Category Archives: People Skills

Boss versus Leader – not so clear cut.

Boss vs Leader

No attribution. No copyright infringement intended. Let me know if it’s your work.

 

Intuitively, the picture resonates.  We’ve all had the petty-tyrant boss; the person who loves the sound of their own voice and is oblivious to the resentment and de-motivation they’re engendering.

And most of us can relate to the manager who loves to roll up his sleeves and jump in on the line.

But don’t be fooled.  There’s a problem with the scenario that this image paints, especially when it comes to larger teams with significant division of labour:

You can’t fly at 40,000 feet and be on the tarmac at the same time.

If you as the organizational leader are always “hands-on”, who’s doing your job?  To belabor the cheap analogies; if the captain is always in the engine room, the ship’s going to run aground.

So…

Don’t “lord it” over your team.  Challenge them, but don’t be a slave-driver.  Be nice, respectful, sincere, and above all, just.  But recognize that their job is not yours.  They need to be accountable for their role, just as you need to be accountable for yours.

In a pinch, get in the trenches and dig.  But if you need to do that regularly, you’re not doing your job properly; you’re just a very overpaid member of the team.

When it comes to that bromide about being “Hands On”, here’s the rule to follow:

Be hands-on as much as necessary, but as little as possible.

And over time, given that a part of your job as “boss” is to develop your reports, you should be hands-on less and less.  That will be easier if you master the art of delegation.

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Apologies for all the links, hope they weren’t distracting and that you find some of the material useful.

Questions or comments – feel free.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Delivering Happiness

When I get time to read again, one of the first books on my list is “Delivering Happiness”, by Zappos founder, Tony Hsieh.  Also on that list will be several of the books in the presentation below.

Maybe there’s a few here for you too.  I’ve only read some of these, so can’t vouch for them all, but anyone who is as obsessed with team and customer happiness as Tony seems to be, must be at least a better-than-average judge of on-topic reading material.

Enjoy.

How To Speak So That People Want To Listen

Successful communication is an essential leadership and life skill.  Engaging well with others depends on it.

Here’s Julian Treasure with a 10-minute TedX talk on “How to speak so that people want to listen” that’s very worthwhile, with one caveat about his take on “judging” (more on that in a bit).

In summary:

If you want people to listen and take notice when you speak, you may want to audit yourself and be sure you’re not committing one or more of these “seven deadly sins” of speaking.

1.  Gossiping – speaking ill of someone who is not present.  Nobody really likes a gossip.

2.  Constantly pronouncing judgment – Julian states it simply as “Judging”, with which I cannot agree. (This is the caveat. More below.)

3.  Being negative – nobody listens to a pessimist (except maybe another pessimist);

4.  Complaining – which Julian aptly refers to as “Viral Misery”;

5.  Making excuses – not taking responsibility for one’s actions, always blaming someone else.  (MJ: No surer way exists to stymie your progress in an organization);

6.  Embroidering – aka, exaggeration, aka, lying;

7.  Being Dogmatic – You know this guy.  The one who always knows everything about everything, treating his opinions as facts and boring you with them constantly.  Blah, blah, blah.

Now, a little more on #2, Judging.

You need to judge everything and everyone, to the best of your ability, with all available evidence, constantly.

How do you deal with people unless you judge them first?  Is the new boss rational?  Is this salesman being honest?  Are my friends giving me straight feedback or telling “white” lies to make me feel better?  Judging, in this context, means doing your best to always know the truth.  Not only is there nothing wrong with making judgements, doing so is your duty to yourself.

What I hope Julian really means, and what I would advocate, is that one should not constantly pronounce or pass judgement.  First of all, not everyone needs to know everything you’re thinking all the time.  It’s called, “keeping your own council”.  Secondly, judging people and situations is, especially in the beginning, a fluid process.  You need to take care not to judge conclusively too quickly.  Often a first impression or “thin slice” will give you an accurate picture, but not always.  Snap judgements can be terribly wrong.  (Read more on this in Seth Godin’s excellent book, Blink.)

So when should you pronounce judgement?  When you’re sure, and when to not express your judgement would be an act of injustice.  Otherwise, “always be judging”, but keep it to yourself or share only with close confidants.

Now, here’s Julian Treasure:

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A little related reading (all 5 minutes or less):

How to tell if you’re being lied to and why you must never stop judging.

Judge and Be Judged

The Truth About Truth

The 2nd Rule of Communication

 

 

 

 

4 Indispensable Principles for Good Leadership

PEOPLE TALK ABOUT having “principles”, but few seem to be guided by their principles consistently, because it’s just too easy to make exceptions.  The thing is, if you don’t follow your principles in every case, they’re not principles.

Understood and accepted as non-violable, your principles become your “rock” – a steadfast guide to action even when circumstances are difficult, conflicting, or hard to discern.  Good leaders, and good people, understand this; they know that sticking to the right principles is indispensable to success, and therefore also to happiness.

Here’s four principles that all good leaders, (and good people, for that matter,) stick to.

#1 My Judgement Rules
Good leaders (and good people) know that they are always fully accountable for what they do, so they never relinquish judgement to others.  Sure, they listen, take advice, learn from others, and consult.  What they don’t do, however, is take another’s word, opinion, dictate, or judgement as given.  Never.  To put it another way:  “The buck stops here, so you better @#$%-well know the real buck inside and out”.

Example:  Steve Jobs in any number or situations springs to mind.

#2 Good Relationships Depend on Justice
Good leaders (and good people) understand that only relationships based on justice will thrive.  To deal with people justly means to always and only give (and accept) what is deserved.  To withhold praise and reward from those who add value is just as bad as bestowing the same on those who do not, or on those who, even worse, destroy value.

The latter is called “spoiling”, and as Rand once pointed out, there’s no quicker and surer way to destroy a human soul than to give it more than it deserves.  Conversely, withhold  reward from those who’ve rightly earned it, and they’ll not be around for long.  They’ll go where their talent is recognized and valued, and righty so.

Example:  The “brain drain” from any number of politically stifling (and unjust) nations to the freer countries in “The West”.

And while we’re on the subject, let’s dispel a couple of widely held (and very unjust) bromides (anti-principles, if you will):  “Unconditional Love” and “Universal Forgiveness“.

Good leaders (and good people) understand that those who demand “unconditional love” are asking you to commit fraud.  Love is simply one end of the scale that measures how you value something or someone (hate → dislike → ambivalence → like → love).  Your emotional response to anything or anyone needs to be just, that is, needs to be in keeping with how much you value (or disvalue) the thing or person.  To give love “unconditionally”, is to disregard justice.  Do so at your own peril.

Forgiveness has it’s place, of course, but also needs to be just.  The guilty must earn forgiveness.  How?  Three things:  They must show sincere contrition (simply saying “sorry” is not enough), they need to make good on the damage they did, and they should make a binding commitment to doing better from now on.  Forgiving someone, “just because”, is unfair on, and bad for, both of you.

Now, back to organizational leadership…

Organizations, by definition, rely on relationships, so its critical that justice is the principle that drives the relationships.  So many organizations founder because dysfunctional (unjust) relationships tie them in knots.  Jealousy, envy, favoritism, obsequiousness, sociopathy, and a host of other organization ills thrive because justice is absent.  Incompetents with connections wield power, talent languishes or leaves, obsequious sycophants who look good in a suit keep the corner offices warm, and fraudsters with acting skills line their pockets.  Absent justice, relationships are based on all manner of pretense.  In that kind of culture, all sorts of crap can grow.

Example:  Too many to mention.  How about Enron?  Bear Stearns?  Penn State?

#3 Learning Never Stops and Comes From Anywhere and Everywhere
With this principle firmly understood and integrated, you’re open to expanding your horizons every day, every hour, every minute.Learning is Joy

Yet, how many managers, bosses, parents, or acquaintances do you know who seem to think that they know everything already?  Ugh, the dreaded “know it all”….deal with that kind as little as you can, they’re a vexation to your soul!

Example?  I bet you have a dozen such people in your life.  Name one.

#4 Be Passionate
Whatever you do, give it 100% of your attention and effort.  If you can’t, or worse, won’t, don’t do it.

Passion does not mean “loving” what you do.  It means “valuing” what you do.  Hopefully, most of the time it is about love and enjoyment, but don’t forget that some things that are not fun still need 100% or your focus and your best effort; because they’re worth it.  George Washington no doubt hated that winter at Valley Forge, but his passion for the fledgling America held strong, guiding him through times and circumstances that would have driven a non-principled, dispassionate man to give up.

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Principles are not for “now and then”.  And they are not just for titled-leaders.  It is not a coincidence that the fundamental principles that make for good organizational leaders also make for good human beings.  That’s why Method Leadership is based on them, and why they’re on our masthead.

Think.  Engage.  Learn.  Value.

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Michael Paul Jährling

How to tell if you’re being lied to, and why you must never stop judging.

If only all liars had a nose like this.

If only all liars had a nose like this.

A few days ago I tweeted a #WorthyReading article:

Rory Vaden: “Three ways you can tell if you’re being lied to

There’s one paragraph I want to highlight, and amplify:

Sometimes we guilt ourselves into taking others’ word for something, or giving them the benefit of the doubt, but the key is never to completely pass control of our thinking to someone else, or to stop thinking for ourselves. When we stop thinking about our thinking, our thinking starts to think on its own — or worse, someone else does the thinking for us. While we can blame others, it is often our own lack of thinking that makes us susceptible to lies.  [emphasis mine]

First, a couple corrections:

“…the key is never to pass [ANY] control of our thinking to someone else.”

AND

“When we stop thinking, our thinking starts to think on its own – or worse, someone else does the thinking for us”.  Not quite.  Stop thinking, that is, cease to focus the mind, and our whim and emotion takes over.  Feelings can lead us correctly, but can also be mistaken.  See here for more on this.

Now the amplification, and why I like the article in general and the paragraph in particular:

We, all of us, must constantly be making judgements.

Check everything, especially what people say (write, print, broadcast, post, tweet, SMS), against the facts that you can verify with your own senses and the application of logic.

People don’t need to lie, but the sad fact is that most do.  Still worse is the fact that the people who have been fooled by lies, repeat them, and repeat them, and repeat them.  So many lies get repeated so often they become accepted as fact.

The funny thing is, the bigger the lie (and there are some whoppers in plain view of us all), the less they seem to get questioned; to be judged false, as they patently are.  I’m still not sure why that is.  You?

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Here’s a couple more good pieces on lying liars, and how to spot them:

Become a Human Lie Detector” by @cranstonholden at TodaysManager

The Science of Sniffing Out Liars” by Susan Kruglinski at Discover Magazine

 

Effective Personal Development requires good Personal Knowledge Management. How’s yours?

FURTHER TO POSTS on leadership development (“Why developing leaders is hard…” and “Developing Good Leaders…“), here’s a great slideshow by Steve Dale (@stephendale), on:

“… taking responsibility for personal & professional development in order to remain ‘relevant’ in a sometimes chaotic and fast-changing environment”

Beyond wanting to “remain relevant”, personal development, that is, broadening your knowledge, adding new skills, gaining mastery in old ones, and shaping your own character, are vital to success, which, ultimately, means happiness.

Brief Book Review: The Southwest Airlines Way – Jody Hoffer Gittell

The-Southwest-Airlines-Way-Gittell-Jody-Hoffer-9780071458276THIS IS ARGUABLY the most important text on how teams can and should be managed so as to deliver great customer service.

Author Jody Hoffer Gittell does a good job of explaining the specific practices Southwest has developed and maintains in order to consistently deliver an airline experience that’s way better than its competitors, and creates profit in an industry renown for delivering losses.  The work is detailed, almost scholarly (yet very readable), and provides a blueprint for other organizations wishing to emulate Southwest’s success.  I also found it a fascinating insight into the complexities of running an airline.

Don’t think for a moment, though, that by reading this book and implementing a few changes you’ll have your organization swinging.  As you would expect, creating the exceptional requires more than a quick fix.  If you have the will though, and the authority to implement change, I highly recommend developing a plan based on the ten principles outlined in the book, and listed below:

Ten Practices for Building High Performance Relationships:

Lead with credibility and caring

Invest in frontline leadership

Hire and train for relational competence

Use conflicts to build relationships

Bridge the work/family divide

Create boundary spanners

Measure performance broadly

Keep jobs flexible at the boundries

Make unions your partners, not adversaries

Build relationships with your suppliers

If you’ve never flown Southwest, or heard about their brand of what I call “real” service, here’s a couple videos to whet your appetite:

A great TV commercial (1 min) :

A Southwest flight attendant singing a custom version of Jingle Bells (45 sec):

An interview (10 min) with Rita Bailey, erstwhile director of Southwest’s “University for People”:

Get the book here:        Paperback         Kindle

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More good reading on the Resources Page.