Yes! This is very timely for me. I was just scrolling through some posts on my news feed and was getting angry at some of the things people were posting. Why? Many of them weren’t posting them to be hurtful to me specifically. Even if they were, who cares? We have to stop giving people so much emotional control over our lives. My pastor says to stop worrying about WHO is right and work towards WHAT is right.
“If you think you’re a leader and you turn around and no one is following you, then you’re simply out for a walk.” – James M. Kouzes
Have you ever played the game, Follow the Leader? It is the one where you designate a leader and everyone mimics what they do. It is fun for about 5 minutes, because that is about the time it takes for you to realize it’s a pointless game. What if I told you this is what most people do on a daily basis?
Think about your daily routine. The things you do mimic what your boss does or what those around you are doing. Much of it is aimless and just bouncing from one task to another. We add things to our never ending to-do list and put out fires all day long. At the end of the day, what have we accomplished?
Now, let’s do something that will change this feeling today. Think of one thing you need to accomplish to make your work easier. It can be to organize a shared drive on your work computer that is so cluttered it takes forever to find anything. It could be to complete a report early that always sneaks up on you at the end of the week. There is something on your to-do list that would make your life easier, but you never get to it. Take that task and make it your number one priority when you start your work day.
That is it. Just do the one task before you fall victim to the other tasks. The key is that you prioritize this task and you are choosing what it is. Afterwards, think about how it felt. Most people tell me it was refreshing to actually have a sense of accomplishment. It is amazing how one person felt energized after cleaning her desk area. She said it felt great to have a purpose and go after it.
Imagine taking this a step further. What if we were able to create real purpose and direction for our day? We would stop reacting to all of the little things that pop up. We would not take on busy-work tasks. We would stop looking at what others are doing and trying to mimic them. We would be seen as working with a purpose by our leaders and actually accomplishing things. We would drive home thinking about what was accomplished with pride and looking forward to what is next.
We create this purpose by determining what our finish line needs to look like. Are we working towards the end of a project? Are we trying to get promoted? Sometimes it is simply to clean our desk. We have to build this muscle of defining a purpose so we don’t fall into the Follow the Leader trap. As time goes on you will be able to place that finish line much further out and work towards a purpose others will be interested in too. That is how you become the leader others want to follow.
It doesn’t matter where you have been or where you are going. When you get there, you are still you. Learn from your past and improve yourself to be the person you want to become. Look to the future and work to be that person you know you can be. Then look in the mirror today and marvel at the beauty.
I am sharing this one for two reasons: 1. it is pretty funny and 2. it is a reminder that just because we are not always in the leader role doesn’t mean we can’t be tough. In fact, I think leaders need to develop their flock to be leaders themselves. No one can think for multiple people and if you develop your team, you will have multiple people think with you. If you have an IQ of 190 (genius level stuff) and have 10 people with IQ’s of 90, they are still smarter than you collectively. Don’t herd sheep to blindly follow…create battlesheep who are ready to lead!
Every single time I heard a leader tell me over the years that they have an open door policy I have wanted to laugh. I envisioned myself walking past the other three links in my chain of command and right into his or her office to express my thoughts. In my mind, I never even made it to the door. I have learned others feel the same way too.
I completely and wholeheartedly believe the leader who says the door is open and I genuinely believe they would want to help me. Many are concerned about the fallout from walking through that door and voicing a concern that hasn’t been routed through the chain with a staff summary sheet firmly affixed. This is something we need to address as leaders. I want those on my team to be able to go direct to the person who could best solve the problem for them not to be redirected.
Recently, I had an issue with my cell phone bill and called the customer service line. I knew I needed to speak to a supervisor in billing to get this charge removed from past experiences; however, I had to talk to a customer service agent who then transferred me to tech support and then to billing. From there I had to get a little rude to even get to the supervisor I wanted from the beginning who was able to fix my issue. Over 30 minutes wasted. Yet we do the same thing to our team members and wonder why they are not taking initiative to fix problems. We are simply wearing them down before they even make it to the appropriate level who can assist.
I am now that tool standing in front of my team spouting the cliche about how my door is open. However, I employ a few other methods to connect and receive feedback other than “hope” someone will have the courage to walk through my door.
1. ) Culture of trust: No matter what the issue is that is highlighted to me, I don’t punish the other links in the chain that were skipped or who couldn’t solve the problem. Look at what the issue is, not who to blame for it. Is there a way to empower or train others to solve this at their level?
2.) Anonymous feedback: I created a survey on Survey Monkey that provides an anonymous way to pass me concerns. My team can do this from home, their phone, their desk or where ever they choose and I will never know who was saying it unless they tell me. This is better than a comment box, because people have the fear they will be seen dropping the message. I have received some amazing feedback in there that has pointed me to some simple fixes which have paid dividends.
3.) Walk through your own open door: Get out of your office and go to where the work is being done in your unit. You will get to see firsthand what problems the team is facing and what struggles they have. I have been able to get ahead of so many major issues this way and it lets my team know I care. In fact, these are typically the people who end up taking advantage of my open door policy. Go figure.
Introvert or extrovert. Charismatic or meek. Many of us our led to believe that how others project themselves is what makes them a great leader. Yes, personality will attract others to you, but what is keeping them there?
Isn’t it frustrating that the very first piece of leadership advice we get is the hardest to apply? We tell our children and our teammates to ‘lead by example’ and yet we mess this up all the time. At least, we think we do when we fall short of perfection. Instead of hanging our heads in shame as a failure, this is the exact point we need to step it up. Everyone falls short of perfection; however, not many know how to get through these missteps. Set the example on how to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and learn from the experience.
I have worked for and with so many people who simply could not control their cool. Some of them were scary to be around in high-stress scenarios and others were actually fun to get spun up. I watched wrenches, clipboards, coffee mugs, and many other objects fly across the room or flightline and even a couple people who began to dry heave. All because of stress. Now, everyone else on the plane or team was experiencing the same stress factors, we just had a different response. When you are leading a team and things begin to crumble, it is normal to feel stressed. It is normal to want to throw something, swear or whatever. However, you can’t let your team see this, because they are looking to you to be their rock. I bet the guy in the picture is stressed out; however, he knows he has to remain calm for his team.
I have been a student of servant style leadership for many years and serving those on my team is something I hold as a priority. Servant leaders are not meant to be submissive and weak; rather, using our talents and experience to set our team up for success. This quote from MJ helps me to place my thoughts into words. Leaders need to earn their role and that is done by caring for the team. I go to work everyday with the idea that my team is writing my EPR and I try to live up to their expectations more than those of my actual rater.