All Leaders are Front-line Leaders

TassieEye.Flickr.jpg

Organizations promote good leaders front line leaders into senior leaders. As leaders move through the levels of leadership, they need to adapt to their leadership style to meet the level they reach. Front line leaders address the challenges facing the organization here and now. Mid level leaders prepare the organization to face expected challenges in the next few days to several weeks. Senior level leaders anticipate problems for the organization months and years from now. One thing all levels of leaders deal with are those problems that occur today. At every level, all leaders need front line leader skills. Whether you are on your first day as a new shop foreman supervising ten machine operators, or the CEO of a major corporation with ten vice presidents reporting to you, you directly supervise and lead people every day. There are three basic attributes front line leaders at every level must understand, possess, and use; character, leading skills, and action.

Character is the foundation of leadership. Character is the collection of habits and actions taken by a person commonly defined by their hidden and stated beliefs. A habit is simply something a person does repeatedly.

A mid-level leader in a leadership workshop confessed his surprise hearing the expressions from his employees about how much he cared. He received a promotion and was moving to a new assignment. During his last days in that assignment, almost all of his workers approached him at some point and told him how much they appreciated the personal attention he provided regarding some sort of personal issue. They each said it showed he cared about everyone of them. He told the crowd of other mid-level leaders he did not remember most of the issues for which each thanked him.

hand-leg-finger-food-produce-care-1028578-pxhere.com.jpgHe told his classmates he devised a simple system using spreadsheet software to track employee issues. Every morning he made a list of people to contact to follow up on those issues ensuring they were addressed. His actions allowed employees to focus on their work, not their problems. His habit of tracking people’s problems and checking with them periodically, resulted in a reputation of being a compassionate leader. He only spoke with others who had a reason to know about the problem in order to provide support to the employee or help resolve the problem. He did not gossip. His habit of keeping his mouth shut gained him the reputation of being trustworthy. His habits and actions told others the story of how he felt about resolving people’s problems, not a speech delivered from a soapbox about being there to help his people. His character was defined by what he did, not what he said.

Front-line leaders need to find ways to organize information and their schedule or people think they are unreliable. Discipline is critical to repeat effective actions until they become habits and create your character. Learning how to relate with others enables leaders to motivate and influence people them by finding how individual needs, interests, and abilities align with organizational requirements and mission accomplishment.

In order to influence others, a leader needs power. @wewon31-power-linup_flickr.jpgPower is commonly obtained in one of a few ways. The first is positional power, that which an organization give an individual in supervisory positions. Another is expert power. If you are an expert by means of knowledge on a topic, or possess a critical skill that you use and share. You sway others by your expertise. A third source of power is attraction. That ability some people have to draw the positive attention from others and to make others want to be liked by them. Often called charisma, it enables those endowed with it to influence people by bestowing attention on those seeking their approval. A final source of power is reward and punishment. This sounds like something a boss can do, such as providing a wage increase, or dismissing an employee. In this example it is not someone in a position of authority. People who use rewards and punishment for power include people like playground bullies, or a grass roots community activist. Each finds ways to reward and punish people they influence outside traditional organizational structures. Some example include using force in the case of the bully, or endorsing a political candidate in the case of the activist. These rewards and punishments lack official sanction. The power comes from the personal traits of the individual such as strength or speaking ability. 102_0158.JPGLearning to develop power across several sources is a skill necessary to influence others. Each has benefits and limitations depending on the skill of the wielder, the situation, and the audience. Each is a tool. One cannot build a house only using a saw; likewise, one cannot lead well with only one source of power.

A final critical skill for all leaders is communication. Leaders need to write well, speak well, understand how others use words to indicate problems and answer, use body language, customs and courtesies that make others feel welcome or insulted, and adapt their communication style to their audience. Use different words and sentence structure recruiting in a college classroom full of young and presenting a financial report to your board of directors comprised of older, experienced professionals. New line workers need different instructions than veteran equipment operators. Respect shown to all you deal with speaks louder than all your words.

An instructor at an officer candidate school charged the class to develop the best order to direct a platoon to erect a flagpole. Each candidate was given 30 minutes. After 30 minutes each student made their presentation. Each had multiple slides in a deck explaining the process of digging the hole; others had lengthy material specifications and work plans; and others had maps, charts, and diagrams showing how they would move the pole, position equipment, and stand the pole. When the students were finished the instructor congratulated them on their hard work. He asked them who the audience was for their order. All agreed it was for the members of their platoon. The instructor pointed out their slide decks and other media were great if they were briefing a general about how they planned to install a pole. The assignment directions were to issue an order to erect a flag pole. The instructor shouted, “Platoon Sergeant, POST.” The platoon sergeant ran to the front of the class and reported to the instructor. After exchanging salutes, the instructor said, “Sergeant install that flag pole,” and pointed to the flagpole, “over there where the grade stake is located.” The sergeant saluted, said, “Yes Sir.” and left to start installing the flagpole.

Community-Bible-Church_Flickr.jpgThis story illustrates the importance of knowing your audience and the message they need to hear. As the instructor pointed out, if the message is what the candidates needed to request to install a flagpole, the communication is different than directing a Soldier to emplace the flagpole. Of course if the Soldiers were less experienced than the Platoon Sergeant, the instructor needed to provide more direction. The senior person in the story understood he was directing another experienced person to complete a task. Detailed instructions were not required.Pete-Birkinshaw_Flickr_YouRangSir.jpg

Action, the process of making things happen. Anyone can sit in their cubical all day and plan for the future. Only those who step outside their cubical and take action accomplish things. Reflection is important. It allows us to see what is, and what could be. Without action, what could be remains a dream. One only gains character by doing something. Character is the sum of our habits, the things we do. Without those actions, one has no character. Developing character requires action.

Planning is action, but planning without execution is planning resulting in nothing. Executing results in success. There are plenty of things individuals execute alone and help develop character, but one is only a leader when others are motivated to help execute. Leaders provide motivation through communication. Communication is action. Leaders share their vision of the future, a vision that inspires others to follow the leader on the path to success. Leaders execute communication by coaching and counseling their direct reports. Coaching and counseling are actions. Leaders set up their direct reports for success by taking action to ensure resources are available to accomplish tasks. Resourcing is action. Leaders act and set the example by pxhere-actionconfronting unacceptable behaviors and addressing uncomfortable truths, such as failures to reach revenue expectations. Setting standards is action. Leaders execute by jumping in, getting their hands dirty and shoes messy. Doing something dirty is action. Leaders develop power and influence by doing things; acting, not just talking and planning. If you are not doing, you are not leading. Leading is a verb. Verbs are action. Actions, executed properly at the right time by the right right people result in success. You can plan. You can talk. You can be virtuous. You accomplish nothing until you act.

No matter how high one climbs the organizational ladder, one is always a front-line leader. CEOs have VP s and staffs reporting to them. Middle managers have front-line supervisors to lead. Every leader has someone who reports to them about something, or they would not be leading. In order to lead, you must have followers. The direct leadership required of a VP probably is not the same as a new hire on the cook line, but both need proper supervision and leadership from their boss. Provide regular front-line leadership to your direct reports as you prepare your organization, or your part of an organization, for the days, weeks, months and years ahead. Build your character so you are worthy of respect. Communicate so they understand. Act by counseling, coaching, and executing. Use your front-line leader skill at all levels and be a leader who succeeds.


Photo Credits

Birds in line by Tassieeye from Flickr.com  CC License

Holding hands from pxhere.com 0CC License

Powerlines by @wewon31 from Flickr.com CC License

Tool Box by author  CC License

Network by Community Bible Church from Flickr.com CC License

Old Telephone Box by Pete Birkinshaw from Flickr.com CC License

Action Biking from pxhere.com 0CC License

Leadership Reflection

Reflection-Theophilos_Papadopoulos.jpgReflecting on past mistakes and successes teaches leaders how to adjust behaviors improving successful.  Few new leaders understand the importance of reflection.  As a result they do not understand which traits lead to success so they can repeat them, nor which actions impede them preventing them from avoiding similar actions in the future.  Leaders achieve effective reflection by following some easy steps.

Record what happen.  In another piece, I described how and why to conduct post event reviews (https://christopherstcyr.wordpress.com/2017/07/29/review-action-record-results-learn/).  Another example of recording what happened is a leadership journal.  Use a few minutes every day to write down something you learned, someone you helped, how someone helped you, an important task you must accomplish, or anything else you feel you may want to remember.

Document how you can use what you recorded.  Think about and write down ways to modify your behaviors to improve success.  How you can implement a lesson learned?  Decide which behaviors you helped another person.  Identify behaviors of others that were both effective and not effective.

Path-J-O_Eriksson.jpgPeriodically review your reflections to adjust your course.  Taking time to figure out where you are is an important step in the goal achieving cycle.  Reviewing things you allows you to consider the path to achieve a goal.  You may see a lesser traveled trail is more effective.  You may realize a new behavior provides access to the express lane.  Either way failing to apply what you learn unnecessarily lengthens time of achievement.

Recording reflections on successes and mistakes allows leaders to become more effective.  Using a leadership journal is one way new leaders can improve their reflective skills.  Writing down key ideas on your journey ensures they are captured for future use.  These lessons and ideas help leaders adjust course seeking to accomplish goals.  A few simple steps, and a little bit of time, allows improvement of success for leaders through reflection.

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Photo Credits

All Photos are from flickr.com under a Creative Commons license.

Reflection by Theophilos Papadapoulos

Path by J-O Eriksson

 

Envision Effective Training

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Steep-Rocky_Paul-Irish.jpgThe task is like climbing Mt. Washington, the highest peak in New England. The task is simple but not easy.  Mt. Washington is a deadly peak showing little mercy for those who may make even a small mistake. High winds, sub-freezing temperatures, and snow are common even in July. The terrain steep and rocky. The views approaching and above tree line are dramatic, distracting, and just plain awesome. The task is simple really, inspire your students to learn what you are teaching and incorporate the lessons into their daily lives to become better at what the do. However, like trails to the summit of Mt. Washington, the path to successful training not easy. Adult learners are distracted in many ways. Some dealing with problems at home. Others deal with problems at work. Problems are like the tremendous views causing students not to pay attention to the trail. Some students do not feel they need to learn what they were sent to learn at your training, while others may think they know more than you do about the topic (and they might). Both groups are like large rocks tripping you if you do not pay attention to your student’s needs. Like to cold in July, some students remain cold through out the class. Vision is often discussed as a leadership tool to help employees focus on what is right. With vision comes passion. Vision in training and education accomplishes the same result as it does in leadership. With learners, vision creates a desire to pay attention, focus on the learning, and demonstrates you are prepared for whatever the mountain throws at you.

An example of casting a vision that catches the eyes of your student could be as simple as the opening of this blog. It is a short glimpse of an exotic place rife with danger. Showing (showing is a vision word) how your lesson connects to something exotic captures your students attention. It also provides you the tool the show your passion for the subject.

Instructors with passion retain the interest of students longer. In order for your training to affect the behaviors of students, they first must receive the information you provide. Passion for your topic, demonstrated through your vision, keeps their attention on your message.

As a believer, an instructor provides opportunities during training for students to practice new skills. Simple practice exercises allowing students to try skills keeps them focused, and reinforces you know something about what you teach. Skills students master during training are more likely used in life outside the classroom. They leave with the courage required to accomplish change.

BeachHammock-Kok_Chih_and_Sarah_Gan.jpgMost people want to learn to work better, rather than harder. Paint a picture of a hammock  strung between two coconut palm trees, the wind gently swinging them back and forth as they sip a cool tropical drink on a quiet, sandy beach. Let them leave your training with the passion, vision, and confidence that using your ideas and skills will lead them to that hammock. Students who understand how your lessons creates a simpler life encourages them to pay attention and learn more. Some say life on the beach is better than climbing mountains. Creating a vision of success inspires your students to implement the things they learned from you.

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Photo Credits

Both from Flickr.com using Creative Commons License

Rocky Trail by Paul Irish

https://www.flickr.com/photos/paul_irish
Beach Hammock by Kok Chih and Sarah Gan

https://www.flickr.com/photos/gandhu

Capture

Depth on the Leadership Bench

Everyone recognized Sally and Bill were great leaders. Sally led of her group for six years. Bill ran his group for two years under Sally’s leadership. Sally groomed Bill in the preceding year to replace her. After she moved on, Bill easily assumed the leadership position and started looking for his replacement.teambench-fraser-mummery Developing employees into leaders prepares organizations for both attrition and unexpected opportunities. Both Bill and Sally understood the importance of developing their next leaders for continued organizational growth and sustainment of excellence.

Many supervisors are managers rather than leaders. They are not entirely to blame. Often they were never taught how to be leaders. Why should anyone expect them to be able to teach others how to lead. Managers manage resources; leaders lead people. If an organization only views their employees as resources, they manage rather than lead them. The result is poor performance, crisis after crisis, failure to complete projects, customer dissatisfaction, and lack of growth. Failing to groom today’s managers to become leaders begins a downward spiral in leadership. Supervisors who are not exposed to leadership principals cannot pass them down to their rising stars and the bench becomes weaker.

Organizations choosing to develop leaders sometimes loose rising stars to other organizations because of the lessons they learned. Often those leaders stay even when offered more money or other incentives. They recognize organizations that value leadership through training have more to offer than money. When one star moves on, the boss turns to the bench to replace the loss. Organizations that teach leadership never have a shortage of qualified leaders. They are always looking two or three levels down selecting and training their future leaders. They have depth on the bench so the loss of one quality person does not cripple the rest of the organization. These organizations recognize developing future leaders is the most important thing they do.

leaderropes-nelohotsumaOne up and coming leader recognized the importance of developing young leaders. He examined everything the new guys and gals needed to know. He recognized it would take hundreds of hours to teach them everything. He faced a choice to move forward teaching a little at a time, or to become overwhelmed by the size of the task and quit. He decided to start small, directing three of his proteges to read an article on leadership. The following week he brought them to lunch to discuss what they learned and what ways they could apply those lessons to their own activities.

At the end of the meeting, the manager handed out three copies of the latest book on leadership theory. He challenged them all to read it in a month and gave them a date for their next lunch together. He assigned one of the younger rising stars to facilitate the next discussion. Over the course of the month, the manager met with the young woman to check her reading progress. He taught her how to facilitate the discussion at the next meeting. She did a great job resulting in the other two employees begging for a chance to run the next session. Before long, the manager’s leader development program was recognized across the organization as a model for success. Soon the leader and his followers each were selected for other leadership assignments. The big boss looked at the bench and picked someone to replace each of them and continue the cycle one little step at a time.

Leadership development can be as simple or complected as one wants to make it. Starting slowly allows the organization and its current leaders to find what works. Whether you train your people or not, some stay and some accept other opportunities. Training your future leaders today ensures your bench has depth for the future. When one person leaves, you can bet there will be someone waiting to step up to the challenge knowing they will have the training and support necessary to succeed. In order to experience continued organizational growth and sustainment of excellence, organizations must develop their next level leaders’ skills to develop depth on their bench.

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Photo Credits:

1BN Boxing Team-Fraser Mummery from http://www.flickr.com/photos/73014677@N05/8491853894/in/photolist-dWoYj3-nP6dus-eTVQZn-nFA2Z9-88jr2T-8TLXPF-dUdUqs-9LsNd7-dU8iYa-dUdQwC-n5kvSj-8YcqLU-a1YCNe-dU8cMD-4n4HcF-4CPZhg-eaFCpK-dPgkkg-fCdH6m-fEfvJu-nFFVgg-5KAmwB-8ktTwC-e36jea-hE5oza-49HGS-fAzYDB-4CUy9J-bempLr-8kqWBn-nP7dAM-f7HJ24-8RF5To-rv5yd-dU8jjk-a2QE3r-8tihQC-GYc1M-9uwcTm-dUdQ5Y-oL3fTH-dU8hia-8ku5Rw-8kqUgt-ahCwjp-aVheZ-dM7t9r-Bo2Y4E-fCWz4n-deEtb9 cropped by author

 

Both photos used under Creative Commons license

Check your Map & Compass

Hard to believe, but it will not be long before people start making resolutions for the New Year. Last New Year I posted a piece on how to successfully complete your resolutions (https://christopherstcyr.wordpress.com/2014/01/01/time-to-reflect-plan-act/). I used the system I described before and also during this year to achieve goals successfully. One more birthday card and I can say I achieved the three resolutions I set for my self. How did you do? 2014 has not yet ended so there is time to dig up the written goals you started with and determine how much you completed on each of them. You may find there is time to finish one or more in the remaining days. If not, you can try again next year. Reviewing your progress is important, and so it reviewing your achievements. Today schedule time to take stock of how you did with your goals, the lessons you learned along the way so that your plans for next year include strategies to avoid pitfalls. Assessing is an important action to achieve continuous success.

Start your assessment by asking questions about your goal and plan.

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  • Was my goal specificity stated?
  • Was is it measurable and did I have reasonable expectations and standards?
  • Did I allow reasonable time to complete the goal?
  • What resources did I lack? How can I obtain those resources for the future?
  • Is completion still desirable and reasonable?
  • Who can help me achieve my goal; a mentor, supervisor, friend, spouse or trainer?
  • If I choose not to complete this goal (notice the key word choose), what lessons did I learn that will help me with similar projects in the future?

As I discussed in my blog on taking time to review your progress (https://christopherstcyr.wordpress.com/2014/03/22/check-your-map-achieve-your-goal/), it is equally important to review and evaluate your successes. Learning to set small, achievable goals allows you to complete what you start. Evaluating your success enables you to see your new location on the map. As you set a small goal, achieve success, evaluate your achievement you begin to understand that small, regular improvements are more likely to help you obtain long term success that lofty big goals. Smaller goals allow you to adjust course frequently ensuring you end up where you wanted to go, not just arrive at the end of the road. Assessments also allow you to determine if you are still on the correct road, or if your course corrections have really established a different goal and destination.

This is a busy time of the year for everyone. Taking a few minutes to review your achievements allows you to learn from both your achievements and mistakes. It allows you to determine if you are on the correct course or if you need to make some adjustments. Even if you have not completed what you set out to accomplish, this assessment shows the progress made encouraging further small improvements. Dig up the resolutions you made at the beginning of the year. Assess your success and chart your course for 2015. Do it today!

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Photo Credit:  Reggie

For more information see my deck on SlideShare: http://www.slideshare.net/ChrisStCyr1/achieve-29982036 and

Check Your Map…Achieve Your Goal

At the beginning of the year I pitched a way to achieve your New Year’s Resolutions. (https://christopherstcyr.wordpress.com/2014/01/01/time-to-reflect-plan-act/) 0322141247One of the steps I suggested was to periodically check your list to measure your progress and adjust your course. That time is upon us. I know because the reminder I set in my calender alerted me to check my progress on my goals.

I use a goal setting check list to help me focus on task steps and measures for success. I used to keep them on paper, but as time and digitization have progressed, I have found using a word processor or even better, the task list on my email client work great. Your worksheet does not have to be fancy. I combined the format I learned in the Army to evaluate training with some of the great ideas Ken Blanchard pitched in his book, The One Minute Manager with a couple of theories I have learned about SMART goals. If you did not put your New Year’s Resolution in writing in January, you still have time to do so. The benefit of having your goal in writing is being able to sit down periodically (like now) to review your progress.

For those of you who did make some notes, dig them out and lets check your progress. I have learned several things throughout the years I have used this process. Your work sheet is like a map. As you travel you find roads exist not appearing on your map, and some roads on your map are more like mountain foot paths. For goal setters that means you may have found some of the steps you planned to take were not required, however things you did not know when you began the journey require you to complete tasks you did not anticipate, and that is okay. Just like our journey on an previously unknown but shorter or better road, as one works towards a goal and finds a shorter or better way to complete the task, you do. Note the changes on your map during your review. Enter comments about the progress of each task and check off completed steps. Open your calender and schedule time to complete the next series of activities on your journey to completing your goal.

An important question to ask as you check your progress is, “How will I recognize success?” The answer to this question becomes the measures of the success for your journey. If you goal is to improve your health (a common New Year’s Resolution) how will you know you are healthier? Some metrics may include a target weight, the ability to lift an amount of weight, the ability to be able to run a certain distance in a given amount of time, the measurement of your waist so you can once again fit into your High School jeans, your blood pressure number or the levels of cholesterol. What ever standard you select, make it specific and measurable by some recognizable value.Image

Checking the progress of your goals on a regular basis is important to your success. By having a map in the form of a goal checklist you improve the chances of your arriving at your intended destination, your goal. Your check list should include the route of travel and measures of attainment so you stay on track, or recognize when you have to adjust course. If you don’t know where you are going, it is impossible to know when you have arrived. Take a few minutes today to review and update your goals. For those of you who have yet to do so, set ONE goal today and develop your route and metrics. I have posted a sample goal setting worksheet on SlideShare. Check it out and use, change and adapt it to your needs. Move forward by taking that next, charted step to your personal success.

Photos by author