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 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.
There’s no doubt about it, we live in a complex world. And in this global economy it is important to be agile; to be able to quickly respond to the changing demands of our society and our economy. Adapt to change or else. It’s the reality of the new economy.
Grow or die.
There is nothing in between.
Leaders Learn to Promote The Learning Organization
The best way we grow is through continual learning.
Peter Senge, in his book The Fifth Discipline, advanced the principal of the Learning Organization. Basically, a learning organization is one that engages all the members of the organization in continual learning. They recognize that as everyone learns, the opportunities grow through greater knowledge and capability. These companies invest in their people to move them and the organization forward.
Leaders Know This Personally
The most influential leaders learn this lesson through their own experience. Warren Bennis said, “It is the capacity to develop and improve their skills that distinguishes leaders from followers.”
Leaders know this because they live it. In their desire to truly serve the people they lead, leaders discover that they must constantly expand their capacity. That doesn’t mean expanding it in terms of time or even effort. Great leaders expand their capacity to think, which can only happen through learning and growth. As we mentioned above, staying agile is critical. Agility is only possible through growth. Grow or die.
Benefits of the Learning Organization
The result is a more empowered organization, one that is flexible enough to adapt, They develop a mindset of creative solutions. It’s been proven that the more we learn the more creative we become. Employees collaborate more. There is improved employee morale. Productivity rises. And you create an ongoing legacy so that when the inevitable happens and someone moves on to another role, there is someone ready to step up into that role. Real sustained success as a leader and an organization comes from intentional continual learning. There is no substitute or shortcut.
How to get started on becoming A learning organization
Just think DIME
The basic tenets that get a leader or organization on the road to becoming a vibrant learning organization are contained in the acronym DIME.
Growth has to occur on a daily basis. I often talk about being a 1%er and this is what it is all about. Focus on growing yourself by just 1% a day. That doesn’t sound like much, but over time it compounds and at the end of a year you have grown yourself over 365%. As the saying goes, by the mile its a trial but by the inch its a cinch. This does not necessarily have to be formal learning every time. It could be something as simple as having the team reflect back on the day and talk about lessons learned.
Too many times we chase the next SHINY OBJECT. Being a high “I” personality on the DiSC profile, this is one of my biggest struggles. I am very attracted to THE NEXT BIG THING. The seminar postcard that came in the mail. The book someone recommended we get. The video on LinkedIn or Facebook. And we pursue these without really knowing whether it meets our needs or the needs of the organization. Chasing the shiny object is not a growth plan, it’s a random series of events. We must be more intentional about choosing the growth path that best meets our immediate and future needs.
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Leaders learn their best lessons from making mistakes. Success doesn’t occur with big time screw ups. Give yourself permission to take risks and make mistakes.
Give your employees that same permission to go out and make mistakes without fear of punishment. It is from our mistakes where we are going to learn some of our best lessons about how to move forward.
One of the best stories I have heard on this is about an engineer who discovers a design flaw he made. He calculated it was going to cost the company over $150,000 to fix it. He knew he had to tell the CEO. He fully expects to be fired for this grievous mistake. Late in the day, he reluctantly makes his way into the CEO’s office and slowly unfolds the tale of this costly disaster. When he finishes he says, “Well, I’m sorry. I’ll go clear out my desk.” The CEO says, “No you won’t! I just paid $150,000 for you to learn a lesson! I’m not letting you go now! But you better learn it!“
Leaders learn by engaging in this learning process. Encourage your employees to engage with one another so that not only do they learn from their mistakes but also from the mistakes of others. This can significantly shorten the learning curve and allows us to move forward at a much quicker pace to become the dynamic learning organization that is prepared for the future.
How do your leaders learning? How do you learn? Share your comments below.
Walking the path of a learning leader and learning organization is challenging. Never do it alone! Let me walk along with you and help you succeed. Schedule your free Discovery Strategy Sessiontoday!
Handling Essential Conversations by How Leaders Respond
It’s the stuff comedy legend is made of. During a movie or television program, a situation presents itself and then a character in the show classically overreacts. They might rant or rave. Or cry. or wave their arms. More often than not they make something bad even worse by their action or reaction. It makes for great comedy but not great relationships. Certainly not great leadership. Instead of reacting, we find success when leaders respond.
Marshall Goldsmith calls them Triggers. In his book by the same name, he describes them as any stimulus that reshapes our thoughts and actions. So some triggers can be good. If we program in our minds a trigger than stimulates the desired behavior then we can build a positive habit. Where things go wrong are the triggers that are automatic. That’s where we tend to react. Some of the things that can cause automatic triggers are
Negative triggers tend to set off negative emotions. Those negative emotions, left unchecked, will set off reactions.
Let’s say, for example, that an employee comes to you with a problem. There is a major problem with a phase of your pet project. The employee says, “I don’t see any way we can proceed. I think we are just going to have to cut our losses!” What?! This was YOUR BABY!
What happens? Your face screws up and turns red. Arms and body assume an aggressive stance. The words come. “What is wrong with you people! Can’t you do anything right! You’re incompetent!”
The result is we cause a reaction in the other person. They get defensive or aggressive. Communication shuts down. Nothing gets solved.
The unconscious mind is in control
Have you ever talked with someone or watched someone who tends to let everything come out of their mouths? I refer to it as “stream of consciousness speech“. It hits the mind and it comes out the mouth. There’s no governor there. No filters. Whatever occurs to them just gets blurted out.
This occurs because left to its own, our subconscious mind has no limitations. Societal norms. Consequences. Considering the feelings of others. None of that exists there. It’s all about me. So the things we would really like to say and do in our perfect world can just come out when the unconscious mind is in control.
According to psychologists, a mindset is a belief that affects how we think about something. That belief drives the way we handle particular situations related to that something.
If we believe that all of our employees are inherently lazy and will slack off given the first opportunity, how will that affect our interactions with them? Especially if we see one of them stop to rest even for a moment?
Having a negative mindset about a subject will cause us to react instead of respond. Just having the mindset itself wells up negative emotions. Add another trigger and things explode.
While we actually have a huge capacity for information and stimuli, that capacity is affected by flow rate. What I mean by that is how fast and how much information and stimuli come at us impacts capacity. Too much too fast doesn’t allow our mind to make room for more.
Think of it like making a water balloon. You attach the balloon to the faucet and then turn on the water. If you turn on the water to full immediately the balloon will fill fast and likely blow up from the overwhelming volume of water. On the other hand, if you control the flow of water you allow time for the balloon to expand and not explode.
Sense of Entitlement
This one doesn’t require a lot of explanation, does it? I am sure we have all encountered people who feel they are entitled to something. Especially if you have teenagers living in your home. And when we feel entitled, as if it is inherently ours, we feel the unfairness and injustice of it all when we don’t get it. The feelings of unfairness and injustice trigger emotions that cause us to react instead of respond.
How to Change from Reaction to Response
When leaders respond instead of reacting, it’s a game changer. By choosing to respond, you permit yourself to take potentially negative outcomes and turn them into positive results. It impacts you and it impacts the people to whom to respond. You put yourself back in control – of both the situation and yourself.
As dire as the consequences are when we allow ourselves to react, choosing to respond can go 180 degrees in the other direction. Outstanding positive results are possible when leaders respond instead of react.
So how do we turn the tables? How do we choose to respond instead of react? Try starting with these simple steps.
Always, I mean always, take a breath. The simple act of taking a breath exerts control over the reaction reflex. It doesn’t have to be a deep breath, although that helps. Just breathe in and breathe out.
CHECK THE EMOTIONS
After that breath, identify what emotions you are feeling. When a situation triggers emotions, that’s when dangerous reactions can occur. Name the emotions. When we name them, it helps us to control them. It’s okay to have emotions; in fact, it’s unavoidable. However, when negative emotions are in control there is almost never a positive outcome.
Determine your mindset
What preconceived ideas do you have that driving your emotions? Is it true? Does it apply in this particular situation? It may be similar to something you experienced in the past but is it the same? Usually, something is different. A different circumstance. A whole other person than the one involved before. How do the differences change what we do?
Consider your words
What we say when we respond sets the tone for the rest of the conversation. It affects us and it affects the person(s) on the other end. Consider these two sentences.
“That was the stupidest thing you have ever done!”
“Do you think that was the best choice?”
The first is a reaction that will consequently trigger a reaction in the other person. They will get defensive or hurt. Their reaction will be to fight or flight. Either way, you will not get what you want out of this. The second is a response that is non-threatening and actually has the other person respond instead of react. It leads to a discussion that finds solutions.
Question Everything – the Right Way
As in the example above, asking questions is usually a great way to avoid reacting and to disarm a potentially explosive situation. It has the added benefit of allowing you to gather more facts so that your decision making can be more informed. Let’s look at follow-up questions to the one above.
“Why do you think that was the best choice?”
“What do you think you could have done differently?”
“What do you think we should do now? Why?”
If, in fact, the person’s choice was not a good one then both of you will discover it this way. And by using this method you not only are more likely to find a resolution but you will have also helped the other person learn a valuable lesson. Perhaps next time their decision will be better. Certainly, their trust in you will increase.
Leaders don’t react. Leaders respond. Because responding is how leaders are able to get the best out of themselves and others.
How can communication improve your team? RESPOND NOW and schedule a free Discovery Strategy Session to see how I walk alongside you on this journey!