Friday, May 29, 2015

I Meant What They Said

Sometimes the words of others are exactly what we want to say. Here are some of my favorites...

"Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act."
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

"I have learned over the years that when one's mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear."
Rosa Parks

"It takes no compromise to give people their takes no money to respect the individual. It takes no political deal to give people freedom. It takes no survey to remove repression.
Harvey Milk

"Conscience is the perfect interpreter of life."
Karl Barth

"The time is always right to do what is right."
Martin Luther King, Jr.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

I'm Broken

- muscular power, mental power, moral power, power by reason of influence, endurance

I take pride in being strong. I work hard in the office, on the road with clients, and in the gym taking care of myself. I push myself to be current in the work that I do, and I am not afraid to make big sacrifices for those that rely on me in all aspects of my life.

Being strong, for me, has become part of who I am...not just something I "try to be."

But sometimes being strong all the time is hard.

Power affects us all. For some, power becomes a drug that replaces our work and evolves into our primary focus. The work, the team, and sadly common sense are soon forgotten as the cult of personality takes over. 

For others, power is a scary burden that is simply too much too manage. Although those leaders believe they can handle the responsibility and impact that comes with power, it quickly becomes obvious to those around them that they 
are not yet ready.

Power corrupts our ability to be strong in a healthy way.

The peaks and valleys of being strong, feeling strong, and occasionally feeling like you've lost your edge are normal. The challenge, as I've learned over and over again, is to rise up each time you feel like you've slipped off course.

The danger is that we allow the feeling that we're somehow irreparably broken to become the lens we see ourselves through.

But that doesn't mean we don't feel that way sometimes. 

How About You
Who do you know that might feel broken today? Maybe it's a colleague, a team member...or you. Don't lose your momentum. Keep pushing...take care of yourself...and don't let the noise of the world turn you sideways.

You are stronger than you think...and you sure as hell are not broken. I'm not either.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Give Me Something To Break

Sometimes the world can feel like it's closing in all around us. We work hard, implement contemporary strategies, and even call out those who are ignoring their leadership responsibilities.

And the more sacred things we break...the greater the noise level directed at us.

Face the Challenge
I've seen the same behavior happen for years. You've heard the comments...the excuses...which really only serve as a public validation of failed leadership.

"We are so special, we just need to keep doing things the way we always have"
"I don't understand why we're changing"
"I don't believe the world is so different...I know what works best"

It's painful to hear, I know.

Which Archetype Do You Work In
I find it fascinating that for all of the leadership posturing to protect one's job, attempt to demonstrate executive presence, or avoid looking out of touch, so many bright minds can struggle to actually lead effectively. Everything is different now.

Seriously. It's 2015. This terrific piece from Harvard Business Review illustrates how the world of effective leadership has done a complete 180 degree turn over the last five years. Were you paying attention?

How About You
When was the last time you broke some sacred glass in your organization? Is it better to allow things to drift and die; or, do the circumstances in your world require bold leadership? There are so few bold leaders who actually know what they're doing. Maybe it's time that you proved you are one of the few.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.


Monday, May 18, 2015

For The Stab Wounds In Our Backs

Corporate culture is a funny thing. Most executives get excited talking about how their culture is so special...unique...even one of a kind! Wow! That's a pretty bold statement don't you think?

As an HR executive I've not only said those words, I've heard many leaders over the years try to explain why their particular culture is different. It's kind of sad, really. The bombastic proclamations about being world-class often fall short when the data is revealed.

One of the most effective ways to understand if an organization's leadership culture is special is to ask a series of fundamental questions. The answers shed light on whether or not the rhetoric matches the truth.

A word of caution may feel uncomfortable as you answer these questions in your head. If so, your culture is not even close to what you've been trying to sell to your leaders, employees, customers...and yourself.

1. Do leaders leave your organization because you've developed them into world-class talent and they have amazing new opportunities?

2. Do you commit to an approach that treats women and under represented people equally with respect to pay, titles, and other leadership incentives?

3. If you reviewed the data on how senior leaders transition out of your organization would it reveal a pattern of termination after termination?

4. When challenging issues arise does the leadership team rush to meet together because they rely on each other for support; or, is it a save-yourself-culture that focuses on attacking one another?

How do you feel now?

Reality Check
I would submit that only the most elite leaders have the courage to answer honestly, and then take the bold steps necessary to correct the areas that need to be addressed. 

Most executives simply will not make bold decisions...they will not take dramatic steps to move their organizations forward...and sadly, will punish those that step up and actually lead.

Why is it that so many talented leaders are unwilling to lead once they are in the most influential roles of their professional lives?

How About You
For those of us that actually want to believe in world class corporate cultures, the double-talk and weak leadership we experience feels like a stab in the back. I'm far from perfect, but the only leaders I will ever work for again are the ones that are unafraid to make bold decisions and stand up for what is right.

They are the leaders that matter.
That is the reason I work where I do.
That is why I will never stop writing about making leaders better.

Leaders make all the difference. Look in the mirror. Are you a real leader?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Where Are The Courageous Leaders?

I'm a student of history, particularly leaders in history. One of my favorites is a man named Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He is famous for his opposition to the tyranny of the Nazis during the 1930s and 1940s. Hitler ultimately had him murdered just days before the end of the war.

Dietrich was the ultimate courageous leader.

Corporate Life Today
Fortunately the world is not consumed in a conflict the size and scale of a World War. But sadly, the leaders of today are no match to those courageous leaders either.

Consider many leaders out there are quick to espouse their philosophy on leadership and make sure everyone hears it? It's as if simply talking about it means they are an effective, even idyllic leader. The reality is however that those words mean absolutely nothing if the leader is unwilling to stand tall when the pressure is on.

Do you know leaders who say one thing, but when the pressure builds, instead of making decisions that command respect they quickly cave into political pressure to sidestep their responsibility to lead?

I've seen it all too often, and candidly it is so obvious to everyone watching that the "leader" with all of their fancy philosophies is actually mocked as a fool.

You're A Leader...Now Act Like One 
Executives have a particular responsibility when it comes to leadership. The burden to make the right decisions for the organizations they serve is enormous. (It is important to remember that they serve the organization...they are not the company.) Executives often live in a sheltered world that is less connected to how the operations of an organization in the rapidly changing world are executed.

Those leaders must not get caught in the trap that their "gut instinct" or outdated "personal preferences" dictate policy. Data, an awareness of current market trends, and demonstrated results should drive decision making.

If you have leaders on your team that "just feel strongly" about strategies that have absolutely no basis in data or results, then you have a dangerous and out of touch liability on your team.

How About You
Do you consider yourself a courageous leader? Really? When was the last time you stood up for someone or something when the treacherous political conditions inside your company put you at risk?

I didn't think you could remember when you did. Maybe it's time to stop talking about leadership and do what is right for a change.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

(Caught) In Your Words

I want you to try a 3 second exercise with me. Here we go: say something, any phrase will do... try to take those words back.

Could you do it? No?

Leader Messages
As leaders we say many things each day. Our colleagues, teams and customers listen closely to those words. They search for honesty, hidden meanings, subtle cues, or downright strong words that motivate them to take action.

Words are powerful...they inspire, motivate, encourage, develop, betray and a host of other things. Think of the last important meeting you had with your supervisor or group of colleagues. How did you feel as you walked out of the room? Did you feel supported, lied to, or set up? Your teams feel the exact same way depending on how you conduct yourself when you have one of those meetings with them.

Words matter. Integrity matters. The truth matters.

Unspoken Messages
There are another set of messages that can be just as powerful as the spoken word. It's the look. You know what I mean. That glance during a meeting. A signal that says, "well done" or conversely "that makes no sense."

Have you used this powerful leadership tool?

Non-verbal messages sometimes are much louder than the spoken word. Consider the weight of silence when an employee is clearly not understanding the magnitude of the work they need to accomplish, and you ask a direct question...

...and wait.
...and wait some more.

You don't let them off the hook. If you don't think silence is powerful, try staring at someone for 5 seconds without breaking your stare. It is very powerful, and effective, and can often make the point better than any words you could dig out of a thesaurus.

But be warned

Make sure you have your facts straight before you start accusing your colleagues or team members...because when you're wrong, your credibility as a leader is permanently gone. No one follows the ill-informed CYA-style leader.

How About You
Do you appreciate the impact you have on the workplace? What about your team? Are you so caught up in "your" work that you carelessly toss around strong words and glares simply to protect your own self-interest?

Be intentional in your words and actions. As leaders, our moves must have an agenda based on integrity and truth...otherwise, we are simply an embarrassing failure that all can plainly see.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Bringer of Light

Who are you learning from? Who is the leader that you connect with the most as your mentor, guide, or example that you aspire to live up to? Please don't say that you don't need a mentor, or that you no longer need to learn. If that's truly how you feel I wish you nothing but the best (as your career spirals down the drain.)

My View
For me personally I am starving for more...whether it's insight into the RPO industry...getting to know my colleagues better...understanding how to best juggle a life that is literally split between three states...or figuring out the best way to push harder and faster than everyone is comfortable with me doing.

I hate feeling comfortable...that typically means leaders are talking big and running scared at the same time. Leaders who run scared are absolutely useless....don't you think?

I find it odd that the more senior leaders become, the more they convince themselves that they have it all figured out. 

Perhaps it's counter-intuitive, but as one's scope expands dramatically doesn't that mean the amount of learning necessary is exponentially higher?

Admitting that we need to learn is not a sign of weakness. Rather, it sends a signal to our teams that learning is what leaders do. Confidently learning is far different than having an a know-it-all swagger.

Are you with me?

How About You
So who are you learning from? Is it someone in your company...your CEO...a member of your team with specialized knowledge...or perhaps a member of your Personal Board of Directors?

Keep learning. When you do...your leadership will rise above the noise and make a real difference.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.