A Pathway to Humble Leadership: 3 Simple Steps

“He who serves his fellows, is of all his fellows, greatest.” – Dr. E. Urner Goodman

I have a long history with the Boy Scouts of America. I am an Eagle Scout and have held a lot of leadership positions in the organization, both on a local and national level. and I worked on summer camp staff for several years. My best friends in the world are those I made through my involvement with Scouting.

The caption for the photo above is a quote from the founder of the Order of the Arrow, a service organization in the Scouts. The purpose and sole duty of “Arrowmen” is to serve others. It’s as simple as that. There are a variety of ways to serve, too many to discuss here. Suffice to say that every action, project, or work should be tied back to that very simple goal: to serve others.

People lead organizations from all demographics, age groups, creed, race, and backgrounds. The vast majority of these leaders are good at their jobs. Some could use an ego adjustment. A few fall into the category of “servant-leaders.”

The concept of “Servant-Leadership” is catching on. Organizations that use the philosophy often enjoy the best productivity, highest profits, and lowest turnover of employees. As a leader, who wouldn’t want those things?

Here are 3 Steps to becoming an effective “servant-leader”….

Share power. It’s not all about you. It never was, isn’t now, and never will be. Get humble. Your role as a leader is not to grab power and hoard it over people. If you’re looking for more collaboration and higher morale, empower those with whom you work to do more. You’ll get to see what they’re made of. And they’ll get to see what you’re made of.

Put the needs of others first. This can be challenging, especially in the world that screams “me, me, me.” But it is possible. More than possible, it is necessary. Recently, we are hearing about company owners or leaders making sacrifices for the betterment of their employees. One company executive recently announced that he would pay college tuition for the children of his employees. Talk about a great tactic to achieve employee loyalty! Richard Branson created an unlimited vacation program for his employees. He understands that if employees are well rested, they will be more productive and happier.   You’ll have to find out which “others first” programs might work for your organization. But start to look for opportunities, right now.

Develop your people.  I’ve always been baffled as to why bad leaders, including those who don’t train and develop employees, get upset when their best employees leave. It’s not rocket science. Great employees want to increase their knowledge, be prepared to take on additional responsibilities, and be acknowledged for doing awesome things. A servant-leader understands this and takes action. A servant-leader creates opportunities for the best employees. A servant-leader makes it known that he or she values professional development.

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4 Strategic Planning Mistakes & How To Avoid Them

Originally posted on CU Insight (7/23/15)

It’s that time of year….you’re most likely starting to gear up for your annual Strategic Planning meeting. Perhaps you have everything in place, the venue, an experienced facilitator, an outline of what you’d like to discuss. If you’re nodding while reading this, congratulations! You’re in pretty good shape. If not, you have some work to do. In either case, it is important for you to be aware of some common mistakes that are made during the planning process. Here are 4 such mistakes and how to avoid them:

Setting too many goals: Yes, there IS such a thing as trying to do too much, despite what others have told you. A belief that you can never have too many goals is as misinformed as it is counterproductive. You should aim to identify 3 or 4 (but no more than 5) strategic initiatives at your planning session. These initiatives should be high-level in nature. You should do some advanced prep work to help identify them. Start with taking a bird’s eye look at the organization, marketplace trends, and consumer behavior. Discuss focus and direction. Combine everything to help create those 3 or 4 strategic initiatives.

Having a small party: Be sure to include your management personnel in the discussions you have before the session, even if they won’t be taking part in the actual planning meeting.   This is crucial. Unfortunately, too many organizations are still limiting the discussions to the CEO and the organization’s Board of Directors. I strongly encourage you to include your management team in the actual planning meeting but if that’s not possible, be sure to solicit input from the people that are in the middle of everything. Most times, they will have more thorough insights than you regarding the pulse of the consumer as well as the “low-down” of things like employee morale, performance, and the like.

Not hiring a facilitator: Disclaimer: I am a facilitator so mentioning this might seem like it’s self-serving. I assure you that it is not. Even if I weren’t a facilitator, I would still insist on hiring one for your planning session. You’ll need someone to keep the discussions on track, to ensure that everyone’s voice is heard, and who can take an honest, unbiased look at what’s happening in your company. An experienced facilitator will praise you for the good but will also challenge you to examine the things that need improvement.

Keeping secrets: Your planning session will end up being a colossal waste of time and energy if the people involved don’t communicate what was discussed with the organization’s employees. You’re not discussing espionage, folks. Your employees cannot create action plans for the initiatives that you identified if they don’t have an understanding of what was discussed and why those specific items were chosen. They need to know. They have a right to know. If you’re still not willing to share information, then don’t think for a second that you can hold people accountable. It doesn’t work that way.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject so please be sure to leave your comments!

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What’s Your System?

Watch aficionados know all about Swiss Movement. Indeed, even if people are not “into” watches, they may have heard of watch-makers called Rolex, Patek-Philippe, or Tag Heuer. The process of fine watch-making is an intricate one. Indeed, the best watches perform so well (and command a hefty asking price) precisely because of the intricacy, care, and technical skill that go into producing the timepieces.

This craft would not be possible or effective, however, without the use of a system of action steps, one building upon the other and executed in the same order, every time. The results of using such a system speak for themselves. Of course, the use of systems is not unique to watchmaking. The best chefs in the world use systems. For them, the importance of maintaining a clean and organized workspace is paramount. So much so that they would be able to prepare and cook food with their eyes closed. Authors (including myself) follow a proven system to organize, outline, and ultimately write our content.

If your organization isn’t producing the results you want or if you’re falling short of reaching goals, you must uncover the reasons and root causes. More often than not, you’ll discover that something is missing; namely, anything that resembles a system to get the job done. Think about the biggest challenges that you face. For some, effective communication is non-existent. If that’s the case, ask yourself, “what’s the system that we’re using?” If your business expenses are rising faster than is normal or expected, ask, “what system do we have in place to ensure that everything is kept on budget?”

Systems are critical. No one is suggesting that you implement systems that aren’t flexible. That isn’t realistic in a fluid economy and with ever changing market trends. However, a strong foundational system can do a few things for your business:

Eliminate chaos. Chaos breeds confusion, which breeds disruption.

Establish an “Order of Things.” Systems help to keep projects on track and ensure that strategic decisions are made confidently and in a timely manner.

Make accountability easier to enforce. It is impossible and unprofessional to try to hold someone accountable for information that they haven’t received. If you have a system in place to track communication that includes proof of receipt and acknowledgement of said information, you can then hold people responsible for their actions. Without a system, it’s arbitrary and you’ll find yourself in a “he said, she said” situation. And you don’t have time for that.

Share your ideas for establishing and using systems by commenting below. Let’s keep the conversation going.

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Do You Suffer From ‘Boo Radley Syndrome?’

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”

–Dale Carnegie

I think Mr. Carnegie was on to something.

Indeed, fear is the biggest reason that organizations (and individuals) never reach their full potential. Of course, it’s easy to come up with other reasons and excuses. After all, who would ever want to admit to being afraid? So we say things like, “it’s not the right time,” “we have too much going on,” and “maybe next time.”

But at the root of all of those is fear: fear of the unknown, fear of change, fear of daring to do something new, fear of failure, fear of reprisal, fear of action, fear of making a decision, fear of the unknown…..you get the point. But the very worst fear is that of something that doesn’t even exist or whose perception is far worse than the reality – kind of like the character of Boo Radley in Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird. There were a lot of perceptions about Boo but, in the end, it turned out that he wasn’t such a bad guy. Those perceptions and assumptions weren’t correct.

 Here are a few tips:

Stop inventing catastrophes. Why spend so much time thinking about what could potentially go wrong instead of focusing on the opportunities that exist if you decide to pull the trigger and move forward? It’s important to analyze the pros and cons, sure. But let’s stop making stiff up in order to avoid making the decision.

You’re going to make mistakes. Accept that and move on anyway. Sometimes, things don’t work out as planned, despite the best preparation, due diligence, and research. That’s OK. It’s not the end of the world. Own the mistake, get up, dust off, resolve to do better, and go.

“Never assume. Know why? Because it makes an ass out of u and me.” An oldie but it is quite relevant in the context of this discussion. Just like the assumptions made about our friend Boo, when we simply assume there is an issue without making every effort to substantiate our assumptions, we lose focus and make excuses. It’s lazy. It’s unprofessional. It’s debilitating. It can cripple your progress. So, let’s stop assuming and deal with actual facts and data, shall we?

What other advice would you give to others to help them avoid the Boo Radley syndrome? Leave your comments below.

Are you still looking for a facilitator for your Strategic Planning session?  YFP offers comprehensive facilitation services and we’d love to work with you and your team. Click here for more information and to get in touch with us.

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See This, Skip That

You’ve probably seen travel/leisure articles online or in your Facebook feeds that highlight a particular destination. Essentially, the authors of the articles identify the things that you should definitely see or experience. They also identify attractions that they believe to be overrated.

As I was reading one of those articles recently, I realized that the theory of “see this, skip that” can be used to help organizations get more efficient and productive.

Here’s how:

Operations – keep this, dump that. If you’re still paying for but not actually using a system or product, dump it….NOW. Keep only the things that increase efficiency. Everything else is wasting space and time. Be brave and let those things go!

Servicebe this, improve that. Be the shining example of outstanding service in your industry. Mediocrity sucks. Monitor behavior. Fix mistakes immediately. Stop doing things that piss people off (quoting policies, etc.) When you identify the things that you’re GREAT at, improve upon them. Make them better.

Marketing– analyze this, eliminate that. Get used to collecting and reviewing data. It’s not the future. It’s the now. Eliminate wasteful spending by avoiding the use of materials that end up in garbage cans or recycling bins. HINT: you shouldn’t be spending a ton of money on anything that is printed anymore. Put everything on your website and make sure that it is mobile-friendly. Don’t make people squint if they’re accessing your site through their phones.

Training/Professional Development – offer this, lament that. If you want a top-notch organization with top-notch talent, you’ll need to offer professional development opportunities. Your best employees will want it and will expect it. If you don’t, you’ll lament the fact that your best people are walking out the door to go work for your competitors.

What else can you do to get better? Share your comments below!

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After The Planning: 3 Things To Do NEXT

It is vital that organizations go through a process of introspection, self-critiquing, and quality assessment.  For many companies, this kind of analysis is conducted during a Strategic Planning session.  The issue is that not every employee gets to attend those meetings. But they still need to be informed about the organization’s performance and benchmarks and time must be carved out to have this important discussion.

Here are 3 suggestions on how to make this process more meaningful:

Start with the positives.  When reviewing performance, a lot of businesses make a mistake by starting the discussion on what went wrong.  That’s not a very good way to begin.  Think about it- do you like it when someone starts a conversation with you by telling you that you didn’t get the job done?  Of course you don’t.  Your employees don’t either.  Now you might be thinking, “Well, we eventually get to the good things…”  That may be true but, unfortunately, your people will still be thinking about the bad things and may miss the well-deserved accolades that you are rendering to them afterward. If, however, you start the discussion by focusing on all of the positive aspects of performance, your people will be bolstered and encouraged and will be more receptive to the next part of the discussion that will deal with areas of improvement and shortcomings.

Write it down.  It is very important that when you conduct this analysis that you provide your findings in writing to the people that will be involved in the discussion.  Countless scientific studies have proven that thoughts, beliefs, and goals become more “real” to us if they are written down.  That’s why anyone who talks about goal-setting (including me) will tell you that your goals will be useless unless they are written.  In addition, you will be providing a point of reference to the people in your organization or on your teams. It is also crucial that you appoint a scribe when you gather everyone together to discuss the findings.  This person’s job during that discussion will be to capture as much of the discussion as possible and compile what is discussed into a well-written summary that will also need to be distributed to those who participated in the discussion.

Respect this process.  This kind of critical discussion isn’t something that you “fit into” a regular staff meeting.   It isn’t something that you just send out in an e-mail.  This is an important process that needs to be appreciated by your employees.  This meeting needs to have a feeling of urgency and importance.  Set the date/time for this discussion that is different than your usual staff meeting time.  And remember that this is a mandatory meeting – employees will only be excused in very special circumstances.

Again, it is critical for organizations to go through this process of informing their team members about performance.  It has to be productive and meaningful.  It has to be respected.  It has to be mandatory.

It has to happen….period.

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Strategic Planning: 3 Tips for Success

3 Considerations for Strategic Planning

 The best organizations plan. They do so meticulously. It is an ongoing process for many. However, despite its ongoing nature, there is also a need for a focused meeting or session of some kind. The best organizations and companies know this. They understand that if they’re not planning….they’re not growing. They understand that that they have to work the plan. They measure progress and hold people accountable for getting the work done.

When considering your strategic planning session for this year, focus on the following 3 considerations:

Plan on identifying 3 or 4 strategic initiatives.   You don’t need 10 or 15 goals for your planning session to be a success. If you are really going to strategize, you should be able to identify 3 or maybe 4 “big-ticket” items for which you will prepare realistic action plans. Stay out of the minutiae. Keep your discussions at a higher level.

Don’t keep secrets. After your planning session is done, the very worst thing that you can do is to keep the discussions a secret. You’re not committing espionage.   You employees should be told about those 3 or 4 strategic initiatives.   If they don’t know what’s important, they won’t be able to help achieve the goals that have been set. Give them the resources and tools that they will need to succeed. The first and most important of these is knowledge.

Get out of the office. If you can, try to conduct your planning session outside of your office. If you just use a conference room in your building, there is a good chance that you will be distracted. Instead of focusing on the planning, you’ll be thinking about what’s going on in the office. You’ll be tempted to “run upstairs” to check your e-mail or voicemail. If your team members know that you’re in the building, you may be interrupted by a false “emergency.”

If you’re off-site, these distractions won’t be as prevalent.

Your Full Potential, LLC offers Strategic Planning services.  Click here for more information.

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