Leading and the Act of Loyalty

  
The act of leading is more than being the visionary, or acting thoughtfully for others.  It is predicated also on how loyal and unconditionally helpful you are to others.

In many ways people cannot follow you if they can’t trust where you’re coming from.  

Great ideas are best acted on when others in the room know where you stand with them.  Teams stall when they don’t know what to expect from you.

Ways loyalty drives others

  1. When others feel you truly respect them.
  2. When you create a clear vision.
  3. Going out of your way to help.
  4. Taking interest in what people want to do.
  5. Being consistent

Servant Leadership, unconditional positive regard, and thoughtful patience are all specific behaviors that can engage your loyalty to others.  

Each time you consider the little things with others, you amplify your influence, and enlarge your leadership footprint.  

Getting More Clarity in Our Lives

 
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The idea that we can do more in less time is an alluring idea.  Multi-tasking is often the instant fix we crave to deal with the real feelings of being overwhelmed and overcommitted.  If we take a deeper look, the feelings we have are more a part of misguided priorities and moving away from better clarity in our lives.

The Multi-tasking Myth: Clarifying your vision and values

Starting out with a clear definition of what you are (your role), and what you want to do (your values), is the beginnings of real clarification.  

The reasons we feel we need to multi-task is that others have defined our roles and values, and we have let them.  

The reasons multi-tasking doesn’t work is because it isn’t aligned with a clear vision, and tasks are not grouped in a way where energy expended maximizes getting things done. 

Creating your Clarity – Learning to Say No

Another reason that clarity is lost, is that reasonable boundaries in our lives and work are not developed.  

In order to create more clarity, you have to decide on the reasonable limits needed to really succeed in your roles.

 The ‘being everything to everyone’ idea is another example of going down the wrong direction faster.

Developing and Maintaining Real Clarity

  1. Define who you are and what contributions you want to make.
  2. Define the ways you want to serve others.  Clarity without service, is like having empty goals.
  3. Reinforce and reflect daily on whether you are staying on track.  You know that you’re off track when you’ve fallen into many things that don’t get closure in your life.
  4. Keep clarity by evaluating things you do.  Are you allowing yourself to say no?

Having clarity means we are focused on things that have a defined beginning and end.  

Energy is focused, and distractions are minimized.

Recognizing Personal “Drift” In Our Lives

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Like the constant pounding of the surf, we may find ourselves being “pounded”.  Numerous demands, and pressures may take their toll.  For many, the solution is to engage in “personal drift.”  The results of this can lead to more problems than the original pressures that created it.

The precursors to “drift” – 

  1. Overcommitment
  2. We’re too over-involved in things that don’t really matter
  3. We’re being confronted by things that overwhelm us, or scare us emotionally (we’re in over our heads)
  4. Lack of skill – we don’t know what we’re doing
  5. We have lost our passion

The “drift” – What happens:

  1. Avoidance
  2. Engaging in easy, but inconsequential activities or projects
  3. Falling short on our requirements of our job
  4. Engaging in destructive personal behaviors
  5. “Emotional Amnesia” – we disconnect

The drift is subtle, slow and happens without much fanfare or notice.  Co-workers, family members, and others around us notice our tendency to be distant, irritable, insensitive, and not at our best.  Our workplace may notice a slow drift away from the standards of practice that we were accustomed.  Our emotional amnesia becomes a constant defense against the outside world of the pounding surf.  It is hard to extract ourselves from this pattern.

With many the results are:

  • Poor health, constant illness, and emotional resentment
  • Missed opportunities in life

Ways of recognizing when you’re drifting: Ongoing self assessment.  There are countless ways to self assess, and many of them are basic.  Journaling, using a Moleskine, obtaining regular feedback, and exercise are just the common approaches.  Others can include the following simple self assessment:

  • What standards do I subscribe to?
  • How do I feel?
  • Where am I, in respect to where I want to be?

In other words, the solution is right in front of you.  Pulling up the blinders periodically is a great place to start.  The questions are really internal.  We already have the answers inside us, but are sometimes too afraid to ask them.

The Silent Factors Behind Organizational Success

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Sustaining organizational momentum is a result of three key attributes. This doesn’t mean that human resources and capital are not important.  

The intrinsic qualities that make an organization succeed are the things that are not readily seen, but silently there.

The silent factors to organizational success

The Skill that is imbedded in human resources is an area that separates the mediocre from the spectacular organization.  The most critical decision is how each part of your teams are assembled and implemented.  Less skilled individuals can silently weaken the best strategy and effort.  

Everyone says they have skills, but when the rubber meets the road, those with the intrinsic skill carries the organization.

Clarity in thinking or Awareness of the organization, its beliefs, and purpose is a silent driver that helps the different imperatives move or stall.  Those that drive projects, need to be very conscientious and possess great personal awareness.  

Talk is great, but those with the ability to think ahead exponentially drive progress and sustainability. 

Authenticity is making things real and being real.  There are a lot of charlatans out there trying to show something, but with little depth beyond a personal agenda.

Authenticity is present when a person’s skill, and awareness all line up

Many leaders in organizations lack the skill and awareness, and end up acting as if they have no substance. 

Sustaining is about keeping these factors present

When the leader keeps these factors lined up, and makes decisions according to these factors, sustaining the organization occurs more readily.  When the leader takes their eye off of any one of these silent factors, the organization may face weaknesses.

Expectations and the Art of Transparency

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One of the challenges of communicating is managing expectations. Expectations can be “managed” per se, if the message communicated is clear and is free of residual meanings.

The idea of Transparency clarifies what one can expect. The alternative usually results in:

1. Co-dependent communication where we are simply saying what we think others want to hear.
2. Manipulation. We are saying something in purpose that is not really real.
3. Excuse making. We have to justify our positions rather than own them.

How many of us have been in any of these positions?

Making our communication explicit communicates a level of respect for others, even if it is not the kind of message we would prefer to present, or what others would want to hear. Being transparent, means that we are willing to take the appropriate risk to communicate true meanings, specific opinions, and bare bones knowledge, that leaves no questions, and leads not to misconstrued messages, which lead to unmet expectations.

Ways of being transparent
We exercise transparency, when we say what we mean. We help others with hard truths. It may not be immediately comfortable, but it communicates an understanding and reality to others, that suggests that you respect the other person despite the message itself. It also saves you a lot of further defensiveness and justification later, when others “find out” what the factual reality really is.

Why Do You Become a Leader?

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Leadership can represent titles, positions and authority. For some that is the purpose of being a leader: Themselves. It is the power trip, and the personal identity that comes from being called a leader. In this author’s view, that is hollow victory, and has no sustainable long term benefit.

Those that don’t seek the recognition of leadership, often are the ones that have the most to offer it. Leadership is not necessarily about solidifying one’s legacy, it’s about leaving others in a better position. If we’re in a position of leadership, what is the purpose of our position there?

Those that see leadership as a position:
1. Seek power over others

2. See the system serving them, not serving the system.

3. Don’t care who is hurt in the process.

4. See people as obstacles rather than opportunities to contribute.

Others…see leadership to:
1. Engage their passion about people and what is produced for others.

2. Developing other leaders in a chosen field.

3. Derive joy from seeing others succeed, and develop. This fuels them.

4. Want to leave a legacy, rather than build one.

The truth is, those that truly lead, do so from the heart and seek to better others. They are humble, and do not seek the spotlight. They don’t necessarily see their efforts as special, but rather a response to the needs before them. Their payoff is seeing others derive benefits.

    How do you think others will view you at retirement?

A few months back, this author had an opportunity to attend and participate in a retirement party for a college mentor who had recently finished three decades in a college department. It was an honor to participate in the celebrations, but very interesting to see how this longtime professor handled talk of his legacy and contributions to the department, that he essentially developed.

Although there were numerous formal honors given, the most profound honor was the significant turnout of decades of alumni to share their best wishes. In his remarks it was evident that he gave no credit to himself, but it was clear from the turnout what impact his leadership had meant to so many others. It was also obvious that the true message was people’s presence at the event. What a message. If Leadership is about how many people you have touched, then that is the true measure and purpose of leadership.

When you consider your style of leadership, do you consider it in terms of making a difference for others, or as a collection of honors? The memory of the honors will ultimately pass, but the difference you make in others can last well beyond your tenure or life.

Resiliency Skills for Leaders, Part 2

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Sustaining your strength and focus is more than individual growth. It is about how you interface with others. Maintaining our effectiveness is about how we lift others beyond their challenges and how we gain from the contribution.

1. Remember it’s not about you. If our emphasis is on others and not our own spotlight, then we avoid creating a codependency on what we do, and instead focus and celebrate what others do as a result of our vision and direction.

2. Integrate and Listen to Others. If we are talking at others rather than listening to them, then we are missing out on key contributions that others are making. The objective of leading others is to create other leaders. If we are listening to them, then we are allowing them to lead.

3. You’re not supposed to know everything. If you know everything, then why are you leading others? Leading with the Idea that you know everything, is closing off the necessary things and people that can teach us more about leading. If we are not being influenced by others, then we have closed off potential creativity and growth within our unit.

4. See your role as a contribution. The question is: Why did we choose to lead others? If it was for personal fame or notoriety, then our gains may be shortsighted, and short lived. Only leadership that aims to make a valuable contribution can feel worthwhile and purposeful in the long run. Ask yourself daily or weekly: Why do I do this? Why do I lead? Search for the answer that comes back.

5. Make Alone Time. At the end of the day or period, absorb what you just experienced that day. Making private time to do this is not selfish, but very important in your personal discovery process, and thinking how others receive us. Use the lessons to feed your thinking and vision.

Creating More Impact with Your Staff – The Performance Review

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Performance reviews, individual supervision, group reviews can vary in how they are conducted with your staff. Organizations vary.

Individual staff (and groups) have a right to know where they stand at any given moment in the process of their work. Keeping your appraisals until the “yearly review”, or waiting until a problem develops to supply corrective action is the wrong way to do supervisory reviews.

It might appear overbearing to meet regularly with an employee, however the most supportive thing to do is have a transparent discussion with your staff members in the “here and now” and at predictable and regular points.

Reasons why regular reviews are good
There are several reasons why meeting regularly with your staff is a good idea. Several include:

1. A staff member knows where they stand – there are no secrets.

2. Regular development can occur which helps the employee make course adjustments.

3. What is expected, and what is happening can be reviewed now – not later.

4. Institutional values can be discussed, incorporated, and developed.

5. Staff knows you care, and that you are not being critical.

6. Helps build cohesion, retention of employees, and morale.

A Method for Doing Regular Reviews
Preferably reviews should be twice monthly, but can be weekly. They don’t have to be long protracted meetings, and they should have a positive, proactive and helpful atmosphere surrounding them. There are never punitive or critical remarks made. Everything said is transparent. Honesty is the best policy.

The Staff Member Creates the Agenda for the Review
The best review is one where the employee or staff member comes prepared to discuss the issues important to their work. A general outline path can be prescribed by the manager, but it is important that the employee own the outline, and set the topics that are to be discussed. The outline can consist of the following:

Accomplishments
Challenges
Areas of Proposed Development
Project Status/Progress

New Employees Need Mentored
A new employee may need further coaching in the process. Oftentimes, those least experienced in their jobs won’t know the questions to ask, or the material to bring forth. Examples and coaching may be necessary to help the staff member know how to think about their work.

Connection and Engagement is the Key
The overall process should only take about a half hour, but it is a good accountability for both the staff member and manager. These reviews are seen as ways to connect with the leader, and the leader has an obligation to serve and provide guidance where necessary. Importantly, it allows the staff member the opportunity to take initiative, showcase accomplishments, and honestly discuss problems they are having with their jobs or their experience. Opportunities to improve, and change path can be done on an ongoing basis, and more radical corrective action is unnecessary.

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Organizational Definition of Codependency

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A corrosive threat to building teams is “Codependency.” A term used prominently within the addictions field, the behavior has wider meanings within leading individuals and teams. The basic idea of codependency in organizations is it defeats responsibility, initiative and the health of operations.

Codependency as “under functioning”
When team members are codependent, there is an imbalance in responsibility between members. Norms develop where doing the minimum is silently permitted. Unhealthy alliances develop, and fear of confronting the inequity or dysfunction in the team stifles the group.

Codependency as incompetence
Those that want to appear capable (but lack substance) hide behind a cloak of saying what is necessary or saying what they think others want to hear.

Codependence is fake acceptance
A distorted sense of acceptance occurs when the objective is agreed upon, but the words (commitment) does not match the results. The leader wants good results and accepts the stated intentions, that do not correspond to an individual team member’s actual behavior.

Codependence as rational lies
The use of rational lies (aka rationalization), itself is a form of team and individual betrayal. To avoid accountability a team member uses rationalization and excuses to avoid personal responsibility.

All these organizational definitions of codependency can be corrosive to objectives and the mission. Rampant codependency can significantly lead to human resource costs and deceased morale.