Thursday, April 5, 2018

Learning to Delegate


Every leader struggles with delegation; how much to delegate? How important should the tasks that are delegated be? How do we know when someone is "ready" for the next level of accountability? Is there a balance between micro-managing and complete autonomy?

This points to the differences between management and leadership. Consider "the paradox of letting go" from Lao Tzu. This philosophy says "when I let go of what I am I become what I might be."

When I give up trying to be in control (management), I have greater influence (leadership). When I let go of my fear of failure (management), I am stronger (leadership). When I stop dictating to my team (management), I allow them to show me their capabilities (leadership). What I learn by trying to control others is that my team can follow instructions; what I never learn is the potential waiting inside them. Management is about power, leadership is about liberation. In the moments of greatest desire to control, consider letting go. You will be pleasantly surprised by the results.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Intentions vs Behaviors


Anyone who knows me knows that I am a huge Stephen Covey fan. I was recently reacquainted with one of his great insights on the way we judge others and ourselves. Inaccurate assumptions lead to mistrust, strained relationships, and disengagement. On the other hand, a judgment-free workplace promotes strong teamwork and loyalty - everyone wants a leader who is in their corner. Think about how you judge and are judged by others. 

Seeing It From the Other Side

Stephen Covey has said that we judge others on their behavior and we judge ourselves on our intentions. What would happen if we reversed that thinking?

Wouldn't your team be more creative if they experienced less judgment in the workplace? Wouldn't there be less stress if everyone felt accepted and understood?  Consider doing a brief but easy exercise to learn more about perceptions.

Imagine seeing yourself from someone else's point of view. They do not have the benefit of knowing how you think. They do not get insight into your rationale when you make decisions. They only see what you do and what you say. For one week, spend the last 10 minutes of each workday writing down the names of the people you interacted with that day and, thinking about your behavior only, list the adjectives they would give if asked to describe you. Now make a list of everyone you interacted with and how you judged them that day.

On the flip side, since we don't have the ability to read someone else's mind, we make a lot of assumptions about why someone behaves the way they do. What if you spent one week conscientiously assuming everyone had the best intentions?  Even bad behavior can be driven by someone trying to do the right thing and being stymied by the actions of others. Catch yourself before judging someone else negatively and instead consider any and all positive motives. Choose one of those.

Done earnestly, this will be a very enlightening exercise increasing your self-awareness and empathy. What have you got to lose?

Thursday, March 22, 2018

In-Placement: The Case for Permanent Temps

You have probably heard of out-placement services, but have you considered creating an in-placement plan within your company? Think of it as your own resume bank that would serve as your internal labor market. This could be tied to training and development plans, or career succession plans, or you could create a float pool of employees that fill in where needed.

Based on the old-fashioned concept of a secretarial pool, your in-placement service could provide full-time employees work within your organization where needed, filling many important roles on an interim or project basis. This would appeal to employees who like the diversity of work and enjoy learning new things.

This would benefit the organization by providing it with a flexible labor pool without the need for temps. Full-time employees are more dedicated, committed and knowledgeable about the company than outsiders. This valuable cross-training can lead to future leadership or permanent positions

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Confidence or Arrogance



A strong sense of confidence is important in any leader. Confidence is a thoughtful combination of multiple things: it's a recognition of your own strengths with a healthy dose of self-assurance that you are both competent and capable of getting the job done. More importantly, confidence is believing in other people and believing that they, too, have the strengths and abilities to accomplish and succeed. This fosters a secure team environment that promotes achieving a shared vision. Arrogance, on the other hand, is alienating in any professional environment. It sends the message that you are the only one with the skills and the ability to execute a job. It says you are past teaching and have nothing else to learn, either from others or about yourself. Arrogance communicates that you are resistant to teamwork and shared success. 

Leaders take note: your superior technical skills are not enough and believing that they are will trap you. By understanding the difference between confidence and arrogance it allows you as a leader to always be a step ahead while serving as a friendly reminder to keep your ego in check.  

Leading people to a common goal and conveying a vision with clarity and encouragement (especially in uncertain times) requires confidence. A healthy level of it can make you seem more competent and believable, especially when you can acknowledge your limits. Arrogance, however, is over-reliance on oneself expecting blind loyalty and just assuming that people will follow because you are, well, better.
     
Over-confidence lies more in a weak sense of self-awareness, where the over-confident person tends to take on more things than they can handle and fails to recognize their limits. It can come from carrying over positive reinforcement from one job to another, believing that because you succeeded before, you absolutely will again. This over-confidence can be checked, though. A humbling moment or a self-realization that you may need help with the task at hand will steer that confidence back to a manageable level. But while over-confidence is more of an innocuous misjudgment, an arrogant attitude can leave a leader scrambling behind the scenes, telling everyone he has it under control, when truly he needs to lean on the team members who are fully capable to complete the job. Some may even see a leader's arrogance as an artificial kind of confidence, one that is used to mask an insecurity.

The best way to keep your ego in check is to aim for a self-adjusting confidence. This means that in moving from project to project, you adjust your confidence level to the challenge and task at hand, drawing on your strong skills when needed but also being humble enough to ask for help. And while healthy confidence is always a positive attribute, a confident humility is even better and will only serve to garner you more respect and reinforce your ability to inspire a team.