05Managers or Leaders

comparing management and leadership shows the differencesIf you listen to how many people talk about leadership, one thing becomes clear. They don’t really know what leadership is. You may hear them talk about someone being promoted or hired into a position of leadership.

That also tells us that many people put management and leadership in the same bundle.  When people say that the leader should be finding new opportunities for the team and focus more on improving process, they are really saying that these are behaviors they would like to see in their managers that obviously they aren’t seeing. But it’s not leadership.

Remember the simple formula:

managers are about process, leaders are about people.

So seeking new opportunities and improving process, making life easier for employees; those are the job of the manager.  Equipping, empowering, encouraging, motivating, and growing are the roles of the leader.

That said, to be a truly effective manager you must also be an effective leader.  In fact, perhaps what employees are really telling us is that they would like to see their managers both be more proactive in their management roles but also would like to see them be better leaders than they are.

Leaders are Grown

I mentioned earlier that leaders have a responsibility to grow their followers. It’s an enormous responsibility. But for a leader to grow others, they must first grow themselves.  You cannot give what you don’t have to give.  I think leaders are recognizing this more and more.  A Pew Research survey asked people what they think they need the most in order to be better equipped for the jobs.   What were the top answers?

Interpersonal skills. Communication skills. In other words,

Leadership SKILLS

The challenge is that we can’t just throw a band aid on it. Offering one training course won’t do it. Sending someone to  a conference isn’t enough. Giving them a book to read will not make them any more of an effective leader than sitting in a boat makes you a good sailor.

Leaders Sail the Waters Daily

leadership is about growing dailyWhile sitting in the boat you are surrounded by the tools you need to sail, but you must first gain knowledge about sailing.  You must spend time developing and applying the skills to sail. Knowing how to gauge the wind. Navigating the water. Determining course. Bringing all elements in line with moving in the desired direction on the water.  You must know how to trim the sails and handle the helm. How to coordinate the crew and change direction as the sea and wind changes to keep the ship on course.  You must be mentored by a more experienced sailor.  You also must learn from your mistakes on the water.  And you must do all of this day in and day out to become the sailor you need to be. The sailor you are meant to be.

If you are not engaged DAILY in developing your leadership skills, the growth necessary to become an excellent leader will simply not occur. At best it will be haphazard and slow.  

For optimal leadership growth, it needs to be

  • Daily –  you must do something every day to develop your skills
  • Intentional – you must have a plan for the skills you need to develop and how you will develop them
  • Scheduled – you must set aside time on your calendar for it; otherwise any excuse will help you avoid it
  • Guided – Someone needs to help you see and navigate the process; like a coach or mentor
  • Progressive – build on a skill one by one; don’t attempt to master anything in a day

Spend as much (if not more) time on developing yourself and your people as you do your business.  When you do, you will be surprised to find how many of the other process-oriented problems will take care of themselves.

Not sure how to start on your intentional leadership journey? Call me Today for a FREE discovery Strategy session at 321-355-2442 or email me.

Here’s some ways to get started

  1. Identify three skills you need to develop further.  Remember to work from a position of strength and not weakness; in other words, identify your three strongest skills and seek to make them better. I can help you with this.
  2. Pick the one you want to start on.  Locate resources to help you develop that skill and secure them.
  3. Set aside time on your calendar DAILY to work on it.  It should be the same time every day.  Guard it ruthlessly; let nothing short of a client need or spurting blood interrupt it.
  4. Keep me posted on how you’re doing.  I want to hear your success stories and your challenges.

Expectations on the Leader

A leader has to face more than just the task at hand. Often they also have to face perception. I was reminded of a book I read called The Work of Leaders.  It was written by a team of four authors at Wiley Press. I heard one of the authors, Julie Straw, present a briefing on their research.  One thing item got my attention at the time and I thought of it again. I shared these thoughts once before but time also deepens our perspective.

Employee Expectations

Misguided expectations put pressure on a leader. Businessman supporting stone under pressureStraw mentioned a survey on employees asking about the shortcomings on their leaders.  After distilling it down they came up with three primary issues that people have with their leaders.  They are, in order,

  1. Employees want leaders to be more active about finding new opportunities for the team
  2. They also want them to focus more on improving process and making things easier for people
  3. Finally, they want them to spend more time motivating and encouraging their followers

Interestingly, what struck me about this was the comments themselves.  Certainly number three is a quality that leaders should embrace.  In fact, a leader should spend the vast majority of their time encouraging people, equipping people, and motivating them to become better than they are.  But the other two items, #1 and #2, are not really leadership issues; they are management issues.

Manager or Leader

One of the things this tells us is that many people put management and leadership in the same bundle.  When people say that the leader should be more active about finding new opportunities for the team and focus more on improving process, they are really saying that these are behaviors they would like to see in their managers that obviously they aren’t seeing.

Remember the simple formula:


Therefore seeking new opportunities and improving process, making life easier for employees; those are the job of the manager.  Equipping, empowering, encouraging, motivating, and growing are the roles of the leader.

That said, to be a truly effective manager you must also be an effective leader.  In fact, perhaps what the results of the survey really tell us is what people would like to see. They would like to see managers be more proactive in their management roles but also  better leaders than they are now.

A Leader is Grown Not Born

Above all leaders have a responsibility to grow their followers. It’s an enormous responsibility. However for a leader to grow others, they must first grow themselves.  You cannot give what you don’t have.  I think leaders are recognizing this more and more.  Another survey cited in the book The Work of Leaders is about what people think they need the most in order to be better equipped for the jobs.

What was number one?

Leadership Training

Leaders Sail the Waters Daily

A Leader, like a sailor, must learn to navigate well.When sitting in a boat you are surrounded by the tools you need to sail. However, you may not have any knowledge about sailing. Therefore to use those tools effectively you must spend time developing and applying sailing skills. You develop the skill to gauge the wind, navigate the water, trim the sails, and plot the course.

You then bring all these elements together to move in the desired direction on the water.  Sometimes it pays to be mentored by a more experienced sailor.  There is learning from your mistakes and the mistakes of others. And you must do all of this day in and day out to become the sailor you desire to be.

Leaders Develop Intentionally

If you are not developing your leadership skills on a regular basis you simply will NOT grow to become an excellent leader. At best it will be inconsistent or very slow.  Books and newspapers are full of stories of leaders who are only willing to grow so far. They aren’t willing to make it a deliberate part of their life. As a result, they only realize so little of their potential.

Leadership growth occurs best when it is

  • DAILY –  you must do something every day to develop your skills
  • INTENTIONAL – you must have a plan for the skills you need to develop and how you will develop them
  • SCHEDULED – you must set aside time on your calendar for it; otherwise any excuse will help you avoid it
  • GUIDED – Someone needs to help you see and navigate the process; like a coach or mentor
  • PROGRESSIVE – build on a skill one by one; don’t attempt to master anything in a day

Spend time on developing yourself and your people than do on management or process problems.  When you do, you will be surprised to find how many management problems seem to take care of themselves.

How much intentional is your growth as a leader? What is your biggest challenge making it more intentional? Comment below or send me a note at psimkins(at)BoldlyLead.com.

Are you not sure how to start on the road to intentional leadership? Schedule your free Discovery Strategy Session today.

Breaking the Habit of Profanity in the Workplace

picture of businesswoman with profanity bubbleI was concerned primarily with profanity. Moments before my first on-air shift at a radio station I confessed my desperate nervousness to my Program Director. “I am scared about saying the wrong thing!” I professed. “What if suddenly I accidentally let a cuss word out or something?

My PD assured me “You should be worried. It’s exactly the right attitude to have. The FCC doesn’t take that well!

At the time, the Federal Communications Commission, who oversees broadcast media, had very strict rules about the use of profanity on the radio waves. A fine for the station and even for you personally was not completely out of the question, depending on severity and frequency.

“I knew that the profanity used up and down my street would not go over the air..so I trained myself to say ‘Holy Cow!’ instead. –Harry Caray, famous Chicago Cubs announcer

Our Words Make a Difference

I don’t remember the Program Director’s talk making me feel any better. I did manage to get through my few years in broadcast radio without letting a swear word slip out on-air. And there was another benefit to his little “pep talk” – it made my very aware of how language and the words we use make a difference.

Therefore, I want to encourage you to restrict the use of profanity overall – in the workplace, at home, in the community. Despite it’s prolific use today in the movies, television, and so forth, it still has a very negative aspect to it.

“All hockey players are bilingual – they speak both English and profanity.” -Gordie Howe

Here are some other reasons profanity doesn’t help

1. It’s Unprofessional

A study conducted by CareerBuilder.com found that 81% of employers believed swearing (profanity) brings an employee’s professionalism into question. A good 64% said it caused them to think less of the employee. Being a professional by its nature demands a certain level of self-control that profanity belies.

2. Words Have Impact

You know the old adage we used to say to the mean kids when we were young. You know,

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me!”

Well, it’s a lie. Study after study has repeatedly shown that it DOES hurt us. Deeply. We might laugh it off as though we are too tough for anything like that to affect us, but it does.

The truth is that there is evidence according to authors Andrew Newberg, M.D. and Mark Robert Waldman that words can literally change your brain. They suggest that just seeing a list of negative words makes you feel worse and disrupts many of the operational centers of your brain. Other research suggests it also changes the attitudes and behaviors of others.

Negative words, therefore, will trigger negative behaviors – not just in others but in ourselves as well.

3. Words Have Emotion

Words alone have minimal impact. It is the emotional context we put behind words that gives or takes away impact. Curse words by design have negative impact and so there is not really a way to say them with a positive impact. Some will try to say positive things that include profanity but the intent will diminish.

Think about it. If someone compliments you by saying “You F—in’ Rock!” does it really make it more positive than to just say “You Rock!“? In fact, if you look at it, the use of the profanity actually lessens the impact rather than enhances it. You focus on the F—in’ and not the rockin’.

4. It Desensitizes

The more profanity is used the less impact it has. On the surface that sounds like a good thing. Great! Curse up a storm and it eventually won’t bother anyone anymore!

Yet it also means it won’t have the impact you intended it to have. While there are some that curse as part of their second nature, overall we use curse words precisely for the impact they have; either to stress the emotions of your words or to intimidate or just to show power.

However, it’s like taking drugs. At first a little has effect but then after a while it takes more and more to have the effect we want.

5. It Impedes Communication

cartoon of man's profanity speech bubbles building a wall between peopleWhen people react negatively to curse words, their impulse is to defend. When they are defensive, they are no longer open to truly hearing what you have to say. Their response will almost always be a negative one; whether they become openly aggressive or opt for a more passive-aggressive stance. Either way, while the use of profanity triggers emotional response, unless your intent is simply to intimidate or cause emotional reaction you won’t reach your communication goals.

6. You Could Be Fired

While you do have freedom of speech guaranteed by the Amendment One of the U.S. Constitution, the Supreme Court of the United States also defined a category of exceptions they called Unprotected Speech. Part of the exceptions are many of the curse words we use. They are considered obscene and inflammatory and therefore are not protected by the First Amendment. It falls in the same realm as fraudulent speech or defamation.

Can be Beneficial

That all being said, most of do curse at least on occasion, me included. For those of who do once in awhile let loose with an expletive or two (or three) are actually finding a little bit of pain release, whether physical or emotional. A study reported at PsychCentral.com actually found it provides an outlet for pent-up emotions. We are less likely to to become violent when we let loose with a few profanities and can actually improve our well-being.

The same study, however, did find that high frequency diminished any of the positive effects. So if you are going to use curse words, be careful of how much and how often.

“Under certain circumstances, urgent circumstances, desperate circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer.” -Mark Twain

So intent matters. Overall, remember that profanity is pretty much meant for negative and not positive impact. Choose the words you say and when you say them for optimal positive impact.

Do you use curse words in the workplace? Do you work with people who do? How do you think it affects work relationships?

Share your thoughts here in the comments or email me at psimkins(at)BoldlyLead.com

What We Have Here is a Failure to Communicate

Do you really need to be sold on the importance of communication in the workplace (or anywhere for that matter)?

poor communication leads to the dinosaurs missing the ark with the quote "Oh my God, was that today?"This is one of my areas of passion. My degree is in Organizational Communications and it included an intensive study of a real organization to observe and comment on its communication practices.

No matter the organization there were two things I see in common in regards to communication.

  • One is that we tend to think our organization is great at communication.
  • The other is that we think that until we discover it’s not. We discover it either through a Communications Audit or through trials we experience because communication breaks down.

And it will break down. Trying to stay lean and agile while also fostering growth inevitably leads to breakdowns in communication. We must know where the breakdown occurs and why in order to fix it.

Why Communication Breaks Down.

1.We Think Our Communication is Totally Clear

You, me, everyone of us approach any situation from our own personal point of view. When we are communicating with others, what comes out is not just words. It is also background and knowledge, experiences, and viewpoints. So we talk with words and phrases and sometimes even abbreviations and acronyms that make perfect sense to us but are meaningless to others.

“I don’t know why you don’t get it, I’m made it as clear as can be!”

Been there, done that. Probably you have too. I’ve been on the other side of that too.

Think about how to express the thoughts without the use of jargon. Also think about how your point of view translates to others.

2. Making Assumptions

Along the same lines as clarity is making assumptions.

We assume they understand.

Or that they have the same knowledge set we have.

We may even assume that the other person or people have a certain mindset. I know I have spoken before groups where I made the dangerous assumption that they would be antagonistic. The opposite turned out to be true.

Check your assumptions before initiating conversation. Better yet, ask questions that help clarify or eliminate assumptions you have made.

3. Taking Too Long to Communicate Our Message

You ever get directions from someone who over-explains? They just kind of ramble on and on; usually providing side stories and details and minutiae. It can be hard sometimes to remember or understand the main point of the communication.

Why do people over-explain?

Strangely, I couldn’t find a lot of scientific research on this. I’m sure it’s there, I just didn’t find it. However, I did find plenty of insight on some possible reasons.

  • Guilt
  • Anxiety
  • Feeling Misunderstood
  • Lying

Another strong reason is that many people feel uncomfortable with silence. So when there is a period of silence they feel they must fill the gap and so they talk even more.  Good negotiators know this and often use it as a tactic – the rule is generally the last person to talk loses.

Become your own talented negotiator and seek for win-win communication. Be brief and to the point.

Then shut-up and let them ask for more. If they don’t, they are likely satisfied with the answer. If they do, you get the chance to provide more information for better understanding. Win-win.

4. Not Taking Long Enough

The flip side of taking too long is when we don’t give enough information. This can sometimes be a sign of deception but more often than not it is a sign of what I call “auto-complete”.

We sometimes get a thought process going in our heads that we then start putting in audible words. What happens is that the thoughts in our head complete and our mouth can’t keep up. The result of auto-complete is that the conclusion and sometimes entire thoughts get lost. We THINK we were complete and we were, but only in our minds.

If you have a tendency towards this one way to combat is to ask your audience to confirm their understanding. More specifically, ask where they got lost. That allows you to go back and complete out loud what you completed in your head.

5. Rapid Growth

When an organization experiences a high rate of growth in a short period of time, often effective communication channels become the victim. Usually they weren’t communicating that well to begin with but when you are small it doesn’t seem to matter as much. As growth occurs and more people are thrown in the mix, the lack of designed communication systems becomes glaringly obvious. Conflict abounds, productivity slows, sales get lost, and chaos ensues.

The best fix for this is prevention. At the first signs of growth, be intentional about implementing formal communication systems. I’m not talking about a phone system, I’m talking about making sure there are practices in place to ensure that information is getting shared with the right people. Have a plan yet also be prepared to modify it often.

If you wait until it actually becomes a problem, then you end up having to bring in someone like me to help you repair it. Like everything else, fixing is more expensive than prevention.

6. Emotions

Our communication needs – in fact it must have – emotional content. Emotions provide meaning and emphasis to what would otherwise be just words.

The danger of emotions is when we let them get away from us. Either we are so passionate about our message that we get over-excited or more commonly we allow someone else’s words to emotionally charge us.

Actor and Martial Artist Bruce Lee addressed this while instructing a young student in the movie Enter the Dragon.  He tells the student to perform a kick and then criticizes his lack of emotional content. When the student, upset at the criticism, tries again, Bruce chides him that emotional content and anger are not the same thing.

We need emotion to create connection. The wrong emotion or too much emotion prevents connection.

If you are the speaker, make sure your emotion matches the meaning. If you are the listener, try to keep yourself from reacting emotionally at least until you are sure the message is complete. Carefully consider the point before you emotionally react to it.

7. Ego

ego gets in the way of effective communicationPeople who need power will use information as a power source. The purpose of poor communication or a lack of communication is intentional then in order to keep it to themselves. He who has more information than others holds the power is the belief.

There is also a certain ego boost in being the one “in the know”. Obviously, you are revered if you know more than everyone else, right? Right?!

Ken Blanchard says that when people get caught up in their ego it erodes their effectiveness. The combination of false pride and self-doubt gives a person a distorted image of themselves. The result is a very self-centered and self-driven world where you are simply a tool to reach their purpose.

To communicate with the ego-driven person, focus on providing facts. Offer solutions, Give alternatives. Offer cooperation or invite participation. Avoid anything that would seem like a personal attack or assigning blame. Give appropriate compliments. That will help keep the ego-driven person from reacting emotionally.

If you are on the receiving end of communication from the ego, focus on the facts of what they are saying. Ask questions. Don’t allow the strong emotional content to overwhelm you. Try to get specific action items and make sure they are fully understood.

8. Insecurity

Similar to ego, when a person harbors insecurities they tend to communicate less. Either they are not sure of themselves, not sure of the message, or both. Not sharing the message is highly preferable to sharing the message and risk the threat of being criticized or reprimanded.

Reinforce that you value them and the information they have. Ask for their opinion and more importantly thank them for sharing the information. The idea here is to make sharing information more rewarding than the perceived threat.

9. Inconsistent Message

We can be as guilty of this as well as be the victim of this. This is especially a critical point for leaders. Your message must be consistent.

Want buy in to your vision? Communicate it consistently and constantly.

Looking to encourage the team to a performance goal? Measure and report it consistently.

That means you need to be sure of what that message is. If you don’t know, neither will they. This is primarily where this becomes a problem. When a leader is not really sure of what the vision is or where the goal should be, it’s tough to communicate that consistently.

Make sure of your message and then be intentional about it’s communication. Have a plan.

10. No Common Ground

For your message to reach an audience, they have to be able to understand how it relates to what they already know. This is the common ground.

Common ground is personal. Find elements of the message they can relate to. If you are communicating a sales goal, relate it to how it affects the organization AND how it impacts them directly.

Who do you remember as a great communicator? What made them great? What would you duplicate if you could in yourself and others?

Share your thoughts here or write me at psimkins@BoldlyLead.com.

And while you’re writing me, ask for a FREE copy of my e-book “12 Skills that Make You an Extraordinary Listener”.


Does Leadership Promote Inclusiveness at All Costs?

Google took action on Monday to fire an engineer who expressed concern over some of Google’s policies. The employee posted a memo about gender balance and inclusivity. The CEO of Google, Sundar Pinchai, said that it the memo from the engineer expressed “gender stereotypes” that had no place in Google’s culture.

Leadership Considers All Angles

Before we condemn the engineer as racist and misogynist, it’s important to have a good picture of what as said. We also need to ask some serious questions that it brings up about company culture and expression of viewpoints.

The internal memo, written by engineer James Damore, was about 10 pages long and cited many sources. The content, minus some graphics, was posted by Gizmodo here. In the memo, titled Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber, Damore expressed concern that some of the policies of Google targeted towards diversity and inclusiveness possibly went too far. He focused primarily on gender differences. Damore considered whether they were perhaps trying to overcome natural differences in the sexes. He said, “We need to stop assuming that gender gaps imply sexism.” He cited sources that supposedly establish definitive differences that would prevent a perfect balance of sexes in some technical fields.

This is NOT About the Politics of Inclusiveness

I do not intend to debate the merits of diversity and inclusiveness, nor whether arguments against it are valid. In fact, Damore himself stated that he is not opposed to diversity in and of itself.

Damore’s biggest concern was while promoting diversity leaders may have actually created a culture of shaming that suppresses points of view contrary to leadership’s position.

He cited a political bias that on the one hand promoted freedom from offense and psychological safety while on the other hand shamed opposition into silence, providing the opposite of psychological safety.

Ideological Echo Chamber

google leadership in diversityThe result, Damore said, is an “ideological echo chamber” where some topics were too sacred to be discussed openly.

Further, according to Damore, is what happens is that Google resorts to discrimination the other way to battle perceived discrimination. Again, I don’t plan to debate that.

Danielle Brown, the new VP of Diversity, Integrity, and Compliance for Google, issued a response to Google employees in counterpoint to Damore’s memo. In it, Brown specifically said that the memo promoted “incorrect assumptions about gender”. The most compelling part of her response, and the most puzzling, was this:

“Part of building an open, inclusive environment means fostering a culture in which those with alternative views, including different political views, feel safe sharing their opinions. But that discourse needs to work alongside the principles of equal employment found in our Code of Conduct, policies, and anti-discrimination laws.”

Despite that, or perhaps because of that, on Monday it was announced that Damore was terminated by Google for “violating the company code of conduct” by “perpetuating gender stereotypes”. For Damore’s part, he is currently considering his legal options.

Employment at Will

Most states, including California where Google is located, are “employment-at-will” states however. That means, according to Jennifer Englert, Managing Partner of The Orlando Law Group, that

“..a company can fire you for anything as long as it is not a discriminatory reason. Many people get confused about what discriminatory reasons are but they would be discriminating based upon race sex pregnancy or a few other very limited protected classes. Your beliefs about these things and not agreeing with them are not considered discriminatory in most cases.”

So basically it appears that first amendment rights do not really exist in the workplace. Disagreeing with company policy doesn’t qualify you as being discriminated against, no matter how well-supported your thoughts (and I am not saying they necessarily are in this case).

What This Means for Leaders

For us, the real questions to explore here is to what level do leaders encourage or suppress opposing viewpoints on company policy? Where is the danger to the effective development of corporate culture? Does silencing one faction create a chilling effect for others?

Was Google right to terminate employment from a leadership standpoint? Is there a way it could have been handled better? How do we decide that free expression crosses the line into doing more harm than good in our work environment?

Share your thoughts here or email me at psimkins@BoldlyLead.com.