Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Open Door Policies Are Lame

"Stop by anytime...I'm here for you...I have an Open Door policy."

Please stop saying that to the employees in your organization.  Of all the lame management-speak phrases I've heard over the years, this has to be one of the worst.  Do you realize you're simply making an excuse to keep your butt in your office chair?  That's right, you're "here" sitting in your office, waiting for the employees to come to you. Oh yes my friend, if you're still saying this phrase, you have won the election and are officially the Mayor of Excuse-ville.  Even foursquare doesn't have a badge for that.  

That's just lame.  What decade do you think you're working in anyway?

Remember Who's Most Important
Open Door policies are meant for you to walk out your door and connect with your staff.  You remember them, right?  They're the ones who do the work.  They're the ones that make you look good.  They're the ones that step up and provide world-class service that sets your company apart from the competition.  They're the ones that update you, so you can update your boss on everything that "you're" doing.

How About You
Get up.  Look away from the glow of your monitor, stop answering the phone, and just go.  Walk through that door frame that you typically see at 5:00pm, and embrace it's power at 10:00am.  Show the team that they matter most; not only because it's good business, but because it's true.

It took me years to figure out that the Open Door policy was for me, not the staff.  I wish someone had told me sooner. Who told you about the real Open Door policy?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

pics courtesy of Gordon and 123RF

Monday, March 28, 2011

Teamwork Can Be Deadly

Sunday afternoon I felt like I was living a charmed life.  Sitting atop Pit Lane watching the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Indy Car race in the amazing Florida weather was just about perfect.  I watched the drivers push their cars to the limit, take risks, and force their engines to scream down the front straight-away to the point of no return.  That means there were chances to capture homemade video of some wrecks in the first corner.

So what might have happened if those race teams, including the drivers, had not trusted each other when they designed and built those incredible cars?  Would all of the drivers walked away safely?  What would have happened if they had not invested time in each other to understand their various communication styles?  How would they know the difference between an innocent comment and a potentially fatal concern if they hadn't made the effort to become a team?  

Race teams are not small.  The crew that jumps over the wall to work on the car is but a small fraction of the massive effort necessary to run a world-class team.  Owners, sponsors, engineers, machine-shop staff, mechanics, software designers, test-drivers, wind-tunnel engineers, fabrication teams, pit-crew members, support staff, and the race day driver all make up the organization.

And if they make a mistake, the driver dies.

How About You
For most us teamwork does not mean life or death. Think of how fortunate you are. Think of what an amazing opportunity you have.  You can lead and build an amazing organization...a real team...without the unbelievable pressure of knowing that if you make a mistake one of your team members lives may be at risk.

What are you going to do with your opportunity today?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

pic and video courtesy of Me

Friday, March 25, 2011

Can't You See I'm Busy?!

Task lists.  Post it notes.  Legal pads.  Emails to myself (my current favorite).  Napkins.  Even the palm of my hand.  I've written notes on just about everything.  Little reminders to add to my task list for follow up.  So much to do, and so little time to accomplish it all.  Thank goodness I can go to my office and start tearing through my list. Sometimes my days fill up with work before they even get started.  In fact, most days fill up before they get started.  So that's what makes it all the more annoying when I have to stop what I'm doing and interact with people...wait...I mean....what's going on here?

Tasks Lists Are Not People
I may have missed something along the way, but the last time I checked people were a heck of a lot more important than the items on my task list.  Sure, the work I have to accomplish is important, but it pales in comparison to those that need my support.  Have you ever worked with a leader who could barely take their eyes off their computer, smart phone, or *groan* portfolio while you were trying to speak with them?  Sadly, I've been one of those leaders from time to time.  My recent feedback session with my leadership team pointed this out as an occasional issue.  

Shame on me.

Interruptions = Trust
Have you ever considered what an interruption actually represents?  Your team members have enough confidence in you that they're taking the risk of disrupting your day (trust me, they know you are busy), and ask for your help.  That's a big deal.  I once had a manager ask me what to do because when she asked her employees questions during staff meetings no one ever responded to her.  She didn't realize she had completely lost their respect.  They didn't trust her anymore.  When employees step forward to "interrupt" they are extending a hand and asking us to help pull them along.

Do you reach back to them?

But I Have A Lot of Work To Do
...and so do your employees.  So am I recommending that we toss our task list into the trash?  Of course not.  I would be lost without mine.  But I would really be lost if the people around me felt like I had thrown them in the trash in favor of my list, or my Inbox, or Droid.  I need to let go of my self-inflicted martyr status, and actually focus on those around me, when they need me.

How About You
Are all of those pieces of paper on your desk the focus of your work; or, is the line of people outside your door the real priority?  Is it time to push away that task list and lend a helping hand?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses. 

pics courtesy of Farm5 and Visual Photos

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Power Post - Leave Your Personal Life at the Door

How many times have you heard this phrase?  How many times have you (read here => Isaid this phrase?  Could there possibly be a more ridiculous statement than, "leave your personal life at the door?"  I think not.

Consider what you're actually saying to your employees when you use this line of baloney:

- "Stop thinking and feeling about the most important people in your life"
- "Stop trying to balance your focus on work and the needs of your family and friends"
- "Stop being a real person, and submit to a zombie-like adherence to 'the company's goals"

But wait, it gets better.  Asking employees to leave their personal life at the door also implies that as they walk into your building, a sudden metamorphosis will occur and their ability to remain human will stop.  Their emotional system will shut down and they will stop caring for others (unless the company [read here => you as their supervisor] has told them to "care" for a particular customer.)

Is that the message we really want to send to our employees?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

pic courtesy of Synch Health

Monday, March 21, 2011

Are You a 9 - 5 Leader? I Hope Not

So you're back in the office, ready for another action-packed week.  Lots of changes happening all around you, people issues to deal with and lots of interventions all lie ahead.  You'll be asked to step up repeatedly this week to deal with inappropriate behavior, and to set a good example for those around you.  At the end of the day you'll head out of the office...and then what?

It Takes Courage

We know what courage means in most contexts: military courage, leadership on-the-job courage, even Wizard of Oz courage.  But what about the courage leaders must demonstrate when they're away from the job, or the action, or the movies? What about the courage necessary when the only person who'll know whether it was shown or not is you?  That's real courage.  The kind I wish I had started showing earlier in life.

"Friends" v. Values = Test of Courage

Many years ago I had some friends who were raised in families that were insensitive to minorities.  In fact, they occasionally made racist comments.  They tried to be good people generally, but the influence of their upbringing spilled over into the language they used in their adult lives.  And I struggled hearing it.  I struggled knowing that what they were saying bothered me, but I was trying to preserve my friendship with them, so I simply remained silent.

Until I couldn't take it anymore.  So on two separate visits with these friends I made the decision to confront them if they used the offensive language.  Those were the last two times we were together.  I'm not anything special because I held them accountable for the words they used, but I did realize that I could no longer be a 9 -5 leader.  I was on a different path;  one that required me to step out of my comfort zone and do what is right.

It's hard for me to do this on a regular basis, but I have no other choice.  I have no excuse to defer my leadership privilege.

Clean Hands Do Not Equal A Clean Conscience

Are you a leader that washes your hands of the job once you leave for the day?  Are you able to distance yourself so that the "real you" can come out once you leave the facade of your professional life?  Or, have you accepted your true path; your leadership path, that doesn't know how to tell time, or recognize if you've moved from one location to the next.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

pics courtesy of Gone Movies and Ordinary Pastor

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Power Post - Off The Grid & Need Advice

I'm heading out of the blogosphere for a few days to catch some quality time with the family.  Since I'm spoiled rotten living here, I'm taking full advantage of all that the Florida Gulf Coast has to offer.

OK...I'm actually already going through social media withdrawal just thinking about it, so expect me to be tweeting, checking-in, and hitting my facebook account too. As a relative newbie to the social media scene, I'm wondering if any of you have some advice on how to effectively manage my passion for social media, and the obvious need to take a break, recharge, and come back next week going full speed?  Is it a bad thing if I truly enjoy tweeting from the beach?

I'd REALLY love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

pic courtesy of It Event

Monday, March 14, 2011

Welcome Aboard...Sucker

So you finally filled that leadership vacancy and the new person's start date has arrived.  They dutifully attended your fabulous new employee orientation and met with their supervisor to get a sense of the "hot issues" that need to be reacted to over the first few months on the job.

Then what?

Usually not a whole lot, that's what.

Fire Can Get Very Hot

What are you expecting out of your new leaders?  Are they allowed to get up to speed similar to your other staff? Or, do you believe that new leaders, simply because of their experience (and ability to win you over during the interview process) can suddenly walk in the door and begin performing at a high level? That's crazy, right? That's setting them up for failure. But time and time again orientation efforts are put into front line staff, while leaders are expected to find their way alone.  

Talk Is Cheap

Oh sure, we tell them "let me know if you need anything" and "don't hesitate to give me a call."  How many employees, leaders or other staff have you ever met that were performing at their peak as soon as they started a new job?  I'll tell you how many I've met...exactly zero.  Including yours truly.

Sure, some leaders can start fast and make an impact early on, but the reality is they need time.  Time to learn, time to network internally, time to build trust, time to learn the politics of the organization (yes, every organization has politics)....what they need is you.

How About You

Are you going to let your new leaders gasp and flail around the company trying desperately to do a good job?  Or, are you going to be the one that reaches out, schedules time to meet, and really connects to give them that little something extra? Don't wait for them to call.  It's up to you.  Once I finally figured that out, I've been amazed at how well it works.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

pic courtesy oSchool For Heroes

Friday, March 11, 2011

Leaders Don't Screw Up, Right?

Part of the human condition is to screw up from time to time, and sometimes to screw up rather badly.  In the fourteenth century there was a young man who earned his living as a scribe at the monastery.  He worked in the writing room called the Scriptorium.  His job was to copy the Bible for the Monks.  One day he was working on the third chapter of Luke, the long genealogy which traces Jesus back through the generations all the way to Adam.  

Now the manuscript before him was in two columns as almost all ancient manuscripts were.  But instead of copying the first column and then the second column, he absent mindedly copied straight across the line from the first column, followed immediately by the comparable line in the second column.  The result you can imagine.  This document, called  Codex 109, was saved for centuries and is on display at the British Library.

Imagine that?  Your screw up, saved for centuries and placed on display.

Did I Invent Screw Ups?
OK, maybe I didn't invent them, but I must be a Charter Member of the Club.  So what happens when a leader makes a mistake?  What happens when I make a mistake?  Is it swept under the rug as quickly as I can grab my leadership broom? Do I reach for my "people under me to blame" list?  Or, do I swing by the Scapegoat Cafe and order a slice of denial?  As much as we may want to avoid admitting our mistakes, it's actually a good leadership practice.

Leaders Are Humans Too
One of my early negative role models was one of two brothers who owned the company where I worked.  He threw papers across meeting room tables, belittled my team, and generally presented himself as an arrogant young rich guy who inherited the company from his father.  So early on in my career, long before I was in a formal leadership role, I knew there were certain things I would never do once I had the privilege to lead others.  For that, I continue to thank him for being such a "good" example.  Yes, he was human; but he never admitted that he made any mistakes.  Fail!

You and I are human too, and we probably made a mistake today (or at least this week.)  What did we do about it?  Did we accept it, acknowledge it, and move forward?  Or, did we take a break from our Open Door Policy and slam that door shut?  Ouch.  I hope I didn't do that.

They're Watching 
One thing I've never completely grown accustomed to is the concept that employees are always watching me.  Not because I'm so special, but because I'm in a leadership role.  Recently I met one of our employees and introduced myself.  He responded by saying, "Oh, I know who you are!"  You see, even though we still feel like ourselves; to the dozens, hundreds, or thousands of employees we work with, we are much more than just ourselves.  We have a tremendous privilege, and need to be real when we serve in these roles.

That means admitting mistakes. 

How About You
Are you the perfect leader that gave up making mistakes long ago?  Or, are you one of those rare folks who actually shows your human side to those around you when you screw up?  Just imagine what the employees will think if you turn out to be a thinking, feeling, real person after all?  

Now where did I put that parchment paper?  I have someone's bad evaluation that I want to finish and send to a museum.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

Pics courtesy of Google/Codex Alexandrinus and

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

What Was Your Mountaintop Moment?

There have been many famous mountains throughout history.  The stories that come from them have shaped the lives of millions of people around the world.  Consider this short list: Horab, Carmel, Calvary, Vesuvius, Everest and Suribachi.  All have important stories to tell. All have made a difference in the lives of those who were there, (some terrible, and some incredibly beautiful.)  All had something so profound occur that people's lives changed permanently after being touched on "their mountain." 

Maybe those names are unfamiliar; or maybe they leap off the screen at you. Either way, we've all had significant moments in our lives that altered our journey. One of those changes pushed you into leadership.  You've accepted, embraced, struggled, and excelled at being a leader.  I have too.

Talking about leading, and actually leading are two very different things.  I'm often inspired when listening to or reading other leaders discuss leadership behaviors. It's much harder however to put that inspiration into practice.  Some leaders have shared their mountaintop experiences in such a powerful way that their words live on in history.  Others touch us in a way that no words are ever spoken, but the experience itself is so impactful that we are moved to do great things in our own our leadership.

Was there a defining moment that touched you in such a meaningful way that you had no choice but to step up?  Who, or what, made the difference for you? Sometimes a few words are all that it takes.  What was your mountaintop moment?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

pic courtesy of Iwo Jima

Monday, March 7, 2011

Power Post - Do You Have the Fire?

Monday morning.  Inbox is full.  Time is set aside to stay on top of several major projects.  Two dozen meetings are waiting for me between now and Friday.  I'm not fact, I have the "fire in my belly" to have a great week.  I have the fire.

So I'm starting my week thinking all about me.  My meetings.  Could I get any more self-absorbed?  Could I walk past my colleagues any faster to get to my desk and start on my work?

Maybe I should consider a different strategy for doing my "work."  Maybe the first item on my to do list should say "be the leader you are."  I'll be honest, my task list doesn't say that now.  It has a whole bunch of really important items listed.  But nowhere does it say....lead.  Is leadership suddenly automatic for me now that I'm a [insert job title here]?

So today I am fired up.  I am going to hammer through my task list, work on major projects, and hit all of those meetings.  But first I'm going to focus on being a leader.  

Where's your fire today?  Mine was in my belly.  Now it's turned share with those who are expecting me to step up and be a leader.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

pic courtesy of Fired Up Today

Friday, March 4, 2011

Power Post - If We Are the Leaders

If we are the leaders...

Why are the employees frustrated?

Why are there important projects not started?

Why are there future leaders still waiting for mentors?

Why are there direct reports still in need of support?

Why are there training needs left unmet?

Why are we too busy to listen?

Why aren't we pushing our staff out of their comfort zones?

Why don't we include all races and perspectives in our corporate culture?

Why aren't we reaching out to support our colleagues?

If we are the leaders...why aren't we leading?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

pic courtesy of Spark People

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Good In A Crisis, But Still A Bad Leader?

We've seen them in action.  They're calm, cool and collected.  Nothing seems to faze them when the problems come so quickly it's impossible to keep an accurate count. At some point we just want to step back and watch them.  Amazing leadership, right?


We've also seen when the chaos settles down and these same leaders struggle mightily.  What is it about their skill set that makes them a force to be reckoned with during an emergency, and then renders them so ineffective once things return to normal?  Hadley, Zhu and Pittinsky developed a specialized tool for measuring crisis leadership which raises several interesting issues.

1.  Crisis Leadership Differs from General Leadership
Leaders have less time in crisis situations to process information and make well-informed decisions.  These leaders have skills that are perfect for action, quick decision-making in the heat of the moment, and always seem ready to jump into a fact they often look for a crisis.

2.  When the Action Stops, So Does the Decision-Making

When things settle down, these leaders often fail. Why?  Are they not hard-wired for a strategic mindset?  Does the heavy load of maintaining relationships, leading others, working through the mundane, or not having the long view block their ability to lead comprehensively?  Perhaps.

3.  What Can We Do To Support These Leaders?
If these action-oriented leaders do in fact struggle once the bullets stop flying, what can we do to help? Sending them through the one-size-fits-all leadership development class doesn't feel quite right.  They need an individualized approach.  


Have you taken the time to clarify the leadership competencies for your organization?  Have you conducted a gap analysis based on those competencies to determine where your leaders need support (not punishment!)  If not, take the first step so you can better understand your organizational leadership priorities.


Do you have one of those leaders who struggles once the action stops?  What are you doing about it?  Is it time to "hold them accountable;" or, is there another option to help them learn and grow?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

pic courtesy of AlfredSanford