Category Archives: Leadership

BLOG – LIVING ORDER: On becoming a project leader

Earlier this year, the Consortium for Project Leadership at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, started a new blog. The “Living Order” blog focuses on sharing stories and lessons learned about the leadership role in project managementThe first story posted in spring 2014 explains how the early 20th-century concept of “living order” is relevant to today’s project leaders.

Besides the blog, the Consortium for Project Leadership has a more traditional website with additional details and background info which can be viewed here. CPL is co-led by Dr. Alex Laufer, author of the recent book, Mastering the Leadership Role in Project Management.

7 Leadership Tips From Leaders

What is a leader?

A leader is a person who guides others toward a common goal, showing the way by example, creating an environment in which other team members feel actively involved in the entire process. A leader is not the boss of the team, but the person that is committed to carrying out the mission of the venture.

Leaders exist to get things done. Leadership is needed beyond the bounds of politics and business. Leadership is needed in families; schools and universities need leadership; charitable organizations need leadership. In fact, whenever there is an opportunity for two or more people to collaborate to get something done, leadership is a key ingredient.

Here are 7 tips on the subject of leadership from those who have demonstrated themselves to be leaders:

1. “Leadership can be thought of as a capacity to define oneself to others in a way that clarifies and expands a vision of the future.” Edwin H. Friedman – Leaders have vision. They share a dream and direction that other people want to share and follow. The leadership vision goes beyond your mission and vision statements. A leader’s vision permeates the workplace and is manifested in their actions, beliefs, values and goals.

2. “Most important, leaders can conceive and articulate goals that lift people out of their petty preoccupations and unite them in pursuit of objectives worthy of their best efforts.” John Gardner – Leadership is proactive rather than reactive. Leaders are good in crises – but they don’t sit around letting crises develop. Leaders identify potential problems and solve them before they reach crisis proportions. Leaders have an ability to identify and reap potential windfalls. Good leaders analyze and plan, then adapt their plans to changing circumstances and opportunities.

3. “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader” John Quincy Adams – Actions still speak louder than words, particularly when your philosophies and behavior motivate people to do their best work. Nothing builds and sustains credibility like someone who leads by example.

4. “The final test of a leader is that he leaves behind him in other men the conviction and the will to carry on.” Walter Lipmann – John Maxwell calls it The Law of Legacy – A leader’s lasting value is measured by succession. Leaders develop and grow people, people who will help to build and lead the future of the enterprise.

5. “The leaders who work most effectively, it seems to me, never say ‘I’. And that’s not because they have trained themselves not to say ‘I’. They don’t think ‘I’. They think ‘we’; they think ‘team’. They understand their job to be to make the team function. They accept responsibility and don’t sidestep it, but ‘we’ gets the credit…. This is what creates trust, what enables you to get the task done.” Peter F. Drucker – Developing the confidence and capability of your people will raise their self-belief. Show them you believe in their potential. Encourage them to take risks. Help them to learn when things go wrong . A leader who boosts the self-esteem of people will always be more successful in retaining people.

6. “Leaders are more powerful role models when they learn than when they teach.” Rosabeth Moss Kantor – Great leaders have the ability to gain knowledge, acquire skills and adapt behaviours to achieve their goals. They always improve their skills and learn. They study people and learn how to effectively interact with them. They understand the importance of continuous learning. Leaders have the ability to ‘unlearn’ old behaviours and develop new ones.

7. “Whatever happens, take responsibility.” Anthony Robbins – It’s easy take credit when things go right, and shift the blame when things go wrong. It’s particularly tempting for a leader. A leader is positioned to blame just about anyone and anything when things go wrong. However, as a leader, you must take responsibility. When things go wrong, if your first instinct is to look for someone to blame, stop. Ask instead, “what can I do to help fix this?” You’ll only get better at what’s under your control.

In summary, a leader:

  1. Has a vision
  2. Has a plan
  3. Leads by example
  4. Develops people
  5. Builds confidence in people
  6. Keeps learning
  7. Takes responsibility

Look at this list above and ask, how well do I stack up against these seven points? What ONE thing could I start doing that will enhance my skills as a leader?

The R’s Of Employee Motivation

If you think your employee’s poor performance is costing you profit, instead of overhauling your employee roster, why not try motivating them to become better employees? Smart managers never overlook this fact: loyal, productive employees are one of your biggest assets. From corporate cubicles to the factory floor, the collective skills and efforts of people keep your operation going.

You can easily set the right tone in the workplace by learning to respond to a basic need we all share… which is to be respected and valued.

What you need?
You know I got it!

R-e-s-p-e-c-t

Everyone wants to be treated with respect.

As a manager, your words, body language, even your facial expressions make a huge difference in how employees perceive your opinion of them. For instance, extending common courtesies such as “Good morning” or a nod as you pass others in the hallway says to them that they are not invisible to you.

Other demonstrations of respect could include asking employees for suggestions to improve operations and/or management. It’s another way of saying, “I respect and value your opinions.”

And never forget, meeting in private, with an employee who may have missed the mark says, “I respect you enough not to embarrass you in front of your co-workers…”

Recognition

Two powerful words are important in employee motivation… “Great Job!”

By recognizing the work of others, you motivate them to keep working. You’ll find that regularly giving verbal or written praise for a job well done goes a long way in making employees feel appreciated. If workers feel that they play an important part in the company by the work they provide, they are much more likely to seek ways to improve their performance.

Reward

While cash incentives are a sure way to put a smile on an employee’s face, there are other creative ways to motivate employees through “thoughtful” gestures.

For individual rewards, how about gift certificates for DVD rentals, music CD purchases, theme park tickets or “Dinner for 2″ at a local eatery?

For group or departmental appreciations, consider a “Leave Work 30 Minutes Early Next Friday” reward. Or once-a-month, spring for dessert treats in honor of those celebrating birthdays in that calendar month. You are limited only by your imagination and budget.

Placing respect, recognition and reward at the heart of your employee motivation efforts will serve to boost morale, increase productivity and positively affect the company’s bottom-line. A WIN-WIN-WIN situation for all.

(These are not original thoughts, I’ve seen this piece attributed to various writers.)

10 Conversations That Can Transform Your Workplace

I’ll bet there’s plenty of conversation in your workplace — about today’s tasks, about that rush order, about that sudden snag, about the project that should have been done yesterday. But do you and your colleagues ever step off the task treadmill and talk about the workplace itself? If you work full time until retirement age, you’re going to log at least 90,000 hours on the job. Doesn’t it make sense to spend a few of those hours teaming up with co-workers to figure out how to make the workplace better?

Sure it does, but that only sparks more questions: What exactly should you talk about? How do you keep the conversation from turning into a gripe session? Is there a way to make meaningful discoveries instead of talking on and on about the obvious?

That’s what this Top 10 list is all about. It gives you thought-provoking questions guaranteed to open up worthwhile conversation about your workplace. Share the list with colleagues, select the one or two questions that seem most relevant, then set aside some time to talk. There are no right or wrong answers, and you don’t need a full day for this. Just an hour or so of dialogue, with ears and minds wide open, will deepen everyone’s understanding and point the way to practical improvement.

  1. Mind-engaging work
    When was the last time you got so caught up in interesting work that you lost track of time? What were you doing? What was it — about the work itself, how you were going about it, its connection to a greater good — that made this such a wonderfully consuming activity?
  2. Seeing the fruits of your labor
    When you want to see the results of your work, what do you look at? How do you know that your effort is having a positive impact? If you could wave a wand and instantly create a more meaningful system for tracking results, what would it look like?
  3. Positive problems
    John W. Gardner observed, “We are continually faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as insoluble problems.” What is your biggest insoluble problem? What makes it so tough to tackle, and what is the great opportunity that lies within? How would you go about pursuing this opportunity if you divided the challenge into manageable steps?
  4. Meetings, meetings, and more meetings
    How many hours do you spend each week in meetings? How many of these hours are well spent, and how many are wasted? If you could redirect that unproductive time to worthwhile activity, what would you do?
  5. The voice of the customer
    When your customers talk about your organization behind your back, what do you think they say? Who has the highest praise, who is most critical, and why? Now think about your own immediate customers: When they talk about you personally (and you know they do!), what do they likely say?
  6. The community-individuality balance
    What gets greater emphasis in your workplace: teamwork and togetherness, or individuality and diversity? If it’s teamwork and togetherness, does the pursuit of unity prompt people to downplay their differences? If individuality and diversity are the main focus, does the workplace ever feel like a loose collection of conflicting styles and agendas? What can be done to maintain a good balance between unity and uniqueness?
  7. From passive complaints to positive action
    What is your biggest complaint about the workplace? Now, rephrase it in the form of a positive goal. Here’s an example: “I’m tired of busywork. I spend half my day crunching numbers that no one looks at.” Here’s the corresponding positive goal: “I’d like to spend my time on work that relates to our mission and affects our customers. If my number-crunching has real value, I’d like to know exactly how.” After defining the goal, think action: What can you and others do to make it happen?
  8. Giving and getting respect
    Johann von Goethe said, “The way you see people is the way you treat them, and the way you treat them is what they become.” What did Goethe mean, and how does this play itself out in your workplace? What could be done right now to make respect one of the workplace’s greatest strengths?
  9. Can we talk?
    Is there an elephant in your workplace — a big problem or concern that no one ever talks about? Something that’s well-known to all and in desperate need of dialogue? If so, why is the elephant so unacknowledged? What are the risks of talking about it? What are the potential benefits?
  10. Empowering yourself
    “If I had just a bit more authority at work, I would _____.” Fill in the blank with several actions you’d like to take right now to be more effective in your job. Then explore why you can’t. What’s holding you back? What is the one action you can get started on right now?

Tom Terez is a speaker, workshop leader, and author of “22 Keys to Creating a Meaningful Workplace.” His company, Next Level Workplace, helps organizations find smart ways to make the most of their most important resource. Contact: http://nextlevelworkplace.com/form/ or call (614) 571-9529.

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5 Tips for Effective Delegation

As a manager/supervisor, you just can’t do it all. To achieve effective results, you need to able to delegate projects and work to others. By effective delegation, you communicate to your employees that you have confidence in their ability to complete a job or project.

  1. Define the task and identify the outcome, not the process

    The process that works for you may not work for others. Maybe you’ve been doing a job one way, because that’s how you were taught 20 years ago. When delegating, describe the successful outcome and let the person to find their best way to completion. Who knows, you might learn something from them.

  2. Give enough authority to accomplish the task

    If the person receiving the task has to get approval at every or most step of the way, you might as well have done the job yourself. Turn the employee loose, with the resources to achieve the desired outcomes.

  3. Monitor the process, but allow people room to work

    Don’t micro-manage! (See tip 2.)

  4. Make yourself available for support or feedback

    Just because you’re not micro-managing doesn’t mean you disappear completely. Let the delagatee know that you are there to answer questions or to review milestones.

  5. Reward and recognize effort as well as results

    An employee who is trying a task for the first time, may not get the whole thing correct. Make sure you recognize and reward the effort expended and the steps done well. Then, the next time you delegate, they will be able to build on the successes of the earlier effort.

Plus: Don’t dump your garbage jobs on your employees. Delegation is not an excuse to get rid of the crap you don’t want to do. You employees will recognize that strategy and will not see it as a development opportunity.

Through effective delegation, you can expand the range of what you can accomplish, as well as developing the skills and strengths of the team you manage.

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Three Deadly Sins of Leadership

Some time ago a magazine writer asked me a probing question. She asked, “In your opinion and experience, what are the three most destructive things a leader can do to wreck an organization?” Actually, it’s a profound question with many possible significant answers. I considered both effective and ineffective leaders I had encountered in my business experience. I pondered what could be, in my opinion, the three worst things a leader could do. Although many different things came to mind, I settled on three attributes that I had personally observed, or been subjected to, as being most destructive from a strategic point of view. It was necessary to discount numerous tactical behaviors that may appear destructive at the moment, but in the large scheme pale by comparison to the more strategic negative behaviors.

A few of the leadership behaviors I considered before I gave my final answers included such things as poor communication skills, poor delegation skills, poor team building skills, too much tactical thinking, poor coaching skills, poor empowerment skills, and poor feedback skills. Any of these behaviors could be the three worst leadership behaviors, but I opted instead for things that I had personally observed as being highly destructive to not only people, but also to things, activities and processes.

My three answers were: 1) Personal Arrogance, 2) Inflexible Position, and 3) a belief in Self-Resolution. Inasmuch as these three attributes constitute a wide range of specific behaviors, permit me to describe each one in more detail.

1. Personal Arrogance. Another way to describe arrogance is pride. Although there are clearly good aspects of being proud, pride can also be a handicap to effective leadership. First, let’s look at the good side of pride. Leaders, managers and individual contributors can take pride in their job, an assignment, a task, or even a procedure. And such pride can be a motivator to perform well, thoroughly, and with a high degree of quality. So taking pride in one’s job can be a positive attribute for any worker.

But unfortunately, there is a negative side to personal pride that I call unhealthy pride. When a person uses pride to the determent of others, then it can be a destructive rather than positive trait. Ezra Taft Benson said, “The proud make [people] their adversary by pitting their intellects, opinions, works, wealth, talents or any other device against others.” In the words of C.S. Lewis: “Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next [person]. It is the comparison that makes [a person] proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition [or comparison] has gone, pride has gone.” So at the heart of unhealthy pride is judging oneself as superior to others.

The truth is that pride is often a liability that people often see in other people, long before they are willing to admit that it exists in themselves. This makes the proud unteachable, untouchable, and often unreachable when it comes to leadership development. Excessive pride in a leader can create executive isolation and insulation where lines of communication are disrupted at the most, or faulty at the least.

It is executive pride and the lack of personal humility that causes a leader to be convinced that his or her decisions are infallible and unchallengeable. Over time this creates in an organization a climate of fear, blind obedience and compartmentalization. Organizational compartmentalization occurs when workers feel most safe with their chin on their chest doing only what is necessary to keep from being disciplined or fired. There is in this dysfunctional climate no creativity, empowerment, risk taking, or free speech. Decision quality is, therefore, very poor. Chin on chest mentality negates the possibility of employees thinking or acting in a strategic manner.

2. Inflexible Position. I currently teach leadership development workshops for several clients. Within these courses is a module titled, “Flexible Leadership.” The primary learning point of the module is helping leaders understand that “one size does not fit all.” People are individuals and situations are situational. So when a leader approaches a situation in an organization he or she must demonstrate enough flexibility of position and ability to treat each person and situation differently. Rigid thinking and inflexible positions typically shut down lines of communication.

It’s surprising how many leaders become dogmatic with their personal opinions, preferences and biases and as a result struggle with flexibility and adaptability. This might relate to unhealthy personal pride, or it could be insecurity, or it might even be inexperience. Whatever the cause, holding fast to an opinion or belief in the face of unconsidered different courses of action seriously limits decision quality. We know from mountains of evidence that decision quality usually follows a path of divergent thinking, following by facilitated convergent thinking. Stated another way, the best idea usually follows many considered ideas. Conversely, the worst idea often follows a leader’s unwillingness to consider the ideas of others.

3. Problem Self-Resolution. Several years ago a large portion of my consulting practice was helping organizations implement a system of process improvement. While assisting literally hundreds of functional and cross-functional teams as they endeavored to create and modify organizational processes, I observed an all too often tendency of some leaders who were supposed to empower the teams. These ineffective sponsors of teams had a belief that if a problem was left alone long enough that it might spontaneously fix itself. Some of these leaders clearly lacked enough courage to confront broken processes and uncooperative employees. Others just didn’t want to upset the apple cart, so they would drag their heels in challenging and motivating teams.

Jack Welch said, “Leaders must face reality as it is and not as they may have constructed it.” The reality is that very few organizational process problems ever fix themselves to an effective level. Rather, most problems dealing with people and processes typically get worse over time, not better. Indeed, sometimes problems may go on vacation for a short time and give the appearance of being resolved, but a few weeks later they crop back up with even more steam.

Effective leaders must have the courage and ability to recognize problems when they occur, acknowledge that they need to be resolved, and work diligently to make them go away. Anything less than that will add fuel to the fire and the problems will grow into major disruptions.

Summary

I am unaware of what happened to the information I gave to the writer who asked for my list of the worst leader behaviors. Perhaps it ended up in a book, leadership development class, article, or trashcan, I don’t know. Nonetheless, the exercise of deciding on three negative attributes gave me an opportunity to consider not only good leader behaviors, but also the bad ones as well.

Perhaps the lesson in this article is to ask the following questions: “Am I guilty of any of these ineffective behaviors? Do I diligently create a climate for my followers that is open, honest, positive, motivating, and beneficial to both people and the organization? Am I willing to self-assess my effectiveness and make appropriate changes?” Give it some thought and tell me what you think.

Dr. Richard L. Williams is a business consultant specializing in leadership development, organizational development/diagnostics, performance coaching, quality improvement, and team development. If you would like to learn more about Leadership Development, contact Dr. Rick Williams or the CMOE team or contact us at 888-262-2499.

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