Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Six Key Leadership Lessons from Captain Ron Johnson

The other day I heard Police Captain Ron Johnson at a press conference trying to calm the fears of the people of Ferguson, MO. As I listened to him, six key leadership traits emerged:

1 - Honesty- A question was asked about whether the initial comments by the Ferguson Police Chief were handled correctly, and he answered that it was not and he would be speaking with the Police Chief.

2- Listening- When people said they could not hear him, he moved closer to the crowd to make sure they could hear what he was saying.

3- Communication-He acknowledged that they authorities had not communicated well. Then he gave his personal commitment to helping improve communication between police and the people in the community.

4- Respect-He wanted the community to respect each other and their community and called on the protesters not to destroy their neighborhood.

5- Accountability- He challenged the community to follow him that evening and to walk with him.

6- Strength- He stood in front of the community and nation, and with a high level of articulation, outlined his thoughts and his commitment to the community to push for calm and ultimately justice.

Unfortunately, the next day some of the people of Ferguson and quite possibly outside agitators felt more comfortable with ginning up the crowd and feeding the fears and anger of the people of Ferguson.

It’s disheartening to see people destroying their own community and displaying such venom  and anger without getting all of the facts and letting the justice system work.

This morning I saw another news conference with Captain Ron Johnson, and he had a look on his face of disappointment. Despite the fact that some chose to disregard his plea for calm, his leadership still was a beacon to me that leadership is not lost, and I am hopeful that his leadership will prevail.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

3 Steps to Building an Accountable Organization

"He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else."  Benjamin Franklin

Today we hear a lot about accountability, but it appears that holding people responsible for their behavior and their actions is a lost art.  Accountability, too many times, seems like a corporate buzzword. True accountability is when you are held responsible for your actions and the decisions you make.

Accountability may not be as easy as 1-2-3, but here are 3 steps that can result in an accountable organization.

1.  Provide Clear Expectations - You cannot hold someone accountable if they do not know what they are being accountable for. The clearer the goals and expectations, the less time you will spend managing poor performance or misaligned expectations.

2.  Monitor and Measure - Setting clear goals with the appropriate metrics allows employees to know how they are doing and whether they are meeting expectations. You need information if you are going to measure their performance. It also allows them to know how they are doing against stated goals. This is also a good time to provide constructive feedback.

3.  Don't Compromise - If there are consequences for not meeting expectations, you must, for the good of the organization, hold people strictly accountable for the results.  However, if they are consistently meeting expectations, they should be rewarded for their performance.

Lastly, before you can hold anyone accountable you must hold yourself accountable. 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Hate or Hazing

It really bothers me when I hear the way some commentators or sports figures talk about leadership. Just because a player can hit a lot of home runs or throw a football sixty yards from his knees does not make him a leader. When I see players in the news for a DUI or for getting into a bar fight and then hear all of his teammates talking about his leadership on the field it just drives me crazy!

Leaders lead both on and off the field, in and out of the clubhouse. For those of us who work for a company, we must demonstrate leadership both at work and at home. I think some who call themselves leaders believe leadership is like a hat you can put on or take off.

Currently, there is a scandal going on with the Miami Dolphins in which one of the so-called leaders on the team is accused of hazing a fellow teammate. This same person doing the hazing was elected to serve on the team's leadership counsel. REALLY! This person that is accused of the hazing has a history of misconduct and yet, someone thought he had the qualifications to serve on the counsel. What's worse is that he has the support of the majority of his teammates.

With all of this being played out in the media, what is the message being sent to our young people, especially ones playing organized sports? It's ok to haze a teammate, spew all kinds of racial epithets all in the name of toughening a player up. Is that the message we want to send?

Some say this has been going on, and is going on right now on many NFL teams. I DO NOT CARE!  Don't get me wrong, I am not talking about harmless traditions like having a rookie carry a veteran's equipment or buy donuts for the team. What I am talking about is the malicious and downright evil abuse of a person. I do not see how using racial name calling is going to make a person better or tougher.

What if the person who was being hazed hauled off and knocked the teammate out and hurt them where they were unable to play football? Or worse yet, what if the player got sick and tired of the abuse and went to his car and pulled a gun and shot the bully? 

Would he be justified? NO!  What would happen is that the media would start the whirlwind of trying to figure out how this happened and would begin to speculate as to what would motivate a player to shoot one of his teammates.

Well who is to blame? I blame the league and the team who allowed this type of behavior to take place. I blame them for a lack of leadership. I blame them for not going after this behavior with the same vigor as helmet to helmet hits or "Bounty Gate." From what I am hearing from current and former players, the teams and the league know this is going on.

For those of you who condone this type of behavior, let me ask you this question, how would you react if someone called you a vile name? What if the person said they would slap your mother or kill you? If you can honestly say that it would be okay with you...let me stop there.

I normally don't vent like this, but I just could not hold back. Bullying must stop! If you are a leader on a team or working in a company and you witness this type of behavior, step up and be a real leader and demand that it stops!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Employees vs. Profits

“I wish I was older so I could retire.”
“The company just isn’t what it used to be.”
“The company has lost the vision of the founder.”

These were just a few comments that I read in a string of Facebook posts.  The company that the employees were referring to will remain nameless. The name isn’t as important as the sentiments of the employees.

This once great company, although still profitable, has lost its way.  Some might say, “As long as it is profitable what’s the issue?”

I have spoken with current employees of the company, and they say it is not the same as it once was. It is all about the numbers and no longer about customer service or proper treatment of employees.  IF YOU DON’T LIKE IT LEAVE. YOU SHOULD BE HAPPY JUST TO HAVE A JOB!

Although these statements may be true, using them as a tool to silence employees is not the way any of us would want to be treated.

That’s the issue.

It’s my opinion that most employees understand the importance of profits and are willing to work hard to produce them. However, they also know that in order for any company to succeed, it needs a solid team of employees who are aligned with the goals of the company in order for the organization to achieve them.

Most employees want to be proud of the company they work for, and they also want to feel that they are a valued part of their company’s success.  When leadership is focused primarily on profits and productivity as most important, employees, instead, get the message that the company does not care about them.

Examples of poor leadership are all around us. Many of us can point to numerous individuals who demonstrate extraordinarily poor leadership. With the current up and down state of the economy, there is a lot of pressure on companies to perform at a very high level. Let me be clear, there is nothing wrong with profits, they sustain jobs and fuel growth. However, if a company is to remain sustainable, it will need a team of individuals who are engaged with the vision and mission of the organization.

If you are a leader of a company, what do you think current and former employees say about your organization?

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The New Age of Leadership

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit the new offices of two up and coming entrepreneurs. A sister and brother combination who, while having coffee together one day, came up with the idea of starting a software company. Their idea is to bring all social media, email, voice mail and text together in a usable platform that will not only increase productivity, but will allow for collaborative work groups to be more innovative and efficient.

Their company is not the real reason for this post, but it is their vision and leadership I find inspiring. It was this vision that led them to create a company that now has 8 employees and is continuing to grow. Their leadership has captured the attention of several large technology firms in the Silicon Valley.

Oh, did I mention that one of them is 18 and the other is 21 years old?

If our country is to regain our position as a world leader in innovation, it will be through the efforts of the next generation of leaders. I am encouraged because they see the results of the dreadfully poor leadership in Washington and want to take a different path. 

These two incredible young people have set a course in leadership that will take them and their team to the top.  It's not often that you see such strong leadership characteristics in the youth of today. The foundation of their leadership was established by the love and support of their parents who are tremendous leaders in their own right.

At the end of my time touring their office and meeting their team, I left inspired and charged up to focus on the new opportunities to enhance my leadership skills.

In this time in our country's history we need true leaders to take their place on the world stage and lead with strength and humility, (these characteristics are not in conflict).

How are you leading? What can you do to be a better leader?  

Thursday, October 10, 2013

It Starts With You

How's business?  Are you meeting your objectives? No?

When things are not going as planned, look at yourself. As a leader, if you are not getting the results you want, it is easy to look around and point a finger at someone else. If you are not getting the outcomes you are looking for, ask yourself:

Have I made my expectations clear?
Am I holding my team accountable for the actions they have committed to?
Do I have the right people in place who are capable of doing the job?
Am I holding myself accountable for the results?

Once you can answer these questions honestly, you can implement a strategy that will allow you to re-calibrate your team for success.

Ultimately, you, as the leader, are accountable for the results. It's part of being a leader.

I always say, "When we win, the team gets the credit, and when we lose, I take the blame."  That's leadership.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Delusional Leadership

-Because there is a lack vision, there is no direction- 

As I looked in his eyes I asked him the question, "How do you rate yourself as a leader on a scale from 1-10?”

His answer?  “About an 8.”

Now, I know you have no idea of whom I am referring to, and it is just as well. The important point is that this is a person who has seen his business decline dramatically, and he has no answers for the slide. The question I asked was to help him personally analyze his leadership with respect to the overall performance of his company. As we continued to talk, it became quite apparent that he did not believe his leadership was the reason for the poor performance.

This is what I call delusional leadership. This is when a leader has lost touch with his team and a connection to his business.  In this case, he did not even see a need to change how he saw himself as a leader. This is delusional thinking.

He attributed the poor performance to others and to bad luck. However, upon closer inspection and introspection, we find that the real reason for the decline of the business is a lack of vision and a lack of accountability from the top to the bottom.

After digging a little deeper, he realized that the quality of his leadership was and is the reason for his company's poor performance. His commitment to addressing his weaknesses as a leader is the key to the future success of his company. 

Great leaders are always assessing their leadership performance and seek out constructive feedback from others to help them to continue to grow. They have to be honest with themselves and personally hold themselves accountable for the results.

How about you? What steps are you taking to grow your leadership? Are you getting the results you are looking for?

If not, it is time that you take a hard look at how you are leading and seek out trusted counsel from others whose leadership and character you trust.

-If you don't know where you are going, how do you know when you get there?-