8 LEADERSHIP LESSONS LEARNED WHILE SHOPPING AT WALMART

My Morning

I woke up early Saturday morning walked into the kitchen and brewed myself a cup of steaming dark roast coffee
(Keurig brewed it)  . As I made my way to my desk, I looked out the window and saw it was a cold, foggy and misty morning. I had just gotten comfortable at my desk, logged into the computer and thought about how wonderful it was going to be to enjoy a Saturday of writing. 

Then I heard some familiar noises behind me. I turned around to see my wife brewing her a cup of coffee. I said “good morning dear,” and was greeted with a smile and, “we need to go to Walmart this morning.” I remember hearing what was said, but thinking it was a nightmare. I took another sip of my coffee and turned back around to see if she was really standing there. I was hoping she was still in bed. But as I turned around, I saw her there, waiting for my response. I now knew it was real. Without words, the look on her face made it very clear, “you have no choice, you’re going!” There was no way to get out of it. We were going to Walmart, and I was just going to have to deal with it.


“we need to go to Walmart this morning.”

Well, we left the condo and headed for the car in this cold, foggy, misty morning. As we got in the car, I knew my attitude wasn’t right. All I could think about was having to deal with WALMART people. I could see it now; people getting in my way, bumping my basket, putting their basket in the middle of the aisle, so I can’t get my basket around, etc. 

Entering the War Zone

As we entered the war zone (store), my thoughts were immediately justified. I was walking by a register when an employee hocked a massive loogie and spit it in the trash can right in front of me!  In my total disgust, I ran toward my wife, when I was hit by a basket from a person turning from a side aisle into the main aisle. I grab my leg and continue to hobble to where my wife was. When I finally met up with her, she looked at me and asked, “what’s wrong,” I simply said, “nothing, let’s keep moving.”

After about an hour and a half of basket bumping, aisle space fighting and hardcore looks and grimaces, we finally finished our shopping. We headed to the Christmas/Garden area to check out. We were number two in line, and I was so excited that we were going to get out of here fast.

Then I overheard a conversation between the cashier and the customer in front of us. Apparently, the customer saw the same pots and pans online at a competitors site for $3 cheaper. Their discussion and banter went on forever. The customer would not relent. I came very close to saying, “Oh my gosh, I ‘ll give you $3 if you’ll just finish and leave”! Instead, I told my wife, “come-on lets go check out at the regular lanes.” We left and headed over to the other end of the store. As I was walking (maybe slightly running), I saw an empty lane, so I moved a little quicker to make sure no one got in front of me. Yes! I made it! The cashier greeted me and began to check us out. Then she noticed we bought a pizza. As she scanned it, she began to tell us how she and her husband “did something last night they hadn’t done in 20 years.” I thought to myself, I’m not sure I want to hear this. She said they had a pizza delivered along with breadsticks and two 20 oz cokes! My wife responded, “we hadn’t had a pizza delivered forever” and looked over to me and said: “isn’t that right?” I nodded, yes. By this time, the cashier was talking more than she was scanning and moving very slow. Then she saw a toy we bought my grandson and started commenting about she hadn’t seen that toy for years. I felt my ears beginning to catch fire, and my blood pressure busting through my arteries. All I could think was; quit running your mouth, speed up and finish my order so I can get the heck out of here!

Reflecting on the Moment

As we were finishing up, I caught a glance of the cashier’s face and saw how happy she was to be talking with us. I immediately told her to have a wonderful rest of the day and to have a Merry Christmas. She responded with a huge smile, “Same to you.”

We left the line and headed out of the store. As we came out, we were greeted by a Salvation Army Volunteer who greeted us with, “Have A Merry Christmas” with a huge smile.

These two instances immediately melted my heart and made me think about what makes people happy. I started to reflect on my negative attitude and stupid interactions with some of the people.  I began to think about how a real leader would be acting right now and realized that leadership should be a way of life all the time, regardless if you are at work or in a non-desirable situation. As we were walking to the car, my wife looked at me and said, “she (referring to the cashier) was so sweet.” I agreed and said that “our Walmart trip wasn’t all that bad.”

After we got home and unloaded the groceries, I started to reflect on the attitude I came into the store with and how that influenced my actions. I realized that I  learned several leadership lessons from my shopping experience.


“our Walmart trip wasn’t all that bad.”

Leadership Lessons Learned

While shopping at Walmart is not my favorite thing to do, it does offer many opportunities to influence and learn. Here are the leadership lessons I learned:

  1. Leaders are consistent in their thoughts and ideas about people regardless of where they are.
  2. Leaders value people for who they are and the hard work they perform regardless of the type of work they are doing. 
  3. Leaders make a difficult and challenging atmosphere, fun and enjoyable.
  4. Leaders listen with their eyes and ears and encourage responses.
  5. Leaders inspire others through their encouragement and influence. 
  6. Leaders are humble and relatable in all situations.
  7. Leaders keep a good head and an open heart in all situations, regardless if it is ideal or not.
  8. Leaders realize they are responsible for their own attitudes and take the initiative to change it quickly.

While I left the house with a negative attitude and a strong resentment to shop at Walmart, I learned a lot while I was there. By reflecting back on my experience, I was able to identify the fact that a leader is a leader all the time, not only when they think they need to be a leader. 

We all make mistakes, but it’s the leader who learns from their mistakes which has the most significant influence on others.

Leaders are also learners. We all make mistakes, but it’s the leader who learns from their mistakes which has the most significant influence on others. I encourage you to reflect on the eight leadership lessons I identified above and consider them in your leadership journey.

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

 

Executive-Coaching

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

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

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

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

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

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

“a selfish one.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

happy-leaders

 

Managing Work/Life Balance

 

o-WORKLIFE-BALANCEI recently began a new job. Yes, I said a new job. The last two years have been very challenging, but that is a topic for a future blog. Man, I wish I could keep a job like I keep my wife (we’ve been married for 32 years).

With a new job comes the need to re-balance the commitment to work with the commitment to life. That takes a lot of effort. Let’s face it, a new job not only takes a lot of effort to build relationships, learn the job and become familiar with the organization, but it creates a desire to make a great first impression.

However, our personal life is the most important. Whether you are married, dating or simply just like your alone time, work-life balance is essential to your physical and mental health.

As leaders, we want to set the pace and set the expectation. If you are a true leader, the best way to do that is to exceed your own expectations. I find many leaders do this by coming to the office early and staying late. In fact, if I come to the office and someone is already there, I find myself questioning my commitment and leadership. Even though I know better, I will fall into this thought process sometimes.

I think the challenge of work-life balance is one of perspective and mindset. I heard someone say,

In order to change the way we work, we must change the way we think.”

I agree, to achieve balance we must think like the leader we are and not the doer we want to be.

I’ve heard it said that being “busy” is the badge of honor among leaders.”
I used to model that saying. However, I realize I was merely wasting time. There is a time within the end of a day (for me about 9-10 hrs) where my concentration and focus lacks. I only exist at the office to create a perception. Longer days don’t generate accomplishments.

As a leader, here is what is needed to create a fair work-life balance:

  1. Make a list of things you need to do. And make a list of things you want to do. Create a combined list based on both “need” and “want.” This will generate a desire to accomplish both while creating a more enjoyable work environment.
  2. Identify your priorities each day. Priorities change, so it is essential to take time in the morning, and afternoon to re-evaluate and make adjustments.
  3. Schedule time in the early morning to give you an opportunity to achieve items on your priority list before people start interrupting.
  4. Look for ways or opportunities to overlap projects.
  5. Limit emails, answering calls or checking voice mail.  Set aside an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon to answer emails and voicemails. In fact, I have a code for my staff and family. If there is an emergency or critical situations, they are instructed to use the code, and I will immediately answer.
  6. Assign appropriate roles and responsibilities to your staff. This will reduce your workload and free up time to accomplish your priorities.
  7. Trust your team. Some of you will say this is easier said than done. If that is the case, I suggest you reevaluate your team members. Give them a challenge and the freedom to perform and succeed. I use the approach of “Ready, Fire, Aim.” Meaning I let them do what they do, and we course correct as needed.
  8. Learn to say NO! It’s ok to say no. People will respect you more when you do. When we figure this out, we free up time to accomplish other things and spend more time with family or taking care of ourselves.

Creating a healthy work-life balance doesn’t just happen. It takes commitment and persistence every day. However, seasons do come and go. There will be situations where the balance is off, however, be persistent in trying to maintain and create the balance because a good work-life balance will create a better you and stronger relationships.

balance

 

I’m Arrogant! 14 Principles I Use To Reduce My Arrogance

I recently presented a Keynote titled “The 8 Attributes of Character Defined in Great Leaders”.  The talk was not intended to identify past and present Great Leaders, although there are many, rather it was designed to provide information so individuals could evaluate their current character and consider the adjustments required to achieve the character needed to become a Great Leader.

In the talk, I identified “Humility” as being one of the attributes found in Great Leaders.   Leaders are typically those who have ambition, are talented and confident when making decisions and interacting with people.  But I bet when most of us think of leaders, we don’t typically describe them with the word “humility” or use the term, “humble.”  If they did, it might not be viewed as a compliment.

One of the toughest things about teaching and speaking on leadership topics is the conscience guilt that follows you around when you are not following your own words, principles, and practices you teach or talk about. This is something I really appreciate. Because it drives me to always look at ways I can increase my influence and become a better leader.

As I continue to evaluate my leadership and my approach to people, problems, and solutions, I find myself dealing with a little of arrogance and pride. I believe I would consider myself just a bit arrogant.  Well, maybe even a bit more than a bit, depending on who you talk to.

Male manager calling his colleague

So I have been focusing on how I lessen my arrogance and replace it with more humility? The identified 14 principles that help me to lessen my arrogance and focus on my humility. It is a work in progress, and I often slip back one or two steps. But I feel it’s working.

  1. Don’t think of someone else when reading this blog.
  2. Recognize your arrogance.
  3. Know what you don’t know and admit it.
  4. Step in someone’s else’s shoes that you interact with on a daily basis and those who interact periodically.
  5. Dig deep into not so positive feedback.
  6. Acknowledge those who helped you get where you are or where you are going.
  7. Shut up and listen!
  8. Engage in conversations by asking questions.
  9. Walk around looking for things to celebrate.
  10. Quickly admit when you are wrong.
  11. Be quick to forgive and show grace to others.
  12. Be purposeful in speaking well about others.
  13. Take a seat at the lower table.
  14. Focus on strengthening relationships, not just results.

The great college basketball coach John Wooden often told his players, “Talent is God-given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be thankful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.”

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

 I believe humility is the antidote to arrogance. Arrogance will cause a person to fall and ultimately fail.  Humility will cause a person to rise as they fail.  People want to follow humble leaders.

So I end with a bit of a hope……May you make an everyday choice to lessen your arrogance and give credit where credit is due and acknowledge others for your success.  May you admit when you are wrong and know what you don’t know.

 If we can honestly accomplish this, then we can continue our growth as leaders.  But never forget this, IT’s NOT ABOUT YOU………..IT REALLY ISN’T!!!

Humility wooden sign on a beautiful day

9 Real Reasons Why People Leave Their Jobs

Why do people leave jobs? Good question. I have been actively employed in the professional job market for a while. In that time, I have enjoyed multiple positions with multiple employers achieving both high and low results. However, there hasn’t been one position that I haven’t learned something new or how to become a better leader. In fact, I’ve learned more, become more diverse and become a stronger leader through the character I’ve built through the various situations and interactions I encountered. I wish it were the way it used to be. People got a job, the employees worked hard, the company recognized their value and so employees stayed for 30, 40 or 50 years. Nowadays, most employees get 3-5 years out of a job and turnover has become a day in the life of an organization.unhappy ee However, in my research, I’ve found the cost of turnover and employee retention costs to be astounding. Here is some of what I found:

  • 51 % of workers are looking to leave their jobs (Gallup)
  • 40 % of employees are considering employment outside of their current firm within the next year (SHRM)
  • 34 % of employees say they plan to leave their current role in the next 12 months (Mercer)
  • 74 % of all workers are satisfied with their jobs; 66 percent of those are still open to new employment (Jobvite)
  • Cost of replacing entry-level employees: 30 to 50 % of their annual salary (ERE Media)
  • Cost of replacing midlevel employees: 150 % of their yearly salary (ERE Media)
  • Cost of replacing high-level or highly specialized employees: 400 % of their annual salary (ERE Media)
  • 44 % of Millennials say, if, given the choice, they expect to leave their employer in the next two years (Deloitte)
  • 45 % of employees reported that they would be likely or very likely to look for another job outside their current organization within the next year (SHRM)
  • 47 % of Americans would leave for their ideal job even if it meant less pay (Adobe)

This information made me raise my eyebrows but didn’t really surprise me. Some of these are the reason(s) I left a job or two, and it confirms some of the feedback I’ve received in exit interviews.

So why do people leave their jobs? Here are 9 reasons I put together based on my experience and feedback from others.

  1. The Leader – More than 50% of people leave their job because of their boss. Whether it is a weak relationship or a lack of character and integrity, people will leave a job if they don’t feel comfortable working in that environment. People don’t typically leave a company, they leave the people. This is an accurate statement for me personally. I struggle with people who are poor leaders. Early in my career, I would merely find another job rather than work on my influence with that leader. However, I matured. I’ve realized that you can effectively influence your leader through your diligent hard work and your consistent character. When people see who you are in all situations, they tend to buy into the person and work to change their interactions and ways.
  2. BORED! – Same stuff day after day. People want to feel they’re moving forward and growing in their professional life. They want to have something to aspire to. If there’s no structure for advancement, they’ll look somewhere else. In the meantime, they’re likely to be bored, unhappy, and resentful-and that will affect performance. No one wants to be bored and unchallenged by their work.
  3. Overworked – There are seasons of being overworked. Stress and the feeling of being overwhelmed come with many jobs, but so does burnout.  If the season never changes, then employees will look elsewhere. Consider this,  it’s often the best employees, the most capable and committed and the most trusted that we overload most. If they find themselves continually taking on more and the perception is there is no end in sight, then they feel they’re being taken advantage of.
  4. A Blurry Vision – There’s nothing more frustrating than a workplace filled with visions, but no actions to achieve. I’ve worked at many places where the vision is posted on the website, are framed and hanging in each office. I even had a CEO tape our the company vision to every door in the building. However, I never saw the actions to achieve that vision. In fact, I bet you could still find some of them hanging after 2 years of leaving. What person wants to spend his or her time and energy in support of something undefined or merely hype and talk? People don’t want to spend their time and effort just spinning their wheels.
  5. Profits Over People – When an organization values its bottom line more than its people, the people go elsewhere. The result is a culture of underperformance, low morale, and even disciplinary issues. Of course, things like profit, output, pleasing stakeholders, and productivity are essential, but success ultimately depends on the people who do the work.
  6. Feeling Undervalued – It’s human nature to want to be recognized and praised for a job well done. And in business, recognizing employees is not merely a nice thing to do but an effective way to communicate your appreciation for their efforts and successes. This will reinforce those actions and behaviors that make a difference. When you fail to recognize employees, you’re not only failing to motivate them but also missing out on the most efficient way to reinforce high performance.
  7. No Trust – Trust is crucial to influence, and influence is required to lead people. Employees view your behavior and weigh it against your commitments. If they see you dealing unethically with vendors, cheating clients, or failing to keep your word, the best will leave.
  8. Lack of Transparency – Hoarding or not sharing information will cause people to leave. A person who hoards information does it to control the outcome.Patrick Lencioni’s masterpiece The Five Dysfunctions of a Team indicates the foundation for any good relationship is trust, and that foundation of trust just cannot happen without transparency at work. As a result, employees working for managers who share information will work harder for them, respect them more, be more innovative, and solve problems much faster.
  9. Corporate Culture – While it’s not the top for leaving a job, the overall company culture affects an employees attitude and ultimately influences their decisions to go. Some questions to consider when evaluating the company culture.

Does the organization appreciate employees, treat them with respect, and provide compensation, benefits, and perks in line with competitors?

Is the work environment conducive to employee satisfaction and engagement?

Do you provide events, employee activities, celebrations, and team building efforts that make employees feel that your organization is a great place to work?

Ultimately, many people leave their job because of the boss, not the work or the organization.

Job SatisfactionPeople create results. And Leadership is essential to attracting and maintaining talented results-oriented people. Ask yourself what you may be doing to drive your best people away, and start making the changes needed to keep them.

Texting, What Message are You Sending? Part 3 of 3

This is part 3 of 3 emails from my archives. Seems to be a constant need to re-publish these rules. I crafted this blog, not only because of my shortcomings but also my frustrations. In fact, I re-published all three blogs again because of my continued frustration. Do me a favor and read all three blog post and make adjustments in the way you craft and respond to email and texts. It will make the world a better place.

Texting is a convenient way to ineffectively communicate and lose the connection required for influence. Well, not always. Texting does have a place in communication, especially when the need is short and quick.  However, it has become the preferred method for long conversations or to communicate discipline, expectations and such. I actually had a CEO who preferred to terminate executive level professionals through a text. There was never any face to face interaction. Now that is wrong!

I believe face to face conversations are the most effective method of communication, however when the situation calls for texting, here are seven (8) texting principles I found to be very helpful:Fotosearch_k26085789

  1. Be careful with abbreviations. Texting is meant to be a fast form of communication, so we tend to use abbreviations and shortcuts such as “np” (no problem) or “u” (you). But there is such a thing as an inappropriate abbreviation and acronyms. Be careful!
  2. Watch your tone. Texting is a fast and easy way to communicate. Make sure you use words that set your intended, not perceived tone. Read it before you send it!
  3. Never send bad news via text. I had a CEO send a text to a VP threatening to fire him if he didn’t achieve positive results on a project. Two days later, the VP received a text from the CEO tellin g him he was terminated and where to turn in his vehicle and computer. I was shocked, guess he was scared of him. Keep texting positive or neutral. If there is a need for negative communication, schedule a face to face meeting, it’s the right thing to do.
  4. Don’t change meeting times or venues in a text.  However, you can confirm meeting times or places through text.
  5. Double check when using the voice-to-text feature.  The translation can be tricky. Especially;y with my mixed up Cajun accent.
  6. Don’t text during a meeting or presentation. This action is just rude!  Even if you are doing it under the table or behind a book, the presenter can tell.  As a speaker and trainer, it offends me when I see people looking at their phones. Pay attention!
  7. Darn, autocorrect!  This feature bites me often. Watch the auto correct feature.  An excellent way to fix this is to READ your text before you hit send.
  8. Don’t text and drive – This is a killer, literally. Did you know 35% of all vehicle fatalities involve texting and driving? Even people who text and drive, hate people who text and drive.

textingBy following these simple rules and abiding by proper etiquette, mastering the ability to craft and send valid emails and text can be an efficient easy and effective communication tool.

How we respond to emails and text can result in positive or negative consequences and determine our influence on others. Spend the effort and time to make sure your texts and emails reflect your intended message.

Why Did You Send That? 11 Rules for Responding to Emails

This is part 2 of 3 emails from my archieves. Seems to be a constant need to re-publish these rules. Our words drive the intended outcome and creates the influence you desire. So the words we choose to respond to an email determines the effectiveness of your response.

When replying to emails, consider these 11 rules:

  1. Organize your words and paragraphs to make it easy for readers to follow and understand. Don’t make it one big long paragraph. I won’t read it.
  2. Reflect on the email content before replying. Your leadership effectiveness is reflected in your response. Don’t respond to initial emotions.
  3. Don’t automatically hit “Reply All.”  This frustrates me more than anything! This should only be used when needed and with extreme caution.  You should only use “Reply All” when everyone on the “TO” list requires your response.  Most of the time, it is sufficient to only respond to the person who sent the email. Hitting “reply all” when not necessary will damage relationships.
  4. Be Careful with the “Bcc.” The “Bcc:” option allows you to “blind carbon copy” someone on an email without any of the other recipients knowing. It can be useful in some cases when you wish to keep email addresses private. However, it is a deceptive tool that is often used to call someone out. Remember, emails can be forwarded.
  5. Avoid Cursing. Cursing in an email is just wrong. Don’t do it. Swearing in an email comes off as being ignorant or showing a lacking intelligence.
  6. Use proper grammar.  Don’t write like you speak. Remember, emails are forwarded all the time.
  7. Respond Regardless. Everyone deserves a response, even if the email was mistakenly sent to you.  A simple, “I got your email,” or “I think this was addressed to me by mistake” will let the sender know you got the message.
  8. Be leery of tone. Each person interprets emails differently.  A well-written email can easily be understood as a negative one with the use of various words.  Many people use all caps. Doing this implies YOUR YELLING AT SOMEONE. Always breathe through your response and read it through the eyes of the recipient.
  9. Don’t Be Cute There is no room for cuteness or EMOJI’s, inappropriate pictures, etc.
  10. Include a professional signature. Include; your full name, title, work address and phone number.  When using a quote or image, be careful that it does not offend.
  11. Write it, Read it, then reread it again and rewrite it and reread it. Make sure your grammar, spelling, and choice of words portray the intended tone and message. Again, don’t respond from emotions or feeling. Get up, walk around and think through your response.

You Need to Read This! 10 rules and Etiquette for Crafting and Sending Emails. Part 1 of 3

This is part 1 of 3 emails from my archives. Seems to be a constant need to re-publish these rules.

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

You immediately react by hitting “Reply All.”  In fact, you want to vindicate yourself, so you “Bcc” your supervisor. From the depths of your furious burning soul, you unleash a barrage of words that support your position.

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

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

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

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

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

EMAIL

When preparing or an email consider the following 10 rules:

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

The 5 Must Have’s For the Balanced Safety Leader

Fotosearch_k10730093What a great time to be a Safety Leader! Yes, you read that right. Let me repeat, what a great time to be a leader in a Safety Professional role! Are you a leader just because you’re in a leadership role? In my opinion, NO. I know many in leadership roles that for the life of me I cannot figure out how they got there.

True safety leaders possess certain traits and attributes that make them successful. 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.

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

This blog will provide you with the must-haves to be a balanced productive and successful safety leader. Your ability to create a balanced approach to safety will ensure your success.

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. More specifically, I was failing as a professional. What I did for many years 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 and an ability to effectively balance our approach based on individual situations. Many safety professionals are regulatory driven. There is an absence of managing the situation from a balanced approach. From this, I saw a personal and professional need to create a balanced approached to the safety professional. This motivated me to develop these “5 Must-Haves”.

Balance is essential, no it is critical!. You never want to go too far one way or the other. Learning to balance your thoughts, approach and interaction with people and situations require continuous, delicate adjustments to maintain a balanced, practical approach. Balance is stressed in every aspect of our lives — from learning to ride a bike to eating a balanced diet. It should be no different in our interactions with employees and others in the organization.

Maintaining a balanced approach to the safety of employees will ensure our ability to influence their behaviors and drive the continuous improvement in safe practices.

The 5 Must-Haves for a Balanced Safety Leader are:

  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

Here is a brief description of 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 merely chose their job because they vie wit as easy. If that is you, go find something else to do. All you are doing now is creating a toxic environment for yourself and the employees in the organization. Find something you love and build your passion around it.

Passion fuels will-power as a leader. Without it, you’ll lack the drive to change and overcome obstacles. Look, being safety professional is not easy. It takes patience, a caring heart and the ability to work through the barriers. Let’s face it, we are here because we care about people. Passion is what drives me to learn more and work hard every day so that I can rest easy when my employees make it home safely from work.

2.  Must have an excellent 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.”

Our attitude determines how we interact with others and the way we communicate determines our influence. Safety professional’s have daily interactions with all levels of the organization. If we approach an employee with a bad attitude, the outcome tends to be riddled with talk of discipline, loss of job and discouragement. On the other hand, a right or positive attitude can motivate an employee to recognize their at-risk behaviors and identify what needs to change to ensure they stay safe.

If you have a poor attitude, stay locked up in your office. If you have a right and positive attitude, be present and bring the sunshine where ever you go! Success will follow!

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

Safety Leaders are good at identifying problems, issues, and concerns. Whether it is a condition or behavior, they can determine enough issues to fill a novel. The question is, are you good at solving the problems? Be a problem solver and influence! A good rule of thumb, provide at least two solutions to every problem you identify.

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. Just identify the problem, fix it, and then make the necessary adjustments later. At least you did something. If you never take the initiative to do something, 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!

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 Safety Profession or leadership in general.

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

However, through my many 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 admitting you don’t know all things, but it is also clear importance amongst employees who sense your humility.

Here’s the truth. Employees know things that you don’t know. They may not say it to your face, but trust me; they are talking about you behind your back.

I love what C.S. Lewis and Lou Brock have to say on the subject 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 support 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 recap 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 only an introduction to what it takes to become a productive and successful balanced safety leader. Throughout the years, these five must-haves have helped me become a successful leader. Evaluate your current leadership style and identify what will complement your personality and enable you to lead more effectively and bring you success.

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 balanced safety leader because of it.

Fotosearch_k15213036

WHAT SUCCESSFUL SAFETY PROFESSIONALS KNOW ABOUT LEADERSHIP

Fotosearch_k8652164After many of my safety leadership talks or training’s,  I hold informal Q and A sessions with other safety professionals. During this time, the vast majority of questions I receive are around self-leadership. Leadership has become a favorite topic and is discussed in most any professional setting. In fact, I believe the term “leadership” is a grossly overused and misrepresented word, especially safety leadership (a topic of an upcoming blog).  However, the “principle” of leadership is very underused in many people.

The safety profession is no different. In fact, the last 7 years of my life has been dedicated to pointing out the low level of leadership in the safety profession. I have and continue to be, committed to sharing my thoughts and knowledge to increase the safety professional’s leadership with employees, supervisors, and executives. I firmly believe the safety professional has more daily interactive opportunities to lead people than any other levels of the organization.

Think about it. Executives are relegated to an office, managers and supervisors have assigned areas of responsibility and seldom venture outside of their designated area. They may understand the departmental dynamics, but not necessarily how it affects the rest of the worksite or organization. The Safety Professional, on the other hand, typically has responsibility for the entire facility, region or area. Much of the safety person’s workday is interacting with people on the floor or field and with those who have direct control and authority over the production and operational personnel. So when I think about all the opportunities where a safety professional’s leadership is essential, I think about every conversation, interaction, and/or situation where the opportunity for leadership is inserted.

In this blog, I will identify and briefly discuss 6 insights on what successful safety professionals know about leadership. I’ve developed and learned these through my personal experience and by observing and mimicking successful people.

Anyone who reads this blog will have the necessary insight to improve their leadership. For the safety professional, improving our individual leadership will enhance our ability to influence others in the direction we believe will eliminate injuries and protect employees.

I encourage you to think about how you currently lead and use the information to improve your effectiveness.

Here are the 6 insights successful Safety Professionals know about leadership.

  1. They focus on leading themselves first – The ability to drive ourselves is crucial to our ability to influence others. However, leading ourselves is one of the most challenging things to master. Why? We don’t see the blind spots. Blind spots are areas where we fail to look at the situation or ourselves realistically. We see ourselves through our intentions, people see us through our actions. Leading yourself is perhaps the least discussed aspect of leadership yet. When we fail to do what is right, trouble ensues!
  2. They understand how leadership works -Leadership is a complicated subject. However, effective leaders understand that leadership starts with influence. The safety profession is built on influence. I don’t know of any safety professional who has direct authority over others. I know some who think they do. However, safety professionals have no authority and must learn to “influence without authority.” As safety professionals, the way we efficiently influence and ultimately lead is to ensure we are adding value to everything we do and say. We need to make others successful. We accomplish that by helping them eliminate self-imposed limitations and encourage them to achieve their potential.
  3. They learned how to resolve conflicts – Every safety professional encounters conflict. Anytime you try to change behavior, conflict arises. People do not like being told what to do, how to do it and when to do it. However, the safety professional’s ability to effectively resolve conflict will determine their level of influence with the individual or group. To resolve conflict;
    • Meet with the person privately
    • Ask for their side of the story
    • Try to come to a flexible agreement
    • Set a deadline for action
    • Validate the value of that person and make a commitment to help them succeed.
  4. They learned to efficiently work under poor leadership – Poor leadership is common in the workplace. I probably didn’t have to tell you that, but understanding what you are working with is essential. One of the most discouraging situations is to work under and with poor leaders. I have personally worked with poor leaders from the CEO of several companies to the line supervisors who have direct influence with the people on the floor and in the field. There are several reasons they may be poor leaders; they may be difficult to work with, they may not like you, they are a bully, they may lack vision, they are indecisive and inconsistent, or they have character issues
    • Here is how to work with poor leaders;
      • First, consider if you are the problem
      • Determine if you have specific evidence to support your opinion
      • Assess your influence and credibility
      • Think through every possible outcome
      • Make a decision to act
      • Ask to speak in private
      • Outline your complaint, and seek a collaborative solution
      • Determine whether you should stay or move on
      • If you decide to stay, give your best and support your leader
  5. They learned how to navigate leadership transitions – Life is one big transition after another. Transitioning leadership can be exciting and challenging. One of the most common challenges is to transition the new leader into the safety process. I can’t tell you how many times I have established a safety process and culture, then a new plant manager or CEO comes in and they have a difference of opinions. It makes the future unsettling. However, a new leader can bring excitement and high expectations, which can lead to a more engaged leadership team in the safety process. Here is how one navigates leadership transitions;
    • Consider the possibilities
    • Weight the risk and rewards
    • Receive the affirmation from your direct reports
    • Take action and move forward
  6. They learned how to develop leaders within – One of my most successful approaches to building a robust, sustainable safety culture has been to create an environment where I personally coach and mentor leaders at various organizational levels. This has led to an influential mutual respect that resonates within the organization. John Maxwell has said, “everything rises and falls on leadership.” I have found that saying to be entirely accurate. Nothing can be accomplished without leadership. My desire to impact the safety of others is my ability to increase the leadership influence of those who have direct authority on the safety outcome. I have found this to be one of the most rewarding activities in my career. How do I identify potential leaders?
    • I look for those who make things happen
    • I try to identify those who have influence on others
    • I watch for those who build relationships, not friendships
    • I see who people are congregating around
    • I see who see and adds value to others
    • I look for those who seize opportunities
    • I look for those who finish tasks

Fotosearch_k2035485 (1).jpgThe ability to effectively lead people through your influence is directly proportional to your success. Let’s face it. Your success is directly proportional to the safety of those employees at your site, facility or within your company. Remember this, “a good leader is one that yearns to learn.”

 

“a good leader is one that yearns to learn.”

As you learn more about leadership and develop as a leader, you will find new ways to improve. Consider using these 6 insights to learn and grow in your quest to become a successful safety professional.