Reflections on Leadership: Leaders Get Naked

Welcome to my latest edition of my Reflections on Leadership article series, my weekly reflections on what it means to be a great leader. I hope that these thoughts can help you with your own leadership development journey.

My mission for Operation Melt is to help you melt away all of the obstacles to achieving your goals, not just your fitness goals. So, helping us all become better leaders is fully aligned with that mission. Maybe this will help achieve the Operation Melt vision…

To create a world where goals never die of loneliness.

Thank you for reading and please feel free to share your perspective on this topic, my Reflections on Leadership series or anything else via a comment on this post, a share on social media or message me directly.

Weekly Inspiration

Leaders Get Naked

Ok, not like that!

But true leaders are not afraid to show vulnerability in front of their people.

Recently one of my favorite restaurants closed completely unexpectedly. This is a restaurant that I frequented and we ere there 2 or 3 days per week for dinner, lunch, brunch or just for drinks. I have been going for years and the people at this restaurant were like family to me.

As you may imagine they were WAY more of a family to each other. So an unexpected closure was a major blow to this family for many reasons. The staff was very surprised, hurt and sad by the sudden loss of this family.

Out of all of the people who were angry, sad and hurt by the closure, the manager was probably the most upset. He is one of those amazing leaders whose people love him because he cares for them so deeply. He is tirelessly passionate about high quality and an exceptional customer experience while also dedicated to the people who provide it. So a sudden closure and displacement of the people is essentially his worst nightmare.

The staff decided to have a goodbye celebration at a local bar. Because we were regulars we were also invited to join. It was a great opportunity for closure and to wish the best to the staff who are now looking for a new job. We knew that this even would be sad, there would be tears and there would be lots of long faces. But there is no way we would miss it.

This celebration presented the manager with a few options. He could skip it and let the staff celebrate without him being able to say goodbye. He could attend and stay positive with a smile on his face. Or he could choose another path…

The path the manager chose was to attend and be honest with his emotions. He chose to go to this event, to cry when that was the emotion he was feeling and to be vulnerable in front of his team. He chose to be a great leader!

This experience really reinforced why his people loved him and were so lucky to have him as a boss. It also reinforced why the customer experience, the consistency and performance of the business was so solid for so many years!

Believe it or not, leaders are people too! People are complex, emotional and messy creatures and have choices. They can choose to hide their emotions and pretend they aren’t there or they can be honest and authentic.

I can tell you first hand that there is something endearing about a leader who is willing to show vulnerability in front of their people. Whether it be crying, getting angry or being unapologetically happy and excited, the honesty of an authentic leader can’t be beat. I can honestly say that I would rather follow the authentic vulnerable leader than the one who has the perfect façade. I have worked for both!

As described in 5 Dysfunctions of a Team, the willingness to be vulnerable is a key step in building trust in a team. Trust is the foundation of a high performing team. So, without vulnerability, you don’t get trust and without trust you don’t’ get solid results.

A few years ago I attending a leadership training course over the span of 5-6 months. One of the key exercises during this course was something called Leadership Brand. Your leadership brand tells the story of how you developed into the leader you are today. This usually involves facing adversity and sadness through your life. So leadership brands usually require leaders to face those trying moments and they are very emotional. So, the day that the class shares their leadership brands is a day without a dry eye in the group.

This exercise is valuable because it helps a leader discover his/her authentic self. The next step after this exercise is to share your brand with your team. That experience was very difficult and very rewarding. It show your team that you trust them enough to share this personal information. It shows your team that you are willing to be vulnerable with them. It also demonstrates that you have the leadership courage to be raw and real.

As a strong leader a show of authentic emotions in an emotional moment is NOT a sign of weakness, it is a sign of strength. In fact I unexpectedly cried in front of 35 young leaders when sharing my leadership brand!

Call to Action: write your leadership brand and share it with your team and others who look to you as a leader. Your vulnerability will help your team trust and respect you. Then, never feel ashamed to be authentic self and show emotion in front of your team. Emotions aren’t bad, they are human!

Reflections on Leadership: Leaders Can Make a Safe Lane Change

Welcome to my latest edition of my Reflections on Leadership article series, my weekly reflections on what it means to be a great leader. I hope that these thoughts can help you with your own leadership development journey.

My mission for Operation Melt is to help you melt away all of the obstacles to achieving your goals, not just your fitness goals. So, helping us all become better leaders is fully aligned with that mission. Maybe this will help achieve the Operation Melt vision…

To create a world where goals never die of loneliness.

Thank you for reading and please feel free to share your perspective on this topic, my Reflections on Leadership series or anything else via a comment on this post, a share on social media or message me directly.

Weekly Inspiration

Leaders Can Make a Safe Lane Change

Picture this….

You are driving along in your car and realize that you need to change lanes. You go through all of the steps to make the lane change. You put on your signal, you check your mirrors, you look over your shoulder to check your blind spot and then you make your move into the other lane.

HONK… CRUNCH!!!!

You just changed lanes on top of another car!

How did this happen? You went through all of the steps in the process, how did it fail?

If you are like many people in this situation the failure was in how you followed the process.

While you executed all of the steps you only focused on the process not the result. You didn’t really look in your blind spot, you just went through the motions. That car was certainly there when you turned to look but you didn’t notice because you weren’t focused on the right thing.

When you focus on checking a box instead of on the intended result you increase the probability of poor (even catastrophic) results.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying process is bad. On the contrary… I am a process guy. I think properly designed and executed processes make the difference between coincidental and predictable success. But it has to be the right process and it has to be followed.

Mindlessly checking the process steps off the list in autopilot does not mean you will be successful. The citation, your deductible and your increasing insurance rates will back me up on that.

So what is the alternative?

Start by asking yourself “why does this process exist, what’s the goal?” Knowing the purpose of a process that you are engaged in, and all of the steps included in it, is a solid first step to ensuring that your focus will be the results versus just checking a box.

A second important step is to work on continually evolving and improving the process. It is when processes become stagnant that you tend to operate from a position of autopilot when going through them. If the process was constantly improving, not only would it become more efficient, you would have to be more deliberate when engaging in it so you don’t skip steps.

Finally, question the process. Does this really need to be a process or just a framework or guiding principles? It is far easier to consistently follow processes if there are fewer of them and they are the important ones. Everything else can simply be a set of guiding principles that help you make the decision as to what should come next.

Call to Action: stop coasting through processes simply to check a box. Know why the process exists, keep improving it and question if a process is needed at all. Plus always make sure to really check your blind spot and not crash into other cars!

Thanks for listening!

Reflections on Leadership: Leaders Care About The Messages They Send

Welcome to my latest edition of my Reflections on Leadership article series, my weekly reflections on what it means to be a great leader. I hope that these thoughts can help you with your own leadership development journey.

My mission for Operation Melt is to help you melt away all of the obstacles to achieving your goals, not just your fitness goals. So, helping us all become better leaders is fully aligned with that mission. Maybe this will help achieve the Operation Melt vision…

To create a world where goals never die of loneliness.

Thank you for reading and please feel free to share your perspective on this topic, my Reflections on Leadership series or anything else via a comment on this post, a share on social media or message me directly.

Weekly Inspiration

Leaders Care About The Messages They Send

At risk of getting on a soapbox here, I hate laptops and mobile devices in meetings.

I know, I know… you are using it to take notes. It is more efficient than using paper. It is the digital age, we need to operate digitally. I have heard all of the arguments. I understand all of the arguments. I have used all of the arguments myself.

Unfortunately laptops/devices in meetings usually (not just often) leads to bad behavior.

We have all been there, right. You are trying to share important information with a group of people in a meeting. You are working collaboratively to come to the best action plans to accomplish important goals. But all you hear around you is click, click, click and ding, beep and you see no eyes on you. Are people listening, are people paying attention, do people care? It is frustrating and annoying, right?

Some notable and non-isolated experiences I have personally had with this include:

  • Receiving emails from other people in the meeting with me, while I am talking, about completely unrelated topics
  • Having to repeat myself multiple times through a meeting because somebody wasn’t listening
  • Having somebody say “sorry, I wasn’t paying attention” and not even be embarrassed by it
  • Watching people work on unrelated work while I was teaching them something important
  • Hearing the click, click, click of note-taking when there is nothing that needs noting
  • Watching people text each other while I am talking to them

 

Those are just a few examples but the list goes on.

The problem with devices in meetings is that they are digital distractions. They empower people to tune the meeting out and focus on other things. If they are going to do this, why are they even in the meeting? Meetings are expensive uses of time and need to be focused on accomplishing the task at hand and then getting out of that room. This is harder when people are distracted.

This becomes a magnified problem when you are a leader. If you are a leader in a meeting with your laptop and you are multi-tasking or distracted, what message are you sending?

  • I don’t care about what you have to say
  • Something else is much more important to me right now
  • You don’t deserve my full attention
  • You don’t really matter to me

There is a chance that the information being delivered to you in the meeting was carefully planned, prepared and practiced. It is possible that the person talking to you has been waiting for weeks to have an audience with you to share their thoughts. It is possible that the person is nervous and that they are using all of their courage to stand up in front of you and present. At the very least the person presenting is trying to accomplish a goal.

Then you take this moment to text somebody or to work on something else right in front of that person’s face.

How do you think that makes the other person feel?

What message did you just send to that person about their value to you?

What message did you just send about your own leadership?

Was the other thing you were doing that important?

Was it worth it?

If you cannot be fully present for the people who look to you for leadership maybe you need to reschedule. Or maybe you shouldn’t be a leader of people. The one thing that you an give people without any extra work or cost is your undivided attention when they are sharing information with you.

If there is a meeting you are in and everybody is engaging in this bad behavior, maybe there is another problem to deal with. Why does this meeting exist? If it isn’t valuable enough to hold the attention of the participants, maybe the meeting needs to go away.

Make sure that you are setting the standard and leading by example. If you set the expectation that the meeting is important and that the people are important, other people will follow. Isn’t that what leadership is all about?

Call to Action: buy a notebook! Stop bringing your laptop to meetings. If you can’t do this, at least make sure that you are not emailing, surfing, working or otherwise distracted in meetings. Give the presenter your attention, try to really listen to what he/she is saying, ask questions, be an active listener. You will absolutely be a better leader!

Reflections on Leadership: Leaders Create Consistent Customer Experiences

Welcome to my latest edition of my Reflections on Leadership article series, my weekly reflections on what it means to be a great leader. I hope that these thoughts can help you with your own leadership development journey.

My mission for Operation Melt is to help you melt away all of the obstacles to achieving your goals, not just your fitness goals. So, helping us all become better leaders is fully aligned with that mission. Maybe this will help achieve the Operation Melt vision…

To create a world where goals never die of loneliness.

Thank you for reading and please feel free to share your perspective on this topic, my Reflections on Leadership series or anything else via a comment on this post, a share on social media or message me directly.

Weekly Inspiration

Leaders Create Consistent Customer Experiences

I really dislike raw onions on basic salads. I like onions, but raw ones on salads are overpowering and aren’t my thing. It is just one of those preference things.

There is a restaurant at Indian Lake where Liz and I are regulars. When we are at the lake, we usually go there at least twice in a weekend. The restaurant is on our island chain (convenience) and is the only one on the water (amazing) and has great people-watching (entertaining). We love the vibe, we love the people and we love the experience of going there.

Last fall a new manager took over at the restaurant and started making some small changes and all of them for the better. When we went back at the start of this season there were some minor changes but nothing earth-shattering. We also knew that a new menu was forthcoming, but was still a month or two away. In short, the changes didn’t really impact us at all.

We ordered dinner for the first time this season and I got a burger and salad. The salad came out and the rings of raw red onion that normally come with the salad weren’t there. This was good because it meant that I won’t be casting the onions off to the side in a wasteful manner. Then I took a bite of the salad and…. CRUNCH! Raw onions chopped up inside the salad meaning there was no avoiding them!

Yuck! The salad wasn’t inedible by any means but it wasn’t as enjoyable as I expected. Further making the situation difficult, it was a complete surprise to me that I didn’t find out until it was too late.

I was mentioning this to the manager in a conversation and he had explained that they were trying to upgrade the food a bit. The new salads are made to order and I can simply request not to include onion. This is a deviation from the normal “no substitutions” policy but sounded like a good option. It would have been better to know this more proactively, but so be it. Now I just have to remember to special order my salads even when the restaurant gets busy and I feel like I am being high-maintenance.

Fast forward two weeks and there we were back at this restaurant on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. The weather was super nice and the restaurant was slammed.

I ordered my food and ordered a salad with my chicken breast. When ordering I specified “no onion” to the bartender. His response was that the salads are all pre-made and that substitutions were not allowed. So… there I am eating a salad with onion again!

These issues seem to be all better now but this was a short term unpleasant experience.

First, there was a change that impacted me that wasn’t managed and my expectations weren’t set properly. Then there was inconsistency regarding the restaurant’s policies. As a result, my experience was negative and it didn’t have to be.

This story is a small and slightly silly example of one of the things that we leaders need to deal with on a daily basis.

Simply by proactively managing changes and by ensuring consistent execution of the basics, any organization can improve customer experience. These are pretty small expectations but they can make all of the difference in the world to a customer.

As a leader our role is to tirelessly protect our customer’s experience!

Whether you are working in a customer-facing position or if you are in a support function, this is still a core focus area for you as a leader. No matter your role, you have customers. If you have customers, you need them to be happy or you won’t be in business for long. So you success is inseparably tied to your customers’ experience.

In order to protect the customer experience, you need to have solid processes in place and measure the adherence to them. If you detect deviations, your role is to coach the people delivering the experience on the value of consistency.

If you aren’t sure that consistency is important, think about McDonalds. You can order a Big Mac in Columbus, Ohio or Shanghai and it is going to be the same. McDonalds makes billions of dollars each year based on their consistent, predictable customer experience. They aren’t alone either, all major international brands have the same focus.

Call to Action: think about the customer experience you want your team to deliver… are you delivering it consistently? How do you know, are you measuring it? If you aren’t sure, look for opportunities to measure your experience and to make it more consistent. When you do decide to make a change to the experience, make sure to make that change in a planned manner and take your loyal customers on the journey with you. Your customers will thank you! Also, make sure to try the upgraded salads at the restaurant at Indian Lake!

Thanks for listening!

Reflections on Leadership: Leaders Can Build a Fire

Welcome to my latest edition of my Reflections on Leadership article series, my weekly reflections on what it means to be a great leader. I hope that these thoughts can help you with your own leadership development journey.

My mission for Operation Melt is to help you melt away all of the obstacles to achieving your goals, not just your fitness goals. So, helping us all become better leaders is fully aligned with that mission. Maybe this will help achieve the Operation Melt vision…

To create a world where goals never die of loneliness.

Thank you for reading and please feel free to share your perspective on this topic, my Reflections on Leadership series or anything else via a comment on this post, a share on social media or message me directly.

Weekly Inspiration

Leaders Can Build a Fire

Do you know how to build a campfire or bonfire?

On this July 4th holiday (and the upcoming weekend) that I am spending with friends and family, we will certainly spend time sitting around a fire. We will enjoy drinks, music and just each other’s company.

Building a solid fire is a little tricky and isn’t as simple as it seems. But being able to build a fire means you can unlock relaxing and potentially life-saving experiences at will. Beyond that it is a powerful lesson about leadership.

It all starts with having a goal. You want to make those big logs burn and turn them into relaxing flames, smoke and ash. The best leaders have a clear goal in mind, something they are trying to achieve. That is where leadership starts.

Next, you have to know why your goal is important. You aren’t building a fire for the sake of building a fire are you? You are building a fire to use as a centerpiece for family bonding, for relaxation with your friends or to save your life. Knowing the “why” behind your goal will keep you focused and diligent when those flames start to blow out.

Now you need to spark a small flame to get the fire started. This is usually accomplished with matches, a lighter, a torch or flint and steel. Whatever your tool you need to produce a flame to get the process going. As a leader this is where storytelling comes in. You need to communicate your goal to people with a compelling story. Just something to get a little spark in the people you need to motivate.

You and I both know that a small spark isn’t enough to get the big logs to burn. The process is a little more complicated than that. Next you need some kindling to help heat up and accelerate your fire. I usually start with newspaper and some small sticks and leaves here. Something that is easy to get burning. In leadership this is where you need to share your plan for how to get from where you are to your goal. Without a plan that initial spark will just die out and never become a fire. Your plan is your kindling.

Here is where many people make a mistake…. Don’t mistakenly assume that the kindling is enough to get the fire burning. Kindling alone will not get you where you want to be. Their fire burns out and they get frustrated or maybe pour lighter fluid on which is dangerous and smelly. Similarly, as a leader, a goal, a story and a plan isn’t enough to ensure that your goal is going to be achieved. You need more!

After your kindling is burning, you need to add more fuel to get your fire hot enough to achieve your goal. This is best accomplished through bigger sticks and tree branches that will catch fire at lower temperatures and burn hotter and longer than the kindling. This will influence your big logs to start burning. As a leader you need to also have an influence strategy and change enablement process to put your goal within reach. By knowing your stakeholders, identifying where their level of support for your change is and needs to be and by defining specific forms of influence for each stakeholder you can help ensure that the fire inside them gets hotter and burns long enough.

So your logs are finally burning and you have a fire, congratulations! But you aren’t done just yet. You have to continue to tend your fire. If you just leave the fire alone the logs are going to burn on one side and quickly burn out. You aren’t going to fully achieve the goal you had set out to achieve. You need to ensure that the logs are getting air flow, that you are rotating them occasionally and you may have to even continue to add more of the smaller fuel to keep things going.

Many of us have experienced changes that happen for a while and just quickly burn out, right? As a leader this is where reinforcement is needed. Once you see the change begin to take hold and you goal is starting to come to fruition you have to keep helping and supporting. Recognize and reward the positive behaviors and engage the negative behaviors. Remove the barriers that people encounter whether they be training barriers, process, technology or other influential people. It all starts with measuring the adoption of the change both qualitatively (talk to people and observe) and quantitatively (track some metrics). From there it is daily effort to watch the progress and address the obstacles.

Next thing you know, you are going to have a roaring inferno. You will be able to relax by your accomplishments and you can cook s’mores over your team. Wait… maybe I have gone too far in the metaphor!

Call to Action: build a fire to enjoy with your friends and family. Then try to follow a similar process with your next big goal. It worked for me in many areas, including my fitness journey, and I am confident it will work for you.

Happy Independence Day!