Yes, You Can Inspire Others!

Some people feel like they cannot inspire others. It is not because they don’t believe that people can be inspired by others to move forward. They just believe that they do not have the perceived “magical” qualities to influence others to action. They falsely assume that only a select few have the secret sauce to inspiring others to success. They think that only Leaders with an emphasis on the capital “L” have the platform to impact others. They wrongly believe that only people who stand on a stage or platform speaking and performing for others could garner enough capital to capture someone’s attention.

Happy People

The reality is that you can inspire others to action every day. You have been blessed with unique talents that only you possess. You have been given a sphere of influence and have been created in a certain manner in order to know and discern what people in this sphere need. An encouraging word. A smile. Positive feedback. Challenging them to reach their potential. We all have these opportunities no matter how big our stage is and what platform we possess. I believe there are 3 ways that we can do this:

  • Our Words – Evaluate the words you use every day. Do they set a positive tone and outlook for you and for others? Or, are you like Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh constantly predicting gloom and doom for the future with sayings like, “It’s probably going to rain today,” when there is not a cloud in the sky.
  • Our Actions – The way we live our lives communicates volumes to others about what we believe. We don’t want this Ralph Waldo Emerson quote to be said of us: “What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.” Make sure that your talk matches your walk and that your example lines up with what you espouse.
  • Our Ability to Listen – Many times, we are so focused on what we want to say that we miss what others are communicating both verbally and non-verbally about their current situation. This is what I have learned from being a coach to athletes and business people as well as examining the best mentors in my own life. People want to be heard and understood in order to be inspired.

Inspirational people live from a foundation of a strong character versus the circumstances of the day. They base their lives on principles that are timeless, not trendy, and they inspire others through their words and their actions. Yes, you can inspire others and positively influence them in their life journey. The choice is up to you whether you will embrace this opportunity.

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The Leader as Mentor

“I don’t have time to help him. If he can’t figure out how to do it, I guess I’ll just do it myself.” Unfortunately, I have heard this kind of quote too many times from influential leaders. In this fast-paced world with too many tasks to accomplish, mentoring is often the furthest thing from a person’s mind. For some people, mentoring is a foreign concept. Other people understand it but don’t make it a priority.

business partners are posing against white background

Mentoring is the leverage point of leadership. One person can only do so much. A leader’s production is dependent upon his or her ability to produce, but it also depends upon his or her ability to lead through others. Mentoring is the craft of developing another person to become a leader, thereby increasing the effectiveness of the individual, the organization, and ultimately the mentor. Many leaders are blind to the correlation of mentoring and their own individual production. Some of them decide erroneously that they must do all of the work. Others take a more narcissistic approach and insist on receiving all of the credit. Michael Maccoby wrote about the concept of “narcissistic leaders” in a Harvard Business Review issue and a related book. In his article, Maccoby related five key weaknesses of narcissistic leaders:

  • Sensitive to Criticism
  • Poor Listeners
  • Lack of Empathy
  • Distaste for Mentoring
  • An Intense Desire to Compete

With many old-school leaders still taking the narcissistic approach to leadership, it is understandable why they don’t see the benefits to mentoring. In fact, they have a “distaste for mentoring” as Maccoby so eloquently, or unfortunately states. They abhor it and see no value in it whatsoever. In my experience of observing and teaching about leadership, most leaders who negate the value of mentoring either have never experienced the pleasure of a great mentoring relationship or they are unwilling to credit their own success to a mentoring relationship. The perplexing point for me is how a leader can avoid the promising aspects of mentoring. Even a narcissist would want to produce exponentially beyond his or her own ability or capacity!

Mentoring provides this distinct advantage to produce beyond yourself. When a leader makes it a priority to mentor other people, she can accomplish a lot more. The leader’s production capability and capacity becomes incredible! It is not just addition at that point; it’s multiplication and an exponential return on the investment in and through others. As the leader develops her people, they begin to take the initiative to produce. This kind of leader has a distinct taste for and focus on developing the production capacity of her people, team, and organization! In fact, I think there are 3 very important things that the Leader as Mentor does:

  • Teach (vs. Tell) – Great leaders who understand mentoring teach others the how and why of the tasks they are accomplishing, and they tailor their instruction based on the experience level of the person.
  • Develop (vs. Direct) – As a leader, you have to direct the tasks of others, but if you are not developing your people along the way, you will never raise the level of leadership in your organization. A key question to consider is: Are my people just completing tasks or are they growing in their careers?
  • Help (vs. Hoard) – Leaders as mentors seek to help their people pursue their potential. Instead of hoarding the knowledge, they share their experiences to help people grow faster in their careers.

As the people grow and develop into leaders, the organization is stronger and more effective, and the leader is able to exponentially exceed his or her own production capacity.

It is an awesome feeling to share knowledge and wisdom with others and watch them soar! Leaders who mentor know this feeling all too well!

Question: Who has served as a mentor for you? What is something that a mentor has done for you that has made a positive difference in your life? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

The Leader as Mentor is just one of the 7 roles of transformational leaders that we cover in our leadership development programs. Our next public leadership training workshop is in Austin, TX, on October 28th, and there is still time to sign up. We have also had the privilege of customizing this impactful training program for many top companies and would love to do the same for you, your team, and your organization. Email me to find out more about how to bring one of our leadership programs into your company or organization.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leadership Takes Courage

“She’s done a great job on all of her performance reviews, but there’s one issue that I still have a problem with. I don’t think she’s ready to be promoted.”

I still remember sitting through another annual promotion meeting where a manager stumbled through this declaration about a person that was working for him. There would be no promotion for someone who clearly had risen above the expectations of all that she had been asked and coached to do. In a group of about 50 people, I spoke up and asked, “And, did you confront her about the issue and coach her throughout the last year to improve on this “issue?” His answer: a sheepish, solemn, “No.”

In this situation, a high potential person was being penalized for the lack of leadership of her manager, who did not have the courage to deliver constructive feedback and coach her to become better in a certain area. How can you improve in an area when you don’t even know it’s a problem? Moreover, how do you trust that the positive feedback you are receiving is real and authentic when the leader you are working for does not have the courage to give you the whole picture about your performance and help you become better?

As a leader, you must communicate and connect with the people that have been entrusted to you. This point is true in business as well as in sports and life. A great coach must deliver both positive and constructive feedback to his or her team. An effective parent uses coaching and teaching techniques to help his or her children mature and develop into productive members of society who fulfill their purpose. Yelling all the time or giving a flippant response of “You’re doing fine” to the question of “How am I doing?” just won’t cut it. We all want and deserve feedback.

A Leader meeting with an employee

For some, giving feedback comes natural to them. For others, it is difficult. As Peter Senge, author of The Fifth Discipline and senior lecturer at MIT, says, “This is new work for most experienced managers, many of whom rose to the top because of their decision-making and problem-solving skills, not their skills in mentoring, coaching, and helping others learn.”

Regardless where you fall within this spectrum, it is your responsibility as a leader to communicate with your team and connect in an effective way to help them maximize their potential. As I recently said to a group of athletes who were leaders on their respective teams, “C is for Captain; L is for Leader. Don’t sign up for the position if you can’t handle the pressure!” Be courageous as a leader and utilize the following tips when it comes to giving someone feedback:

  • Be Timely – Some people delay speaking to another person about an issue, because they don’t have the courage to talk to them about it. If you really care about the people you lead, you will deliver constructive feedback as well as positive feedback in a timely manner so that they will always know how they are doing and can work to improve on the areas that need attention.
  • Be Specific – People don’t want vague praise like “You are doing great!” or general performance advice like “Do better!” They want to know details. This is especially true of the millennials who are entering the workplace. As a leader, you cannot assume that people know how they are doing. Catch people doing things right and reaffirm it. For example, giving feedback such as “You did a great job of asking critical follow-up questions in our client meeting” is better than “That was a great meeting.”
  • Be Engaged in the Process – Great leaders are fully engaged and committed to helping the people they lead become the best version of themselves. In order to do this, you must observe their work and communicate with the people you lead. They also must know that you care about them in order to fully receive the feedback that you communicate to them.

Whether it’s your son or daughter, your teammate, or a member of the team you lead, don’t let words go unspoken that would help them become all that they can be. You don’t want to be in a position where they come back to you somewhere down the road and ask: “Why didn’t you tell me about this and help me try to become my best?”

 

Question: Do you find it easy to give both positive and constructive feedback to others? What is the best advice you have ever received from a mentor? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

A Relentless Architect of Possibilities

Great leaders look for opportunities to invest in others. Whether you are a parent, athlete, business leader, or student, you have an opportunity every day to influence and impact others. Yet, I often wonder if we seize those moments to make a positive difference in the lives of others. Are we truly “relentless” in the process of helping another person pursue their potential even in the face of adversity and setbacks?

Riding a bike

As I look at my own life and into the lives of people that I coach and converse with, I think people can become frozen by fear with thoughts and questions such as:

  • “What if my kids don’t turn out to be perfect?”
  • “I don’t have time to lead other people.”
  • “I don’t have the skills to be the parent they need.”
  • “They won’t listen to me. I know how to motivate my sales team, but I can’t motivate my own children.”
  • “I don’t know if I’m getting through to them. Am I making any kind of difference at all?”

When we are distraught because of distractions, we fail to capitalize on the opportunity to impact and lead others. Distractions take us off course and lead us on a detour to a destination we did not intend to visit. If we truly want to lead our families, businesses, and communities, we must become relentless in our pursuit of mentoring others.

I have always loved Benjamin Zander’s quote about leadership and the possibilities that exist for leaders. As a conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, Zander understood his role as a leader and facilitator of remarkable performances. His role was to bring out the best in others, which began with a belief that each person had talent to be discovered and something of value to be offered. He made himself a “relentless architect of the possibilities” of that person’s potential.

Picture of a Great Leader

As you consider your roles in life, think about the opportunities that you have every day to positively impact and influence people. Don’t become distracted and discouraged, aimlessly wondering whether you are making a difference. Make it a goal every day to be a relentless architect in your pursuit of the possibilities of human beings by:

  • Identifying and recognizing the strengths of others
  • Looking for ways to cultivate and nurture their potential
  • Focusing on the possibilities of what they could become (versus solely dwelling on the problems that will prevent them from never reaching their potential)
  • Coaching and giving constructive feedback in areas where they need to improve and keeping them accountable in their growth journey
  • Recognizing the difference between “your dreams” versus their dreams and working with them to create a shared vision of the future
  • Initiating conversation and listening to both verbal and non-verbal cues on what is important to them

Be relentless, holding on to the hope of your role in helping someone develop his or her full potential. They will be so glad you did!

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Your Influence Affects The Outcome

The influence of one can impact the outcome of many. I was very aware of this as a point guard in basketball. It was up to me to bring the ball up the court and make the right decisions about what play to run, when to shoot, and when to pass. There were times when I needed to be more of an offensive force to help our team win. At other times, I needed to pass the ball and get my teammates involved in the flow of the game. The outcome was often determined by the choices I made – for better and sometimes, for worse.

Ben Driving to the hoop

In life, we make choices all the time that affect the lives of other people. Some people have an isolated viewpoint and think that their individual choices leave no residual effect on the people in their sphere of influence. For example, a leader may believe that his choice not to speak to people as he walks into the office has no effect on the perceptions of his employees; yet, by not speaking, he speaks volumes about his view of them and their importance. In an instance like this, the leader misses an opportunity to engage with and encourage the people he leads every day. The reality is that we were created to live in community with others, and our words and actions have impact not only on the generation represented in front of us but for generations to come.

While our influence is important to focus on, the outcome can be a choice as well. My father made a choice to leave our family when I was 3, and it made an impact on my mom and myself and affected our immediate outcome but not our eventual destination. I could have used that as an excuse – never to trust others, never to marry, never to have kids. I realized along the way that I had a choice to reverse the effect of this influence for good – to trust others, to marry, to be blessed with five boys who will hopefully carry on the mantle of positive influence in the lives of others.

Dictionary definition of the word influence.

Be careful how you choose to live your life. Each moment is critical to not only your own success and significance but also to the success and significance of others. You have been given a sphere of influence for a reason. Choose today to positively impact the people within your sphere of influence and leave a lasting legacy of true leadership and impact.

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5 Things A Leader Should Do Every Day

Leaders are stewards. They are responsible for a group of people who possess talent and are given the opportunity to demonstrate that talent in the pursuit of a goal and purpose. The critical task of a leader is to help develop and nurture the potential of those they lead in order to help them maximum their potential and accomplish the goals of the team, organization, business, or family unit.

Picture of a Great Leader

In order to do that successfully, here are 5 things that a leader should do every day in pursuit of this stewardship mission:

  • Encourage Others – In their incredible book The Leadership Challenge, Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner say that “encouraging the heart” is one of the hardest practices for a lot of leaders. Yet, it is one of the easiest things leaders can do every day to inspire others to maximize their potential and pursue the goals and core values of the organization. When you encourage others, it acknowledges a job well done and raises the level of performance of the other person for future moments. A connection is made between you and the other person, and it inspires them to go farther in their pursuit of excellence.
  • Challenge Your People – In my experience of working with high potentials and high performers, they respond well to challenges. A leader must understand the capabilities of the people he or she is leading and present opportunities that will challenge them to fully use and stretch their potential. The individual, their team, and the organization benefit from this. The core opportunity is to challenge others to be better and grow every day.
  • Hold Them Accountable – Many leaders fail to hold people accountable for their actions and doing what they said they were going to do. Leaders must do this in a proactive way that builds a culture of accountability where everyone commits, everyone acts, and everyone impacts in a positive way. Also, leaders must hold people accountable not only to their tasks but also to their talent. Warren Bennis says that leaders help develop others’ “talent to be” which speaks to realizing and maximizing their potential. Realizing potential and achieving goals happens when there is a circle of accountability that surrounds and supports another individual.
  • Care About Them – Leaders must care about their people which involves demonstrating genuine concern for who they are and the value they bring. Words like caring, compassion, and love are not often used in a business setting and are often thrown out as soft; yet, caring about your people is a strong force and demonstrates the commitment you have toward another’s success. Leaders who care want the best for their people and receive the most from them.
  • Communicate The Vision – In his book The 8th Habit, Stephen Covey cites research that was done by Harris Interactive that indicated “only 37 percent said they have a clear understanding of what their organization is trying to achieve and why and only one in five said they had a clear ‘line of sight’ between their tasks and their team’s and organization’s goals.” Great leaders, however, connect vision and values to tasks and time. If someone you lead truly understands how what they do every day connects to the mission and vision of the organization, they will truly invest their time in making a positive difference and will fully demonstrate and represent the core values of the organization.

Leaders must think beyond their job description duties and seek out opportunities that will make an exponential difference in the way work is done and the way lives are impacted through the process. These five things are pivot points that will take your leadership culture to the next level. Make time to put them into practice today!

Question: As a leader, what are some other things that you have found to be helpful in leading others? You can leave a comment by clicking here.