre-contemplation, action, or maintenance stages. The current safety position is generally determined through active observations, listening, curiosity, and asking open questions. This knowledge will contribute to developing the organization’s safety strategic plan and creating the required coaching journey.

Contemplation

In the contemplation stage, the organization is “aware of existing safety issues and is creating a plan to address the issues, but has not committed to taking action. This stage can last for a long time as organizations struggle with dysfunctional employee behavior and the amount of effort, energy, and cost to create, change and implement programs and training. In the contemplation stage, the mindset of “We may” change or implement generally creates a delay in the path forward. 

Preparation

This stage combines intention and behavioral criteria. For example, an organization in the preparation stage may have reduced some unsafe behaviors but have not reached the criteria for sustainable, effective behaviors. They can be considered to be in the mindset of “We will.” Their intention and motivation are firm, and they plan to implement their change plan within a short period. 

Within this stage, the leadership will brainstorm possible approaches and solutions. Successful behavioral change requires identifying the right approach and protecting our upcoming changes from distractions and conflicting goals. Anticipation, planning, and engagement are crucial for maintaining safe behaviors. 

Action

Now the organization is committed to implementing programs and conducting training to begin the behavior change process. Organizations in the action stage are considered to be in the “I am” mindset and consistently implement their new behavior expectations. When clients are in this stage, they are likely to achieve fewer incidents and experience more robust safe behaviors. In addition, the Behavior Coaching Process (discussed in a later blog post) will result in even fewer incidents and help ensure consistent safe behaviors. 

However, once the action stage is entirely in progress, there becomes a risk of complacency and a focus on production, which causes employees to fall back into exhibiting unsafe behaviors. Keep in mind that the initiation of programs and training will be efficient, but the failure to be persistent in the expectations can create a culture backflow. 

Maintenance

In this stage, we want to continuously improve to prevent relapse, consolidate the gains attained during the past efforts, and increase safe behaviors. In my experience, this stage typically comes into play around 18-24 months. Cultures in the maintenance stage are considered in the “I still am” mindset and are considered to be in this stage when the new behavior becomes a habit. While in the maintenance stage, leadership and safety professionals are generally confident they can maintain the improved behaviors. However, they must be diligent in maintaining this change. There will be challenges and concerns. However, if the leadership has built an engaging culture, it doesn’t generally present a significant risk and can often get back on track and even create more robust, safe behaviors.

CONCLUSION

Many of us have behaviors we would like to change. Understanding the stages of change and applying each one effectively and timeously will support a meaningful, sustainable, and, ultimately, empowering behavior change, resulting in improved safe behavior and fewer employees getting injured. My next blog will focus on effectively coaching leadership and employees to change behaviors through their mindset.

Remember, our actions determine the result!

“A change in bad habits leads to a change in life.”

Jenny Craig

Denis is an Executive Director at the John Maxwell Group, is a certified leadership coach, trainer, keynote speaker, and DISC Behavior, Consultant. Denis is currently the Director of Health & Safety for Ferguson Enterprises. He is a passionate person of influence committed to teaching and communicating practical and relevant influencing techniques.  His unique, passionate, and emotionally driven style resonates with many creating a desire to become an effective leader. 

You can contact Denis at dbaker@leaderinfluence.net for information on coaching, leadership, team and culture training, DISC Behavioral consulting, or to be an inspirational speaker at your next event.

3 CORES OF SELF-LEADERSHIP

“If you wouldn’t follow yourself, why would anyone else?”

John C. Maxwell

LEADERS ARE PASSIONATE TO LEAD!

But when we say we “are passionate” to lead, we usually mean we are passionate to lead others.

One thing leaders need to realize is that leadership begins with you. If you can’t lead yourself, you can’t lead others.

Why is leading myself more difficult than leading others? Why do I say or do things I know are wrong (there is a biblical reference here)? It happens at home, at work, with my wife, co-workers, and those I love and lead. So while I speak of myself, I am sure I’m not alone. 

The answer is simple. 

I believe there are times I don’t see myself from a realistic point. I see myself from my intentions, and others see me through my actions and words. I should probably also admit that I see my intentions from the training and talks I give.

Self-leadership is defined as “the process of influencing one’s self to establish the self-direction and self-motivation needed to perform.

Self-leadership is the foundation for leadership, but unfortunately, it’s not the fun part. On the contrary, it’s most challenging. Still, self-leadership is the hard work behind the scenes that prepares you for exceptional leadership. 

Tough Truths About Self-Leadership

Before we dive into some ways to lead ourselves, let me share a few more tough truths about self-leadership.

  • No one cares more about your personal development than you do
  • You can’t wait for someone to lead you
  • No one owes you leadership
  • No one is responsible for your leadership development

3 CORES of Self-Leadership 

Here are what I believe are the cores of developing self-leadership.

Character

Who are YOU when no one is looking? 

  • It requires YOUR attention to how you act and react
  • It means expecting more from YOURSELF than others do
  • It means exceeding everyone’s expectations

The question to ask YOURSELF, “What qualities do you want to be accurate within your character? 

Discipline

Don’t talk about it, do it!

  • Identify what needs to change
  • Take the initiative.
  • Read voraciously. Explore what others think
  • Be a lifelong learner, and be passionate about it.
  • Surround yourself with mentors and people more intelligent than you.

The question to ask YOURSELF, “What are the three things I can do to improve my personal and professional growth?” 

Self-awareness

  • Know your strengths & weaknesses
  • Seek coaching 
  • Identify mentors
  • Constantly evaluate what you need to “own” (good or bad) in every situation

The question to ask YOURSELF, “Where do my choices take me?”

So What, Now What

As leaders, we must never forget to self-manage our actions. Whether it is a situation or a person, we react results from our leadership frame of mind. 

Failure to manage your self-leadership will create a loss of respect and the inability to influence, causing people to leave and follow others. On the other hand, if you lead yourself correctly, you will influence others, and they will follow. 

“Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.”

John Wooden

Take the time to evaluate your self-leadership, focusing on these 3 CORES. Then establish a process where you consistently work to apply these principles and improve.

Jim Rhone once said, 

“The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor but without folly.”

 If you can take hold of this, you will be an effective leader. 

Denis is an Executive Director at the John Maxwell Group, is a certified leadership coach, trainer, keynote speaker, and DISC Behavior, Consultant. Denis is currently the Director of Health & Safety for Ferguson Enterprises. He is a passionate person of influence committed to teaching and communicating practical and relevant influencing techniques.  His unique, passionate, and emotionally driven style resonates with many creating a desire to become an effective leader. 

You can contact Denis at dbaker@leaderinfluence.net for information on coaching, leadership, team and culture training, DISC Behavioral consulting, or to be an inspirational speaker at your next event.

HOW TO BUILD YOUR LEADERSHIP WITH INTEGRITY

The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.”

Dwight D. Eisenhower

You don’t need to read much to realize that leaders focus intensely on their reputations. 

When companies conduct surveys and or assessments, most employees rate integrity as the essential leadership trait. A more significant percentage of employees considered it the top quality of an executive and people managers. 

Having integrity generates respect and trust. People want to work for ethical people; we all know that if our leader acts with integrity, they will treat them right and do what’s best for the business and the people.

Leaders with integrity will strengthen the business and increase employee morale. In addition, companies with strong, ethical leadership teams enhance their ability to attract investors, customers, and talented people. However, integrity begins at the top and works its way through the organization to create a culture that values integrity.

Leaders need to realize their words, actions, decisions, and methodologies help create their actual values and culture. How we approach actions and what we do and say is particularly crucial for leaders. We must be people of integrity. Everyone is watching how we respond to business and personal situations. We either draw people to our influence, or we repel them with our lack of integrity.

To build your leadership, you must incorporate the TRUTH into YOUR integrity. 

“Integrity is telling the truth. And honesty is telling the truth to other people”

Spencer Johnson

To accomplish this, you must make these four commitments;

  1. Speak the truth plainlyBe honest, and treat people well. Don’t exaggerate successes, and be quick to praise others’ contributions. As a leader,  YOUR word should stand on its own. 
  2. Share the truth completelyLying is when you intentionally mislead others by either falsifying or concealing information. Half the truth is a whole lie. There are situations we need to have hard yet honest conversations with our employees. If we back from these conversations, we can’t say we are a leader of integrity. I am consistently tempted to hold back the truth because I don’t want to deal with the consequences. But after 30+ years of leadership, I’ve learned this always backfires. In the end, people respect honesty. Truth often hurts, but dishonesty leaves lasting scars.
  3. Use the truth tactfullyTo build a culture of integrity, behaviors change faster when people know the truth is wrapped in care. Truth without love is always seen as an attack. Without showing care, all of our actions mean nothing. If you don’t care for the people you’re sharing the truth with, stop sharing it. Your truth-telling will never produce lasting results. If you’re trying to get something off your chest, you’re not speaking in respect. Just because you’re willing to share the truth doesn’t mean the other person is ready to hear it. The solution to any conflict is not deception; it’s tact. You can use your words to heal or hurt, make a point or make an enemy. Leaders also need to hold themselves accountable. They must treat everyone fairly, regardless of a person’s standing in the organization.
  4. Live the truth consistentlyIntegrity isn’t being honest 80 percent of the time. Partial honesty is dishonesty. Integrity is a requirement for leadership because all leadership is based on trust. If people don’t trust you, you can’t lead them. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable with your staff. If you make a mistake, say so and do all you can to fix it. Your employees don’t expect you to be perfect, and you will alienate them if you cannot admit fault when things go wrong.

SO WHAT, NOW WHAT

“The time is always right to do what is right”

Martin Luther King

As I constantly think about increasing my leadership and influence, I try to maintain strong integrity. Am I always successful? NO, but my heart desires to lead people with integrity, influence, and skill.

Take the time to consider these four commitments and take action where necessary. Together, we can change the world!

Denis is an Executive Director at the John Maxwell Group, is a certified leadership coach, trainer, keynote speaker, and DISC Behavior, Consultant. Denis is currently the Director of Health & Safety for Ferguson Enterprises. He is a passionate person of influence committed to teaching and communicating practical and relevant influencing techniques.  His unique, passionate, and emotionally driven style resonates with many creating a desire to become an effective leader. 

You can contact Denis at dbaker@leaderinfluence.net for information on coaching, leadership, team and culture training, DISC Behavioral consulting, or to be an inspirational speaker at your next event.

You Won’t Be A Fool If You Approach Culture Change This Way

“Only a Fool Never Changes His Mind”

RICHARD BRANSON

Everything we do within our professional and personal lives involves change. Everyone one of us (regardless of our position or role) plays an integral part in changing culture.  

As people leaders, we need to know how to achieve our change without creating a toxic environment, and we must quickly identify and address all the blind spots (there are always many, never none). These two things will sabotage our efforts. 

In his book The Culture Solution, Mathew Kelly writes, “For too many leaders, culture isn’t important until it’s urgent.” And that’s often the case. For many, but maybe some (you know whom I am referring to), it’s not that you disagree that change is essential or it’s not that you don’t see the need to make changes. It’s simply that you are focusing on the bottom line. Why change anything if you are already successful? As a safety professional, I get these comments constantly. “We haven’t had anyone get anything in their eyes, or anyone complain about air quality, so why should we spend the money if there is no risk?”

Leading culture change requires patience and persistence. Patience, because it takes time. Persistence because cultivating a culture change requires a robust daily effort. With an intentional, persistent,consistent effort, you can cultivate healthier habits and behaviors that, over time, lead to a thriving, sustainable culture. 

Let me share some cultural insights with you:

  • Culture is most important to a company. 10:1 to the vision
  • People Leaders determine the culture
  • People follow your example
  • Moral authority to what say and back it up with life
  • Culture is the personality of the company

So how do we successfully form a culture? A thriving culture is formed through these basic approaches :

  1. Behaviors
  2. Symbols
  3. Systems

Behaviors 

  • focuses on serving those who do the work.
  • Know “Who does What and Why.”
  • Show your Commitment – always under-promise and over-deliver (Exceed Expectations)

Symbols

  • Not about the corporate office; it’s about the field
  • Not bout your position title; it’s about your ability to build respect and trust
  • Not about the money you make or the car you drive; it’s about adding value to your team

Systems

  • Quit belching out the bologna and bring home the bacon.
  • Success is always in the active stage to building a sustainable culture

SO WHAT/NOW WHAT

As leaders, we don’t want to be viewed as a fool because we were not successful in changing the culture. By the way, many organizations fail in their attempt to change the culture. It’s as important to approach the change in a manner that fully engages the workforc3 and creates respect and trust. If people don’t trust you, you can’t add value, and you become the FOOL!

“Change is the law of life. And those who look to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”

JOHN F. KENNEDY

Denis is an Executive Director at the John Maxwell Group, is a certified leadership coach, trainer, keynote speaker, and DISC Behavior, Consultant. Denis is currently the Director of Health & Safety for Ferguson Enterprises. He is a passionate person of influence committed to teaching and communicating practical and relevant influencing techniques.  His unique, passionate, and emotionally driven style resonates with many creating a desire to become an effective leader. 

You can contact Denis at dbaker@leaderinfluence.net for information on coaching, leadership, team and culture training, DISC Behavioral consulting, or to be an inspirational speaker at your next event.

The Way We Say Goodbye, Is The Way We Will Be Remembered

Honor the space between no longer, and not yet.

NANCY LEVINE

As I have grown in my leadership and tried to do everything I can to build a great legacy with family, friends, and work, I began thinking about the best way to be remembered. After many conversations with leaders in various positions, I realized my legacy is based on what we say and how we say it. 

It is “The way we choose to say goodbye.” If you dig a little deeper into that phrase, the statement doesn’t focus only on the words we choose. Still, it also considers your actions during your limited time.

When we look to leave, most of us will be remembered in work and life for just a few words or actions that made a difference to others. 

So how do we say a good goodbye? Here are five things to consider in your transition.Ma

Make sure you successfully handoff of the baton.

Four runners running a mile can complete the distance much faster than one man.

The fastest runner can complete the mile in 4 minutes, but the relay team can complete the mile in 3.5 minutes, with each runner going full steam. A proper passing of the baton is the most crucial part of the race. 

The US Relay Team was the most talented in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing but lost the race because the baton was dropped. 

When thinking of leaving and transitioning our position, we must be excellent at handing the baton to our successor. So here are some thoughts on how to pass your baton effectively;

  • The one passing the baton must keep running full steam until the baton is passed.
  • There is a temptation to let up because you are tired…almost finished, but you have to keep at full speed.
  • The one receiving the baton must start running before he receives it. The receiver doesn’t begin from a standstill but is already moving to gain speed. The intent is the one receiving is going full throttle, just as the one who is handing it off. Both runners must remain in the same lane. To step out of the lanes is to forfeit the race. The one receiving the baton cannot have a different agenda. The baton must be passed in a timely fashion. There are two distinct lines on the track that designate precisely the area where the baton must be passed. It can’t be extended indefinitely.
  •  There is a beginning. There is an end. If the exchange is handled correctly, it’s possible to gain a step in the transition instead of losing a step. Since the one giving is reaching forward, and the one receiving is reaching back, there can be a jump step gained in the transition if done correctly.
  • Once the baton is exchanged, the one passing the baton does not run alongside the runner coaching him but stops, catches his breath, and walks across the infield to cheer his successor at the finish line.

 I think that’s some excellent insight on baton passing. So, an effective goodbye begins with a successful handoff

An effective goodbye in leadership transition must be the #1 priority of the present leader.

When you are going to make the transition, it has to be your #1 priority. Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric, said this, “From now on, choosing my successor is the most important decision I’ll make. It will occupy a considerable amount of my time every day.” He spoke those words in 1991 -Nine years before his anticipated retirement

The successor should have some good years to run the organization.

Back to Welch again from his book STRAIGHT FROM THE GUT, Jack said, “I wanted to pick someone young enough to be in the job at least a decade. While a CEO can have an immediate impact, I’ve always felt people should live with their decisions, especially their mistakes. I certainly have. Someone with less time may be tempted to make some crazy moves to put his stamp on the company. I’ve seen too many examples of that.”

Say goodbye to everyone but leave an open line to your successor.

Jeffrey Immelt, who is the successor to Jack in General Electric, said, “The most important thing Jack can do right now so I can take the reins is leave. I can always call him and ask for his advice, but physically the business can only have one leader.”

Walk away, giving your organization the best chance for future success.

You want to walk away and give your organization the best chance to succeed. 

Dan Cathy, CEO at Chick-Fil-A, said this,  “When the rate of external change continually outpaces the rate of internal change, disaster is imminent.” 

When the rate of external change continually outpaces the rate of internal change, disaster is imminent

DAN CATHY

In other words, when we on the inside don’t keep up with the transition on the outside, it’s only a matter of time we are not going to be successful in life. 

SO WHAT, NOW WHAT

I am not in the transition process; however, many of my colleagues and friends are either considering retiring or leaving their current position.  

Talking with people got me thinking about the transition process. And as a result, I encourage all of you to consider this information. Any transition requires a game plan. Start thinking now.

You can contact Denis at dbaker@leaderinfluence.net for information on coaching, leadership, team and culture training, DISC Behavioral consulting, or to be an inspirational speaker at your next event.

CONSIDER THESE 5 INSIGHTS TO YOUR LEADERSHIP APPROACH IN 2021

“This is a new year. A new beginning. And things will change.

TAYLOR SWIFT

If you read my recent blog, “Goal Setting Questions Determine the Path Forward,” then you understand the benefits of putting together well-described goals by following the questioning process below.

Xwhere you are now, or your current reality
Ywhere do you want to go—what will be your finish line
WhenThe date you want to cross the finish line

Well, I thought I would piggyback on that topic and share how I will approach 2021. Sure, I have put together 4 goals for 2021. However, in the last few days, I’ve had my inner self (vision) sitting on one shoulder and my outer self (reality) sitting on the other shoulder. Both gave me positive and annoying feedback on how to approach the new year. I know, it sounds weird, but this content came from them.

Being a leader in 2020 has been challenging, but we should be amazed because we have gotten through it. However, as a leader, you should be thinking of your approach in 2021. Things have changed, things will change, and new challenges will come in to play. So we need to embrace this reality and prepare to answer the question;

How do you approach your leadership in these times?

2020 didn’t turn out anywhere near where I thought it would. I hadn’t even the slightest clue the economy would fall, jobs would be lost, and travel would be minimal. I’ve said this before, my daughter’s family moved to Athens, Greece, in January, and we haven’t been able to go and visit. They haven’t been able to come back to the U.S., and my wife and I had to go through Christmas without our grandkids (we face timed). Our hearts were broken! 

I don’t expect 2021 to turn back to how it was before the crisis, but I think we need to think differently and be willing to take a different approach in our leadership. Don’t get me wrong, necessary leadership skills are still valid, but our approach must embrace the current conditions and embrace change. 

Leaders who lead in the real world tend to find success than leaders who lead in a world that doesn’t exist. No one knows the future, but that doesn’t mean you can’t prepare. And while I have no superior insight into the future than you do, I have identified these 5 insights as my approach to 2021. 

1.     Uncertainty

The future is uncertain. Reality says that has been true since the beginning of time. Right now, nothing is predictable. Think about it, a new government and a continual crisis, who knows what will take place.

Leading through uncertainty—requires a whole new skill set. With the future being uncertain, you must lead with agility and flexibility. Those two attributes will allow you to identify change and make the necessary adjustments. 

2. Instability

Uncertainty is one thing. It removes your ability to see what’s ahead.

Instability is different. Instability means the present circumstances are volatile and unsteady. The most effective way to lead through instability is to identify the most traction and utilize your resources to maximize the outcome. The best way to create future momentum is to pour resources into anything that’s producing current momentum. That’s why restaurants are beefing up takeout and drive-thrus. 

In these unstable times, when you find momentum, keep fueling it. And keep the options open.

3.     Economic Unknown

People are spending like there’s no tomorrow and saving money at historic highs. Others on the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum go broke. Who knows what’s going to happen next? And the U.S. presidential election throws an extra measure of unpredictability into the mix.

How will I approach the economic strangeness in 2021? I will prepare for a season of savings and charity. You can’t give what you don’t have.

4.     Opportunity

Opportunities always exist in a crisis. Innovation is born out of a crisis. A crisis is an accelerator of new ideas. The current crisis has generated changes such as; the emergence of the home as the new hub for fitness, schooling, work, shopping, entertainment, and church. The very obstacle you’re fearing might be the most incredible opportunity you’re facing. It all depends on how you approach it.

Obstacle or opportunity? The future belongs to those leaders who take advantage of opportunities. 

5.     Internationally Grow Yourself

I saved the most important until last, but the best thing you can do is deepen your personal growth for the year ahead. John Maxwell said, “We see the world NOT as it is, BUT as we are.”

I think the best things in life won’t ever come to us (believe me, I’ve approached much of my life that way). No, what I’ve found is I need to grab them. I don’t expect them to roll downhill to me, but instead, I have to climb the hill and grab them.

Every problem or crisis introduces one to themselves. It brings out the best and worse of us. 

The number one catalyst in growth is identifying growth areas. In life, it’s not what we get that makes us valuable. It’s what we become in the process that brings value to our lives. Action is what converts human dreams into significance. It brings personal value that we can gain from no other source.

So how do we intentionally grow ourselves? Here you go.

  • Take action
  • Re-affirm your values
  • Evaluate your character
  • Experience your inner fulfillment
  • Read books 
  • Listen to various podcast
  • Identify a mentor
  • Consider being coached 

If you want to grow yourself, your growth will thrive in these difficult times. Invest your time and effort to grow yourself intentionally. The results will be astounding!

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GOAL SETTING QUESTIONS DETERMINE THE PATH FORWARD

“A goal without a plan and timeline is just a wish”

DENIS BAKER

We are finally coming to the end of one of the most challenging years of my life! I bet many of you would say the same. 

As I look into the many variable possibilities of 2021, I realize that setting achievable goals is a critical path to achieving success. Many of us feel as if we’re floating in our world, not knowing what will come next. Most of us are hard workers, but maybe we didn’t get where we wanted in 2020, and maybe our attitude has fallen to there is nothing worthwhile.

Regardless of the future, we need to continue our goal-setting activities; whether it is personal or professional, the ability to know where we want to go will give us the skill to pick the right road going in the right direction. However, the way we approach the process determines the outcome. The process of setting goals helps identify where you want to go. By knowing specifically what you want to achieve, you know where you have to concentrate your efforts. This will enable you to quickly identify distractions that can lead you off course.

To accomplish your goals, you need to know how to clearly write them. You can’t merely say, “I want,” and expect it to happen. Goal setting is a process that requires careful consideration of what you want, the hard to do and ends with the desired outcome. 

In recent years, I have added a phase to my goal-setting process. Not only do I identify what I want to achieve by year’s end, but I now ask questions to define the specific goal I want to achieve.

Here is my new questioning process;

Xwhere you are now, or your current reality
Ywhere do you want to go—what will be your finish line
WhenThe date you want to cross the finish line

EXAMPLES

Let me give you some example to clarify my statement;

When the National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA) was developed in the 1950s, the original goal was;

“Leading the World in Space Exploration.”

When John F. Kennedy became president in 1961, he changed NASA’s goal to

“Land a man on the Moon and return him safely to Earth before this decade is out.”

Let’s put the 1950s NASA goal through the test: “Leading the World in Space Exploration.”

Xwhere are you now, or your current reality?Unknown
Ywhere do you want to go? what will be your finish line?The word “leading” is somewhat vague.  Results undetermined.
WhenThe date you want to cross the finish line?Unknown, it doesn’t list any timeline

Now let’s run JFK’s revised goal through the test: “Land a man on the Moon and return him safely to Earth before this decade is out.”

Xwhere you are now, or your current realityEarth
Ywhere do you want to go—what will be your finish lineMoon—with a safe return to Earth. What will be your finish line? A successful launch, landing, and re-entry.
WhenThe date you want to cross the finish lineDecember 31, 1969.

 Looking at these two tests, which one would answer the questions below?

  1. In which decade would you have wanted to work for NASA? The 50s or the 60s?
  2. In which decade was the goal crystal clear? The 50s or the 60s?

If you focus on JFK’s revised goal, I think you know the right answers.

Let’s look at a more realistic example.

ORIGINAL GOAL – “Improve the onboarding process for new hires.”

Xwhere you are now, or your current realityUnknown
Ywhere do you want to go—what will be your finish lineTo improve the process. Results undetermined.
WhenThe date you want to cross the finish lineUnknown, it doesn’t list any timeline

REVISED GOAL – Reduce onboarding time for new hires by 50 percent in quarter two by establishing a detailed onboarding process with at least five training courses and three shadowing opportunities with experienced team members.”

Xwhere you are now, or your current realityLong onboarding process
Ywhere do you want to go—what will be your finish lineReduce the time by 50%.  New hire onboarding process that includes 5 courses and three shadowing opportunities with an experienced employee
WhenThe date you want to cross the finish lineBy the end of the 2nd quarter

Both of these examples provide clear outcomes of asking the right questions to determine the clarity of each goal. 

SO WHAT, NOW WHAT

When we have clearly defined goals with expected outcomes and achievement dates, we set the path forward down the chosen road to achieving our vision and desires for the new year.

If you aim for nothing, you’ll hit it everytime.”

UNKNOWN

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WHEN YOU HIT A SLUMP, DON’T JUMP

I don’t sleep, I lay in bed longer than I ever have in years, I get frustrated over the littlest things, people don’t follow the rules and expectations. I think I have fallen into a slump. I ask myself regularly, “is it worth the effort to try and fix this? I’ll answer that in a bit.

Baseball players fall into hitting slumps, the stock market hits slumps, restaurants and retail chains have slumped, running backs can’t gain any yards, NASCAR drivers can’t win a race. Of course, leaders fall into slumps. Come on, we all fall into slumps!

It can be challenging to know when we fall into a slump because it is hard to define when and where it began. But I think we all know when we are in one.

When a leader falls into a slump, the influential leaders will fight their way out. The others will look for the easy way out. We can fall into a slump at any time. Many leaders have found themselves in multiple situations during this past challenging year, where they fall into a slump or two or three. I know I have fallen into slumps several times and have had to work hard to recover fully. 

What are some signs of a slump?

  • Not meeting budgets
  • Not addressing customer needs
  • I can’t get the sales I need to make the salary I am used to
  • The plan isn’t being executed or isn’t working
  • People aren’t following expected safety behaviors or following our policies and procedures
  • My team won’t respond to my expectations

When we fall into a slump, we are often tempted to look for a faster way out. We become somewhat fixated on looking for a short cut to fix everything. Sometimes short cuts put us in an even deeper slump. It may not be now, but it can certainly affect tomorrow. Crawling out of a slump can be a challenge; it is grueling and can be a long road to recovery. We are struggling; the lure of an invincible shortcut can be irresistible.

Giving in to a shortcut can result in a high cost of negativity;

Loss of credibility

  • Loss of respect
  • Loss of trust
  • Confusion among the team
  • Slowing of momentum
  • Reduction in your influence

So, what are these leadership shortcuts? Here are three of the most common shortcuts leaders take when trying to get out of their slump.

Creating policies or procedures

Achieving the vision requires a leader to move people forward. It requires influence, high-performance team members, responsibility, and accountability. But instead of doing this hard work, leaders tend to opt instead to churn out a few policies and procedures. I understand policies and procedures play a significant part in business; however, they can’t be the result of a slumping leader.

Losing it!

When a person loses their cool, it’s like a child throwing a temper tantrum. Our frustration comes out, so we pitch a fit. It’s like we are creating an atmosphere of fear and manipulation. Leadership is not about fear, manipulation, and position; it is about persuasion, engagement, and influence.  

Do it, and create another shortcut.

Reorganizing

Reorganize your team, your vision …or anything else.

A leader paralyzed with indecision will whip out a piece of paper, run to a whiteboard and start drawing boxes, circles, and lines with abandon.

A new and exciting thing will emerge in time, and the resulting change will provide another illusion that real leadership has taken place.

But, once again, it’s just another shortcut.

SO WHAT, NOW WHAT

Shortcuts, really? Shortcuts are not the solution to the situation, rather they are a temporary fix to creating an everlasting leadership challenge. Leadership can be difficult. Pulling yourself out of the slump requires a lot of effort; moving forward requires a tremendous effort and determination. 

Go deeper, not wider. Going deep will lead to wide.

In difficult times, it can be very attractive to take a shortcut. But resist the easy way “out” and instead be committed to the hard work of leadership.

To answer my question up top, it is worth fixing your slump; the results will be worth it.