Four Ways to Combat Lukewarm Leadership

By Brian Braudis

The CEO of a software firm was tasked with a major change initiative after a large and lengthy acquisition. The Board of Directors wanted to see a definitive integration plan that included a timeline, and an organizational management plan that would ensure the merging of cultures and continued growth for the long-term.

What followed was a classic case of “lukewarm leadership.” The CEO appeared halfhearted, indifferent and his inconsistencies mounted. The Board would hear positive progress reports from the CEO and senior leadership team members would report the direct opposite. From his weak stance on commitment to the flurry of mixed messages, this CEO earned the moniker “Tepid Tommy.” He seemed to be waiting in the wings for the flawless change initiative plan to find him

Leaders Take Note: Followers pay attention and watch more closely than given credit for. Indifference, lackluster communications and lethargic efforts are often more conspicuous than appreciated. When change is at hand and the future seems unstable, a leader’s performance can either diminish chaos or enflame it. In the backdrop of uncertainty, a mere spark of ambiguity or apathy can ignite the pervading fuel of resistance among the masses. Leaders have a significant role in creating a calm and productive culture. Click To Tweet

Lukewarm leadership is not just a phenomenon of the C-Suite. From the top to the front lines, followers everywhere watch intently. They are tuned-in and sensitive to the message that leadership sends. The leader creates the climate. If an apathetic message is conveyed, the employee will respond in kind. Team members follow in direct correspondence with what they see and feel from leadership.

Here are 4 Ways to Combat Lukewarm Leadership

1. Set the Tone: What you do as a leader has tremendous influence throughout your team, your employees and even your stakeholders. People respond to what you initiate. Begin with the energy and gusto you want to see in others. Demonstrate how much you are willing to give and show that you are duty-bound early and often. Make your messages steadfast. When people see and feel your energy, enthusiasm and promise they will not only buy in, they will help spread your “all-in” message. When you show unbound energy, your team will give more energy. When you are engaged, unwavering and decisive, your team will follow with their engagement, unwavering effort and decisive action.

2. Communicate: Communication is more than a word. It is the standard by which leaders guide, direct, motivate and inspire action. Leadership quite simply depends on communication. Clear, confident, resonant communication will engender trust and followership.

  • Get Specific: Simple and concise is more effective than complicated and confusing. Attention is a precious commodity and time even more so. Hit the high points in your speeches and save the granular details for in person communications.
  • Get Face to Face: Nothing can substitute for face-to-face dialog. Yes, dialog rather than monologue. This does not have to be the top leader. Employees and team members know the demands on leaders and managers. They know the value of authentic live contact and informal dialog where they can see and feel that their message is being received. Your team appreciates being heard.
  • Demonstrate Beyond Words: What you do supersedes what you say. Remember Emerson and his famous dictum, what you do speak so loudly I can’t hear what you say. The proven formula for personal communication is 55 percent body language, 38 percent tone and 7 percent communication is through words. Body language and tone will validate everything that you say. Sending protocol out in a memo is not nearly as effective as walking around and informally sharing your thoughts and expressing yourself on the need for procedure. At bottom, lead at all times and if necessary use words.

3. Be the Island of Commitment in a Sea of Uncertainty: The new economy is well known to leaders. Increased global influence, more demanding customers and disruptive new players are challenges to be surmounted. But to your team members the new economy means uncertainty. Uncertainty leads to anxiety that makes people susceptible to stress, less productive and more vulnerable to conflict. During times of upheaval we need leaders who are anchored in commitment. Team members are quietly watching for the leaders who are islands of commitment in a sea of uncertainty. They bring commitment, a calming presence and their higher perspective to the context of uncertainty. There will always be some degree of uncertainty. But when leaders show resolute certainty in their commitment anxiety drops and morale climbs, team members take note and follow suit.

4. Show Consistent Enthusiasm: Nothing great was ever accomplished without enthusiasm. Leaders who show enthusiasm as a way of operating remove any hint of lukewarm. People can visibly see and feel your heart-felt passion, energy and commitment and they buy in. Your team wants to win and they want you to be successful. No one tries to be second. Show consistent enthusiasm and your team reciprocate with buy in and enthusiasm of their own.

Leaders have a significant role in creating a calm and productive culture. Most important, they have the power to conceive, articulate and inspire actions that lift people out of their fears and petty preoccupations. When savvy followers see and feel your energy, commitment and enthusiasm shining through the daily challenges and frustrations, there’s nothing lukewarm about that.

Brian Braudis is a highly sought-after human potential expert, certified coach, speaker and author of High Impact Leadership: 10 Action Strategies for Your Ascent. He has also authored several audio programs from executive leadership development to stress management. Brian believes “leadership” is a verb not a title. Brian’s passionate and inspiring presentations are based on the foundation that regardless of your position or role everyone is a leader. For more information on Brian Braudis, please visit: www.TheBraudisGroup.com

Five Pillars to Success as a Manager

By Jan Makela

Why does your organization exist, and why should anyone care? Organizations exist to perform—period. Be for-profit or non-profit, they all exist to do something, make a product, or supply a service.

Today, many employers say they’re having trouble retaining their younger employees—specifically Millennials. At 82 million strong, Millennials are the workforce of the future. Studies have shown they want to work where they can make a difference and contribute to something bigger than themselves.

It’s imperative to realize that the people in your organization—especially young people—are the fuel to your long-term success, and the one person who affects that outcome more than any other is the frontline manager. Fortunately, there are five defined pillars of success that managers can rely on to help them succeed in their aim to boost employee retention.

1. Engage employees with a compelling vision of what is expected, and provide the mission to achieve that vision. Why? What’s in it for the employee to want to achieve for you? People respond when they are doing or contributing to something bigger than themselves. When national crises such as earthquakes or hurricanes occur, people are driven to volunteer not because they have to, but because they want to. Your vision and the culture you create are the reasons you exist.

Tell your people that without them doing what they do you wouldn’t achieve the results that you desire. The way employees view a job and its role in their life is evolving. Employees don’t just come to work for a paycheck. They seek a purpose, the opportunity to do what they do best every day, and to lead a life they desire for their families and themselves.

2. Make decisions based on productivity. By keeping your eye on the goal and having your people similarly focused, everyone will understand why certain decisions are made and can buy in. If disagreements occur in discussions they are welcomed because they are focused on achieving a better outcome toward the end objective. When disagreements occur, be sure to ask what the ultimate goal is.

3. Motivate every team member to take action. People are more likely to take action if they know what is expected of them. When expectations are clearly defined, employees are less likely to disappoint their manager or their peers. Employees will work together without your direction or approval when they all know what is expected and have bought into achieving the desired results. Most people are going to live up or down to their perception of the expectations of them. If your people don’t know what is expected, don’t be surprised by what you get.Employees are not going to care if the manager doesn’t care. Click To Tweet

4. Have the assertiveness to drive outcomes. Are you more concerned with the process or the outcome? Managers are in place to strive for positive outcomes. Employees may find ways to produce an outcome that the manager never thought of. Provide employees the freedom to experiment and try new ways of doing things. Keep progress results in front of the employees. If they do not see the progress they are making as a team, they will lose interest over time and productivity will wain.

When your staff see that their work is making a difference they will continue to contribute. If you avoid providing appropriate feedback on your employees’ progress, you’ll immediate notice a decline in the contributions of team members. Remember, feedback is the breakfast of champions—be generous with your thoughts and expectations.

5. Create a culture that you want. Culture impacts every aspect of how you get things done, from hiring and developing the talents of the employees to customer service. Define your desired culture and then take it from words to actions. If you don’t like the culture you currently have or the results that you are currently obtaining, you are the only person who can change it. Your actions have to mirror what you desire. Do you allow the negative behavior to go unchallenged? Realize negative behavior brings down all your good employees. Your employees are watching and if they see you doing nothing, your lack of action has sent a powerful message. You don’t care!

Employees are not going to care if the manager doesn’t care. When employees know that the manager truly cares about them as a people, they will walk through fire for the manager. When people believe the manager doesn’t care the employees will let the manager walk off a cliff. This caring gets to the heart of employee engagement.

By creating a workplace where people want to come to work instead because they have to come to work managers will see positive changes. Most people don’t wake up in the morning and say, “I think I will do a bad job today.” Help them achieve the results necessary for the organization, but in a way that each and every employee’s contribution is recognized and appreciated.

Jan Makela is an executive coach, highly-sought after speaker, and best-selling author of Cracking the Code to Success and Be the Manager People Won’t Leave. Jan has a long and successful history of working with companies to ensure quality hiring and training practices. His specialty revolves around strength-based leadership development, with a particular focus on working with senior and mid-level executives, business owners, and professionals. For more information on Jan Makela, please visit https://strengthbasedleadership.net/

 

Avoid Leadership Pitfalls: Direction Versus Speed

On a Fast Train to the Wrong Destination?

By Elizabeth McCormick

Elizabeth McCormickHave you ever had a day where your wheels spin a bit slower? Have you noticed your team not putting the usual miles in at the office? Could it be burnout? The need for a vacation? Or is there something more underlying the malaise?

Many have experienced a much bigger drag on resources by giving the orders for your team to take off flying at full speed, only to find out later that the course was in the opposite direction of your desired goal.

Then, there are other times when a project is well underway and everything seems aligned properly, but there’s just no lift. The wheels just won’t leave the ground. Although tasks are getting completed and checked off the list, there’s no altitude allowing the project to accelerate. What’s happening? When started with a laser-focused goal in mind, the direction can change quickly if the proper guardrails and benchmarks aren’t set in place to keep everyone on target.

There’s a world of advice on staying productive, but those activities don’t mean anything if your coordinates are off, and that may be one of the biggest wastes of time (not to mention energy drains) you and your organization could experience. Assume nothing, clarify everything, and have it in writing. Click To Tweet

Here are five tips to assure your leadership and team directives match the end result you envision.

1. Know Your Destination: When you begin with the end in mind, you have a distinctive vision of your desired direction and destination before instructing your team to launch. It doesn’t matter how big or small your project is—if the direction, intention, or desired outcome isn’t clear, it will be tough to fly your team to the dream. Assume nothing, clarify everything, and have it in writing. If some aspect is open to interpretation, close that loophole up, or better yet, ask your team to contribute to the ownership of the project by being open to their quest for clarity.

2. Engage Your Team: Once you have communicated the objectives to your team, start by having team members re-state the goals and desired outcomes in their own words. Confirm and clarify often. This quite naturally highlights any variance between intention and perception. You can also use this opportunity to start fleshing out the project, brainstorming with the team, and adding detail to the project. This type of activity will help jumpstart the comradery as your team begins working together as a team toward a common goal. This will also enhance the collaboration necessary to ensure proper communication can take place from beginning to end.

3. Plan Your Work, Work Your Plan: Once everyone is on board and the team is headed in the right direction, be sure you have established the proper safety devices, benchmarks, and signposts for you and your team, so that if there is any drifting off course, it will be recognized and realigned quickly without much time or effort wasted. Ensure that work is broken down into manageable, measurable, short-term goals to aid in motivation and increase productivity. Work organized into logical segments also aids focus and self-management of direction.

Complex projects lend themselves to digressions and diversions. Spelling out where you should be and when keeps efforts centered on the essential goals originally intended.

Another way to encourage motivation and productivity is to take the time to get to know your ‘flight crew’ and their strengths. Don’t randomly dole out tasks; be strategic in aligning tasks with specific gifts and skills, allowing team members to take ownership of their part of the project.

4. Own Your Results: As a leader, it’s your attitude, stamina, direction, commitment to the project, and work ethic that establishes the environment and culture of your team, as well as the success of your project at hand. If you are unclear of your destination, you can be sure your team will have a tough time understanding the purpose of the project and the directions you are trying to communicate.

One of the biggest reasons people drift, get distracted, and are taken off task, is that the purpose for their task isn’t strong enough to keep them engaged. If this is happening, recognize it, take some time to clarify your purpose and your destination, and then let your team know you wish to communicate better as you share your vision more clearly and effectively with everyone involved.

Sometimes the best of plans just don’t have the results intended. It happens. Maybe it was due to misinformation, miscommunication, not enough research, too many agendas, a drastic change in the economy, or an unexpected shift in trends to name just a few of the ever-changing facets of being a leader in business. Regardless of why it happened, own the results. Empower your team to help you assess what went wrong, develop the proper benchmarks and guardrails to prevent that from happening again, and then map out a new flight plan to a better destination.

5. Collaborate—Share Your Progress: For most people in corporate positions, there’s (hopefully) an effective boss who helps ensure there are proper reports on progress, with the responsibility to follow up. What happens, though, when you’re the boss? Who does your project most effect, and who needs to know about the progress of your company, your goals, and your overall destination—your stakeholders? Your staff? Your clients? Other departments?

Regardless of who your project affects most, it is important to communicate, collaborate, and share your progress. Your strategic plan very well could be a thing of beauty, worthy of a business textbook. The marketing department, however, may have new information that invalidates an initial premise or puts your data out of date. Informing them only at completion risks the success of your entire project. Or, your biggest clients may be ready to sell their business and retire, which now means your project underfunded.

Include progress updates to those who your plans will impact, so that changes can be incorporated along the way. Sure, detours are inconvenient, but navigating them minimizes backtracking and maximizes the effectiveness of your efforts.

Leadership On Course and at Full Speed: With the direction of your project embedded in the planning and with contingencies made for changing conditions, you’ll soon see that the extra work in project planning serves productivity. When the runway is clear, your direction is plotted, and your flight plan is filed, you and your team can attain top speeds as you soar to success.

Elizabeth McCormick is a Keynote Speaker specializing in Leadership, Sales and Safety presentations. She was recently named number four on the list of Leadership Experts to Follow Online. A former US Army Black Hawk Pilot, and author of The P.I.L.O.T. Method; the 5 Elemental Truths to Leading Yourself in Life; Elizabeth teaches instantly applicable strategies to boost your employees’ confidence in their own leadership abilities. For more information, please visit: www.YourInspirationalSpeaker.com.

Managers Become Leaders with a Shift in Focus

By Brian Braudis

Brian BraudisSenior leadership at the corporate headquarters of a large retail chain was entertaining succession planning. What started out as an exercise turned into a sweeping new protocol for transitioning managers into leaders.

For the organization, it’s vitally important to get this right. Managers sometimes trip on their way up. Senior leaders can mitigate stumbling with an aggressive strategy.

Managers are typically promoted into leadership roles with the thought that their effectiveness will continue; but rather than assume, senior leaders are wise to put into place a two-pronged approach. The first prong is to place the right candidate. The old cliché applies: “Hire for attitude and train for ability.”

The second prong is to cultivate the well-selected candidate. This involves extensive training opportunities and environments that promote growth. New leaders typify the shift from a working manager to a learning leader. Click To Tweet

Transitioning managers into leaders should ideally start long before the switch is flipped. Early on, candidates should be “groomed” through extensive training, cross-program experiences and leadership development. Preferably the training, experience and development will culminate by equipping the candidate-leader with a view and an understanding of the “leadership landscape.”

Placing an incumbent leader in a productive environment is less precise.

The context of leadership can be polarizing, ambiguous, volatile and complex; so out of necessity, strong support systems must be in place. A network of colleagues to model the way and offer reassurance along with mentors, coaches and careful monitoring will serve as the classic challenge/support system to promote a productive transition while cultivating new leaders.

New Leaders Must Shift in Five Broad Areas: The biggest difference to grasp for new leaders is the change in role that entails a focused shift in five broad areas:

1. Production to Outcomes: The immediate challenge for managers is to shift their thinking and operating from a “making widgets” mindset to an influencing outcomes mindset. It is inherent in the leadership process that the leader influences the outcome. As the new leader begins working with department heads and stakeholders they need to be operating from a new perspective, a long-term view with idea of short-term, stepping stone implementation. The role of the leader is to influence the long-term with organizational strategy in mind.

Rather than making and counting widgets, a new leader must have both eyes toward efficiencies now and necessary adaptations toward the future.

2. Specialist to Visionary: Managers thrive as specialists. They know their department, their people, and their function. That’s not enough for a leader. Leaders must know the language of all departments. They must be able to translate information, patterns and trends from departments into the language of efficiencies, profit and direction. The vision of the organization is up to the leadership. No one else will take the reins here. Leaders must harness what is known now with the trends they see in the telescope and provide direction. Vision can be complex and multifaceted, but nothing can beat everyone pulling in the same direction. This is one big advantage that is difficult for competitors to duplicate.

3. From One to All: Managers have the responsibility to manage the day-to-day on the floor. They are embedded with the staff. Leaders don’t manage things as much as they lead direction. Whereas a manager focuses on employee engagement, a leader has a focus of workforce engagement.

A new leader may have lingering “departmental biases” that show up as baggage that slows meetings and other processes down. The classic mistake is for new leaders to over-manage and under-lead, especially their previous function. Colleagues need to give the new leader their patience while he cultivates an open-minded shift from managing one department to serving all departments in the organization.

4. Solving Problems to Seeing Problems Before They Develop: Strictly speaking, managers and leaders are keen problem solvers. But one of the finer points of leadership—and where leaders earn their keep—is seeing problems before they happen. If a leader can identify slowed growth or a decline in earnings early on and proactively put things in place to avoid the dreaded “workforce planning,” this “seeing” can save everyone.

5. Worker to Learner: Leadership is not about knowing—it’s about learning. New leaders typify the shift from a working manager to a learning leader. As they work to cultivate an open mind and flexibility, they must also demonstrate a commitment to relentless self-improvement—that means applying continuous learning toward competency, excellence and greatness.

When new developing leaders are hand selected, cultivated and afforded the organizational backing necessary for success, it’s more than an exercise in succession. It’s a testament to a leadership strategy and the state-of-the-art demonstration of a leadership culture. Over time the effort builds into the ultimate competitive advantage.

Brian Braudis is a highly sought-after human potential expert, certified coach, speaker and author of High Impact Leadership: 10 Action Strategies for Your Ascent. He has also authored several audio programs from executive leadership development to stress management. Brian believes “leadership” is a verb not a title. Brian’s passionate and inspiring presentations are based on the foundation that regardless of your position or role everyone is a leader. For more information on Brian Braudis, please visit: www.TheBraudisGroup.com.

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Why Training Means a Lot to Millennials

By Evan Hackel

Evan HackelWhen baby boomers took their first “real” jobs upon entering the workforce, their demands and expectations were ridiculously low by today’s standards. On their first day on the job they got an employee handbook that they took home and scanned while eating dinner or watching TV. Company training, if there was any, was minimal.

For the most part, they accepted the idea that it was normal to feel ignorant and unskilled in the first weeks or months on a new job. They expected to “learn the ropes” by making mistakes.

When it came to promotions, most boomers were equally willing to proceed by trial and error. Nobody told them, “Here is just what you need to do to get ahead in our company . . . here is the next position we’ll be considering you for.” One day in the hazy future, they hoped that their bosses would call them in and say, “We just gave you a promotion . . . you may leave early and take the family to dinner to celebrate.”

Was there feedback? Of course, there was. There were quarterly, semiannual, or yearly job reviews that usually followed the script, “Here’s what you’ve been doing wrong, here’s where you need to improve—so do it, session over.”

In short, many baby boomers were happy to toil away in black boxes, learning jobs and building careers in a loose way that would seem absurd to the members of today’s younger millennial workforce. Training is the place to build millennial productivity and retention. Click To Tweet

Millennials Have Far Different Expectations and Demands: Boy, have things changed. Today, most millennial workers would object strenuously to the same kind of conditions that baby boomers (and members of the generation that preceded them) thought were normal. If today’s millennials start new jobs and discover conditions like those in a new workplace, they are going to start looking for new jobs in a matter of hours.

Ample research documents that millennial attitudes are different. One major study from Gallup, “How Millennials Want to Work and Live,” reports these findings:

  • 60 percent of millennials say that the opportunity to learn and grow on the job is extremely important. In contrast, only 40 percent of baby boomers feel the same way.
  • 50 percent of millennials strongly agree that they plan to remain in their jobs for at least the next year. That might sound like a big percentage, but 60 percent of members of all other groups plan to stay in place for at least a year. Baby boomers and others are planning on sticking around, while millennials are weighing their options.

Learning and Training Are Key to Retaining Millennials and Maximizing their Productivity: Findings like those—and you can easily find more—document that millennial are more likely to be engaged and to stay on their jobs if they have opportunities to plan their career paths and learn.

Here are the trends:

  • Millennials like to feel capable and confident in their jobs. Millennials do not like to feel like rookies. Many think of themselves as leaders—or as leaders who are waiting to be discovered. They want to look good, and thrive on being able to confidently contribute from the first day they arrive on the job. The right kind of training—both for new and current millennial employees—makes that happen.
  • Millennials are usually skilled students. They like to apply the learning skills they built while they were in school. To them, learning feels as natural as eating three meals a day. As the Gallup study found, they are eager to learn. In contrast, getting baby boomers to believe in training can be a harder sell. They tend to view training as a burden, something they have to endure. Millennials say, “Wow, when can I start?”
  • Millennials are tech-friendly. Most of them love to be trained on their mobile phones and tablets, which are the most powerful training options available to many companies today. The result is better knowledge transfer, even to groups of employees who work in multiple or far-flung locations. Baby boomers, in contrast, are more tech-resistant. They are likely to freeze and resist when they hear they are going to be taking company training on their smartphones.

Training Is the Place to Build Millennial Productivity and Retention: A lot of training focuses on teaching needed skills. It should. But training can accomplish a lot more than that, if you use it to establish some of the following things that many millennials are looking for:

  • Mentoring relationships with their supervisors. Gallup found that 60 percent of millennials feel that the quality of the people who manage them is extremely important. With that in mind, your training for new employees can set up mentoring, not reporting, relationships between them and their managers. Explain how often check-ins and job reviews with their managers will happen, and what they will cover. And schedule frequent check-in rather than “on the calendar” pro-forma reviews that both managers and the people they manage find boring, or worse.
  • A sense of belonging on an energized and innovative team. This is a bit of a contradiction, but at the same time millennials think of themselves as individualist entrepreneurs, they also expect to be part of an interesting team. Letting millennials get to know their teammates during training, and fostering a sense of team/group identity, can help convince them that they have joined the right organization.
  • A well-defined career path. Consider creating a personalized career development plan for all new employees (the exception being seasonal or other short-term workers who will probably not remain with your company for long). Another idea? Enroll new employees in management training programs from their first days on the job. In retail, for example, you can enroll them in training that will enable them to manage their own stores in two years, or after another stated period. Millennials like to know their next steps as they build their careers, and training is a fine place to explain them.

Yes, training is important to millennials. They are the most energized, skilled and capable generation ever to enter the workforce. Train them well and they will become your organization’s brightest future.

Evan Hackel is CEO of Tortal Training, a firm that specializes in developing and implementing interactive training solutions for companies in all sectors. Evan created the concept of Ingaged Leadership and is Principal and Founder of Ingage Consulting, a consulting firm headquartered in Woburn, Massachusetts. To learn more about Ingage Consulting and Evan’s book Ingaging Leadership, visit Ingage.net.

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