I just read an interesting article about creating a more effective team. The author believes that a leader can best build a successful team by doing less and trusting their team more. This makes sense to me.
People will work harder when they know you trust them and aren’t always looking over their shoulder to dot their i’s and cross their t’s for them. But the effective leader still needs to do something.
Leaders should focus on helping their people succeed by finding out what they need and removing stumbling blocks for them. This requires the leader fostering greater communication and openness within the team so that people aren’t afraid to ask for help. I am a big proponent of short, daily stand-up meetings for this reason. Where team members explain what they did the day before, what they plan to do that day, and what they need help with.
I just read an article on 8 rules for creating a passionate work culture. The first three are to: hire the right people, communicate, and tend to the weeds.
That first part, hiring the right people, is really more about understanding your people and what motivates them. You need to really listen to them to see how they can fit in the culture you are building. I think there are a lot of people out there who took a job, got caught in a pigeon-hole, and are desperate to break free and do something different. These are the kinds of people who can harm your organization by feeling powerless to change their position in the organization and thereby being unmotivated to do more than the minimum amount of work to not be fired. Or they can breathe new life into your organization when their true passions are discovered and nurtured. They become happier and that happiness spreads to everything they do and everyone they interact with.
By communicating and understanding your people you “tend to the weeds.” Which means that you turn your detractors into attractors, and your liabilities into assets. These are people who we are talking about and any one of them who sees something wrong in the organization should be given the opportunity to improve it for everyone’s benefit. You strengthen your organization by bringing everyone into the fold and working toward a common vision.
I just read an interesting post about the research behind a new book that shows that most successful entrepreneurs don’t start with a business plan. They start with a clear vision driven by their heart and passion instead. A vision driven by feelings that leads to direct actions. This makes a lot of sense to me.
A few years ago I created a business plan for a TCNJ competition. It was based on Nexus Trade. I came in second place but my passion just wasn’t there. Nor was my support system. So ultimately I stopped pursuing the idea (to save students money on textbooks by letting them sell books to each other). The funny thing is that it wasn’t even my original idea. I wanted to gather booklists from my college at the time so that students could order their books cheaper online instead of buying them at the overpriced prices at the Barnes and Noble run bookstore on campus. But I met with a little pushback and it was enough for me to shelve the idea and I never went back to it. I had a vision but not the passion, so I failed because I never really tried.
Passion and a clear vision can keep a business going when times get tough. They can drive your people to success because they know what they are doing and why they are doing it. They have a goal to keep them focused and give their life meaning. Instead of just financial targets to hit. Because why are we here if not to do something meaningful and improve people’s lives?
Maybe you know someone who thinks big. A leader with big ideas who sets direction and leaves the implementation up to everyone. Maybe it’s even your boss. Are they helping the organization or setting it up to fail? In this article about bad bosses I started thinking of my own experiences.
In my experience it’s important to have your finger on the pulse of your organization and to be involved in gathering and analyzing data in order to make decisions. In the military an officer expects that their personnel knows everything that is going on with the people under their command. Or so I hear.
There are three kinds of managers/leaders: those who know every detail and decision occurring, those who don’t want to be bothered with details and want to leave that up to others, and those who lack the confidence to gain the deep understanding necessary to know about everything and make the big decisions. Which one are you?
Every day I strive to better understand my organization without micromanaging. You need to give people the opportunity to take charge of their area, while not shirking off your responsibilities to them. Only then can your organization truly thrive.
Just the other day I heard from someone I respect and admire that “people are our greatest asset.” And then today I saw an article about how it’s not just the people, it’s how they are organized and utilized within the organization. I think the answer is somewhere in between.
You can have the greatest, self-starting and conscientious employees and if they aren’t given enough initial direction and nurtured along the way they won’t be successful. The key is to check in with your people every so often and listen to them. Listen to their issues, their concerns, their ideas for improvement. And then support them and guide them. And don’t forget the biggest thing: remove stumbling blocks for them, even if that means you.
I explained to someone just the other day that sometimes I may get so busy that I don’t “check in” and I made sure they had enough direction to keep going until I had more information for them. And I encouraged them to come to me if they had any issues or needed more direction to keep from being idle. I recognized my weaknesses and I made plans to keep my weaknesses from being a stumbling block for my organization.
Inspired by: http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2011/12/people_are_not_your_greatest_a.html
Posted in General
In order to work better within your team you should have an identity crisis. That’s according to an article in the Harvard Business Review blog.
Imagine that you go into a meeting thinking that you’re an expert on a subject. And then during the meeting someone challenges what you believe to be true. How will you react? You will most likely switch to a defensive stance because you think you know everything on the topic. You stop thinking objectively.
Now imagine that you go into that same meeting thinking that what is best for the company is the most important thing. If someone challenges something you say you will think about their information in a new light. You will listen more objectively and not feel personally attacked. Your driving force has now become what is good for everyone. Your motivation has changed from one that was self-centered to one that is focused on the group as a whole.
So how do you have this identity crisis? How do you change your way of thinking? One way is through a strong corporate philosophy or mission statement. This method must be driven from the top down. Management must set this and inspire everyone to follow the mission.
Another way I see to have an identity crisis is driven by yourself internally. I myself try to help others and stay focused on what’s good for everyone. That was a conscious decision I made over a year ago. I’m not saying that it works perfectly and that I never get defensive, but I do try. And I am lightyears away from where I used to be. I try not to get too cocky. I try not to think I know everything. And lately my new mantra of helping others has shown me that I know a lot more than I ever thought I did. And that’s not a bad thing as long as I can remain humble and keep challenging my identity.
Inspired by this article.
Posted in General
Do you ever find yourself listening to someone and not really hearing them? Maybe you’re thinking of the next thing you want to say, or you’re distracted by a thought or something going on around you. I know I suffer from those problems frequently. I just read an article with some tips on listening better and I’ve also read a lot of self-help resources with other tips. Here are some of my thoughts.
One of my biggest problems is eye contact. If I’m not looking at you but I’m still nodding my head and saying “uh huh” at the right times I’m probably not listening to you. I know it’s hard to believe but I have mastered the art of appearing to be listening when I’m not (it just kind of happened). Make eye contact with people to reduce distractions when listening to them. And if you’re talking to someone try to notice if they are looking at you. If they aren’t they might not be listening with their full attention, though some people are more skilled at multitasking than others. Still, it’s rude to be doing something else while someone is talking to you.
This leads me to another of my problems: getting distracted and doing something else while someone talks to me. I might check my inbox quickly and get distracted by an email, forgetting I am talking to someone. This splits my attention and reduces my ability to listen well. This can especially be bad if I’m on the phone at the same time as my computer and then I realize I missed something important and don’t know what we’re talking about anymore. Then I need to ask the person to repeat themselves (I’m sorry if I have done this to you). To fix that issue I can either not do anything else while I am talking to someone or I can let them know that now is not a good time to talk.
It’s okay to be busy and I shouldn’t be afraid to be honest with people about whether I can talk undistracted at that moment. If I have a deadline in an hour I can talk after it’s done and not before. Sometimes the best way to avoid listening poorly is to be honest with myself about whether I have the time to listen. Which leads me to another article to write one day: how to get people to understand that you are too busy to talk right then.
Some people just don’t care about interrupting you whenever they feel they need to. They value their time more than yours. Once I get my listening skills more consistent I can tackle this.
Posted in General
I just read an interesting article on how not to act in the workplace. Take-away: be true to yourself and don’t be fake.
While I can understand why some people might smile to your face and talk about you behind your back, I don’t respect that. However, you don’t need to be completely blunt and harsh. There’s a happy medium where everyone works together and builds trust in those they work with. It has taken me 4 years of being in the workforce 24/7 (more like 8/5) to realize this. I’m not perfect. I have my flaws and I’m working on them. But the more you do something and the more confident you are in your abilities the more honest and trustworthy you become.
Posted in General
I recently read an interesting article on the importance of interpersonal, or “soft” skills, in leaders. It’s what the author calls social intelligence. I agree that leaders must be adept at listening, communicating, motivating, and connecting. And I struggle with developing those skills everyday.
I don’t supervise anyone. No one’s performance appraisal is dependent on my input, other than my own. Though I often liked to think that I was headed in that direction. I’ve realized over time that it’s a bigger challenge and responsibility than some may think. You’re responsible for people’s careers, for their personal growth. You can either hinder them, help them, or add no value to their lives. I will not be successful unless I have developed the skills to bridge divisions, to incorporate varied feedback, to convey a motivating vision, and to manage the person and not the project.
Vision especially is a hugely important, fundamental facet to leadership. Your company will go nowhere without a clear and compelling vision. A vision gives meaning and purpose to your business and truly resonates with your personnel.