"if you love what you do, you'll never work a day in you life" said a friend of mine as I transitioned from the Army. That stuck. Check out my podcast with Christina Dees where we talk about authenticity, healthy workplaces, leadership and investing in people! Christina has a great line up of interviews from 2018. I'm proud to be one of her hourglassers!
Many of us will begin the New Year with a personal resolution such as weight loss or better physical fitness. We will then take steps to see this resolution through like better diet and exercise. How about a leadership resolution? Seems to me you owe that to yourself and more importantly to your people. Develop one then set a goal for late 2019 as you await the beginning of 2020 to grade yourself on how you did. I have one. My New Year’s Leadership Resolution is to perfect my craft at executive coaching. I want to be able to look back at 2019 and see it as a year of growth for me specific to my coaching skills. There are many to pick from. Perhaps you want to exercise better patience. Or it might be better listening skills or active listening. Maybe you want to thank and recognize people more or lead in a more people-centric way. Whatever you decide the key is to do something with it. Transfer words and visions into action. Have a look at Chapter 5 of my book where you can find what I did specific to Investing in People when I resolved to place people first in my organization. Get help from those around you. For instance if you have a close confidant, someone who knows you well and can criticize you, have them help you achieve your resolution. Best wishes to you for 2019. Make it Personal!
One of the greatest pieces of advice I was presented before I took charge of people in the Army was, “You” are now “They.” It made me reflect on my days as a subordinate, complaining about “them,” how screwed up they were and how I and my fellow co-workers could do it better. I was not about to become “They” and it made me think hard about what kind of “They” I wanted to be. “They” has such a negative connotation and I, being an optimist did not want a “we/they” atmosphere. I wanted to work hard to create an “Us” atmosphere. I did this by reflecting on what I disliked about “They” and how I could do it better. I wouldn’t be perfect and I knew there would always be some in the “They” bashing crowd. I connected with subordinates as much as I could to shrink the natural chasm which would form between us. In so doing I was able to increase mutual understanding about our two worlds. For a brief but important moment, I could see the world through their lens and they could see it through mine. It went a long way and it required constant presence to crush this “we/they” mentality which I knew to be unhealthy.
That's right, she's 1 year old tomorrow, the 18th of November. This is cause for celebration and $$ discounts!! It's been an amazing year. Top-5 best seller 9 of 12 months on Silver Tree Publishing and top 12% of leadership books on Amazon. Countless speaking gigs. To celebrate I'm offering a FREE Kindle download on the 18th only! But wait, there's more! $5 off the Amazon price from the 18th-24th of November (Black Friday included!) Coming in 2019, the Audio version!
I took over as the Vice President of an organization once and the first words out of my mouth at my first meeting with them is “I love you.” I genuinely felt that love toward them for all they did for our mission and vision of our company. They were dedicated people, team mates serving a cause of building relationships and bringing happiness to people. I was their leader. This responsibility felt enormous. It humbled me. I felt a great sense of duty to know my people and help them achieve their personal and professional goals. I had to love them and nurture them as if they were my own family. I’d listen intently when they spoke, pause and marvel over their successes and hear stories about their life. I had power but viewed it as the power of love and admiration of my people. They would accomplish amazing things.
I’m a person first. Though I adored the Army, I was not one of those officers who came from a long family history of service or always aspired to wear the uniform and serve forever. I liked that about myself. I had served with a few of these officers in my career and they seemed a bit narrow-minded and socially inept. I never held automatic grudges against these types of leaders, some were actually very good. I just remember many of them and the way they were which did not resonate with me. I always felt there were bigger things than just wearing the uniform. Though I was a career officer, I never really considered myself one. I had other clothes in my closet beside my boots and camouflaged uniform and enjoyed periods where I wouldn’t have to shave every day or where I could sleep in late. I was never the “chosen one.” I wasn’t the one selected for early promotions and earmarked for the most prestigious assignments. I saw myself more as a person than a solider. I always felt this and shared it with a few people but never really put it on paper until I chose to create my BIO sketch. You can read it for yourself in Chapter 5 of “It’s Personal, Not Personnel, Leadership Lessons for the Battlefield and The Boardroom”
Draw 2 horizontal lines on a piece of paper. The top one representes 30,000 feet, the bottom represents 0 elevation or the “weeds of your organization. Where do you operate? Many leaders are stuck in the weeds and fail to travel to higher elevations to lead their organizations appropriately. I’m talking about being mired by the immediate issues, task, emails and the noise of your fast-paced business. Don’t get me wrong here, you belong in the weeds when there are issues which may pose a risk to your business or its people. However, as leaders we must remove ourselves from the fray if we want to be effective. Placing your self at 30,000 feet allows you to look at your organizaiton from a higher level and see systemic problems. It allows you to look deep, a year down the road, 5 years down the road where you want your organization to be. It allows you to leave your organization and network with executives and other community members to grow your business. Gravity works and like our smart phones, we are drawn into the weeds of our organizations. Reverse the pull of gravity. Remove yourself often from the constant demands of the modern workplace. You as its leader are the only one who can and should do this.
So what do people really want? How can we lead organizations which best cater to their needs? How do we bring the human back into human resources? If they were machines it would be easy; electricity, oil, or a fresh load of printer paper would suffice. Machines come with manuals which tell us exactly what they require to operate at peak performance. People are far more complex. While it may take only a few moments to read and understand an owner’s manual to see how a machine works our attempt to understand our people is an endeavor requiring more of our personal time and attention. It’s different for everyone. Where we miss it is that we too often take the operators manual approach to people or believe that a standard approach will have the same effect on everyone. In my 27 years in the Army I served in a variety of different environments during peacetime and war. I encountered people from all corners of our country and the world. In some environments with some people I nailed it, meaning I got the person and the environment right, in others I failed to understand and I struggled. My failures boiled down to this very thing: I attempted to see the environment or the person through my own lens instead of theirs. Over my 27 year journey, I tried to develop a list of desires which I believe transcended each of these environments and cultures. I tried to find some commonalities which I could apply as a baseline wherever I served. I like to simplify things. Not wanting to overthink this I narrowed it down to this short collection of desires outlined below which I could use like I would a vehicle dashboard to examine my own organization to see if I and my leaders were getting it right. I used my
· Praise & Recognition
experience from the different environments I served in along with my Army leadership training and education.I reflected on the leaders I had served with and the climates they established, both good and bad.In my tours in Afghanistan I encountered the poorest society I had ever experienced.It was a defining moment for me as a leader. Want more? Pick up a copy of “It’s Personal, Not Personnel, Leadership Lessons for the Battlefield and the Boardroom”