10/14/2013

What Is Your Workplace Dot? Your Career Success Depends On It

Workplace-dot

Workplace success is a byproduct of how well employees work together and accomplish goals to help the organization grow profitably.   Sustainable success is a function of how well the employees know each other’s strengths and utilize them rightly to maintain momentum. In the most fluid and high-performing workplace cultures, the differences in people, their cross functional roles and department duties and the dynamics of hierarchy and rank are perfectly in sync.   Simply put, it’s about how the “dots connect” within the workplace’s interconnected field of diverse personalities, capabilities and skills sets, competitiveness and expectations.  What still remains unknown in most workplaces is the dot each employee represents. 

Your workplace dot is not your job title, description or responsibilities.   It’s something much more.  Your workplace dot is being aware of where you fit within the culture and the most critical function you play within your organization.  It’s about the areas you can best influence directly or indirectly and having the courage to enable your influence every day.   Your workplace dot changes as the culture changes and new leaders enter into the fold.   

Let’s face it -- you do much more than your job description.  If you were asked to review the job description you were hired to perform, you would probably have to rewrite it.   People define their jobs, not the business.  That has been one of the most fundamental shifts in the workplace today.   It’s less about the business defining the individual – and more about the individual defining the business.  This is why each person defines their own job in the new workplace – because there are so many different variables that an individual brings to work that it is impossible for a job description to define them all. 

With each new job you assume and/or organization you serve – your workplace dot changes.    Those who have successful careers and continuously increase their market value know how to navigate the changing terrain.   They are like a chameleon; they master the art of exploration and know how to integrate themselves into any environment and make the most impact.   This is why they represent different shades of each department they influence.

They know how to align themselves with people whose strengths are complementary so that their collective efforts reverberate throughout the organization to deliver maximum results.   People gravitate to their workplace dot.  

The employees that know how to seamlessly maximize the impact of their workplace dot across any environment are the ones that can instantly multiply their interconnection points (amongst people, resources, situations, crises, changes, etc.).  They strengthen their influence and performance impact along the way – benefiting both themselves and others.  They are the employees that will ultimately develop the most powerful personal brands throughout their careers.

Within what type of workplace do you exist? Is your leader aware of your workplace dot and where it best fits?  Does your leader know how to multiply your interconnection points?    

The traditional workplace is a siloed field of disparate parts; it is a workplace culture that is stagnant and that few employees get excited about.   Every department has their own agenda and most keep their work to themselves.  They rarely engage with other departments beyond staff meetings and they create disruption for other departments because they don’t connect the dots between their employees.    This workplace represents more of an operations-driven, “order-taking” environment where innovation is slow and people are not inspired to think big. During times of crisis and change – the traditional workplace is most vulnerable to risk.  

The new workplace is a highly integrated field of knowledge where innovation is an embedded part of the culture.  This is the type of workplace culture that breeds high-performers and demands strong employee personal brands.    This workplace represents a market-driven environment where ideas and ideals are continuously being tested and where a leader’s primary responsibility is to connect the dots between their employees.  They are always looking for ways to make things better to assure they improve their market leadership position.

So what is your workplace dot?  How can you best enable it, shape it and allow it to flourish?   What role can your leader play to assure your workplace dot remains relevant and in demand – and that it’s continuously in interconnection mode?

You can’t control your ultimate career success and significance – unless you know how to maximize the impact and influence of your workplace dot and that of others. 

When you go to work today, ask your colleagues, what’s your dot?   When you are in a meeting, try to figure out what your colleague’s dots are and if you can help your leader connect them.

Welcome to the world where everyone must know the workplace dot!  Define yours today and help your colleagues do the same.  It’s the only way we can work more effectively together and make the workplace fun again!

Workplace-difference




 

 

The Business Of Living – An Entrepreneurial Approach To Everyday Life

Entrepreneurial-ApproachAccording to a recent report featured on CNBC, U.S. entrepreneurship has reached a 14-year high.  The report states that instead of necessity-driven new businesses, more U.S. entrepreneurs are launching ventures based on perceived opportunities, growth ambitions and a broad optimistic outlook—a group sometimes called opportunity entrepreneurs.  Nearly 78 percent of entrepreneurs last year started ventures to pursue new opportunities. That is up from 71 percent of total entrepreneurship in 2010.

There is an entrepreneur that exists deep-down inside of each of us.    Many people have thought about starting a business or have an idea for a new product, service or brand.  People are extremely curious and they want to test the elements that drive their innate curiosity.  Entrepreneurship is  no longer just a business term anymore – it’s a way of life.  You don’t need to be an entrepreneur to be entrepreneurial.  You just need to cultivate the entrepreneurial attitude.   This is exactly what people feel in their gut every day and why they desire the direction to enable their entrepreneurial spirit.

John Cage famously said, “Our highest business is our daily life.”  Entrepreneurship shapes every aspect of my thoughts, my attitude, my relationships and my general approach to working and living.  My approach to entrepreneurship is different than most know. It is not bound to the world of business. Mine is a holistic entrepreneurship—one that applies to everyday life, on and off the job. It influences how I make decisions and relate to others. Its principles are not only governed by corporate laws but also by universal laws, like trust, attraction, reciprocity and responsibility. Its effectiveness is not measured solely by revenue, profitability and/or social media followers – but also by influence, compassion and social impact. Its time is not bound by nine-to-five but by birth and death.

Through a broader view, entrepreneurship is not merely a capitalistic expression with a foundation in pioneering enterprise. It is also an existential expression with a foundation in pioneering life experience. When you learn to see daily obstacles, opportunities and responsibilities through the wider entrepreneurial lens, you optimize your desires, activities and relationships on the whole. Ultimately, you exhale a greater power and purpose into every endeavor because grand enterprises and gratifying lives spring from the same source. In short, the principles that drive business innovation, success and sustainability are the same ones that propel an exhilarating, revolutionary life. This is a significant paradigm shift if you are in the business world and have never considered the application of entrepreneurship beyond your work. It is a breakthrough if you are outside the business world and have never considered entrepreneurship useful to daily living. 

The history of entrepreneurship speaks of its widespread power and significance, inside and outside the marketplace. Our lifetimes have seen the cultural imprint of classic venturists like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Sergey Brin, and Bill Gates – and the compassionate reach of social pioneers like Oprah and Bono. Their legacies are like apples and oranges but their foundational movement is the same:

•   they see what others don’t;

•   they do what others won’t;

•   and they keep pushing when prudence says quit. 

While there is more to entrepreneurship, these three behaviors run thread-like through every pioneer’s approach. The primary (and ultimately defining) characteristic of an entrepreneur like Oprah or Jobs is a deep sense of responsibility to humanity. There are others who lack it and subtract from life; and there are those like Bono and Brin who breathe it and add to life. Such life-takers and life-givers are positioned at opposite ends of the entrepreneurial spectrum. Between them are lives of impact and significance, and lives of suspicion and disgrace. You determine where along the line your story falls.

This broader view does not imply everyone is an entrepreneur. It implies everyone can become one regardless of pedigree, vocation or socio-economic status. This does not require plans of global impact either (though it certainly can). Most of us would celebrate a day without relational stress or a week without professional regret. But don’t we want more than survival?

The seed of an entrepreneurial life is a sleepless desire to live with more power and purpose than you are now—and in doing so, make the world a better place. That phrase has become weightless to most and it’s unfortunate because if we considered what it means to make an impact, one day, one activity at a time, we might comprehend the immense power we possess. 

Listen to the voices of today’s entrepreneur musicians and professors (like Bob Geldof and David Batstone), actors and businessmen (like Angelina Jolie and Mac Anderson), mothers and fathers (like Julie Aigner-Clark and Kevin Carroll), sons and daughters (like Bobby Bailey and Catherine Rohr). They implore you to join their cause or break new ground of your own. You are powerful, they say. You can make a difference. You can change your life and your world … one day, one decision at a time. 

Ultimately, they are calling to the entrepreneurial spirit within each of us. In response, some write a check, say a prayer or read a book. Others step out and revolutionize their life and the lives of those around them. The latter are the flourishing ones.

Applying an entrepreneurial approach to all-of-life is not automatic, nor is it as simple as joining a good cause, though it can start there. It usually requires you to reshape rigid attitudes and reconsider old habits—painstaking tasks for sure, but more responsible than stubborn mediocrity. Beyond the undoing of personal antagonists, the business of living is not alien. The tools of innovation and impact are within reach of us every day. The key is uncovering them, understanding them, and then learning to apply them regularly. Practiced enough, a life-wide entrepreneurial approach becomes second nature. That’s when the momentous can happen.

 Despite where you find yourself, you probably have an idea of what your life could be—the impact it could have, the legacy it would leave. Venture out to that place of uncertainty where all significant endeavors have begun, then have the courage to take a leap of faith.

Here are 12 ways to conceive the business of living and become the everyday entrepreneur you can be.  They will guide you rightly towards the pursuit of breakthrough ideas and non-negotiable ideals – and a life full of momentous activities and amazing adventures with fewer regrets.  

1.  Creating Impact and Influence.

Entrepreneurship is not just about making money – but extends to seizing opportunities to build relationships, advance commerce, and better humanity.  When you can embrace the totality of entrepreneurship, it begins to shape a balanced state of mind to enable your passionate pursuits through the lens of endless possibilities.

The business of living is about creating impact and influence.  Whether you close a large client contract or give back to your local community – the outcomes continually fuel your entrepreneurial spirit.   Innovation becomes a mindset that fuels continuous improvements in your business and in the lives of others for the betterment of a healthier whole.   With the impact and influence you create through your entrepreneurial spirit, innovation becomes second-nature.   Steve Jobs was the master of connecting the dots of convergence between business impact and societal influence.

2.  Going Alone with Others.

Only you can take the steps that shape your new life as an entrepreneur. No one can do this for you.    This can feel like an intimidating, lonely road—but you are never truly alone. Every ground-breaking entrepreneur’s path is flanked by support, be it obvious or unnoticed. Even the seemingly lonely paths of Nelsen Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi were dotted by the shadows of believers.

As you begin your entrepreneurial journey, many times you are faced with skepticism by your friends and colleagues.  Unfortunately, envy and jealously often stand in the way.   Don’t live a life fueled with regret.   Your courage and belief in yourself will be tested often along the way – but if you remain focused, consistent and true to your goals, you will begin to attract people with similar ideas and ideals.  You will begin to build community and transition from solidarity to going alone with others.

3.  Testing Your Ideas.

How many times have you been in a meeting and someone says to you, “That’s a great idea, you should take the initiative and make it a reality.” What typically happens? Most of the time – nothing.  Most great ideas remain dormant because people don’t have the courage, resources, time and/or money to take action. And for those who take action, most are unprepared and thus find themselves spending their valuable time and money on a dream that simply goes astray.

You have an inner circle, a small group of close friends, family members and associates who tell it to you straight. Optimize your relationships with them and deem them your board of advocates. They are the proving grounds for all new ideas and plans. Such people pad your path with uncommon wisdom, courage and intuition. Learn from those who have done it before. Don’t ever think you have all of the answers, just because it’s your idea. Ideation is distinctly different from execution.   Allow your personal board of advisors to guide you with wisdom born from their own failures and subsequent successes.   Click here to learn another 11 things you must actively do – at all times – in order to convert ideas into reality.

4.  Controlling Your Controllables.

As an innovator, you learn quickly that you cannot control some big factors on your road to success: the market, the weather and the character of other people, to name some prominent ones. Yet, these factors cannot force you to take your eyes off what you can control: your feet, your focus and your character. Controlling your controllables is how new entrepreneurs flourish in and out of season.  Consider the story of Nobel Peace Prize winner, Betty Williams in 1976 for her work as a cofounder of Community of Peace People, an organization dedicated to promoting a peaceful resolution to The Troubles in Northern Ireland.    Watch the powerful video from the band, Nickelback (If Everyone Cared), which tells the   story of potent pioneers – who controlled the controllables.   It says it all.

5.  Earning Serendipity.

An entrepreneur plants multiple seeds knowing that each grows at a different rate. He then focuses on growing a garden rather than blooming one flower at a time, knowing that some seeds will flourish and others will fade. The reward of a well-tended garden is serendipity—when you watch a seed you planted along the way bloom when you least expect it, or when unanticipated opportunity arises from a near-forgotten seed. Consider the path of Bob Geldof, the pioneer punk rocker behind Live Aid.     He mastered the art and science of opportunity management.   Have you?   Put your capabilities to the test!

6.  Probability Patterns.

An entrepreneur does not overanalyze opportunities. Instead, you learn through experience to discern the underlying patterns that determine whether a venture will be, or  can be, successful. This frees you to seize ripe opportunities and pour out your resources with confidence. Consider the timely impact of entrepreneurs Julie Clark of Baby Einstein and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook.

A seasoned entrepreneur can detect patterns in how things work and interconnect.   They begin to view risk as their best friend as pattern recognition becomes an innate character trait.   They can quickly recognize the probable results of their decision-making and the sustainability of their ideas and ideals.

7.  Sewing Value Threads.

Embracing and enforcing values is a hallmark of entrepreneurial living. The air is thick with ads that aim to fog your standards. To be a successful entrepreneur you must know what material you are made of and then sew its threads through everything you consume, promote and pursue. Ultimately, you will see that preserving your values, not the prevailing pop-culture mist, deepens life’s significance. Blake Mycoskie created Tom’s Shoes with this in mind. In his first year of business (2006), he sold 10,000 pairs of shoes and then sewed value through each sale by giving away the same number to disadvantaged children in Argentina – a business model that continues to this day.

8.  Eating Twinkies and Coke.

Ill-motivated entrepreneurs take good fortune for granted and usually fall victim to their prosperity. They upgrade their lifestyle with each success and in doing so often impoverish the significance of their lives. There is more to consumption than meets the eye. It either erodes or upholds your power and purpose. One of the primary keys to the business of living is a consistent, value-sewn standard of success.   Gilbert de Cardenas Sr. built a cheese enterprise, yet maintained a commitment to driving his old car and eating a Twinkie and Coke for lunch in the parking lot at the early stages of the business; this fueled his purpose while reminding himself to manage success rightly.

Flourishing entrepreneurs know the fickle nature of prosperity and, unlike a modern Howard Hughes, they bank their lives on more than material increase and extravagant spending.

9.  Discovering Real Friends

Regret is one of humanity’s most common emotions. We are, by nature, protectors of sameness. Still, it is the pioneering spirits who are envied and emulated. It is also the pioneering spirits who spark injustice from others. As you launch into the business of living, your accomplishments are met with criticism, jealously and even betrayal. Consider the paths of President Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr.

The business of living refines your relationships so that only the purest remain.   Stay away from the leeches and loafers and align with the leaders and lifters!

10.  Painting a Target on Yourself

There is an old Far Side cartoon of two bears in the woods. One is noticing the vibrant red and white bull’s-eye on the other’s stomach and says, “Bummer of a birthmark, Hal.” Becoming a new entrepreneur makes you that birthmarked bear. This makes entrepreneurship the best form of accountability. It also sets you up as a leader. Accepting the position with gratitude, grit and innovation is up to you. Competitors and critics will take aim at you but you don’t have to stand still.

 11.  Pioneering from Compassion

There is no way around the immense responsibility bestowed on the new entrepreneur. It extends beyond your family, friends and associates to the wider audience of humanity. Comprehending the power and “human value” of your brand is the first step to momentous impact. What you then do with your power can change your world. The next question is: Who else’s world will you change? The living legacy of today’s entrepreneur is compassion. It is also the success template for all future innovation. The ONE and RED campaigns are excellent corporate examples. So are individuals like Catherine Rohn, founder of the Prison Entrepreneurship Program, Majora Carter, founder of Green the Ghetto, and Peter Benenson, founder of Amnesty International.     

 12.  Creating, Restoring and Sustaining

Ultimately, the new entrepreneur flourishes by creating dreams, restoring hope and sustaining life for others. These actions encompass the natural result of the business of living. A great sense of trust in and responsibility to humanity allows entrepreneurs like Ron Clark, Kevin Carroll and Oprah Winfrey to make far-ranging, long-lasting impact. They and their endeavors define today’s entrepreneur and tomorrow’s hero. 

Applying these 12 activities to everyday life is what sets a person, and a business, apart from the pack. You do not have to apply them all to become more entrepreneurial, but the more you apply, the more momentous your endeavors can be. I encourage you to think big.

If you want to get more out of life for yourself – and others – an entrepreneurial approach is the most powerful, purposeful course of action. It requires effort and risk but the rewards will outweigh the sacrifices. This is why it is called the business of living. It is a worthy and grand business. I invite you to venture out and experience it for yourself.

The 6 Most Important Things Employees Need From Their Leaders to Realize High-Potential

Employees

Last week I wrote about how to make leadership and the workplace fun again and it inspired me to ask a group of 100 high-potential employees what they wanted most from their leaders.  Every high-potential works to climb the corporate ladder quickly as they are eager to lead.  But even high-potential employees need unwavering support from their leaders to reach their ultimate career goals and potential.   Leaders must take responsibility to assure these employees stay on track and help minimize any disruption that may slow down their momentum.

In a Harvard Business Review blog,  Douglas A. Ready, Jay A. Conger, and Linda A. Hillask the question:  Are You a High Potential?  They describe high-potentials as employees who deliver strong results, master new types of expertise, and recognize that behavior counts.  The authors also note that high-potentials have the following four intangible X factors that truly distinguish them from the pack:  

  • Drive to excel
  • Catalytic learning capability
  • Enterprising spirit
  • Dynamic sensors

According to the authors’ research, companies designate the top 3% to 5% of their talent as high-potential. 

 High-potential employees  earn the opportunity for advancement.  They sustain their momentum and high-potential designation by holding themselves accountable as much as their leaders as they work toward their career goals.   High-potentials aren’t guaranteed long-term success and must avoid complacency along the way.      Though dedicated to their careers and the companies they serve, they can’t reach their goals alone.  They require advocates who can guide them in the right direction, grant access to new doors of opportunity, and help them navigate the competitive terrain.

 Early in my career, I was a high-potential employee being groomed for an executive position in the organization.  I quickly learned that I had to figure out how to manage this responsibility on my own, and this is why I now say that high-potentials need an advocate.  The performance expectations were heightened by everyone from peers to board members, all of whom became keen observers of my attitude, approach, demeanor and potential executive presence.    For those who wanted me to fail, I realized I needed to be much more self-aware of my actions.  

My journey became more than just a job; it was a political tug-of-war where my decision making, my ability to lead and influence outcomes for the better were being carefully scrutinized. Luckily for me, I had a boss who had my back, gave me access to tools, resources and the unwritten rules, and helped me navigate any potential obstacles along the way.  

If you are an employee looking to become a high-potential candidate or you already are one, here are the six most important things that are required from your leader to assure your career  stays on track – and doesn’t get derailed by people motivated by envy, jealously or the desire to be in your shoes.

1.  Feel Valued and Respected

Employees want to feel valued and respected.  They want to earn their leaders respect but equally desire their leaders not to judge them (for whatever reason).  No unconscious bias allowed.  

Employees want to be fairly compensated and never taken advantage of by their boss.   They want a transparent relationship with their leader – one that allows them to share their opinions and points of view without running the risk of looking disloyal or untrustworthy.

2.  Sponsor Advancement

Employees want a leader that has their back and is willing to open new doors of opportunity.  Sounds like a nice gesture but this is asking a leader to do a lot when they already have their hands full.   Sponsoring an employee’s advancement signifies the ultimate commitment.

I’ve been told many times by executives that sponsorship is something that must be earned – to attain it but also to sustain it.   Sponsorship automatically puts a leader at risk and thus employees must go about their relationships with a mindset of delivering their “A-game” at all times.

Employees that seek the opportunity for advancement desire to be challenged by their leaders.  As a leader, are you capable of this?  My organization found it surprising that only 60 percent of leaders are able to consistently challenge their employees to perform and compete at higher levels. 

3.  Genuinely Invest in Growth & Development

Employees know when their leaders are ready to invest their time and company resources to assure their professional growth and development remains on track.  Employees don’t want their leaders to throw them a bone of recognition, they desire a long-term investment in their growth from their leaders to assure their skill sets stay ahead of the curve.

I was fortunate in my early career because my leader  supported my ongoing professional development to not only assure that my skill-sets were in alignment with my career goals and the needs of the organization – but also so I would feel valued enough to stay at the company.  When you are a high-potential employee, the executive recruiters start to call and one can become easily tempted to consider other options.   A genuine investment that reflects a long term commitment in an employee’s future with the organization is a great way to retain top talent.

4.  Exposure to People of Influence

Employees with lofty career aspirations want a leader that will give them a seat at the table.  They want a leader who has enough self-trust and confidence to let their subordinates in the room with their own boss.   High-potential employees want their capabilities to be showcased by those in roles of influence.   The high-potential employee knows that their talent is constantly being evaluated within an organization and in such a high-pressure environment, it’s not always easy for their potential to be discovered by people of influence.

The best leaders are the ones that inherently know their leadership is being evaluated when they showcase the talent of their high-potentials.  If they don’t see it that way, then there exists a problem that puts the high-potentials’ futures at risk. 

5.  Don’t Be Threatened

Employees want confident leaders that are not threatened by their potential.  It becomes increasingly difficult for employees to advance when they have a boss that is only looking out for themselves.  

I’ve learned that leaders who are threatened by top talent eventually become followers.  It is a leader’s responsibility to discover and groom their successor.  Instead of being threatened, they should spend their time becoming a better leader who can more effectively serve others without fearing their job is at risk.  

6.  Encourage Risk Taking and Exploration

High-potential employees want a leader that allows them to learn from their mistakes and guides them to overcome the burdens associated with failure.  If a leader limits their employees’ ability to unleash their passionate pursuits of excellence, they will never discover their full potential.

Employees want leaders to trust them, not micromanage them.   They want leaders to encourage risk taking and exploration that allows them to learn and cultivate capabilities on the job.  If not, how else will they earn trust?

One of the most defining moments in my career happened when my boss allowed me to assume full responsibility for our largest client.   I will never forget being asked to negotiate the annual contract with our client’s most senior executives at their headquarters.   Needless to say, it was quite a moment to be in a room with these four powerful people.  Because I was guided rightly, those four people never realized they were negotiating with a 24-year-old on the fast track.   I walked out of the room knowing that I was capable of high-potential because I had just negotiated a multimillion dollar deals.  But I also learned that in the end, it’s about earning respect when dealing with people.  

My boss but me in multiple situations to learn this early in my career and trusted me enough to put my capabilities to the test. Leaders that know how to do this with their top talent will find themselves enjoying long term success. 

6 Ways to Make Your Leadership and Workplace Fun Again

Leadership_fun People desire a “leadership refresh” in their organizations.    Employees want leaders that are likeable, understand their needs, can authentically motivate people and know how to energize a workplace culture to generate the best results for the organization.  Just because you are a great sales person doesn’t mean you will be an effective leader.   The traditional leader still employs the old school ways of doing things that make it difficult to engage a workforce that is more diverse and multigenerational than ever before.    Today’s short-term, rapid-paced, limited-resource workplace requires more trust amongst employees and their intentions, transparency in communication and requirements and cross-departmental collaboration to fuel more desired outcomes – where people feel valued and respected.   

Employees want an awakened, dynamic spirit to come alive at work.  They are tired of excuses and just want people to be real about how they feel and honest about what needs to be accomplished.   Employees are fed up with the office politics and corporate rat-race and  are ready to start having fun again.   They want a workplace that is challenging, encourages trial and error and makes them feel that they matter.  

I recently keynoted an event where a senior executive was asked to share a few words about her leadership experience with the organization.   At first, she said all of the right things (which is exactly what people didn’t want to hear).   Then, she shocked the room by expressing dissatisfaction with her lack of leadership.  She went on to say that even though she knew that people were unhappy with the organization’s leadership protocols, style and approach – that she regretted not saying or doing anything about.    She concluded by talking about “courageous leadership” and why the workplace demands it now more than ever before.

To become an effective leader in the 21st century workplace, you must do six things to make the workplace exciting again.  Along the way, you will earn trust and respect throughout the organization as a courageous leader.

1.  Allow People to Fail;  Encourage Employees to Test Their Ideas

Empower your people to be entrepreneurial and to test their ideas and ideals.   Encourage your employees to be their best by discovering how they best fit within the team and throughout the organization.   Don’t always feel like you need to be in charge.  Effective leadership is about delegating and being able to trust yourself enough to let go and allow others to establish their own footing without being so dependent upon you.    Give your employees the room to explore and unleash their passion.    

A recent study by Deloitte made it clear that employee engagement isn’t enough.  It’s about allowing employees to be passionate about their work and not so confined to their immediate roles and responsibilities.   The passionate worker is always looking to provide and create impact through long-term sustainable growth.   Great leaders are the ones that allow their employees to discover their passion.

2.  Build Teams That Last; Allow Them to Be Think-Tanks

 Great teams require great leadership.  Today’s workplace must remove silos and   operate without boundaries – putting a premium on collaborative thinking and holding each member of the team responsible to contribute.   The days of depending upon one or two superstars are over.   Leaders must now play the role of “think tank” facilitators – guiding clusters of strategic topics that roll-up to specific organizational goals and objectives.    Leaders need to influence but not control the dialogue.  In the 21st century workplace, their responsibility is to find interconnection points that exist between each cluster to guide and direct the focus and the thinking.

 Leaders must allow team building to become more organic, less instructional and more enabled by the members of the team themselves.  They must measure effectiveness by how well each member is contributing to the overall impact, dialogue, thinking and outcomes of the group.  

 In a fast-changing marketplace, engaging employees and discovering their passions are best achieved when people feel valued and empowered to think, act and innovate in ways that come most naturally to them.

3.  Be a Great Communicator; Hold No Secrets

Never stop communicating your vision, goals and objectives.   Be a great communicator  who uses  all available methods to define your expectations and set the tone for your department or organization.  Never be vague and run the risk of losing trust from others.  No secrets allowed.

The workplace is becoming more fragile and employees want to know what they are ultimately being held accountable for and what they can or cannot do.   Stop being so structured about how you communicate.   Be human and be approachable.  

For example, when I was in the c-suite, I often held informal (at times impromptu) employee town hall forums.  The goal was not to deliver a “state of the company” address or some other important announcement – it was to address questions directly from employees.   The objective was to communicate the truth about growing tension points and/or concerns that people had about the direction of the organization.    I learned that people simply wanted to know what was going on. 

You also learn quickly which employees want to be part of the solution – and which ones put up roadblocks.  Though I was there to communicate and be transparent, these meetings also served as forums to identify the real leaders and the lifters versus the loafers and the leeches (those that would enable the confusion and disruption).   Great communication is most effective when it is two-way and everyone is held accountable.    

4.  Don’t Hide Behind the Title; Be The Real You

Leadership effectiveness is more than just the influence a “job title” gives you.  The real impact of leadership is when you can reveal the person that is behind the title.   People are more curious now than ever before and they want to know who their boss is as a person.  

People want leaders they can relate to and respect as people.  Be real in who you are and what you represent as an individual. Reflect your true intentions as a leader and don’t hide behind a title as this limits your ability to build relationships with employees.

People want leaders who are humble enough to be approachable, yet whose executive presence is impactful and dynamic enough that they never cross the line of respect.  People will naturally gravitate toward you if you allow your likeability and approachability to flourish.   

5.  Awaken the Organization; Keep People On Their Toes

Keep the organization alive by enabling a culture that embraces new perspectives and keeps people on their toes.   Electrify the organization with hope and opportunity that can create endless possibilities.  Never allow your employees to get complacent.  Help them stretch their thinking and ability.  Make the workplace an environment where people are continuously growing and thinking big!

Don’t just be a provider, but rather focus on being an enabler of opportunities.   Make  it easier for people to contribute and feel more valued – yet demand enough from your employees  that they are continually challenged and hungry for more.

6.  Keep it Simple; Make it Fun

 Establish standards and best practices that everyone can enjoy, learn from and improve along the way.  The new workplace is less about the business defining the individual and more about the individual defining the business.   

 

When my father came to America – on his way to earning  a degree in Chemical Engineering from Cornell University in 1936 – he took the time to understand the United States and its customs, culture and people.    He was a keen observer of people and always curious to understand what made leaders effective, trustworthy and reliable.    Early in my career he would often remind me that people complicate things to make themselves feel more important.   In other words, leaders purposely make things more difficult for others to make themselves appear smarter and more capable than their peers.  Oftentimes they seek relevancy when they begin to feel more vulnerable.    Have you had a boss or known anyone else like this? 

My father would tell me that the more simple you make things, the more believable, trustworthy and effective you will be with people.   Perhaps we are beginning to understand why most leaders need a refresh.   They need to simplify their approach and make it more fun and enjoyable for employees as this will increase productively, engagement and desired outcomes.

My father often encouraged me to read books and watch movies from the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s – to understand what he meant by simplicity.   Read the Declaration of Independence.  There is a reason it transcends centuries and generations because its principals are easy to understand.   Simplicity always prevails.  Just ask Apple!

If you step back, you will see that simplicity is becoming the new normal.   The workplace and the world are changing fast and it’s important to embrace the basics that serve as the foundation for how we think, act and innovate new products, services and the technological advancements that support them.

Make employees feel that they can relate to you and what you expect from them and encourage their voices to be heard and amplified.   Don’t intimidate, make the journey simple and fun and watch them flourish.

06/18/2013

Personal Branding Is A Leadership Requirement -- Not a Self-Promotion Campaign

Personal-brandingDeveloping your personal brand is essential for the advancement of your career and development as a leader.  Unfortunately, personal branding has become a “commoditized” term that has lost its intention as people have irresponsibly used social media as a platform to build their personal brand and increase their relevancy.   They believe social media can immediately increase their market value for their personal brand rather than recognizing that the process of developing their personal brand is a much bigger responsibility; a never-ending journey that extends well beyond social media.     

This is why I always advise those who want to have a social media presence to think carefully about their intentions and objectives before opening an account.  Why?  Because the moment you start – you must not allow yourself to stop.   Challenge yourself to think about what your intentions are and what you are capable of delivering to the communities you are serving – both in and outside of the workplace.

Personal branding, much like social media, is about making a full-time commitment to the journey of defining yourself as a leader and how this will shape the manner in which you will serve others.    

Your personal brand should represent the value you are able to consistently deliver to those whom you are serving.  This doesn’t mean self-promotion – that you should be creating awareness for your brand by showcasing your achievements and success stories.  Managing your personal brand requires you to be a great role model, mentor, and / or a voice that others can depend upon.  For example, when I write a blog or an article – I am extremely mindful that my community of readers expects a specific “experience of thought” from me. 

More than that, I aim to attract new readers by offering something of value that will hopefully engage them enough to continue reading my work.  Sounds like a lot of pressure and a tremendous responsibility to your audience, doesn’t it?  Well – it is at first – but over time the responsibility becomes a natural and instinctual part of who you are.   This is the mindset you must develop and the level of accountability you must assume when deciding to define, live and manage your personal brand.   Every day you know you must deliver to a standard of expectation that you have set-forth for both yourself and those whom you serve.   

 View your personal brand as a trademark; an asset that you must protect while continuously molding and shaping it.  Your personal brand is an asset that must be managed with the intention of helping others benefit from having a relationship with you and / or by being associated with your work and the industry you serve.

Have you defined your personal brand?   Are you consistently living your personal brand every day?   

If you’re like most, your answer to both is “no”.   Based on a survey conducted by my organization, less than 15% of people have truly defined their personal brand and less than 5% are living it consistently at work – each and every day.  Why?  It can be extremely challenging and it requires a tremendous amount of self-awareness, action and accountability.

What I didn’t tell you is that 70% of professionals believe they have defined their personal brand and 50% believe they are living it.   But when you “peel-back-the-onion,” you realize that their focus was centered on self-promotion rather than a commitment to advance themselves by serving others.  

So what is a personal brand?  A personal brand is the total experience of someone having a relationship with who you are and what you represent as an individual; as a leader.    Think about what that means to you. Let it simmer.     Ask yourself and then ask a close friend – what is the total experience of having a relationship with you like?    Write down the top 5 things you would expect others to experience and have your close friend do the same.   Are the answers the same or similar in meaning?  If they are, good for you!  If not, you have some work to do.

Every time you are in a meeting, at a conference, networking reception or other event, you should be mindful of what others are experiencing about you and what you want others to experience about you.    Each of these engagements is similar to a job interview – expect in these cases you are being evaluated by your peers.  Those who know how to live and manage their personal brand will earn their respect in any situation.  

At first, this is a bit of a challenge.  However, when you start to see yourself living through the “lens of a brand,” your perspective will change and you will become more mindful about how you approach the personal brand you are trying to define and aiming to live.  

Don’t confuse this with “acting a part.”   To the contrary, you should focus on being more of who you naturally are and want to be so that you can perform and serve at your optimal levels. Keep in mind that we have been conditioned to want to be more like others.  As such, we   are more likely to be accountable to others and what they want us to be rather than being true to ourselves. 

If your teammates and/or colleagues don’t know what your personal brand is, the fault is yours and not theirs. Having a personal brand is a leadership requirement.  It enables you to be a better leader, a more authentic leader that can create greater overall impact.  In fact, those who have defined and live their personal brand will more naturally demonstrate executive presence and as such may find themselves advancing more quickly at work.    

Personal branding is no longer an option; it’s a powerful leadership enabler.

The Most Successful Leaders Do 15 Things Automatically, Every Day

Leadership is learned behavior that becomes unconscious and automatic over time.  For example, leaders can make several important decisions about an issue in the time it takes others to understand the question.   Many people wonder how leaders know how to make the best decisions, often under immense pressure.  The process of making these decisions comes from an accumulation of experiences and encounters with a multitude of difference circumstances, personality types and unforeseen failures.   More so, the decision making process is an acute understanding of being familiar with the cause and effect of behavioral and circumstantial patterns;  knowing the intelligence and interconnection points of the variables involved in these patterns allows a leader to confidently make decisions and project the probability of their desired outcomes.   The most successful leaders are instinctual decision makers.  Having done it so many times throughout their careers, they become immune to the pressure associated with decision making and extremely intuitive about the process of making the most strategic and best decisions. This is why most senior executives will tell you they depend strongly upon their “gut-feel” when making difficult decisions at a moment’s notice.

Beyond decision making, successful leadership across all areas becomes learned and instinctual over a period of time. Successful leaders have learned the mastery of anticipating business patterns, finding opportunities in pressure situations, serving the people they lead and overcoming hardships.   No wonder the best CEOs are paid so much money.   In 2011, salaries for the 200 top-paid CEOs rose 5 percent to a median $14.5 million per year, according to a study by compensation-data company Equilar for The New York Times.   

If you are looking to advance your career into a leadership capacity and / or already assume leadership responsibilities – here are 15 things you must do automatically, every day, to be a successful leader in the workplace:

1. Make Others Feel Safe to Speak-Up

Many times leaders intimidate their colleagues with their title and power when they walk into a room.   Successful leaders deflect attention away from themselves and encourage others to voice their opinions.  They are experts at making others feel safe to speak-up and confidently share their perspectives and points of view.   They use their executive presence to create an approachable environment.

2. Make Decisions

Successful leaders are expert decision makers.    They either facilitate the dialogue to empower their colleagues to reach a strategic conclusion or they do it themselves.  They focus on “making things happen” at all times – decision making activities that sustain progress.   Successful leaders have mastered the art of politicking and thus don’t waste their time on issues that disrupt momentum.  They know how to make 30 decisions in 30 minutes.

 3. Communicate Expectations

Successful leaders are great communicators, and this is especially true when it comes to “performance expectations.”   In doing so, they remind their colleagues of the organization’s core values and mission statement – ensuring that their vision is properly translated and actionable objectives are properly executed.

I had a boss that managed the team by reminding us of the expectations that she had of the group.   She made it easy for the team to stay focused and on track.  The protocol she implemented – by clearly communicating expectations – increased performance and helped to identify those on the team that could not keep up with the standards she expected from us.

4. Challenge People to Think

The most successful leaders understand their colleagues’ mindsets, capabilities and areas for improvement.  They use this knowledge/insight to challenge their teams to think and stretch them to reach for more.   These types of leaders excel in keeping their people on their toes, never allowing them to get comfortable and enabling them with the tools to grow.

If you are not thinking, you’re not learning new things.  If you’re not learning, you’re not growing – and over time becoming irrelevant in your work.

5. Be Accountable to Others

Successful leaders allow their colleagues to manage them.  This doesn’t mean they are allowing others to control them – but rather becoming accountable to assure they are being proactive to their colleagues needs.

Beyond just mentoring and sponsoring selected employees, being accountable to others is a sign that your leader is focused more on your success than just their own. 

6. Lead by Example

Leading by example sounds easy, but few leaders are consistent with this one.   Successful leaders practice what they preach and are mindful of their actions. They know everyone is watching them and therefore are incredibly intuitive about detecting those who are observing their every move, waiting to detect a performance shortfall.

7. Measure & Reward Performance

Great leaders always have a strong “pulse” on business performance and those people who are the performance champions. Not only do they review the numbers and measure performance ROI, they are active in acknowledging hard work and efforts (no matter the result).    Successful leaders never take consistent performers for granted and are mindful of rewarding them.   

8. Provide Continuous Feedback

Employees want their leaders to know that they are paying attention to them and they appreciate any insights along the way.  Successful leaders always provide feedback and they welcome reciprocal feedback by creating trustworthy relationships with their colleagues..   They understand the power of perspective and have learned the importance of feedback early on in their career as it has served them to enable workplace advancement. 

9. Properly Allocate and Deploy Talent

Successful leaders know their talent pool and how to use it.  They are experts at activating the capabilities of their colleagues and knowing when to deploy their unique skill sets given the circumstances at hand.  

10. Ask Questions, Seek Counsel

Successful leaders ask questions and seek counsel all the time.  From the outside, they appear to know-it-all – yet on the inside, they have a deep thirst for knowledge and constantly are on the look-out to learn new things because of their commitment to making themselves better through the wisdom of others.

11. Problem Solve; Avoid Procrastination

Successful leaders tackle issues head-on and know how to discover the heart of the matter at hand.    They don’t procrastinate and thus become incredibly proficient at problem solving; they learn from and don’t avoid uncomfortable circumstances (they welcome them).  

Getting ahead in life is about doing the things that most people don’t like doing.

12. Positive Energy & Attitude

Successful leaders create a positive and inspiring workplace culture.  They know how to set the tone and bring an attitude that motivates their colleagues to take action.   As such, they are likeable, respected and strong willed.  They don’t allow failures to disrupt momentum.

13. Be a Great Teacher

Many employees in the workplace will tell you that their leaders have stopped being teachers.   Successful leaders never stop teaching because they are so self-motivated to learn themselves.  They use teaching to keep their colleagues well-informed and knowledgeable through statistics, trends, and other newsworthy items.

Successful leaders take the time to mentor their colleagues and make the investment to sponsor those who have proven they are able and eager to advance.

14. Invest in Relationships

Successful leaders don’t focus on protecting their domain – instead they expand it by investing in mutually beneficial relationships. Successful leaders associate themselves with “lifters and other leaders” – the types of people that can broaden their sphere of influence.  Not only for their own advancement, but that of others. 

Leaders share the harvest of their success to help build momentum for those around them. 

15. Genuinely Enjoy Responsibilities

Successful leaders love being leaders – not for the sake of power but for the meaningful and purposeful impact they can create.   When you have reached a senior level of leadership – it’s about your ability to serve others and this can’t be accomplished unless you genuinely enjoy what you do.

In the end, successful leaders are able to sustain their success because these 15 things ultimately allow them to increase the value of their organization’s brand – while at the same time minimize the operating risk profile.   They serve as the enablers of talent, culture and results.

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