In this Leadership look-see series, I’ve shared with you how the world is FINALLY changing, how what the older generations have long supported is quickly crumbling, what my definition of a real leader is, and how we must get over this long-held view that human beings are freaking assets and just treat our fellow humans like we treat our cherished friends.
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.
I will admit that I have laid out a massive dollop of Change Your Thinking NOW, and I am positive some of you are shaking your head in total disbelief.
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 greatness in everything.
Some are good at analysis, some are good at innovation or creativity, some are simply 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 a level of exceptional.
However, here is the funniest fact. 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. 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; that they fall into the 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, no matter how much money we invest in or have invested in ourselves, we won’t get out of the manager track. And that is okay. Because the world needs managers and because, for most, their brilliance is not in leading. Their brilliance is in the managing part.
I was born an incredibly bossy little girl. What a leader you are, I heard all the time. Believe me, 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 a very nice person, but as a manager and as a leader, you suck”.
They then spent the next 45 minutes telling me what I had done wrong and how if I did not fix my flaws, they would walk out on me. 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 and 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 general manager of a very successful production facility. I walked around and said goodbye to all 125 associates. Nearly everyone cried on my shoulder.
Apparently, they respected and loved me so much that 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 two reasons.
First, if you are going to change anyone and their behaviour, you have to tap into their deepest desires. You have to make it personal. I changed my behaviour because I did not ever want to be chewed out by my staff and because I decided I wanted to be awesome in the leadership department. It was entirely about me.
Second, all 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 everything to do it including moving mountains and committing 1000%.
You know all those bosses you have had or seen over the years?
How many do you know that follow the orders to get better, because it goes with the job? Because it is part of the program? And because it is a necessary thing?
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 awesome category, I want to give you some tips on how to make room in your schedule to actually do the work an awesome leader does.
Let’s talk about the work part.
Isn’t it funny how every person who becomes a new MANAGER says, “This is great. I am so excited — I get to finally slack off and give orders and have my staff do all the work for me. Yeah! I have arrived.”
The truth is every successful leader must demonstrate they care. Every hour of every day of every week. How do you do this? You ask questions, and you listen, you teach, you encourage, you applaud.
In short, you demonstrate over and over that you are a million times behind or beside your people, 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? 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 all 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 actually get paid for.
And that, in a nutshell, my friends, is one of the primary ways so many executives work outrageous hours. They emphasized the wrong thing.
Let me be clear.
When you become a leader
It 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 own 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 an extensive to-do list. I know. We all have huge to-do lists. And we also know that that big to-do list will NEVER be completed. EVER. Stuff will go on the list, and stuff will come off the list. But the list constantly 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 relevant 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 around a piece of paper or a notebook.
It simply doesn’t matter what you do or how you do it. What matters the most is that you prioritize your list and keep 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 is going to 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 when you want to change the behaviour of anyone or get things done, make it personal. The fantastic leaders successfully ‘sell’ all the duties.
This means you figure out your selling messages or match the hot buttons to each person. Ensure you address the WiiFM (What’s in it For ME) factor.
As a leader, you must have several discussions with each team member. I will cover the types of conversations in other episodes. Right now, just know some discussions will be short and some will be long. The discussion time you invest with 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 members see you have their interests at heart and constantly align their wants with your organization’s needs. And let them know at what point 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. Yes, you will have to reorganize your own workloads to accommodate when things go off the rails. And yes, you will develop ideas about how you want them to manage you. That is normal. But I must emphasize something. Once you clearly articulate and then delegate the work, stay the hell out of their way. Nobody, regardless of stature, wants to be micromanaged. But everyone loves to manage their boss.
Now look at your goals and realistically look at the remaining work you have. Organize your workday and set aside ½ of your day for people issues. That leaves you 4 to 5 hours of single solitary work that you can do—every day. Prioritize the tasks you have. Start on the ‘must get dones’ immediately. Set yourself 60 and 90-minute time frames that you MUST get shit done in. Then, alternate those periods with 60 minutes of people time.
Here’s the thing.
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. About once a month, really 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? Just 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. 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 focus on the bad shit. Try and focus only on the good shit. Focus on the good people you have. Focus on showing you care and creating the best environment. That 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. Because it all starts with YOU. Wanna chat about it?