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.

LEADERSHIP COUNTS

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I can recall it vividly. About 4 PM on a recent Monday afternoon, I was in my office having a meeting when my cell phone rang. I looked at it and saw that it was our service director. However, I chose not to answer and continued my focus and attention on the person I was meeting with. The phone immediately rang again. This time, I excused myself and answered the phone. The service director quickly informed me that one of our vehicles was involved in a very serious accident, one with potential for significant injuries. He stated the area manager was on his way to the scene and was currently in a conversation with the vehicle passenger

As information, as well as pictures, quickly came in from various sources, I was able to piece together a relatively accurate account of the incident. It appeared that a vehicle had attempted to make a left hand turn across traffic. A semi truck was heading in the opposite direction and tried to take evasive action by entering the opposite lane of traffic where our vehicle had been traveling. In an attempt to avoid the truck, our driver left the road and went into a field. However, he was hit by the semi, causing our vehicle to roll several times with the semi resting on the top of the upside down vehicle. Both employees were able to exit the vehicle, but were transported to the hospital for evaluation. After a series of tests, both employees were released from the hospital. One was released with no injuries and the other received sutures due to a laceration on the head. Despite the severity of the wreck, the outcome was a positive one. Our employees left the scene of the accident with only minor injuries. It was great end result to a potentially devastating outcome.

As I reflect upon this situation, I have recognized just how much leadership counts! The way one conducts them selves during a situation has a dramatic impact upon others and the overall situation. With this incident in mind, I believe it’s important to outline the leadership traits and qualities that are crucial during a time of crisis.

Listed below are the steps I took during this particular crisis. These steps allowed me to posses the poise and confidence needed to lead our people as well as the company through this crisis.

  • I had to quickly define what the problem was – Sounds straightforward doesn’t it? Well, it wasn’t. To accurately define the problem, I had to sift through all of the initial information and decide what were assumptions, exaggerations, and just hearsay.
  • I asked pertinent questions to simplify the situation – I focused my questions on those that would provide relevant, simple information. I wanted to obtain information that was relevant, so I could relay an accurate account of the situation to my executive group. This was not the time to figure out what caused the accident to happen in the first place.
  • I had candid communications – I was frank with my executives and CEO. It was a serious incident, one with potential for devastating results. I stuck to the facts. I never downplayed the situation or made things appear different from the presented information.
  • I secured authorization to make decisions – I needed to secure the support of the executive group. The first three steps above showed this to be a swift, almost non-existent need. This allowed me to make decisions and take action with confidence. For example, I flew the injured employee’s girlfriend in from California and ensured that other family members were able to meet him at the hospital. I also made sure that everyone was fed and taken care of.
  • I utilized the entire TEAM– I quickly realized that I wasn’t in the best position to make certain decisions. I brought in my regional EHS director for information on the injured employee and used the area manager for information regarding the accident scene. We also utilized lead individuals to gather personal belongings, tools, and equipment.
  • I made the decision to do the right thing regardless of the outcome – I had to make decisions that were right for the employees’ health and well-being. I refused to cut corners or lower my ethical standards that would sway the outcome for me or anyone else.
  • I needed to be visible and provide reassurance and support – I needed to be at the location. I felt it was critical to show support and reassure everyone that we would get through this. I booked an early morning flight. However, due to weather, my flight was delayed three different times. I made the decision to drive the nine-hour trek and get there by early evening.
  • I displayed support and commitment by meeting the needs of those involved – The time spent on site was a simple one. I demonstrated support and commitment by making sure the employees had everything they needed. As I was told the details of what happened, I listened. This was not the place or time to investigate. I simply bought lunch, ensured needs were taken care of, and settled all medical costs. In addition, I provided an ear to hear and listened to those around me.

These eight action steps allowed me to be an effective leader by managing the situation, adequately communicating the facts, and leading people to an effective resolution. In retrospect, there are some things that I could have handled more efficiently. However, I can take these gained insights and use it to transform me into a more effectual leader.

Our ability to lead people through a crisis is the most important tool to obtain. Whether it’s ensuring the emergency is under control and necessary resources are available, or simply being a support person where people are taken care of and the facts are communicated, your leadership counts.

IMG_3178I hope by outlining my personal actions during this particular crisis will help you become a better leader. If and when you find yourself in the middle of situation, remember, a leader must show value and demonstrate influence to lead effectively.

LEADERHSIP THOUGHTS

th I recently spent 5 days in Orlando attending the John Maxwell Group Training.  This was my second event and I can say it did not disappoint.  MY only problem seems to be how do I capture all of the incredible information that comes out.  I

I decided to take some of my notes and attempt to create a bullet point list.  Hopefully these will means something to you.  I have divided the points by subject matter to help you.

I will be writing more in-depth on the subjects in the future.

MENTORING

  • The more you know, the more you don’t know
  • Malcom Gladpoint, “the tipping point”, law of the few. Find the right few to invest your time and effort in, the payoff will be huge and very regarding.
  • Being a leader means you continue to learn and that flows through you.
  • WE ARE A RIVER….NOT A RESERVOIR
  • Mentor is both a verb and a noun;
    • V – people of action
    • N – who you are
  • Mentorship is defined as a transfer of wisdom extracted from experience and knowledge.
  • Mentor – must ask 2 questions
    • What am I learning?
    • Can I pass it along?
  • It is best to learn and pass the information on quickly. Mentoring is a constant process
  • Passing information and learning on is underlining your experience, it is a fresh perspective and sense of learning and knowledge.
  • FRESH carries a PASSION!!! However, passion dies over time, unless it is consistently fed.
  • Everything you learn, receive and acknowledge is not yours, you are simply a manager of information and must pass it on to others.
  • Mentoring is a relationship, NOT A TITLE!
  • Mentoring is not a friendship, but rather a relationship. It is a two way street , side-by-side.
  • Mentoring is empowerment. Relationships breakdown when only one person is carrying the load.
  • THE BEST LEADERS EQUIP AND TRAIN OTHERS!!

EXCEEDING EXPECTATIONS

  • Most people, 80% don’t meet expectations.  20% consistently exceed expectations
  • Disappointment is the gap between expectations and reality
  • the only person that can raise the standard of expectation is you
  • If you want to be average, than do something else, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.
  • life is not complicated, we’ve made life complicated.
  • I’m tired of giving everyone trophies, for losing every game.  We need to give our kids a reason to want to be better.
  • Always expect the best out of yourself and others
  • Don’t do anything average. There’s nothing exciting about being average
  • life is not complicated, if you pay the price, it’s gets complicated for lazy people
  • Always ask, “What else can I do to exceed their expectations”
  •  Expect more of yourself than others expect of me
  • Don’t short change people
  •  If you find a better way, change immediately
  •  Don’t use relationships to cover my shortcomings or my issues
  • I exceed expectations because I ask for feedback all the time.
  • I only travel the high road with others.  I am going to treat you better than you treat me.
  • Never take advantage of a person even if you can
  • Don’t shortcut people. Always give your best.
  • Refuse to live off of your past.
  • Yesterday ended last night. Give it up!

Hope these help provoke a thought or two with you!

Attitudes, Can They Change

In safety, a big part of our profession involves behavior modification activities. Whether it is from a behavior observation process or from one-on-one conversations, we spend a lot of time reviewing statistical results and/or visually observing behaviors.

I’ll never forget the story my daughter recounted one day. She heard it from a speaker in elementary school. Although the story was most likely not true, it nevertheless painted a picture of what “attitude” is and the impact it can have upon a person.

“ A man finds himself accidently locked in a refrigerated boxcar. Unable to get out, he uses a knife to etch words and phrases onto the wooden floor, such as….”It’s so cold, my body is getting numb” and “I don’t have much longer…” As the hours go by, the man slowly succumbs to death. The next day, the man’s body is discovered. His written records indicate death due to hypothermia, but the physical evidence shows that the temperature never dropped below 50 degrees. If it wasn’t hypothermia that caused his death, then what was it?

If it wasn’t hypothermia that caused his death, then what was it? The answer of course, is his ATTITUDE, plain and simple. He had determined he was going to die and in his mind, there were no other options. This story demonstrates how powerful our attitude can be and how it dramatically alters the outcome of any situation. So what happens when a person’s attitude interferes and affects their behavior? Can a person’s attitude be changed? I think it can. Allow me to explain.

I have always taught that behaviors can be changed and modified through training, accountability, etc. However, the individual controls their attitude. It’s a choice. An individual will bring their own thoughts and feelings to the workplace, as well as their personal viewpoints with them. In fact, Webster dictionary defines attitude as “A feeling or a way of thinking that affects a person’s behavior.” If we take this definition and dissect it, we discover that a person’s attitude is their “way of thinking.” Therefore, if I change their “way of thinking,” I can change their attitude and ultimately their behavior. If we change their behavior, then we can reduce risk and potential injuries.

Attitude is more important than anything else. It is esteemed more than money, your circumstances, your failures or your successes. It is more valuable than your appearance, your talent, or your skill. Your attitude will make or break you. It will determine your ability to succeed in everything you do.

At my company, we hire based on attitude, not necessarily knowledge or ability (although that is very important). I spend a lot of my time teaching our leaders how to identify candidates that possess the right attitude. You see, if a person has the right attitude, then we can teach and train them for almost any position.

I am totally convinced in the phrase that states life is 10% of what happens to you and 90% of how you react to it! Winston Churchill once said, ”Attitude is a little thing that makes a BIG difference.” There is a direct correlation between attitude and behaviors. A person’s behavior is affected by their attitude. An employee will likely do what is required when the supervisor or safety professional is around. But what about the moments when no one is around? A person’s behavior doesn’t dictate their attitude, but their attitude can dictate their behavior.

Can you positively affect a person’s attitude? Absolutely! Here are several things that can make a positive impact on a person’s attitude.

Attitude Awareness– Recognize a person’s attitude (their state of mind). It will determine the approach you take when interacting with them. Using the wrong approach could result in confrontation, rather than a solution. Bad attitudes catch on much quicker than good ones. A person with a bad attitude can affect many people very quickly. Think about it, they are in the work area all the time, interacting with those in their shop, location, etc. Remind employees that attitudes (both positive and negative) are contagious. When addressing the individual’s attitude, place the focus on the behavior instead of their personality traits. ROTTEN ATTITUDES WILL RUIN EVERYTHING! They must be addressed.

Take Responsibility for Your Attitude– Surround yourself with those who are optimistic. You’ve heard the saying, “Bad company corrupts good character.” There is definite truth to this statement. It’s easy to get swept into a mentality that brings about gossip, complaints, and inefficiency. If you make a conscious effort to begin each day with a positive frame of mind, you will be more equipped to handle unforeseen tasks and events. Remember this…a lot goes into an attitude, but a lot more comes out of it! As a leader, this can create success or failure. You own your attitude, be careful.

Be Consistent – Consistency in our decisions, approaches, applications and interactions formulate our credibility. Employees must understand that we are who we are regardless of the situation. You can demonstrate consistency when your yes is a yes and your no is no. Being a consistent leader will help you gain respect and credibility, both of which are essential to changing the attitudes of employees. If your employees consistently chose to not like you, at least there is consistency.

Be Persistent – Persistence creates expectation. If you continue to be persistent in a cause, then I believe you will succeed in that cause. In fact, I believe if you are consistent in your desires, instructions, applications and requirements, you will establish a persistent expectation. Your employees will embrace that expectation. It may take a while, but eventually they will grow weary of fighting and will comply.

As I close, I ask the question again. Can a person’s attitude change? I truly believe it can. There must be willingness and a desire to change, but I believe everyone has that. The key is to figure what triggers the change. When we are aware of an employee’s attitude, we can take necessary steps to accommodate and approach the attitude. I believe we can successfully engage the employee through conversation and achieve desired results. We can also alter a person’s attitudes by taking responsibility for our own. Our positive attitude in the workplace is contagious. In addition, we must be consistent in our approach, thoughts and direction to all employees. Remember, let your yes be a yes, and your no be a no. Lastly, be persistent in your efforts and expectations. Do not waver. As the leader, pursue consistency and establish your expectations.

Attitudes can change. In fact, employees with the right attitudes will exhibit desired behaviors. Those desired behaviors reduce risk and ultimately injuries. The result? A workplace free of injuries, something of which that we all desire.

CEO FOR A WEEK Interest vs. Commitment

I recently became a CEO. However, after eight days, I found myself back in my old position at my previous company. Why? I quickly realized that I was interested in the idea of being a CEO but not committthere%27s+a+difference+betweened to actually being one. Let me try to share the highlights of my journey.

Late one afternoon, while sitting at my desk, I received a call from the Chairman of the Board of a newer EHS Consulting and Services company. He mentioned that he was given my information by a mutual acquaintance and after some research; he and the Board thought my experience and leadership training would make me a great fit as the CEO for this new company. I remember thinking to myself, “what the heck? Me, a CEO? This has to be a joke…” And even though I was certain he had the wrong number, I continued to listen to what the Chairman had to say. After some confirmation I was indeed the intended recipient of this call. I agreed to meet with him and discuss the offer a little more. It took several meetings and phone conversations but slowly, I was starting to tell myself they were right and I was a great fit.

So, after a few months of contemplation and discussions with my wife, I was giving my notice to my current employer. Excited, eager and full of energy, I arrived at the office and began to meet people and settle in. However, after a couple of days, I began to feel uncomfortable. Despite my constant efforts to make myself feel at home and connect with people, things just didn’t feel right and it was becoming obvious that I didn’t fit in. The harder I tried, the more I failed. It didn’t take me long to realize this new role was completely different from anything I had ever done before. Formerly, my role as VP, EHS was to create a culture through policies, procedures and programs and lead my staff through encouragement, motivation and support. Now, I saw my role as the visionary leader who would be responsible for the overall direction of the company. Although it was a great opportunity, it wasn’t my what I did. It wasn’t what I was good at. I spent my whole career getting good at building safe cultures. My initial position was to build a business; to create a service that would be desired by companies worldwide and I was confident in my ability to be successful. As the reality of the situation was setting in, I was beginning to see I would have to balance things differently in my life. I would be limiting the time spent on things I loved, such as leadership training and keynote speaking and it didn’t seem as though this new position was going to be worth it. It became very evident that I was not committed to this role. Sure, with A LOT of hard work and lost weekends, I believe I could have been successful. But was that what I wanted at this point in my life? No it wasn’t.

I don’t know about you, but when something doesn’t feel right, I don’t sleep very well, some nights, not at all. I spent several nights lying awake in bed or pacing the living room, trying to figure out why I wasn’t confident in this position. I wasn’t myself. I would come home and my wife knew I wasn’t happy, without me having to say a word. Although it was a short time, it quickly became the norm. I would come home and not have a positive thing to say. We use to cherish the evenings and converse about our days. What was wrong? After all, I was now a CEO!  Well, it took me about six days into my new role for me to realize, I was simply interested in being a CEO, but definitely not committed.

Identifying this as the root of my unhappiness and the cause of my now unsettled life, I spent some time in thought and came up with a few reasons why I felt I was interested vs. committed. I want to quickly share some of these with you.

Interest

There is no doubt that I was very interested in being the CEO of this company. In fact, my life goal has always been to be the top leader.  Here are some of the things that interested my about this position;

  1. I had interest in being the decision maker.
  2. I had a desire to build a company that provided a livelihood for others. I wanted to help others succeed.
  3. I had a desire to create a culture based on my own leadership desires, ethics and moral values.
  4. I had a desire to show friends and family I could be successful.
  5. I wanted my wife to think her husband was the “bid dog”.

Commitment

When it came down to it, I just wasn’t committed. I found there were a lot of sacrifices that needed to be made and I wasn’t necessarily ready to make them.

  1. I wasn’t committed to working the hours that were necessary to get the company off the ground.
  2. I wasn’t committed to not having the benefits that come with an established company.
  3. I wasn’t committed to taking the financial risks that were necessary.
  4. I wasn’t committed to altering the balance between my work life and personal life. I was fond of the lifestyle my wife and I have grown accustom to.
  5. I wasn’t committed to giving up my leadership training and speaking opportunities; the things I loved doing the most.

I was interested in the notion of being CEO, but I was not committed to the sacrifices that were required of me. I am like the chicken in The Chicken and the Pig fable (modified to make my point);

I am interested enough to lay the egg, but I am not committed enough to be the
piece of ham on the plate.

pig_chickenI read a quote somewhere that said “Commitment is an act, not a word”. I was not willing to make the commitment necessary to ensure the success of this company. Would it be fair to continue in a position where you are not fully committed? I didn’t think it would be.

WHAT I LEARNED

Once I had realized I wasn’t fully committed to being the CEO of this company, I called my former CEO and humbly made it clear that I had made a mistake and desired to come back (humility, a topic for another blog). It worked out and I began to transition back into my position as VP, EHS. Next, I had to confront the Chairman of the Board and let him know my decision. I was honest with him about not being committed and he genuinely understood my position and the struggles I had faced. So, he graciously accepted my resignation.

The fact of the matter was simply this:
I loved my current job and I was extremely happy and successful at it. I realized that we all have a role in life, and once you find what that is, it is hard to change it. I believe that we are all born with talents, some more than others. A professional football player doesn’t easily transition into a professional soccer player. Just like, a professional baseball player doesn’t just become a NASCAR racer. One doesn’t become a world-class pianist by being interested in playing the piano. No, they become world-class by being committed to being the best.

I am not saying that I wouldn’t ever consider being anything more than a VP, EHS, but I feel I will be better prepared to identify if I am just simply interested or if I am truly committed.

It is my hope and desire that someone in a similar situation may read this and have a better understanding of being interested vs. committed. I was incredibly fortunate to be able to return to my previous role and continue on with not only what I am good at, but what I truly love doing. Sometimes, that’s not the case.