• STRATEGY

    STRATEGY

    leads to confident rest while its adversaries toil.
  • STRATEGY

    STRATEGY

    is  both an art and science. Good strategy will result from neither independently.
  • STRATEGY

    STRATEGY

    can be overlooked when resources are abundant and margins for error are wide. But when environments are competitive, strategy separates those who survive from those who perish.
  • STRATEGIC ABSENCE

    STRATEGIC ABSENCE

    kills organizations. It’s people drown in an ocean of activities whose undertow moves faster than it’s the strongest swimmer.
  • STRATEGIC LEADERSHIP

    STRATEGIC LEADERSHIP

    organizes and induces a resonant oscillation that knocks down every obstacle, scales every wall and wins every battle.
  • STRATEGIC LEADERSHIP

    STRATEGIC LEADERSHIP

    never  tires. It only expends critical energy and resources on the highest value activities.
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3 Powerful Messaging Campaigns in Which Every Leader Should Engage

 

Our leadership has become too “technique” and “process” oriented.

 

Throughout my 30 years as a passionate student of leadership, I witnessed leaders spewing “technique-leadership” virtually everywhere. Rarely did I catch a glimpse of the type of leadership that truly motivates and inspires others. Ironically, most leaders WANT to be motivational and inspirational, they WANT to develop their team members and yet they migrate to the “easy-tactical-do’s” instead of leading from an authentic, transparent heart.

 

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We’ve all seen these technique-process-leaders, in fact, we’ve all BEEN them at one time or another. We develop result oriented contests in hopes that competition and reward motivates. We look for opportunities to pat someone on the back in person or through an email to say, “great job” in hopes that we inspire them. And, we religiously follow a feedback mechanism template and collaborate with our employees to develop action plans concerning their 2 or 3 strengths and their 2 or 3 opportunities - “Now let’s check back with each other in six months and see how you’re doing on these”, we say. Sound familiar? Don’t get me wrong, these are all things in which leaders ought to be engaged. But, no matter how many of these tactics you layer on top of one another, true inspiration will still be rare and authentic motivation will continue to be fleeting in your organization.  

 

My experience has been, that in almost all cases, it is not WHAT you do, but HOW you do it that matters.  And when I say “how” (when it comes to communication and developing others), I mean a combination of the content it contains and the orientation of the heart from which it comes. There are three primary messages of content and heart that ought to be formed into leadership-habit, unfortunately, they elude most leaders today.

 

1. Point to differentiated strength.

 

So often, as leaders, we point to the objective things, the empirical things, but that’s not what makes someone truly feel valuable. They need to know that, as their leader, you see something that makes THEM special, not simply what they do. And this flies in the face of so many risk-mitigation-oriented training programs for leaders. Most organizations reinforce a result-oriented culture by teacher leaders how to tie all meaningful conversations to results:

 

  • “Great job Morgan, you led your team to a number one finish last quarter!”
  • “Way to go Justin, you continue to hit your financial target!”

 

This is easy and it seems sooooo fair, I mean who can argue, these are objective results. And, who wouldn’t want their boss to recognize that they are leading their teams to achieve these important metrics, after all, these are the things that make up their performance reviews and their incentive pay criteria. But, though it is important to recognize these things, they should not be the primary messaging coming from leadership. A subordinate leader is inspired the first time they hear “Great job for finishing #1”. They are motivated to repeat this performance many times after that, but eventually the message to the organization becomes, “Your leadership is only as good as the results you deliver today.” Some of you are thinking, “Well, that’s right, we hire our leaders to deliver results!” That’s true, but YOU were hired to motivate, inspire and develop them. And, in the long term, absent of something deeper, this will not only lose its effectiveness, it will backfire.

 

Think about these approaches, but more importantly try to hear the important content and the heart that underlies the message:

 

  • “Morgan, I just called you to thank you. I know we talked about your team finishing number one last quarter and that’s awesome. But here’s what is more important to me. I sat in on your leader meeting prior to last quarter and thought, wow, she and her team did such a nice job simplifying and aligning to the things that would be necessary to be successful. And, as I’ve talked with some of your key leaders, I get the feel that they really appreciate the work you do simplifying and aligning your team’s efforts. In fact, as I thought about this, I realized that this is a real strength of yours - in conversations I’ve had with you - in meetings with our customers - and in the way you communicate with anyone in your organization. This is a strength that I don’t see in very many leaders. Just know that you have this strength and continue to be conscious of it, to leverage it, to cultivate it.”

 

  • “Justin, I’ve been thinking about the results that you’ve been delivering, and I’m grateful. You hit your financials again this period, great job! I just want you to know that I am not surprised by this performance. One of the things that I’ve learned about you over the past year, is that you have this sixth sense for seeing the forest through the trees… for quickly identifying the nature of a problem amidst all the noise that surrounds it. And maybe you learned this or it is just instinctual for you, but you dig deep enough into your business to know where all the problems are. I’ve noticed this in our leader meetings. You know enough about the details of our operation that you are always speaking from a degree of experience, but even more so, you always help the team cut through the erroneous stuff and lead us to the point where critical thinking needs to take place. This seems to me to be both a blessing and a learned skill. Just know that it sets you apart and that you should leverage this rare talent and cultivate it.”

 

Most leaders will believe who they are, what they can accomplish and who they can become based on less than ten interactions in their formidable years. You must make sure that a few of these are with you and that they are meaningful. Those in your charge deserve you looking at what they do more deliberately. They deserve to have you thinking deeply about who they are and who they can be. And most importantly, they need you to be a catalyst for them to consider the things about themselves that transcend the ups and downs of business cycles and their circumstances. When you play this role, they will be inspired to always bring their best to work.

 

2. Invest in their development.

 

OK, let’s be clear, this isn’t spending money on a class or seminar that promises to address a so-called “gap” in their leadership tool kit - Organizational skills or influence ability lacking? Send them to Franklin Covey’s training or a buy them the book “How to win friends and influence people”. Again, not bad things to do, in fact they are good things for some people. But these too have short half-lives. Every time a leader bought me a book or paid for special training for me, I was grateful and I recognized that they thought about me for at least 5 minutes. Actually, in many cases, they thought about it for less time as they had their administrative assistant buy the book, or corporate gave them money for the training, they just allocated a little for me. Truly investing in another’s development means investing your time and your intellect.

 

 

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Think about someone on your team who needs to address some leadership opportunities. If someone were to ask them right now, what are the two or three things that YOU, their boss, think they need to improve upon, would they say what YOU are thinking? If the answer is no, then you have a huge gap to fill. But my guess is that they might say something like, “She needs me to deliver better results”, or “I’m just not the type of style-leader that he likes”. Think about that, is there anything more depressing, more negatively motivating?

 

First, you must spend enough time to put a collaborative finger on what he or she needs to DO differently to perform better, to lead more effectively. Second, you need to invest the intellectual capital to help find the words that that bring clarity to you and to them about YOUR expectations and their leadership or action opportunities. Lastly, you must invest the time to communicate, collaborate and follow up – not as a process-technique, but as a clear message that YOU have invested both time and intellectual experience and effort into THEM. In most of the organizations within which I worked, I always OVER-invested my time with leader’s personal development. I did this ‘one to three levels down’ in the organization so that my reputation as their leader screamed, “My heart is vested in YOUR success, because 1) this is what I think about a lot and 2) this is where I pour my time.”

 

Never walk away from time spent with one of your team members without having a conversation about what they want to improve upon and how they think they can do that. And then, follow up with them, after truly thinking through their ideas. Don’t accept their ideas unless they are right. YOU have the experience, you should have the wisdom as their leader to help them refine their thoughts, their goals and their prescribed actions. Yet, if they are right, make sure you write them or talk with them and say something like, “Alison, I’ve been thinking about how you want to deliver more through your team and the actions you described to me. I don’t think I could action plan that any better. I think you have keen insights into your strengths and your opportunities and I am 100% behind you. Let me know what else I can do for you. I am excited to see what you will do, working this thoughtful plan that you walked me through last week.”

 

If your heart is more invested in your results than it is in the development of the human beings that comprise your organization, your leadership processes & techniques will sound like screeching, piercing bloviation to those on whom your results rely (Almost every leader agrees with this and yet most cannot resist talking about results-only, 99% of the time). OVER-invest your time and your intellect in their personal development. NOTHING is more important to the human-capital-health of a sustainable organization. NOTHING.

 

3. Describe how “what they do” makes “you feel”

 

This is the hardest thing for leaders to do and yet, in my opinion, is the most important “tell” of a leader’s heart. And make no mistake, people follow their leader’s heart more than anything else. Here are a couple examples of what I mean:

 

  • “Tyler, I just called to tell you that I appreciate what you are doing for the company, for your customers and frankly, for me. I have many people in my organization that do something similar to what you do, as you know. But YOU make my job much, much easier and enjoyable. You solve problems before they become crisis. You continue to develop more positive relationships with your customers and push them to continuously consider new ways to look at our partnership with them. And most importantly, your people love working for you because you put in the time and the energy to lead the right way. I was just thinking to myself this morning, man I appreciate what Tyler does. He makes my life better. Just know that I feel blessed to have you on the team and am grateful for what you do.”

 

  • “Alissa, I just wanted to let you know that beyond the great results you are delivering, you are making a much bigger impact. Over the past couple of weeks, I have interacted with some of your team and your customers. You are doing a great job with both constituencies. This is very hard to do, but you are doing it well. Your customers really appreciate what you and your team are delivering for them. And your team really respects you and believes that you are helping them achieve more, and looking out for their best interests. Who you are as a leader, how you treat your people and your customers makes me feel proud to be part of this organization. And, I know many others feel the same way. Thanks for what you do, and more importantly how you do it. You are influencing more people in a bigger way than I think you know.”

 

Take Action

 

After 30 years of leading and studying many, many other leaders, if I had advice for future leaders it would be this:

 

  • Point to differentiated strengths in those who call you ‘boss” and articulate them well.
  • Invest in their development with your time and your intellect.
  • Describe to them HOW “what they do” makes you FEEL (even if it feels a little awkward).

 

If you do these things well and sincerely from your heart, you will have a team of people who will run through wall after wall for you.

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