Monday, March 30, 2015

Unraveling Paradise

"Nice office...great job title...big team and is good. This gig feels like I've finally arrived in paradise."
- Said every new leader since forever

For those leaders that have scored the proverbial hat trick of landing a great job, work that they love, and a company that has great leadership, life can be really good. For some that means they believe they can take their foot off the pedal. It's almost as if they have convinced themselves that now they can delegate their work and simply operate in a "strategic" role.


Leadership Is Hard As Hell
I'm not exactly sure how "hard" hell is, but let's assume it's pretty rugged. To me, the privilege of leadership requires a whole new commitment on several levels:

1. Personal
Leading requires sacrifice. Not only in the extra time necessary to get the job done, but in understanding much more about the business than just the collection of boxes on your organizational chart.

For those not willing to put in the time, leadership will be a short and inglorious experience. I don't care what Generation (Boomer, X,Y or Z) thinks about this point. Leadership requires a new level of dedication; but trust me, there's still time to save the world too.

2. Strategic vs. Tactical
I see leaders at high levels all the time that believe they shouldn't have to "get into the weeds" of the work. 

I hate to burst their bubble, but the only effective leaders are those that can effectively flex between both high level work and also understand what it takes to get the job done.

For those tossing around buzzwords and jargon you are not fooling anyone. In fact, you're actually playing the fool in front of your colleagues.

3. Energy Is More Important Than Ever Before
Leading effectively consumes an inordinate amount of energy. If you are going to perform at a high level (which by default is a minimum requirement of every leader) then you must take care of yourself.

Good nutrition, exercise and sleep are not just things you "should do." They are required. Commit to modifying your lifestyle today...and for God's sake don't say you're too busy. That makes you sound like you can't get your life organized, and no one wants to follow that person. Ever.

How About You
Does leadership feel like paradise sometimes? You bet it does. I wouldn't trade it for any other job on Earth. The ongoing (and quite humbling process of leading effectively) means that I have to unravel my vision of paradise so I can be my absolute best.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.


Thursday, March 26, 2015

It's All About You, Right?

"Level 5 leaders channel their ego needs away from themselves and into the larger goal of building a great company. It's not that Level 5 leaders have no ego or self-interest. Indeed, they are incredibly ambitious-but their ambition is first and foremost for the institution, not themselves."
- Jim Collins

As you think about the choices you'll make today...your words...your behaviors...what do you think your team will think?

How about your peers? Will they want to follow you; or, is today all about you?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.


Monday, March 23, 2015

The Last 10%

I have a serious bias when it comes to the world of work. My friend and colleague Joe Gerstandt does a terrific job of helping us "see" the hidden biases we all have (yes, you have them too.) Some of them are not so hidden however. They are front and center for us, and candidly that is where they are going to stay whether we want them to or not.

So here's one that I've put at the top of my list: making it safe for every employee in the company to feel safe coming to talk to me. About any topic.

Including me.

Job Titles Are Scary
I've been fortunate ( and continue to be) to serve in senior leadership roles for several organizations. The downside of that role is that the darn job title gets in the way sometimes. Here's what I'm talking about...

...employee wants to raise an issue or concern...starts to worry that raising that issue with a "VP" might make them look bad at best, or be career-limiting at worst...

The job title blocks getting to the real issue. That's not good. But there is a clear solution. Can you guess who is responsible for executing that solution every day?

Job Titles Are Also Opportunities
We've all heard the phrase that "talk is cheap." Well I disagree. I think words are powerful. I think words move people to action. I think words can make all the difference...

...words can do all these things when they are combined with action.

That fancy job title that gets people flustered opens the door for you to make it safe...literally...for your team members to come to you with any issue. 

It's not easy. You have to start fresh every day. Forget that you built a strong rapport with the team last month, last week, or even yesterday.

Make it safe again today. Never stop reinforcing that you are available and will not over react, or for God's sake punish them for stepping forward.

This may sound very simple to you...but when was the last time you intentionally thought about making your workplace safe for every employee to come forward.? I'm not talking about your peers, or those in "higher level roles." I mean everyone.

How About You
I hear many leaders lament that they don't know the "real story" of what is going on in their organizations. Well here's a tip...when leaders make it safe for everyone to come forward and share the last 10% of the story (which is always where the real issues are hiding) the truth will come out. It is entirely up to you to make it happen.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Lonely Is The Word

"A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. They don't set out to be a leader, but become one by the quality of their actions and the integrity of their intent. In the end, leaders are much like eagles...they do not flock; you find them one at a time." 
- Unknown

What words do you chose to say to your team? How do you behave when you know others are watching? Are you confident, even when you're unsure on the inside? 

What happens when you have to answer for a problem...are you quick to blame others and frantically attempt to deflect any ownership? 

Or, do you own the challenges in front of you, and in so doing demonstrate a level of leadership that your peers can not match?

Which leader are you...the one who plays it safe in the crowd...or the one who leads the crowd?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Strength of the World

Do you believe you can make a difference in your organization? In the life of your employees? How about your customers, vendors, and other business partners?

Do you? 

Do you believe it deep inside. I'm not talking about the same old rah rah speech you've heard over the years from the executives in your life. I mean do YOU believe YOU can do it?

Talk Means Nothing
So much time is spent challenging leaders to be better, including this blog, that you would think all of the leaders out there would have to be good because there is so much to read, learn about, and practice in their workplaces.

But alas, we're talking about human no, we won't have perfect leaders running around. Instead we'll have leaders that continue to struggle with their ego, power, bias, and the nastiest of all burdens, the narrow lens that they see the world through.

"I must be right, I'm the manager!"

Decide To Be Better
The decision to elevate your leadership game does not happen in a single moment. It is a daily decision...a meeting to meeting decision...and sometimes a moment by moment choice to be better.

Are you ready to make that level of commitment? Don't answer yet. Deciding to be one of the most impactful leaders ever is not a decision you make thirty seconds into a blog post. It is something that you thoughtfully consider.
It's a decision that requires that you surround yourself with a team of people outside your organization that you can rely on when the fun part of leadership becomes the heaviest of burdens.

It requires your total focus and attention. Anything less, and you will simply be one of the many well-intended and woefully mediocre managers out there across the world of work.

How About You
The strength necessary to be a true leader is extraordinary. But you have it in you. Put your leadership plan together that will help you change how you work, think, act and perform.

It will change how you every moment. Now is your time.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Armed and Dangerous

Holding a leadership position sounds glamorous. The allure of lots of authority, more pay, and the freedom to make important decisions can be hard to resist. 

Oh yes, and power

Lots and lots of power.

Be careful friends...power can be the fuel that drives organizations to a whole new level of excellence; or it can pollute the mind of the leader and create havoc. 

Where are the landmines? What should we look out for? What are the risks leaders should be aware of?

I worry about...

- leaders who think power is the work product

- leaders who don't know what they don't know

- leaders who think they are the smartest person on the team

- leaders who think they don't make mistakes

- leaders who move fast in the name of moving fast

- leaders who are paralyzed and can not make a decision

- leaders who believe they should be trusted because of their job title

- leaders who believe their work day will be shorter in their new role

- leaders who are afraid to use social media

- leaders who don't understand that diversity is NOT an item on a to do list
How About You
What would you add to the list?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses. 


Monday, March 9, 2015

Fear Factory

The ultra-competitive environment to source, attract and hire talent is fascinating. So many organizations lament the fact that they can not find the "right" people to meet their needs.

Yet these same organizations continue to use the same old and ineffective approaches to talent acquisition; or they are being taken advantage of by large vendors that throw around lots of terminology but fail to execute effectively on behalf of their clients.

I'm calling B.S. on both approaches!

Desperate and Scared
For years I've seen organizations that know they need to implement contemporary approaches to their talent strategy, but doing so represents such a quantum leap out of their comfort zone that they are paralyzed.

"Leaders who fail to make bold decisions are usually not leaders for very long."

The habits of yesteryear continue to strike fear into the hearts of these well intended leaders. Think about the good old days of display ads in the Sunday paper. 

Now that is living in your comfort zone! Sadly, there really isn't a Sunday "want ads" section in the paper anymore.

Now Is Your Time
The opportunities available to today's talent acquisition leader are endless. The ability to position yourself as a high-performing, contemporary leader in your industry is not as hard as you think. (Which in turn helps your organization be viewed in the same positive light.) 

Yes, it takes expertise, courage, and commitment. But aren't those qualities in every leader's job description anyway?

How About You
Do you work in a fear factory where moving into the contemporary age is still viewed as a risky move? If so, maybe you and I should talk. I want to help...and it sounds like maybe you could use a helping hand.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.


Thursday, March 5, 2015

Cutting Teeth

"I never intended for that to happen."
"Oh my gosh, that's my mistake. I didn't realize it would play out that way."
"I'm sorry, I just didn't see that coming."

Honest mistakes. They happen to all of us. I hate to admit it when I mess up, but part of being an effective leader is owning up to your mistakes (or your organization's mistakes even if they weren't your fault.) Plus, it is essential that you make sure the appropriate processes are put in place to avoid the chance that a similar mistake will happen in the future.

Is that a guarantee? No. Do good leaders push hard to do their best? You're damn right they do.

Experience Does Not Equal Effective
I've worked with many leaders over the years, and some had years of experience with impressive job titles and they often stumbled so routinely I wondered how in the world they ever landed such a good gig. Others have been new to their leadership roles but had such insight that I did everything I could to raise the organization's awareness about their skill set.

Most of the time it is the group with the fancy titles that makes the most important decisions. Sadly, those same folks have often risen through the ranks because they have excelled as a SME (Silo Matter Expert.)

Their ability to see beyond their direct span of control is nonexistent. They've spent so much time in their own world that they haven't taken the time to learn what it means to be an organizational leader. Rather, they are simply a really good middle manager.

Start Chewing
What eventually happens to those leaders that are going to rise above their SME status and actually lead the company comes when they focus on areas outside their little organizational chart.

I'm not suggesting they interfere with other leaders operations. I would submit that the most effective leaders have taken the time to learn about all of the operations of the enterprise so they can effectively contribute organizationally.

How About You
Do you have leaders in your organization that despite their job title are clearly still cutting their teeth on the role of organization-wide leader? How are you helping them? It can be tricky. But if they are going to succeed instead of reinforcing their own limited world view with an endless series of self-talk (typically done out loud in meetings) then it's time to step in.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.


Monday, March 2, 2015

The Idiot Box

Every place I've worked has tried new things. The brain-trust would get all fired up (including me) about new ways to organize work, communicate, and launch innovative ideas to differentiate the organization from the competition.

Every single one.

Think Outside the (Corporate) Box
I have a very different perspective on corporate life now. My job is to help companies take their brand to a world-class level which results in attracting talent that is also world-class. That approach requires the innovative thinking I used to talk about... a lot.

The challenge with innovative thinking inside the company is that there will forever be a set of norms, political realities, and tolerance for true candor. I'm not saying it's right or wrong, I'm simply telling you it's there.

Don't tell me your shop is different. It's not.

You're Stuck in Your (Corporate) Box
Are you upset with me yet? Consider this...

How many disruptive leaders have you retained over the last five years? Did you identify them as someone who was pushing new boundaries and challenging traditional norms (that you had convinced yourself were the 'proper' way to be a member of 'your' company?) Or, were they labeled as not being a 'team-player' and sent on their way (or worse, felt they needed to leave) because they were no longer a 'good fit'?


It's Lonely Outside the (Corporate) Box 
Here's the tough part for those of us that have dared to step outside the norms and (barely) lived to tell about it. 

It's lonely as hell. 

The obvious challenge is that while we may see the changes that have to be made, we must also balance the pace of change with the reality of the corporate culture.

If we push too hard one day, it may be a bit awkward when we're sitting next to our colleagues ten more times the same week in an endless stream of (productive?) meetings.

How About You
You're not an idiot. You know the perils of finding your voice and pushing the boundaries and norms of your organization. You know you will be criticized, questioned, and challenged in a very serious way. You also know you're doing the right thing.

Leverage your network and trusted external resources for support. Sometimes those that can help you break through the internal self-talk that keeps your company safely it in it's little box, are not on this inside at all. Does your organization believe it's own press releases about being innovative and a good place to work? Who exactly is saying that? I bet it's not you anymore.

I'd love to here from you.

No Excuses.