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.
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!
Have you ever been misunderstood? Felt like you were treated unfairly because of what you said? Remember a time where an argument broke out from what you thought was an innocent conversation.
It happens to everyone. And it happens because of a lack of listening. In fact, a failure to practice Active Listening is one of the largest causes of misunderstandings and arguments.
While we can’t control how others react or how well they listen, we can control ourselves. We can do our best to make sure that WE are not the cause of misunderstanding.
And that’s where the practice of Active Listening comes in. Apply these tips and you will have a good head start to be an Active Listening practitioner.
Most of the time, our body obeys our mind. Whether consciously or unconsciously, our body will do what the mind tells it. We walk, we run, we touch, we hold. Mouth moves, sound comes out. All because of impulses from the mind sent to parts of the body.
There are times, however, when the mind will pay attention to the body. Feet pointed towards a door denotes a desire to escape. The mind picks up on that and says, “Hey, we are already late!” Off you go.
Arms and legs crossed give signals of protecting or shielding. Your mind senses danger, either physical or verbal, and goes into protection mode. It is basic non-verbal communication.
Active Listening Posture
Let’s turn it around. If you face the speaker with arms at your side or resting on a surface, you display openness. The mind picks up on those cues and therefore commands the rest of the body to pay attention. Even more so, the speaker’s mind will likely pick up on that as well. Tone and mood changes when the speaker perceives you are open to what they have to say.
Eye contact is your friend
The eyes, they say, are the window to the soul. That really stands out when you are engaged in conversation. Your eyes tell the speaker that you are anxious to hear what they have to say. Or they tell them you would much rather be anywhere but here.
When listening, your eyes should be open. Look at the speaker. You want to send the message that you are open and relaxed. Smile and your eyes and the rest of your face will follow suit.
But Not too much
On the other hand, be careful about making too much eye contact. Too much eye contact and you look like you are staring. Use the 70% guideline. Make eye contact with the speaker about 70% of the time. More than that and you look like you are staring.
Keep in mind, however, that the 70 rule is a general rule. A speaker who is introverted or not very sure of themselves may be actually put off by 70% eye contact. Note how the speaker reacts. If you are making eye contact and they look away, then you should look away too.
Have you ever tried to have a conversation with someone while they are thumbing away on their smartphone? It’s annoying! You can’t really tell if they are paying attention or not. And if you bring it up, they try to tell you they can do that and listen at the same time. They are a great multitasker!
As we have mentioned before, multi-tasking doesn’t work. For anyone. If someone you are talking to tries to multi-task, you have a right to ask for their full attention or talk another time. If someone is speaking to you, you owe them the respect of your full, undivided attention. If you are unable to give it at the same, you owe them the privilege of getting it another time.
Email stays there until you look at it. Phones have voicemail. Let them be until you are done. Unless you have an urgent family matter pending, there should not be a reason to allow a speaker to be interrupted.
And YOU shouldn’t be the interruption either. Sometimes you will hear things you feel you need to react to right away. Don’t. What you want is to be able to respond, not react. Almost always when you react instead of respond things do not go well after that.
Don’t react. RESPOND.
And the time to respond is after the speaker has finished, not during. Don’t spend time trying to formulate your response while they are speaking either. You are spending time and space in your mind coming up with your response, which means you aren’t listening anymore. Stephen Coveyonce said, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand, they listen with the intent to reply.” Is that true of you? Take some more advice from Covey. “Seek first to understand, then be understood.“
Affirm the speaker
Feedback is valuable. As John Maxwell says, “Feedback is currency for leaders.” It’s pretty much valuable currency for anyone. When you are engaged in a vital conversation, it’s important there too. While the other person is speaking, they will pause occasionally; sometimes to catch their breath, other times to gather their thoughts.
This is the perfect time to provide a quick affirmation. You want to let them know you are interested, that you are paying attention, and you want to hear more. You can learn a lot of phrases but the best response is a genuine response based on what they have said so far. “That’s interesting!” or “Tell me more.” or even “Really?!” It can even be as simple as a quick little “uh-huh” or “OK” or “yes“.
Keep in mind the objective is to encourage the speaker, not stop them in their tracks. Use language that is natural for you and don’t use the same one every time.
Question for clarity
When the speaker completes a thought, take the time to ask a question. Your objective here is seek understanding. So your question should require more than a yes or no response. You also want to take great care not to make your question a challenge or rebuttal. Look to fill in the blanks that may be left by what the speaker has said so far.
Tell them what they said
Once the speaker has finished it is the perfect time to respond. Start by repeating back what they said in your own words. “So what I hear you saying is…” and then repeat it. One of two things will happen. Either they will confirm your understanding or they will correct your understanding. Either way, it’s a win-win. They know that you actually paid attention and you know have a clear picture of what you are responding to.
Search the Feelings
Words have meaning. Part of that meaning is conveyed through the way that they are said. A study by Psychology Professor Albert Mehrabianonce discovered that WHAT WE SAY accounts for ONLY 7% of communication. The rest is handled by the WAY WE SAY IT and WHAT OTHERS SEE when we are saying it. So to really get meaning, we also have to get feeling. Listen and look for emotional content. A tone of voice, volume, and emphasis. And also
Look for Cues
Body language also contains a good amount of context and content. Some say it is as large as 68% of meaning. A growing number of people are disagreeing with that. Whatever the number actually is, there is no denying that non-verbal communication is critical to your achieving understanding. Gestures, stance, and facial expressions all convey intent and emotion and meaning.
The more you pay attention to the whole picture in communication, the more meaning and understanding is gained. Communication actually occurs. That is practicing Active Listening.
Need help building excellent communications within your organization or team. Schedule a free Discovery Strategy Sessionwith me today to see how we can help you.