invisible man in suit on gray background. Invisible Influence.

Using Invisible Influence to Increase Our Impact

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.

Continue reading “Why Invisible Influence is a Leader’s Best Friend”

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Leadership Truly Starts at Home

The Passing of a Leader

My father, Paul F. Simkins, Sr., passed away recently after a year and half battle with cancer. He left a tremendous legacy in his chosen field, the Credit Union industry. He was a pioneer, helping lead the way in community charters. He founded an ATM network for credit unions that is now the largest in the nation. He had a national reputation in the industry. You can read more about it here in the Credit Union Times.

What follows is a trimmed down version of the remembrance I shared at his funeral. I share it here because my leadership journey began here. It is my hope you will look at the leadership lessons you can learn close to home as well. It better prepares you for the lessons you can learn elsewhere.

Remembering the Leadership Lessons

So I am up here today to make the speech you secretly hope you won’t have to make, yet deep down know one day you will.

And while I make a living making speeches, I have found this one to be one of the hardest to make. At the same time, it was one of the easiest. Hard because of the circumstances, easiest because there are so many things I could say about my father. The content is there in the life he lived but I was told to keep this short so the challenge is editing it down.

I am the namesake of Paul F Simkins Sr. Many will tell you we share more than just a name; some of it good and some not so good.

We both had to deal with sleep apnea, hypertension, and a tendency for gout. We both have had to deal with issues with our weight. Large noses run in the family. As I have joked several times recently, we tend to be a phlegmatic family. That was inherited.

Yet there is many more good things that I got than bad. The lessons I learned from my father through his words and his actions. From him I learned what to do and even what not to do. It’s these leadership lessons that stay.

Dad taught us to be faithful. Attendance and participation in church was expected and encouraged. Being an active part of the faith community was important. He built relationships with the pastors and would ask them questions and challenge them. In the end, Dad became comfortable with his pending death because, in his words, “I know where I am going.”

He taught us that family came first. Whether he was taking us on an adventure, or to baseball practice, or Boy Scouts, or dance class – sitting around the house or disciplining us he never left any doubt as to how important we were. Like most families, we had our moments but they were just that – moments. When the smoke cleared we were still family and the bond was still important. Even as we the children went off and established our own lives, much of it still revolves around the family as a whole.

Dad taught us presence. Having been involved as a teen, Dad loved Drum and Bugle Corps. When I had a chance to join one, he came along with me and participated in coaching the drum line.  I joined little league and they needed a manager for the team or there wouldn’t be a team. There was Dad. Same with Scouting. We needed a Scoutmaster or no troop. There was Dad. As a result, the influence he had was not just on me, but on dozens of other kids and adults over the years. I am a Scouter today because my son, Charlie, is passionate about Scouting and because of the lesson I learned from Dad to care for and influence others.

He was there for people in his business as well. Several managers and executives in the financial services business will acknowledge they owe their career path to Paul Simkins. He saw potential, gave them an opportunity, mentored them, and helped them to shine.

Dad taught me how to love your wife and make her a priority. As important as we children were, it was very clear to us where we stood in the pecking order. Dad’s world, first and foremost, revolved around his bride, Martha Jo – Mom to me. He was fully devoted to her, loving, affectionate, and thoughtful. I’ve tried to model that in my relationship with my wife, Sherry. You’ll have to ask her whether or not I have succeeded.

He taught us humor. Ask anyone who knew Dad and they will talk about how he was funny, entertaining, that he had a great sense of humor. One of our favorite pictures we included in the slide show is of several of his grandchildren sitting around him on the couch. He was supposed to be reading the Christmas story to them, yet in the picture all of the children are practically rolling around the floor laughing. You just know he said something – a funny voice, a funny name, something silly – that made them delight in peals of laughter. He brought humor into his workplaces and his interactions with others. He used it as a tool to connect with people and make them feel at ease around him. It speaks volumes that many of the memories shared about him revolve around that.

My father’s life was a model of how to care for, connect with, and influence others. Not a perfect model to be sure but an effective one. His influence lives on forever in my life and the lives of so many others where he made a difference.

What lessons are there for you within your family? Within your community? What have you learned that stuck with you? Share your thoughts here or email me at psimkins@BoldlyLead.com.

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And How to Add Them to Your Toolbox

An plumber without the right tools can't be effective. A leader is the same.It is complicated and challenging being the leader. Especially a leader with a position of authority.

Demands are everywhere. Demands for more efficiency, more productivity. Do more with less. Keep everyone engaged. Reduce turnover. Make a profit. Get the reports in on time. Get more clients or customers. Answer emails. Hire good people. Get rid of unproductive employees. Fix problems.

It’s easy to get lost in all that. It’s also easy to forget what you were put there to do to begin with.

Your primary job, no matter your title, is to Boldly Lead your team.

What does it mean to Boldly Lead?

Boldly Lead logoTo Boldly Lead means to be strong and courageous when facing the demands of the day. It means to always place your primary focus on the people in your team and providing them with what they need to accomplish their goals or deadlines. It means to protect your team when they need protecting.

To Boldly Lead means grabbing the corners of the blanket and shaking them forward; giving them hope and vision. It means navigating for them and bringing clarity in all situations.

To Boldly Lead means you place people first, because it is only through your people that things get done consistently and productively.

[tweetthis hidden_hashtags=”#BoldlyLead” url=”http://ow.ly/B5b3309TP7a” display_mode=”box”]To Boldly Lead means that your people are your highest priority at work![/tweetthis]

Boldly Lead with Critical Skills

If you want to Boldly Lead your team, there are tools you need to be ready to pull out and use constantly and consistently.

Empathy

To show empathy for others means that you have an interest in and relate to other people’s feelings. We show concern for when members of our team have issues, especially when those issues have a lot of emotional content. In an interview in Success Magazine, noted author Simon Sinek says it is as simple as saying the words “Is everything OK?

He gives a great example that he documented in his book Leaders Eat Last. In an interview with a Marine Corp officer about what makes them so special; why every Marine is ready to lay their life on the line for each other. The officer said you could go to any Marine Corp mess hall and you would see that the least in rank eat first and the high officers last. Putting the needs of our team members – especially their emotional needs – before our own goes a long way towards showing that they are important. What you get in return is commitment.

Start with asking. “How are things going?“, “Are you ok?“, “How are you feeling?”  And then listen. Don’t judge, don’t try to fix.

LISTEN.

Emotional Intelligence

More than just a buzzword, it’s an important skill for a leader.

Author and psychologist Daniel Goleman identifies five qualities you must demonstrate to achieve a level of emotional intelligence:

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Self-regulation
  3. Motivation (or passion)
  4. Empathy
  5. Social Skills

In other words, it’s not just enough to be self-aware (“I know I am a jerk sometimes”) we must also learn to control that and have the passion for others to want to, the empathy to understand how it impacts others, and the social skills to implement it.

Emotional Intelligence can only be effectively achieved through a commitment to daily personal growth. Develop a plan of intentional growth that helps you become more aware of your strengths and weaknesses, and follow a specific plan of daily improvement.

Strategic Planning

This is where vision and navigation come in. Seeing the road ahead and the path to take. Anticipating the roadblocks and obstacles and knowing how to overcome them or get around them. Coaching your team on how to move ahead and stay consistent with your mission and values.

Communication

Author and former presidential speech writer James Humes says it best: “The art of communication is the language of leadership.”

Is it any wonder that survey after survey, year after year, identifies communication as the number one skill sought by employers?

Learn and develop active listening skills. Study not just what to say but how to say it. Understand how personality types affect how we communicate. You will use this tool every day, all day.

Calendar

What does a calendar have to do with being a leader? 

Close up of arms of woman holding schedule. She choosing certain dateUse it to schedule your personal growth time (minimum 30 minutes a day), your reflection and navigation time. Everything you absolutely need to do.

I don’t know who originally said, but I heard it from Michael Hyatt: What gets scheduled gets done.

What else? Fill in the calendar with every person’s birthday, partner’s birthday, anniversary, children’s birthday, work anniversary, and other significant dates. Add a reminder to each. Make a point of recognizing each of them.

Making them important by remembering what’s important to them.

What tools do you use to Boldly Lead your team? Identify tools you need to add to your toolbox. How are you going to change things?

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

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Influencing Culture

What if…

What you do and what you say in every situation made a difference?

Of course, you know what’s coming next.

It does!

Two things inspired me to write this today.

First, I was reading my morning devotional. It was Esther 4.

Book of Esther pictureIf you are not a person of faith before you stray away: there is a valuable lesson in here for everyone.

In the story, the Jews are facing annihilation at the hands of Haman through his influence on King Xerxes. Mordecai, a Jew, had managed to get his cousin Esther, also a Jew, placed as Queen. Mordecai sends her a message to intervene with the King on behalf of the Jews but doing so could endanger Esther’s life and she hesitates, doubting her influence.

Mordecai’s response moved her: “Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?

How would that hit you?

That one moment where she doubts she has influence and doubts she can make a difference is where she ends up having a huge impact and makes the biggest difference of all!

Secondly, I read a blog post from my mentor John C. Maxwell, also talking about influence

He also 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.

[tweetthis hidden_hashtags=”#culturecounts” display_mode=”box”]We think about major moments so much that we forget that minor moments count as well.[/tweetthis]

Think about those moments and think about your day so far

Image of Influence Network

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?

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 culture.

Therefore, culture is created, it doesn’t just evolve. We help shape culture by our thoughts, our words, and our actions.

[tweetthis hidden_hashtags=”#CultureCounts #Ahhamoment”]Our daily choices influence culture in every circumstance.[/tweetthis]

What if you were in a particular time and place for such a time as this?

What if this person or group was where your influence counted the most?

What will your next choice be?

What thoughts and suggestions do you have to help others shape culture?

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Thinking Possibilities

As leaders, one of the most important things we do is think.  We think about our followers, about mentoring and growing other leaders, about the future of our business or our team.
Our thinking becomes dangerous when we start thinking in terms of limitations. When we think in absolutes.  When we think with what’s called a “Lack Mentality”.
It’s been proven time and time again;  limited thinking leads to limited results.
When we think in possibilities however then answers and solutions come to us.
Ken Blanchard once said,
If you want to go places you have never gone before, you have to think in ways you have never thought before.
Possibility thinking leads to the creative.  It opens up new avenues and new solutions and allows you to be a more effective leader for your team.

Solutions Through Possibilities

Mr. Hollands Opus - Mr. Holland teaches musicIf you ever saw the movie, Mr. Holland’s Opus, starring Richard Dreyfus as music teacher Glenn Holland you would see an excellent example of this.  Mr. Holland is trying to write music and dreams of creating a world renown piece.  To pay the bills, he takes on a job as a high school music teacher and  faces challenge after challenge with the students and even his own child, who is born deaf.

Where others saw absolutes and insurmountable circumstances, Mr. Holland instead looked for possibilities.  His passion for music and his desire to share that passion with others led him to think of unique ways to make things happen and achieve success.  He finds creative ways to reach students and inspire them and even devises a way for his deaf son and other hearing impaired people to enjoy music through lights.
The end result was the lasting impact that Mr. Holland had on the people he influenced.  He led them places they didn’t think they could go.

How We Can

As a leader, the responsibility we have as well is to lead people where they don’t necessarily think they can go.  To do that, we have to be willing and prepared to explore possibilities and seek creative solutions in pursuit of our vision.
[snaptweet]When our vision and our passion join, we see hope.  But when we think HOW WE CAN instead of “CAN WE”, then we create possibilities to bring our vision to reality.[/snaptweet]

Here’s some things to help open you up to possibilities:

  1. Be a positive thinker –  Many think positive thinking is just sticking your head in the sand, but actually a positive thinker looks for possibilities.  They look for how they can get the best out of every situation.
  2. Remember WHY and HOW – Question things a lot.  Ask questions like “how can we be more effective?  How can we serve our customers more efficiently?  How can we improve our profitability?”
  3. Avoid the Impossible Thinkers – The consultants and experts that tell you it can’t be done, that its impossible to reach your goals or objectives.  There are always possibilities and we want to look for those instead of what we can’t do.
  4. Think “AND” instead of “OR” –  We limit our thinking by creating exclusionary choices.  We can do this or have that.  Why not look at how can we do this AND have that?  How can we improve customer service AND increase profitability?  Thinking that way helps us come up with creative solutions that are more effective for our organization.

What possibilities will you open yourself up to today?

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