We all like to see the direct results of our work. A farmer likes to see the crops that grow from the seeds he sowed months ago. A salesman likes to see the check from the client she has been cultivating for years. A manufacturing worker likes to see the complete product roll of the line and be flawless. Leaders like to see the people they lead shine.
It’s somewhat disappointing then when we don’t get to see the results. Maybe you sowed the seeds but someone else harvested the crop. What you cultivated for years another person closed. The end product is so far down the line you never see it from your vantage point. People you positively impact shine somewhere else. Yet those can be our greatest moments. The invisible influence we have is often where we influence most.
You Don’t Know Your Impact
My mentor, John Maxwell, says those moments when we don’t think about who or how we influence is where we can have the greatest influence. The chance encounters, the seemingly insignificant.
We think about major moments so much that we forget that minor moments count as well.
In fact, what happens is we want GREAT MOMENTS so much that we miss the rest. We want the moments where everyone sees how wonderful we are and how much impact we are having on everyone else. Our attempts to influence become simply another self-serving event to bolster our standing or improve our resume.
Minor Moments, Major Impact
That’s why the minor moments often have invisible influence and the greatest impact. It wasn’t planned. In fact, it wasn’t even on our schedule of things to do. It happened. In that moment we focused entirely on what we could do for someone else. Not on what it would mean for us. Certainly not on the fame and fortune it would get us. Just helping. Adding Value.
Think about those moments and think about your day so far
Are there moments you miss? What about your family this morning as everyone woke up? The person behind the counter at the coffee shop? The security guard at the front door to the office? The co-worker you walked by this morning?
Choices Breed Invisible Influence
In every circumstance, our choices help create examples for others to mirror. For example, most people will smile back at you if you smile at them. By making those same choices consistently, we encourage it in others, and that helps build the culture around us. Our choices lead to our invisible influence. That influence builds through the people we impact, who then have invisible influence on others. Our community changes for the better around us and we hardly notice it.
Therefore, culture is created, it doesn’t just evolve. We help shape culture by our thoughts, our words, and our actions. We create it though our invisible influence.
Our daily choices influence culture in every circumstance.
When have you been influenced by people who probably never even realized it? How did that impact you?
Leadership Lessons Often Come in Moments of Crisis
There are, of course, days you always remember. Some stick in your mind because of the sheer joyfulness of a moment. My wedding day. My first workshop. The court appearance to finalize adopting our kids.
Others stay with you due to the overwhelming emotion or tragedy of an event. Watching my father pass. Sitting in a Hong Kong hotel watching news of the Oklahoma City Bombing.
Then there’s September 11, 2001.
Once again I was out of the country leading a workshop in Barbados. It was the last day of this training to help inspire and equip entrepreneurs. The participants slowly made their way into the room, even though we were supposed to start 10 minutes ago. They really do operate on Island Time in the Caribbean. And that’s not a bad thing.
Eager to get started I greeted everyone and steered towards the first topic of the morning. We barely get started when my coordinator came in and announced that a plane had crashed into one of the World Trade Center Twin Towers.
And the rest of the day unfolded. A second plane crashed into the other tower. A plane crashes into the Pentagon. Another into an open field. The Twin Towers burn. In desperation and despair, we see people plummeting to the ground rather than risk death in the fiery buildings. The Towers collapse. Almost 3,000 died that day and more than 6,000 were injured. It was a devastating moment in USA history on USA soil.
I don’t know who was more stressed at the day; me or the fine people of Barbados who sat riveted to the TV in a conference room. I wanted to make sure our agenda was covered but it became obvious that CNNInternational would prevail that day.
LEADERSHIP LESSON 1: Sometimes productivity yields to the events of the day. Surrender to it and be there for your people.
Stuck in Paradise in Not Always a Good Thing
So we finished the day as best we could. I packed up. I was to fly back home tomorrow.
Except I wasn’t. ALL FLIGHTS TO THE UNITED STATES FROM ANYWHERE CANCELLED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE. That included Barbados. I was stuck in this Caribbean paradise for at least a few more days.
When I tell this story, I have a hard time garnering sympathy for my plight.
“Oh, too bad for you! You were stuck on a Caribbean island with white sandy beaches, delicious food, and nothing to do!”
Yet I couldn’t enjoy it.All I wanted was to get back home. Instead of enjoying paradise, these thoughts kept coming back into my mind during the next four days.
Never before had I missed my family so much than when I wasn’t sure when I would see them again. When travel to the U.S. was halted it was announced that it was indefinite. In other words, we don’t know when it will be resumed. I could not be with my family during a crisis. Not able to support them, quell fears, or provide comfort. All I wanted to get back home to them.
LEADERSHIP LESSON 2: Ultimately, what really matters is those we love and who love us. Choose love every time. Love your family, love your employees.
I felt incredibly helpless. Being in a foreign country, my first thought was to seek out the U.S. Embassy in Bridgewater. When I walked the 20 minutes it took to get there, I was informed the embassy was closed to everyone because of the circumstances. So the one place that was supposed to help me in an emergency was not available to help me. There were no options that would get me back onto U.S. soil; not even to Puerto Rico. There was nothing to do but wait.
Big Thought. How many employees feel helpless to change their circumstances in the workplace? Change is happening all around them and they don’t know their value or where they fit in. They are not able to make decisions or take actions without the bosses approval. More likely it won’t happen unless it was his idea anyway. All that is left for them is to show up and collect a check. It has to be hard to see any hope on the horizon.
LEADERSHIP LESSON 3: Empowerment prevents helplessness and hopelessness. If you want people to get things done, give them the ability to get things done without you.
I thought of the people in the Twin Towers and in the Pentagon. Almost all of them simply going to work like they did every day. I considered how many of them lost their lives while doing a job they hated, working for a tyrant boss, in a repressive atmosphere. I reflected on how their lives were lost at work when they really would have rather been anywhere else that day. They likely never felt fully valuable or fulfilled or that what they did really mattered. They may even have felt that they didn’t matter.
Just before the building became a fireball the boss may have told them that a monkey could do their job. That admins are a dime a dozen. Or that their only job was to do as they were told. To paraphrase the poet, they died with their song still inside their heart.
Toil without song is like a weary journey without an end.
LEADERSHIP LESSON 4: Everyone matters. Everyone has a song. The greatest thing a leader can do is help their people sing.
Why do I do this? Why do I work to help bosses become the leader everyone wants to work for?
I work to help the employees (and managers) who feel helpless and hopeless. Who have priorities mixed up. The people who are not empowered and the bosses who don’t empower them.
I do this because everyone has a song, including and perhaps even especially leaders. And that song needs to be let out. For we never know how long the opportunity to sing will exist.
Remember today the many who lost their lives on 9/11/2001. Many died as heroes, trying their best to save others. While it was the worst of circumstances, it brought out the best in the people of the United States that day.
When Crisis Hits, Leadership Development Should Become a Priority
In Part I of this post, we looked at the first five signs that you need to invest in leadership development. These signs create stress within management. Not just conflict, which can often be good; STRESS!
And stress has a way of flowing downward. Zig Ziglar used to call it Kicking the Dog Syndrome. If you are a dog lover, you may prefer using Kick the Cat Syndrome. Things are bad in the office and the manager takes it out on the employee. The employee goes home and takes it out on the dog. Psychologists call it “Displaced Aggression”.
Fix the Problem, Not the Symptom
Whatever you want to call it, it means things go bad and often quickly. Productivity suffers and you start to see some of the signs that there might be a leadership problem.
“The foundational principle upon which all relationships are built.“
The absence of trust becomes a barrier to effective open communication. It keeps people from working together well and being productive. In fact, when trust exists it’s been proven in multiple research studies that productivity AND PROFITABILITY increase substantially. One study found that the most trustworthy companies OUTPERFORMED the S&P 500 Index companies.
The lack of trust typically exists in two ways. You don’t trust them and they don’t trust you. Undoubtedly, these two are tied together. Yet unlike the chicken and the egg question, it’s quite clear which of these comes first. Like a landslide, it erodes from the top and flows down. When you don’t trust them, they know it. And once they know it, they also know that they can’t trust you.
The erosion or non-existence of trust is a major indicator for leadership development.
Managers Spend More Time in Their Office Than Out of It
In his book In Search of Excellence, Tom Peterstalks about a concept called MBWA – Management By Wandering Around. The idea, backed by what he observed in top performing companies, is to get out of your office and be where the work is getting done. If you are doing that you have opportunities to be one-on-one with the people who are making things happen.
This is not an excuse to look over the shoulders and micromanage them. It’s the chance to care and know more about the people who make you a leader to begin with.
Leaders who “don’t have the time” to get away from their desk send a message to their employees – that they just don’t care.
There is a Carrot or Stick Mindset
If you are one of the few who is unfamiliar with the Carrot and Stick metaphor, it works like this. The driver of a horse-drawn cart wants the cart to move forward. In order to do that he has to somehow get the horse to move. He figures he can do that in one of two ways.
He can dangle a carrot in front of the horses face. The horse will attempt to move towards the carrot in order to get it and the cart will consequently move forward.
He can beat the horse with a stick. Hitting the horse on the rear with a stick wants to make the horse move away from the reach of the stick. Since they are attached to the cart everything moves forward.
The problem with either approach is that it is effective only in the short term.
If you use the carrot, then after a while the horse gets frustrated that they can’t seem to reach the carrot and give up. If you let the horse get the carrot as a reward, they eventually fill up and the carrot is no longer a motivator.
If you use the stick eventually the animal gets used to the pain and learns to live with it. The stick now is no longer a motivator. You either have to use a stronger negative motivator or change tactics.
The biggest problem with the entire approach is that it assumes the subject is so dumb that an extrinsic motivator is all they need to be productive.
Fear Rules the Roost
This is a tricky one! You know why? Because realistically if you ask any leader they would not admit to using fear as a method of command and control.Usually because they don’t realize they do. But you see the signs everywhere.
The leader who seems to have a Jekyll and Hyde personality. One minute they are kind and the next they are a raging bull. You never know what to expect.
They like to measure everything. Every facet of work has to have a metric of some sort. Measurement is the only meaning.
Employees are constantly walking on eggshells.
Blame is assigned. Finding fault is more important than fixing the problem.
Truth is a casualty. No one wants to tell the truth because the messenger often gets killed for the message.
Fear-based leaders have two consistent characteristics. One is they thrive in dysfunction and, in fact, will manufacture it constantly. The other is that they are typically short-term leaders.
You Don’t Think Any of This Applies to You
It’s a strange phenomenon that the leaders who most need to work on developing their leadership skills will look at this list and not see a single situation that applies to them. Everything is just fine.
They will go down the items like a checklist and cross them off.
Yeah, our turnover is at 25% but that’s just the nature of our industry.
We just need to market our product better and customer satisfaction will improve.
Hire some people who are smart and work hard. That’ll fix it
Employees just need to listen better
These people I’m stuck with are just a bunch of whiners
They don’t deserve my trust
I need to be in my office so I am accessible
You gotta motivate them somehow
Sometimes putting the fear of God into them is a good thing
This list is a waste of my time!
With poor leaders, it’s never their fault. Smart leaders recognize the signs and know that their path is one of constant growth. We, all of us, can always become a better leader than we are today.
ARE YOU READY TO TAKE ACTION NOW TO MOVE YOUR ORGANIZATION TO THE NEXT LEVEL? SCHEDULE A FREE DISCOVERY STRATEGY SESSION WITH ME TODAY! YOU WILL COME AWAY KNOWING THE ACTIONS YOU NEED TO TAKE TO GO FORWARD.
Leadership Development is a Priority for Great Leaders
The most stressful time for a leader is when things go wrong. And it is inevitable that something will go wrong.
That’s why the great leader knows that he needs to become more to add more value. And he knows that all his other leaders need to become more as well.
Sometimes those, the decision to develop the leader in us and the leaders around us comes too late.
Here are the first five signs that you urgently need to invest in leadership development.
Your HR Office is a Revolving Door
How do you know that you have a retention problem? The generally accepted benchmark is a turnover rate of 10%. Even if you give a variable of about 5% based on industry, it’s safe to say that if you have a turnover rate of 25% you have a problem.
If you have a turnover rate above that, you have a revolving door. It is costing you tons of money in direct costs and productivity.
To say that high turnover is just a consequence of your industry or part of the cost of doing business is not only wrong, it’s bad business.
Why People Leave
You have probably heard the cliche that people don’t quit jobs, they quit bosses. You know why something becomes cliche? Because it has a strong factual basis.
It is probably more accurate to say that effective leadership has a very high influence on employee retention. It’s not the only factor by far. So really making the statement that people quit bosses is a gross generalization.
However, it’s not a generalization to say that leadership not only directly influences retention but also indirectly influences it. If you clicked the link above you discovered that other factors impacting employee retention include
learning and development
feedback and recognition
Every single one of those factors, including the ones I didn’t list, are leadership influenced.
So if we draw the lines, when there is high turnover it is almost always due to one of those factors. All of them are primarily influenced by leadership. So if you have a revolving door in HR, you have a leadership problem.
Customer Satisfaction is Suffering
Let me throw a couple of numbers at you.
First, consider 70%. That’s the percentage of customers lost due to a perception of poor service. Not price, not location. Quality of service.
Who provides that service to your customers? Most likely it’s your employees. Their attitude and behavior directly impact the customer. It’s kind of like the old country saying, “If momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!“
Employee engagement directly drives customer satisfaction. In fact, a Gallup Survey showed that companies with high employee engagement experienced 10% higher customer satisfaction.
Customer satisfaction directly drives financial performance. For example, research reveals that 80% of U.S. consumers will actually pay more for a superior customer experience.
So we see a link between employee engagement and customer satisfaction and financial performance. What impacts employee engagement?
Employees Just Don’t Seem to Get It
As a leader you have a vision of how you want to see your organization move forward. How things work. Maybe even things working without you having to be there every minute. Without your fingers in every pie.
You hired what you thought were good people, yet they just aren’t getting the work done. And when they are, it usually is not the way you would have liked it to be done. What’s wrong with them? Do they not get it? Are they lazy? Or do they just not care?
The latter seems to be the opinion of many managers who have experienced this. They may blame it on culture or generation. “It’s these Millenials! So self-focused!“
Yet based on census results and research from the Pew Research Center, it’s just not so. There are myriad of reasons why employees may not be getting the job done. Almost all of them start with the leader.
Departments or Team Members Aren’t Communicating
Have you heard anyone in your organization complain that the right hand doesn’t seem to know what the left hand is doing?
Breakdown’s in communication happen most frequently in the midst of conflict.
Fear triggers guarding of information. Unmet expectations never expressed. Poor listening skills. Confusion. Insecurity either for the future of the organization or for their own job.
It’s up to the leader to spur the change. Communication begins from the top.
And before you say, “but I’m a great communicator!” you need to know that we all have something more to learn about it. This is my calling and I still have a lot to learn.
A General Air of Discontent
You can feel it. It’s a very palpable climate in the office. A heaviness. People are silent. Something is very wrong.
Productivity is down. But sarcasm, cynicism, and complaining are up. Perhaps even open hostility.
These are strong signs of low morale. It requires quick, decisive action from a knowledgeable and experienced leader. The wrong choices here may simply accelerate the downward spiral into total office dysfunction.
Without knowing how to identify the issues and address them, it may continue until it is no longer fixable. Everyone loses. The organization, the employee, and YOU the leader.
As I said at the beginning, if you see any of these signs you are overdue to act. But that doesn’t mean that all is lost.
Next week we will look at five more signs that you need to invest in leadership development. We’ll also talk about some next steps.
Can’t wait? Are you ready to take action NOW to move your organization to the next level? Schedule a free Discovery Strategy Session with me today! You will come away knowing the actions you need to take to go forward.
Leaders face a variety of challenges in the workplace. And most of those challenges center around people. The caring leader recognizes how people impact the organization. What are some of your people challenges?
Long Break Lilly.
Perpetually Late Pete.
Social Media Sally.
Have you seen any of these people around your office?
You know the pattern. They show up just barely on time for work or even a few minutes late. The first thing they do is take a coffee break. They chat around with their friends for a while. They complain about their job, the workplace, the company, and life in general.
They finally (allegedly) start to work. They mess around with a few things until the eagerly anticipated lunch hour. No matter what’s going on, no matter how urgent, lunchtime is lunchtime.
When they finally return from lunch (likely a few minutes late) it takes a while for them to get back into the groove to actually get work done. They may even spend more time chatting around.
They quit at four. They go home at five. Another semi-productive or unproductive day.
The Unengaged Worker
Almost certainly you have seen these people. So have I.
Apparently, so have a lot of organizations. In fact, according to recent studies by Gallup and other groups, 70% of the workforce INCLUDING MANAGERS act like this. It has reached epidemic proportions.
The result is BILLIONS OF DOLLARS lost due to poor productivity, high employee turnover, poor customer satisfaction, and plummeting sales.
Why? Is the modern worker simply self-absorbed or lazy or dishonest? Has loyalty gone the way of the dodo?
No and no.
Leadership is the Cause
As my mentor John C. Maxwell says,
“Everything Rises and Falls on Leadership!”
Many experts claim that people don’t quit the company, they quit the boss. The research seems to actually support that. Gallupreleased a studythat showed that 50% of employees leave because of the boss. While that’s only half, it’s important to note that it’s a half that could have been kept.
If you are a manager or business owner, you likely know how expensive it is to find, hire, and train a new employee to replace an experienced one who quit as well as the cost of lost productivity while they get up to speed.
In addition, other research shows that 70% of customers leave due to apoor customer experience. Not price. Not selection. EXPERIENCE. And who is providing that customer experience?
Long Break Lilly
Perpetually Late Pete
Social Media Sally
Therefore we can’t avoid the conclusion that poor leadership is responsible for almost all disengagement. You could even make a case that the very rare inherently disengaged employee is also the fault of leadership. It means leadership did a poor job of screening and hiring the right person.
A Story of an Uncaring Leader
Right out of college I was hired into a managerial role. And it taught me the lesson that has stuck me all these years.
I was particularly frustrated by John (not his real name) who worked an odd shift. He seemed, at least in my view, to take great delight in doing the opposite of whatever I asked for.
But let’s be real. I was a bossy guy then. My expectations were unreasonable and poorly communicated. In addition, I knew next to nothing about John. Personally or otherwise. And I didn’t want to.
All I knew was that I wanted to solve a problem and the only way I could see clear to solving it was by immediately terminating John.
But I needed my bosses OK to do that. I didn’t get it. Instead, he asked me a series of questions about what I knew about John. His background and family life. His aspirations. He also asked me about how I set expectations and how I communicated that to John.
I was faced with the reality that this was to a great extent my own doing. And that’s when my manager dropped the bomb on me. He said,
“Leadership creates all the problems. Leadership is also the only ones who can solve the problems.”
The Caring Leader The Boldly Lead Way
Leadership is the focal point of how we will solve the issues we face. It begins with a process that I call The Boldly Lead WayTM.
Caring leads to connecting. Connecting allows you to positively Influence. Influencing is the only way you can truly Lead.
Notice it starts with caring. If you want to solve the problem of disengaged workers you become a caring leader. It is only through caring for our people that we create a culture that promotes engagement. The employee still has to make the decision to engage, but when we create the right environment we make that decision easy.
How to Care
A full-time employee will spend eight or more hours a day at work. Out of a 24-hour day, if you are getting your prescribed sleep then you sleep for eight hours. Many don’t, so let’s call it seven hours. So you are awake for 17 hours. That means almost half of your waking hours are at work! One-third of your total day!
Can you just turn life off and put emotions in check for 8 or more hours a day?
Neither can I. No one else can either. We are emotional beings. Emotions are personal.
In addition, you want people on your team that are engaged. That involves passion and a sense of significance.
So reject the idea of impersonal business relationships. Everyone wants to know that they are important, that they matter, that they are part of a family and that they are significant. You’ve got to get personal to do that.
Care About What They Care About
What people really want to know is that what they care about matters. If advancement in the organization is a hot spot for them, it should matter to you. What can you do to encourage and help them?
And this is not limited to workplace issues. If feeding the homeless is a passion of theirs, you need to care enough to support them in that. Does that mean you have to join the board of the local homeless coalition? Not unless you want to. Does it mean you support and encourage your employee in their cause? Without a doubt.
Know Their Family
What is the name of their spouse, partner, or significant other? Do they have children? How many? What are the children’s names? Do you know the birthdays of all of them? What are the important challenges their family is facing?
The caring leader knows their family. It’s their WHY. An intrinsic part of their motivation.
At the end of the day, people don’t really want you to solve their problems. They really just want to be heard. They want to know that you care enough to hear them. We listen to those we respect and love.
Nothing shows love, respect, and esteem more than the intent listening ear.