Monthly Archives: January 2010

Realizing Our Leadership Potentials

As I was preparing training slides for my next presentation on leadership, I came across two concepts that struck a chord in me. The first concept was coined by Dr. Myles Munroe in his book entitled Becoming A Leader (1993). He used the phrase “out there.” He writes, “While we often think of leaders as “out there,” we need to look within ourselves. Each one of us is a leader who can affect the people and institutions in our own spheres of influence” (p.13).

When there is a just cause; whom do you look to? Is there anyone better than you “who can get the job done so said that inner voice? Often the right person is our self. We need to look within ourselves to get the job done, to improve the employees’ morale, to right the wrong. Who do you have influence with; what changes have been made in the past because of what you said or did? You can do it again. Leaders are not people “out there.” Leaders are ordinary people who accept or, due to circumstances, are thrust into taking charge; and in the process, “bring forth their latent potential, producing character that inspires the confidence and trust of others” (Becoming A Leader, 1993, p.12).

Now pause and think for a minute. What about that time when you were thrust into a leadership role. Think of the people you influenced. What about those changes that were made due to your efforts and the efforts of those you led. Because of that special journey, you are still seen as a leader and are often called to lead the next adventure whether it is on your job, your neighborhood, a civic affiliation or in your faith community.

This brings me to the second concept which was coined by John Maxwell. He stated that leadership is a journey. It is a “journey that starts where you are, not where you want to be” (The 360 Degree Leader, 2005, p.274). Often times we want to get ahead of ourselves. We want to be the CEO of the company, the president or chair of a particular group or the one who will lead the next march on City Hall or Washington.

Maxwell writes that “you need to have your eyes fixed on your current responsibilities, not the ones you wish to have someday” (p.275). If you are not successful at your current level how can you assure others and yourself that you will be successful and will be “a qualifier for leading at the next level” (p.274)? As discussed in an earlier post, Henry and Richard Blackaby believe that prior small successes can be a good sign post for emerging leaders to take on greater responsibilities and that these successes, along with the person’s life experiences, can greatly affect the kind of leader a person will become (Spiritual Leadership, 2001).

Have you been there; I know I have? You want the larger role, but at the same time, there are unfinished businesses at your current level of responsibilities. If we take care of our present responsibilities, the future will take care of itself. Greater responsibilities and yes, sometimes a new title, more money, different stressors and headaches will come with your prized endeavor; but it is not your time yet. You have current responsibilities to take care of.

Leadership is a journey and like all journeys we pack our essentials to assure a safe, but fun trip. But like many journeys there are surprises along the way. Those surprises will not deter us if we do our homework before hand. As it relates to leadership, the leader must know where he wants to go. The leader must have a vision; a vision that usually comes from the leader’s conviction. On this journey, will the leader have followers? The leader needs people who will follow her, protect her and help her realize her vision. The leader and followers are confident about this new journey because of the leader’s success with previous journeys.

So we see that leadership is not a one time effort. It is a life time journey often prompted by our inner voice to right the wrong, to improve job processes, to enhance our neighborhoods and to strengthen our faith community.

So are you ready to listen to your inner voice and begin your next journey? We are counting on you.

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Executive Supervision, Part VII: Administrative Do’s and Don’ts

Upward EdgeThis is the last installment of Executive Supervision. This narrative is an outgrowth of a presentation that I gave to graduate students at Old Dominion University in November, 2008.

Today we will discuss Administrative Do’s and Don’ts. The reference for this section is taken from the book “Secrets of Executive Success.” This book was written by Mark Golin, Mark Bricklin, David Diamond, and the Rodale Center for Executive Development. So let’s begin.

Do trust your intuition: When I have gone with my gut instinct, I have often had better administrative outcomes. So if you have good instincts, trust yourself. Give yourself credit; you know more than you think. Therefore trust your hunches and remember those prior experiences that begat successes.

Do appreciate good work: When your employees do good work; always praise them. To foster more good work always find a way to praise your employees in public. In today’s work environment it is pertinent to praise good work.

Don’t take credit for the good work of your employee: Remember that your employees’ good work is a reflection on your ability to lead. Your job as an executive leader is to delegate, follow-up and to make sound management decisions. I remembered a time when a former boss of mine took credit for something I did and on another occasion that same boss rejected a conceptual idea that I proposed; however, several years later my boss presented that idea to his superiors as if it came from him. It was not a good feeling and I lost all credibility for that boss. If you want motivated employees give them the praise and the credit they deserve for the ideas and work that they have produced.

Do get to know the work of your employees, both their work contributions and their personal lives: The best way to get to know your employees is to walk around, talk to them, listen to them and let them know that you genuinely care about their work, but you also care about other aspect of their lives outside of work.

Don’t be inaccessible: Often times you will have time constraints, but it a must to have an open door policy with your employees. If you cannot talk with an employee on the spur of the moment; schedule a mutual time to meet. Face to face contact is essential and always appreciated; especially, in the age of emails, faxes and mobile phones. I do have to confess that this is a challenge for me. With the additional workload and limited time at my desk, I often found myself or I give the impression to my employees that “right now” is not the time to talk with me. A fair warning, watch your body language. Your body language or your facial expressions may give employees mix signals. Can I talk to him? He said he has an open door policy, but he gives out vibes that say I do not want to be bothered. We must make time for our employees; this helps us stay ahead of the curve of any dooming organizational problems or employee’s concerns.

Do tackle problems as soon as they occur: Don’t let problems fester. Intervene quickly. In many cases, the quickest and direct way to deal with an issue or problem is to have the parties to meet and take ownership of the issue at hand. Your role may be as a facilitator and/or a mediator. Remember, however, that the final outcome rest with you.

Don’t be afraid to be a little vague about your plans: It is not always wise to put all your cards on the table. Let timing and the input of others be on your side.

Do treat your employees fairly. I did not say equally. When you know your employees, you know what’s fair for each employees within the confines of your company’s human resources policies.

Do behave in a manner that will make your employees trust you: In other words, be ethical, be fair and above all “walk your talk.”

Don’t underestimate the destructive power of disgruntled employees: Deal with morale issues quickly. This is similar to tackling problems that was discussed above. You cannot overlook or allow an issue to grow. Most executive leaders are not blind to morale issues on their watch, but they often struggle on the appropriate intervention to take. Seek out those you trust to gather information on how and why an employee or employees may be disgruntled. It does not hurt to go directly to the disgruntled employee to find out what is wrong and too, possible means to remedy the problem or issue.

Do all you can to support the people below you: Don’t have them fight “battles” that you can and should do. Sometimes because of your authority you are the only one that can fight the battle that has impacted employee’s productivity and in some cases, their morale.

Do be predictable: This helps employees know how to respond to you. You must provide predictability and calmness in the work environment. This is not always easy, but it must be. With job redeployments and job losses, calmness from the boss is a must.

Don’t ignore your insecurities about being a leader or manager: It is okay to seek advice and ask for help. You can not expect to know every detail about your assignment or the tasks required of your employees. Trust your employees.

Don’t lose sight of the long range goal: This can easily happen, if you do not take quality quiet time and as I have discussed in prior blogs, I recommend that you encourage your top managers to do the same.

I hope the Executive Supervision series have been helpful. I would love to hear from you.

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Executive Supervision, Part VI, Managing Oneself

Upward EdgeTo be successful at the highest level, the executive leader must learn to managing oneself. Managing people is hard, but a more difficult task is managing oneself. In this article we will discuss some invaluable tools that help the executive leader to manage oneself.

Tool number 1: Perseverance/Resiliency. We all are familiar with the phase, “don’t let them see you sweat.” The executive leader must learn how to deal effectively with pressures. Pressures from the job and pressures from outside the work world; both will have an impact on how the executive leader will treat his or her employees and perform his job. To be resilient the executive leader must find ways to maintain interest and focus on the task or tasks before him or her.

The executive leader must find a way to balance his/her personal and work life. That balance is often hard to come by in today’s world. Our many “successful role models” today spends an inordinate time on the job, away from the family and for some even overlooking their own health. The most recent example is the successful Florida football coach, Urban Meyer. In his drive for success, Meyer compromised his health to the point that he contemplated leaving the job he really loves.

Having confidence in your staff can help you persevere in a tough job environment. Delegate what you can and hold your staff accountable. You will be surprised how much your staff can and will do to protect you and relieve of your some of your stressors. And yes, they will complete the task. In these ways, you will find balance, stay focused and “never let them see you sweat.”

Tool number 2: Practice Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits. Most of us are familiar with Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits; if you are not, I recommend that you go on the FranklinCovey’s website and order the book. Most importantly, the executive leader must find some quiet time (quadrant II) to think, to re-create, to re-energize, and to empower himself. In her Pathleader’s blog dated December 29, 2009, Laurie Beth Jones writes that a Fortune 50 company conducted a survey of “Emerging Leaders” to ascertain what the emerging leaders wanted for their CEO and for themselves. The answer was time to think. “These leaders from tomorrow wanted their leaders of today to have, and MAKE, the time to think.” Therefore, as an executive leader find time to think and allot time for your chief managers to think also. I often sat aside, at least, 1 Friday afternoon/month to think. I also set aside quadrant II time with my managers quarterly to think and to re-energize and I explore with them in their individual supervision time with me methods they use to think. It is encumber of the executive leader to also practice good time management skills. A good source again is the 7 Habits, but you may want to explore other time management books and seminar. One of I would recommend is Harold Lloyd’s book entitled “It’s About Time.”

Tool number 3: Identify your strengths and core values. Your strengths are what got you to your high level job in the first place; so those strong skills and attributes are what you need to focus on to enhance job performance. Too often executives focus on their weaknesses to the detriments of the strong points that have, in the past, helped their company and their career.

A number of Gallup Research studies have concluded that “Strength Based Development” is a key in improving and accelerating job performance. A part of identifying your strengths is being yourself and being aware of your core values. What are you not willing to compromise as it relates to your company achieving its mission and/or making a profit? Therefore, tool 3 is being aware of your strengths; utilize those strengths to improve your performance and finally know your ethics. What are those things that are important to you that you are not willing to compromise even when the going gets tough?

Tool number 4: Appreciate your work style. You are most effective when you appreciate your own work style. Again this goes back to knowing your strengths. How do you get things accomplished; what do you need to make informed decisions and how does your work style mesh with others around you to accomplish the company’s mission? It’s also critical to know and appreciate your managers’ work styles. What flexibilities will they need to accomplish their tasks; when is it the better time to meet with your managers to get the best out of them. The key here, is not to be someone else or try to replicate someone’s work style; but to be confident in your own your abilities and focus on your strength to lead.

Finally, Tool number 5 is Look at all challenges as an opportunity. My email tagline is “Turning challenging opportunities into remarkable successes.” I have often said in other settings that challenges are a gift from God. “An opportunity to grow; to soar like an eagle; to be the leader that you know you are; to be the leader God has called you to be” (Upward Edge, October 7, 2009). Challenges give you opportunities to stretch and to improve services and/or products for your customers. It is important not to take on challenges all alone. Seek advice from your peers, from your customers and from your lieutenants. The bottom line is that we all improve when we are forced to change and are challenged by opportunities.

So now you have it. Managing oneself is about finding quiet time to build on the tools above. It’s about prevention, preparation, planning and building relationships to not only manage, but to sustain oneself in highly competitive and stressful positions.

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1 Year Anniversary

Today marks 1 year since I have started this blog. This blog has taken a different direction than I anticipated. In my January 8, 2009 blog, I stated that I wanted to bring “New Thoughts about Leadership.” I hope I have done that for you. I hope I have opened eyes in a new way. What surprised me, however, is that my new thoughts on leadership focused on my own journey with God; a journey of faith exploration and spiritual leadership. As a result of this 1 year journey, I have decided to start a new blog entitled “Faithscape” to further explore my faith journey, without confusing those seeking information on leadership (via Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc) to find something entirely different.

However, to my faithful readers/followers, you can still follow me on “Upward Edge” and on my new blog site “Faithscape” to see how one’s faith journey is intertwined to servant leadership and the transformation of lives. You can find my new blog at www.faithscape.net or going to my favorite links to your bottom right.

I will continue “Upward Edge” with its focus on leadership principles and today’s business leadership concepts and less about my personal spiritual journey. However, the bottom line, I want to teach, I want to inspire and lead people to fulfill their leadership passions whether it is in their faith community or in their secular organizations. My wish, my hope today as it was in 2009 “is to re-create, to bring new thoughts to old sayings and beliefs; to write about leadership, in particular, “transforming servant” leadership in a new and different way” (Upward Edge, January 8, 2009).

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