Your Opportunities As A Leader

As a leader, it is easy to understand your role and responsibilities as they are often defined in terms of an org chart, job description, and company objectives and goals that are handed down to you. Your “duties” as a leader often include completing tasks, managing projects, developing and delivering presentations, meeting with customers, developing new clients and business, and maximizing the profitability of a business unit or entire company. These responsibilities are truly important for any leader to stay focused on and perform with excellence.

Leaders and teams

What are sometimes more nebulous are the “opportunities” that you have as a leader. “Opportunities” are not often measured by a metric and take time to be able to see the return on investment. Yet, “opportunities” often yield the greatest return on investment for leaders in terms of building the production capacity and margin that great teams and organizations need to thrive! Here are some specific “opportunities” that you have as a leader to make a dramatic difference in the lives of the people you lead and influence:

  • Invest in Their Growth – Your platform as a leader provides you with a unique opportunity to help the people you lead to develop and grow both personally and professionally. These opportunities include sharing and teaching principles and techniques that will accelerate their growth and advance their careers. Investing in the growth of another person also allows you to not just manage their tasks but maximize their potential, which enables you and the organization to take on new responsibilities knowing and trusting that they can be counted on to deliver.
  • Connect Mission to Tasks – In his book The 8th Habit, Stephen Covey cites research conducted by Harris Interactive which 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 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.
  • Serve Them Well – The difference between managing and leading is often found in how leaders support their people. Inefficient managers typically tell someone what to do and then measure if they completed the task on time and within the budget allowed. The middle piece of supporting them in in the process is often left unattended and uncared for. Great leaders serve as a resource to them and consistently ask: “How’s it going? How Can I help? What roadblocks have you encountered? What opportunities have you uncovered? What resources do you need? How can I help?
  • Encourage Their Soul – The best leaders that we have studied and worked with encourage the people they lead – not just on the surface but deep within their soul! The words “encourage” and “courage” are rooted in the Latin word “cor” meaning “heart.” To have courage means to have heart in the face of challenges. It’s the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, or pain without fear. Great leaders discover new ways every week to encourage their people. They recognize what their people are doing well and reinforce their belief in each person’s potential and ability to be and do their best work now and into the future.

Your “duties” and “opportunities” are equally essential to your leadership effectiveness and impact. While your people are expecting you to follow through on your duties and responsibilities as a leader, they are also hopeful that you will recognize, discover and appreciate the opportunities that you have as a leader to invest in their future. Make time in your schedule to identify the opportunities that you have as a leader at home, at work, in sports, and in your community, and then develop an action plan to follow through. The people in your sphere of influence will be so glad you did!

Live Your Life With Excellence

“And when you discover what you will be in your life, set out to do it as if God Almighty called you at this particular moment in history to do it. Don’t just set out to do a good job. Set out to do such a good job that the living, the dead or the unborn couldn’t do it any better.

If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of Heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well. If you can’t be a pine at the top of the hill, be a shrub in the valley. Be be the best little shrub on the side of the hill.

Be a bush if you can’t be a tree. If you can’t be a highway, just be a trail. If you can’t be a sun, be a star. For it isn’t by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are.”

– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking to a group of students at Barratt Junior High School in Philadelphia on October 26, 1967, six months before he was assassinated

Martin Luther King Tombstone

There are definitely more high profile quotes and speeches that are attributed to Dr. King, but I have always loved this speech that he gave to a group of Junior High students six months before he was killed. Can you imagine the impact on these students both on October 26, 1967, as well as the days following his death? And as we think about our own lives, our sphere of influence, and the opportunities we have been given, I believe there are at least 3 lessons we can draw from his impactful words to this classroom of students:

  • You Have A Unique Calling – Dr. King was trying to dramatically impart to these students that they were created for a specific purpose at a specific moment in time and that their lives did indeed matter. Sometimes, we get into a rut and foolishly believe that calling and gifts are for the special talents, forsaking the opportunity to make an impact right where we are. Whether on a high profile stage or platform or kneeling by a desk in a schoolroom or waiting in a carpool line to offer a smiling and encouraging face to your child after a day of school, your life does matter, and you have a unique calling and mission to carry out. If you don’t do it, who will?
  • Carry Out Your Mission With Excellence – Mediocrity is often the norm in school, in business, and in life. Dr. King was trying to impress upon these students the importance of doing your best. You don’t have to have the so-called “best” job to do your best. Every person plays a role in life. We are called to perform in that role to the best of our abilities. Every day, you have the opportunity to leave your mark of excellence on everything you do. How will you sign your name on today?
  • Leave A Legacy – In the speech, Dr. King references several people of excellence in their respective professions and then challenges the students to do what they are called to in that same manner of excellence. Each of the people he speaks about left a legacy, and he exhorts them to leave their own legacy, whether they will be in the limelight or just a street light. We often falsely believe that the only people who can leave a legacy are the rich and famous who have their names indelibly inked on a building, statue, or plaque. Each day, we have the opportunity to leave a legacy in the lives of people who matter most to us. Your legacy can be an invisible hand that permeates and penetrates generations to come.

Strive to be the best wherever you are and in whatever you do. Your calling is indeed a high calling that demands your life and your commitment!

Question: What other lessons do you draw from this speech and from the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

 

Mentoring

Mentoring is the process of pouring your life into the life of another person. Mentoring involves a true commitment to care enough about the life of another person to help them reach their hopes, dreams, and aspirations. A good mentor shares wisdom learned from successes and failures. A true mentor listens well, shares advice when necessary or prompted, and leads by example. Sometimes, just being in the presence of your mentor can provide you with the energy and enthusiasm to accomplish your goals, persevere through trials, and conquer your fears. It is not always what a mentor says but the intensity with which he or she listens that can provide the answers.

I remember the last year that I spent with my grandfather provided me with a wealth of inspiration and insight. At this point in his life, he was trying to persevere through cancer, and his faculties were not as sharp as they once had been. Just being in his presence, however, brought back the memories of every wise word he had said, every noble deed he had done, and every magnificent moment he had leveraged to listen to my hopes and dreams.

Pat and Me

I thought about the times he took me to meet his friends for coffee. This regular ritual was a mentoring group before the word was popular. I was barely old enough to know what coffee was, but he took me along like I was “one of the boys.” His friends accepted this minor intrusion on their time out of respect for my grandfather. If he said it was ok, then it must be.

I also thought about all of the values that he instilled in me like a hard work ethic, integrity, serving others, humility, authenticity, and a love for God, your family, and other people. My grandfather did not speak a lot of words during his last year on this earth, but his life and the time I spent in his presence spoke volumes.

Who has been a mentor to you? Who are you mentoring? Mentoring is the kind of thing that must be paid forward. During the Thanksgiving holidays, I encourage and challenge you to do two things. First, reach out in some way to the people who have made an impact in your life – your family, friends, co-workers – and say thanks. You could even take the time to actually write a note or letter and mail it – something that is not done as much these days given the proliferation of e-mail. Second, set a goal of serving as a mentor to someone.

The funny thing about mentoring is that the mentor many times becomes the true learner.

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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.