Welcome to the Black Box of Leadership!

Leadership often feels like you have entered that black box. There is no seemingly easy out. AND too often we get into leadership because we are good at our jobs. Being good at your job has NOTHING to do with the skills needed to lead people who do the job! My goal is to create a forum where:• Top performing employees learn what they can do to be ready for a leadership position;• New managers gain the necessary tools for success;• Proven models of leadership success are told, taught and supported.
There is light in the black box of leadership. Let me help you find it!

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Friday, June 13, 2008

Play Fair: Consistency with Performance and Personal Issues

What’s fair to one person isn’t fair to someone else. That’s why consistency is key when dealing with performance or personal issues at work. Creating consistent plans for these situations is your natural next step.

What’s with all these plans? Well, without them, you’ll be left to make individual judgments. And, no matter how fair you try to be, your decisions will likely be tainted by your preferences.

For example, an employee is late several days in a row and doesn’t seem fully engaged in his project. It turns out that his beloved 10-year-old Border Collie died the weekend before.

If he’s a top performer, you may decide to cut him some slack. If he hasn’t been meeting goals for some time, however, you may react strongly to his lax behavior and get tough once and for all.

Neither reaction is consistent or repeatable. Neither elevates you in the eyes of your staff, especially if you take a different turn in a similar, future situation.

Sit down and decide what you want to do in real-life situations that affect employees. If you encounter an unexpected situation for the first time, don’t react right away. Ask for time to think about your performance expectations and then create a plan for the future.

Your consistent response and specific feedback will take you yet another step closer to becoming a truly outstanding leader.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Consciously Clear; Clarify Your Expectations

Ready to take another step towards becoming a consistent manager? Great!

To achieve your desired results, clarify what you expect from your staff. As Brian Tracy says in The Psychology of Achievement, you must 1) tell people what to expect, and 2) follow through on those expectations.

That makes sense, right? If you ask employees to arrive by a certain time each morning, then someone shows up late without consequences, your staff assumes your timeliness standard isn’t important. Without follow through, more and more employees will arrive late. Why? Because when you do not follow through, you send a message that it is no big deal.

Over my 15 years of corporate coaching, I’ve added two of my own key steps to Brian Tracy’s advice. The first is to know what you expect.

Think about how you, as a leader, view flex time, paid time off, and other policies and come up with your own standards. That way, you’ll know exactly what to tell your employees. This will increase your odds of being consistent.

The next piece is to communicate assertively. Otherwise, your staff will be frustrated.

Want an easy way to achieve assertive communication? When you make a request, stop sticking that big, old “but” into things!

Seriously, look at the difference one word can make:

“I know you’re busy now, but I need you to comment on this report.”
“I know you’re busy now, and I need five minutes to discuss this report in the next hour.”

"That’s a really great idea, but that’s not what we’re talking about right now."
“That’s a really great idea. I’d like to add it to our agenda for next time, will you email me a reminder to do so?”

Notice how the second sentences present clear, respectful expectations. Now that’s an excellent manager talking!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Keep an Eye on Style: Leadership Style, That Is

In my last blog, I introduced the importance of consistency for managers and leaders. Today, I’m letting you in on the first key step to achieving consistency: knowing your own, personal leadership style.

For example, do you prefer written communication or verbal interactions? Do you want to be prepared in advance for meetings, or do you think better on your feet?

There’s no right or wrong. These preferences are a part of who you are. (If you need help identifying your leadership style, check out the resources the end of this article.)

Once you understand your unique approach, you can better communicate your preferences. Your employees will be happy to comply with your requests. They’ll understand that you prefer e-mailed meeting notices to impromptu gatherings or executive summaries instead of lengthy reports. Remember, the people who work for you like knowing the rules.

Understanding your own style can also help you recognize preferences among your staff. For instance, you may like a glowing public acknowledgement of a job well done while your project team leader may prefer a framed letter of commendation. Responding to these subtle differences will elevate you in your employees’ eyes.

Stay tuned. I’ll share my next step for becoming a consistent manager soon!

§ DISC Testing[SS1]
§ The Platinum Rule by Tony Alessandra (www.platinumrule.com)
§ Dealing with People You Can’t Stand by Dr. Rick Brinkman and Dr. Rick Kirschner

[SS1]Did you want to reference a particular website, book or program?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Steady as You Go! Consistent Leadership Counts

Would you believe that many employees would prefer a bad manager who’s consistent over an inconsistent manager? I’ve heard that statement a lot in my years of coaching and training in corporate America.

Now, I’m not saying that you should be a bad manager. That’s not the takeaway here! I am saying that you should consistently apply great management and leadership skills.

Why is consistency so important? Because people like predictability. They like knowing the rules of the game, especially their manager’s rules of the game.

Imagine a manager who greets everyone with a cheerful “Hello!” on Monday morning then marches in on Tuesday morning, head down, growling that she needs coffee. How should employees approach her the next day? Or the next week? Who knows?

If you act consistently, employees will know how to react to you. And that’s a big step towards earning their trust and loyalty.

Wondering how you can be more consistent? Over the next series of blogs, I’ll cover where you should start and what you should do next.

Keep reading! You’re on your way to becoming a consistently excellent manager.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Single Greatest Secret of Leadership

If you can understand and incorporate this concept into how you lead you will get out of the black box!