Leadership Moments: Get Out of Your Own Way

We have met the enemy and he is us”

Walt Kelly, From the Pogo comic strip

Do you find yourself tugged in two different directions?  One direction is comfortable, safe, and known, but boring, tired, or done. The other direction is new, your next big move and scary! It means that you must make a change. So, you play around with the idea, like a cat plays with a toy. You push it around, throw it in the air, and then abandon it. You want to commit to the new thing, but you can’t just yet, you need to play with it, until you start to feel comfortable… and you never really get comfortable with the idea, so you continue to the play cat games endlessly.

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How to Have Your Ideas Heard

You have an idea that you think is great, how do you get buy in?

New ideas mean change and people don’t like change. They want to know what’s in it for them and how affects them, because it moves them out of their comfort zone into anxiety.

The Problem

Women and minorities have trouble when it comes to having their ideas heard. Men may underestimate or dismiss women and minorities if they are quiet or introverted. However, they are labelled as aggressive if they speak up.

Timing and the audience you are pitching your idea to, may affect whether your idea is heard or not.

Ways to Present Your Idea

These are suggestions as to how to have your voice and idea heard:

  • Present your idea clearly and rationally to the decision maker.
  • Ask questions, this will help people see things from another perspective.
  • Speak up during discussions or meetings.
  • Encourage others to speak up (especially if they are quiet or introverted).
  • Make helpful suggestions to improve a process, which doesn’t add to the cost.
  • Volunteer to participate on a committee or special project.
  • Find a champion to help you present your idea.
  • Build on a point someone else made as a springboard to present your idea. For example, Jane made an excellent point about XXX, I’d like to build on it.
  • Caution: Defend your point or position-this tactic can alienate people because it puts them on the defensive, so use this one with care.

Know Your Audience

No matter what your idea is, you need to raise awareness.

I used to feel discouraged when I presented my idea to a decision maker, and they didn’t love it like I did. Their rejection made me think that it was a bad idea. I would go away, analyze the idea, and test my assumptions. Only after I did this, and I was convinced that it was a good idea, I reframed my thinking. I realized that the timing wasn’t right and there were pressing issues that took priority over my idea, so I tried again when I felt the timing was better.

Not all ideas are good, so be ready for a no. Be open to suggestions. The idea may need a revamp, a rethink, or a trash can dump.

Sometimes you may have to walk away from your idea if the decision makers are not ready for it, even when you are convinced it is sound, doable, important, and would make things better. Use it as an opportunity to learn from the situation.

Another Way

“Dripping water hollows out stone, not through force but through persistence.”

― Ovid

It can be hard to get attention or buy-in for an idea. I stumbled across this method-the dripping water method by accident. This way isn’t for everyone, but I found it an effective way to influence thinking.

The idea is presented subtly and repeatedly over time to raise awareness. Once others are aware, familiar, and understand it, the idea gains momentum and it becomes easier to accept.

Example

I was involved with a project that had the potential to improve processes and outcomes on a national level. Unfortunately, poor leadership, lack of direction, missing information, and a compressed timeline put us at risk.

Luckily, I was also a member of a sub-committee that was tasked with looking at the impacts and risks of proceeding.

I repeatedly raised my concerns (dripping water) along with a solution to the decision makers in my organization. I enlisted champions to help raise the level of awareness and urgency. As a result, we used external subject matter experts to provide the missing information to members of the project team. This helped the project team make the necessary adjustments for a successful project.

Was this a lot of work? Yes! Our goal was to get the best outcome and we did.  

Takeaway

So, what does being heard have to do with a leadership mindset?

Being able to communicate your ideas successfully is what separates leaders from followers.

Obviously, there are a lot of ways to get your idea across. Keys to being heard are raising awareness and knowing your audience.

  • If the audience is willing to listen, your persistence will pay off.
  • If the audience is unwilling or unable to listen to your idea, you need to let it go and move on. “Ask yourself is this a hill to die on?”

I found great success with the dripping water method for long term and strategic issues, but it is more work and takes more time.  

People will pitch their idea in a way that is comfortable for them. Don’t be afraid to find your voice and use it.

Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

Leadership Moments

Leadership is a series of moments in life that defines our character and the impact we have on others in our corner of the world. A leadership moment is when we are intentional about what we say or do and that decision either builds or destroys. A moment like when:  

  • You told someone that they made your life better.
  • Someone told you that you made a difference in their life. 
  • You told or showed your staff or family how much you appreciated them.
  • You gave money to a stranger down on his luck, bought him lunch, or paid for his groceries, and…
    • didn’t tell everyone you knew what you did.

If you have given freely to others, then you know that you were both changed by the transaction-in that instant your caring made a difference, you showed that person that they mattered. Who knows, it could have changed their life or yours!

It is the little things we do in an instant, that add up over time that shape the decisions we make and the leaders we become.

I challenge you to build your legacy by taking and acknowledging leadership moments in yourself and others.

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Great Managers-Here’s What the Gallup Report Found

I came across this 2015 Gallup report, “The State of the American Manager: Analytics and Advice for Leaders,” and wanted to share these interesting findings. Gallup has studied this issue globally for over forty years and concluded that great managers have innate abilities.  

Gallup is an international firm that provides advice and analytics to help leaders and organizations improve their outcomes. This report looks at what makes a great manager, and how to develop managers.

Great Managers

Gallup defines “manager” as someone who is responsible for leading a team toward common objectives.

Great managers are the heroes of an organization and they have a tough job. They keep the wheels turning and everything on track, and for the most part, they satisfy those they are accountable to and for.

Gallup found that many companies put people in manager roles because either they were successful in previous roles, or because they had been with the company for a long time. Gallup found that if the wrong people were in the role, it impacted an organization’s engagement, financial performance, and long-term sustainability.

The report noted that the requirements and talents for different roles are not interchangeable, for example, a great employee may not make a good manager, or a great manager may not be a great senior executive or a great leader. 

Gallup findings

  • Only 10% of managers have a natural ability to manage people. This 10% know how to motivate people, review performance, build relationships, overcome obstacles, and make sound decisions.
  • Another 20% can become successful with the right development and coaching. 
  • Currently 82% of managers are miscast.

Employee Engagement and Why it is Important

Engaged employees are those who are involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their work and workplace. 

Engaged employees are the backbone of a successful organization. Engagement is an important indicator of performance, profitability, and customer and staff satisfaction.  It is estimated that actively disengaged workers cost the U.S. between $450 billion and $550 billion per year through absenteeism, quality, turnover, and customer ratings.

The report found:

  • A positive link between highly engaged managers and engaged employees. 
  • Employees are influenced by their manager’s level of engagement.
  • Managers who are engaged in their work will have a 59% greater chance of having engaged staff. 
  • Among the 142 countries included in Gallup’s 2012 global study, only 13% of employees were engaged in their jobs, 63% were not engaged, and 24% were actively disengaged.

What Great Managers Do Differently

Engaged: They are highly engaged.

Purpose: They give staff information about what the organization stands for, their role in the organization, and how they support the organization’s overarching purpose and goals.

Recognition: They make their staff feel recognized and cared for. 

Strengths: They focus on employee strengths.

Gallup found that when managers focus on employees’ strengths, 61% of workers are engaged and only 1% are actively disengaged. When employees use their strengths, they are 7.8% more productive, more engaged, perform better, and are less likely to leave their company.  Turnover rates are 14.9% lower than from employees who do not receive feedback.

Teams that focus on strengths have 12.5% greater productivity and 8.9% greater profitability.

Great managers don’t ignore weaknesses. When they focus on strengths, they build trust so that they can help staff develop and improve in other areas as well.  

Innate talent: Gallup defines “innate talent” as the natural capacity for excellence. When individuals have the right talent for their role, they think and act differently than their peers. They are energized by their work, and don’t think of it as “work”.

Those who don’t have this innate talent can learn skills, develop knowledge, and gain experience to become better managers. 

Meet regularly with staff:  Managers who hold regular meetings with staff are three times as likely to be engaged as employees whose managers do not hold regular meetings with them. The report revealed that employees who feel their manager is interested in them are more likely to be engaged.

Performance Management: When performance management is done well, employees become more productive and creative contributors, which results in increased profits.  Gallup found that employees whose managers excel at performance management activities are more engaged than employees whose managers struggle with performance management.

Dimensions of Manager Talent

Gallup identified the following five dimensions of manager talent to be the best predictors of performance across different industries and manager roles. These dimensions include:

  • Motivator: they challenge themselves and staff to continually improve and deliver excellent products and results.
  • Assertiveness: they overcome challenges, adversities, and resistance.
  • Accountability: they assume responsibility for their teams’ successes and create the structure and processes to help their teams deliver on expectations.
  • Relationships: they build a positive, engaging work environment where their teams create strong relationships with one another and with clients.
  • Decision-making: they are problem solvers and planners, they manage risks, and balance competing interests.

Takeaway

Despite the low numbers of great managers, there is room to help develop the talents of managers who are willing to motivate, be assertive and accountable, make decisions, and develop relationships with staff.

Picking the right management person (manager, director, vice president, and the Chief Executive Officer (CEO)) for the job is important. The organizational culture is set at the top and trickles down. While it is important to see the big picture, develop strategy, purpose, and products, it is also important to have an engaged workforce to implement the strategy.

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Photo by Campaign Creators on Unsplash

Leaders Know Their Season

You can be a leader with or without a title.  What makes a great leader is good character.

It’s important for leaders to know their season at work, at home, and in the world. The different seasons in life challenge a leader’s character and ability to adapt to changing circumstances.

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Words Matter

“Recognizing that words have consequences, that choices made by people in power can have a direct impact, not just on behaviours, but on our very institutions, is an important thing…What we choose to say, what we choose not to say, how we say it, has consequences.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Canada, National Post, January 8, 2021

Words are things. You must be careful, careful about calling people out of their names, using racial pejoratives and sexual pejoratives and all that ignorance. Don’t do that. Some day we’ll be able to measure the power of words. I think they are things. They get on the walls. They get in your wallpaper. They get in your rugs, in your upholstery, and your clothes, and finally into you.”

Maya Angelou

Have you ever heard someone say: “You have one mouth and two ears, listen more than you speak”, or ” Think before you speak, because you can’t take it back once you have said it.”

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BURNOUT

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), burnout was first linked with helping professions in the mid-1970s. Burnout has broadened beyond helping professions to other industries today.

Burnout is a syndrome that includes: emotional exhaustion, disillusionment, and withdrawal. Symptoms include low energy, chronic fatigue, weakness, weariness, increased susceptibility to illness, frequent headaches, nausea, muscle tension, sleep disturbances, and more.

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