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.
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!

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.

Core Values Build the Team

Building a successful and productive team or organization takes time. You build it one block at a time. You want team members to know their roles and understand the expectations for behavior and performance. Yet that’s the goal not the beginning. Start off with that and you are building a house of cards.
If a new building is to be structurally sound, the first thing they do is establish the foundation. The higher the building, the deeper the foundation. Skimp on the foundation and everything else is weak and at-risk. Disasters results.
So, too, does building an organization require a strong, solid foundation. Skip establishing the foundation and eventually everything collapses; either because of a lack of guidance or because of behaviors that tear down trust. You must have a strong foundation. You lay that foundation with core values.

What Are Core Values?

Core Values are the foundation for everythingCore Values are the characteristics and qualities an organization, a team, or an individual defines as being at the heart of what they are about and how they will conduct themselves. They are the principles that determine who you are and what you are about above all else. It is the soul of the organization. Your core values are unshakable – no matter what you will always reflect these values in everything you do.
Yet core values can also outline behaviors you expect with the members of an organization. For years, one of Google’s core values was “don’t be evil”. Infusionsoft, a popular sales and marketing software company, lists one of their core values as “We do the right thing”. For many other organizations, they are simply one or two word statements such as Integrity, Honesty, Communication, Employee focused.
[tweetthis]Your core values are unshakable – reflect them in everything you do.[/tweetthis]

Why Are Core Values So Critical?

Establish Non-Negotiables

Determining your core values make it clear to employees, to customers, and to yourself what you will never compromise. When you establish a core value of integrity you are saying that no matter what else happens you are trustworthy, dependable, have strong morals, and people can count on you to do what you say you will do. Core values say you would rather the company go under than violate them. If you are not willing to die for it, then it’s not a core value.

Foundation for Mission and Methods

Interestingly enough, I have found that when core values are in place first then writing those dreaded mission statements become easier. Determining the methods by which the team accomplishes its mission and goals becomes clearer. One leads to the other.

Outlines Expected Behaviors

As a result, when your values are set in stone and your mission and methods are established from that, it ends up describing the behaviors you expect everyone to exhibit. If honesty is expected and modeled, you tend to get honesty. If employee-focused is expected and modeled from the top it floods down to every department, every manager, and every team.

A Must-Have for Empowerment

For that reason, you cannot have real empowerment with having values in place. Or, more accurately, you cannot expect consistent performance in empowered employees without core values. If make a profit is emphasized but core values of honesty and integrity are not established, then the empowered employee feels free to do whatever they feel is necessary to make a profit, including cheating customers. Values create the guidelines within which empowered employees operate.

Attract the People You Want

In my mentor John C. Maxwell’s book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership he talks about The Law of Magnetism.  This law states that who you attract is not based on what you want, it’s based on what you are.  Who you are is who you attract. By developing your core values, you proclaim for everyone who you are, what you stand for, and what is really important to you. As a result, you will attract people who share those values.

Start with the Core

Therefore, like a bodybuilder starts by developing their core to strengthen their whole body, you start with core values to strengthen the organization. You define qualities that are necessary for consistent and strong performance. You make clear the standards that are non-negotiable in everything the organization does.
In fact, they should be in front of everyone’s faces, displayed for the whole world to see. It holds employees accountable, it holds you accountable, and it sets expectations for customers.

Three Steps to Establish Core Values

  1. Brainstorm a list of values, qualities, and character traits you would want your organization to reflect at all times.  Write them all down. Don’t evaluate them, just write them down. If you already have a team in place, do this together. You may come up with a huge list and that’s okay.
  2. Now that you have the list, we can evaluate. Look at each item and first ask yourself, “Am I willing for the organization to die rather than violate this?” If the answer is no, it is not a core value. Strike it off. If you are honest with yourself on each one you should find your list pared down significantly when you are done.
  3. Next to each one, on a scale of one to 10 rate your organization on how well it is displaying those values. Rate yourself and ask each team member to rate themselves as well. That accomplishes one of two things: it helps identify areas that need work or it causes you to question how important that value really is to you.

Can you identify the core values of your organization easily? How well are they followed? How do you make sure you attract the right people now? Drop me a line at psimkins@BoldlyLead.com.

If you are finding it difficult to establish your core values, contact me and let me help.

Things Bosses Believe About Employee Engagement That Are Flat Out Wrong

employee engagement imageThere are some who readily embrace the concept of how critical employee engagement is to a productive workplace. Others have to first overcome some hurdles.

I hear it often – perhaps you have heard it too. Sometimes from “old school management” fans or simply those who refuse to let go of preconceived notions.

What holds them back are firmly held beliefs that, despite research proving them wrong, they refuse to release because it is all they know. It is myths about behaviors or people or management concepts that hold them back.

Here are some of the key myths.

Mindset or Culture Employee Engagement Myths

People Don’t Engage Because They Are Lazy

Lazy is a descriptive term we apply to someone who isn’t getting the work done. Yet in a article in Psychology Today, Laura Miller says that the problem is more avoidance behavior. In other words, some emotional issue is keeping them from taking action. She cites seven things that may be the real cause of an employee not getting the job done:

  1. Fear of Failure – Better to not try than to fail
  2. Fear of Success – What happens to my life if I succeed?
  3. Desire for Nurture – No one pays attention unless I mess up
  4. Fear of Expectations – If I do well, will the boss pile up the work?
  5. Passive-aggressive Communication – Avoid conflict, just do nothing
  6. Need for Relaxation – I really just need a rest
  7. Depression – I have a real problem here

lazy office worker

Some of these are rare, some not as rare as you might think. If an employee is not getting work done, you can be assured there is an issue and it’s not their work ethic.

That Generation Just Wants It All Handed To Them

This is typically targeted primarily at “Millennials” and sometimes at Generation X, the one before them. Millennials were born from 1982 to 2004, meaning some Millennials are in their lower 30’s now. Many believe them to be a lazy generation – that they just don’t want to work. Also that Millennials are so self-absorbed that they can’t fully engage at work.

In truth, most Millennials love to work!

They are passionate about achievement and significance.

What is different is how they get there. They want to be free to get to the end result their own way.

And they DO get results. They just don’t see the value of showing up just to show up.

“Those People” Just Don’t Work Hard

Some believe that specific ethnic cultures or impoverished cultures are naturally prone to avoid work or are too wrapped up in their families to be fully engaged.

Yet research by census and the Pew Research Center suggest otherwise, indicating they are no less engaged than any other ethnicity or social status.

Myths About Employee Engagement That Block Progress

Employee Engagement Should Be Checked Annually

Many organizations rely on the annual employee survey. With the trend emphasizing employee engagement, most have taken that survey and renamed it to the Employee Engagement Survey. Problem is, all they changed was the name. I wrote in detail about that in my blog Six Reasons Your Employee Engagement Survey Fails and What You Can Do About It.

The real test of engagement is ongoing and targeted. It’s also personal. Sending out a survey once a year, which gets about 10% response in a good year, doesn’t give you the real pulse. Neither does an annual employee review, which is typically one-sided. To get the real feel for where you are, you need to tap into the line managers and individual contributors frequently.

Sam Walton (Walmart) was famous for this. He would fly into a warehouse location or store location, hop into the passenger seat of one of trucks, and ride around and talk to the driver. He learned about what they felt, how things were going, and what they could do better. And he showed employees he cared about what THEY feel.

Employee Engagement Can Be Bought

This one just doesn’t seem to want to go away. It comes mostly from the sales angle, particularly among managers who believe that salespeople are entirely driven by money. They believe if they just create opportunities for more income then that’s all the incentive they need to engage people more. Maybe it works short-term for one person, but generally fails with the rest. It is then explained away as being the fault of the employees and not the program.

Surveys conducted on sales staff and other groups repeatedly show that money is not the primary motivator. In fact, it’s not usually in the top three.

Another way that managers attempt to buy engagement is by adding workplace features. It’s kind of like someone who tries to buy your love by constantly giving you things. Doesn’t work in personal relationships either.

There is a Standard Solution to Employee Engagement

This myth is perpetuated mostly by companies that want to sell you a solution.

This engagement survey will fix it. This software program provides the metrics you need. Purchase this benefits program. Buy the secret to our proprietary system that solves employee engagement forever! 

That works if your organization is just like every other organization and your employees are like everyone else. You and I know that’s not true.

Your situation is unique. It requires an innovative approach that is entirely yours.

It is highly unlikely you will be able to develop that on your own. You are too close to the equation. The right coach can help.

Employee Engagement is the End Game

Finally, it’s important to remember that our real goal here isn’t employee engagement. Our real goal is have one or all of these things:

  • A supremely productive workplace
  • Cohesive teams
  • Strong leadership
  • Reduced turnover
  • Higher customer satisfaction
  • Increased profits

Employee Engagement is a means to the end. You can’t have greater productivity without more engagement. And you haven’t really engaged them if they aren’t becoming more productive. It’s a symbiotic relationship.

Anything else is not productive.

What do you believe about employee engagement? What’s helped engagement efforts? What’s hurt?

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

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?