Leaderisticality

How to hire, train, and maintain an hourly workforce

Archive for the tag “employee engagement”

Great Doesn’t Happen By Accident… Indoctrination

Navy seals What Does It Take To Build And Develop A Truly Great Team?  Part 4 of a series… So here we are in part 4 of this synopsis of my 70 or so post series, walking through hiring the best hourly team members, indoctrinating them onto our team, choosing the right apprentices, and changing the culture of our team from the one that allowed us to be average to one that will not allow average people to remain on the team.  The original posts can be found here starting with hiring… We’ve talked about the importance of hiring for qualities rather than skills (remember, we are hiring hourly team members, from no experience/entry level to Store Team Leaders) since we can train almost anyone pretty much any skills that might be needed, however we cannot teach qualities…   Qualities are the things that make our best people “clone worthy”. We’ve also talked about using the “ketchup question” when hiring for customer service, and the need to determine the default customer service level of your applicant. If you haven’t already, you can read part 1part 2, and part 3. So… we’ve interviewed our applicant by making them comfortable, and getting to know them through an in depth conversation, where we asked questions to find the behaviors that describe the Leadership qualities we are hiring for. And, we’ve decided to hire the person siting in front of us. Now what?  Well… In order to build a truly great team, we cannot allow our great new hire to simply adapt to the team as it stands.  We will simply end up with yet another mediocre team member. First step: Before I leave the room I will spend another 45 to 60 minutes with my new hire.  Yup… another hour to make sure that I get them off on the right foot invested now will pay off in more ways than you will believe. Remember, great does not happen by accident.  We are not satisfied with the standards of behavior, or the culture of our current team (if you are, good for you!  Keep up the great work!), and it is going to take hard work and tough decisions in order to affect the change that needs to happen.  You can do this, and you need to start today… right here and right now. You will invest the time and energy to get this new hire fired up.  You need them to come onto your team with a full understanding of the new standards you will be holding the team to.  You need to indoctrinate them with your excitement about what the team is going to be like, how excited you are to have them on your team, the important role they will play in achieving the goals of the team, and how interested you are in helping them achieve their goals (you just got done talking to them for an hour… you better be able to talk in depth about their goals!). Some people will state that they don’t like the word indoctrinate… and that’s OK.  You don’t have to use that word if it makes you feel uncomfortable.  And… Think of the best, strongest, and highest performing teams you can.  Perhaps the Navy Seals come to mind?  I grew up in the town that borders West Point… that comes to my mind (and where I hope our 17 year old will go)…  Now, do those teams welcome and train their newest team members?  Is there coffee, nice music playing in the background while we talk about how we like our team members to treat each other with the same respect you would like to be shown?   Not so much… What kind of process is it? I’ll give you a hint… it’s indoctrination.  Before anyone is brought onto the team they are told that it will be a difficult job, that it will be hard work, that you’re your teammates will be committed to excellence, and that you will be expected to uphold the highest standards of behavior and performance. I don’t believe that there is any way to maintain that level of performance without some form of indoctrination.  You don’t have to agree, and has what you’ve been doing gotten you a great team?  Is there a reason you can’t have a team that functions at an incredibly high level?  This process of hiring for qualities and indoctrinating every one of my new hires worked wonderfully for me, and that’s why I’m suggesting you take a chance and go for great! Whatever you choose to call it, if you want to achieve and maintain a very high level of performance, you will have to instill your new hire with the values and beliefs of your team.  Make sure they understand how much you value having them on the team, and that you are looking forward to them using their experience and knowledge to help the team improve everything it does. This is not something that you can delegate, nor can it be left to someone who does not even work on your team.  You, and only you (because you are the team Leader) can instill your new hires with your excitement about the future of the team, your passion for the success of the team, the rewards that come from achieving the goals of the team, and what the future can/will hold for your new hire.  If you feel you have found a great addition to the team, make sure they really understand how excited you are about having them on the team, and how they will be a key player in helping the team achieve it’s goals. If you do this right, your new hire will come in for his or her first day of work with more motivation that anyone currently on your team.  And as long as you continue to stay involved in their work and development, you can help them maintain that level of engagement. I believe that team member engagement is all about our relationship with the person to whom we report.  So you are starting to build that strong, trusting relationship the day you decide to hire them! Since we are transparent, we make sure our new hire understands that we are a team in transition. That means they might work with team members who are not upholding the expectations we just discussed, or acting in a manor consistent with the culture we described, and that does not mean it is OK for our new hire to do anything other than meet or exceed those expectations. We will explain that we are working on changing/improving the culture of the team, that we have some team members who may not be a good fit on this team, and that we are working hard to change their behavior of get then off the team. It is imperative that we are honest and transparent from our very first encounter with each and every great new hire.  We may not have always been as honest and transparent as we should have been in the past, and the only way to develop a truly great team is by making a commitment to honestly and transparency moving forward. I wrote a post about how and why I indoctrinate (you can read it here) and your indoctrination process should be personal, and fit your workplace.  I honed this process hiring and developing great teams for Whole Foods Market… a fast paced retail environment where standards are high and so are customer expectations.  You should indoctrinate your new hires with your ideals, your team’s values, and your hopes for their future.  Tell them everything you would want to hear if you had made it onto a team that had very high standards, and happy to have you join them. That’s probably long enough for today (too long by many standards), and I feel that too often posts and articles are too short to effectively help us really understand how to achieve the results talked about in the post.  So… I write until I feel I’ve said enough to actually help you.  I know this will mean some people won’t read them, and that’s OK. In part 5 we’ll talk about the next steps in building a great team, like the next steps in our new hire’s work life, moving those who are holding the team back off the team, and how to change the culture of our team.

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Leadership Or Manipulation?

Big doors

If We Are Developing Relationships For The Express Purpose Of Influencing Others, Is That Leadership Or Manipulation?

I started to write a post on developing relationships, and the connection between my thoughts on what Leadership is and is not, and how and why we develop relationships burst into my mind.

I have come to believe that we, people, can only consistently act like great Leaders if we have developed “Leadership qualities”. That is to say Leadership is not a list of behaviors or actions… it is rather how we see ourselves and the world, and this understanding, this way of being, determines the actions and behaviors by which we define Leadership.

So… we can learn the ‘skills’ needed to develop relationships. We can learn how to talk to our team members, get to know them, and do what we can to help them achieve their goals. We can try to share something of ourselves in order to build a level of trust or openness between us, and through this we will probably achieve some level of influence over these people.

And unless we are doing it because we actually care about those people; because we sincerely want to know them and help them; and we care less about the outcome than we do about the relationship, then I would call that manipulation.

I have witnessed an amazing amount of this kind of behavior. I have been manipulating end when I was younger and didn’t know any better, and on the receiving end working for people who were acting out of fear rather than caring.

In my experience this behavior can achieve some results, and only for a limited amount of time.

If we don’t truly care about the people around us we will not be able to carry on investing in them when things go sideways and the pressure is on.

If we care more about the outcome than we do about the people we will eventually have to toss aside those we don’t believe are moving us towards our own goals quickly enough.

If we don’t believe that the world is a safe place, and we are acting out of fear, we will not be able to extend trust for very long, and our need to be in control will take over.

Building relationships can give us influence, and only if we are building those relationships for the right reasons. If you are not getting the results you want; find your team members do not really trust you; or you just don’t really get the whole ‘relationship’ thing… you might think about your motivation for trying to build those relationships in the first place.

Do You Remember What It Was Like To Be New?

Train track making connections

We were all new at some point. We can be new in our job… perhaps getting a promotion or hired in at a level that is new to us, as well as simply working in a new environment. Both of these bring challenges, and as Leaders our actions can have a major impact on the kind of relationships our new hires develop at work, as well as how they feel about us and their new job… which in turn determines their level of engagement.

What I’m talking about goes much deeper than onboarding… our happiness, satisfaction, and level of engagement at work is directly connected to our relationship with the person to whom we report.

Different organizations have different onboarding procedures, which can certainly enable our new hires to want to be helpful, and feel as if they are welcome and part of the team. And it’s you; their team Leader, working with them daily (or as often as you possibly can) that really allows them to help the team achieve its goals.

And if we stay in the same organization for a while, we can easily forget what it’s like to be new. It’s all too easy to become a bit arrogant about what people should know, what basic expectations should be understood and automatically met, what rules and roles are universal as opposed to unique to our organization, and what behavior and communications styles are expected and acceptable.

If we as Leaders fail to remember what it was like to be new the damage can be irreparable.

We can easily alienate our new hires by failing to show empathy. Starting a new job can be stressful enough without out boss expecting us to know and understand all of the in’s and out’s of our new workplace in the first few days/weeks.

We can make it easy for them to feel overwhelmed, which will certainly impact the quality of their work, as well as their level of commitment to the team goals.

Our demands and expectations can encourage them to think that perhaps this was a mistake… maybe they should not have accepted our offer? This is tough to fix once the damage is done.

Or minimally, we can fail to make this transition period as short and as pleasant as it can be.

So how can we remember what it was like to be new?

And in what ways can we help our new hires adapt to their new role and new environment?

To remember what it’s like to be new we can:

Spend some time with kids. Kids are constantly learning and exploring the world, and spending time watching and interacting with them can help keep us grounded. Kids constantly remind us of what it’s like to be new at something.

If we keep our long-term goals in mind, seeing them… living them every day, we will be much more likely to remember what it’s like to be new. Keeping our long-term goals active helps us asking “what if”? And “why not”? These are the questions we asked when we were new…

Work with your new hires at every opportunity. You have a vast ocean of knowledge and experience compared to the thimble of knowledge your new hire has. Only through working with them can we impart that knowledge to our new hires. Every day, when we work alongside our new hires, with their fresh eyes, they ask us questions about things that we have come to think are obvious….

At times it can take A LOT of patience, and the rewards are well worth the effort. You will be building relationships that create engagement, loyalty, and trust.

To help our new hires adapt we can:

Be mindful of not doing things the easy way… not taking shortcuts. As Leaders we should always do things the right way… people will almost always find their own short cuts, so if they see us, their Leaders, taking short cuts they will find a shortcut from that point, probably leading to poor quality work. We will have set them up for failure.

Make sure that your new hire really understands your commitment to helping them achieve their goals. This will come from meeting with them, working with them, and developing an honest, trusting relationship with them.

Make a quick list of all of the mistakes you have made. For me, there is no way this is a quick list… Remembering and sharing all of my mistakes with my team members helps keep me from taking my knowledge and experience for granted, and it puts my new hires much more at ease. They can avoid making a few of my mistakes, and they seem to have an easier time approaching me with questions.

Make it clear that you expect mistakes. If we are not making mistakes we are not trying hard enough to achieve great. Just make sure I hear about it from you first!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on how to remember what it’s like to be new, as well as ideas about how to help our new hires adapt to their new environment.

Can We Choose To Enjoy Our Jobs?

West point graduation

Can we choose to enjoy anything for that matter? Do we have the capacity to accept the circumstance in which we find ourselves, and make the choice to enjoy whatever we are asked to do?

In order to do this we must accept our circumstances as if we had chosen them.

Can we… I mean the majority of us, actually do that? Even if we can, most of us don’t know how. If we did, wouldn’t we all just choose to accept our circumstances and be a lot less stressed?

What does it mean to enjoy something?

The definition includes: to derive pleasure from, take pleasure in, get benefit from, or take delight in. How many parts of your job do you take delight in? There are probably some parts from which you derive pleasure, right?

Why do some people enjoy a job while others detest that same job?

Most of us find enjoyment in some things and not in others. We have hobbies, sports, exercise, interacting with others, being with family, helping others, spending money, showing off, learning… the list goes on and on.

Some people have always enjoyed running, while others detest it.

Some of us get real pleasure from meeting new people, while others avoid it at all costs.

I know people who would gladly spend their time sorting and organizing, while other people think of that as torture.

Plenty of people love being the center of attention; perhaps teaching in front of a group, while lots of others would rather have a toe bitten off by a snapping turtle.

Are some jobs inherently pleasant, while others distasteful or not enjoyable?

I want to say that most of us would agree that some jobs are generally enjoyable, and the more I think about it the more I wonder if it’s true. The more we hear about the lives of the rich, famous, celebrity, sports star… the more we understand their aberrant behavior. They may have nicer things around them, and they seem to have the same issues as the rest of us with enjoying their jobs and lives.

Is stress caused by our inability to accept what is happening? By our inability to choose to enjoy our jobs?

Stress is a state of mental tension and worry, or fear, caused by problems… and what are ‘problems’? Many would argue that most of our ‘problems’ are simply our inability, or unwillingness to accept what is happening in our jobs and in our lives, or our fear about what might happen.

Once we accept that we get paid the same no matter how we feel about what we have to do, then perhaps we can choose to enjoy whatever needs to be done.

I consciously choose to continue to go to this job for the money and benefits, in trade for having to do the tasks of this job.   If I fully understand that I have a choice… that I can choose how to see those tasks, then why wouldn’t I choose to do them as if I had chosen them, since I do in fact choose them each time I show up for work? And if I do them as if I had chosen them, it will be much easier to find some enjoyment in them. Work will be less stressful, and I will be able to do each task with purpose and enjoyment.

It’s all about acceptance…

There are two other sides of this that I think are worth addressing…

  1. We all have different personal limits.

We are all very different as we talked about above. Some of us find ourselves on the extreme side of either introvert of extrovert for example, and this, for most, is not a choice.

These personality differences can bring with them sensory limits, or other limits that we have to learn to live with. They are not crutches, nor can we use them as excuses.

Some of us can only be in crowded places for so long.

Some people find it very difficult to be or work alone.

There are people who seem work better with music or background noise, while others need near silence in order to do their best.

Do you know and accept your limits?

The way to deal with our differences is to fully understand and accept how we are. Self-awareness is the key to knowing what works for us, as well as what does not work for us.

Accepting ourselves for who we are, with our strengths and weaknesses, is our key to finding the right job, and making a life that where we can more readily find enjoyment.

You should choose a job that falls within those limits. Otherwise we are almost constantly at odds with our natural state, and it can be very difficult to accept that we have put ourselves into situations for which we are not well suited.

  1. Acceptance does not mean stationary or static.

Accepting what is happening as if we had chosen it does not mean that we cannot make things better, or improve our performance, our job, or anything else about our lives.

In fact it allows us to stop struggling so much with our current circumstances, which can make room for us to work on changing our circumstances. Acceptance can make it easier for us to make the changes we want in our jobs and lives, while we stop fighting the current reality.

Please let me know if I’ve left out any important parts of this topic.

Should Each And Every Effort Raise The Bar?

Cadets marching

Do you permanently raise the bar when someone puts in extra effort?

“Sad but true. When you over deliver, that raises the bar. That’s your new standard and you are constantly measured against that. Even dropping to, say, a high-average level means your performance has deteriorated and you’re possible termination material while anyone else who rises to that same level is considered hot property”.

I read this in a comment to another post not to long ago (unfortunately I can’t find it now to give credit), and I understood it immediately because I’ve been on both sides of it.

Should each and every effort raise the bar?

No of course not… what are you thinking?

I can see it from the side of the person who put in extra hours (perhaps even hours off the clock) and pulled resources and team members from other projects to make my boss look good when the president of the company came for a visit. It was a lot of juggling, showing up early and working late, as well as asking a lot from each and every one of my team members. We pushed pretty much everything to the limit, losing sleep and time with our families to make this go off without a hitch.

We didn’t do it expecting a bonus or a parade. We did it because we are part of a team, and we wanted to have our department and store look as well as it could, and support our boss by making him look good.

The next day I’m asked why we can’t do that all of the time… thank you… and why can’t do you that every day?

Did my boss simply not care about how hard my team and I had to work to make that happen?

Did my boss simply not understand how hard my team and I had to work to make that happen?

Did my boss not care how stressful the whole process was, and how we were all at our limits?

How do you think I felt when I got a perfunctory ‘thank you’ and then was asked why I couldn’t do that every day?

Do you think I felt appreciated? Valued?

Did I feel like something… something that should be used up and tossed aside when it can no longer function as needed? A consumable…

Or…

Was my boss under so much pressure that he felt his job was constantly on the line?

Did he fully understand what it took, and still felt the need to ask us to make that the new normal because he was afraid that one of these days he might have to have to go home and tell his wife that he got fired?

Did he simply not know any better… was he promoted past his level of competence, and he is struggling to keep his head above water?

What should we assume?

Of course you should raise the bar.

In this economy, this is the new normal. If we are not able to do more with less; keep improving each and every day, we might not have jobs to complain about tomorrow.

Good enough isn’t good enough, and with the competition we have, we must constantly struggle to improve our quality/service/products/bottom line every day.

My bonus is based mostly on ‘improvement’, and if we don’t continue to find ways to achieve more while using less, I lose money. So…

Where do you stand?

I can’t state what is right or wrong here, and what I can do is tell you what would have made a difference for me.

Build relationships:

If you are a team Leader, show that you are interested in creating a strong, trusting relationship with those who work for you. People will work tirelessly for us when we first develop relationships with them. They need to know that we care about them and their goals; that we value and appreciate them and their hard work; and that we have their best interest at heart.

Appreciate:

Show your team that you appreciate the effort they put in. Make sure you are giving more positives than you thought possible… between 5 and 9 positives for every negative or constructive piece of feedback.

Communicate openly:

Speak honestly about what is needed, and how the team can help achieve it. Make sure that each and every team member knows that they are an important part of the team, and integral to the success of the team.

Support Constant improvement:

We can all get behind constant improvement. I’ve found that everyone who feels like an important part of the team will have ideas on how to improve things. Supporting constant improvement means listening to everyone… showing humility and knowing that you don’t have all of the answers. Make sure your people have everything they need to do their best work.

Redefine job descriptions:

Talk to every team member about redefining their jobs. By helping each team member see the overarching reason for their work we allow them to find new ways to do great things. Defining roles by their job description puts limits on what people can do and what they see as possible.

Help your team members achieve their goals:

Whether it means teaching people skills, helping them develop Leadership qualities, or doing their best work for you while trying to get their own business off the ground… helping other’s achieve their goals builds trust and loyalty.

Help everyone get an A:

Read Helping People Win At Work by Ken Blanchard and Garry Ridge. It’s our responsibility as Leaders to help every one of our team members find success at work. If our team members fail, we should first look to ourselves for the fault.

People who fee that they are a valued part of the team will work very, very hard for us. However we have to understand that we can only push them so hard before they feel abused… Once this happens it’s very difficult to reverse. When people no longer feel valued, and feel more like pawns that can be sacrificed, the quality of their work will drop, turnover will increase, and it will become more and more difficult to maintain that level of productivity. Do not fall into this trap, as it’s a tough one to get out of.

If You Want To Be Great You Need To Redefine Your Job

 

Mount Rushmore

What exactly is your job?  No… I don’t mean the tasks you are responsible for.  I mean what is the overarching purpose of your job.

My thought is this…

If you are doing your job based on the tasks you’ve been told you are responsible for, or based on the things you’ve been asked to do, it is impossible for you to be great.  The same goes for everyone who works for you. 

Here’s why I believe that to be true.

Even if you are the very best in the world at doing the tasks of your job, you are still stuck at good.  Because:

Doing a good, or even great job at those tasks is the expectation

Great is only possible when we go beyond the expectations, and take risks.

How’s about an example?  OK, fine…

If the job description for my team Leaders includes merchandising their entire department using the product mix to ensure that they will meet their margin target, I expect them to do just that.  If they do that, they will have met my expectations… Thank you!  That’s it… good job.

Defining your job by the tasks you are responsible for limits your ability to be great.

So when I ask if you know what your job is, I am asking if you know the overall purpose of your being there.  It will be a very broad description of the part you play in achieving the larger goals where you work.

For that team Leader, the day I hired them I would have told them that their job is to run that team as if it were their own business…  As if every dollar of profit went into their pocket, and every dollar returned, every customer complaint, every team member not trained properly, every spoiled product, every dollar in unknown shrink, was a dollar out of their pocket.  That is your job.  Do everything you need to do in order to run that team as if you owned it.

We would talk about many of the things included in that broad description… KPI expectations, product quality standards, food safety, customer service standards, team member training and expectations, and a whole list of other things.  At the end, I would make it clear that this is just a ‘starter list’.   For someone running the team as if it were their business, there would be many additional ideas and concerns… driving sales, keeping an eye on our competition, developing team members, making mistakes, when to ask for help… And I always end by insisting that when they have a great idea, they ask for forgiveness rather than permission.  If it were your store, what would you do?  Then do it!  Time for me to step aside and let them do their job.

That kind of job description opens up a whole world of possibilities… a whole world of how to be of great.  Now my team Leader can imagine ways of driving sales, building customer loyalty, beating margin and other KPI targets, and inspiring their team members that I would never think to put into a job description.

Within this general job description would of course fall all of the normal tasks associated with the job, and these can always be written out as before if that’s what you are comfortable with.  The point here is to stop limiting yourself and your team members by describing your jobs with such a narrow scope.

So let’s try another… Let’s hire a porter.  Normally a job description might include sweeping floors, clean up spills, checking bathrooms every hour, emptying trash cans, and a host of other tasks that indeed do need to be done, and are important.

However, we are limiting our new hire’s ability to be great if we tell him or her that this is the job.  How else could we word an overall job description for this person… this person who probably interacts with more customers than you do?  This person who has the opportunity to see and fix customer problems that we are never aware of?  Porters see the parent struggling with the baby in the stroller, and could easily get a balloon, a snack or juice box, or ask what else they could do.  And if their job description isn’t wide enough… if we have limited their vision, they are not likely to take that chance.   So even a great porter is still only good, because a clean bathroom and dry floors are my expectation.  We all see people cleaning up everywhere we go… do they smile and greet you?  Do they offer help?  If they worked for you would you want them to?

If we give that porter a broad overall job description, perhaps as an example, to include ‘keeping our customers and workers safe and happy’, we allow a much larger range of behaviors.  A porter with that job description might offer to keep the break room fridge stocked with condiments; ask for cases of juice boxes or balloons for kids; sweep up the parking lot when it’s a mess, even though the landlord is really responsible for it, knowing that it reflects on our business; or ask for wipes to keep handy for parents who need them.  That’s the porter I want working for me.

Hiring the right person, and then allowing them the freedom to see their job as much more than the usual list of tasks will help you get from good to great.

OK, fine… you believe me.  So what now?  Just what are you supposed to do?

If you are taking the time to read this, I’ll assume that you care about your job, and already do a very good job at the tasks for which you are responsible.  If you are not currently doing a great job at the tasks you do, that is first and foremost.

  •        Now, I suggest you think about your job, and what you would do if your job were your business.  What would you do if you owned the place? ·      How would you reframe your job to allow the person doing to it achieve greatness?

    ·      What would you stop doing, and what new things would you try?

    ·      What new goals can you come up with?

    ·      Are there things you can delegate to give you more time to spend on your new ideas?

    ·      Remember, unless you are the only one who can do it, delegate it.

    ·      Try thinking ‘what would I do if I were brand new in this job’?  Or alternatively, ‘if I left today, what would my replacement do to change and improve things’?

    ·      The only way to find greatness is to break out of your limiting job description, whether it is your actual written job description, or simply how you currently think about your job.

    ·      If you have the ability, speak to each member of your team about reframing their role, and together come up with a job description that will allow each of them the freedom to be great.

    ·      Perfection isn’t the goal… building relationships and constant improvement is the goal.

    ·      Remember that great often means asking for forgiveness, rather than permission.  So if you are giving your team members this advice, you must be ready to forgive them!  They are going to be taking the risks needed to be great.

    ·      If they are not making mistakes they are not trying enough new things!

And if you believe that in your workplace thinking like that will get you fired, maybe talk to your boss about these crazy new ideas of yours before making any huge changes…. Just in case… I’m just sayin’…

Leadership Training and You… The Sobering Truth

Train on tracks

OK… maybe that title is a bit dramatic.  And…

Leadership development programs don’t work as expected.  They will have some small impact on most participants, and no impact on a few.  However they will only have the desired impact on one or two participants.  Why?

Because Leadership is not a skill…

Many of the actions that Leaders take could be seen as skills.  We can teach people how to go through the motions of almost any skill.  We can teach people what actions people who have certain Leadership qualities take… what actions describe that quality.  However, since Leadership is not simply a compilation of skills, or simply a list of actions, we cannot teach Leadership.

Leadership is not a science…

Leadership is not facts, figures, or formulas.  We can tell people how a Leader might act when faced with a particular situation.  However, since Leadership involves other people who are all unique, there is no one right way to deal with any situation.  Remembering what to do, or how to act does not make great Leaders.

We have to want to take the actions that describe Leadership…

Simply knowing what actions to take does not mean we will take those actions.  Almost all of us know how to pray, and yet how many of us pray on a regular basis?  It takes a high level of faith, or belief to keep us praying daily throughout our lives.

It’s the same with Leadership…

We can teach people what generous people do, and that does not make people generous.  Only those who have a strong belief that giving is fuel for contentment; who feel good when they give things away; who feel good when helping others; and who see the world as abundant, with plenty to go around will actually be generous.

We can teach people what people who listen to understand do, and that does not make them good listeners.  Only people who believe that listening to others is important; who care about others enough to be interested not only in what they say, but how they feel; who believe that the thoughts and feelings of other’s are important; and who really care about helping others will actually listen to hear both what others are saying, and how they feel about what they are saying.

We can teach people why good communication skills are important, as well as how good communicators act, however this will not create good communicators.  Only those who believe in building strong relationships; who understand why ‘no one took them the wrong way’; who believe that they are responsible for how they come across; who are not constantly judging others; and who genuinely care about others will communicate in a way that will allow others to fully understand.

These are just three simple examples of why Leadership cannot be taught… because

Leadership is really a way of seeing ourselves, the world, and how we fit into that world.

This view only changes for each of us through mistakes, personal growth, maturity, and emotional development.  We cannot force these types of changes on others, no matter how much any of us wants it to happen.  Leadership is only developed as we learn life lessons about ourselves.  We can only foster a culture, an atmosphere, where people feel safe, trusted, and valued among other things.   This way those people can make mistakes, confide in us, trust us, and believe that we are here to help them develop these qualities, and support them through this process.

We only learn life lessons when we are ready to learn them…

We will only learn about qualities when we are ready to learn…  that is, when we have reached the appropriate level of maturity, and emotional development.  Any adult who ever attempted to teach a child about self-awareness, self-responsibility, or empathy knows that this is true.  Until we reach a certain point in our development, have made enough mistakes, and are then open to hearing about them, lessons about qualities simply make no sense to us.  The people we are trying to teach are not stupid, or incapable of learning… they are just not yet ready to learn what we are attempting to teach, and cannot understand it.

Your time, money, and energy are much better spent truly supporting Leadership and Leadership development in your workplace.

  • If you really want to support Leadership and develop Leaders:
  • Be the best example of great Leadership for everyone around you.
  • Encourage and support mistakes… if you are not making mistakes you are not trying hard enough
  • Allow your Leaders the time it takes to build strong, trusting relationships with their team members.
  • Encourage and support disagreement, and opposing opinions… we only learn from people who disagree with us.
  • Create a Leadership library, start a Leadership book club, and get involved in the discussion.
  • Foster transparency… there should be no secrets… everyone should know and understand everything.
  • Hire only the best, never settling…
  • Hire only for Leadership qualities first and foremost.
  • Include insurance that covers mental health.
  • Work honestly with poor performers… can they be great in another role? If not, move them off the team.
  • Align your rewards systems with Leadership and the development of others. This is the only real way you will see this continue.

People can be taught to do something once, maybe twice… to have the behavior continue after that, that they must believe in it.  They must want to do it because it’s the right thing to do… the only way to be.  This cannot be taught.

 

I have, for your reading pleasure, links below for articles I’ve written about the subjects above.  Thank you for your time and attention!

 

My thoughts on what Leadership is and is not.

My 16 part series on hiring for qualities rather than skills starts here.

My recent article on job descriptions and mediocrity.

Transparency and trust

And this article about Leadership training from Forbes by Rajeev Peshawaria that I thought was interesting

Why The Best Idea Isn’t Always The Best Idea

doors with foliage

I have come to believe that the best decision isn’t necessarily the best decision; rather it’s the one the most people can genuinely get behind.

I was engaged in a discussion with Dan Forbes and a few other Leaders in the “Lead With Giants” Google Plus Community, talking about the importance of consensus.. My comments in the discussion led me to think that perhaps my thinking needed more explanation.

What happens when we go with the ‘best decision’ whether or not we achieve consensus, or buy in for this decision?

  • One person can make a decision, however it takes a team of people working together for successful implementation.
  • Expecting, wanting, or demanding support for a decision does not mean people will actually support the decision.
  • Opinions and feelings about the decision, as well as all of the actions and changes that will happen implementing the decision, are not heard.
  • People who do not feel heard do not feel valued, important, or engaged.
  • People do not like change… in particular change that is imposed upon them.
  • Unhappy, disengaged, and undervalued workers may not support the changes; or may go so far as to undermine the implementation of the changes.
  • Time and money are wasted working to overcome worker pushback.
  • The implementation of our decision falls far short of our expectations, and we wonder why.

Even though this was the ‘best idea’, when we fail to hear the opinions, and more importantly the feelings of those involved, we fail to achieve the level of success we expected.   The benefits, and ROI are much less that we thought we would realize, and what could have been a great thing becomes just another in a long line of failed initiatives.

 

What happens when we work towards consensus?

  • Group members are engaged and empowered by inclusion
  • Concerns and feelings can be expressed and heard, building stronger, trusting relationships
  • Those involved have more ownership and commitment to the decision as well as the implementation.
  • When practiced on a regular basis, the open and honest discussion and debate involved in consensus building allows us benefit from the experience of the entire group.
  • We create a shared understanding of the goal, and agreement on actions.
  • People are more willing to accept and participate in changes when they have had a chance to share their concerns and fears, as well as participate in determining changes to be made.
  • People who feel heard are much more likely to fully support the changes, and even help bridge gaps with other teams and departments.

So… the best idea is the one the most people can get behind.  It’s the one that gets supported throughout the process, so the results realized are much closer to our expectations. More people on all levels are willing to accept the changes because the people responsible for implementing the changes felt ownership, and showed honest, personal support.

Although the idea that the most people can get behind may not get us as far as our hopes for ‘the best idea’, it moves us closer to our big goals, while at the same time forming a team where most people feel heard, trusted, valued, and supported.  That second goal is the much more important goal… Leadership through relationship building is what will enable us to reach our larger goals, and keep us agile and competitive in the long run.

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