25 LESSONS LEARNED FROM JOHN MAXWELL

I recently came across this post and felt it reflected how I feel and approach teaching leadership and more importantly the lessons I base my leadership foundation on.Denis and John

Here are 25 key lessons that capture and distill what I think are some of the most important insights from John Maxwell:

1. Leadership is influence.

Maxwell defines leadership as influence. It’s simple, effective, and precise. In The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, Maxwell says, “True leadership cannot be awarded, appointed, or assigned. It comes only from influence, and that can’t be mandated. It must be earned. The only thing a title can buy is a little time – either to increase your level of influence with others or to erase it.”

2. Leadership isn’t a position, it’s a process.

Leadership starts right where you are, from the inside out. Maxwell says, “Most people who want to get ahead do it backward. They think, ‘I’ll get a bigger job, then I’ll learn how to be a leader.’ But showing leadership skill is how you get the bigger job in the first place. Leadership isn’t a position, it’s a process.”

3. Just do it.

Forget motivation and just do it. Maxwell says, “The whole idea of motivation is a trap. Forget motivation. Just do it. Exercise, lose weight, test your blood sugar, or whatever. Do it without motivation. And then, guess what? After you start doing the thing, that’s when the motivation comes and makes it easy for you to keep on doing it.”

4. Your attitude towards life is still under construction.

According to Maxwell, your attitude towards life is constantly being shaped by the following factors: personality (who are you), environment (what’s around you), word expression (what you hear), adult acceptance/affirmation (what you feel), self-image(how you see yourself), exposure to new experiences, association with peers (who influences you), physical appearance (how you look to others), and marriage, family, and job (your security and status.) Maxwell believes that your environment shapes you more than your personality or other inherited traits, and that your outward actions are a direct reflection of your self-image (we tend to act consistently with how we see ourselves.) In Attitude 101, Maxwell says, “Whether you are eleven, forty-two, or sixty-five, your attitude toward life is still under construction. It’s never too late for a person to change his attitude.”

5. Use principles to guide you.

Drive from durable principles instead of a bunch of rules and policies. According to Maxwell, “policies are many, principles are few, policies will change, principles never do.”

6. Leadership is a collection of skills.

Leadership is something you can learn and improve at. Maxwell says, “Although it is true that some people are born with greater natural gifts than others, the ability to lead is really a collection of skills, nearly all of which can be learned and improved.”

7. Build trust through competence, connection, and character.

You won’t follow somebody you don’t trust. As a leader, you have to build trust. Maxwell says, “There are three qualities a leader must exemplify to build trust: competence, connection, and character.”

8. Success is a journey, not a destination.

Don’t think of success as a place. Think of it as a path. Success is a journey you can enjoy a day at a time. Take the right people with you on your success journey. In Your Road Map for Success, Maxwell identifies 10 things to look for when figuring out who to invest in or who to bring with you: 1) make things happen, 2) see and seize opportunities, 3) influence others, 4) add value, 5) attract other leaders, 6) equip others, 7) provide inspiring ideas, 8.) possess uncommonly positive attitudes, 9) live up to their commitments, and 10) have loyalty.

9. Success is a daily thing.

You can be successful one day or one decision at a time. Maxwell says, “If you can handle today correctly, tomorrow will take care of itself.”

10. Success is a decision at a time.

Maxwell says, “You don’t become a success when you get your diploma. You became a success when you decided to go to college. When you get your diploma you get the rewards of success.”

11. Seven Steps for success

In Success One Day at a Time, Maxwell shares 7 steps for success: 1) make a commitment to grow daily, 2) value the process more than events, 3) don’t wait for inspiration, 4) be willing to sacrifice pleasure for opportunity, 5) dream big, 6) plan your priorities, and 7) give up to go up.

12. Look for the landmarks of success.

The highest levels of success require a series of significant trade-offs. Maxwell identifies the following trade-offs that serve as landmarks: 1) achievement over affirmation, 2) excellence over acceptability, 3) personal growth over immediate pleasure, 4) future potential over financial gain, 5) a narrow focus over scattered interests, and significant over security.

13. Leadership is a visual thing.

The greatest leadership is by example. Maxwell says, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”

14. Everybody needs encouragement.

No matter who you are, you still need encouragement. Maxwell says, “Remember, man does not live on bread alone: sometimes he needs a little buttering up.”

15. Don’t take yourself too seriously.

In Your Roadmap for Success, Maxwell says we need to be able to laugh at ourselves, “… success depends more on your attitude than it does on how important you think you are. Life should be fun. Even if your job is important and should be taken seriously, that doesn’t mean you should take yourself seriously. You’ll go farther in life and have a better time doing it if you maintain a sense of humor, especially when it comes to yourself.”

16. Use failure as a springboard.

Unsuccessful people avoid taking any risks to try and avoid failure. Successful people turn failure into feedback. They don’t dwell on mistakes or the negative consequences of failures. Instead, they focus on the rewards of success and on learning from their mistakes. In Your Road Map for Success, Maxwell shares 10 ways to fail forward effectively:

1) appreciate the value of failure
2) don’t take failure personally
3) let failure redirect you
4) keep a sense of humorIMG_3601
5) ask why, not who
6.) make failure a learning experience
7) don’t let failure keep you down
8.) use failure as a gauge for growth
9) see the big picture
10) don’t give up.
17. Win with people.

Growing people is the key to growing your success. Maxwell says, “The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership” and “true success comes only when every generation continues to develop the next generation.” In 360 Degree Leader, Maxwell says, “Great leaders don’t use people so they can win. They lead people so they can all lead together. If that is truly your motivation, you can become the kind of person that people want to follow – whether they are beside, above, or below you in the organizational hierarchy.” Maxwell makes people development a priority. To avoid spreading himself too thin, he focuses 80 percent of his time developing only the top 20 percent of the people around him. Maxwell says, “your time is limited, and it makes more sense to help a few learn how to fly and reach their potential rather than show a big group only enough to whet their appetite.”

18. Let people fly with you for a while.

In Maxwell’s experience, the most effective way to mentor and ramp people up is the same way craftspeople have done for years: 1) do it, 2) I do it — and you watch, 3) you do it – and I watch, 4) you do it.

19. Ten principles for personal growth.

In Your Road Map for Success, Maxwell shares 10 principles for improving your personal growth: 1) choose a life of growth, 2) start growing today, 3) be teachable, 4) focus on self-development, not self-fulfillment, 5) never stay satisfied with current accomplishments, 6) be a continual learner, 7) concentrate on a few major themes, 8.) develop a plan for growth, 9) pay the price, 10) find a way to apply what you learn.

20. Don’t make happiness your measure of success.

Happiness is fleeting while success is a stable path. In Your Road Map for Success, Maxwell writes, “The continual search for happiness is a primary reason that so many people are miserable. If you make happiness your goal, you are almost certainly destined to fail. You will be on a continual roller coaster, changing from successful to unsuccessful with every mood change. Life is uncertain, and emotions aren’t stable. Happiness simply cannot be relied upon as a measure of success.”

21. Achievement over affirmation.

Focus on achievement rather than worry about fitting in. Maxwell says, “Affirmation from others is fickle and fleeting. If you want to make an impact during your lifetime, you have to trade the praise you could receive from others for the things of value that you can accomplish. You can’t be ‘one of the boys’ and follow your destiny at the same time.”

22. Four kinds of people when it comes to relationships.

In Success 101, Maxwell says there are 4 kinds of people when it comes to relationships: 1) some people add something to life (we enjoy them), 2) some people subtract something from life (we tolerate them), 3) some people multiply something in life (we value them), 4) some people divide something in life (we avoid them.)

23. Lead yourself exceptionally well.

Leadership starts from the inside out. Lead yourself first. In Success 101, Maxwell identifies 7 areas that successful people must self-manage: 1) you emotions, 2) your time, 3) your priorities, 4) your energy, 5) your thinking, 6) your words, and 7) your personal life.

24. Treat people like a “10.”

Who gets your better effort? … a leader who treats you as a “2” or a leader who treats you as a “10”? Maxwell says that in his experience, people usually rise to the leader’s expectations – if they like the leader. Treat people like a 10 if you want their best. Maxwell says one way to do this is to focus on a skill or strength that somebody has that is a “10.” If you can’t find a “10” in terms of skill, then rather than write somebody off, look to a non-skill area where the person can grow into a “10”, independent of skill, such as attitude, desire, discipline, and perseverance.

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In the 360 Degree Leader, Maxwell says there are two ways to get ahead: production and politics. Maxwell says avoid office politics and instead focus on production. Maxwell says that people who rely on production: depend on how they grow, focus on what they do, become better than they appear, provide substance, do what’s necessary, work to control their own destiny, grow into the next level, base decisions on principles. On the other hand, people who rely on politics: depend on who they know, focus on what they say, appear better than they are, take shortcuts, do what’s popular, let others control their destiny, hope to be given the next level, base decisions on opinions. Maxwell shares 6 ways to avoid politics: 1) avoid gossip, 2) stay away from petty arguments, 3) stand up for what’s right, not just for what’s popular, 4) look at all sides of the issue, 5) don’t protect your turf, and 6) say what you mean, and mean what you say.

 

THE RIGHT ROUTINE RESULTS IN SUCCESS

morning-routineAs I grow in my leadership, I realize the importance of creating a daily routine that will  drive my thoughts and actions for that day.   What I do at the beginning of each day and throughout the day are very important to the others days, weeks and even months.  What we think and do now, has a direct outcome on the future.

 

I thought I would share what I do to ensure my heart and attitude are right for the day’s activities and the interactions with others.

Here are 6 things I do every day to ensure I am fully prepared to succeed in whatever is planned or whatever unplanned events may come my way.

  1. Up By 4:30 AM – I get up early. I love being at the office and watch the sun come up.  It seems to inspire me.  Getting up at that time also allows me to complete the next 5 steps.  In addition, scientific evidence has shown getting up early will:  help your performance, make you more reliable, be more alert, stress less and loose more weight (not that you ladies need to).
  2. GET MY HEART RIGHT – I’ve come to know the great importance of beginning my day in prayer and reading the word of God.  This prepares  my heart and soul for the day activities.  I spend 30-45 minutes doing this.  It ensures I have the right mindset and attitude to interact and work with people, solve problems and to fully engage myself in the conversations and activities throughout the day.  I spend a big part of my day providing coaching and at times guidance to fellow employees.  My heart must be right, to give the right advice or coaching.
  3. PRIORITIZE – I have a list.  Every morning I review it, add to it, subtract from it, move things up or down, write notes out to the side of some, put ? marks on others.  I identify what is essential for that day. I prioritize for the days activities.  However, I also spend a little effort and time to determine what items are critical for tomorrow’s activities and the weeks to come.  I found the tI must not only plan for today but also the future.  I also know the tI must realize that some things can b put off for another day.  YOU CANNOT TACKLE EVERYTHING…….trying to will drive you mad!! Check your list multiple times a day and be flexible to re-prioritize as needed.
  4.  PERSONAL GROWTH – If you don’t invest in yourself, then you can’t invest tin others. Part of my morning is spent reading listening or watching a video to ensure my grow as a leader and professional. I use to hate to read.  Now, I just dislike it.  But I also realized that reading stimulates my thoughts, ideas and affects my actions (consider what you read). It also stirs up a sense of adventure, encourages me and  grows my vocabulary.  Find what motivates you.  But remember, this is your time, use it wisely.
  5. BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS – This is different from networking. Networking is positioning yourself within a professional setting through acquaintances .  Networking is not relational, but can produce relationships. Relationships are investing in others. It is the glue that holds people together.  Relationships allow  you to build trust through adding value and eventually influencing. Spend your morning and time throughout the day to send that email or call that person and see how they are doing and what you might be able to help with.
  6.  FOCUS, FOCUS, FOCUS –  Distraction can be is disastrous!!  Be sure and know when social media is appropriate and when your focus needs to be completing the task at hand.  It seems these days that every free mental moment is used to accept friend request, check that snapchat picture or grow our linked network.  Hey….that stuff will be there later.  However, if you don’t perform it might mean you don’t have a job.  I am very selective when accepting calls or emails.  Every hour I th-45will check my voice and email mails and respond to those that require my attention. Social media and conversations are reserved for breaks and lunches.  Now understand, situations change and there are always exceptions to the rule.

When we get the right routine, results follow.  Unfortunately when we have the wrong routine or no routine at all, results can suffer.  Invest the time and effort to create a routine that ensures your success.  Stick with it.  Make adjustments when necessary.  However,
have a routine and you will benefit from it.

5 STAGES OF LEADERSHIP

5 STAGES TO BECOMING A LEADERWithout influence there is no leadership.  John Maxwell states, “leadership develops daily, not in a day” Leadership is a process. In the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, John Maxwell states, “Champions don’t become champions in the ring, they are merely recognized there.” People who aspire to become great leaders, must relate to the boxer. They must progress through the stages with hard work and determination for success. One must however, realize the stages within the process and what each entails. After all, each stage within the process, ultimately allows the leader to influence.

Through my development of leadership training material, speaking on the subject and coaching business professionals, I have concluded that leadership is achieved through a simple five (5) stage process that culminates with influence.

The five stages to leadership are:

STAGE 1 – CONNECTING with people

STAGE 2 – Building a sincere RELATIONSHIP

STAGE 3 – Creating TRUST

STAGE 4 – Adding VALUE

STAGE 5 – Ultimately INFLUENCING their decision process

Let’s take a look at each stage within the leadership process;

 STAGE 1 – CONNECTING

Connecting with people is the first stage in becoming a leader.  There is no influence without first connecting.  In the book, Everyone Communicates, Few Connect, John Maxwell states, “Connecting is the ability to identify with people and relate to them in a way that increases your influence with them”.   One must look for opportunities to come along side employees and meet them where they are.  An intentional effort must be made getting to know employees.  Spend as much times as possible getting to know them, their families, their hobbies, and eventually what they like and don’t like or what works and doesn’t work.  To efficiently connect with people, do the following:

  • Don’t take anyone for granted – Value everyone and every task they perform, regardless of their position.
  • Convince them that you want to make a difference – If you don’t believe in it, how will they?
  • Follow up and follow on – I say it all the time, “Action is Traction”. Look for small and quick things that you can address. Start getting their buy-in by winning in the little things.
  • Look for common ground – I look for things in common. For me it’s baseball, NASCAR.  Listen in your conversations and key in on things that you have in common.
  • Be honest and transparent – Honesty and humility go a long way in connecting with people. Leave the arrogance at home.
  • Once you feel a connection, move on – You must complete the connection  before moving on to any other stage. Without it, there is no other stage.

When you connect with employees, you position yourself to make the most of your efforts, thus creating an environment for performance.  Connecting creates the foundation for moving to the next step, building a sincere relationship.

 STAGE 2REALATIONSHIPS

In his book, My Personal Best, author John Wooden writes; “There is a choice you have to make in everything you do, so keep in mind that in the end, the choice you make makes you”.  Nowhere is this more evident and true than in the relationships you build.  Building a sincere relationship is the second stage of the leadership process.  Relationships are sacred. When we connect with people, we must maintain that connection by building a relationship. That simply means spending time with employees. Helping them solve problems, standing with them in the rain, snow and heat. Being there to hear their struggles and concerns. Relationships are the key to creating trust. In the relationship stage, employees begin to trust you. In the book, Beyond Talent, Maxwell outlines mutual enjoyment, respect, shared experiences, trust and reciprocity as the five signs of a solid relationship.   Steven Covey said, “The relationship neither makes the issue any less real or important, nor eliminates the differences in perspective.  But it does eliminate the differences in personality and position and creates a positive cooperative energy focused on thoroughly understanding the issues and resolving them in a mutually beneficial way.”  Building relationships creates trust.

STAGE 3TRUST

Steven Covey said, “Trust is the glue of life.  It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication.  It’s the foundational principle that upholds all relationships”.  Trust is crucial in the leadership process. In fact, trust is the foundation of leadership. Trust can be described simply by comparing it to pocket change.  Every good decision puts change in your pocket.  Every poor decision takes change out of your pocket. The key is to increase your pocket change, rather than always paying it out. Sure we all make mistakes.  And each mistake cost us change from our pocket. However, employees are tolerant of mistake as long as we are transparent, quick to humility and strive to regain their confidence.

John Maxwell shares three qualities a leader must exhibit to gain trust; competence, connection and character. Violate anyone of these three qualities and you will loose the trust of those who follow. Trust is doing what’s right because it’s right.  I don’t think anyone can remain a leader if he or she continues to make poor decisions and break the trust of employees. In fact, a leader can’t be a leader if there is no trust, because trust leads to influence. If people don’t trust you, you can’t have influence. Without influence, you can’t lead.

STAGE 4VALUE

Adding value is the work of the three stages above. If you have properly connected with your employees and built a sincere firm relationship through trust, then I believe you have the tools and knowledge to add value to them. Zig Ziglar said. “I had to live in the desert before I could understand the full value of grass in a green ditch.” Value is achieved by understanding what is important to those you influence or desire to influence.

Let’s make sure we are all on the same page. I am not talking about the monetary value of something, but rather the value gained through effort. You add value through respect. Respect is gained not in the normal things, but rather the difficult right things. One must be viewed as competent and credible before respect is given. John Maxwell said, “While poor leaders demand respect, competent leaders command respect”. As leaders become more and more credible their command for respect become more and more evident. Value takes more than just “telling” , but rather one must demonstrate commitment and consistency in the activities and actions relating to safety.

Proactive value should be the basis for all activities and goals and objectives. Proactive professionals are smartly driven individuals looking to read reality and know what’s needed. Professionals who look to manipulate begin a series of distrust which tends to cause relationships to dissolve and the loss of leadership. Albert Einstein said ,”Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value”. If the organization see’s the value in the direction, activities and actions, then the door to influence is open.

 STAGE 5INFLUENCE

Ultimately, the goal is to influence all levels with in the organization in the direction that provides the most successful outcome. Influence is what we need to lead. Without influence no one can achieve anything.  Leaders must learn to influence without authority. If you want to lead, you must become a person of influence.

Leadership is achieved by completing these 5 stages.  But remember, leadership is influence………….

If you can’t learn how to influence, you can’t be a leader.

 

10 ACTIONS TO INCREASE YOUR INFLUENCE

cropped-influenceyoucanmakeadifference.jpgWant to increase your influence?  I think the 10 actions and concepts below will help you.  As you have probably heard me say or read John Maxwell’s writings, he defines leadership as Influence,Nothing More, Nothing Less. I work daily to increase my influence.  However, I’ve come to realize that influence takes time.  It requires consistency and tenacity.   Try these actions and concepts. Practice them often and  stay you will increase your influence.

Read it…….it’s less than a 1000 words!

  • WANT TO INFLUENCE? FIRST THINGS FIRST, ENCOURAGE – Start every conversation with something positive about the person or group you are addressing.  I’ve learned this over the years.  People are motivated by encouraging words.
  • INFLUENCE BY UNDERSTANDING  – Although you have a responsibility for self-leadership, leadership is about others. When I think about what needs to happen or take place, I think about how my actions, my conversations and my vision will affect others. I’ve realized that my performance is a direct reflection of my leadership.
  • INFLUENTIAL LEADERS EXPERIENCE THE WORLD OF THOSE THEY LEAD – They look at the bigger picture, they understand the trials and troubles they go through. Good leaders become someone who listens to their people, not to reply, but to understand. Get in tune and understand the people you lead and you will increase your influence.
  • INFLUENTIAL LEADERS REALIZE  EVERYONE COMES IN DIFFERENT SHAPES AND SIZES – They realize that Good Leaders Ask Great Questions (read this book from John Maxwell). The right questions will uncover a person’s interest and what motivates them. I think it is important to connect by finding common ground and nurturing relationships. This process will allow the leader to develop relative questions that will reveal their desires and interest.
  • INFLUENTIAL LEADERS HELP OTHERS – I think we get so consumed with our own desires and agendas that tunnel vision occurs and we don’t see the needs of others.  I have learned when we are first to offer assistance and help, we begin connecting in such a way that our relationship allows us to influence.  Zig Ziglar said, “You can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want”.  Look at those you lead, take action and watch your influence grow.
  • INFLUENTIAL LEADERS ADD VALUE –  People who are in it for themselves will never achieve anything great. Those who look for ways to add value to others will influence.  Add value by finding out what is important to those you lead. Value will look different in every situation.  A good leader will ask great questions to identify what value looks like.  Treat value independently to the person.
  • INFLUENCE WITH STORIES AND EXAMPLES – As a speaker, I’ve learned the importance of sharing good relevant stories. As a leader and professional, I’ve recognized the importance and effectiveness of sharing good stories with those I influence. People want to see the human side of leaders. I believe stories create a sense of belonging and connect us through life’s similarities.  Leaders who learn to master the art of good storytelling are the one’s who attract followers.Showing-direction-influence
  • INFLUENCE BY GIVING OF YOURSELF WITHOUT ANY STRINGS ATTACHED –  Give without any strings attached. I believe it is very important to be in “in tune” with those you lead or have potential influence with. Christopher Reeve said “Success is finding satisfaction in giving a little more than you take”.  When we give without any strings attached, we will benefit professionally and personally and professionally.
  • PEOPLE OF INFLUENCE KNOW THE IMPORTANCE OF A NAME – What is so important about a person’s name?  It is how we identify them.  Sure there are many people who have the same name, but what happens when you call a random name in a crowd?  People respond.   Learn the names of those you meet and associate with.   Few sounds are as sweet to a person as hearing their spoken name, few sounds are as irritating when you refer to someone by the wrong name.  Remembering names, shows you value them.
  • INFLUENTIAL LEADERS PUBLICLY ACKNOWLEDGE STRENGTHS – I think one of the best ways to gain influence is to acknowledge a person’s strengths.   Areas within their personality or employment that seems to tie them well to the organization. When people are recognized for what they do well, they gain an enthusiasim to do more and do it better.  In fact, they will want to “Exceed Expectations”, not just meet them.  When people exceed expectations, everyone wins!  Recognize what people do well in front of others and you will be surprised by the growth of influence.

We all have influence, big andInfluence-2 small.   We all have things we are gifted or good at. Things we leverage by adding value to others.  Whether it is our attitude, problem solving skills or simply just our ability to laugh, we should be sharing our knowledge, experience and influence.  Employees respond to influence.   We should work hard to increase our influence by adding real value everyday. Do this and you will increase your leadership. You’ve heard it before, Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less.  Go have influence on others!!

INFLUENTIAL LEADERS ARE EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATORS, 10 Principals to Becoming a Better Communicator

 Influential

GREAT LEADERS ARE GREAT COMMUNCIATORS.! I can’t think of any influential leader that is not a good communicator. Think about it. Everyone you respect as a leader can communicate effectively in every situation, good or bad, stressful or easy, big or small. As leaders, the way we approach and talk to people has a direct impact on the outcome. I wanted to write this piece because of my past (and sometimes present) way of approaching people and interacting with them. This is an area I have been working very hard on.

When I think about influence, I think about the initial contact, interaction and then the forthcoming communication1communication. Throughout my career, I have come to realize that influential people and those who have great interactive skills are able to recognize the situation and adjust their approach quickly to enable the most effective outcome.

To become an influential leader, you must learn to anticipate the reaction of people and use the correct tone and inflection to motivate the employee to react and respond appropriately. Remember, leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less. So we must develop a communication method that allows for influence.

We all communicate, right? But what is communication? Ask anyone on the street and they will likely include the word, “talking”. Well, communicating definitely includes talking. But, is it simply talking? I define talking as a prearranged group of vowels and consonants expelled with an abundance of hot air to address a particular thought or answer. So I concede that communication does include talking certainly; however, communication must go beyond talking and into connecting.

In John Maxwell’s book, Everyone Communicates, But Few Connect, he discusses communication going way beyond words as revealed through a study conducted by UCLA Professor, Albert Mehrabian. Professor Mehrabian discovered that face-to-face communications could be broken down into three components: words, tone of voice, and body language. What may come as a surprise is that in some situations, what people see us do and the tone we use can far outweigh any words we say whth-33ile trying to communicate. If we can maximize the use of these three components in a conversation then we can become very effective communicators resulting in a positive interaction and greater ability to influence.

How do you become a better communicator and ultimately an Influential Leader? Through my own study and desire to improve, I have come up with 10 principles you can use to improve. Follow these and have greater influence.

  1. Know Who You are Talking To or Dealing With – Leaders who communicate effectively realize they are responsible for their reactions and are very careful to create a non-threatening atmosphere. They always seem to be in control of a conversation, but not over-powering. They don’t worry about sounding important, having power or being the “expert.” Instead, they think about what needs to be addressed and ultimately what needs to be said. They are thoughtful about how they can deliver this message so that people will be able to hear it.  Leaders communicate expectations and tell people what’s important for them to know, even if it’s negative.
  2. Evaluate Body Language – Influential Leaders constantly track people’s reactions to their message. You must recognize the changes in body language including facial expressions, body stances, etc. Is the person facing you, looking down or rolling his/her eyes? Body language is feedback. Many times, this is the only feedback you will get. Learn to read body language and you can tailor your message to adjust the way we interact as needed.
  3. Be Honest and Factual – People who are influential leaders are honest in their communication. They don’t stretch or exaggerate the circumstances. They certainly don’t lie to make their point or look good to others. They are transparent people that admit if they don’t have all the facts or can’t share information.   They don’t use the politician method of creating circular answers that never address the issue. Influential leaders understand that lies and half-truths create dissention, distrust and anxiety.
  4. Be Who You Are Regardless of the Situation- Don’t be someone you’re not! People will find out the real you. Position or prestige doesn’t change who you are. Look at professional athletes. They become rich and famous, but they are who they are regardless of the amount of money they have or how many highlight reels they make. There’s a reason Mark Zuckerberg presented Facebook to investors in a hoodie and jeans. This is who he is and he knows the value of staying true to who he is. People will be open and allow you to influence if they believe you are who you and nothing more.
  5. Speak With Authority and Conviction – If you believe it, then say it! Don’t use words that you can’t say or don’t know the meaning of. President George W. Bush was the master of making up words. This often watered down or moved the focus from his points. However, he often spoke with authority and conviction giving credibility to his thoughts and desires. Influential Leaders speak directly to and with authority in the things they are passionate about and are clear on their desires and intended outcomes.
  6. Speak to Groups as Individuals – Leaders rarely have the luxury of speaking to one person at a time. Whether they’re addressing a toolbox topic or conducting a keynote with 5,000 people, influential leaders know how to work the crowd or group and make every single person feel as if he or she is being spoken to directly.
  7. Use Your Ears for More Than Hanging Glasses – Influential leaders realize that listening is far more than hearing. They understand that we listen not to reply, but to understand. When someone else is speaking, great communicators aren’t thinking ahead and planning what they’ll say next. Instead, they’re actively listening, fully focused on understanding the other person’s perspective. Leaders must listen to employees and seek to understand their concerns, hesitations and struggles.
  8. Be Humble – Influential leaders are not afraid to use phrases such as; “It’s My Fault,” “I Was Wrong,” and “I’m Sorry”. Humble leaders admit mistakes right away and are not driven by drama or false humility.
  9. Ask for Feedback – Influential leaders are always looking for ways to improve their communication and interaction. They are not afraid to ask how they can become better and more effective. They realize we see and hear our actions and words based on our intent, while others see and hear through our actual actions and words. If you are good, asking for feedback will make you better. If you are bad, it will improve you.   Either way, you will become better at communicating and interacting.
  10. Be Proactive, Not Reactive – Influential Leaders are proactive in responding to situations and rumors by being open and transparent in their communications. They are very clear in their directions and expectations and are always providing necessary feedback to ensure people don’t waste their time on things that don’t matter.

InfluenceAs I stated at the beginning, “Influential Leaders must become effective communicators. You will stand out and people will be drawn to you. Is it because of your effective influence or your destructive influence? When you implement these 10 principles, you become a better communicator with greater influence.

7 Keys to Becoming an Influential Safety Leader

7 Keys to InfluenceIt is my belief that the safety professional can have more influence than any other person within an organization. Think about it. Executives are typically in the office and seldom experience the field or the manufacturing daily work environment. Managers/Supervisors have assigned areas of responsibility, where they typically regulate a certain department or area.

The safety professional, on the other hand, typically upholds responsibility for the entire facility, region or area. Much of the workday is spent in the field or on the floor. Safety Professionals are expected to have a broad range of knowledge and an array of information concerning the business. In addition, they must have the ability to solve a wide spectrum of problems.

It is evident safety professionals have the ability to influence others more than any other position within the profession. The problem is that too many of us fall into the “authority” trap, where we think we can force compliance and the “0” injury campaign. So wrong! That used to be me. I thought I had the power and the authority to fix any problem. After six or seven jobs, I realized this was not the case. Rather, I’ve recognized the power of influence, it’s a trait that enables me to evolve as a strong and effective leader.

If you want to be a leader who has influence upon executives, manager, supervisors and employees, the key is to become valuable. When I reflect upon leadership, I think of John Csafetysign. Maxwell’s definition of leadership. He simply states, “Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less.” I have fully bought into this belief and I daily strive to increase influence. My desire is to influence others a little more each day. In my quest to increase influence, I have identified 7 Keys that will help create more authority as a safety professional.

They are as follows:

  1. Be firm but Fair – I learned this back in 1985 when I was in the academy for the Texas Prison System. I will never forget when I heard it for the first time. I was in a sweltering classroom listening to an old instructor when he said, “Inmates are people. Like anyone else, they respond to tone and attitude. If you want an inmate to respect you, you must be FIRM BUT FAIR with them.” This is an extra step you must take to become an influential, capable leader. Talk to your employees and listen to them. They will tell you why they can or cannot comply. Some people mistake rudeness as a sign of strength, however, it’s not even a substitute. Establish a high expectation for performance and hold others accountable. Observe the “big picture” because there might be something that keeps an employee from fully complying.
  1. Be Kind but not Weak – Do not mistake weakness for kindness. In my opinion, people are not weak when they demonstrate kindness. In fact, I think kindness is a leadership strength that has a positive impact upon others. Kindness is telling someone the truth, letting him or her know the consequences of their actions and laying everything on the line. Kindness is also about being open and honest. People will hear the truth if it is presented in a gentle and respectable manner. Remember, respect is achieved through the way we discuss and talk with others. Dealing kindly with people will generate respect ad allow you to influence them.
  1. Be Bold but not Annoying – It takes boldness to be an effective safety leader. In order to build influence with executives, managers or employees, you have to lead the way. You have to have your back exposed to the group. Such an idea can be expressed in the prison term “willing to feel cold steel,” although not literally I hope. Rather, you have to be the individual who isn’t afraid to challenge the status quo. You must be the first to identify and address problems, taking initiative and providing solutions. I love how Jim Rohn states, “Like the farmer, if you want any rewards at harvest time, you have to be bold and face the weeds and the rain and the bugs straight on.” Be known as a problem solver, not a problem creator.
  1. Be Humble but not Timid – You can’t get the “high life” by being timid. Some people mistake timidity for humility, but humility is a virtue; timidity is a downfall. It’s an affliction, although it can be cured. Humility is the opposite of pride. Ezra Taft Benson said “Pride is concerned with who is right, humility is concerned with what is right.” Humility does not come easy. In fact, I personally find it very difficult at times. We all want to be right, as well as our ideas and thoughts acted upon. We all want people to look up to us and think have the answers and know the way. However, we don’t always know what others are going through. Sometimes we don’t have all the facts or see the bigger picture. Be willing to admit when your wrong and you will gain respect as well as influence in doing so.
  1. Be proud but not Arrogant – It takes pride to build your ambitions and pride in a cause or accomplishment. The key to becoming a good leader is to be proud without being arrogant. Do you know the worst kind of arrogance? Arrogance that stems from ignorance. It’s intolerable. If someone is intelligent and arrogant, it can be tolerated at best. To be ignorant and arrogant, that’s unbearable.
  1. Be funny without being Goofy – In leadership, we learn that it’s OK to be amusing but not silly, fun but not imprudent. Be of good cheer and it will rub off on others.
  1. Be a Realist – Deal in truth. Delusion creates agony. Simply accept life as it is, even the drama that comes with it. Enjoy the ride; it will be fascinating!

Showing-direction-influenceOur ability to influence others is the core of our profession. Influence is achieved by earning the respect of those you come into contact with. We have a unique opportunity to influence at all levels within the organization. The 7 Keys listed will help create an individual atmosphere where influence is increased. After all, our ability to influence within the safety arena could result in a life or death consequence.

CHANGE…..DOESN’T HAVE TO HURT!

Let’s face it; change can be both difficult and frustrating. People like doing what they’ve always done and they don’t want anyone to tell them different! For those of you who utilize social media, I think you’ll agree with me that each time Facebook changes its layout; there is a general sense of panic from its loyal users. Updates are meant to act as an improvement to the program, but this is often overlooked. People don’t want to put forth an effort to become acquainted with a new Facebook layout; they simply want it to look as it did before. This same mentality can be translated into the workforce, change is often viewed as terrifying experience and for some, it takes a considerable amount of energy to accept unfamiliar territory.

However, change is to be expected. In fact, if it doesn’t happen, it can have a negative impact on business and professional growth. On the other hand, change doesn’t have to hurt. Our personal leadership will set the tone and the expectation for others to follow. I believe that if we have the right attitude and we take a humble approach, change will become easier. Winston Churchill once said, “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.” Our leadership attitude, along with how we approach people and situations will create a lasting effect on our efforts and end results.

I often recall (and remind myself) of the constant resistance that I experienced when I first began to implement changes within my current company. It seemed as if everything that needed modifications, often required long and tedious conversations beforehand. Now that some of the accepted changes have occurred within the company, I occasionally hear employees comment about how it has directly related to their positive attitude. The brilliant writer, C. S. Lewis said, “Blessed are the flexible, for they will never get bent out of shape.” As I have identified and collaborated with other employees, I have realized that not only did the employees need to be flexible and open, but so did I. In fact, I found that my flexibility to push and pull back has made the path of change better. Not easier, but better.

As leaders, we must find ways to overcome resistance instead of being smothered by it. I came across these six steps in a blog by the John Maxwell Company staff writer. They are used everyday and I have found them useful in ensuring that we, as employees, stay the course.

  1. BE AWARE THAT MOTION CREATES FRICTION– Galileo discovered that moving objects create friction whenever they interact with a rigid surface. Leaders launch forward motion, but employees stubbornly resist change because they dislike uncertainty. Stay the course; be aware that you will encounter friction with new ideas and or suggestions.
  1. REMEMBER THE 20-50-30 PRINCIPLE– As rule of thumb, 20% of people will support change, 50% will be undecided and 30% will resist. Casey Stengel said this, “The secret of managing is to keep the guys who hate your guts away from the guys who haven’t made up their minds yet.” Don’t try and sooth the 30%. All you will do is stir up a hornet’s nest. Instead, seek to convince and “woo” the 50% sitting on the fence. At the same time, encourage the 20% who are likely to help convince others and lead the drive for change.
  1. PROVIDE A CLEAR TARGET– I endure great pain to take long hikes and steep climbs to enjoy the scenic views from the top of a mountain or bluff. Without this reward, would I be so inclined to huff and puff and feel my legs burn? Probably not. A leaders duty is to remind employees where we are heading and what lies around the bend. Without a sense of purpose or vision, employees will loose heart and become discourage and resistant. Remember this, “Without a vision, the people will perish”.
  1. PROMISE PROBLEMS– Remind employees the rewards of change, but don’t mislead or sugar coat the difficulties. The real truth of change is things will get worse before they get better. Liken change to fixing your golf swing; altering your stance, swing and grip is award at first. In fact, it is easy to revert back to our previous bad habits, especially when we don’t see immediate results. However, if you stick to it, your shots become straighter, go further and you stay out of the woods and your score improves. Stick with it……….the rewards are great!
  1. INVOLVE EMPLOYEES IN THE PROCESS OF CHANGE– Change can make people feel uncomfortable and out of control. By including them in the process, they feel less vulnerable or helplessness during the process. It also gives them “skin in the game” and they begin to own the change. In fact, employee involvement will help convert the 50% and some of the 30% (refer to #2 above). Get people involved and listen to their ideas. Hey, try some of them; you might be surprised at the problems employees can solve. As leaders, we must be flexible in our thoughts and ideas and allow employees to make suggestions and give honest feedback. It’s ok if it is not the ideal way we would do something. Remember, “Blessed are the Flexible”. Be flexible, challenge your thinking.
  1. CELEBRATE SUCCESS– Regardless how we lead, change will wear you out! It takes a lot of energy and effort from everyone. In fact, it can just flat wear you out!! So, we have to remember to celebrate the small successes along the way. Make sure employees know we recognize the effort and strain and that we are appreciative of their efforts. This is a very important part to overcoming the stress of resistance.

Someone once said, “Change is inevitable,” and it happens regardless of our thoughts and feelings. We can choose to either embrace it or resist it, and our employees have the same options. Unfortunately, there will be those who prefer to resist change and chose not be a part of the future. That’s fine and as the saying goes, I hope “the door doesn’t hit ‘em on the way out!” Trust me, the company will benefit from those who do not oppose change.

Additionally, change doesn’t have to hurt. It may be a bumpy ride, but if you are diligent to remember these six things and implement them, they will make the bumps bearable. Utilizing these six nuggets of wisdom will help you overcome resistance to change, as well as lead others who are hesitant to leave their old habits and former ideas. Remember, everyone is watching and listening. Consequently, our attitudes, behaviors, and responses will greatly affect our employee’s abilities to embrace change.

CHANGE STARTS WITH US. LEAD WITH A HUMBLE HEART THAT IS WILLING TO FINISH THE RACE. THERE ARE GREAT REWARDS AT THE FINISH LINE!

6 R’s of Leadership While on Vacation or Holiday

IMG_3460 We all need time away from work and our daily activities.  Every good leader takes a vacation or holiday.  I personally make sure use all of my annual allotted time.  The stress and activity level is high.  The down time allows me to gather my thoughts and replenish my energy.

Recently, I spent a week on the beach in Destin, FL.  During this time, I wrote down six things I wanted to  make sure I accomplish that week.  I knew this would ensure I was able to return to my job in the best mental and physical condition.

I call these the 6 R’s of Leadership While on Vacation/Holiday.  Here they are;

  1. REST – This is what you came to do.  Make sure you get plenty.  Rest can look like mIMG_3439any things; sports, sightseeing, hiking, etc.  Whatever it is, just make sure you get plenty of it.
  2. Refresh – Take time to meditate and let your troubles go.
  3. Renew – Renew and rebuild your relationships with your family, most importantly your spouse or significant other.
  4. Recharge – Regain your strength, motivation and desire to connecting, building relationships and influence.
  5. Relax – Chill out, your on vacation!!!  Leave the phone and laptop in the room, or vehicle.  Dutch things that make you happy.  Laugh a lot!
  6. Recalibrate – Spend time thinking about what you need to personal change or do to be a stronger, better leader when you get back.

Try it next time you take some time off, I think you will see a huge difference in attitude and mindset when you
return.

Thanks and Take Care

Denis

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EXCEEDING EXPECTATIONS, Your Break Away from Being Average

Expectations are a part of our personal and professional life. Our parents had them while we were growing up, as well as teachers, coaches, and so forth. In the workforce, employers set expectations for our performance, typically established in the form of annual reviews or evaluations. th-3

Let’s be honest, expectations are found throughout all facets of life. There are just certain things people expect from us and likewise, things we expect from others.

Allow me to share a story with you.

A few years back, I recall a Friday afternoon at the airport waiting on a flight to Dallas. I hadn’t been home in almost two weeks and I was eager for the trip to be over. It was stormy throughout the western United States, but since I was flying from Boston, I didn’t think anything of it. As I checked the monitor, however, I noticed that my flight had been delayed forty-five minutes. Of course I was annoyed, but that’s how it sometimes goes when you’re traveling, right? Unfortunately, the forty-five minute delay turned into a three-hour wait! By this point, I wasn’t just annoyed, I was mad! Looking around the gate, it was clear that all the other passengers were angry as well.

sq-akl-gate-16-seating In spite of this, something started to happen at the gate. Airline workers began handing out drinks and snacks. I noticed a slight shift in the mood of the delayed passengers, including myself. In fact, I actually heard a few laughs. Eventually, we all boarded the plane and headed south. The general mood brightened when the flight attendant announced that due to the delay, all drinks were free. Sweet!

The crowd buzzed a little louder and the overall atmosphere was a cheerful one. People seemed happy and the flight, thankfully, went very quickly. Before I knew it, we were in Dallas.

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The airline not only met my expectations, but exceeded them as well! My initial expectation was just to get home safely. Even though I didn’t arrive home as scheduled, I observed an airline that went above and beyond to accommodate a situation that ultimately, was out of their hands.

How is it that expectations are exceeded? Generally speaking, it’s easy to meet expectations, but what if you knew how to surpass them?

I’ve established a list of personal insights and thoughts that I truly believe will help you not only meet expectations, but exceed them. Listed below are the things I use as a reminder when I set expectations for myself.

These work for me. However, I hope my insights inspire you to try some as well in your own life. Read through these and decide what works for you and then us them.

  1. I recognize disappointment is simply the gap between expectations and reality
  2. I consistently strive to exceed expectations
  3. The only person that can raise my standard of expectations isME!
  4. I expect more from myself than others expect from me
  5. I realize that it’s impossible to offer excuses and still exceed expectations
  6. I recognize focusing is the single-most important skill in exceeding expectations
  7. I constantly reflect upon the statistic that only 2% of people consistently exceed expectations and 80% don’t even meet minimum expectations
  8. I understand that simply meeting expectations is average.  I don’t want to be average
  9. I will never be excellent in my weaknesses
  10. I expect more from myself than anyone else
  11. I refuse to live in the past
  12. I don’t use relationships to cover your failures or shortcomings
  13. I understand respect must be earned daily
  14. I continually ask for feedback
  15. I only travel the high road with others
  16. I give 100% at key times with key people everyday
  17. I value people too much to not give them my best
  18. I exceed expectations because I surround myself with those who exceed expectations

I once heard John Maxwell tell a story about his grandson, Troy. Troy had recently graduated from college and attained his first job. As they were having lunch one day, John asked Troy if he knew how to set himself apart from the rest of the other employees. He said you have to set yourself apart; otherwise, you’ll just be another employee. Here are the things John told Troy to do:

  1. You must work harder than everyone else-come in early and stay late. Eat in for lunch most times.
  2. Do something for somebody, even when it’s not your job-Make it a point to do something for someone everyday, even though it’s not technically under your job description.
  3. Make an appointment with your leader (boss) and thank him/her for your job-Express gratitude and humility.

In my opinion, these three things will exceed everyone’s expectations. Surpassing expectations will set you apart from everyone else. It opens the door for a bright and successful future.

If you’ve heard me speak, then you have heard me say,

PEOPLE DON’T CARE HOW MUCH YOU KNOW, UNTIL THEY KNOW HOW MUCH YOU CARE!”

I also state, “People aren’t going to care how much you do or accomplish, until they know that you are better than average”.th-8

DON’T BE AVERAGE, AVERAGE IS BORING……………….EXCEED EXPECTATIONS!

MUST HAVE’S FOR ANY EFFECTIVE AND SUCCESSFUL LEADER

What a great time to be a leader or in a leadership role! Yes, you read that right. Let me repeat, what a great time to be a leader OR in a leadership role! Are you a leader just because you’re in a leadership role? In my opinion, NOT NECESSARILY! I know many people in leadership roles, that for the life of me, I cannot figure out how they got there.

Leaders, true leaders, possess certain traits and attributes. There are certain things that leaders are good at and do well. I believe there has to be something that sets them apart from the rest of the organization. If not, anyone could be a leader.

What if there was something that would make you more successful, more effective, and make your job easier? As leaders, it is our duty to learn what it takes to become both effective and successful. These two things, being effective and successful, can have lasting impacts.

This article will provide you with the must-haves to be an effective and successful leader. In fact, I don’t believe you can be a successful leader without first being an effective one.

What led to the creation of these top must-haves? After much deliberation, they were the result of a personal need to try something new. What I did for many years in the professional arena, unfortunately, did not work. I had good performance on occasion, but it wasn’t sustainable. I discovered that a personal approach to leadership was what I needed. One of the things I noticed in many leaders was a general lack of character. That generalization not only motivated me, but also helped me develop the “Must-Haves” from a perspective on character.

Listed below are the Must-Haves:

  1. Must have an unwavering PASSION for the profession.
  2. Must have a great ATTITUDE
  3. Must be a PROBLEM SOLVER
  4. Must take INITIATIVE
  5. Must have HUMILITY

The following information is an overview of each item listed above. This is just an overview. Each item could be an article all it’s own and probably will be. However, I try to provide basic practical information for each.

1.  Must have an unwavering PASSIONLove your profession or leave it!

I am so tired of meeting professionals that hate their job, hate their profession, or those who simply chose their job because it’s easy. If that is you, find a job that you love, a profession that builds passion.

Passion fuels your will-power as a leader. Without it, you’ll lack the drive to change and overcome obstacles. Those of you who lack passion within your profession, QUIT!

Passion is what drives me to learn more and work hard everyday, so that I can rest easy when my employees make it home safely from work.

2.  Must have a great ATTITUDEA great attitude is a positive attitude.

I think it was William James who once said, “The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes.”

3.  Must be a PROBLEM SOLVER – Can’t let your problems be a problem

Leaders are good at identifying problems, issue and concerns. Whether it is conditions or behaviors, leaders can tell you what is wrong and many are very good at it! In fact, I think a lot of professionals take pride in identifying and pointing out issues. The question is, are you good at solving the problems? Be a problem solver and influence!

4.  Must take INITIATIVE –  READY………FIRE………AIM.

My staff hears it all the time. What does it mean? Shouldn’t you aim first, then fire? No. Simply identify the problem, fix it, and then make the necessary adjustments later. At least you did something. If you never take initiative, things will never get done!

If you identify a problem or something that needs to be done, who is the best person to initiate the solution? YOU ARE!

5.  Must have HUMILITY – Humility is better than humiliation

I always have to include humility in any discussion I have on leadership, regardless of whether I am focused on the HSE Profession or leadership in general.

Why? The reason is because so many leaders struggle with this. They’re under the impression that you must be tough, authoritative, and all knowing in every situation. I’m aware of this because I used to lead that way.

However, throughout all of my leadership mistakes in life, marriage, parenting, and work, I realized that leadership is about knowing what you know, and more importantly, recognizing what you don’t know. Not only is there intrinsic value in the admitting that you don’t know all things, but also external importance amongst employees who sense your humility.

Here’s a promise, employees sometimes know things that you don’t know. They may not say it to your face, but trust me; they are talking behind your back.

I love what C.S. Lewis and Lou Brock have to say about the subjects of humility and pride:

 C.S. Lewis said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”

Lou Brock said, “Show me a guy who is afraid to look bad, and I will show you a guy you can beat every time.”

 A lack of humility makes us vulnerable. Without it, we open the door for negative things. People don’t want to follow arrogant leaders, they want to follow someone whom they believe in and connect with. A lack of humility withholds honest connections with others; therefore, we must act as humble leaders.

CONCLUSION

Here’s a re-cap of the must-haves for leadership.

  1. Must have an unwavering PASSION for the profession.
  2. Must have a great ATTITUDE
  3. Must be a PROBLEM SOLVER
  4. Must take INITIATIVE
  5. Must have HUMILITY

This is a very quick overview of each item. Honestly, it’s only an introduction into what it takes to become an effective and successful leader. Throughout the years, these five must-haves have helped distinguish me as a leader. They are my personal aspirations and they may or may not work for you. You must evaluate your current leadership style. Identify what will complement your personality and how you can create influence that will enable you to lead.

Take time and research each of these must-haves and learn how to apply them in your current position. I am confident that you will become a more effective leader because of it.