What Management Doesn’t Get: Leading People Implies Responsibility

I had a mind blowing thought today as I was driving.  We humans are a masterpiece.  I’m speaking specifically to the way we’re made.  The sheer complexity of our DNA and how our body knows what to do without any outside assistance. 

The above thoughts sent me thinking about what an AWESOME responsibility it is to lead other human beings.  And at the end of the day, this is what most managers don’t get.  It’s like someone who throws diamonds into the garbage disposal right along with yesterday’s leftovers.  You’d call that insane.

I learned the hard way about the responsibility in leading.  You get fame and fortune (relative to the stage you walk on) and almost inevitably you forget-forget about who is looking to you for direction.  Believe me it wasn’t the mirror.  It wasn’t until I observed the hunger and scars of the people in my last stint (about 10 years ago) in corporate America, that I began to see my AWESOME responsibility.  They hungered for someone to do the right thing and care.  The scars were from the deep wounds of managers who didn’t care about anything except their agenda and or ladder.

I’ll never forget a meeting I was participating in where a mission statement was being crafted.  Everyone agreed that serving our customers was an important part to have in the statement.  But there was a block. as 11 executives attempted to create something inspiring.  I then suggested that we add verbiage around serving our employees.  Silence.  More silence.  The idea was rejected and never adopted.  A few minutes later I leaned over to one of my colleagues and asked him how we could serve our customers, but not serve our employees?  Silence, with a shrug.

The issue comes back to management-senior and otherwise-not understanding their responsibility.  They don’t get it.

In the coming days we’ll unwrap how to overcome the confusion and how to move to leading from responsibility. Who knows, maybe we’ll start a rehab clinic for managers. 

When Marketing Get’s Murky

Wanted to point you to an article I read in the current issue of Fast Company.  You can view the article here.  The writer, Rob Walker, makes some compelling arguments around the land mines that can be found when marketing to those on social networks.  He focuses primarily on MySpace and Facebook, but I’m sure others apply as well.

He warns us that the information can be…well…inflated to say the least.  In other words, objects in the mirror are not always as they appear.  Savvy marketers know this, the not so savvy would be vexed at what Mr. Walker articulates.

I understand the desire to just throw it out there and hope many will fall in love.  That would be easy and fast.  Sad to say, life, it don’t always live that way (thank you, Seal).

Here are some things I’ve been learning about marketing and the spreading of ideas:

  • Remind yourself everyday of who your audience is.  Everyday.
  • Don’t panic or get euphoric over stats.
  • Remember, a sale/conversion doesn’t always translate into something viral.
  • Check your motivations (why, why, why and why).
  • Don’t fall into the trap of group/herd think.

Be Authentic

Tuscany_dirt_roadSorry I’m a little late in posting the last in my series on leadership.  Yesterday got away from me in a big way.

Be Authentic is the first chapter in my new book.  The subject of authenticity is spot on with where leaders are today.  Many have written about it, but I hope what I have will grow it further.

You can click here to read an excerpt from the book on being authentic.

The Dangers of What’s Seen

A good friend told me this week that there is danger in what we see versus what we don’t see.  Ten years ago I would have jumped out of my chair.  My how ten years can change things.  I believe firmly in the idea of the unseen.

"We are surrounded by opportunities, brilliantly masked as impossibilities."

               -Author Unknown

If you want to grow your leadership, then you need to start dealing in the currency of the unseen.  And yes, lot’s of what you encounter will look impossible.  I think impossibilities are like a test to see if you’re really committed to what you do and say.

As a leader beware of these "seen" situations:

  • I’m close to retirement, so I’ll let someone younger tackle this.
  • We don’t have the funds to invest in something so untested.
  • No one from my family has ever done or even attempted this.
  • The marketplace is too crowded, you’ll get lost in the mass.
  • Following your vision is OK, but you’ve got a family to take care of.
  • The last person who attempted that failed.
  • You’ve set the bar so high, how do you intend to reach it?

Now here’s a list of the unseen (names only)

  • Nelson Mandela
  • Thomas Edison
  • Mother Theresa
  • Bono
  • Steve Jobs
  • Saint Paul
  • Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Oprah Winfrey
  • Billy Graham

How Leaders Can Overcome Insecurity

We don't like to talk about insecurities.  Let's face it, insecurities are the proverbial skeletons in the closet or baggage we've carried around for years.  So why don't we talk about and deal with our insecurities?  Vulnerability.  With all our talk about compassion, tolerance and love you'd think insecurities would be out in the open.  But here's the dirty little secret; compassion, tolerance and love are rare.  Not because we don't have it to give, but because we're preoccupied with our own pursuits, our own agendas or our own insecurities.  For example, loving someone implies sacrifice.  Don't hear a lot about sacrifice these days.

So can leaders just keep their insecurities under the covers?  They can, but eventually insecurities have a way of getting out of bed.  When that happens people get hurt.  People at work, as well as people at home.  The better option is to overcome the insecurities and live out something that others will want to follow.

Here are some things I've learned and implemented to overcome insecurities:

  • Admit that I've got the baggage (insecurities).  Don't mean to sound like a step program, but admitting is a powerful tool.
  • Stop looking for some permanent state of happiness and focus on joy.  Pursuing happiness is futile, because in itself happiness is a temporary state.  For example, last week I wasn't happy about the lack of response I was receiving from a newspaper.  This week I'm OK, because I had time to pray and think.  Joy is your root system if you choose to let it be.  It's firm and many times immovable.
  • Get mentors that love you, but are not impressed by you.  People like this will be willing to tell you the truth and ask you hard questions.  If you don't have a mentor now, you should start looking for one.
  • Don't think you're alone and don't be alone in dealing with insecurities.  Isolation will kill.  Think of how the Hyena approaches attacking a lion.  Hyenas search for ways to isolate the lion.  They instinctively know that to take on a lion one-on-one or in a group would be certain death.  However, if they can isolate the lion, victory is often times certain.  So it goes with us.  If you crawl into your own corner and withdraw.  All your demons and monsters will devour you.
  • Don't take yourself too seriously. 
  • Find the vision inside yourself and pursue it.  I've found that I have little time to ponder/obsess over insecurities when I have a vision.  My urgency for dealing with my insecurities grows as well, because I don't want to be disrupted in my mission.
  • Talk often with God.

What would your organization look like if you overcame your insecurities?  Great, would be the perfect adjective.

Getting It Wrong

Today is the second in a week-long series on leadership.  We’ll be examining some not so obvious issues facing leaders.

Think of yourself as a manager who has been called on to give a "state of the department" presentation to your group.  Maybe the group numbers at 50 or 10.  Regardless, you know you have to prepare.  And maybe that’s the problem.  Really.

I know you need to make sure you’ve got last quarters numbers or a concise view of where the market is heading.  But I want you to think about the following things that are infinitely more important:

  • Do you really know your people?  Their your audience, so you don’t want to be looking into the eyes of strangers.  It is essential that you know the pulse of the room.
  • Are you overly concerned about getting right?  You know what I mean.  Are you too concerned about the flow of the Power Point?  Are you thinking about the suit you’re going to wear more than once?
  • Do you know who the most important people are in your organization?  If you think it would be the CEO or COO, you would be wrong.  The most important people usually make a fraction of what a C-level executive does and don’t have a title that’s a mile long.
  • Do you really care or is this just another show?  Motivations reveal truth and measure how authentic you are.
  • Can you tell your people about a better future.  In other words, VISION.

In the end, preparation is important.  But if you’re not prepared in the right areas, you’ll be getting it wrong, while trying to get it right.  I’ve found this to be true over and over again in my calling. 

If you’re doing what you were born to do, all those details (Power Point, suit fabric, market conditions or how articulate you are) will come together.  The question is whether you will let it.