LEADING PEOPLE IN A TIME OF CRISIS

“You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading today.”

Abraham Lincoln

The world is in unequaled times with the COVID-19 crisis. The history of the world has experienced many different types of crises throughout the ages. But, anyone reading this blog has never experienced what we are going through now.

The current worldwide situation has poured out anxiety, worry, and uncertainty. I’ve heard John Maxwell say, “there are no two consecutive good days in the life of a leader.” Admittedly, that statement got your attention. Think about the day before your organization enacted the “Crisis Management Team” or began developing policies and procedures that shook up and changed everything you’ve were doing. What was the day like before that?. Maybe you accomplished several goals, perhaps you made the most substantial sell of your career, or were promoted! I’m sure you and your significant other or family enjoyed a beautiful sunny day where enjoyed a great dinner, or maybe you got pizza and ice cream for the family.

There are no two consecutive good days in the life of a leader.”

John Maxwell

Then you wake up the next morning and – BAM, everything you know has been turned upside down, and you are put in a position to lead through a crisis! We are all in it now.

As you grow in your leadership, you are given more responsibility, and that responsibility results in you facing more challenging and demanding decisions. Those decisions may be cut and dry, but in this current crisis, I would expect many leaders are experiencing the most difficult decisions in their LIFE! The most influential leaders in the world are put in situations where they are being advised of many new and unknown situations and conditions and are being forced to make decisions that affect the lives of people and the future of business and society!

The truth about leadership is it does not exist for the leader, but the led.

Denis Baker

The truth about leadership is it does not exist for the leader, but the led. Leaders are principally unnecessary in times of peace and tranquility. In those cases, a manager will suffice. But when people face a seemingly insurmountable problem or crisis, they instinctively look to leaders to lead the way. John Maxwell says, “a leader is one that knows the way, shows the way and goes the way.” True leaders are those who can move people from where they are to where they need to be. They are problem solvers and help people see the light at the end of the tunnel.

So how should we lead in frightening times?

  1. Be visible. When times are challenging, leaders need to be seen and felt. It’s not the time to retreat and try to figure things out behind closed doors. You must put yourself forward as someone that people can talk to or turn to when their fears overwhelm. People want a leader that knows where they are going and shows them how to get there.
  2. Make the horror concrete. Abraham Lincoln said, “A leader must make whatever horror exists concrete. Only then will people be able to break it apart.”. Max Dupree said, “the first responsibility of a leader is to define reality.”—that means acknowledging what’s going on around us. WE cannot lead through a crisis if we’re unwilling to recognize people are scared, or that the situation is frightful.
  3. Brighten the mood.  Point beyond the fear to a brighter day. Remind people of what the Psalmist said: “Nights of crying your eyes out give way to days of laughter.” Leaders must communicate to their people the hope on the other side of the situation.
  4. Be cautious with predictions, but lead the path forward. Don’t communicate an ending or way that won’t take place. When leading people, look beyond the crisis, but don’t predict exactly how things will work out. The simple truth is you don’t know, and that’s okay. You’re not a predictor of the future, but rather an examiner of the current times.  People don’t expect you to know the future but get them there. Clear communication will give people the energy and hope to engage in the necessary activities. 

“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality.”

Max Dupree

We are in a time desperate for strong leadership. Government, businesses, churches, and families are all facing huge problems that only influential leaders can take on. If there was ever a time for your leadership to make a lasting contribution, it is NOW!

Will you rise to the challenge?

undefinedDenis is a former VP of Safety, HR and Risk Management As an Executive Director of the John Maxwell Group, Denis is a certified leadership coach, trainer, keynote speaker, and DISC Behavior Consultant. He is a passionate person of influence committed to teaching and communicating practical and relevant influencing techniques.  His unique passionate and emotionally driven style resonates with many, creating a desire to become an effective leader.  

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

6 Safety Leadership Attributes Most Effective in Changing Behaviors

“Its easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.”

MARK TWAIN

In our attempt to become effective safety leaders, we must build strong relationships, respect, and create an atmosphere of trust and value. In my years of growth as a safety professional, I’ve learned through trial and error how to build real relationships with the workforce. These relationships resulted in respect and trust. In a recent survey to 50 hourly workforce employees, I asked the following question; 

“what leadership attributes would be most effective in convincing you to consider changing your actions and behaviors.” 

With the responses, I was able to identify 6 keys attributes safety professionals need to exhibit to convince workers to change their actions and behaviors.

  1. Clarity: Communicate the “why” of each expectation and requirement – We must be clear and concise in our expectations and requirements, but to ensure buy-in, you must present why these instructions are critical to the safety of each worker. People want to be “in the know.” They want to know where they are headed and what you expect from them so they can deliver. 
  2. Relationship: Connect with your workers – Many safety professionals are enforcers and don’t focus on conencting and building relationship. This causes tension and disrespect. Be present with your people. Please don’t leave them wondering who you are. They are looking for you to connect with them and build a working relationship. Learn names. Acknowledge people as you walk around. Recognize that life is going on outside of work. 
  3. Confident humility: Humble yourself and empower your workforce for success – Be competent and confident in your role, but lead with humility. Be decisive when necessary, and illustrate your knowledge by the reality of your decisions. Ask for suggestions and consider all solutions when looking to implement or change requirements and expectations. Safety professionals make mistakes often. I know I do!
  4. Encourager: Cheer on your workforce – While walking the work area(s), be on the lookout for those who are exceeding expectations and give them the recognition they deserve. Let those who are meeting the minimum requirements know how much you appreciate them following the rules and meeting your expectations. Encourage those doing the right thing that they are setting themselves up to go home the same way they came in. FOr those not exhibiting safe behaviors, ask them “why”, explain the expectations and “why” and encourage them to commit to working safely.
  5. Courage: Challenge your workforce – When problems occur, challenge your workforce to identify solutions. Creativity and innovation drive buy-in, which results in progress and safe performance. Have difficult conversations when necessary, and always get a commitment to do the right thing. People want to know where they stand and where they might need to improve.
  6. Passion: Let your workforce know you care for them – LOVE what you do or LEAVE! Exhibit unlimited energy and enthusiasm for your people, purpose, vision, and the values you embrace. Passion will drive buy-in and respect. It will inspire the workforce to consider doing the right thing. The safety profession is about people. When workers realize your passion is for their safety, and not just a job, they will be more prone to do what is right. Don’t be shy about your passions; let it shine through, and people will follow.

Exhibit these six attributes, and you will build strong relationships, gain respect, and create an atmosphere of trust and value. Accomplishing this will reduce risks, prevent injuries, and make a difference in others!

undefinedDenis is a former VP of Safety, HR and Risk Management As an Executive Director of the John Maxwell Group, Denis is a certified leadership coach, trainer, keynote speaker, and DISC Behavior Consultant. He is a passionate person of influence committed to teaching and communicating practical and relevant influencing techniques.  His unique passionate and emotionally driven style resonates with many, creating a desire to become an effective leader.  

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

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.”

undefinedDenis is a former VP of Safety, HR and Risk Management As an Executive Director of the John Maxwell Group, Denis is a certified leadership coach, trainer, keynote speaker, and DISC Behavior Consultant. He is a passionate person of influence committed to teaching and communicating practical and relevant influencing techniques.  His unique passionate and emotionally driven style resonates with many, creating a desire to become an effective leader.  

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

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.

BUILDING QUALITIES OF INTEGRITY

“Integrity is the foundation upon which all other values are built!”

What are you willing to do for $10,000,000?

This question was posed to 2,000 Americans in an anonymous survey. Here are the results;

  • Would abandon their entire family (25%)
  • Would abandon their church (25%)
  • Would become prostitutes for a week or more (23%)
  • Would give up their citizenships (16%)
  • Would leave their spouses (16%)
  • Would withhold testimony and let a murderer go free (10%)
  • Would kill a stranger (7%)
  • Would put their children up for adoption (3%)

When I look at these stats and consider the way most American businesses and people operate, I think it is clear that integrity is falling behind. However, leaders who genuinely want to honor people and run a respectful business must lead with integrity.

The Bible provides excellent examples of various components of leadership. An interesting narrative in the Bible is the story about Daniel and his three friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. This story is an excellent illustration of how to build integrity. These young Hebrew men were recruited into service by King Nebuchadnezzar If you focus on the details, the qualities to make integrity reveal themselves. 

As you read these qualities, rank yourself between 1-10 on each quality, 1 being the least and 10 being highest.

1. Leaders make tough choices by doing the difficult right things 

Daniel refused to eat the King’s food (Daniel 1.8) because Jewish law prohibited eating food offered in idol worship. He risked expulsion and possibly death by making such a choice. However, he made the right choice by doing the difficult right thing. 

2. Leaders treat their critics and enemies with respect. 

After Daniel and the King’s wise men were unable to tell the King the dream he had, and interpret it, ordered all wise men executed. However, Daniel approached the executioner with “tact” (Daniel 2.14). The encounter opened the door for Daniel to appeal to the King and interpret his dream. This changed Nebuchadnezzar to change his decision.

3. Leaders build their moral compass around their values.

When Daniel appeared before the King, he told him, “no human could interpret his dream, but that the God of heaven could solve his problem.” Daniel’s commitment to his values and beliefs served created his integrity. Whenever Daniel faced a decision, he always defaulted to what he valued. 

4. Leaders are consistent even in the small things because the little things matter.

In Daniel’s later years, he faced what appeared to be a small compromise. The current King, King Darius, was tricked by leaders jealous of Daniel into issuing a 30-day edict requiring everyone to pray to the King. Because Daniel had strong integrity and they could find any character flaws (Daniel 6:4), they resorted to deceit

For decades Daniel prayed to God three times a day, and everyone knew it. Now in his 80’s, he could have easily made a small compromise by praying to God in secret and fake prayers to the King. But that is not what Daniel could do. His integrity caused him to refused to follow the King’s proclamation and was thrown into the lion’s den, where he was later rescued. Leaders with integrity refuse to cut corners, compromise, or give in to the small matters of life and leadership.

5. Leaders model integrity for their kids and grandkids.

With two grandkids, my commitment to building strong integrity and values is becoming more prominent in my life. When I think about what I do and how I respond and react to things and situations, I consider that they will be more apt to model what I do (and did) than what I say (or said).

ENDING 

Centuries ago the Chinese were so fearful of their enemies that they built the Great Wall of China, It was so high they knew no one could climb over it & so thick that nothing could break it down. 

 But during the first 100 years of the wall’s existence, China was invaded three times. Not once did the enemy break down the wall or climb over its top. Each time they bribed a gatekeeper and marched right through the gates. 

Great leaders diligently seek to live, model, and build integrity into their lives. With honesty, we will thrive. Without it, our values lessen, and our souls wither.

Change Takes Effort and Time. Are You Committed to See it Happen?

Change doesn’t result from one giant step, but rather it slowly appears after many small steps.”

Denis Baker

Change is a word found in everyone’s vocabulary, regardless of the language. It’s easy to pronounce, easy to spell and is used as a noun or a verb. The word can refer to; making a difference, doing or using something different, reflect your or someone else’s’ desire or actions, and is used to refer to money. However; change in life and business is an overlooked prospect in people. It is one of the most challenging things to embrace. People tend to push away change rather than embrace it.

If you want to make changes to your business, culture, or your people, you need to ask yourself this question:

“Am I willing to give the required effort and time to this cause?”

Making a significant change is at least a three to five-year effort, if not a 7-10-year commitment. If you’re not willing to stay for the necessary time, don’t start the changes. Many organizations expect change to occur quickly. That’s not going to happen. Signs of change are seen relatively quickly; however; for every step forward, there will be three steps backward. 

I’ve had a fantastic but challenging career. Through the years, I’ve become noted for my ability to change or implement a sustainable and robust culture. However; one of my significant career failings is that I began a positive change in many companies, but left before it was fully implemented. Many of my former employers have expressed their frustrations in my leaving before completion. 

A couple of years ago, I was talking with several executives at a potential employer about the changes they wanted to make in their organization. These changes included; culture, leadership ability, and teamwork. I asked, “How long are you willing to invest in these changes?” I received silence and stares. After about 3 minutes (seemed like an hour), one of the persons spoke up and said;

“Oh, I believe we are all aware that change will take six months to a year, and we are willing to fully support the effort during that time.”

Want to know how I responded? I’m sure you do. I looked at the person straight into their eyes and responded with this; 

“With that thought process, change will NEVER occur in this company. Moreover, I am probably not the right person for this position.”

I looked around the room and was met with faces of complete and utter shock! After I took a moment or two to view their facial expressions, I continued to explain why I disagreed with the person’s thought and shared my six principles of change to the group;

  1. Change starts with a vision, the idea must be communicated and embraced by the entire organization.
  2. Change creates motion and motion generates friction.
  3. I pointed out that 20% of the people will embrace the change, 50% will be undecided, and 30% will resist change. 
  4. I stated problems would come up and the only way to successfully address them is to be transparent in your dealings with people.
  5. Another critical aspect of change is ensuring open communication where people feel free and safe to share their thought and ideas. 
  6. A successful transition requires employee involvement and buy-in to eliminate the feeling that they have no control in the process.

I explained to the group that each of these steps took months, if not years, to fully implement and get total inclusion in the change. I explained that I believed the change would take at least 3-5 years, if not longer, based on the leadership ability, sense of urgency and commitment.

I ended my conversation by saying, 

“If six months to a year is all the time you’re willing to commit, don’t even get started with the changes. Nothing will happen in six months, and it will be a waste of time and resources.”

The VP of Human Resources looked at me and said,” Well, Denis, you have created some pretty deep thoughts, and I feel we need to discuss your comments as a group.” I was then walked out of the room and given a handshake as I left. 

One of my biggest lessons in executing change is to realize if you get in the middle of making changes and then bail, it’s like leaving a patient on the operating table. A doctor would never quit in the middle of a heat transplant. If you execute change and leave, your leaving people hanging. You’re just messing up the organization’s efforts. It will move the change process back by months, if not years. 

It’s the person filling your position who will suffer from your lack of commitment. At some point, they will have to deal with a big mess. When the next person creates his or her’s strategic plan and drafts up a vision, the organization will be reluctant in moving forward.

I once asked a pilot how he turns around a big plane in the air. He told me that it takes some time. “You can make almost a 90-degree turn in the air, and the plane can handle it, but your passengers will go crazy.” He said even a 45-degree turn is rough on passengers, but they don’t usually notice a 30-degree turn.

That’s why it’s so essential that you’re willing to stay with the organization long enough to fully complete the change. You can make a bunch of small yet significant changes over a long period. People won’t even notice. It’s when you try to make substantial changes quickly; people get upset and may not support your plans.

Slow the pace of change and be patient; success takes time.

Just ask Hank Aaron. On baseball’s opening day in 1954, Milwaukee Braves rookie Hank Aaron didn’t get a single hit in five trips to the plate. He could have quit that day. However, five outs didn’t define Hank Aaron. He batted another 12,359 times during his career, and he eventually broke Babe Ruth’s career home run record.

Remember this, success is not defined by how you start, but rather how you FINISH!

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

undefinedDenis is a former VP of Safety, HR and Risk Management As an Executive Director of the John Maxwell Group, Denis is a certified leadership coach, trainer, keynote speaker, and DISC Behavior Consultant. He is a passionate person of influence committed to teaching and communicating practical and relevant influencing techniques.  His unique passionate and emotionally driven style resonates with many, creating a desire to become an effective leader.  

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

3 LEADERSHIP PRINCIPLES YOU MUST GET RIGHT

Like some of you, leadership has been a continual growth process for me. It seems that there are some who “get it” from the get-go. However, for me, it’s been a journey. I’ve struggled with resistance from individuals. As a safety professional, the most difficult thing to change in a program is the belief that “we’ve always done it this way,” or “we didn’t budget for that.” In the safety profession, influence is the key to success. The safety profession serves an essential purpose in the work field, but it does not produce a product or generate cash flow.

Consequently, we must be able to influence others to make the right decisions for the right reasons. Success in the safety field is determined through the reduction or elimination of injuries. Ultimately, the worker and their families benefit from our efforts. Over the past several years, three principles have emerged that have helped renew my energy and commitment to influencing those who make the decisions. These principles aren’t new, but I have become more intentional in my implementation. I am deliberate in focusing on each of these principles, and because of such, I have seen significant results.

“Principle-centered people are constantly educated by their experiences.”  – Steven Covey

I want to share these 3 principles with you. I believe that EACH leader should acquaint themselves with these truths to obtain powerful influence.

RIGHT PEOPLE
The first question to ask is “Am I influencing the right people?” Different people need to be influenced by various reasons and circumstances. For instance, does a production employee need to be influenced to purchase a new piece of equipment? No. The focus needs to be on finance and production leadership. However, the production employee does need to be influenced by the need to make appropriate behavior choices. If we are not influencing the right people for our current demand, then our time and effort become lost. The second question is “Do you have the right people on your team?” For leaders, the motto has been that people are your greatest asset, but that saying needs some fine-tuning. It’s not just people; it’s the right people. When you’re bringing someone aboard your leadership team, put forth ample time into the resume/interview process. Develop engaging interview questions and include other team members to ensure the person can become an effective team collaborator and has the right skillset to “fill in the holes.” A leader is only as good as his/her inner circle. These are the people that make the vision a reality. Sometimes organizations put excessive emphasis on the senior leader, when in fact it’s more than just one man.

Moreover, it’s not just whom we bring on, but also whom we hang onto. It’s hard to let an employee go or to tell a team leader that their season has come to an end. Ultimately, do what is best for the team and the overall organization.

Consider whom you are currently trying to influence, are they the right person for your needs? Do you have the right people on board and in the right positions? Focus on influencing the right people and ensure your inner circle consists of qualified, committed individuals and success will be achieved.

WELL-DEFINED MISSION
Second, it is vital to have a well-defined mission. A clear mission keeps us on track to complete critical tasks. You and your team must define a mission that supports your vision. Evaluate all the things you’re doing and make the difficult decision to cut out (even good things) that don’t fit within that defined mission. This pruning process will help you avoid “mission drift” and make your leadership more effective.

UNWAVERING FAITHFULNESS
So finally, when you have the right people and a well-defined mission, go after it with all your heart. Those who are passionate about what they want will be successful. Passion drives us through difficult times. In our ready-made culture, we want immediate results. The reality is that any constant endeavor, a marriage, business, or ministry takes time to build. I remind people that they’re embarking on an adventure that requires an investment of faithfulness. Be committed to putting the time and effort in; day by day, person-by-person, project by project.

undefinedDenis is a former VP of Safety, HR and Risk Management As an Executive Director of the John Maxwell Group, Denis is a certified leadership coach, trainer, keynote speaker, and DISC Behavior Consultant. He is a passionate person of influence committed to teaching and communicating practical and relevant influencing techniques.  His unique passionate and emotionally driven style resonates with many, creating a desire to become an effective leader.  

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

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.