REALLY, YOU LEAD PEOPLE?

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I read an article the other day that touched on leadership behavior.  It sparked an abundance of memories, thoughts and questions that have rolled around in my head for many years.  Quite frankly it made me look deep inside of my soul and check my heart to ensure my actions and motives line up with my moral convictions.

Look, leaders are people.  In fact, many are good people.  There is a very small percentage of leaders that act and behave poorly.  I feel I’ve probably worked for more than most.  My career has been full of poor leaders.  Heck, there are a lot of my past and present employees that might say the same about me.

The whole reason I began my leadership journey was to do everything I could NOT to make the same mistakes or do the same things I have witnessed or gone through.

Through my experience, I have identified 9 things that define poor leaders.  Here they are;

  1. IT’S ALL ABOUT YOUNo it isn’t!  In fact, we probably don’t About.me_iconcare what you did or where you went.  It is about those you lead.  When every conversation and situation is about you, it limits the interaction and contribution of others.  I’ve had many leaders more concerned about how situations affect them, than the one(s) involved or affected.
  2. HEY BUDDY -Considering those you lead as friends.  Not good. Leadership is about relationships, not friendships.  When friends and buddies don’t perform we tend to “sweep” it under the rug or make excuses, rather than hold them accountable.  This creates descension and frustration with other employees.  Build relationships, not friendships.  I’ve seen many leaders lose credibility over the hiring or advancement of friends or relatives many times.  I am not saying you can’t hire employees from the past or those who supported and assisted you at other jobs.  I was the best man at my Director of EHS’ wedding 29 years ago.  However, I bet he will tell you that he is held to the same accountability level as anyone else.  In fact, I expect more out of him, than most.
  3. HORRIBLE LISTENER blah, blah, blah…….  This leader doesn’t care what you have to say.  They are only concerned with what’s coming out of his mouth.  Their EGO gets in the way.  Hey man, you were given 2 ears and 1 mouth for a reason.  You need to listen twice as much as you talk.  Give people a chance to say something.  Who knows, what they have to say might solve the problem.
  4. WHAT ARE YOU THINKING? -Poor communicators can reduce and harm aculture and frustrate employees quickly. Many employees complain about the lack of communication from leadership.  What are my expectations, Fotosearch_k10378786How is the company performing?, Will there be raises or bonuses this year?  As I coach leaders, I encourage them to have weekly or monthly communication meetings.  This is a time where all they do is communicate key information and allow employees an opportunity to ask questions.
  5. DON’T TEXT ME -Technology is great, but technology has created a diminishing environment of face to face communication.  How many times have you received a text or email and interrupted it as negative?  Texting and emails are very difficult to communicate a tone.  A face to face visit is the best way to properly communicate.  I can see your facial expressions and body language and I can react or change my tone or words to ensure effective communication.  If you can’t meet face to face, call them, and don’t leave a voice mail to cover your items.
  6. REALLY?Hear’s a thought……Get both sides of the story before you make a decision.  One of the most frustrating things for employees is when a leader makes decisions based on a one sided conversation.  One of the traits of a leader is to be open and accessible.
    However, that doesn’t mean you base your decisions on the conversations of one individual.  I found many times, my accessibility and openness has allowed individuals to voice their displeasure with a supervisor, rule or practice only to find out in my follow-up conversation the individual was disciplined or held accountable for failure to comply with or follow directions, etc.
  7. THAT WILL NEVER WORKBeing cynical is not a trait of a leader.  In fact, it is totally opposite.  I think cynical leaders feel threatened. They must discount or even put down a person’s ideas because they feel as if they are not a leader if they don’t have Fotosearch_k5253244the answer.  Cynical leaders say; “No, that’s not going to work” or, “I don’t know why we are doing this; this is stupid.”  Look, if something is stupid, then the leader needs to fix it.  If something is not worth doing or is going to create major problems, it’s your responsibility to facilitate other ideas.  Regardless, you must thank and encourage those who offer ideas and opinions, not BELITTLE them!
  8. THAT’S DISGUSTING! Just because you can say it, doesn’t make it right.  Foul language is wrong and unprofessional.   For some reason, leaders feel they have the right to use foul language and tell questionable stories in front of their staff or employees.  I recently had a leader use very disgusting language in reference to a football game. It stunned the group.  No one knew how to react.  I have had several occasions where leaders would use foul language in an email or text.  Regardless of the communication, it is WRONG!  Some have told me, “you have to talk in the language of the industry”. What?  Come on man!!  If that is the case, then we need to clean up the industry!  It doesn’t matter if you are playing, it is your normal language or if you are angry, foul language is wrong, no matter what!  Whether it’s anger, disgust or this is how you talk to your friends, you can’t bring it to the office.
    I can tell if a person has leadership qualities by the way they talk to others.
  9. YOU CROSSED THE LINE!Leaders who compromise their integrity for business or profits are FOOLS!   A lack of integrity from leaders doesn’t just annoy employees, it appalls them. In fact, when a leader shows a lack of integrity, employees become de-motivated.  When a boss breaks or fudges the rules, cheats, lies or indulges in behaviors that reveal a lack of moral principles, he loses respect. images7-220x147 respect, you can’t influence.  If you can’t influence, you can’t lead.  In addition, when a leader lacks integrity, he gives employees permission to do the same.  I’ve seen leaders compromise their integrity and moral values to be validated by others.  I have personally seen this take place and the destruction it causes.  A true leader will never comprise their moral integrity for validations.

Being a leader is about doing the right thing and leading by example. You simply cannot have one standard for yourself and one for everyone else. Treat people the way you would want to be treated.

If some of these sound familiar, then do something to correct them immediately.  The longer you continue the easier it is to continue.

7 Keys to Becoming an Influential Safety Leader

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

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

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

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

They are as follows:

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

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