How to Succeed in Effective Communication

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

– George Bernard Shaw

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CONSIDER: What is it that I need to communicate?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CONSIDER: What response do I want from this audience?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vision Statement Challenges

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

Unknown

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

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

Here is a typical discussion with a couple of colleagues.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DAVE RAMSEY

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

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

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

CONSIDER THESE 5 INSIGHTS TO YOUR LEADERSHIP APPROACH IN 2021

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

TAYLOR SWIFT

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

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

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

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

How do you approach your leadership in these times?

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

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

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

1.     Uncertainty

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

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

2. Instability

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

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

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

3.     Economic Unknown

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

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

4.     Opportunity

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

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

5.     Internationally Grow Yourself

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you would like to strengthen your leadership, teamwork or simply grow yourself, then please subscribe to my blog by entering your email address in the space below and click on thee orange sign-up box.

GOAL SETTING QUESTIONS DETERMINE THE PATH FORWARD

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

DENIS BAKER

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

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

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

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

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

Here is my new questioning process;

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

EXAMPLES

Let me give you some example to clarify my statement;

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

“Leading the World in Space Exploration.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s look at a more realistic example.

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

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

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

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

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

SO WHAT, NOW WHAT

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

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

UNKNOWN

If you want to increase your leadership influence, subscribe to my blog by providing your email below.

The True Test of Leadership Is The Ability To Grow

“The truest test of leadership is how well you function in a crisis”

– BRIAN TRACY

The sun is so hot on my face as I lay in the warm sand with the breeze blowing across my body. As I open my eyes, I see nothing but blue skies and the shimmering crystal clear water. I hear the sounds of seagulls, waves crashing onto the shore. I stand up and can feel the warm sand between my toes as I walk back to my chair and reach for my umbrella drink………………BUT wait, what is that? I hear a siren. All of a sudden I shake my head and realize I was daydreaming and the siren brought me back to the reality of the crisis we are currently experiencing.

With the extended voluntary and required lockdowns, I am sure many of you find yourself daydreaming, just like I did. But in this time of crisis, we need to focus on growing our leadership to ensure we take care of our people and those around us. 

The crisis we are currently experiencing is about the people we lead and their families. As I think of topics to write about, I realize we cannot be validated as a leader if we are not committed to to continual growth.

I’ve identified 9 ways to grow your leadership.

It’s about others

There is a great deal of fear, anxiety, and even anger going around. Remember that we are all humans. Regardless of your position, you are experiencing some of the same issues your team is experiencing. Look for ways to recognize other’s anxiety, concerns, and frustrations and find ways to reach out and show compassion.

Focus on what you can control

Don’t waste time and energy on issues you can’t control or influence. Focus on actions that produce value for your team, customers, organization, and your family.

LEAD don’t react 

Determine the direction to go and take your people there. Don’t be reactionary. Be intentional. Lead your people.

Leaders are transparent

The people you lead want to know what’s going on and how it will work out. It doesn’t matter if you believe this is overblown or the most significant health crisis in the world. Leaders define the stories that people tell themselves. Be intentional in your transparency to your team.

Identify new customer needs 

Talk to your customers. Find out how this crisis is impacting them. Are there new services or products that you can offer that are helpful at this time? Be flexible and consider all options to make your services more value-added to your customers.

Innovative solutions and partnerships

If your business is slowing down, can you share employees with a company that is temporarily picking up? Be creative.

Communicate 

Communicate encouragement, hope, and solutions. Talk to your employees, customers, and suppliers. In times of crisis, people want two things: Accurate information and empathy. Some people lean towards information. Others lean towards compassion. But give both. Communicate frequently, repeatedly, and openly. You aren’t likely to communicate too much, but it’s easy not to communicate enough.

Embrace the change

With the current crisis, change is inevitable. Look for ways to improve. People are expecting changes. We are in a time to implement change, especially if it brings more value to your customers, employees, or business.

Take care of yourself 

Get enough sleep, eat right, and be grateful. Remember to breathe and move your body. Limit exposure to the anxiety of others, especially news and social media.

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

FEAR LESS AS A LEADER, From a Safety Professional Perspective

“Your Only Limit Is You. Be Brave And Fearless in Everything You Do”

Fears hold us back from achieving our success. As a leader, fear hinders the engagement of your passion. It opens the door for workers and leadership to take advantage of you and the situation. However, when you overcome your fear, you establish a deeper dependance on your personal growth and leadership.

Fear and overcoming fear are critical parts of our ability to lead others. In my role as a Safety Professional, I find myself fearing to make a decision or give advice that might affect production or create a morale challenge. I believe anyone who says they don’t have fear, probably needs to re-evaluate themselves. Fear lives within us all. Think about this:

You are flying from your hometown to Hawaii with your family for a much-deserved vacation. It has been a challenging year for all of you. About 3 hrs into the flight; over water and away from land, you notice smoke coming from the right engine. You notify the flight attendant, and she immediately runs and notifies the captain. Others are seeing smoke also. A buzz of fear and panic, including members of your family, begin to take over the cabin. The captain comes over the intercom (difficult to hear because of all the screaming) and says they must land in the ocean……….Has fear entered your thoughts?

I don’t think it matters who you are, how tough you are, or what your role in the organization is, I suspect anyone reading this would answer my question with a YES.

Throughout my career, I have faced fear numerous times. When you are in a profession where you have a passion for people, but are in a support role and do not have authority, there are times when you must make difficult decisions. These situations tend to put fear in our hearts and heads and sometimes can affect the outcome of the situation. 

I’ve identified five of my most common fears as a safety professional. You’ll recognize the fears because I believe anyone within the profession (even outside the profession) deals with similar situations regardless of industry or position.

  • Fear of Inadequacy – Do I know what the answer to the question is? What does the standard say we need to do about this situation? What if I tell them the wrong thing? If I’m wrong, will they disrespect me and not come to me for direction in the future? 
  • Fear of Disapproval – Will I be challenged on my decisions? Is my choice going to result in a meeting with my Plant Manager? Will my decision and direction create an atmosphere of negative energy and a loss in employee morale. Will my decision set our culture back?
  • Fear of Confrontation – Will our interaction become a hostile vocal or physical confrontation? Will they ignore me?
  • Fear of Isolation – Will they not like me? Will they invite me to lunch? Will my relationships be broken? Will I be alone?

All of these fears are felt by many, if not all, safety professionals. I will also say that anybody in any position will experience similar worries. I’ve seen each of them disrupt strong cultures and effect performance. If you’re facing any of these fears, it doesn’t mean there’s something defective about you. These fears are universal; they show that you’re human.

You will face fears. No degree can prepare you to meet them. So how do you combat your fears?

  1. Build relationships. This creates an opportunity to generate a positive attitude and motivate people.
  2. Connect with people in positions that generate your fear. Once you have that relationship and connection, the person(s) will consider you a part of the team.
  3. Build trust. Follow through on your commitment. If you can’t, then be humble and admit your mistakes.
  4. Make sure your directions and decisions add value to both the workers and leadership. People will only follow the instruction when they know it will add value to them.
  5. INFLUENCE! By accomplishing all of the above items, you will be able to influence others to change behaviors, think before performing the task, and ensure others are working safely also. 

Your approach to situations determines your ability to minimize or eliminate your fears. Here is how you should face your fear:

  • If a situation puts you in fear, step back, and take a few moments to breathe through it, think of the possible consequences and how you will handle them.
  • Walk away and call someone for advice.
  • Remind yourself that your fear is a storehouse of wisdom
  • Use humor to relieve the tense environment
  • Be flexible. If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got! Many things can be done differently and will achieve the desired outcome.
  • Realize that influential leaders have to do the “difficult right things.” Sometimes the initial result is a challenge, but the long-term outcome will always be positive.

Our ability to manage fear becomes an asset to the safety of the workforce. It also contributes to the success of your organization and, ultimately, your success as a Safety Professional. You will create an environment of teamwork and collaboration that offers employees and leadership the opportunity to engage in decisions, creating a feeling of inclusion and buy-in.

“If something excites and scares you at the same time, it probably means you should do it.”

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

WHAT WILL YOUR LEADERSHIP LOOK LIKE IN 2020

“Don’t Fool Yourself; LEADERSHIP IS HARD!”

In my effort to cultivate and grow my leadership, I find it challenging to stay the course and achieve what I read, witness, and teach. In fact, I often find myself telling people one thing and doing the exact opposite. Doing that can hurt those you lead, coach, mentor, or teach. If you don’t improve, you will ultimately lose respect, trust, and, eventually, the ability to influence. 

As 2020 approaches, I decided to evaluate my leadership abilities and identify those things I do well and those areas where I need to improve. The last four years have been a personal leadership challenge for me. I’ve had a job change that put me in a role with no direct reports and limited my decision-making authority. I’ve had to learn to lead differently. The term; “influence without authority” has become an actual reality challenge for me.

During my self-evaluation, I identified my top 5 strengths in leading others and having a strong influence on the decision making process.

1. I am a very HIGH ENERGY AND PASSIONATE leader in the areas I believe in.

2. I am willing to embrace CHANGE, even if I don’t entirely agree with it

3. I am PERSISTENT in my approach to achieving my desires, goals, and objectives

4. I am CONFIDENT in my decision making but open to ideas and suggestions

5. I am a strong ENGAGER of people

It is always good to identify your strong points, but it can be challenging to identify areas for improvement. The way I approached this was to reflect on 2019 and the many conversations, suggestions, and feedback I received throughout the year. I am always asking for feedback (although many times I don’t want to hear it or I have an excuse) 

Based on my evaluation and reflection, I will focus on building and improving the following five leadership traits in 2020. 

1. Being Clear in My Communication – I will work to enhance my communication approach through tone and word choices. Working to pull my feelings and frustration back and undoubtedly transfer my thoughts, ideas, and expectations. I will explain the “why” more often and ensure people are well informed. People want to be “in the know.” People want to deliver expectations, but can’t be successful if we don’t clearly and successfully communicate. They also want to know what the rewards are for good work and the consequences for sub-standard work.

2. Build Stronger Relationships – Relationships are critical to leadership. Strong relationships build trust and respect and offer the opportunity to influence. I will work to be present with my customers, leaders, and the workforce. I will reach out for general conversations and make sure I follow-up with the right people. I will work to show how much I care about all facets of the business. It is said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care!” They are looking for you to care for them and build a working relationship. I will work harder to learn and remember names and recognize that life is going on outside of work.

3. Humble Myself – I am am very confident in my role but must be better at leading with humility. I don’t know everything and always make the right decisions, but I will work diligently to illustrate my knowledge through the quality of my choices. I will recognize all persons, regardless of position, and work to realize that no one is any more important than anyone else. I will demonstrate this through my actions and interactions. I will let each know how important they are by involving them and getting their brains in the game.

4. Be a Stronger Encourager – I will continuously look for and recognize the great work people are doing. I will express my gratitude and exemplify the positive difference they are making. I will encourage them for their actions, the work they perform, and the value they add.

5. Have Courage – I understand creativity and innovation drive progress and performance. I will make bold decisions, push back when needed, but fully support the final decision. I will have difficult conversations when necessary, and I will do the difficult right things.

With a new year and new decade roll into place, I feel like it is the optimal time to increase my influence and achieve more than I ever have. I don’t know where most of you fall within your leadership needs (unless I know you). Still, I believe the results from my self-evaluation will encourage many of you to look within yourself, identify areas of improvement, and make the necessary changes to become a stronger influencer and more effective leader.

My Greatest Challenge? Me.

My job would be the greatest in the world if it weren’t for people!

Denis Baker

Here is reality. People are the reason I have a job. Probably the same for most of you.

What is the most challenging aspect of any position?

PEOPLE!

In the last few years my interaction with leaders and employees have been well……CHALLENGING.

I’ve found that regardless if the organization is growing, adding people or whether the organization was downsizing, people have been my biggest challenge.

Don’t get me wrong; some are very good, others well are…. CHALLENGING.

As I reflect on these last few years, I’ve realized the challenges with people is affected by my ability to manage my self-leadership.

I’ve also come to realize that being a leader is…..CHALLENGING. I found that leadership is, indeed, a 24/7 job. Leaders must practice the art of influence every time, all the time. If you sway, you will fall back into the same practices of those you lead.

Here is an example of one of my challenges;

In one of the organizations I’ve worked at (no longer there), we opened an additional manufacturing facility. That meant we needed additional leaders and employees. The CEO tapped into a retired individual without having any discussion with the executive leadership group. He was familiar with the type of business and had significant manufacturing experience, but didn’t have a great ethical reputation. It meant that he would be in charge of securing the location, ensuring the building was ready for manufacturing and recruiting people to build the product. He accomplished everything as needed. However, the way he went about it was not what I expected.

For instance:
……., he went to his former employer and convinced a large group to come over and work for us. He did this without any discussions or insight into our hiring process. That meant we had employees showing up for work without being fully authorized, without going through background checks, physicals, and orientation. I was frustrated! I immediately grew dissatisfied and refused to accommodate or help him in any way. He continued to defy our policies and procedures and was causing much discord between employees. I found myself resisting his ideas and refusing to support him.

After a year, we laid-off everyone and closed the facility.

My frustration was significantly affecting those whom I led. It was noticeable, and my attitude was not very good. The employees closest to me were asking what was wrong with me, why was I letting this guy get to me?

I realized that I was the problem.

I had the knowledge and ability to change this situation immediately. I was the company leadership example.

As the head of Safety and HR, people were looking to me for direction, watching my reactions to this guy’s actions, and I was failing.

As I began to think and meditate on the situation, I realized that I had done a poor job of self-leadership. I had temporarily walked away from what I knew and the very things I had taught and coached others on.

I realized that a leader’s greatest challenge is self-leadership.

I also found that my leadership example must be right-on for others to follow. I must always find a way to add value to every situation to influence others.

I needed to be a strong influencer to have this person do what was right. I realized that if I lead myself the correct way, others will follow. If you don’t lead, or lead poorly, you’ll push people away. Even those whom you consistently influence will become frustrated. They see your frustration and act similarly. Eventually, you will drive them away. These are the very people you need to influence.

When considering self-leadership, I like to follow three areas shared by John Maxwell.

Here they are, with my flair and take.

  1. Emotions – Like anyone else, leaders experience powerful emotions. However, good leaders know when to display emotions and when to delay them. I often hear people question leaders that show powerful emotions. We must demonstrate our emotions in appropriate situations. The wrong emotion at the wrong time can do significant damage. The right emotion at the right time can produce incredible results. Leaders must hold their emotions in check until an appropriate time and place. Remember, the ultimate goal in leadership is adding value. Emotions can add or detract value based on the way they are displayed.
  2. Thoughts – Leaders are thinkers. Thoughts are critical to making sound decisions. If you are too busy to spend time in thought, your decision-making ability is affected. A good leader must allow time for gathering and organizing his/her thoughts.
  3. Energy – Successful people are high energy people. However, high energy levels can create problems, both for you and for those whom you influence. My accomplishments drive me. I tend to focus on achievement, but tend to over-achieve and overwhelm people. In my training as an Executive Director with the John Maxwell group, I realize that I must focus my efforts on what provides the most significant results by adding value to others. To ensure I focus on the right things, I start every day reviewing my calendar and identifying the one or two activities that require the highest amount of energy. I focus my energy on them and sandbag the rest of the day. No, I don’t give them less effort, but I am slow and steady to complete these projects. I cannot afford to expend my energy on situations or people pulling me down as a leader. I must focus on people and projects that results in influence and ultimately, increases my leadership.

BRINGING IT ALL TOGETHER

Being in leadership is well…….CHALLENGING.

As leaders, we must remember to self-lead our actions. Whether it is a situation, person or group, the way we react and act is a direct result of our leadership frame of mind. Follow the three things mentioned above, and you will begin to self-lead yourself effectively.

Jim Rhone once said,

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

Jim Rhone

I think if we can take hold of this, we can all be effective leaders who are up to the challenge.

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.

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