This is a week of giving thanks. The tradition memorializes a year of cooperation between the European immigrants and native people who lived in the Plymouth Massachusetts area in the early 1600s. Thanksgiving is frequently celebrated with family and only for events, people, or possessions we perceive as blessings. Leaders must also remember those adverse followers and events that challenged them to grow.
Some of you are wondering how we can be grateful for the bad things that happened. Adverse events and people cause us to grow as people and leaders. Earlier this month I posted an excerpt from a book one of my Soldiers is writing (http://bit.ly/33yL14Q). His book details many of the bad things happened during our deployment. He shares some of the struggles he had upon returning. He makes it clear that those adverse experiences made him stronger. He says that those struggles set a standard for what bad means.
Jocko Willink tells a story of a time one of his SEALs came to his office with some bad news, The SEAL told Jocko he knew what he was going say, “Good.” Jocks has the philosophy that every experience is good (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IdTMDpizis8). You just have to figure out why the experience is good. His thinking aligns with the old saying on rainy days, “Every cloud has a silver lining.”
I am not, nor have I ever been a morning person. However after a lifetime of seeing the struggles of others, I know my life is pretty good. I may not have the material wealth of Warren Buffet but I have more than those living in other parts of the world where war, poverty, starvation, and violence thrive. As a result, even on those mornings when my head is foggy and I struggle to make my first coffee I great others with, “Good Morning!” because I know what bad mornings look, sound, and smell like and most mornings are good compared to those bad mornings I and others experienced.
Being grateful is important. Leaders need to speak their gratitude. Effective leaders publicly thank others for their efforts, contributions, ideas, and hard work. They thank employees, volunteers, board members, customers, clients, vendors, and other logisticians for their contributions to the success of the organization. They recognize the sacrifices made by family members so their loved ones can contribute to the organization’s success.
Like the celebration after the harvest of 1621 Plymouth, we should give thanks for our blessings. Gratitude is an important leadership quality. Be grateful for all your blessings, even the ones that you do not currently view as a blessing. Tough life lessons are those that are best remembered. Publicly thank those who contribute to success. Demonstrate gratitude year round not just the fourth Thursday of November. If you are a leader, you have much to be thankful for. Those who follow you could have chosen to follow someone else. Thank your followers so they know they chose well.
In an earlier post http://bit.ly/2N0pCwi I proposed that the foundation of leadership was character. I still believe that to be true. Character is the sum of your habits that tell others what you value. Leaders should adopt habits so others know they value their organization’s guiding principals. Organizations make a big deal out of their organizational values or guiding principals because those behavior are what they want the world to think the organization represents. Rarely do people talk about the corner stone of the foundation. However, if character is the foundation of leadership, trust is the cornerstone. If trust is so important, you have to wonder how do you develop and maintain trust. Like being a good leader, developing and maintaining trust takes effort.
Trust often exists
in new organizations whether a company, team, or partnership. The
same principal applies when new people join an organization; for the
most part they are trusted. People generally trust each other. In
spite of the warnings our parents gave us as children, and we as
parents admonish our children, people trust strangers. That is one
reason scammers are successful. Even scammers are trusting of others.
Just watch any of James Veitch’s Scamalot videos on YouTube or
Mashable to see him scam the scammers. The scammers trust him to do
what he says he will do, well, until they realize he is jerking them
Trusting one another, family, friend, or co-worker is an important human quality. Early humans had to rely on each other to survive. As a result our brains developed to release certain hormones when we trust and cooperate with other people (Sinek, 2014, pp 33-38). Someone had to guard the existing provisions while another group went to hunt. The guards had to trust the hunters to hunt. Hunters had to trust the guards to protect what little they already gathered.
Today we have the
same need to rely on others to survive and thrive. Military
commanders rely on their higher headquarters to coordinate resources
they require to accomplish missions. They also rely on subordinate
commanders to execute tasks without direct supervision as well as
their peers to their left, right, and above (l mean in the air over
the battlefield) them. Each risks potentially life threatening tasks
with little but a promise that those around him or her will complete
their tasks and the others rely on that commander complete his or
During World War I
Major Charles Whittlesey found himself in command of his 1st
Battalion of the 308th Infantry Regiment along with
attachments from other 77th Division units in a pocket
behind enemy lines. The plan was that the division would attack to a
phase line with several units on line and in mass to overrun the
German trenches. As the attack progressed the units on Whittlesey’s
flanks began to break and retreat. Commanders on his flanks warned
him they had lost contact with units to the regiment’s left and
right. Division headquarters assured Whittlesey several times during
the attack his flanks were covered. He reached his objective that
day, but was the only American unit to do so. The Germans restored
their lines by the end of the next day and surrounded the 1-308th(+).
Whittlesey trusted Maj. Gen. Alexander when he continued to press the
attack. In spite of that let down, he continued to trust that the
General would find a way to relieve them. Alexander had sent for
reinforcements, but only a small number reached Whittlesey’s
position before they were cut off from the Allied lines.
Whittlesey established a strong defensive position and encouraged his men to fight well and have faith they would be relieved. His phone lines had been cut off by the Germans requiring him to rely on carrier pigeons to communicate with his regiment and division. The Soldiers of the 308th fought through six days of repeated German attacks rather than surrendering. They trusted their fellow Soldiers would fight their way forward to relieve them. In the movie version of this story, Major Whittlesey tells his junior leaders that they will win the battle. He trusted MG Alexander would be determined to relieve them. Whittlesey was right. Alexander trusted that Whittlesey would hold out as long as he could. Alexander used the Lost Battalion to motivate other units to fight hard. He continued to pressure the German lines to reestablish contact with Whittlesey and his men. The Germans could not continue to stand against the pressure on the lines while also trying to dislodge the 308th. The 77th Division broke through and finally relieved Whittlesey and the men of the 308th Infantry (Durr, 2018 & Carabatsos, 2001).
In this example
there was lot of reason not to trust, but leaders did trust each
other. The leaders passed along their trust to the Soldiers. The
result was an Allied victory in the Argonne Forrest that led to the
cease fire several weeks later on November 11, 1918.
Scamalot videos show, sometimes it is easier to trust strangers than
people we already know. Strangers have yet to do anything to cause us
not to trust them. We know the flaws of those around us which may
cause us to not trust them as much a those strangers. This is where
leadership happens. Establishing trust is easy. Maintaining trust
within existing organizations takes the most work. It would have been
easy for Major Whittlesey to surrender and stop trusting his
commanders. They had let him down by not telling him the truth about
the other units falling to the rear.
Trust erodes as
people are unwilling or unable to live up to expectations. Jim is
unable to complete a project on time because Pam did not budget
enough money to complete her assigned task. Pam did not know the task
would cost that much because she relied on a vendor’s quote. The
vendor was out of stock so Pam had to order from another supplier and
request additional funding. Both took more time than planned and
jammed up Jim. Now the manager does not trust either of them, and
neither Jim nor Pam trust each other. None of the people in this
story intended to behave unethically. The vendor did not predict
Pam’s order and ran out of stock. Pam trusted the vendor had a good
supply of what she needed. Jim trusted Pam had checked out the
vendor. Michael, the manager, trusted Jim could lead the project and
complete it on time and within budget.
On the surface
keeping trust is simple. As the above example shows it only takes a
small mistake to loose trust. However if people live by the
organizational principals, difficult situations can be navigated so
lessons learned are applied in the future. People have to take
responsibility for their mistakes. Leaders have to forgive those
mistakes and reestablish trust.
responsible for building and maintaining trust. They do this in
several ways. Leaders define their organization’s guiding
principals through regular communication, education, and setting the
example. Leaders allow others to make mistakes, analyze what went
wrong, and learn how to avoid those mistakes in the future. The final
step for leaders is to allow the employee to try again. Doing so
shows he still has trust in the employee and has faith he will
succeed. Leaders respectfully share employee mistakes so others learn
what not to do. You do this by setting them up as the new subject
matter expert. Employees rarely act to sabotage you and the
organization. If they do, you need to take appropriate disciplinary
steps which also establishes that you can be trusted to make hard
There are times when
bad things happen out of the leader’s control. When handled poorly,
those events destroy trust between key players. Rebuilding trust is
difficult. Leaders ensure trust is rebuilt after a crisis. There are
several ways to reestablish trust such as using some sort of
mediation process to settle disputes between aggrieved parties;
reassigning people to new positions to reduce friction; terminating
those who willfully violated the organization’s guiding principals;
training about roles, responsibilities and shared values; or
celebrating victories through teamwork over extreme challenges.
Regardless of the reason trust has
been lost, it is the leader’s responsibility to regain trust within
the organization. The leader takes action allowing
others to regain trust.
Trust is the
cornerstone of character, the foundation of leadership. Leaders are
responsible to establish and maintain trust in their teams and
organizations. Often it is easier to trust a stranger than the person
you worked with for years because of many large and small
transgressions violating trust. Trust however is the force that
inspires others to do more than they thought they could do. Leaders
consistently communicate organizational guiding principals and live
those principals as a model for others to follow. Leaders keep open
lines of communication to detect the earliest signs of mistrust to do
what is necessary to repair transgressions. Sometimes leaders have to
face the fact that someone deliberately did something wrong for
selfish reasons and needs to be separated from the organization.
While rare, failing to take such action causes increased distrust.
Leaders allow honest mistakes by reviewing causes and effects with
employees and developing means to correct those mistakes. They treat
the mistakes as a learning opportunity for everyone which shows
respect and builds trust. Like Soldiers on a battlefield surrounded,
without food, water or ammunition, organizations with strong ties
developed by trusting relationships can accomplish deeds that seem
impossible. Trust is the strong cornerstone of every leadership
Carabatsos , Jim, 2001, The lost battalion, Directed by Mulcahy, A&E Network
you want others to remember is worth saying three times. One of the
first times I remember hearing this rule was during DARE Officer
Training with Linda Lang. She taught me to make learning points by
using an auditory method, a visual method, and a kinetsetic method.
Several months later I attended a class about courtroom
presentations. Ray Mellow introduced first of his rules:
that if you wanted the judge and jury to remember an
important element of your case,
repeat the point three times. About
a year later I was taking a
firearms instructor class. The instructor, Brad Parker, told
us to ensure students remembered what we taught them to tell they
what you are going to tell them in a class as an introduction, tell
them during the lesson, and then tell them what you told them in the
review. I am not a rocket scientist, (although I can operate a rocket
launcher) but I learned after three times of being told that if you
want your message to stick, repeat it three times.
When I applied this rule to my communications with others I
learned how to use different communications methods to improve
retention. Repeating something three times is an obvious lesson for
trainers. It is also an important lesson for leaders. People remember
better if you tell them something and then follow up with at least
two other reminders using different means communication such as a
phone call, a calendar invite, a text message, or an email.
This simple rule can
be used all areal of your career and life. As simple as it is,
execution can be hard. I gave a task to a direct report. A couple
days later I had a follow up conversation checking on progress. He
said he forgot. I thought I should only have to tell him once. Then I
could remembered times when my boss spoke to me about completing a
project or task. I recognized that he had to remind me a couple times
after that first tasking before it really stuck in my mind. The
lesson I took from that event with my employee was to apply the
repeat three times rule.
The key to using this strategy effectively requires some
creativity to avoid hen pecking. Calling an employee into your office
and telling him, “I want you to do this, I want you to do this, I
want you to do this.” is not effective. Likewise, calling the
employee into your office in the next two days and asking, “Are you
done yet?” makes you sound like an annoying sibling on a family
road trip. How you implement this strategy requires you to identify
your communication strengths and how your intended receiver best
receives information. Using three different methods increase
Begin by simply telling the other person what you want or expect. You might suggest they take a few notes. Follow up within 24 hours with an email, letter, a social media private message, or a sticky note. Place a phone call or send a text message two or three days later to see if the other person has any questions and check on preliminary progress. Using this method allows you to pitch your message three times and reinforce the importance of the task or appointment. Each connection allows opportunities for additional information sharing, idea swapping, asking of questions and clarification of expectations which improves the quality of the finished product. Using different modes of communication, in person, in writing and by telephone, also improves communication by appealing to different communication styles of others. What they miss in one, they pick up in another. Making your pitch three times means you are more likely to have results three weeks from now during your follow up meeting,
I commonly employ this tactic. I start by reaching out to someone
by mentioning to them I would like to talk with them soon about
whatever the project or task is. We set a time then to meet. Giving
them notice allows them time to think about the topic. During the
meeting, I tell the person what I expect. I frame the expectations
using loose interpretation of the SMART goal model so they have the
information they need. A couple days later I will follow up with an
email. I may tell them I think the project deserves a goal setting
sheet and ask for a time to meet again to clarify expectations and
standards. After someone has worked with me for awhile, they arrive
at these meetings with a completed worksheet (see my post on setting
goals: ). We reviewing and adjust the goal. I set calendar reminders
during that meeting for appropriate follow up briefings. It is
uncommon for projects not to be completed on time.
Three repeat works equally well with family and friends. For
example, you ask your spouse about a weekend away in the fall. She
says sure so you figure you are all set. I found that touching base a
few days later with something like, “How does Columbus Day Weekend
sound in Maine?” Again she agrees. A few days later follow up with
more of the details. When Columbus Day Weekend arrives, you will be
less likely to hear yours spouse say she planned on working the
rummage sale at the church on Saturday afternoon instead of spending
the weekend with you.
Conversely, you can reverse the tables. When your friend mentions
going to the big game in a few weeks, reach back to him a few days
later. “Hey, who is ordering the ticket?” Such a question does
two things. It shows you paid attention, and helps your figure if
your friend really wanted to go to the game. A text a few days later
about how much you are about going with your friend keeps your friend
engages and demonstrates your excitement about the event.
During this message, the repeat three times rule was introduced by a series of three teaching stories. In the middle of the article three examples of failure were provided to reinforce the message of the importance of the repeat three times. The middle of the essay also provided directions to apply the repeat three time rule by using three means of communication for each pitch, and examples on how to apply them at work, home, and with friends. Here, in the conclusion, I discussed each item I said I was going to discuss again to ensure my messages were received, understood and acted upon. Go forth and start and start repeating!
All images from PXHere.com used with 0CC license. No other attribution available.
“Contact right!”, shouted the point man at the sound of
small arms fire. The team reacted instinctively. Every member of the team came on
line and returned fire from covered positions. The team leader assessed the
situation and reported back to the squad leader. The squad leader directed his second team to
flank the enemy position. When ready they laid down suppressing fire drawing
the attention away from the first team. The second team leader came up on the
radio, “Shift left!” The first team adjusted their aim to the left as the
second team began to move across the enemy position. As the second team neared
the middle of the enemy position he called for the first team to cease firing
and they did. Once across the position, the second team leader advised the
first team leader. The first team leader led his Soldiers across the position
90 degrees from the second team’s assault. Within a few minutes the shooting
stopped. The enemy was suppressed and withdrew. The squad was victorious.
React to Contact is a critical Infantry battle drill. It is
the foundation of ground combat tactics used by Hannibal during the Second
Punic War. A well drilled squad or
platoon can execute the drill with the few words shared in the above story
because every squad and platoon in the Army does it the same way, well at least
the successful squads and platoons. When executed well, a smaller force has the
ability to defeat larger forces. This basic principal of movement is a
procedure known to all Infantrymen because it works. This drill allows leaders
to initiate action with few words and little direction. In this example the
squad leader was the senior leader yet the only decision he made and direction
he provided was to a single team leader to flank the enemy. In this battle
drill there are only three decisions for the squad leader to make; commit your
second team to suppressive fire and allow the platoon to flank, execute the
flank with your second team, or break contact. Infantry squad leaders and team
leaders rehearse this drills hundreds of times so they know when to suppress, when
to attack, and when to withdraw.
Leading an organization of any size becomes easier with
formal, practiced procedures. Formal procedures appear to remove a leader’s freedom
to make decisions. The opposite is true. Well thought procedures allow leaders
to detach from the current crisis and plan for what comes next. Benefits
include increased speed by reducing the number of decisions required of a
leader, specified lateral lines of communication increase responses, and
required actions for teams and individuals without additional instruction.
Reducing Decision Options
Freedom is defined by dictionary.com as the state of being
free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint; or
the power to determine action without restraint. Formal procedures may confine
some leaders because they have limited choices. However, well thought out
procedures identify best practices and offer a short menu of options proven to
work reliably. Formal procedures allow leaders to stick their heads above the
weeds and make big picture decisions
At the front-line level of the React to Contact Drill, the
squad leader has a variety of choices. He can direct the supporting team to
provide additional fire power to suppress the enemy and ask the platoon to
flank. The squad leader can establish a base of fire from the flanking element
and have the element who established contact to maneuver across the enemy’s
front. He can call for artillery or air support. He can withdraw. However, it
is only through the actions of the team in contact, executing without direction,
that he as the freedom to evaluate the situation and determine which course of
action is best. Without this drill, the
squad and team leaders would have to solve each problem as it occurs.
In organizations outside the military the same principals
are true. The front line leader has a
process to execute. For example, a new employee is assigned to work in the
leader’s team. If the organization has a process to orient new employees, none
of the leaders need to spend much time figuring out what the new person needs
to learn. The leaders follow the check list, tailor the learning to the new
person’s position, and the new person quickly becomes a functioning member of
the team. Without a procedure to welcome new team members, leaders loose time
figuring out what the new person needs to know. They make lots of decisions
about what parts of what organizational documents new team members need to
read. The leaders need to figure out what administrative processes must be
completed to ensure the employee is paid, receives benefits, and knows what is
expected of him or her.
A new employee orientation procedure takes away some
decision making from leaders but only because the leaders decided earlier what
new team members needed to do. Now instead of spending a few days figuring out
what to teach the new guy, who should teach it, and where the information is
stored, the leader turns to the procedure and execute. The procedure frees his
time to decide on other matters.
Lateral Lines of Communication
Establishing internal lines of communication allow lower
level leaders to coordinate actions and support without having to always run to
the boss. The boss does need to know what is going on, but does not need to
make or approve every decision. Establishing peer-to-peer communication
channels frees up senior leaders to look farther ahead. Procedures specify what
types of decisions senior leaders make and what types of decisions leaders
lower on the org chart may make.
In the infantry squad example, peer leaders, the team
leaders, directly communicated their intentions and directions to move and
shift fires. This communication allowed the squad leader monitor the situation.
The squad leader had the freedom to call for more resources and determine what
actions to take after the enemy attack was stopped.
A non-military example of this principal is a nonprofit
providing a service to their clients. A
new client is referred for service and appears at the office. The person
meeting with the client knows the organization has a procedure for new client
intakes and referrals. The employee welcomes the client and moves them through
the intake procedure and determines the client’s needs. The employee directly
contacts outside organizations necessary to provide resources and services for
the client without having to clear each referral through a manager.
Organizational leaders recognized the needs for those services and previously established
processes to refer clients. As a result, the clients receive services and
resources quickly because the number of people involved and the levels of
communication are reduced.
Action without Instructions
Formal procedures provide direction to employees about how
to perform their jobs. Procedures spell out what kinds of decisions employees
can make and what decisions and information require the boss’s attention. In
the infantry squad example, each team member knows when they received contact
to move on line to ensure they had clear lines of fire towards the enemy and to
find a place of cover to return fire. They did not have to wait for direction
from the team leader. They were expected to take those actions without directs
in order to free the team leader to report the situation to the squad leader.
In an example from the private sector, Tim Ferriss talks
about how he empowered his assistants to deal with customer services issues in
his book The Four Hour Work Week and several of his podcasts. He found his
assistant was reaching out to him several times every day for him to decide how
to deal with unhappy customers. Tim realized he was not able to focus on
growing his new business when he was dealing with those types of issues. He
developed a list of ways the customer service assistant could offer help
without consulting Tim and what types of customer issues he reserved to resolve
himself. As a result, Ferriss was able to return his attention to growing the
business and his customers received improved and faster resolutions to their
Procedures receive a bad rap because organizations implement
them poorly and never review them to determine their continued relevance. The purpose of procedures is to create
leadership freedom by providing a menu of choices for common events rather than
problem solving every time something similar happens. As a result, the leader
is free to focus on developing teams and improving the organization. If the decisions a procedure allows become
irrelevant, they need to be changed. Therefore, leaders must periodically
review all procedures for relevance. Failing to do so causes confinement rather
Quality procedures help leaders at all levels achieve
freedom, increase the speed or response, and improve the quality of service by
reducing the number of decisions leaders need to make. Communications improve
communications laterally and vertically because leaders only receive the
information they need to decide. Employees are more effective when addressing problems
Leaders and workers frequently view formal procedures as limiting their freedom, however, they provide a structured format for leaders to take action without additional control or restraint. Employees who are trained well know what is expected of them in many situations allowing them to make decisions without always running to the boss for guidance. Like the well run battle drill, formal procedures direct action without additional inputs and free leaders to lead.
“Tis impossible to be sure of anything but death and taxes.” (Bullock, 1716), everything else is subject to change.
I wrote this article on the weekend of the 50th anniversary of man landing on the moon. It caused me to think about how that happened. There are lots of examples of leaders creating great things in government, business, and in social services after creating a vision of what could be dating back to the beginning of recorded history. As I study and apply leadership lessons, I found there are five principals of leaders who effectively lead change within their organizations. Those leaders set examples by living and enforcing organizational guiding principals, communicating a clear vision for the future, establishing goals and benchmarks, taking disciplined action to accomplish required tasks, and possessing humility.
guiding principals through their behavior. The old maxim, “Actions
speak louder than words,” says it all; leaders who say respect is
important and treat others respectfully are more convincing that
those who treat others disrespectfully. Whether you are new to the
organization, in a new position, or a veteran in a leadership role,
you choose your values. Ensure they are aligned with the
organizational principals, or advocate to changing them. It takes
time to establish character, but even if you have been an angry,
disrespectful, fly-off-the handle kind of a leader, you can change.
Others will notice and your character will change.
In addition to behaving in accordance with your professed and the organization’s values, leaders ensure others also develop character. You cannot ignore a direct report’s violation of an organizational principal and fire a more junior person for the same behavior. If your organization values people’s time, then the person who is consistently two minutes late for work, meetings, and leaves five minutes early needs to be held to account. Not every offense requires firing. Not every offense requires a written reprimand or other disciplinary action. Often pulling a person aside and pointing out their faux-pas is enough to gain compliance. When misbehavior is displayed by otherwise compliant people it may signal trouble. Pulling that person aside presents an opportunity to address the trouble and become aware of their problem.
A few years ago I gave in and went to the eye doctor because I noticed road signs were not as clear as I remembered them. I needed glasses. Over time my vision dulled and I needed someone to help me see clearly again. An organization’s vision is the same. In the beginning everyone knows why they belong, where they are headed, what they are doing, and how to do it. As the organization grows older, the vision fades, just like people’s eyesight.
Leaders often think
they only need to cast their vision before their followers once and
they are good for life. They are wrong. There is a reason all major
religions have services on a weekly basis. That reason is to refresh
the soul. Face it, after ten years of church going, you probably have
heard all there is to hear. Services keep your faith fresh.
Likewise leaders need to continually project their vision for the organization. Those who work in the organization need to see it so they can properly care for clients and customers. Clients and customers need to see it so they understand why you do what you do; it builds brand loyalty. Vendors and contractors need to see it so they are on the same page. Leaders, from each member of the Board of Directors, to the shop foreman, need to see it so they can magnify and amplify the vision for their followers.
are not one and done. Leaders constantly need to proclaim their
vision to inspire everyone they encounter. Leaders develop
credibility when they not only talk about their vision, but take
action to make it a reality.
Based on the
leader’s vision, the leader and junior leaders establish goals to
accomplish the mission and vision. Goals should be specific,
measurable, attainable, relevant, time bound, and task oriented. Many
of you will recognize the SMARTT goal setting model. I added and
extra tee for the task steps.
Task steps are
important. They provide the directions to achieve the goal. The goal
is your What. The task steps are the How.
Leaders should establish a plan for goal setting. Good goal setting happens in cycles. The first step is to assess. Your assessment establishes your starting point and destination. As you walk your selected path, you will encounter life and may find you stray from your planned path. Periodically check your progress and adjust course as necessary. As you move along, you learn; apply those lessons along your journey. As you near the end of your journey, it is time to assess again and establish new goals. Click here http://bit.ly/2YfQH0Y for a short lesson on the goal setting cycle.
ensures accomplishment of critical tasks for mission success.
Discipline has several meanings. In this case I intend it to mean
controlled behavior resulting from training (adapted from
Action means activities required to complete the mission. Disciplined
actions are planned and controlled activities that are scheduled,
measured, supervised, and coordinated across all teams in an
To be effective,
organizations must plan. Planning includes scheduling, measuring,
supervising and coordinating actions. Planning requires discipline.
Planning also identifies key performance indicators. Controls are
necessary to establish measures of performance and effectiveness
(insert link to that blog). Supervision is only effective if
supervisors know what they are looking for in performance and
effectiveness. Coordination ensures things are going according to the
plan across all teams. Coordination communicates the plan and status
of activities to everyone.
An example of disciplined action are the steps required to make a widget and ship it to a customer. In the planning stage, leaders determine what needs to be done, what resources are required, what will be measured, how often, by whom, and how to coordinate across all the teams. The organization identifies the material, machines, and people required to make the widget. They order material and hire people. They schedule activities such as when raw material should arrive, when workers need to be at their machines, when product will be shipped, and the means for delivery to customers. Coordination is required so there is material on hand to manufacture widgets when workers are available; trucks are available when enough widget are ready to ship, and adequate capacity exists to meet deadlines. Coordination is an on going process. For example, if machine operators are sick, it causes reduction in production. The shipping team needs to know so they can adjust shipping schedules.
Much of this step is as much management as leadership. Management is an important leadership skill. People are involved in each part of disciplined action and that is where the leadership comes into play. Fail to lead disciplined action, and your organization may achieve a task, but it will not remain successful.
I remember reading
in Seven Habits that Stephen Covey claimed to have studied great
people for years before boiling down their secret of success to seven
habits. I thought, “Why would anyone dedicate themselves to such
work?” I found myself reviewing Good to Great a short while ago and
read Jim Collins’ assertion that Level 5 Leaders are humble. That
was not the first or last place I encountered that idea, but it
struck me then how many times I learned that point from so many other
sources including people I chose to follow. I now wonder if Covey
stumbled across those seven habits the same way I found the five
principals of leading change.
Humility is an
important trait for being a good or great leader. Great leaders do
all the things I present in this article, but they also recognize
they lack certain skills, lack knowledge, lack connections, and other
important resources to make things happen. Great leaders recognize
they need to rely on others to help them accomplish the
organization’s mission. If they are the smartest, fastest, most
skilled person in the organization, they are leading the wrong group
of people, and they know that. They seek out people who are smarter
they them. They hire others with greater skills. They know these
others are their superiors and they are blessed to lead them, or put
another way, they know they are blessed those high speed individuals
choose to follow them.
You can develop
humility. It is a skill that can be learned. I saw it in action
during my first General Staff meeting. In a General’s staff meeting
there are standard scripts everyone follows to ensure the General
receives the information he needs to lead the force and make
important decisions. According the script, other staff sections
presented their canned information to the General. Then it was my
Colonel’s turn to present.
At the time, Colonel Shawn was the Director of Logistics. On schedule, the slides with the logistics information were projected on the screen. COL Shawn hardly noticed. Instead he looked at the General and said, “Sir, I know you’ve seen my slides and our information is pretty good this month. If you don’t mind, I want to tell you about the great work that Kris Skinner has done this month with our surface maintenance program.” The Colonel went on about LTC Skinner’s accomplishments that month. At the end of the story COL Shawn asked the General if he had any questions about his directorate’s data. When the General said he did not, Shawn introduced the next staff chief.
I was impressed. I thought it was a one time thing to bring some attention to the boss about good work done by his followers. The following month however, COL Shawn had another story about the good work another member of the section. Again at the end, instead of getting into the data on the slide he moved onto the next speaker. COL Shawn had someone every month he highlighted at the staff meeting. Now of course none of those workers acted independently. Col Shawn knew what each was doing and used all his leadership ability to encourage them to do the greatest job they could do. Each individual responded by regularly exceeding the standards and expectations.
COL Shawn was promoted to Brigadier General. He is a confident and competent leader. He accomplished plenty of big things in his own right. Yet when ever he talks with someone, he learns about them. He shares what he learned in a recent book he read. He asks what he can do to make things better for lower-level leaders. He practices humility.
Change is inevitable. Leaders must navigate future changes. Even choosing to maintain a certain level or quality of business without growth or shrinkage requires organizational change. Laws change. Customers change. Demand for products changes. Organizational staff change. Leaders who do not lead change will find there is no one left to lead. Leaders effect change by creating a desired vision of the future. They set and help followers set specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time bound goals with task steps. They plan and manage disciplined action to accomplish the mission and change. They are humble people who understand they still have much to learn. Change is coming. Are you leading to adapt to that change?
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High standards of behavior are required for organizations to successfully complete their missions. Leaders are responsible for setting, training, and enforcing standards in order to create a culture where standards are voluntarily followed. Organizations that establish and expect compliance with standards attract Ike minded applicants. Employees, volunteers, and other stakeholders learn to trust the organization, know the character of their workers, and understand their leaders.
It takes time to codify standards of behavior. Your standard operating procedures, protocols, employment guidelines, and similar documents will be easier to write when everyone knows and understands the organization’s core values or guiding principles. Governing documents misaligned with organizational guiding principles encourage people to act outside those principles. Well written governing documents aligned with core principles ensures people understand how to behave even when they do not know a specific rule. Written rules are shorter, easier to understand, and are more likely to be followed.
Often SOPs, employee manuals, and other written rules take many pages. If the reasons a document is written is based on the core principals, there is no need to restate they whys. Employees who understand the guiding principals will see them in the rules without additional explanations. It is uncommon for all of those documents to be composed at the same time. If the whys are not all based on the common principles, then the authors need all those extra words and pages to spell out the whys for the rules.
Employees, volunteers, and contractors follow the rules better because the standards they establish are aligned with organizational principals. Training time is reduced and retention increased because there is less to teach and learn. As a result, employees will probably do the right thing without even knowing what a rule or procedure is.
Training begins when you first admit someone into your organization. Start with the core principles. Teach your new people what each value means to your group. Give examples of behavior that is compliant and non-compliant. Explain how complying with principles establishes trust across the organization allowing greater effectiveness.
Training supervisors about core principles and methods of enforcing standards is also important. Nothing destroys trust within an organization than repeated reprimands conducted outside the organizational principals. Likewise, failing to correct behaviors outside expected norms slowly eats away at trust developed between key players. Supervisors and other key leaders need to know how to adjust their leadership style to the situation presented.
Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard introduced the idea of situational leadership in the late 1960s. Since then, others have built on those ideas and demonstrated how to apply the principals of situational leadership to a wide variety of circumstances across the public, private, and non-profit sectors. Taking time to teach your leaders how to adapt their leadership style to meet your organization’s objectives and within your guiding principals increases effectiveness.
After training your new people and leaders about your organizations guiding principals, those standards need to be enforced. When new leaders read statements like this they often envision a drill sergeant demanding basic trainees do push-ups for infractions, or a tough CEO calling an errant employee into the office, chewing them out, and then firing them. These are two possible methods of enforcing standards, but neither works well for long.
On-the-spot corrections for misbehavior can be given in a calm fashion that shows respect and caring. A machine operator found working without eye and ear protection can be told to stop. The supervisor inquires about whether the employee understands what the standard is and why it is important to follow it. If the employee lacks the knowledge, the supervisor provides a quick refresher training and sends the operator to don their protective equipment before resuming their work.
A middle manager who observes such a violation might stop the work and inquire about who the operator’s supervisor is. The supervisor is summoned to the work sight. The manager can use this opportunity to coach the supervisor. In the end, the worker is protected, the organization accomplishes its mission, and the culture of compliance grows.
Making corrections in a respectful fashion and demonstrating expected behaviors helps create a voluntary climate of compliance. People know that following the core principals results in rewards. Failing to comply results in punishment.
Some of you reading this are thinking about why the above statements will never work. You think the union will never allow such supervisory oversight. Some think that leading volunteers requires sometimes turning a blind eye. Others think that they are not in a supervisory capacity and therefore have no ability to influence others. If you are a real leader, you use what power you do have to influence others to comply with the organization’s guiding principals. That may require you to allow others to take action.
In the union example, there frequently are requirements for management to follow certain steps to reward good behavior and punish bad. Meet with union representatives frequently to ensure they understand you want the best people in the organization and the important role the union has helping you keep the good people and separating those who will not comply. The union has a responsibility to equally represent all the workers in their membership, those who perform well as well as those who feel slighted because they are not meeting expectations. Such engagements over time bring union representatives around to looking differently at employee-management relationships.
In the case of volunteers, first ask yourself if you really want a volunteer that behaves in such a way that they endanger themselves, others, or have the potential to cast a dark light on the good work your organization does. Think about ways you can influence volunteers to comply with your guiding principals. People who volunteer believe in the cause. They are easier to influence than paid employees, You have to learn to lead them. It is likely that the threat of separation has a greater impact because their association with you is indeed voluntary. Knowing bad behaviors will not be tolerated ensures compliance. Frequently organizations fail to train volunteers to the same level as employees. Is it any wonder that volunteers may not comply with guiding principals. It is hard to comply with standards they do not know or understand. Taking time to help them understand standards and providing examples of compliance improves trust and helps your volunteers work better. Volunteers who work well improve outcomes for those the organization serves.
Leading team members you do not supervise does pose special challenges. FEMA’s national emergency operation center occupies a large room in Washington, D.C. not far from the Capital. Few of the seats in the room are designated for FEMA officials. Most are set aside for leaders of organizations FEMA works with during disasters. Those members include representatives from the press, various classes of industry, financial associations, think tanks, nongovernmental organizations, non-FEMA government agencies, state, and major metropolitan governments and agencies, and a variety of other interests. None of them answer to FEMA; rather they all answer to their respective organizations. Regardless of who employs each team member, FEMA leads everyone in the room to accomplish the common goal of resolving the disaster, preserving life and property, and keeping elected officials and citizens informed.
Accomplishing that kind of leadership occurs because the FEMA officials use a variety of sources of power to influence each team member. The FEMA leader needs to quickly learn about not only the interests of each organization but also the representatives. They have to apply a different leadership style to each situation. FEMA has often been attacked about ineffective post-disaster relief efforts, but when you think about all the competing interests, it is amazing they accomplish anything. To be effective, those leaders need to establish high standards, teach them to the team members, and then enforce them in such a way others willingly follow.
Setting and enforcing standards is a key responsibility for leaders. If leaders do not enforce established high standards, followers accept lower standards. Leaders establish trust by enforcing standards. In time, enforcement creates a climate of voluntary compliance. Training what behaviors comply and fail to comply with guiding principals ensures everyone knows what the expectations are. Knowledge develops into understanding and permits the organization to operate effectively with few written rules. People know what is expected of them, and what they can expect from others. Trust develops that others in the organization behave and perform at high levels and take reasonable risks. Learning to find the right leadership style for different situations allows leaders to coach, counsel, mentor, guide, and discipline others to comply with organizational standards depending on the circumstances. As a result, the people in the organization focus on taking care of clients and accomplishing the organization’s mission.
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repetition is a concept from Know, Can, Do by Ken Blanchard. It is a
simple method instructors can use during training to help students
retain what they learned. Few organizations have the money necessary
to keep outside trainers available indefinitely. Organizations must
rely on supervisors to identify ways to have employees repeat what
they learned during training, to increase the return on the training
investment. Here are three simple ways supervisors can engage
employees and increase behavior changes desired from training.
first method requires employees to verbally report what they learned
to the supervisor. The second method is to requires the employee to
type their classroom notes. The third way requires the employee to
present the information and methods learned for other employees.
Each way engages different learning strategies, increases retention,
and reinforces desired behaviors.
employees return from training they are excited about what they
learned. They often do not have time to process how to connect what
they learned with their job. As a result, desired changes in
behavior do not occur. Plan time to meet with the employee after the
training. Require the employee to tell you about the information and
techniques taught in the class. Ask the employee to demonstrate the
skills taught. Allow the employee to watch you do at least one of
the tasks taught and correct your performance as appropriate.
the employee questions about ways to implement the lessons learned
into work routines. Ask how the skills can be taught to other team
members. Before you end the meeting, task the employee with the
second method of spaced repetition, note preparation.
class notes is an important way to reinforce learning. Students
should take up to a page of notes for every hour of class. More than
that and they are not listening. Less and they have nothing to refer
to after class. Typing the notes after class creates another
repetition of the learning. Typing notes allows the student to
share what they learned with others. Typed notes are easier for
others to read. Typed notes can be stored in a file folder in a
drawer, or digitally on a computer. Weeks or years from now anyone
who was given a copy of the notes can pull them up as a reference.
great reason for preparing typed notes is to share them within your
professional network. Teaching employees to share notes with their
network provides an opportunity to communicate with people they do
not see everyday. Their notes provide a reason to open a
professional discussion with their peers and expand their influence.
Your employees derive benefits when they share their notes with
do not have to follow a formal outline, but do need an easy to follow
format. At the top of the first page of note place the title of the
class. Include the name and contact information for the instructor.
Recording the instructor’s contact information allows the student
the ability to contact the instructor in the future. It also
provides the instructor credit for the ideas presented. Include the
date(s), length, and location of the training. Tell your employee to
take credit for the notes by including his or her by-line and contact
information. People are more likely to contact the employee with
topical questions before the trainer. Good notes establish the
employee as a subject matter expert. When the employee presents the
information, another repetition occurs strengthening the important
After the credit and training information, arrange the notes so they make sense. The note taker may find it make sense to rearrange some information. Create topical groups regardless of the order presented in class. Often instructors and classes deviate from the instruction model creating situations where information is presented out of order. Making those changes makes the notes are useful. Use topic headings if appropriate. Use different fonts or bold for topic headings. If the trainer used a slide handout, refer back to it rather than typing out all the points from the slide. This is especially helpful for diagrams.
added feature of the typed notes is that it allows the employee to
prepare for the third step in the supervised, post-training, spaced
repetition; the presentation. The employee uses the typed notes as
an outline for the staff presentation at a selected time in the
future. Schedule the presentation close to the date of the original
training. The notes are the work of the employee and not subject to
any copyrights by the presenter. That means the company can
reproduce and distribute them without seeking additional permission.
An exception is if the student’s note are direct quotes from the
instructor or training material. Avoid plagiarism accusations by
requiring the employee to use his or her own words.
the presentation, the employee tells the others what he learned in
the training. He tells how he has applied the lessons in his work
and personal life and the results he observed. He shows others how
to complete one or more of the skills. He provides each an
opportunity, either individually or as a group, to practice one of
the skills. Using this method expands the knowledge of the whole
workforce for the price of sending one employee. Even if other
employees previously attended the same training, this event serves as
another spaced repetition, reinforcing the skills and knowledge
learned. The presentation develops confidence in the employee and
establishes them as a subject matter expert.
often organizations send people to training to learn but never follow
up to reinforce those lessons. The three steps outlined here provide
a model for supervisors to follow to ingrain those lessons. These
three steps spaced over time reinforce learning. Meeting with the
employee in a few days after the training allows them to show you
what was learned. Requiring the employee to type class notes and
provides another repetition. Sharing those notes allow employees to
expand their sphere of influence. Conducting a brief training event
reinforces the learning for the employee who attended the training,
and also broadcasts some of those skills and knowledge across the
organization. Using spaced repetition is a great way to increase
your company’s return on its training investment.
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Character is the intersection of a variety of factors. Habits and values are two of those factors. Other people make judgments about your values from by observing your habits. When you tell people you value providing quality feedback to your followers, that is a statement of a value you hold. People who hear you observe your behavior and decide if you really value coaching and counseling your workers. When they see you counseling others, they know you value that behavior. On the other hand, if you never
coach and counsel your employees, everyone knows you are all talk and counseling others really is not important to you. Given that habits are nothing more than routines people use to simplify life, then deciding to change your habits enables you to align your behavior with your stated values. When those habits involve influencing others, you become a better leader.
Anyone can apply the principals in this post to any habit they want to change or create. For the purpose of discussion, I will continue to use the counseling example from the introduction because it is a leadership task often overlooked by supervisors. The steps are simple; the principals sound.
The principals for changing habits are the same as those for problem solving. Work on one habit at a time. Understand what habit you want to change and why. Know the desired result. Develop a solid plan to implement change. Identify people for support. Steps for habit change include:
identifying the habit you want to change,
identifying the motivation for change,
identifying the cues or triggers, what is the routine, and what is your reward
identifying where in the cycle you can make a change,
developing a plan to implement the change,
evaluating your results.
Like setting a goal,
you need to be specific about what habit you want to change. Provide
answers to all the who, what, where, why, when, and how questions.
Write down those answers. Writing down things helps organize the
thought process. When you write down things, you can let those
thoughts out of your head and delve deeper into your analysis of the
In our example, you want to become a better counselor to those you supervise. Counseling helps them become better employees that work independently. Employees that work independently allow you to focus
on the future so your group remains relevant to the organization. Your planning ensures mission accomplishment which creates happy customers. Happy customers develop loyalty improving everyone’s job security. So employee counseling is important.
encourages us to start with why. Understanding WHY allows you to
focus on your motivation. This helps you identify what is important
to you. After you identify what is important, compare those values
to your habitual actions in different situations or events. Ask
yourself if those actions are congruent with your values. Sometimes
your habits align with your values. Sometimes your habits run
contrary to your values. You do not realize this until you analyze
In our example of
counseling employees, you say it is important, yet at the end of
every evaluation period you realize you did not counsel your
employees. You identify it as a habit you want to develop. You
identify your motivation for developing this habit as becoming an
effective leader. You know effective leaders improve organizations.
Every habit has a
cue or trigger. The cue is the signal to begin a routine outside
your thought process. When the routine is complete, you receive some
sort of reward. To change your habit, figure out the cue or trigger,
identify the routine, and the reward. Take time to write down the
answer to each part of the whole habit so you can better understand
In the case of
counseling employees, identify what cues block counseling sessions.
What actions or events prevent you from taking time to prepare and
execute employee counseling? What rewards can you establish to
encourage you to change your behavior? Write down your answers. Use
this information to create cues to execute the counseling. Calendar
reminders are simple and easy triggers to begin a habit you want to
Now that you
understand the habit and your motivation for change, focus your
attention on change you can invoke. Common strategies include
recognizing where the cue or trigger is initiated and avoiding that
trigger, substituting a different routine, or changing the reward for
the old routine so the habit is not rewarding. Treat this part of
the process like a science experiment. Try different approaches at
different parts of the habit cycle until you find something that
works. Be easy on yourself. Habits form to reduce the work our
brain has to do. It takes time and repetition to break an old habit
and create a new habit.
Preparing to counsel
employees is a time intensive process. Once you develop a habit
cycle, the process becomes easier because your mind creates shortcuts
to execute the key parts of counseling. In addition to calendar
reminders, notify the employee of a date and time for the counseling.
If an employee knows about the ‘appointment’ they will help you
prepare. The employee will remind you. They may offer ideas about
topics they want to discuss during the counseling. Learn to take
notes about performance during the week. Figure out which cues work
to develop routines to make counseling easier.
As you move down the
time continuum, measure the progress you made with your new habit.
Figure out how it made your life better. Use this success to start a
new habit cycle to align another habit with your values.
As you start to
counsel your employees, you measure your progress from the documented
counselings. Each session documents the time and person counseled.
Use the data to learn whether you are meeting the intervals you
wanted, or if you need to tweak your routine a bit to meet those time
hacks. Figure out how you can measure the employees improvements
from their regular meetings with you. Compare their new behaviors to
those occurring before you started your counseling. At the end of a
rating period, you find you have plenty of documentation to validate
As your habits
become more aligned with your values, you develop character. People
will believe you will do what you say because what you say, you do.
They develop trust you are the person you say you are.
As you begin to habitually counsel your employees, they learn you care about their success. They know you listen to what they say. They trust you to look out for their welfare by helping them improve. You become their role model; someone who has character. You developed the power to influence their behavior and they follow you. Your senior leaders heed your advice because of the improvements you demonstrated increasing your influence.
The foundation of leadership is character. Two defining factors of character are your values and habits. Your habits tell others what your values are. They see your values in everything you do. Creating habits aligned with your values increases the influence you have with senior leaders, your peers, and those who report to you. Often leadership instruction sounds much like personal self-improvement. However, when you create new habits you develop power and influence, create trust, and cause the change you desire in others through your own actions. When your words and actions influence others you are a leader regardless of your title. Analyze your habits. Increase your influence. Become a better leader.
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Last January I wrote a post on creating a personal development plan by picking a future destination for your life and figuring out what goals and task steps you need to complete achieve your plan. I mentioned that my inspiration was the process of beginning the development of a strategic plan for an organization I run. We just completed that plan, which again made me think about the importance of goals and planning not only in our lives but for organizations. The important lesson from this process for me was that quality long-term plans require long-term effort to complete. The ideas I had a year ago only slightly resemble the final plan. The benefits of developing such a plan go beyond having a road map to follow on your journey through time. The process established priorities and revealed unknown strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. If you follow the steps in the process outlined here, you will find hidden treasures as you plan your organization’s future. This is not an overnight project, but rather a short trip to identify what is important. As a leader, you have an obligation to set up your organization for future success. The principals are the same as developing your personal development plan, but more people are involved in the process.
Every strategic planning process begins by gathering facts to help you identify your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. This process is called a SWOT analysis. Use other people to work on the SWOT assessment. Others have different perspectives on your organization. Vendors probably have a better understanding of you supply lines. Customers see how well your customer service responds to problems customers face. Line workers know what quality controls work, and which need improving. Managers know about the quality of employees and challenges of training and retaining good people.
When working on your
SWOT assessment, think of strengths and weaknesses as internal
issues. Gather information from your employees and internal
contractors. Opportunities and threats are external issues. Key
people in your organization may have some perspective on
opportunities and threats, but your best information comes from those
outside the organization. Ask your vendors and customers about
things you do well and things you can do better.
There are two major theories about identifying strengths and weaknesses. The first is that you should ignore your weaknesses and only continue to develop your strengths. The second is you should build your weakness in order to become more rounded and effective in more areas. A third theory is to focus on your strengths, but examine your weaknesses to identify those that have the potential to destroy you. No matter how strong your strengths, some weaknesses prevent you from reaching your full potential. You need to develop those weaknesses to allow your strengths to propel you higher.
For example, you
might run a small retail store and know little about employment law
and accounting. You contracted with an HR firm to help you with
employee issues and a CPA for accounting. Even with their help, if
you do not know some basic principals you may find you still end up
in trouble. You might deny an employee a right because of an
on-the-spot decision that results in a law suit. Your accountant
discovers you do not verify your monthly financial report and starts
to divert your money to his or her accounts. Your accountant ends up
with the beach villa and you end up in debt.
and opportunities is challenging. The challenge lies in the fact
that what appears on the surface to be a threat may be an opportunity
in disguise. Like strengths and weaknesses, you can focus on
responding to either, but it is probably better to recognize and
conduct some risk mitigation for a few threats and focus on your
Reach out to your
vendors and customers. Develop a short online survey and ask them to
complete it. You may learn of a feature customers want but you do
not offer. A vendor may tell you about a potential problem in your
supply chain not known to you.
Your facts help you
determine where your organization is right now. Facts do not tell
the whole story. No person ever has all the facts, not even Google.
People fill in gaps with assumptions. It is dangerous to blindly
assume anything. Use facts and good judgment to reach reasonable
conclusions. As you gather more facts, reassess your conclusions and
assumptions in order to continue being successful.
Role up your SWOT assessment as a grid with the SW in the top two quadrants, and the OT in the bottom two quadrants. This allows you and others to visualize the relationship of all the facts.
I attended a few classes on leadership when the instructor encourages students to write their own obituary. Organizational leaders need to do a similar exercise by envisioning what they want others to say and think about their organization. This exercise allows leaders to pinpoint their organization’s future. There was a time when people talked about The Phone Company when referring to AT&T, or dreamed of paying off their Sears card. Instead today, people have a choice of phone companies, and the executives at Sears dream of extracting themselves from their debt quagmire. When Walmart opened its first store, Sears, Newberry’s, and Woolworth’s were the retail giants. No one ever doubted they would stay in business. That is why it is important for organizational leaders to see the future of their organizations.
Values, or guiding principals, are an important part of creating your organization’s strategic plan. An exercise I use in my training requires students to select their values from a list on a worksheet I provide. This is an awesome group activity that needs to start before any planning retreat. Include this as part of a pre-retreat survey. Ask survey takers what values best reflect the organizations and provide a list. Limit them to a few answers to focus on the most important, three to five. Provide a space for them to enter an answer not provided. During our values focus group, we struggled to narrow down three similar values into one. One participant spoke up and suggested we keep them all because they are necessary to the work we do as a team. BAM! Teamwork had not been offered as a value or principal, yet it was the very term to describe what to describe what we were trying to say.
Now that you have an idea about where you want to lead the organization in the next few years; you understand the organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats; and you know what guiding principals are important, you can start to chart the path. Identify two to five activities or achievements your organization needs to accomplish to reach their destination. Think of each of these as milestones. Each should build on and support the others. Limit your strategic goals to five or less.
For example, you decide you want to become the premier craft brewery in your region. You spend one or two years learning about medium levels of producing brew. In the second year, you develop your brand and marketing plan. In your third year you develop a pub menu that comes from local suppliers and appeals to your target audience. In your fourth year you renovate your space to make your customers comfortable and encourages repeat visits. Each goal depends on the previous goal to reach success. You cannot do all of them at the same time well, so you focus on one area, building on success each year.
Use some of the information from your SWOT analysis to focus your strategic goal setting. You may recognize that you seek to achieve a particular task, but one of the critical resources was identified as a weakness. Strengthening that weakness will help you achieve your goal. Use product ideas from your external surveys. If your customers are asking for it and you are not figuring out how to meet their demand for it you can bet your competitor will.
Just because the focus is on one goal does not mean you ignore everything else. Complete activities to support your main effort, and prepare for the transition from one goal to the next. Figure out which supporting activities are essential for the completion of the main effort. Schedule those tasks on your organization’s calendar. Assign a person by name or title to supervise and complete each task. No matter what, the main effort needs to be the main effort.
You only have to plan the task steps of each goal as the start date approaches. Many things may happen in the world as your strategic plan becomes reality. Action plans at this stage only require two to four steps.
A final step in strategic planning is resource allocation. Knowing there can only be one main effort, every resource in the organization must be poised to support that effort. You cannot plan on your master brewing becoming an expert on using modern technology to brew old fashion recipes and then slash your travel and training budget the next year. The two ideas are incongruent. Ensure your resources are aligned to support the main effort.
Strategic plans are
like road maps in that they are only helpful when drawn out. Anyone
who has tried to follow verbal directions knows how hard it is to
remember whether you were supposed to turn left at the third traffic
light, er was it right? When your plan is written you can refer back
to it to remember what comes next. A document is easier to share
with others increasing understanding across the organization. You
can use your plan to lure investors, employees, and customers. Even
if you leave the organization, your replacement knows why certain
things are being done, and understands what comes next.
Strategic plans can be a one-page document, or a multi-page report. You want enough detail so there is no question about why the organization is changing, how it plans to change, or what changes are coming. If you have a small organization you can farm out the work to a consultant. There are benefits of hiring someone outside the organization to write the plan even if you have the resources to do it yourself. They can remove jargon making the messages clearer. That fresh set of eyes serve as a common sense check.
December and January seem to be the time of the year people pause and reflect. As one year ends and another begins people recognize the importance of planning for change. I provided some ways your organization can plan for the future by analyzing strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Gathering and analyzing facts allows your organization to reach reasonable conclusions and make informed decisions about future objectives. Aligning short-term goals with long-range objectives ensures your main effort has support. Clarifying your values helps develop the direction. Creating a written plan ensures you have a solid picture of how to use your resources over the next few years. The plan serves as your map. With your map (written plan) and compass (values) in hand, navigating the uncertain of the future is easier. Take some time this season to draw your organization’s map before it starts the journey in 2019.
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Builders by Michael Gaida from Pexel.com CC0 License
Character is the sum of a person’s habits and qualities. It is the center of a Venn diagram of your skills, knowledge, abilities, values, relationships, past experiences, habits, and personality. Developing good character helps develop a good reputation, which helps gain influence. Others determine whether or not you are a good leader, or have the potential to be a good leader, by observing common traits in the character of other good leaders. Developing good character traits is within your control.
In his book Leaders Eat Last, Simon Sinek tells a story about the order leaders in the military eat. He reports that without orders or instruction that enlisted military members eat before the noncommissioned officers, and noncommissioned officers before officers, according to rank. The reality is, those lessons are taught to junior leaders. As a brand new howitzer section chief, I decided to eat during a break in firing, before the rest of my section. I reasoned they could go to chow when we resumed firing, but I needed to be on the gun to supervise operations. As I neared the front of the line, I was approached by my platoon sergeant. He noted he had not seen several of my Soldiers yet. He sent me back to my gun without chow and directed me to eat after the rest of my section. The military trains leaders well, and learning to take care of troops is a key lesson that is taught.
The battery resumed firing before I was able to eat. I still had Soldiers going to chow. I did eat that evening. The last guy from my section brought me a plate of food because he knew I would miss chow during the fire missions. I learned the lesson of why leaders eat last. When leaders take care of their troops, their troops will take care of them.
That first lesson I learned during field feeding taught me the importance of taking care of those you lead. When your followers know you are taking care of their needs, they know they can focus on their tasks required to accomplish the mission. They know you have their back. That only happens when leaders receive trust from those they lead. Trust turns into respect. Respect creates disciplined organizations. Disciplined organizations accomplish great things in the face of adversity.
Anyone can build the kind of character that encourages others to follow them. Look at each element of character. To acquire any of those attributes, potential leaders need to act. Action is the key to leading others.
Leaders need education. Three pillars of gaining knowledge include institutional education, personal development, and real world assignments. Each provides different opportunities to learn.
Institutional education provides general information about the topics included in the course of study. The lessons learned in the classroom provide a background to help people think and reason when problem solving. One learns the theory behind the practice.
Real world assignments provide opportunities to apply classroom lessons. New graduates are given low level, simple issues to resolve. They are closely supervised to ensure they understand the expectations as they apply their knowledge. These opportunities allow people to apply their classroom knowledge and make mistakes on low-risk assignments in order to develop deeper understanding of underlying principals in their lessons.
Self development describes a variety of educational means. Examples include reading topical books and journals, asking for extra assignments to meet stretch goals, field trips to locations relevant to the work, and self selected training events or conferences. The smart young leader figures out what knowledge s/he needs to improve his or her performance and finds a way to gain that knowledge. Self development is viewed by more senior leaders as a key indicators of younger leaders potential for greater responsibility. It is demonstrative of their diligence.
Skills and Abilities
Most of the skills and abilities required of leaders have little to do with doing the work of the organization. Knowing how a machinist works a piece of metal, a warehouse employee finds a widget, or what day employment taxes need to be filed generally are important details for others. Knowing those things need to be done and finding the right people to do them is the leader’s job. Leadership requires skill to develop effective processes, the ability to apply influence to seniors, peers, and subordinates alike, and ensure resources are available.
Many have said that leaders lead people, and managers manage things. Someone can be a good manager and a bad leader. Leaders who are poor managers never become good leaders. Managing resources is an important skill so your followers have required resources to do their jobs.
I had a friend, Gerry Berry, who often said something like, “You always make time for the things that are important to you.” This would often come up when we would discuss doing something together outside of work; we being a few of us. It was rare that our little group of friends could always find the same day and time to do something with everyone. He would direct that line to those who had previous commitments as a way of reminding all of us about the importance of how we choose to use our time. Others determine what we value by the choices we make including how use of time.
Gerry developed an aggressive form of cancer while he was still young. He dreamed of building a barn for his wife and son so they could move the horses they loved to his home. Several of his friends developed a plan to build the barn before he died. At no time were all his friends present on the property at the same time. However, over the course of a week, everyone found some time to participate in some way. What do your habits tell others what you find important?
Unlike the other factors discussed above, we only have limited control of our experiences. A person may seek out experiences, but sometimes you have to be in the right place at the right time with an open mind and properly prepared for some experiences. There are plenty of experiences people can control and obtain. You can choose to hike the Appalachian Trail and gain that experience. You can choose to develop a speaking program and present it to several local civic groups to demonstrate expertise in a subject area. Not everyone can go to Harvard, but most people can complete college if they really want and have a college experience. Not everyone can perform in Carnegie Hall, but there are plenty of performance venues if you want to perform.
Trying new things and pushing yourself outside your comfort zone allows you to understand more things in life. You become more emphatic with the plight and victories of others. You learn and gain knowledge. You learn about abilities you did not possess and you learn about others. There are plenty of things you can do to broaden you experiences.
I often heard an expression that one can tell much about another by the way s/he treats those who can do nothing for them. Too often we treat co-workers better than friends or family members and our bosses better than co-workers. We believe we have to display our best behaviors at work, and we should. If we go back to the integrity thought, our treatment of friends and family is really a reflection of what we do when others are not watching. Yes, you have to be on your best behavior at home.
People of character treat everyone with respect and dignity. That does not mean you have to agree with everyone all the time about everything. Actually, to give that impression is disrespectful and not helpful. How you disagree with others is a true indicator of your respect for another person. It is okay to agree to disagree. People notice the character of your relationships to determine whether or not they should develop one with you. People want and need to interact with others. People who value others, find others value them. You demonstrate your value others by paying attention to them. Ignore your phone. Your social media feed will wait until you are alone. Focus your attention on the person in front of you.
Be on time. When you tell someone you will meet them at a certain time, do it. Adopt the idea that being early is being on time, being on time is late, and being late is unacceptable. Never keep your boss, a client, a friend, or a family member waiting.
Do what you say you are going to do. If you fail to fulfill promises, no one will trust you. It is better to under promise and over deliver than miss a deadline.
There are lots of personality tests out there. People take them for many reasons. Your tested personality is irrelevant. Many personality test questions ask what you prefer. What you prefer does not dictate what you do. What you do matters, even if it is not your natural preference.
Learn to take charge of your preferences, control them, and do what is necessary in any given moment. There are times to speak and times to listen. There are times for action and times to wait. I think this ends with, “There is a time to every season under heaven.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). These lessons are from ancient knowledge. Wisdom comes from learning when and how to apply them.
The foundations of character date back eons. Periodic reviews, such as this blog, keep lessons fresh in people’s minds. Each of us can change our behavior to improve our character.
Character is the foundation of leadership because it forms a solid base of power to influence others. Character is the focus of your knowledge, skills, abilities, values, relationships, and personality. People are predisposed to behave certain ways in situations based on each of these factors. Because people are self-aware, they can judge how their behaviors in each area affects their chosen path. People can choose responsible character building behaviors rather than their preferred responses. Successful leaders understand when and how to match their behaviors to those required for best results. Application becomes easier with practice and reflection. People make mistakes. Smart people learn from their mistakes. Work on your character in order to build a strong foundation as a leader.
Venn Diagram by the author Creative Commons Attribution
Chow Line from US DOD by SSGT Greeson, USMC public domain
Knowledge Management by Roberto Saltori from flickr.com CC Attribution Reuse
Wild Blue Yonder from pxhere.com CC0
Nature Forest House from pxhere.com CC0 — cropped by the author