Category Archives: DeEtta Jones

Indispensable, Irreplaceable You: 6 Tips to Creating Peerless Value at Work

DeEtta JonesBy DeEtta Jones

Given the rapid pace of change in most organizations, it is likely that you have—at least on occasion—considered the value you add (and what you have invested in it). Value is the return on investment benefit that your company enjoys because of your unique contribution to clients, colleagues and work product. It also includes things like how you enhance the company brand, introduce innovative approaches or facilitate breakthrough solutions that impact the bottom-line. The degree of value you uniquely bring to your company is directly correlated with your irreplaceability.

There are an unfortunately low number of people who would describe themselves as irreplaceable. When a new boss comes onboard, or an existing employee is promoted to a managerial position, often their first step is to actively seek out people with ideas about “making things better around the office.” These individuals can be called the “linchpins,” and they are the ones who have lived and will continue to live in the organization long after the incoming boss is gone. They have more skin in the game—and perspective—so seeking them out will aid the manager in assessing the organization’s capacity—their ability to grow.

Here’s the other great thing about irreplaceable people—they can be incredibly influential. They might not be influential at first or all the time, but they are the people who, armed with belief in their ideas and their organization’s ability, build strategic alliances and create breakthrough experiences. They stick their necks out when others are in protecting their necks mode, like turtles tucked safely inside their shells. The expectation is not that you go into your next meeting like a bull in a China shop, pushing an idea that’s been percolating in your head for weeks. Influence is more than just having a great idea—it’s about understanding and being able to carefully navigate the environment and relationships needed to get the idea socialized and considered viable by others.

Tips for Making Yourself Irreplaceable:

  1. Believe you are irreplaceable. Confidence is HUGE. If you don’t see your contribution, or potential contribution, as valuable, how will others?
  1. Be political. Political savvy is one of the most difficult skills to teach, yet one of the most crucial, particularly for achieving C-Suite ambitions. Being political does not mean failing to listen or be influenced by other points of view. In fact, some of the most influential leaders are distinguished by their careful and authentic consideration of alternatives.
  1. Pull your head up, away from the fires and the tedious tasks, and look around. Irreplaceable people find opportunities to effect systems, not just cross off the ever-replenishing “to do” list items.
  1. Find, acknowledge, embrace and cultivate your creativity. Many of us spend much of the day using the left sides of our brains—the analytical, objective, “there is ONE right answer” side. Find ways to tap into the right side of your brain more regularly—the intuitive, thoughtful and subjective side. Take an art class, or take a walk through an art gallery during your lunch break. Though it is common to want to take objective approaches to leading, in reality, you live in subjective organizations where being able to read subtle cues, use intuition, and thoughtfully navigate your own emotion and those of others are invaluable characteristics.
  1. Access your whole self. We are more than just heads sitting propped up on hunched shoulders slouching over computers. Stand up. Take a walk. Stop thinking about work—several times per day. Incorporate walking meditation into each day: letting yourself be overwhelmed by the beauty of the trees changing color or feel the crisp air on your face while freeing your mind of negative thoughts. Then go back to your workplace feeling refreshed and open to new ideas for solving the problems that will inevitably still be just where you left them.
  1. Help others. Show yourself to be a team player and willing to step up and take on opportunities to be helpful to others without being asked or need of reward.

Helping others allows you to deepen your skillset (teaching someone is a wonderful way to learn), gather additional insight about a system that may need to be changed, and demonstrate your expertise.

One of the greatest inhibitors of people’s full potential is fear, waiting for the “person in charge” to give direction, even when the person in charge is paralyzed by fear himself. The leadership challenge is being able to get beyond fear of exposure or perceived weakness in times when others are in need of a new approach. Indispensable people are able to let go, at least temporarily, of the need for approval. Assume that coloring in the lines is for the boring and the brainwashed. Let go of the little voice in your head that so desperately wants an “A”. Know that you have inside the ability, and the courage, to create something—a relationship, a culture within your unit, a new product or system or offering—that others may not immediately approve of nor understand, but that adds value to truly make you peerless in your organization.

DeEtta Jones is a leadership strategist, social justice advocate and author. She has more than 20 years of experience working with individual leaders and teams in some of the world’s most prominent universities and corporations. Her multidimensional background and fresh perspective leaves clients feeling heard and empowered to take on some of the major organizational and workforce challenges of our times. For more information or to have DeEtta speak at your next event, please visit http://www.deettajones.com.

The Best Bosses Are… What Every Employee Wants from You as a Leader

DeEtta JonesBy DeEtta Jones

Do you ever feel overwhelmed as a manager? Being overburdened by the responsibility of having to figure out what others want and need of you is a familiar feeling shared among leaders. Fortunately, there is a “best practice” for obtaining just the kind of information needed to increase your leadership effectiveness—ask them what they want.

The following 10 traits have emerged when front line staff, supervisors and middle managers have been asked to describe the traits they look for in a boss. As you read through their “wish list”, think about the kind of boss you are, you want to be, and what you look for in a good boss.

Employees want bosses who are:

1. Innovative: Good bosses have good ideas but their role in innovation is more as facilitator than consummate mastermind. They are not threatened by the talent of their employees, and cultivate a working environment that allows each person’s creativity to come forward. They facilitate innovation.

2. Coaches: Good bosses provide important education and guidance that helps an employee see how her work is contributing to the larger goals of the organization. They help employees build confidence by giving stretch assignments that require demonstration of new skills and right-sized risk, then feedback that allows needed course corrections to be made early enough to avoid a major failure. When employees do fail, good bosses encourage reflection and identification of learning that can be applied to future endeavors.

3. Caring: Good bosses listen to their employees and show an interest in their opinion. They provide opportunities to talk openly, showing interest in their employees’ opinion. They encourage personal and professional growth, sometimes by giving access to resources (like professional development experiences) and sometimes by removing barriers.

4. Strategic: Good bosses can make hard choices and have the finesse needed to get people behind even sometimes unpopular decisions. They are able to secure resources for important initiative worth pursuing. They use analytical frameworks for guiding change, promoting transparent processes and communication. Strategic bosses are decisive (not to be confused with closed-minded or dogmatic). Once a decision has been made, they stick with it and avoid changing directions quickly or sending mixed messages.

5. Visionary: Good bosses are also visionary managers, able to clearly see and build a commitment toward a compelling future state. They articulate a sense of direction, map out the path and shepherd the process.

6. Demonstrate Trustworthiness: A good boss is genuine, has integrity, and behaves in a manner consistent with his word and values. Employees trust bosses they know to be intelligent, capable and have a demonstrated track record of acting in their best interest. They give and receive (even invite) feedback, affirmative and constructive. They are fully aware of their scope of power in the organization and in their relationship with employees, how an off-handed comment or unpleasant glance may ruin someone’s entire weekend.

7. Accessible and Adaptable: Good bosses are able to balance how they give support and direction with the freedom employees need to do their work, acknowledging the level of experience and expertise over his domain. They understand that each employee comes to the workplace with unique experiences, needs and cultural lenses that will require individualized attention and support, and can adapt their own style to ensure effective communication and levels of productivity.

8. Passionate: A good boss has a fire their belly about something–particularly the vision, mission of the organization and the people with whom they work and who their products and services are meant to touch. They are the first to roll up their sleeves to contribute, and model the level of motivation and quality required for achievement of organizational goals. They help employees stay connected to their own passion by encouraging the sharing of ideas and then helping to shape them to fit within and be supported by the larger organization.

9. Champions: People want to know that the person to whom they report is on their side, even when mistakes are made. Champions look for opportunities to catch their employees doing a good job, and go out of their way to point it out. They don’t take the credit for their employees’ work, and they don’t throw an employee under the bus–ever. They “influence up” by being a conduit between their employees and higher level decision makers, often helping their employees develop the language and influence strategies needed to take an idea to the top of the organization.

10. Fun: Good bosses are willing to laugh and value a work environment that encourages meaningful relationships between colleagues. They inspire us by making the connection from our head to our heart about the importance of our work and our value to the company.

Here’s the leadership next step: reflect on the list and identify qualities you are modeling. Think about where there is room for growth in your leadership practice—growth that will lead to increased levels of motivation and engagement. Finally, begin today encouraging your employees to share their own needs allowing for timely adjustments.

Remember, leadership is a journey. Bon voyage!

DeEtta Jones is a leadership strategist, social justice advocate and author. She has more than 20 years of experience working with individual leaders and teams in some of the world’s most prominent universities and corporations. Her multidimensional background and fresh perspective leaves clients feeling heard and empowered to take on some of the major organizational and workforce challenges of our times. For more information or to have DeEtta speak at your next event, please visit www.deettajones.com.

Take Control of Your Brand: The 4Cs of Brand Management

DeEtta JonesBy DeEtta Jones

There are plenty of reasons to care about your brand, and high among them should be to make your voice heard: your unique voice. Voice is the contribution made to something larger than oneself. It’s the medium for sharing one’s purpose, values, talents and vision for the future. Yes, there are plenty of examples in contemporary society of people creating a shallow brand seemingly for the sole purpose of increasing the number of social media followers. But, before you too hastily follow that line of thinking, consider the bigger picture—and your values. Where do you want your name and legacy to appear in people’s minds and hearts?

Some of the most fundamental elements of a value-rich personal brand are reflected in the 4Cs of brand management:

1. Conviction: How do your values show themselves in your life? In the way you carry yourself? In your conversations, friendships, choices? How do others know what you stand for? People with strong brands—those who are most influential and apt to attract followers and allies—are mission-driven. Their words and deeds are predictably consistent with their values. Conviction is more than a noble concept; it’s about having an unimpeachable character that is, and is understood by others to be, working in the service of something greater than yourself. Again, what is the “greater good” that you are striving for, and is it known to others through the large and small behavioral choices you make on a regular basis?

2. Caring: Managing your brand means caring enough about how you are perceived to invest time and be open to behavioral modifications. Captain Ronald Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol, brought in to turnaround the riots in Ferguson, MO, personified caring at the press conference held on August 15, following the shooting of Michael Brown. Media from around the country were carefully positioned to record his every word, yet the locals standing 20 feet in front of him could not hear his remarks. Brown walked away from the staged microphone and into the crowd because, as he stated, “my concern is that the members of our community hear me and be heard.”

People who are most in control of their brand are able to keep small the gap between how they see themselves and how others see them. Research shows that with ascension in titular leadership this becomes more difficult, particularly because there is less access to the unfettered truth. Simply, the higher one goes up the proverbial ladder, the smaller the peer group becomes. Fewer peers means there are less people willing (often because of fear of reprisal) to share honest perspectives about the behaviors that need to stop or be changed. Without access to this feedback, and with ascension, it is easy to only pay attention to the limited, and affirmative, feedback received. Over time, and as people are expected to perform in increasingly sophisticated and politically nuanced environments, the higher the probability that past strengths will become weaknesses. A classic example of this is people who move from #2 to #1 positions in an organization. The operational strengths that helped them move through their career are no longer considered as relevant when one is expected to perform as a strategy-savvy CEO.

Caring is also—and perhaps appropriately weighted—being concerned about the impact you are having on others.

3. Class: “Keep it classy” is a mantra for those who sometimes forget that brand is shaped with every choice made, every word uttered. Whether choosing to act or not act a choice is being made. Even thoughts are choices—choosing to focus mental and emotional energy on certain things over others.

Classiness requires intentionality. Think of your life as a story to be displayed on a television show. You are one of several cast members, each requiring a clear identity that contributes to the overall theme of the show. Who are you relative to the other members of the cast? Are you the Protagonist? Hero? Victim? Underdog?

Create a personal narrative; psychologists call it self-authoring. You decide the story line, then position yourself in the role that is most desirable for you and others. Writing the story forces you to explore the needs and motivations of others; to develop the characters and your relationship to them—your colleagues, boss, clients, children, spouse or partner and friends.

This desire to understand what motivates others is a key to fully fleshing out your character’s role and behaviors in enacting the story. It is also the essence of building a strong personal identity—understanding yourself in relation to the needs and motives of others is one of the most effective ways to create a credible brand, a brand powerful enough to positively influence others.

4. Confidence: Confidence is the toughest of the Cs in this list. It can’t be taught or bought; it has to be earned. There are people who are full of shallow entitlement that comes across as smug confidence. Don’t pay attention to them, and certainly don’t let yourself become one of them. It’s transparent. They’re hiding something, which will be discovered in time.

Earned confidence is beautiful to observe. It shows itself as an effortless comfort in one’s being, requiring no airs. People with a deep sense of personal confidence often have many relationships, varied interests and deep passions, make an effort to stretch their boundaries and are comfortable saying no. Confidence is built through experience and relationships, and wise people invest—on an ongoing basis—in the nurturing and acquisition of both.

Here’s the simple truth: perception does count. People make split-second judgments all the time. Taking control of your brand means that you are putting yourself in the driver’s seat, making a conscious choice to intentionally reflect behaviors and choices that allow the best of you to shine.

DeEtta Jones is a leadership strategist, social justice advocate and author. She has more than 20 years of experience working with individual leaders and teams in some of the world’s most prominent universities and corporations. Her multidimensional background and fresh perspective leaves clients feeling heard and empowered to take on some of the major organizational and workforce challenges of our times. For more information or to have DeEtta speak at your next event, please visit www.deettajones.com.