Change is everywhere, and I am so glad you are on this journey with me.
So far, I have shared with you that the world is FINALLY changing, how what the older generations have for too long supported is quickly crumbling, and what my definition of a real leader is.
And how we must get over this long-held view that human beings are freaking assets. We need to treat our fellow humans like we treat our cherished friends because we leaders are first and foremost responsible for the health and well-being of one another and then second for the results, outcomes and goals we are paid to deliver.
Now I will admit. I have laid out a huge dollop of Change Your Thinking NOW, and I am positive some of you are shaking your head in disbelief.
The other day, a friend sent me a piece of humour. He wants to keep me real on my push to Change your thinking for the better. It goes like this.
There’s an old sea story about a ship’s Captain who inspected his sailors and afterward told the first mate that his men smelled bad. So the Captain suggested it would help if the sailors occasionally changed their underwear.
The first mate responded, “Aye, aye, sir, I’ll see to it immediately!”
The first mate went straight to the sailors’ berth deck and announced, “The Captain thinks you guys smell bad and wants you to change your underwear.”
He continued, “Pittman, you change with Jones, McCarthy, you change with Warren, and Brown, you change with Schultz.”
THE MORAL OF THE STORY:
Someone may come along and promise “Change,” but don’t count on things smelling any better.
I know we all have seen changes like this story. The cosmetic, the unthought and the no results changes. I promise you, when I say Change your thinking for the better, the changes I endorse will help you improve your situation!
Today, let’s begin exploring how YOU can go about implementing some of this stuff.
Remember I said early on that leaders are born and moulded?
And managers are made? Here is why I believe this is so. Every single human has the capacity for greatness. But no one human has the capacity for excellence in everything. We can agree on that, right? Some are good at analysis, some are good at innovation or creativity, some are awesome at making quality, and some are good at arguing or debating.
In my experience, every single human is damn good at something. For the simple reason, we are all born that way. And over time, as we pile more experience onto our bodies, we mould those talents into exceptional.
Here is the thing, though.
Each person joins their minority. Within each sphere of brilliance that we fall in, there is, if we are lucky, only about 10% of the population I call exceptional. Here is what I mean. Brilliant writers? 10% of the population. Awesome lawyers? 10% of the population. Terrific teachers? 10% of the population. Stellar, what have you? 10% of the population.
Now think of the fantastic leaders you have run into in your life. I guarantee you. They fall into 10% of the population. Everyone else falls somewhere in the 90% bracket. And the “turn me into an amazing whatever I want to be” is a gazillion-dollar business. That is why I say managers are made. Leaders are born and moulded.
So many of us want to be part of the leadership class. But realistically, we won’t get off the manager track no matter how much money we invest in or have invested in ourselves. And that is okay. Because the world needs managers and because, for most, their brilliance is not in leading.
A short personal story
I was born an incredibly bossy little girl. What a leader you are, I heard all the time. In those days, this was NOT something little girls were encouraged to be or to do. But here’s the thing. I was not born a great leader.
When I was 25, I was put on the fast-track career path and given a staff of 10. After my first three months, my favourite team members called a meeting for 7:00 after everyone else had gone home.
This is what they told me.
Char, we think you are lovely, but as a manager and leader, you suck. YIKES. They then spent the next 45 minutes telling me what I had done wrong and how they would walk out on me if I did not fix my flaws.
Man. All the wind went out of me. Talk about devastation. I tried hard to keep a straight face and thanked them.
Then, I went home, poured myself a glass of wine, and sat and stewed. Finally, I decided to fix the problem and become the best leader I had ever met. Fast forward 25 years later.
It was my last day as a very successful production facility general manager. I went around and said goodbye to all 125 associates. Nearly everyone cried on my shoulder. Apparently, they respected and loved me so much; they believed no one had heard, understood and made them better than I. I had led that team to greatness. Ordinary people delivering extraordinary results. And that day, I realized I had become the leader I set out to be.
I share this little story for one big reason. If you are going to change anyone and their behaviour, you need to change yourself first. In other words, you have to make it personal to YOU.
The main reasons I changed my behaviour were because I did not ever again want to be chewed out by my staff and because I decided I wanted to be awesome in the leadership department. So it was entirely about me.
All excellent leaders start with a kernel of something. I can assure you the best leaders WANT to improve. It is not that they HAVE to improve. They want to. And they will do anything to get there. Move mountains, commit a million percent, and take on the impossible.
Remember all those bosses you have had or seen over the years?
How many do you know that follow the orders to ‘improve’ because it goes with the job, it’s part of the program, or it’s necessary? Sure they might wax poetic about how great they are becoming or super awesome in what they are doing. But that is a manager’s attitude. A leader gets on with it, accepts it, never brags about it and lets their actions show it!
Since we both know you want to be in the excellent category, I want to give you some tips on making room in your schedule actually to do the work an excellent leader does. First is the work part. Isn’t it funny how every single person who becomes a new MANAGER says, this is great. I am so excited — I finally slack off and give orders and have my staff do all the work for me. Yeah! I have arrived.
Every successful leader must demonstrate they care. Every hour, every day of every week. How do you do this? You ask questions; you listen; you teach, you encourage, and you applaud. In short, you demonstrate over and over that you are behind or beside your people a million times, that you expect the impossible, and that you will move heaven and earth to help ALL your direct reports get there.
And yes, this takes up a crap ton of time in your jam-packed day. How much time, do you ask? Well, it takes so much time that the not-so-smart leaders get used to working late or taking work home. Because you’ve still got to do the stuff you don’t have time to do in your day. Our days become so bogged down and overloaded that too many of us end up working double shifts and far too many hours.
And if you are not super smart, you can spend 8 hours a day dealing with people and then another 4 to 8 hours afterward trying to do all the work you get paid for. And that, in a nutshell, my friends, is one of the many ways so many executives work outrageous hours. They emphasized the wrong thing.
Let me say this.
Becoming a leader is not about doing two jobs –
Your own work and managing others. It is about finding the right balance. A bloody difficult thing to try to start. A beautiful thing when it goes right.
When you have a team, your first, second and only priority is to the team. Not your work activities. The Team. Because the team will get you to where you want to go. Full Stop. Now, think of those TEAM members As your cherished friends and let’s talk about making it all work!
First, you have a big to-do list. I know. We all have massive to-do lists. And we also know that that big to-do list will NEVER be completed. EVER. Stuff will go on the list; stuff will come off the list. But the list continually grows. It never shrinks. Right?
The trick is to manage that to-do list. So, how do you do that? Methodically I say. Look at your priorities for the year. Yes, the year. You have somewhere between five and ten big goals. (If you have more than that, your need to rethink your list. You will never get it all accomplished. So take that list and organize it by priority. First, second, third. A, B, C. This month, next month, thereafter. Use the best priority organizer that works for you.
The whole point is to put each of those big goals into the appropriate month and the appropriate category of urgency. For me, I live and die by my calendar. If I put it into my calendar, it gets done. If it is not on my calendar, it doesn’t get done.
You might prefer using an app. Or Evernote or project management software or carry a piece of paper or a notebook. It simply doesn’t matter what you do or how you do it. What matters most is prioritizing your list and keeping it close.
Once you have organized your goals into months and then by level of priority, now you look at the list and decide who will get it done. Yes, you are responsible for getting it done. But you don’t have to be the person who does it all. That is what your team is for.
So match up the goals with who has the natural ability to do the tasks, who wants to be challenged, and who has the capacity to take on more. And for goodness sake, don’t give away all the shitty stuff and keep all the good stuff. Share the wealth.
Now, prepare your discussions for each staff member.
What? Remember I said if you want to change the behaviour of anyone or get things done, make it personal. The amazing leaders successfully ‘sell’ all the duties. This means you figure out your selling messages and match the hot buttons to each person. Make sure you address the WIIFM factor.
As a leader, you must have several discussions with each team member. I will cover the types of conversations in another episode. Right now, just know some discussions will be short, and some will be long. The discussion time you invest your team members should take up a goodly amount of time. INVEST in that time. It will take as long as it takes.
Your objective is to let your team member see you have their interests at heart and are constantly aligning their wants with your organization’s needs. And let them know when you will catch them if they start to wobble.
Work together with them to develop the checkpoints you want to be read in on. Help them, if necessary, create a schedule of when they will check back in. Then stand back and let them execute for you. Delegate as much authority as you can PLUS some. Then stay the hell out of their way. But always let them know you have their back.
Yes, you can informally check-in. And cheer them on. And yes, you are going to have to reorganize your own workload to accommodate when things go off the rails. And yes, you will come up with ideas about how you want them to manage you. That is normal.
I must emphasize something.
Once you clearly articulate and then delegate the work, stay out of their way. Nobody, regardless of stature, wants to be micro-managed. But everyone loves to manage their boss.
Now look at your goals and realistically look at your remaining work. Organize your workday and set aside ½ of your day for people issues. That leaves you 4 to 5 hours of solo work that you can do daily. Prioritize the tasks you have. Start on the ‘must get dones’ immediately. Set a 60 and 90-minute time frame in which you MUST get shit done. Then, alternate those periods with 60 minutes of ‘people’ time.
When you spend Sunday night or Monday morning organizing and prioritizing your time for the week, you will find that your most important stuff always gets done. But you also can watch the stuff that slides. Then, about once a month, analyze the stuff that is not getting done and determine if it is nice to have or needs to have. Then, you will know what you need to do.
I have made it sound blissfully easy, haven’t I? Follow this approximate schedule, and it will all get done magically, right? And what about those damn emergencies that crop up? Every single day? They never disappear, do they? So here is the thing.
Guard your thinking patterns.
You will have good days, productive days and bad days or unproductive days. That is normal. Some days you can leave early. Other days, you can’t. The worst thing you can do to yourself is to focus only on the bad stuff.
Instead, change your thinking and focus on the good. Focus on the good people you have. Focus on showing you care and creating the best environment. Focus on the good you are creating together. This is what matters.
Shift your mindset from all work to all people. This is not necessarily easy to do. But it will be your lifeline. It will save your sanity. And it will help you accomplish more – from your team and from yourself. I promise.
Hey, listen. Today, I started the process of outlining how to foster the best environment for you and your team. And you know, just like I do, anything is possible. There are just two things you need: Focus and Commitment. I believe in you. I KNOW you can make the impact you want.
Need help? Reach out.