LOVE – HATE – DISCONTENT What’s Your View of Our World?

Recently, I was on a flight trying to get some sleep before arriving to meet up with my colleagues for a series of meetings. Usually, I prefer to take the first flight out so that the chances of a delay are reduced. However, I live 2 hrs from the airport and a 6 am flight is pretty darn early. So, I settled into my window seat and put on my headphones drifting off to the sounds of Ray LaMontagne. As people boarded, I realized very quickly that my flight was going to be a challenge. Two ladies sat behind me. And apparently, they began their early morning with several Bloody Mary’s.

Both women were VERY loud, vulgar and the one directly behind me would continuously slam down the tray and kick my seat. Her timing was impeccable! Every time I fell asleep, she did something to wake me up. Frustration began to settle into my soul. I would continually turn around and give her the evil eye, trying to get her attention to stop. However, I think it encouraged her to do it even more. I eventually fell asleep but awoke when she violently pulled the top of my seat backward. She was in haste to go to the bathroom and lacked a complete disregard for others around her.

I realized sleep would evade me. I took out my laptop and continued to listen to music with my noise-canceling headphones. The two of them were loud enough that I was able to hear their conversations (even with my noise-canceling headphones). I tried to ignore them, but the topics began to intrigue me. They were talking about politics, their hairdresser, husband, and boyfriend. I heard them bring up the cashier at the store and the “idiot” that made them miss a green light because he was on the phone (I would agree with them on that one). They talked about the ladies they were meeting for their birthday weekend and how annoying they were. They talked about how long it took the flight attendant to get them their drinks (I was praying she forgot). And this continued for the duration of the 3 hr flight.

As I sat there and went through all of his, I began to think about how people view the world we live. And I realized it’s all based on our perspective and the influences surrounding us.I thought about the phrase “love is, actually, all around.”

If you spend time pursuing social media, the web, CNN or Fox News, I believe you’d find that the current state of affairs is one consumed with hate and greed. Ethical values are hard to come by in the workplace, politics and within personal lives. It seems people with integrity are few and far between and that the underlying message to the young and old is that ” the world sucks, and then you die.”

I think the advent of social media and an increased interest in the 24 hr. news, we, as a society have become obsessed with the shockingly evil things that take place. The good in the world is rarely highlighted.

In the words of Hugh Grant’s opening monologue in the movie, “Love Actually,” he says this;

“Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinions starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. It seems to me love is everywhere. Often it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the twin towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate and revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually, is all around.”

As a frequent business traveler, I spend a large part of my day in and out of airports, traveling between cities, hoping to make my connection and eating high fat “travel” food. Airports provide a chance to catch up on phone calls, answer emails and work on projects. It is also a great place to people-watch.

Airports offer a simple look into society and the variation found in individuals. There are people happy to go on vacation and people frustrated because their travel plans have changed. There are some who’ve had too many drinks (remember the ladies behind me?) and others experiencing deep sadness as they travel to attend the funeral of a loved one.
One thing I’ve learned from the airport terminals and from sitting on long flights is that “love is actually all around us.”

I realize that we are not as bad as social media and the news make us out to be. Sure, I believe the world has changed. Our moral compasses have been compromised, and ethics and integrity have taken a back seat. However, in the modified words of Hugh Grant, mothers and fathers love their kids, grandparents cannot get enough of their grandkids, people will help others, and our hearts are generally kind. We do love each other, regardless of how we look, dress and the color of our hair. We ultimately know what is right and choose to make our own decisions. We are happy and sad, but we lean on family and friends to support and encourage us.

There is still a moral compass upon us, and we are a society based upon ethical business practices through the integrity of others. When someone is wrongfully influenced, leaders will arise to bring about truth and honesty. Although society has evolved over the years, I am determined to see the good that is all too often consumed with the sensationalism of hate.

undefinedDenis is a former VP of Safety, HR and Risk Management He is an Executive Director of the John Maxwell Group, is a certified leadership coach, trainer, keynote speaker, and DISC Behavior Consultant. 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 change training, DISC Behavioral consulting or to be an inspirational speaker at your next event.

If it’s Lonely at The Top, Then Something’s Wrong

 

Executive-Coaching

During a recent executive coaching session, my client and I were engaged in a conversation about leadership when he made the following statement;

“I am passionate about leading my staff, but I don’t feel anyone cares or likes me.” 

It is true many leaders feel lonely. In fact, one of the most common phrases I hear during coaching sessions is: “it’s lonely at the top.”   I disagree with the context of that statement. And so does John Maxwell. In his book, Leadership Gold, John says;

“If you are lonely at the top, then you are doing something wrong.” 

As leaders, we spend our days surrounded by people, so the last thing we expect is to feel alone, but many do. Why? I believe the feeling of loneliness is a not a positional issue, but rather one of personality.

Let me take a few words y from John Maxwell’s book, Leadership Gold to explain. In his book, John says; “If you are leading others and you’re lonely, then you’re not doing it right. Think about it. If you’re all alone, that means nobody is following you. And if nobody is following you, you’re not really leading! What kind of a leader would leave everyone behind and take the journey alone”?  John Maxwell answers that question with;

“a selfish one.”

As leaders, our job is to make people better. To give them the tools and knowledge to achieve their greatest desires.

However, if you’re feeling lonely, it can lead to many things like; poor decision-making, inept problem-solving, frustration, dysfunctional teams, and angry and frustrated employees. Not to mention the internal stress that builds and eventually causes negative behavior and discord between your spouse or significant other and those within your inner circle. Success is nowhere to be found.

There is no doubt that Colin Powell’s statement; “sometimes leadership means pissing people off” is true. Leaders must hold people responsible and accountable for their actions or lack thereof.  This can cause a temporary feeling of isolation or loneliness. Jack and Suzy Welch wrote in a Business Week article: “There’s something about being a boss that incontrovertibly lends itself to isolation. I’ve learned that people dislike people who hold them accountable and will withdraw themselves. I might even say that if you’re feeling some loneliness, you might be on the right track to becoming an effective leader.

I have been there.  I know how lonely it can feel. But my loneliness is base on my desire to have friends, to enjoy conversations and laugh and tell jokes. But leaders must remember; we are not here to make friends, but rather build relationships. When we realize our job is to build relationships, create trust and add value, we’ll do everything we can to connect with those we lead and create an atmosphere of coaching and collaboration. When that occurs, your not lonely, your fully engaged!

How do we eliminate the loneliness at the top and get our leadership focus right?

Here are five principles I lead by to eliminate the loneliness of leadership:

  1. I’m VISIBLE every day. I make a point to talk face to face or through the phone or video chat with EVERY direct report. I also strategically reach out to indirect reports to continue to build those relationships.
  2. I set clear BOUNDARIES with my team. I lead through a philosophy of Ready, Fire Aim. Meaning I empower my team to identify what needs to be done and go do it! We’ll make it perfect as we progress. However, there are boundaries in regards to people, operational interruptions and costs. When setting boundaries, be careful not to shut yourself off from your team.
  3. I INVOLVE my team in the vision and strategic plan. I make it a priority to get people involved in the process of decision-making, problem-solving, communication, and training.  I make sure everyone has input.
  4. I spend a large part of my time COACHING my team. I meet with each direct report weekly and conduct one-on-one coaching session where we continue to set, adjust and create goals and objectives, conduct on-going performance reviews and develop a mentoring relationship using character-based coaching to achieve their desired goals.
  5. I make sure and COLLABORATE with those outside of my direct reports and team. I made it a priority to meet with every department once a month to listen to their concerns and suggestions, as well as to share information.

There is no doubt that being a leader offers extraordinary challenges in connecting, building relationships and creating an atmosphere of trust. However, just because you’re no longer invited to lunch doesn’t mean that you’re a terrible leader.  Don’t take it personally. More importantly, accept it, because the more you try to be liked, the more you’ll compromise your role and lose respect from the team. Remember you are not there to create friendships, but rather build relationships.

happy-leaders

 

6 Ways To Add Value To Your Team

Business team shwoing thumbs upI don’t think there is ever an instance where one person is the team, or where one person is responsible for the success or failure of the team. Whether at work or within the family, I believe it always involves a team effort.

As I continue my leadership journey, identifying areas of improvement within myself and when coaching leaders, I am convinced success is always a team effort. Sure, there is always someone who leads the way, but I believe they are supported by the team who is like-minded and supportive of their ideas and efforts.

Experiencing what it really means to add value to a group, I have identified 6 ways to increase the value as a team member.

Here they are:

  1.  SUPPORT THE VISION – Support the vision and direction of the team leader or team itself.  You must be honest with your thoughts and ideas, but in the end be a verbal proponent of the team and the direction the team wants to head.
  2. RESPECT OTHERS – You must comply with the ideas and or concerns of others. Never just dismiss what others have to say or the direction they believe in.  But rather, listen to what they have to say and consider the overall impact it has on the team goal.
  3. BE PREPARED TO GO ABOVE AND BEYOND – Teams need members that are willing to go above and beyond.   You might have to do more, take more and work more.  Be prepared to give it your all to the success of the team.  Be a better planner.  Be a better goal and objective setter and by all means be prepared to hold yourself accountable!
  4. BE THE EXPERT – Great team members are informed by team members.  The best performing team is the most knowledgeable team.  What is our objective?  What do we want to accomplish? What is my role?  Remember, information is knowledge.  The more knowledgeable the Team is, the more likely they are to be successful.
  5. CELEBRATE SUCCESS – Most do not do this well. How often have you achieved a goal and there was no fanfare? No celebration?  It almost seemed success was expected.  Maybe so, however, I believe celebrating your successes (regardless of how small) is the key to future encouragement.  Honestly, don’t be afraid to tell others how much you appreciate their effort and help to accomplish the team’s goals and objectives.
  6. BE A GO TO PERSON –  People appreciate those they can go and talk to.  Individuals who can simply listen and those who convey confidence and support and who are viewed as discrete and trustworthy?  A person that you can bounce off ideas and concerns and know they will simply be heard.

Consider these when working with a team. Only small visions can be achieved without a team. However, one can achieve endless visions with active teams!

Creative Business Team Stacking Hands In Huddle

What Message Are You Sending? PART 1 of 3 – 10 Rules and Etiquette for Crafting and Sending Effective Emails

email 2You’ve been there.  You get an email accusing you of some action or lack of action. The tone is rude and inappropriate.  The sender includes several people, many who have no reason to be involved. As you read what is written, the words spark enraged anger from deep within your soul.

You immediately react by hitting “Reply All.”  In fact, you want to vindicate yourself, so you “Bcc” your supervisor. Through your rage, you unleash a barrage of words that support your position.

Immediately, after hitting the send button, you receive a text from your boss.  Yes!  He wants to congratulate you on an excellent response!  Only when you open the text, it says “meet me in my office first thing in the morning.”

Emails and texting, perceived in the wrong way, can lessen or eliminate the influence email-logoyou have with your staff or groups. The relationships you spent months or maybe years to build and foster are now in jeopardy.

Email and texting should never be a substitute for face to face communication or phone conversation. However, if crafted properly, these can be useful in reinforcing your ideas and increasing your influence.

In part 1 of my 3 part series, I provide 10 rules and etiquette for crafting and sending using emails.

I find these very useful and productive to lessen the chance of responding in a destructive or unprofessional manner.

EMAIL

When preparing or an email consider the following 10 suggestions:

  1. First, consider a face-to-face or phone call before sending an email. 
  2. Send the email to those that absolutely need to know.  
  3.  “CC” people for information only.  “CC” responses should only be sent if the data reinforce or add additional pertinent information.
  4. Make sure the “subject” accurately depicts the content.
  5. Content must be specifically related to your “TO” group. Be precise, concise, and clear.
  6. Begin the email with a positive statement. Sets the tone for the responses.
  7. Continued disagreement or confusion, set up an in person meeting, conference call or video chat.
  8. READ IT BEFORE YOU HIT SEND AND THEN READ IT AGAIN. Read and re-read your email.  Make sure your grammar, spelling, and choice of words portray the intended tone and message.
  9. Emails should NEVER be used to reprimand, counsel or address disagreements. 
  10. When in doubt…….have a face-to-face conversation.

TO COACH IS TO LEAD, 6 Principles to Effective Coaching

 

It was a scorching Thursday. Sweat was pouring down my face, and my shirt was soaked. As I was leaving the location, I overheard a supervisor having a conversation with an employee.  I stood by (without being noticed) and listened to what was being said. It seemed to be a one-sided conversation from the supervisor to the employee. I overheard the supervisor insult the employee over 5 times within 8 minutes. He kept telling him how “stupid” he was and how a 10-year-old could do the job better and more efficient than he would ever be able to.  The conversation and subsequent insults continued for another five minutes before the supervisor finally stopped and told the employee to go back to work.

As the supervisor began walking back to his trailer, I called him over and said I overheard his conversation with the employee and that I wanted to ask him a few questions. I started off the conversation just stating that I only wanted to know if he felt his discussion would effectively improve the employee’s performance?  The supervisor looked at me with his head slighted tilted and his eyebrows raised and stated, “I don’t know, if not, I will fire him.”

I continued my questioning:

  • Will firing a person solve the overall performance issue?
  • What action (or lack thereof) generated the conversation?
  • Did he feel his approach was effective?
  • Have you had previous conversations with this employee over similar circumstances?
  • Do you feel you clearly and more effectively communicated your expectations to this employee?
  • What could he have been done to involve the employee in identifying why he is not meeting your expectations?
  • Do you feel you are an effective leader?

Our conversation went on for quite some time.  I could tell the supervisor was frustrated and had no idea where I was going and why I was asking so many questions. Typically, no one would question what a supervisor was doing and why. However, after some time and many questions, he finally admitted that he could have handled the situation differently.  I asked him what brought him to that conclusion?  He said he realized that embarrassing a person and threatening their job was not very effective. He also stated that he now figured out why his crew will not talk to him or interact in conversations. He went on to say that he realized they were not interested in a relationship and they were afraid to say anything.  The next question is obvious, “What did he think he needed to do to change or correct the situation?” The supervisor looked at me and then the ground and back at me and said, I need to have a talk with the whole group and maybe start over.  I agreed, shook his hand and walked away.

As I was walking back to my vehicle, I realized something. Regardless of position, coaching is critical to effective leadership. If one can’t coach employees, are they able to influence? We know leadership is influence, John Maxwell made that clear. I believe the answer is no.

If you want to become an effective leader, then you must become a competent coach. What is coaching? Coaching is a conversational process that aims to improve performance by focusing on the current or immediate performance and not the past or future performance. The coaching process is designed to allow a person to arrive at their own conclusions or solve their own problems by just honestly answering the questions from the coach.

To become an influential leader, the supervisor or manager must transition from a controlling, intimidating or monitoring role to one of a partnership between the manager and employee(s). This will create an atmosphere of shared understanding about what needs to be achieved and the process for obtaining it.

Don’t let the word “coaching” confuse you. The coaching process doesn’t mean there is a hands-off approach, but rather an environment of involvement in the employees or groups progress.  One must move from a “checking and monitoring” philosophy to a progressive process for encouraging improved performance.  Employees are not free to do as they wish; but are held accountable for their overall performance and meeting the established goals, plans, and timelines. To be active in the coaching process, you must become familiar with the basic principles of coaching and how it works. To get a better understanding, I’ve identified six principles you should remember when coaching.

  1. Ask Don’t Tell.  A coach is NOT an expert who gives advice, but rather someone who asks practical questions to bring the individual to their own conclusions.
  2. Answers are Within. The answers are ALWAYS in the individual, the person is just not conscious of them at the time.  The coaches job is to bring the solutions forward.
  3. Power is the Process. The power is in the process NOT the coach.
  4. No need for Experts. You do NOT need to know how to do something OR be experienced at it to coach someone to greater performance.
  5. Answers Inform, Questions Transform. The more non-directive you are (in questioning), the more powerful your influence. Asking a particular kind of question is the key to achieving the answers.
  6. The Process Works. Realize that coaching brings self-discovery, awareness, clarity, responsibility, and choice, it makes the unconscious, conscious.

What will coaching do? It will build stronger bonds between you and your employees. It will also help them improve their performance by learning to identify and solve problems and issues before they affect performance.

Coaching is an excellent way to increase influence and improve employee performance, thus strengthening your leadership.