Everyone Leads: A Goal and a Reality

Like it or not, believe it or not, everyone leads.

The things we say and do have an impact on others. We influence others with our words and behaviors each and every day. It doesn’t require a formal title or a hierarchy to be in place. You lead, they lead, everyone leads.

The real question is this: how intentional are you about when and where you lead?

Accidental leadership is a wasted opportunity. Modeling behaviors you wouldn’t want others to follow is unfortunate. Taking people down the wrong path can even be harmful.

Acknowledging that you are a leader will help you to be more purposeful and deliberate about your leadership. Being mindful, then, about what you do and how you do it will ensure you lead in a way that is positive and productive.

You may also wish to be more aware of how you are following when others lead (because they, too, may be leading without forethought or true direction).

Getting this level of clarity will even help you determine when it’s appropriate to lead and when it’s appropriate to follow. Start with determining what really matters to you and what path is most likely to take you closer to meeting your true priorities and values. Then you will lead and follow with a meaningful purpose.

CONNECT 2 Lead graphic smalThe CONNECT2Lead Blog and training programs are products of People First Productivity Solutions. We build organizational strength by putting people first. Subscribe to the CONNECT2Lead Blog for weekly tips and techniques on leading with a people first approach. To learn more about our training programs, take a look at our 2015 course catalog

The Most Important Part of Your Job

If you are tasked with supervising or managing others, the most important work you do is people building.

While the formal definition of a manager’s role focuses on getting work done through others, that overly simplified definition leaves out the longer-term necessity of people development. As you are getting the work done through others, you should also be equipping them for higher level work in the future.

Continually expanding the capacity of each individual and, thereby, increasing the capacity of your team, is the hallmark of an excellent manager and leader.

While it is true that you must ensure that your team completes short-term work assignments, this should be done simultaneously with preparing long term for future work they will need to do.

For many managers, the greatest barrier to people building is that they choose to do the work themselves. They are unwilling to delegate or unable to trust those around them with next-level and emerging tasks and responsibilities.

When the work of people building is not viewed as a key responsibility for all managers and supervisors, a team is inherently limited. What’s more, the manager is also limited. You see, you will never have a chance to grow and develop so long as you are saddled with the same work you do today.

Start small if you must. What one task could you give to someone else with the express purpose of helping him or her to develop new skills?

It’s that simple. A little bit at a time, all the time, will help you build the people around you and build your own skills, too.

CONNECT 2 Lead graphic smalThe CONNECT2Lead Blog and training programs are products of People First Productivity Solutions. We build organizational strength by putting people first. Subscribe to the CONNECT2Lead Blog for weekly tips and techniques on leading with a people first approach. To learn more about our training programs, take a look at our 2015 course catalog

Who Are You?

The #1 most important thing people who might follow you want to know is this: Who are you?

Your resume and accolades and experience matter less than this does. Your skills and abilities and knowledge pale in comparison. Your network and education don’t do the job either. Neither does your title, regardless of how much authority it gives you.

Before any of us decide who we will follow, we do weigh all those historical and practical considerations. But there’s something more we need before we willingly and steadfastly follow someone else.

We need to know that person.

To know a leader, followers need more than words and business goals. They need openness and sharing so we hear what a leader stands for. They also need evidence that the leader acts in accord with what he or she values.

To know a leader, followers need to see what happens under pressure. Does the leader’s character crack? They need to see consistency of purpose and direction to have a certainty in where the leader will lead them.

To know a leader, followers also need a human connection that requires a leader to step off the pedestal and out of the ivory tower.

Leaders who adopt a persona they feel is suitable to their title miss out. They rely on positional power and prestige, which are cheap substitutions for genuine connections with others.

Do the people you work with know who you are?

 

CONNECT 2 Lead graphic smalThe CONNECT2Lead Blog and training programs are products of People First Productivity Solutions. We build organizational strength by putting people first. Subscribe to the CONNECT2Lead Blog for weekly tips and techniques on leading with a people first approach. To learn more about our training programs, take a look at our 2015 course catalog

Leaders Let Others Lead

On a recent family road trip, the perfect opportunity emerged for a leadership lesson.

We were in two vehicles, transporting our adult daughter’s car and possessions to her new home 1000 miles away. Our little caravan was striking out on the second day of our adventure.

Because we stayed in a hotel some distance off the highway, getting back on the main thoroughfare was a complicated series of exits. The rush hour traffic, construction and detour further exacerbated the confusion.

Our parental urge was to jump out in front and lead the way. But we decided instead to hang back and follow our daughter as she drove the lead car.

It soon became apparent that she expected us to pass her and take the lead. She slowed down a few times, made room for us to pass, and did not immediately embrace the role of lead driver.

We continued to hang back, figuring if we got lost then at least we’d all be lost together. But she navigated the route just fine, and we were soon on our way north on I-5.

As parents, we still have work to do on letting go and giving our teen and adult children opportunities to lead. It’s little moments like that one where those opportunities are most frequent and most meaningful.

The same is true in the workplace. To let others lead, you simply need to follow.

CONNECT 2 Lead graphic smalThe CONNECT2Lead Blog and training programs are products of People First Productivity Solutions. We build organizational strength by putting people first. Subscribe to the CONNECT2Lead Blog for weekly tips and techniques on leading with a people first approach. To learn more about our training programs, take a look at our 2015 course catalog.   

One Sure Way to Lose Is by Keeping Score

In the season of giving, let’s talk about withholding.

Instead of giving, we might withhold any time we keep a tally of what we’ve already given. We’re prone to withholding when we expect reciprocity in equal measure.

People sometimes withhold when they feel like they’ve already given more than their fair share. People withhold if they feel like something has been taken from them, and the scales have tipped out of their favor.

We often talk about exchanging gifts rather than giving gifts. It’s unusual for gift givers to continue giving to someone who does not give in kind. Is it really a gift if we expect something in return? If we enter into the gift giving with a mindset that causes us to consider withholding, the act of giving is somehow compromised.

Nonetheless, this is how we operate. It carries over into the workplace for leaders, too. One of the toughest truths for leaders to accept is that giving freely pays back long-term dividends. Because we can’t see the exchange in real time, it somehow isn’t as satisfying or acceptable.

In leadership, though, keeping score and expecting equal giving will never serve you well. Even if it seems one-sided, giving of yourself, of your time, of your experience and more, is absolutely essential. No one continues to follow a person who withholds their time, advice, or contributions too often.

There’s little downside to giving more than you receive. So stop worrying about keeping a tally. It all equals out in the end, and you may just find that giving is its own reward.

This blog post appears as the CONNECT! Community’s emphasis this month on sharing to connect with others. As a leader, giving and sharing with others humanizes you and helps others understand what matters to you. Be sure to subscribe to the CONNECT2Lead Blog for weekly tips and techniques on leading with a people first approach.

Instead of Being Something, Just Be

Are you a leader? An expert? An authority? Or maybe you are a role model. A contributor. An associate. A representative of the company. The list of possibilities is endless.

And then there’s your title – the one that appears on your business card, signifying to the world what you officially are.

When we get caught up in being something, it’s easy to forget that the best thing of all is just to be. To be ourselves. To be human, real and simply who we are.

All those titles and labels we’re trying so hard to be or become get in the way of our relationships. Every time we put a label on what we are, it suggests what we are in relation to what others are. Human to human gets lost in that equation.

As you consider your workplace relationships, don’t lose yourself. Always be you before you try to be anything else.

CONNECT 2 Lead graphic smalThis blog post appears as the CONNECT! Community’s emphasis this month on sharing to connect with others. As a leader, giving and sharing with others humanizes you and helps others understand what matters to you. Be sure to subscribe to the CONNECT2Lead Blog for weekly tips and techniques on leading with a people first approach.

You Don’t Need to Have All the Answers

Here’s a little bit of good news for leaders.

If you are stressed by the constant pressures of having to answer everyone else’s questions… if you are pressuring yourself to be right all the time… if you experience a constant urge to show what you know… Then this post is for you.

Take some relief in knowing that you do not have to have all the answers. In fact, your efforts to always be right and to always provide an answer may be hindering you as a leader.

When it comes to being highly experienced and knowledgeable, some leaders forget that there are two things more important than this.

The first is that leadership involves accessing information that others have and providing opportunities for others to learn. In other words, if you are too swift to give an answer you may not be making space for others’ answers. Step back and let others fill in the void.

The second is that you may have forgotten this cardinal rule: They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Instead of being knowledgeable about the facts and the job, become more knowledgeable about the people who work with you. Find ways to demonstrate your genuine care for them.

One example: instead of solving problems and answering questions, use those situations to create development opportunities that will help others learn and grow. Even when you know the answer, maybe you shouldn’t readily provide it.

You don’t need to have all the answers. But you do need to have a team that feels supported as you all work together to find the answers.

 CONNECT 2 Lead graphic smalThis blog post appears as the CONNECT! Community’s emphasis this month on sharing to connect with others. As a leader, giving and sharing with others humanizes you and helps others understand what matters to you. Be sure to subscribe to the CONNECT2Lead Blog for weekly tips and techniques on leading with a people first approach.

Leaders: Are You Dreaming Alone?

John Lennon said it best. “A dream you dream is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.”

Maybe you’ve known leaders who fall into this trap. They have wonderful ideas, hopes and aspirations. They just can’t seem to turn those dreams into reality.

Why not? Usually because they are trying to go it alone. They conjure their own ideas and then have a hard time enlisting others’ support (or understanding). They can’t let go of the tight hold they have on their own idea, fearful that someone else might change it or encroach upon it. They prioritize ownership of the dream over sharing a co-created reality.

It’s a rare situation when others can invest completely in someone else’s ideas and dreams. People who don’t feel like they’re part of something generally hold back. They may do what they’re instructed to do, but they will do so without the level of passion or commitment required for bringing dreams to life.

Effective leaders learn how to collaborate in creating shared dreams. They understand that the sum total will always be better than any single part. They can set aside their own egos in order to invite others’ ideas and ennoble others’ passions.

What are you doing with your dreams? How are you expanding them to become more inclusive so they can, ultimately, become reality?

CONNECT 2 Lead graphic smalThis blog post appears as the CONNECT! Community’s emphasis this month on sharing to connect with others. As a leader, giving and sharing with others humanizes you and helps others understand what matters to you. Be sure to subscribe to the CONNECT2Lead Blog for weekly tips and techniques on leading with a people first approach.

Why Thinking in Win/Lose Absolutes Disconnects You from Others

Connections happen in the gray area. It’s where we overlap with others, where we have the greatest opportunities to connect. It’s when we go to either extreme that we inherently set ourselves up for a disconnect.

Naturally, some people choose to only be connected with those who share their opinions. For them, extremism is intentional. There is a desire not to connect with people who feel differently about a given issue. This blog post is not for people who operate as extremists. That self-limiting choice can’t be adequately addressed in just 500 words.

Rather, this post is intended for people who want to make connections and are willing to seek out common ground as opposed to hunkering down in their own beliefs.

The best leaders have strong opinions but are also willing to understand the opinions of others. They look for the overlap, the gray area, that enables these connections.

When we are polarized, we repel others instead of attracting them to us.

When we are immovable in our position, we can’t connect with others who are also immovable.

When we close ourselves off with a defensive position or one that is restrictive, we miss out on connections because we don’t invite others in. By not attempting to understand others, we discourage them from trying to understand us, too.

When we adopt a very narrow view, we make it difficult to connect with others. Our narrow view limits the pathway to us and from us.

Leaders who open themselves up to others make the best use of the gray area possible. They get informed. They establish credibility because they are not extremists. They bring others along with them simply by being reasonable and interested enough to dignify others.

To be a leader, you must have followers. If the only followers you allow are those who already believe the same way you do, you’re going to miss out. It’s impossible to be absolutely right all the time. Being extreme in your point of view dooms you to miss out on others’ contributions and ideas.

When you find yourself talking in absolutes, push yourself to go more toward the middle. You don’t have to stay there or change what you believe automatically. This isn’t about being wishy-washy. Instead, it’s about being inclusive and informed.

By connecting with others instead of trying to win every argument, you will end up winning wars instead of battles.

 CONNECT 2 Lead graphic smalThis blog post is part of the CONNECT! Community’s November focus on connecting with others. As a leader, you will be able to CONNECT2Lead authentically and effectively when you are able to establish and sustain meaningful workplace relationships with others. Be sure to subscribe to the CONNECT2Lead Blog for weekly tips and techniques on leading with a people first approach.

 

The Truth about Why We Don’t Listen

Sure, every leader knows we’re supposed to actively listen to each other in the workplace.

Leaders understand that actively listening is a desirable skill. But in a popular CONNECT2Lead webinar workshop, we elicit these honest answers from leaders about the reasons why they don’t do a better job of listening.

If you’re honest with yourself, some of these reasons will be your own, too.

- I don’t know how to listen.

- I just do what others do when it comes to listening.

- I’m distracted.

- I don’t have time to listen.

- I don’t want to listen.

You’re not alone in feeling this way about listening. Admitting that these reasons are why you aren’t actively listening to others is the first step.

You know the next step. It’s overcoming these excuses and making a genuine commitment to really, truly listen to other people.

Think of it this way: you would not make these excuses if you were the person expected to do the speaking. You wouldn’t dare give yourself a free pass on making a presentation if you didn’t know how, lapsed into bad behaviors exhibited by others who were presenting, made a presentation while you were distracted, said you didn’t have time to make a presentation, or skipped it because you just didn’t want to do it.

We know we are front and center and that others are paying attention when we present. We forget that the same is true, as leaders, when we are supposed to be listening.


More than you are judged for your presentations, you are judged for the way you listen. So step it up, work through these excuses, and set a higher standard for the way you listen. You will be more effective as a leader when you do.
CONNECT 2 Lead graphic smalThis blog post is part of the CONNECT! Community’s November focus on connecting with others. As a leader, you will be able to CONNECT2Lead authentically and effectively when you are able to establish and sustain meaningful workplace relationships with others. Be sure to subscribe to the CONNECT2Lead Blog for weekly tips and techniques on leading with a people first approach.