Thursday, May 31, 2018

Likability in Leadership—Necessary for Some, a Liability to Others

Guest post from Cassandra Frangos:

We had a handy rule of thumb for hiring in my first job in management consulting. After the first or second round of interviews, if the candidate scored high on the prerequisites, the team would gather for a reality check and ask each other: "Would you mind being stuck in an airport for 9 hours with this person?” If the answer was, "Oh my, no way," we’d usually move on to the next highly qualified candidate. Consulting is a time-intensive business where exhaustive hours are spent traveling to remote locations, making presentations together in close quarter conference rooms, and collaborating with customers. You have to like the people you work with.

Yet, it’s not the same in every case—likability does not necessarily equal followership when it comes to leadership. When I’ve conducting executive assessments or performance interviews, for instance, I don’t need to hear that a leader is highly likable. In fact, if that’s the first thing a colleague says about a leader, it gives me pause. There are other arguably more important elements in gaining the respect necessary to lead.

When I weigh the pros and cons of likability, I put the question into context by looking at three lenses that help calibrate the question:

The first context is culture. A leader’s disposition needs to be in sync with the culture of a company. I met with the CHRO of a staffing firm in the southwest last month and the first thing I thought was: this person is really nice and I can see why she is so respected here. The organization was relatively small, everyone was together in one location, and they relied on local contacts to keep the business going. Likeability was built into the formula. Would that same CHRO be as successful at a firm where the culture was more about innovation and less about continuity? Doubtful.

Industry is the second context to consider. When people talk about the qualities that made Steve Jobs so successful, likability didn’t always appear on the short list. Yet, he was one of the most admired leaders of our time. Apple is in an industry where fresh ideas, fast thinking and constant change are keys to success. Jobs brought a highly distinctive design vision that keyed-in on user experience and an eye for engineering excellence that few could match. He was a brilliant in all the ways that mattered, and that, more than likability, gained him the followership he needed to lead in computing. Likewise, the aggressive and purportedly overbearing Jack Welch was highly respected and emulated, but likability was not a key ingredient for leading the massively complex global conglomerate.

Lastly, I look at circumstance. In general, I would expect customer facing leaders to be likable but the benchmark may be somewhat different for other types of functional or technical leaders. Likewise, there are numerous extenuating circumstances that make likability in a leader more or less necessary. If a leader is charged with reengineering or remaking a failing firm, they must be empathetic, but perhaps likability is too much to expect. Whereas, if a leader is hired to improve employee engagement, shore up retention, and bring the organization together, then achieving the necessary followership may depend upon being likable.

In leadership, likability looks different depending upon the context. The best leaders are decisive, commend respect, and connect with their followers. That won’t happen if a leader is a bully, tyrant or, yes, just plain untrustworthy. But likable? It’s not always a necessary quality in a leader.

Cassandra Frangos, EdD, is the author of Crack the C-Suite Code: How Successful
Leaders Make It to the Top and a consultant at Spencer Stuart, where she focuses on collaborating with Fortune 500 leadership teams on executive assessments, succession planning, leadership development and top team effectiveness. Previously, she led Cisco’s Global Executive Talent practice where she played an integral role in the 2015 succession planning for Cisco’s CEO, and conducted the research for Crack the C-Suite Code.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Leaders: Take the “Blind Spots” Test!

Guest post from David Mattson:

If something bad were to happen to you or one of your key team members, something that took you or that person out of action for a month or more, would your business be in crisis? Would its performance suffer? Would its survival be in question?
Did you hesitate before answering any of those questions? If so, your company may be suffering from “blind spots syndrome.” One or two people may be carrying a disproportionate share of responsibility for the entire organization’s performance. In this situation, well-intentioned company leaders often set themselves and their companies up for failure by taking on too much, improvising too often, and not delegating effectively. As a result, they typically don’t know what they don’t know about the most dangerous obstacles they face … and, all too often, they’re not particularly interested in finding out.

This dysfunctional way of working drains both leaders and organizations of energy, resilience, and potential. It’s stressful for you and everyone in the organization. How vulnerable is your company to the blind spots syndrome? You can begin to get an answer by taking the following short test.

BLIND SPOT #1: No methodologies and systems. When everything is improvised, inconsistency carries the day, and predictable events – like key people leaving or getting sick for an extended period – lead to major, immediate problems. Give yourself a score of 1 if your business would be in instant crisis if its top three people were, without warning, incapacitated for a week or more; a score of 10 if such an event would have little or no immediate effect on the smooth functioning of your organization; or another score if your organization is somewhere in the middle.

BLIND SPOT #2: Not being in recruiting mode. The best companies are always on the lookout for the best people. Give yourself a score of 1 if you are only in recruiting mode when there is a staffing emergency; a score of 10 if you are always in recruiting mode; or another score if you are somewhere in the middle.

BLIND SPOT #3: Not establishing a documented process for hiring. Following a “gut feeling” is not enough. You need a clear, quantifiable hiring process, and everyone who hires employees needs to follow it. Give yourself a score of 1 if you have no documented hiring process; a score of 10 if you have a detailed written hiring process that everyone with hiring authority in your organization follows; or another score if you are somewhere in the middle.

BLIND SPOT #4: Not creating and sustaining a culture of accountability. Supporting such a culture requires leaders to show personal vulnerability. The leader’s example is the single biggest determinant of success in this area! Give yourself a score of 1 if you have never acknowledged a personal skill gap or oversight to a subordinate; a score of 10 if you regularly establish specific accountabilities to subordinates and apologize authentically whenever there is a breakdown that prevents you from fulfilling that accountability; or another score if you are somewhere in the middle.

BLIND SPOT #5: Creating learned helplessness. This is a big one, and I want to look at it closely. People come to us to ask us for our opinions all day long. Sometimes those requests for our opinion are really requests that we solve a problem -- and sometimes we are all too happy to jump in and do so. Of course, a lot of these questions really are ones that your team member wouldn’t know the answer to … but many are questions that the person could answer on his or her own. We may field these questions at a time when we are in the middle of something else that we don’t like doing very much … like staring at spreadsheet numbers and looking for some magic trend. So when the person with the question comes in, we are happy to put that down and move into “rescue” mode.

This pattern brings to mind the proverb about giving a person a fish to eat, as opposed to teaching a person how to fish. One “solution” lasts a day – the other lasts a lifetime. Which is better? I think you know the answer. Or think about your own home life. If your kid is having trouble with homework, do you say, “Don’t worry, hand it over here, I’ll do it for you”?  Of course not.
Yet we are all tempted to rescue team members at work when we know they will be better off solving the problem themselves. Why? One reason we tell ourselves is that we think it will be faster. We want to just give the answer so we can go back to what we were doing. When we add up all the interruptions, though, we realize we’re not really gaining anything.

Another driver is ego. We want to jump in and be the “fixer.” Let’s be honest. We love this part of the job, especially when it’s more interesting than what we were doing when we got interrupted!

Give yourself a score of 1 if you often find yourself taking on tasks because you convince yourself no one else is capable of “doing it right” or doing it on time; a score of 10 if that seldom or never occurs and you spend 90% of your time working on the business, rather than in it; or another score if you are somewhere in the middle.
These are just some of the obstacles that stand in the path to personal and organizational excellence. Even one of the blind spots I’ve shared with you has the potential to undermine or even kill a business. Why bother to address these issues? Because failing to do so leaves you vulnerable to unacceptably high levels of personal stress. That affects not only your ability to lead, but your quality of life.

If your personal score is…
Likely Result
Less than 20 points
Unsustainably high and dangerous personal stress levels
Significant personal stress levels; reduced quality of life
Moderate personal stress levels; adequate quality of life, but room for improvement
Low, consistently manageable personal stress levels; high quality of life







Note that blind spots can pop up when you least expect them, even in the areas where you imagine yourself and your company to be the least vulnerable. Companies often “fix” a blind spot, but find that it returns over time. Why does that happen? Creating self-sufficient team members and departments is the ultimate goal of any effective leader. That means people and teams make important decisions in areas you’ve specifically delegated to them—which is as it should be. Yet as you grow in scale or bring in new people, that very growth creates the possibility of a blind spot’s recurrence or of brand new blind spots developing—new problem areas of which you and other company leaders aren’t aware. The fact that there were no blind spots in a given area the last time you checked is no guarantee that there are no blind spots right now!

Most of the leaders I share this test with acknowledge that dangerous blind spots do exist in their world – but they haven’t yet taken on a personal commitment to change the status quo. Unfortunately, just knowing about a blind spot is not enough. Overcoming one, in our experience, takes commitment, patience, and a willingness to work with a personal coach. But the effort is one of the best investments you can make in yourself and your company.

David Mattson is the CEO and President of Sandler Training, an international training and consulting organization headquartered in North America. Since 1986, he has been a trainer and business consultant for management, sales, interpersonal communication, corporate team building and strategic planning throughout the United States and Europe. A Wall Street Journal bestselling author, his new book is The Road To Excellence:  6 Leadership Strategies To Build a Bulletproof Business.  For more information, please visit:

Thursday, May 24, 2018

To be the Best, Invest in Relationships AND Results

Guest post from S. Chris Edmonds: 
If you had a rare diagnosis of an aggressive disease, wouldn’t you want to be treated by the best of the best doctors? If your goal was to coach an Olympic gold medal hockey team, wouldn’t you want only the best of the best players on your roster, with both precise skills and impeccable character?
To be the best of anything is pretty impressive. To be ranked in that rarefied air means one has invested and IS investing time, energy, and passion into that avenue.
Speaker, author, and business expert Tamara McCleary is ranked as the number one woman in Marketing Technology. It’s not just her expertise in AI, blockchain, social media, and the Internet of things that makes her such an effective influencer. It is her dedication to creating and maintaining relationships, online and in real life, every day, that boosts her influence.
Tamara has written in the past that “engagement is key.” She builds real relationships with her followers and who she follows. She monitors reliable data to track how well she is engaging every day with her online community.
She invests the time, energy, and passion because she legitimately cares about others. Members of her online and offline communities matter to her, deeply. She’s constantly checking to see whether her plans, decisions, and actions build relationships effectively NOW – and she refines those actions if they don’t.
Let’s apply Tamara’s practices – and positive results – to influencing others in the workplace.
First, invest the time. Pay attention to more than just results. Connect with people at all levels in your organization every day. Learn their names and their passions. Learn what gets in their way of cooperative teamwork and top performance. Act to reduce those frustrations.
Second, get the data. Don’t just monitor performance metrics – monitor data that indicates how happy employees are working in your organization. You have some reliable data, like turnover, exit interviews, service levels, and more. You may need to measure other satisfaction metrics, like the degree of trust, the frequency of proactive problem solving, etc.
Third, evaluate the progress of employee engagement, service, and results. As you embrace proactive relationship management, pay close attention to my “big three” – engagement, service, and results. If you’re not seeing upticks in these after four weeks, do what Tamara does. Refine your approaches, then monitor the impact. Keep those practices that help.
I post the effective approaches of great bosses daily on my social media platforms. These quotes generate frequent shares as well as frequent comments. And, a number of those comments are not complimentary of respondent’s current bosses! People boldly state, “My boss doesn’t do this – I wish he did!” and “I’ve never had a boss that did this! I don’t believe great bosses actually exist!”
To be an effective, inspiring leader today requires a variety of approaches – no one “size” fits every colleague or team member. Don’t miss the opportunity boost employee engagement, service, and results by focusing on positive relationships daily.
S. Chris Edmonds is a sought-after speaker, author, and executive consultant. After a 15-year career leading successful teams, Chris founded his consulting company, The Purposeful Culture Group, in 1990. Chris has also served as a senior consultant with The Ken Blanchard Companies since 1995. He is the author or co-author of seven books, including Amazon best sellers The Culture Engine and Leading at a Higher Level with Ken Blanchard. Learn from his blog posts, podcasts, assessments, research, and videos at Get free resources plus weekly updates from Chris by subscribing here

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Seven Signs of Great Leadership

Guest post from Bruce Hartman:

The CEO of Footlocker, Matt Serra, once said to me, “It’s lonely at the top. Being the leader is a big responsibility.” Over the years, I have thought endlessly about this quote and what it means. Fortunately, in my career, I was provided with examples of what this meant, not just from Matt, but from working with a number of strong leaders. With all of these people, I noticed a set of similar traits. Primarily, they took their responsibility seriously and showed a great custodial awareness of their tasks. They all:

· Made fact-based decisions

· Built great teams

· Made ethics a part of the culture

· Engaged listeners

· Evaluate constantly

· Embraced change

· Inspired

Make fact-based decisions
At the start of each morning, Craig Ryden—the CEO of Yankee Candle—would look at the sales from the previous day in great detail. Inevitably, he would discover something he didn’t understand. He knew there was an answer and would ask each of us why. Sometimes he got opinions and sometimes he got facts. Craig was polite to whomever gave opinions, but became riveted when he got facts. Once he had all the facts, he helped us with the decision necessary to make the required adjustment.

Over time, we all learned facts first, opinions second. From this leadership, we developed a culture of fact-based decision making. As Craig’s CFO and CAO, I always appreciated this leadership style. It made our days easier and our decisions better.  

Build great teams
In the early dark days as CFO of Footlocker, we had a struggling company that was deeply in debt. On top of that, we had people in the wrong places and we needed to change quickly. This meant a significant amount of change within the organization. We had to put the right people in the right places quickly. To accomplish this, we created the following profile of the type of employees we needed. They all had to:

· “Get things done”

· Listen to learn

· Develop other people

· Analyze effectively

· Be assertive but warm 

We then began promoting or hiring people that fit this profile. Resumes and experiences were important, but these characteristics were key to our success. Over the next year, we promoted or hired well over a hundred people that fit this profile. They weren’t always the best talkers or best dressed, but they just knew how to do their jobs and work within our culture. After two years, we went from being a “financially troubled” company, to being praised for our turn-around efforts. Largely as a result of these “profile” employees.

Making ethics a part of the culture
A critical trait I noticed in great leaders was a consistent set of ethics. Dave Farrell, the long serving CEO of May Department stores, was always very consistent with ethical decision making. His consistency allowed those of us who worked for him to predict his response to most business questions. In turn, it shaped us as an organization. We knew what to expect and we knew how to act. Many years later, when I speak with former executives who worked in Dave’s organization, his culture and sense of fair play is what we remember.

Be an engaged listener
As a young executive and newly appointed CFO, I was fortunate to work for Jim Hageman. Early on, I observed Jim’s motto in meetings: “questions first and decisions second.” Jim had a friendly style and for the majority of the meeting, would sit and listen. When he didn’t understand an issue, he used “probes” to learn more. He coaxed us to explore the issue at hand and develop our own thoughts. Invariably, Jim waited until nearly the end of the meeting to express himself. Sometimes, it would be as simple as, “I think what you decided will create a great outcome.” Sometimes he would be more expansive, but we always knew he listened. 

Evaluate constantly

It was always easy for me to spot whose business was running well and whose wasn’t. It lied in the quality of their evaluations of the business. Over time, I noticed those whose business was running well, knew the facts and what to do about it. They were constantly probing the organization to learn more about trends. Any discussion about their business always had an unusual depth of knowledge.

While things didn’t always work out in the short-term the way they hoped, in the long-term they were successful. They could spot momentary trends of weakness and know what to do. They didn’t hide from problems, they solved. 

Embrace change
At Yankee Candle, we actually had a position for a “Change Agent.” Though not his actual title, Reggie Thomas was our executive who looked for ways to make our operation better. In effect, he spent his day trying to make us better. While not all his ideas were agreed to, many were. In any given year, Reggie saved our company millions of dollars through new methods and technology.

What was remarkable about Reggie wasn’t what he did, but that he worked in an environment that solicited new ideas. Change is inevitable and companies that actively search for new ideas thrive!

Many of us associate inspirational leaders as great speakers. Surely there are many who lead with words. But inspirational leadership goes deeper. They are the ones, “who do what they say and say what they do.” They inspire by their own personal commitment. They lead from the front and not from the back. They don’t abdicate, they embrace their responsibility. 

Great leaders make us want to be better by their own actions, not just by well strung together words.

Being a leader is hard, and as Matt said, it can be very lonely at times. Acquiring the seven traits listed above may not reduce the loneliness, but will help inspire others to perform at a higher level. 

Bruce Hartman is the founder of Gideon Advisors, a Christian advisory firm committed to “walking with people into a brighter future” as they navigate life and career transitions and advance Christian values in the marketplace. Hartman is a seasoned executive with 30 years of success creating shareholder value for Fortune 500 firms. Prior to founding Gideon Advisors, he was the Executive VP and CFO at Yankee Candle Company, Cushman and Wakefield, and Foot Locker, Inc. where he established global banking and capital market structures and contributed to significant increases in enterprise value. He is the author of the new book, Jesus & Co.: Connecting the Lessons of The Gospel with Today's Business World (Post Hill Press, March 2018).

Thursday, May 17, 2018

See the Big Picture to Succeed as a CEO

Guest post from Professor M.S.Rao, Ph.D.:
“To be a champion, I think you have to see the big picture. It’s not about winning and losing; it’s about every day hard work and about thriving on a challenge. It’s about embracing the pain that you’ll experience at the end of a race and not being afraid. I think people think too hard and get afraid of a certain challenge.” —Summer Sanders

CEOs must see the upcoming organizational challenges from multiple perspectives with a big picture. They must be able to integrate their conceptual skills with technical and business acumen. Seeing the big picture can help avert organizational challenges and overcome them. Additionally, they must be able to forecast the future demands of the customers and clients to create products and services. The visionary CEOs like Richard Branson, Warren Buffett and Lou Gerstner have an innate ability to see the big picture. They could see what others could not.

Robert Katz and Conceptual Skills
Robert Katz outlines three levels of management—low, middle and top level management. At each level of management, there is a need for technical skills, human skills and conceptual skills. At the low level management, there is need for more technical skills and less conceptual skills. At the middle level management, there is equal need for technical skills, conceptual skills and human skills. At the top level management, there is more need for conceptual skills and less need for technical skills as the leaders involve in strategic management. And the need for human skills remains in the same proportion at all levels of management. Hence, leaders and chief executives must possess conceptual skills to see what cannot be seen by others. They must be able to vision and make decisions accordingly.

Leadership Lessons from Warren Buffett
Warren Buffett is one of the world’s richest men. He is the legendary chairman and CEO of the biggest shareholder company—Berkshire Hathaway headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska, United States. He is an investor and philanthropist. He has received several honors and recognition including top money manager of the 20th century in a survey by the Carson Group and Presidential Medal of Freedom, 2011. He saw the big picture and invested in companies reaping a great harvest. Hence, we will discuss about Warren Buffet, the Oracle of Omaha and his leadership lessons. He is good at numbers with an eye for detail. He is a long-term player with a clear focus on his investments. Warren Buffett believed both in timing and time. He knew the right time to invest in the right companies. He made many mistakes while investing, and he advises youngsters and college students to invest wisely. Here are some leadership lessons from him:

  • Be a voracious reader. He reads and reflects a lot. He reflects on the decisions he made in the past to assess and improve as per the present conditions.
  • Be patient and persistent. He has lots of patience. He is an expert in numbers and analyses them thoroughly. He doesn’t give up.
  • Articulate your ideas and insights effectively with others. He knows how to articulate his ideas with others. He influences his team with his ideas and carries them along with him.
  • Identify the strengths of people and build the team accordingly.
  • He gives his team members adequate “freedom to do by themselves” to run the organization.
  • Associate with people who are smarter than you to improve yourself. Right ambience leads to right ideas and insights to add value in attitude, behavior and performance.
  • Everyone makes mistakes. But we must learn lessons from mistakes and move on to make better decisions in future.
  • Be clear and strong in fundamentals. He has clarity in his mind and invests in fundamentals. He is unmoved by market fluctuations. His investments are meant for long-term results.
  • Learn when to hold and when to fold. He knows when to hold and fold his stocks.
  • Lead a simple life. He believes in simple living and high thinking. He still lives in the same house that he originally purchased for just over thirty-one thousand dollars, and he owns one car. He leads frugally and enjoys McDonald’s hamburgers and cherry Coke.
  • Emphasize ethical values. He is very transparent in his dealings. He emphasizes more on “means” rather than “ends.” He once remarked, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”
  • Make a difference to the world. He shares his profits through philanthropic activities to make a difference in the lives of others. He is a great philanthropist.
How to Develop a Big Picture Thinking?
 We often come across two types of people in our life—the “big picture people” and the “details people.” The big picture people are highly creative and innovative. They are visionaries. They see what others cannot. In contrast, the details people often emphasize numbers and cannot move forward unless they are convinced by those numbers. You can develop the big picture thinking easily. Here are some tools and techniques to develop it:

  • Find out your biological clock and work on your passionate areas.
  • Break into small pieces; work on them independently; and then integrate them to acquire the big picture.
  • Work beyond your domain to widen your horizons.
  • Meet people outside your area of interest.
  • Discuss with people to generate more ideas and then work on execution.
  • Travel to different places and meet new people as it enables you to integrate different experiences to develop a broad mindset.
  • Invest some time to reflect every day. It helps you overcome your busy tasks and unclogs your mind.
  • Be in solitude as solitude is fortitude. Go to a serene place to think things through. Don’t allow any thoughts to enter into your mind. It helps you think from new perspectives.
  • Take role models who are good at big picture. Find out how they overcame their challenges by looking at a big picture.
  • Think big, dream big, create a blueprint and then break it into actionable steps to achieve it.
Remember, the journey of thousand miles starts with a single step. Hence, take the first step to build your big picture thinking.


 It is essential in the current competitive world to see the big picture to avert organizational challenges. Hence, leaders and CEOs must learn lessons from Warren Buffett to see the big picture to minimize organizational challenges and maximize organizational effectiveness.  

Author Bio:
Professor M.S.Rao, Ph.D. is the Father of “Soft Leadership” and Founder of MSR Leadership Consultants, India. He is an International Leadership Guru with 37 years of experience and the author of 37 books including the award-winning 21 Success Sutras for CEOs. He is a C-Suite advisor and a sought-after keynote speaker globally. He is passionate about serving and making a difference in the lives of others. He shares his leadership wisdom freely with the world on his four blogs. His vision is to build one million students as global leaders by 2030.  He is a dynamic, energetic and inspirational leadership speaker. He can be reached at:

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Intergenerational Leadership Begins with Us: We Have More in Common Than We Thought

Guest post by Mark H. Fowler & Noal McDonald:

Leadership is a complex idea: one that is not consistently easy to wrap our minds around.

We know good leadership when we see it. Most of us have experienced great leaders somewhere in our lives. It could have been at work, in school, on the athletic field or with a group of friends. If we think of what these experiences have in common, we might think of this quote by Harold Koontz and Cyril O’Donnell: “Leadership molds individuals into a team.”

With this interpretation, let’s look at challenges leaders face in today’s workplace.

There are more generations in the workplace than ever before. With more data and research on generational characteristics than in the past, it can lead us to greater segregation and dissonance. Characteristics are often applied across the board to individuals based on age.

Millennials are often at the forefront of all this analysis and have been researched, written about and discussed more than any previous generation. We’ve given them attributes that can separate them out and may put them at odds with non-millennial groups in the workplace.

How can a leader lead across generational divides? Before we tackle that thorny question, let’s look at the generations from a different perspective. A recent
study by IBM shows that the generations are more similar than different on certain issues.

Results from 1,784 employees in 12 countries and six industries show that the generations are only a few percentage points different when asked about the importance of some of the characteristics we attribute to millennials, including:

 - Meaningful work: wanting purpose, not just a paycheck; managing work/life balance.

- Leadership characteristics: desiring a boss who provides hands-on feedback and guidance.

- Leave jobs for same reasons: advancement, money, opportunity (millennials are considered job hoppers, but in the survey, 75 per cent had been in their current jobs for more than three years).

- Everyone gets a trophy: teams and working collaboratively had more rating gaps, with 64 per cent of Gen X saying everyone on a successful team should be rewarded, while millennials and boomers were 55 per cent and 42 per cent, respectively.

Perhaps we have more in common than we thought. Maybe people don’t fit so well in boxes.

Based on the IBM research, the majority of the workforce, regardless of generation, holds the same beliefs that engagement is best produced by leaders who can:

- Communicate the organization’s vision.

- Encourage collaboration and innovation.

- Help individuals see their connection and purpose within the organization.

 People throughout industries and across generations are looking for leaders who have:

- Humanity and humility with courage and transparency to ask for honest feedback and diligence to make changes.

- Openness to diverse ideas and ability to encourage cooperation and collaboration.

- Ability to have authentic conversations that engage others and create a space where all can contribute their best talents and be honored for their contribution.

Leaders, wherever they are in the organization, can build great teams using these characteristics.

What is becoming more apparent as we look at successful organizations is that leadership does not reside only in the C-suite, but can add value throughout. We can all demonstrate leadership characteristics with peers, co-workers and teams as well as with our leaders. Each of us can lead in his/her own way. It can be as simple as leading with an idea that could mean success for everyone. It can mean leading a discussion where it is clear that everyone is welcome, if not required, to participate.

Success comes from our ability to connect one-on-one while building trust and relationships. Leaders and individuals work best when they can connect on common ground and engage with each other to create the best outcome. Each generation, each individual, regardless of place or role, has something of value to contribute to the success of the business.

This is a tall order for anyone. How can we accomplish all of this? It starts with our conversations.

There is art and science to the kind of conversations that can have the impact we need in our organizations today. While we can spend a lifetime improving our skills, here are two ideas to help us be better leaders wherever we are.

Coming alongside

Take the lead by being the first to come alongside others to see what we can constructively accomplish together. Coming alongside is not about relinquishing your ideas; it is about learning how to incorporate and collaborate with each other and equally participating for the ultimate goal. We can engage through honoring accomplishments, understanding what everyone has to say and attempting to know what it is like to walk in their shoes. Effective leaders are able to set aside their agendas and embrace that others have just as much to add to the situation.

Being on the same page

This is about making sure that everyone truly understands a project and its goals. Reaching out to ensure that everyone is heard and is able to support the decision will prevent surprises down the line. The process builds relationships and connections that strengthen any team.

By adding these two concepts as the foundation of our conversations, we can become leaders in every situation. We will build trust, stronger relationships and commitments to achieve mutual goals.

We can all lead together. It will pay many dividends. With leaders across all generations and in all levels of the organization, we can create a culture where everyone can thrive. You will be more than surprised.

Author Bios:

Noal McDonald is co-author of
Revolutionary Conversations: The Tools You Need for the Success You Want. As a Co-CEO of Revolutionary Conversations, LLC, she develops and delivers courses and workshops for corporations and strategic alliances that want to enhance engagement, create collaborative cultures and improve employee performance.

Mark H. Fowler is the president of Stowe Management Corporation and Co-CEO of Revolutionary Conversations, LLC. He is a business growth and corporate re-engineering expert, author and writer, business educator, public speaker and change leader.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Working on Working Together

Guest post by Chad Littlefield and Will Wise:

Vulnerability is natural. It’s human—so much so that the word “human” is often used to point out or help us come to terms with our vulnerabilities.

So when we enter a new situation, we often search for something to protect us. If we’re at a party filled with people we largely don’t know, we’ll seek out the person we do, at least until we’ve adjusted and are comfortable mingling with others. Online, we might edit our tweets and posts before sending them out to the world based on how we think others will react to them.

As a result of our vulnerability, we instinctively build walls to protect us from others we don’t already trust, but those walls also prevent connection and all of the positives that come from it.

Imagine you want to work with a new employee so you give them a project to spearhead with your input—let’s say you’ve want them to work with you on the task of reducing the number of meetings that take place around the office on a weekly basis, either by consolidating smaller meetings into fewer, larger ones or by determining which can be cut altogether.

Likely, your initial interactions with this employee in pursuit of solving this problem will follow these simple steps:

1. You’ll shake hands and introduce yourselves

2. Then you will then take turns brainstorming potential solutions to the problem at hand—mostly small tweaks to current policies and activities in the office.

3. For each suggestion one of you makes, the other explains why it wouldn’t work or what in it is useful. This goes back and forth until a consensus is reached on a middle ground, “safe option,” and you both go on your way.

Seems like a pretty straightforward, common work interaction a new employee and their manager. But you can do better, right off the bat, if you prioritize connection when leading. Before jumping into solutions for the project, establish a relationship of trust that will allow you to be more comfortable with each other—it’s especially important for an employee to feel comfortable and able to express their opinions and ideas with their superiors (creating that kind of environment is just great leadership).

Ask them a question that is outside of the realm of “small talk.” Ask (respectfully) about something their wearing or carrying based on your curiosity, or ask the story behind an interesting tchotchke on their desk you saw when you walked past it in the morning. Have them share a little bit about themselves—not their role at the company or their role before it, but who they are regardless of where they’re sitting—and share some of your own as well. Staring with an ask that began with natural, genuine curiosity, an urge to connect will be fostered in both parties.

By building this rapport, you will be focused on working together, on truly collaborating, instead of simply solving a problem, and ironically that means that any solution you come up with will be far better because it’s one that is fully using the power of two brains collaborating. You can create something entirely new that has never been done before, something you’ll both love and find yourself hoping the other team members will buy into it as well. Rather than one person having passion for their idea and the other going along with it, the solution is something you are both passionate about and will champion. 
You’ll know trust is high between you when you catch yourself or the employee things like “Our idea….” or “We’ve got this idea….” rather than “My idea is…” or “I got this idea…” The “me” moments shift to “we” moments when an idea is born and then built upon in the space between multiple individuals.
If we connect before diving into content with our colleagues and those we lead, we will spend less time shooting down ideas and will be comfortable enough to listen and build on the ideas of others. Peter Block once said that “without relatedness, no work can occur.” Creativity and innovation happens best in an environment of psychological safety where we trust that those we are working with have our best interest in mind. When we don’t feel the need to put up walls, true collaboration can happen.

WiLL WiSE, M.Ed., is the author of #1 Amazon Bestselling Book, Asking Powerful Questions: Create Conversations that Matter. He has over two decades of experience
custom building leadership programs for corporate and nonprofit groups. Leaders call Will when there is a lack of trust getting in the way of results. Tens of thousands of people have been empowered with positive communication skills after spending some time with WiLL and We!™.

Chad Littlefield, M.Ed. is the co-founder and CEO of We!™, keynote speaker and professional facilitator. Leaders and conference organizers call Chad when they want to make their events more interactive and engaging. He has spoken at TEDx and is the creator of We! Connect Cards™, which are now being used to create conversations that matter on campuses and companies in over 50 countries around the world.