Leaders Learn to be agile

Businessman in education and learning. leaders learn

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

Never stop learning written on a memo stick. Lifelong learning concept.

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.

[tweetthis]Sustained success comes from intentional continual learning. #leaderslearn[/tweetthis]

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.
DAILY
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.
INTENTIONAL
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.
MISTAKES
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!
ENGAGED
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!
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Compelling Reasons a Leadership Coach Can Help

A leadership coach can help you get from here to thereEveryone needs a sounding board. In all my years in business, I have as yet to meet a single person who was so supremely confident in every decision they made that they needed no feedback. That’s where a leadership coach can help.

A Valid Sounding Board

The problem with most of the sounding boards that leaders tend to gravitate towards is that they have skin in the game. They have some sort of vested interest in the outcome. Talk to a colleague, chat with an assistant, share with your spouse. They are involved somehow. They can’t disconnect themselves completely from the situation enough to give feedback that isn’t somehow skewed. It’s not necessarily intentional, it’s our nature when our own emotions or well-being is involved.

By contrast, the Leadership Coach can provide that perspective. They can listen objectively. Ask questions. Challenge assumptions. Best of all, they help you discover the answers hidden from you.

“Does coaching work? Yes. Good coaches provide a truly important service. They tell you the truth when no one else will.”Jack Welch

A Leadership Coach is Not a Consultant

In fact, an important distinction is that a leadership coach is NOT a consultant per se. A consultant gives you answers. They are typically expert in your industry. And they are good for that. If it is a question of process, a consultant is a good option.

It’s Rarely a Matter of Process

The thing is that the issue is rarely one of process. It is usually one of leadership and people. No one can give you the answers to that because the correct approach is one that is inherently you. A leadership coach can help you find that answer that is only inside of you. And it will be the best solution because it is yours and not someone else’s.

A Leadership Coach is an Expert

So an excellent leadership coach does not need to be an expert in your field. That’s not where you want the answers. They do need to be an expert on leadership. And communication. and relationships.

More Reasons for a Leadership Coach

The right coach provides benefits that are almost unfathomable for the leader. Here’s some of the other benefits provided by a leadership coach.

Experience is NOT the best teacher

You have most likely heard that phrase from someone at least once in your life. Maybe you have even used it. But it’s a lie. We all have experiences every moment of every single day of our life. If experience was really the best teacher shouldn’t we be pretty close to perfect by now?

Therefore it’s not the experience, it’s the lesson. If we spend time REFLECTING on our experience there is a lesson to be derived. We can take the pain of the experience and turn it into something that adds value to us. A leadership coach plays a vital role in helping you find those lesson gems inside of each experience. That’s hard to do on your own.

Your WHY can get lost in the woods

There is the old saying that when you are up to your ears in alligators it’s hard to remember that your objective was to drain the swamp (there is absolutely no political commentary there). When we are dealing with the crisis of the moment we can get lost. We forget WHY we are doing what we do to begin with. Your coach will help you keep your eye on the prize, bringing you back to center when you need it.

Focus or flurry

Action alone isn’t necessarily useful. As John Maxwell says, many people major in the minors. We spend a lot of time being active and busy. Is the right actions? The right kind of busy? We can busy ourselves with a flurry of actions that get us no closer to our goals. A leadership coach will help you focus your efforts so that they are more productive and more in line with your personal or organizational goals.

Overcome Resistance

a leadership coach helps you break through resistanceAll of us are naturally resistant to doing anything that puts us out on the line. So if you find yourself having those feelings know that you are in good company. Left on our own, we will often give in to that resistance. Even the high achievers you see give in to resistance a lot more than they would likely want to admit.

Yet study after study has shown that we are less likely to give in to resistance when someone else is holding us accountable. A coach who knows the actions we have determined and the deadlines to meet keeps us in check. Can’t just anyone do that? Only if they are there specifically for that purpose. A leadership coach will know how to help you move past the resistance and go forward.

Clarity

Sometimes our actions are like driving through the fog. We are getting work done but not really sure where it’s taking us. We see a little ahead but can’t really see the road fully. This is where a coach who is not an expert in your field can really be a benefit. A coach who doesn’t make assumptions based on industry knowledge will ask questions others won’t. You explain it and just that process can lead to thoughts that break down mindsets that block us. We get clarity when we see beyond where we are.

Save time

A coach can help you get there faster than you would likely do on your own. Because of the all the other things a leadership coach can do for you, you spend less time spinning your wheels. You benefit from more productive time. You become more effective.

Get from here to there

If your intent is to move forward, a leadership coach can be the bridge that helps you get from here to there. Where is there? It’s wherever you want to be. A coach will help you define in specific terms what your THERE is and develop a specific plan to achieve it. No one does it alone.

A coach is dedicated specifically to your success. They won’t drag you there or stand behind you pushing. However they will walk alongside you as a friend and a guide.

Find out how a coach may help you. Schedule your FREE Discovery Strategy Session with me today!

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2018 Has to Be Better, Right?

Depending on how your 2017 went, you may be happy or sad to see it go. But go it must and we enter 2018 with new hope. To maximize that hope, we look back at 2017. It’s not to be nostalgic but rather to learn the leadership lessons that events have to teach us.

With that in mind, let’s look at some critical moments of 2017 that we can learn from. This is by no means an exhaustive list. In addition, it is by no means THE most critical moments. They are, however, vital for what we can learn from them.

Leadership Lessons from 2017

Solar Eclipse

leadership lessons from the solar eclipse of 2017On September 21, a solar eclipse occurred and swept across the United States. People from all over the world flocked to “ideal” locations for viewing the full eclipse. Many spent hundreds and thousands of dollars for this opportunity as they may never see it again.

Where is the leadership lesson in this? Know that most people live in the moment. Hundreds of thousands of people took off work for this event. Those who traveled invested money, some probably more than they actually had, to go to location in the path of the full eclipse. They did this to experience a moment that lasted all of 7.5 minutes.

Therefore, while part of a leaders role is to give hope it’s not just to look at the future. It is also to help make the present better. If your people are living in the now, you have to determine how you can improve the current situation.  Help your people live in the now as well as hope for the future.

And if you missed it, the next U.S. solar eclipse is April 8, 2024.

Harvey Weinstein

Harvey Weinsteins scandal teaches us valuable leadership lessons.The New York Times in October published an article detailing allegations of sexual harassment against Harvey Weinstein. He was a producer and his company was behind numerous movies, as well as television and radio programs. Many known actresses came forward and detailed the allegations of offense. All in all, over 30 years of alleged harassment.

Weinstein at first publicly acknowledged and apologized that he has caused a lot of pain. Yet he denied the harassment. His lawyer even threatened to sue the New York Times. And the allegations still to this day continue to mount up as more employees and actresses come forward.

There are indications that his exploits were known as far back as 1990 when he was with Miramax. Despite that, it appears that other than occasionally settling with someone who threatened to go public very little was done about it. What has happened since is that Weinstein has lost his company, his career, and any connection with the industry. He has a lifetime ban. His wife left him and his family has practically disowned him. Further, it’s still not over.

What is number two in our leadership lessons? Well, first I think the lesson for a leader is that when you mess up you gotta fess up. Would his early confession and apology have made things any easier? Who knows? However, it is likely that at least some relationships could have been saved. Helping people move towards healing faster.

For others involved, the lack of timely and appropriate intervention exacerbated the situation. Think of it, lack of response prompted 30 years of damaged lives. As leaders we cannot ever stick our head in the sand, no matter how awkward or unpleasant the circumstances. Courage is a necessary component of leadership.

The Oscars

The Oscars Best Picture mix up in 2017 revealed important leadership lessonsBack in February the highlight of the awards ceremony by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) is the OSCAR for Best Picture. To present the award legendary actors Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty come onstage. The nominees are presented, the envelope is opened and the OSCAR goes to…La La Land! Producers, directors, and actors flock to the stage to accept the award. And then, on live television it’s discovered that in fact the Best Picture OSCAR actually goes to Moonlight, not La La Land! Confusion and embarrassment wrack the stage for several minutes.

It turns out that somehow the wrong envelope was given to the presenters. It was actually discovered and corrected onstage by Jordan Horowitz, the producer of La La Land. PriceWaterhouseCooper (PwC) oversees the whole process of envelope management and someone simply made the mistake of pulling the envelope from the wrong pile.

So number 3 in our leadership lessons is a positive one. PwC owned up to their mistake – in fact took total ownership of it – and took steps to make sure it did not happen again. They didn’t focus on spin or making the best of it, they simply confessed, apologized, and worked to fix it.

Travis Kalanick and UBER

I talked about this story back in June and a lot happened since then.

Ok. On the surface this seems to be the same leadership lessons as before. However, there is more to be seen and learned. Like being a celebrity, being a leader means you sacrifice certain things. You no longer have the luxury of angry tirades. Your behavior is seen and evaluated every day. Being dismissive is no longer an option. Consistency in your character and behavior are crucial to successful leadership. It creates safety.

United Airlines

Where to start with this! It was not a good year for United Airlines.

First, in April United Express flight #3411 out of Chicago was allegedly overbooked (United later denied this). I talked about that story here.

This was two weeks after an incident where United made two teenage girls go change clothes before they could board a flight. Apparently they were on employee family passes and as such were representing United Airlines. United considered leggings as inappropriate clothing. Those incidents were followed by the death of a giant prize rabbit and a family dog in the hands of United. A couple heading to their wedding in Costa Rica are removed from a United flight due to conflict over their seats.

It’s all about culture here in number five of our leadership lessons. When culture places a greater importance on the bottom line over employees and over customers, it’s a recipe for disaster every time. Focus on treating employees well, equip and empower them to do the right thing, and everyone wins. Don’t believe it? Look at Southwest Airlines. Do they always get it right? No, but apparently they do more often than others. That says something.

Google

I also wrote about Google’s biggest faux paus last year. Of course, added to that is the revelation that despite the intent to create a safe workplace they apparently consistently pay female employees less than male counterparts.

As a result, number six of our leadership lessons stays the same as before. Leaders must consider how actions to manage behaviors and attitudes factors into first creating a safe workplace and second supporting or suppressing opposing viewpoints. In their attempts to create a safe workplace, Google ended up quieting someone who opposed some company policies and stances. The result was to create an unsafe workplace for those with opposing views.

Do you agree with the lessons here? Disagree? Are there lessons here I missed? What is your favorite leadership lessons of 2017.

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

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Boundaries Make the Team and Make the Player

Leaders help make people more productive by setting boundaries for work. Call them expectations, guidance, or whatever other word you choose to use there; except limits – don’t ever use limits. It seems like semantics but it’s not. Limits are perceived as repressive while boundaries or expectations are seen as guiding. Words matter.

Boundaries with the Lone Wolf

A lone wolf on the prairie. Working with a Lone Wolf requires boundaries.Boundaries are especially useful when dealing with the lone wolf team member. Every leader will encounter a lone wolf at one time or another in your journey. You probably recognize the type. They are part of your team yet seem to do their best work when left alone. The lone wolf may likely get along with the other team members but doesn’t seem to do well at either delegating or sharing workload. They are not hostile to others but just prefer to do their part and get it done. The benefit of this is that they are usually hard workers and simply get the job done. As a leader it is inevitable you will encounter at least one lone wolf on your team.

My Lone Wolf Story

One that sticks out for me was someone I worked with on a volunteer team; in fact specifically it was Cub Scouts. Volunteer teams are always a challenge anyway. It’s like herding cats. You want to really test the mettle of a potential leader observe them with a group of volunteers.

Derby Crisis

A collection of Pinewood Derby cars ready to race.We had our annual Pinewood Derby coming up less than a month away. This is where the boys between the ages of 6 and 11 make their own little race car out of a small block of pinewood and hold races on a track made for that purpose. It’s a big deal for them and a lot of fun.

The derby chair got overwhelmed and quit. Cancelling the derby was out of the question. So we quickly put together a committee and I was asked to take the lead. We compiled our timeline and our list of things that had to be done. One of the members of this team was my lone wolf. I remembered from previous experiences that when this person was teamed with others to do something she typically did it herself in her own way. It got done quickly and effectively but it was primarily her doing it. For this project she agreed to take on securing the trophies and awards for the derby winners.

Using Boundaries for Results

I COULD have insisted that she work with a teammate to get the work done. After all, we have to think about backup. We have to worry about training someone to do it next year. There are many arguments about why I SHOULD have insisted she work with a team. The one argument against was that she would end up doing it herself anyway and frustrating any team members who wanted to do something. Truthfully, most of them were content to let her do the work – remember, volunteers.

What I did was simply set boundaries for her. I told Jenny (not her real name) what the expectations were as to the type and levels of awards we wanted. She was given a budget. Jenny was given a deadline. And then I set her loose.

You can probably already guess at the outcome. Jenny was done well before the deadline. She was on budget. The trophies and awards were perfect. And overall the derby was a success. Everyone had a great time!

Boundaries Make Sense

It seems counter-intuitive as a leader on the surface. Our job is to get people to work together towards a goal, right? Yet if you look at it, she WAS part of a team and she DID work towards a common goal. I felt that she could best do that in this circumstance by being given guidelines and allowed to do it her way.

Boundaries Make Freedom

The boundaries didn’t tie her down; just the opposite. The boundaries allowed her the freedom to work the way that she worked best. And yet at the same time, the boundaries ensured that the results were consistent with what we needed even if it wasn’t exactly the way I would have done it. If you are working with a lone wolf, sometimes the worst thing you can do is try to make them be something they are not. It is often best to leverage the way they work and how they work to meet the immediate need.

Boundaries work with not just the lone wolf but with everyone on the team. Author and coach Dr. Henry Cloud once wrote that

Every human being must have boundaries in order to have successful relationships or a successful performance in life.

So we set boundaries for teams, for individuals, and as leaders we especially set them for ourselves. It works for the lone wolf, it works for us too.

Unsure about where the boundaries are or how to set them? I can help. Contact me at psimkins(at)BoldlyLead.com to schedule a FREE Discovery Strategy Session.

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Leadership Starts with Culture

Uber’s corporate culture problems began long ago. You could probably say they began at the beginning.

The corporate culture in Uber from the beginning was one of “always be hustlin'” and “stepping on toes” according to an article in BGR. In a culture that hinges on that philosophy, you can expect that there will be personality conflicts. In addition you can expect harassment and abuse. It creates a no-holds-barred atmosphere where the only thing that matters is winning and crushing the competition.

What results is an eventual disintegration of the organization and the business.

Lack of Strong Corporate Culture Brings Disastrous Results

What’s resulted for Uber with this?

  • Most recently, the resignation of CEO Travis Kalanick.
  • Earlier in this year, the departure of 7 additional senior executives.
  • Sexual Harassment Lawsuits.
  • Uber drivers attempting to organize AGAINST Uber.
  • 200,000 users delete the Uber app from their phones in protest to Uber’s actions during the NY Taxi Driver protest
  • The apparent revelation that Uber has implemented systems to circumvent the law

Uber’s problem is clearly a top-down problem. It has created a poisonous corporate culture that has now put the organization in it’s current position of NO SENIOR LEADERSHIP at it’s most critical moment.

Before we go too far to eviscerate Uber management, however, we may want to see another picture.

More importantly for us than what Uber has done wrong is what we can learn from it and do right.

How Can Leadership Do Better?

Here’s some of the basic leadership lessons I see:

Corporate Culture Begins With Strong Core ValuesEstablish Core Values Early

It seems clear that a lack of real values exist in the corporate culture at Uber. When your primary drivers are to “Always Be Hustlin'”, promote “Meritocracy and Toe-Stepping”, and “Principled Confrontation” you easily fall into the trap of justifying behaviors for the sake of organizational success. Which is precisely what happened.

Case in point. Susan Fowler‘s blog post back in February of 2017. in the post she revealed alleged harassment and other abuses at Uber; along with a virtually powerless Human Resources department. When Fowler complained to HR about the manager she reported to directly propositioning her, she expected immediate results. Instead, she was told that while it was clearly sexual harassment the manager in question would simply be given a “stern talking to”. Why? Because he was a high performer and they didn’t want to ruin his career.

Core values place priorities where they belong and provide a barometer for the actions of every department and every employee.

I’m not a big operation right now, actually I’m barely a small operation. However, one of the first things I did when I started was to determine what was most important in what I do. I value trustworthiness, relationships first, and adding value to everyone. Through that, I can then gauge every word and every action around that. Anything that might jeopardize my trustworthiness, sacrifices relationships, or fails to add value simply is not appropriate. Failing to meet any one of these values is a deal breaker.

Set a Higher Standard for Senior Leadership

Whatever behaviors you expect out of your employees has to be not just exhibited but MAGNIFIED by leaders. This is especially true at the executive level.

Years ago I worked for an organization that in the business unit in which I worked started a large Total Quality Management campaign. Each and every employee not only had to develop a personal TQM statement, it had to be posted outside of their cubicle for all to see. I won’t even get into the insanity of creating cubicle world to promote total quality; that’s another talk for another time.

What made it fail was the lack of consistency at the executive level with this. Employees observed actions that were executed that seemed to fly in the face of most of the TQM principles. The reasoning then became that if they didn’t buy it, why should we?

Each senior leader needs to set the bar high for themselves because perception will always be a microcosm of reality. In other words, they will only see in their minds a small measure of what you actually are. If you want to promote trustworthiness, there is no room for moments where you aren’t so trustworthy; otherwise the perception is that you aren’t.

[tweetthis]Whatever behaviors desired in employees must be MAGNIFIED by leaders. #values[/tweetthis]

Place a Priority on the Care and Nurturing of Your People

Employees feel when they are NOT valued. They also feel it when they ARE valued.

Unless you are in an organization where the only person who ever talks to or serves a customer is you, then your employees are the real face of the organization. They will treat customers no better than they themselves are treated. So it only makes sense to place first value as a leader on your employees.

The Law of Reciprocity kicks in here. Treat people with respect and trust. Care for them professionally and personally. Help them get ahead. In return, they will commit more to you and the organization and treat your customers with respect and care.

Plan and Cultivate a Line of Succession

Teams (companies, organizations, throw your own word in here) of any size run in cycles. Leadership should and will eventually change. The ones that sustain success are the ones that have planned for that.

  • Excellent teams have intentionally cultivated people to assume greater roles.
  • They have embedded the core values in them.
  • Leaders train and coach them.
  • The Leaders have challenged them.

When that eventual change occurs, it’s almost seamless because the core values are still there. Even if some of the style changes, the core does not. The alternative is chaos while new leadership is identified and put in place; as well as for a long time after.

What do you think are the lessons learned here? How can leaders better ensure that behaviors are appropriate and consistent?

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