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.

————————————————

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

v

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.

 – – – – – – – – – – – –

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

Building a Foundation for Character with Organizational Guiding Principals

cropped_cellar-hole_wolfgang-tonschmidt

Guiding principles, or values, lay the foundation of character for every organization. A wide variety of people make up organizations, coming from different backgrounds, and bringing different personal and cultural values to the group. An organization’s guiding principles establish what things are important for the organization. Successful organizations establish and ingrain compliance with their guiding principles through training. Using a daily or weekly meeting is an easy way to train employees about the organizations principles.

Let’s say the organization has three guiding principles; loyalty, quality customer service, and finding winning solutions for everyone. Supervisors hold meetings every Monday with their staff. In addition to the regular items, modified_meeting_torimiddelstadt_uaf-school-of-managementthe supervisor includes one of the guiding principles on the first Monday of the month. The supervisor provides the company’s definition of the principles and facilitates a discussion about ways employees can incorporate behaviors into their work lives to live up to the principle. This week they discuss loyalty. The conversation includes loyalty to the company, the smaller group, customers, and shareholders. The meeting breaks and employees go about their work.

During the week the leader moves about the work area looking for opportunities to recognize behaviors that comply with loyalty issues discussed during the weekly meeting. The leader notices a technician on the phone who appears to be talking with a customer. He tells the customer how much he appreciates his loyalty by sticking with company. He explains that he cannot do the repair work for free but will research a discount because of his loyalty.

During the next Monday meeting, the supervisor continues the discussion on loyalty. He starts the conversation by telling the story of the technician who found a way to stay true to the company while rewarding customer loyalty. Next he goes around the room asking others for stories of things they did during the previous week to live the principle of loyalty. Not everyone had a story, but all participated in the conversation. He also facilitated a conversation about how their views of loyalty changed during the week as they focused on different ways to be loyal to all the company stakeholders. The conversation was lively. Eventually the supervisor had to cut them off so they could conduct the business of the company.

The following week, the leader may start the loyalty discussion by telling a story of an experience he had where the principle was the focus of the situation. He opens the floor for others to tell stories. One way to ensure there will be some discussion is to have a chat with one or two employees during the week ending by asking them to share their story at the next weekly meeting.

On the fourth Monday, the group engages in a conversation wrapping what they have learned about loyalty. Again there should be time to allow story telling of application of the principle, but the conversation should shift to lessons learned and how to apply them. Using these steps allows people to be taught about an idea, followed with examples of how to use the idea and concludes by them practicing what they learned. The discussion allows corrections to be made so everyone becomes better and also recognizes behaviors meeting expectations for the particular guiding principle.

On the first Monday of the next month the supervisor introduces the next guiding principle, quality customer service. He follows the same format during the month when they learned about loyalty. The employees are told about quality customer service. They are shown examples of quality customer service. They try and report on their efforts. They are praised for success and coached to improve when they fall short of the standard. The process is repeated the next month for the finding winning solutions principle.

Change up things after going through the guiding principles once . Ask one of the employees in the group to lead themodified_geese-flying_john-johnson conversation when you return to the first guiding principle. Allow that employee to discuss and introduce the guiding principle. She could lead the conversations about how others engaged in behaviors exemplifying the principle. Repeating the process instills a deeper understanding of each principle and allows employees to further ingrain that principle into their daily lives. As new employees come on board, they learn not only how things are done, but why.

Creating organizational change is difficult. Helping employees improve their understanding of an organization’s guiding principles is one step leading to change. As employees begin to live the principles of the organization, the culture changes. Reinforcing each lesson through reflection of behaviors supporting compliance with organizational principles ensures lasting change. Employees see how small changes improve working conditions and organizational cohesion. Focusing attention on a guiding principle at daily or weekly meetings results in easily training teams about each principle. Try it at your next group meeting.

cropped_cellar-hole_wolfgang-tonschmidt


Photo Credits

All photos from Flickr.com with Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Granite wall by Wolfgang Tonschmidt, cropped by author

Group meeting by Tori Middelstadt at UAF School of Management, modified by author

Geese by John Johnson, modified by author

Finding the Path

“No!” replied the client and hung up.

“I quit!” said Bill out loud. “I haven’t made a sale all day.”cubical-drewfromzhrodague

Jill, Bill’s big boss, happened to be passing his cubical as he announced his intent to terminate his employment, or at least sales calls for the day. “Bill,” said Jill, “We don’t quit. If you are having problems, I expect you to find a way to over come them. Getting to YES is an important principal of our division. I want you to spend the rest of the afternoon examining what what you have been doing and work with your team leader to figure out what you can improve. Both of you will report to my office in the morning with your findings.” Jill did not wait for a response. She turned and left. When she returned to her office, she called Bill’s team leader and told her about Bill’s problem and her expectations for corrective action.”

Jill said, “Getting to yes is an important principal.” She did not scold Bill for breaking a rule, but rather for failing to comply with a guiding principal. Guiding principals liberate leaders and employees from restrictive rules that require and prohibit behaviors by establishing clear boundaries, not rules. Employees operate within their boundaries established by guiding principals without fear of breaking some arcane rule. Employees use the principals to break the molds of past successes improving the organization. Sometimes people make mistakes, but in principle based organizations, leaders allow people to learn from errors, reorient themselves, and continue on the path to success. Guiding principles establish boundaries, not specific routes, for people to travel to achieve successful outcomes.

In the example at the beginning of this post, Bill probably violated several rules in his organization. Jill elected to call out Bill for violating a principle instead. According to Robert McDonald, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, “A rules-based organization is a safe place to work…because as long as you follow the rules, you’re never going to be criticized. You go to the General Counsel for each opinion, so you never have to take any personal risk.”1   boundry-jesse_loughborough Rules tell each employee what to do and what not to do in a given situation. The problem with rules is no organization can write a rule for every situation, and organizations like the VA have tried. Often rules conflict in a given situation. When faced with a situation not covered by a rule, or one where the rules provide conflicting guidance, people have to make decisions. That is why guiding principles are necessary.

Guiding principals, sometimes called values, are a short list of ideas that establish behaviors for employees to accomplish the organizational mission regardless of the situation. In some organizations, they establish their guiding principals a single words like, duty, honor, country. Others may use short phrases like, get to yes, respect all stake holders, continually improve. Organizational leaders boil down ideas until only those most important remain. An area cannot be established with less than three points. More than seven and people will not remember the principals; the area is too large.

The following morning Bill and his team leader Jane were waiting outside Jill’s office when she arrived. After being invited into her office, Bill explained to Jill that he and Jane spent the afternoon reviewing his sales pitches. They discussed some small improvements he could make to be more effective. Jane told Jill that she would check in with Bill a couple times in the next week to review his progress and make additional refinements to help him get to yes. Bill said, “I’ve learned the importance of seeking help when I need it to deal with frustrations.” Jill smiled. Bill’s outburst helped her develop Jane’s leadership skills and Bill’s sales skills. Had she just reprimanded Bill for disturbing other sales representatives, neither Bill nor Jane would have grown.

Leaders who use guiding principals establish markers to follow allowing freedom of choice cairns-sean_munson.jpginstead of rules that fence in options. Guiding Principals develop effective organizations. They create a climate for employees and junior leaders to safely take risks within established areas. Leaders use mistakes as learning opportunities for the employee and others. Employees respond to increased trust by finding improved ways to accomplish the organization’s mission. All stakeholders receive the results they expected. By using guiding principals, people find their own route to success within establish boundaries. Now is a great time to review your organization’s principals and determine how you can improve them for increased success in the coming year.


Footnote


Photo credits

Cubical: Drew from Zhrodague from Flickr.com

Fence: Jesse Loughborough from Flickr.com

Cairns:  Sean Munson from Flicker.com

All used under Creative Commons Licenses.

Save

Leadership at Every Level

The newly elected President of the local civic group calls a meeting of his key leaders. The Vice-president, Secretary, Finance Officer, Program Director, Membership Chair and Information and Relations Director are all invited. In real life, the new Prez is a successful executive and understands the importance of focusing the energy of leadership of the organization on the organizational mission. The Vice-president and Finance Officer don’t show or call. The Program Director calls moments before the meeting starts saying she will be late and the Information and Relations Director shows up late without a call. All accepted these positions because they said they supported the vision of the yet-to-be-elected President in the weeks leading up to the election. Working with and leading volunteers can be difficult because of situations like this. Strong leaders use these opportunities to hone their skills, influence others to meet their obligations and achieve success for their organization whether a volunteer civic group, a municipal committee, a non-profit or a billion dollar cooperation.ShellVacationsHosp

There are lots of lessons in the above story that we will explore in the next few editions of this blog. This month, attracting the right people. In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins discusses the importance of identifying good leaders for organizations and guiding them to where they will most help the organization grow. Sometimes that requires pushing people out of their comfort zone. For example, someone who has demonstrated strong leadership with a background in engineering but desires to work operations. The engineering section lacks quality leaders but great engineers so she would better serve the organization (at least for now) heading up engineering. As the organization improves and she develops younger leaders to replace her, the head of engineering may be transferred to a supervisory position in operations.

In order to achieve this success both, the chief executive of the organization and the head of engineering need to identify the future leaders within the section. After they are identified they need to be coached, mentored and trained as leaders. In great organizations they will be sent to train with the best whether it is in seminars, college course work or operational assignments, the next generation leaders will be groomed to move ahead.

jerry-pansing(2)

Keeping your ducks in a row requires leaders at every level to lead.

Some reading this now are in positions of leadership and may ask, “Well what happens if we spend all that money training someone to take over the section and they leave taking our training with them? Look at all the money we wasted.” Every organization needs some depth on the bench, so you should be looking at the section leader’s replacement today. However, just imagine if you did not train that person to lead the section and they are promoted when the current section leader leaves. Without the proper education and training, you have set them up for failure which may result in the failure of the organization!

As the leader of an organization, any organization, your most important responsibility is the selection of those who will lead your units, sections, divisions or any other name you give your areas of responsibility. Your next most important responsibility is to develop your bench. Identify future leaders. Train them and mentor them. Give them some operational opportunities to make mistakes where it matters little so they learn to lead, make decisions and learn from their mistakes. Remember to always share your vision so they are all following the path to success. If you are one of those one the bench, seize the opportunity. Step up and lead.

_____

Photo Credits: Shell Vacations Hospitality, Jerry Pansin, from flickr.com.  Creative Commons License

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

AW…do we have to plan AGAIN?!

“Plans are nothing; Planning is everything.” Dwight D. Eisenhower. Planning is one of the fundamental functional areas of management. Leaders at all levels plan. Depending on the event and their level in the organization determines how they plan, but the planning process should remain the same. Whether you want to develop a new vision for your organization, or you are putting together a small meeting for your staff, planning is the process that identifies the needs for what is desired in the future, the resources necessary to accomplish the task, actions requiring completion, controls and guide posts to watch for along the way and a statement of success. One of the reasons planning is valued more than the finished plan is understanding that no battle plan ever survives past first enemy contact, but in the planning process, key leaders have opportunities to evaluate different courses of actions allowing them to change course as the situation evolves. This topic deserves more than the few hundred words dedicated here, however my intent is to provide readers a general direction for their own planning processes.Image
The first step in any plan in to identify the objectives. Plans are only required if there is difference between the current situation and what you expect in the future. The purpose of the plan is to change the future. At the strategic level, leaders develop mission statements, share their vision and establish guiding principals. At the operational level, leaders develop work processes, gather resources, train workers and establish goals and task steps.
Once the object is identified, develop alternative actions. Often this is done during brain storming sessions although other idea generating activities also work. Ideas do not have to appear practical or traditional. The important action at this stage is to developing ideas. You may find that some of what originally appear to be flaky ideas in the beginning, when paired with other ideas may work the best.
Now that you have several alternatives, take time to evaluate them whether alone or in a group. Identify their efficiency, alignment with organizational guiding principals, likelihood of success and other factors selected by the group’s leaders. During this stage you should start to develop the measure for success. As alternatives are eliminated the better ideas become evident. The completion of this step should involve a completed written plan. The plan does not have to answer all questions but should provide enough information for those charged with implementing understand the intent. Remember the old saying, “An imperfect plan delivered on time trumps the perfect plan delivered a day late.”
Action is the next step in the planning process. A complete plan is not required to begin action. The great thing about mission and vision statements are they provide everyone an idea about which direction they should be traveling even if they lose the directions to the final destination. Once the decision has been made to move towards a certain goal, action can begin. Starting movement is the hardest part of any change. Starting movement is they only way the plan will succeed.
Once things begin to move it is important to monitor progress. The plan should include specific check points where staff gather to report progress. Like any journey, if you don’t take the time to check your compass and read the road signs you may find you took a left when you should have turned right in Albuquerque. These controls may include checks on spending, use of resources, percent of quality improvement, number of units sold or any other metric that measures progress.
A final and critical step in the planning process is obtaining commitment from stakeholders. Too many projects fail for lack of this important support. Ensure the key leaders understand the resources requiring commitment for success. Obtain contracts from customers if necessary. Lock in resources from suppliers early.
A finished plan may not be fancy. It may not be complete. What matters is the process used to arrive at the plan. Follow these steps and you increase your plan’s success. Start by determining the objective. Identify alternatives to reach the objective. Evaluate the alternatives selecting the one most in line with organizational values and vision. Begin action as soon as there is commitment. Obtain commitment from key stakeholders. Check your progress regularly and plan those check-ups. As your project rolls along, you may find success lies off the road you selected to reach your destination, but through your planning process you identified detours and side trips. In the end you will find your planning helped you make small adjustments along the way and reach your destination.

 

Photo by author

Time to Reflect, Plan & Act

It is common at this time of the year to reflect on the past and look ahead to the future. People will establish a list of resolutions and many will moan about the resolutions they failed to complete from last year. Others look back, pat themselves on the back for what they have accomplished. So why the difference? The answer is simple, those who succeed approach the resolution process and establish personal, documented steps and goals. What follows may seem like a long lost secret to some, but much of the content I first read about over 30 years ago (when I was v e r y young) and has been reinforced with more recent reading.

The first step is to reflect on what went well, what you need to improve and what is not as important as once you thought it was. Of those things that went well, identify what actions to carry over into the new year. Also identify skills that were used to achieve those successes and how you can use those skills for future success. On the improvement side, focus only on the things that cause failure. None of us can do everything perfectly. Life is too short to fix everything, so instead work on your strengths and only those weaknesses that directly contribute to failure. Everything in the middle somehow works.

Photo by Reg

Photo by Reg

Identify goals and achievements you accomplished. Too often we dwell on failures. People rarely fail at everything every time. You probably achieved some successes. Concentrating on what you have achieve builds confidence to move forward. Enumerating skills you have overlooked in the first step helps you focus on your strengths.

After you have reflected on your successes and failures, your achievements and accomplishments it is time to decide where you want to go. The first two steps helped you identify where you came from, and where you are. This step sets your course for the coming year. In this process determine not only what goals and accomplishments you seek to achieve, but also task steps for each activity. In that process think about who you need to reach out to for help and what resources you need to assemble to be successful. There is no point developing a network if you fail to call upon them for help. The most important activity in this step is to write down your goals and action steps. At this point the most important thing to do is document each task step for every goal. As you work on this portion, it is important to write down action steps for every goal (see my blog about the Three Pitch Rule).

The final step is to schedule time periodically to check your progress. Grab your check lists in what ever format works for you and compare your progress against your checklists. Identify tasks on your list you can complete before your next check up and put them on your calendar. By scheduling task steps you give them a level of importance that increases the likelihood they will be completed.

Now is the time to act. At the end of year, when you sit down to make your 2015 resolutions you will find you kept your 2014 resolutions if you follow these simple steps. Seize the day, New Year’s Day to accomplish this simple task. There is no requirement to have dozens of resolutions. Focus on the one or two or three goals that will really impact your life and document them. Do it now. Perfection is not required for your plan. Do it now and adjust along the way. In the end you may find you accomplished more than you imagined, but only if you take the time to follow these steps. Really, do it now! Happy New Year.

I just posted a short slide deck on SlideShare.  Check it out:  http://www.slideshare.net/ChrisStCyr1/achieve-29982036

Leadership Vision; A Requirement for All Leaders

vision

Leadership vision helps leaders look ahead to prepare and avoid obstacles allowing their organization to achieve its mission.

Several years ago I attended a leadership seminar taught by Richard Ayres retired FBI leadership trainer coaching leaders from all walks of life. He was not the first to discuss the importance of leadership vision, but he was the first who caused me to reflect upon the importance of leadership vision at every level within an organization whether they are the CEO, or a brand new front line supervisor with only one direct report. Often leaders on the line or somewhere in the middle think their slice of the organization is so small they have no affect on the course of the organization. Without vision the small groups these middle and front line supervisors lead will drift in the wind and dragging on the success of the larger organization. There are ways non-executive leaders can develop a small group vision for their sections that complement the larger organization and inspire employees.

Lower level leaders are the people that get things done in organizations. An organization can survive without a CEO or miss several VPs. Run an overnight shift with poor leadership and before long everyone know who the important leaders are; the local leaders who interact with employees daily.

Developing a vision is not difficult. Focusing on what is important and communicating your vision to your leaders, peers and followers is another story. When you announce, “Go west young man!” others may not understand why. New leaders who learn to succussfully identify key tasks and direction have the edge developling their vision. Many issues, problems and people compete for their attention they do not know what is important and what is window dressing. Experienced leaders develop skills to help them focus on the real issues quickly. New front line leaders lack this background but a good mentoring program helps them by providing tools and strategies to focus their attention quickly.

Assessments are one tool. Start by assessing yourself. Identify your core values. Ask how these align with the principals of the organization. What strengths and weaknesses do you bring to your new position? Take time to write these down. Assess your people, not only your direct reports but as deep as you can reasonably dig. Identify their strengths and weaknesses, skills and passions. Learn by talking to each of them one-on-one. Document what your learn.

Examine the environment. Determine how your section supports the organizational mission. Identify the guiding principals of the organization. Learn about your leaders’ vision for the people they lead. Identify opportunities and threats to your small group and the organization, both internal and external. This may be the most difficult portion of the assessment because obtaining accurate information about the intentions and actions of competitors, collaborators and regulators is difficult for many reason.

Use this information like a jigsaw puzzled. As you work on analyzing the information you will notice that the pieces come together revealing a map that shows where you and the organization has been and where it is now. You also see the goal or destination desired by those who lead you. Like early explorers learned maps are only an image of what the cartographer thought the world looked like at the point in time it was created and may not reflect reality. The process provides ideas of where your slice of this organization should be headed to support the larger group.

This becomes your vision, tell your employees where they are going, show them what your group will become. Schedule resources, plan for training, develop a plan and mark your route. Your map also serves as ammunition to argue for resources. Your vision is not only a rosy only picture, but illustrates the rough roads and alternative paths. With this information in hand, prepare your followers and leaders for the curves, potholes and slippery spots on the road ahead.

Vision is critical for leaders at all levels. Front line supervisors’ vision while limited by their location on the organization’s ladder is pivotal to their success. Leaders must create the time to map out the territory allowing them to see where they have been, where they are and where they are going. Their map provides primary routes and detours to arrive at the end point. Traveling along the path, they recognize sign posts and mile markers to measure progress. Whether you are a newly assigned rookie leader or a grizzled leadership veteran, having a vision for your organization improves organizational performance. Dig out you binoculars and climb on the roof. Find out where you have been and most importantly, where you go from here!

————————————————

Photo credit: Klearchos Kapoutsis some rights reserved Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

http://www.flickr.com/photos/klearchos/4541701032/sizes/l/in/photolist-7Vkpud-7Zz91R-9Uwxxs-bQGaiB-9XpiD3-5xhA3q-hAsUt7-ehvoLf-HtFik-9p5PM2-bXfqDC-dvWd8u-NgUKM-7B7xCj-58ayC9-khcgo-hJnvz-8pcL3G-XY2DB-dT5Yfm-dZMiF9-ctk3m5-6mNWbw-7ekpic-9DdSAN-7A3dvw-7LFrio-9nRYzW-4CYTmR-5KGg5B-buvfKc-5Cpqwz-asyX89-9vQUT3-6kYiBz-aSKrMn-4gX3v-e3d3jE-aCMtE3-7FbnVz-onMv1-52hjw8-5dPFT2-bn6iPb-7u6hjK-5xKhH6-8WR3XM-8rhBvX-cpfj3-fr4gn7-6Kg4w/

Two Things Leaders Care About

Funny thing about leaders…even when they lack a title, they still influence others to become better people and improve their organizations. Former followers seek out the leader months and years after their formal leader-led relationship ends. The best leaders often find themselves providing purpose, direction and motivation to former followers who have exceeded the leaders success. Identifying everything that goes into long-term leader-follower relationship can and has filled many pages. This blog will hardly scratch the surface and instead of providing proven, empirical data about the qualities of great leaders, it seeks to encourage readers to evaluate their own leader-follower relationships to identify ways you each can become better, non-titled leaders.

There are two areas that great leaders concern themselves; caring for people and achieving results. They know that in order to make the organization successful, they need quality people who are dedicated, knowledgeable, skilled and motivated. The leader communicates the organizational goals and his or her vision for the future and turns the followers loose to use their skills and abilities to accomplish great things that move the organization in the direction of success. Once success is achieved however, the leader sets a new course, but only after acknowledging the work and sacrifices of those who followed. Along the way, the leader creates opportunities to become familiar with employees, their families, their dreams and hopes, their needs. The leader develops ways for his followers to align their personal aspirations for growth with the growth of the organization. As the organization achieves success, so does the employee encouraging greater dedication.

Each great leader develops her personal style to learn about their followers and to communicate how their desires and abilities intertwine with those of the organization. Some leaders throw parties for their employees on their birthdays. Others use group training activities. Some dedicate a few moments each day to speak to their people and ask about important personal and professional issues. In every case, the interaction between the leader and follower is personalized in some way. The follower comes to believe the leader personally cares for them and their situation. If faked the facade quickly tumbles causing major problems for the organization.Image

After the American Civil War, Robert E Lee returned to the south to live a quite life. He was one of the best loved military commanders in the Nation’s history. Throughout the war he showed concern for his soldiers at all levels. For years after the war his followers sought him out for letters of reference, financial assistance and inspiration. It is said that he never refused a request of a veteran of his Army if he could fulfill it. Lee’s obligation to his men ceased the day he surrendered and dismissed the troops. His caring continued until he died.

Great leaders have two important concerns. Success of their organization and success of their people. They understand that unless the aspirations of employees are tied to the vision of the organization, neither will be truly successful. Leaders inspire their employees to succeed by learning their dreams, concerns and desires and find ways to align them with those of the vision and mission of the organization. When employees achieve success in their positions within the organization, the organization become more successful. Great leaders extend their influence long after formal relationships end because they genuinely care for the people they lead.

Photo Credit:  National Archives.  Retrieved from:  http: // www. flickr. com/photos/usnationalarchives/4176668765/sizes/o/in/photostream/ 10/29/13