Category: Leadership


Outside-In® Chronicles: He Who Can Provide Outside-In® Leadership Has the Whole World with Him

October 15th, 2014

Each month our leaders focus on learning and development. Do you consistently allocate time for shared leadership experiences and discussion? This form of renewal really brings the team together and gives us time to think about how accurately each of us lead. Recently, we have been working from Dale Carnegie’s original self-help book, How to Win Friends and Influence People. This book is one of the most important influences on the way we do things as a business—specifically how we deal with people!

images2We have been focused on Chapter 3, “He Who Can Do This Has the Whole World with Him. He Who Cannot Walks a Lonely Way.” My leaders discussed and discovered that we have a tremendous role in understanding our staff’s needs and wants. How many times do we present ideas or share our opinions in a way that is good for us? How often do we think, write, or present in a way that is of the other person’s interest? We all think about ourselves before others—this is simply human nature. However, to be truly Outside-In® leaders, we have to start with the other person’s interests first. As the book says, we must learn to “bait the hook to suit the fish.” Just because you like something doesn’t mean that others will and vice versa. Are we really ready to talk in terms of someone else’s interests? We better be.

We can use our title as ammo or yell as a leader to get things done for a moment. Cracking the proverbial whip works once or twice but only for a very short period of time. A sales person can be successful every now and again when they talk about what they want, their product and service, their quota, their tough day, etc. However, consumers want to feel like they are really being listened to. They want to buy, not be sold to. And they want to know that their needs are being met.

How can you take into account the other point of view? We made our list together as leaders.

  1. Listen. Talk less. Be clear that we understand what others want and need.images
  2. Be clear about what needs to be done, especially as we understand how staff wants to do their jobs.
  3. Create a reminder of the hook and the fish concept. What bait do you need to have an effective employee, customer, or family discussion?
  4. Be aware of wants and needs as we delegate. If done correctly, delegation is the key to knowing exactly what these wants and needs are.
  5. Be clear about expectations.
  6. Give staff the opportunities to explore.
  7. Remember that not everyone’s way works all of the time. Sometimes a good leadership push is in order.

Are You a Sharing Leader?

September 24th, 2014

Being a leader in today’s work environment has it’s share of obstacles. The culture of your company directly impacts how you lead and what you do in your role in every circumstance. For example, let’s take the topic of communication and your responsibility relative to cascading messages. Often times leaders maintain the proverbial upper hand by distributing information (or frankly misinformation) to suit their personal goals and objectives. This does not have to be a nefarious or illegal thing by the way. Sometimes as leaders we are simply overly competitive or selfish. Being the leader that always has to win means you’re going to do anything you need to do to come out on top. That often means controlling what you know. Selfish leaders? Well, they are probably just protecting their job and paycheck. Everybody is doing it right? So what’s wrong with it? It’s like a teenager explaining staying out too late or a bad test grade, “…but Tommy is allowed to.”

Today’s world is about information. That’s why it’s called the Information Age. Why not empower today’s knowledge worker with as much as possible? Why not make it a point to share as much as you can? A group perspective is often more right and more powerful than the views of a handful or the privileged.

To be a sharing leader one must:

  1. ID-100161829Be clear on what their role is as a leader. Is it your job to share what you hear and learn in terms of strategy, vision, or simple business updates with your team? If you’re hearing these messages and you don’t see them in newsletter, town halls, or email updates then I bet it is part of your role. Be a messenger. There is good power in doing this well!
  2. Share it all. Don’t hold back an inch. Employees can sense when your holding back and not sharing. Trust them. They can handle the truth. Of course there is confidentiality. This is not what I am talking about. Stop protecting. Quit isolating staff from business news they can help with. They might even view the problems of the business as interesting new projects to tackle to grow their resumes!
  3. Use all means as possible. Some messages are tactical. Some are strategic. Some serious and some not so much. Pick your forum. Have huddles every day for daily sticks. Do a weekly discussion for businesses. Have a phone call or town hall meeting when you’re dealing with longer term updates or when you want to get some real engagement and feedback.

The key is to make communication a part of your daily leadership plan. It will always take a back seat to your inbox and to do’s if you let it!

Outside-In® Summer Reading List

August 27th, 2014

Summer reading is a part of the fabric that defines my free time as well as my summer vacation. The challenge is to decide how to recharge and rejuvenate with that precious time off. Do I really want to read an industry publication or study for that upcoming webinar to keep continuing education credits flowing? It’s not that I don’t like my industry or chosen profession, I just need space and time to decompress. The more space I can create or make more time to think, the more likely I am to find new ideas and thoughts that help with my day-to-day work!

However, sometimes it’s hard to get away without our smart phones tethered to our hand 24/7—we all have to find some compromise, right? The very device that lets you order pizza while on vacation or text the teenagers to find out when they will be home is the same piece of technology that pings every time there is a new email and some work issue that either ruins your vacation mood or requires immediate attention!

I once heard the pile of unread business magazines, articles, books, and white papers on your nightstand or work station referred to as the tower of guilt! I, for one, feel good when I take that pile of work and plow through it. Sometimes I read three or four books at the same time in rotation just to change topics for the sake of staying current. However, this is not the approach I like to take for summertime reading.

So if you’re trying too hard to work and want to recharge while coming back with a new perspective on your business, here are my top three must reads:

ID-1001841481. Anything by Gladwell. Malcom not only sees the world differently, but he does the research to back it up. Try The Tipping PointWhat the Dog Saw, or my all time favorite, The Outliers. If you want to think about your business place in a different way, try escaping to the world that Malcom creates!

2.  How to Win Friends and Influence People. So many smart people know something about their field of study or the technical aspects of their profession yet few invest in their relationships.  No books exists that is more time tested for helping you with tools and tips for great human relations skills!

3.  Zen and the Art of Happiness. Everyone gets down in the dumps from time to time. As Dale Carnegie is for great human relationships this book is for realigning your perspective on your daily life. Things happen to us each and everyday, it is what we do next that matters.

If you have a book that recharges and lifts your energy while helping you reflect and improve your business or your leadership persona please let us know!

Outside-In® Chronicles: Leaders, Admit When You’re Wrong Please!

August 20th, 2014

Originally posted on April 3rd, 2013

Today’s companies operate differently than a decade or two ago. Globalization, technology, cultural and social change, demographic trends and shifts have all impacted the way business is conducted. This structural shift has impacted the worker too. Today’s worker must be focused on knowledge building and embracing change skills to maximize themselves.

ID-100147926However, I think this structural shift has impacted the way leaders need to lead. One of my personal pet peeves is when leaders don’t take the time to admit fault. There is this funny thing called “leadership pride” that keeps our lips shut.  We may act like we did something wrong, we may make amends or attempt to fix a mistake, however, we don’t often vocally admit mistakes enough. When we don’t admit our mistakes, we damage trust on our teams and in our company. Trust is a funny thing. Easy to lose. Hard to get back.  Must be built through your actions and of course, your words.  They better be close to one and the same.

By not admitting mistakes we look fake and disingenuous. Today’s worker must do their job on the edge of their seat and take risks in their job to create some wow (or do something Nth degree in Outside-In® language). But the risk is the key.  If you won’t show vulnerability as a leader and expose yourself how do you expect others to do so?  And if you expect creativity or new thinking from your people, then celebrating mistakes is a requirement.

Making mistakes makes you real.  By making mistakes you are human. By admitting them, you allow others to admit them and creates an open channel for improved communication to blossom. A problem said out loud, is a problem half solved! Openly addressing mistakes you’ve made as a leader allows trust to grow and build between you and your employees. It’s about being Open Book — being honest, vulnerable, and transparent – and living Outside-In® leadership, where accessibility and trust are key components of a strong leader.

We all need a culture of admission, right?

What Would Alan Burkhard Do?

July 30th, 2014

Throughout most of my formative years as a leader, I started off my thinking with the basic question, “What would Alan do or say?” Alan Burkhard is my Pop, a serial entrepreneur, a good Father, an activist for the community & any underdog that he comes in contact with, and most importantly, the most unique leader I know.

Alan's PictureFor example, I used to call him every Friday when we worked together and without fail he thought differently than most leaders. For most situations he would not give me the answer I sought. Rather, he would point me back to the information. He would say, “You don’t have enough information to come up with the solution. Go back and get more.”

Recently, the Outside-In® Companies was awarded with a very large contract. We have worked for it for years. As is typical of a comprehensive workforce program, the customer needed help well before we finished implementation! We had a choice stick with our higher retail price for services until we implement or give the volume price and trust that this is the right thing to do.  Do we have more margin now or do we establish a great “wow” moment of trust with a new customer? What would Alan do? Most grab the margin. We gave the volume price and we will trust that the rest will take care of itself!!

So my statement, “What would Alan do or say?” has nothing to do with seeking fatherly approval or anything like that. It is simply a phrase that keeps me sharp and focused on what being an Outside-In® leader is really all about.

Another example of his unique leadership occurred while at a recent baseball game. Alan commented on the recent security changes at the MLB ballparks. Essentially, ballparks are going to be like airports and large office complexes in the sense that game goers will be patted down and go through scanners. All in the name of homeland security. We might mumble and grumble about our loss of rights and civil liberties but we go along with the crowd and think that this is just another precautionary measure. Not Alan. He brings forward the classic Outside-In® leadership principle. We always seem to police and create rules for the handful of wrong doers and then punish everyone else. Security is serious business of course. However, I get his point as he as always applied this to his business.

Stereotypically speaking, leaders create too many rules and over complicate things. We create policies and handbooks galore. Don’t misinterpret me, I believe some structure and system makes sense. Just don’t over do it! Allow good people to follow simple rules and be allowed to operate freely within that loose system. That is why Outside-In® leaders lead with values. Values are there when we are not (which is often). Besides, bad leaders want to be superheroes anyway and are much too quick to dole out answers. That is NOT what staff wants. Staff wants to grow and be challenged in their job.

So for me, “What would Alan say or think?” is my mantra. It keeps me sharp. I am reminded that it is OK to cut against the grain and to be Outside-In® every moment of every day. This is very hard as most of those in the leadership world would rather make a rule than to actually lead or take action!

An Entrepreneurial View of Failure

July 23rd, 2014

When Edison searched for something to use to illuminate a light bulb he spent months and months with hundreds of different filaments until he found one that worked. Do you think he viewed each unlit bulb as a waste of time or something irrecoverable? He knew with each failed experiment, he was one step closer to something that would work!

ID-100209779As a small business owner, I have failed many times. I have hired the wrong people, put the wrong programs in place, even launched the wrong business ideas. However, I don’t view this as failure. Rather, this is a process to make something right and unique. This is how business works. Try something, fail quickly. Tweak it. Make adjustments. Learn from it. These are the basics. This is not failure. This is how we grow and gain knowledge.

Some say that being an entrepreneur is not for the faint of heart. How do you handle the rejection? The no’s? The pats on the head when your business is just starting? Some will say, “When are you going to go get a job?” This is all part of the failing—dealing with the fact that most people really can’t handle the risk of trying.

I always feel as if I have more control of my own destiny when I am my own boss than when I work for others. That is just my my view. I would rather have tried to be a small business owner,  to have launched new services, and to have hired the wrong person because most of the times we end up getting it right. And we only need to get it right more often than not in order to be successful!

So the next time someone is taking a risk, think twice about your commentary. Risks create learning, knowledge, and opportunity. Everything changes. Why not be the one that initiates and drives change? Then failure will not be an option!

Servant Leadership: Vacation & Days Off

July 2nd, 2014

At Outside-In® Companies, we work hard to share content and to communicate regularly with our employees, customers, and other key stakeholders. When this week’s marketing went out, mostly automatic responses came back. “I am sorry I am out of the office until July 7th, the 14th, or whatever it might have been. Please contact (fill in the blank) if you have any urgent matters.” I stopped and thought about all those that left working—those employees who got the extra call, email, or workload because you or someone else was out on Holiday.

ID-100135888Don’t get me wrong, everyone needs (and earns) their time off. Generally speaking, the average employee never seems to take all the time off that they have earned. However, with technology only a touch screen away, work always seems to get in the way.

I have a culturally-led goal for Outside-In® Companies—for leaders to encourage the newest or least senior person get that choice week or Friday off before the Holiday weekend. Leaders should be in the office working and getting things done. And yes, you should close the office down. (I am not bragging but four of my leaders were working and wrapping things up long after 5pm on July 3rd so that others could get started on their long weekend).

The average leader works so hard to climb the corporate ladder, to have the title, company car, three-week vacation, or big bonus that we have forgotten what servant leadership is all about.  To be a servant leader, you need to anticipate and meet the needs of your employees. You must be honest, direct, and fair. Leaders must share the truth. Especially when it prevents an employee from being good or great in what they do.

However, being a servant leader also means showing sacrifice and equality. If you expect your values to be real and for all to be equal, you must show it in your actions and policies. Next week take a look around the office. Are all the leaders on vacation and the employees working hard? Or is their servant leadership in place? Either way, all can live this trait. Take on the burden and offer to close the office for someone. That is what servant leadership can be; especially when your staff is getting the job done!

World Cup: Who Wears the Yellow Arm Band?

June 25th, 2014

Almost half of the entire planet is watching the World Cup. Perhaps not where you live, but here in the Mid-Atlantic it’s all we have. Hockey and basketball are over. Our baseball team stinks. And football has not started just yet. The sentiment of local sports radio personalities is that the World Cup is boring. Soccer does not score enough. This is cross country running with a ball! In fact, the radio folks seem restricted in their ability to talk about it, even if they are one of the few DJ’s that will embrace the sport and the Cup.

ID-10056952Well, not in my house. And frankly the public sentiment is changing. Today kids play the game and parents socialize on saturday mornings on the sidelines and at tournaments. Soccer is becoming a lifestyle here in the states. Now I will get off my soap box!

As a leadership coach, entrepreneurial leader of a company, and a high school soccer coach, I tend to see the world of soccer through a different lens that comes from an adoration for the sport and the study of what makes a leader in any life situation. What has fascinated me most is what it takes to be Captain. In soccer, this is signified by the yellow arm band. My curiosity lies within the question of if the traits of a leader are the same on the pitch as they are in the board room. What do you think? My sense is that you can insert the President, the VP or a Manager in any of these situations if they represent good leadership behavior.

What it takes to wear a yellow arm band:

  • You have to have players that will follow you. Every leader must have followers. Leaders can’t send a message or create a vision if no one believes in it. No one can be Captain without buy-in from the players!
  • A Captain is vocal in both big and small ways. A captain knows all aspects of the game. And they put their teammates in the right place while on the field. They communicate constantly. They direct and put players in the right position. The team listens and respects the chatter. This mental direction is so critical in the game. The smallest mental lapses in spacing, positioning, and decision making on and off the ball create most of the goal scoring opportunities for your opponent.
  • A Captain can put the game on their back as they say. No matter what is required. Shut down the other team’s best player. Make the critical play or pass. Even the score—go ahead and make a goal.
  • The captain must lead the team 24/7 on and off the field. Winning and being competitive is not contained in a 90 minute game. The season begins the day the last one ends. Being a leader is learning more about the game, playing it, getting in better physical condition in the off season, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
  • Captains do everything with intention. Every meeting, every Friday night game or spaghetti team dinner is with a purpose. Closeness in a team off the field relates to trust and understanding of your teammates on the pitch.
  • The captain respects the entire team and knows that all have value. However, the captain also understands and respects individual roles and contribution levels.
  • A captain knows the team values and communicates with them. All action, word recognition, and discipline stems from living the values or helping teammates do it better.

Interesting to note, leadership behavior is just as hard to notice in a soccer game as it is in the game of business. You really have to look for it because it is effortless for good Captains and good leaders.

Why is Bruce Springsteen Called “The Boss”?

May 21st, 2014

I recently attended my first Bruce Springsteen concert this past week in Hershey, PA.  We talk about leaders only being leaders when they have followers. Well Bruce has followers. After all, he is the “Boss” right? I bet you don’t know why he is called the boss. Well, back in the early (glory) days he was the one who had to collect the night’s receipts and be responsible for distributing the money to bandmates. At first, Bruce hated the name because of what boss typically means as a stereotype. I think it’s safe to say at this point he has tacitly accepted his moniker. And after watching him play for three hours and ten minutes with barely a sip of water? There is no doubt in my mind that he is in charge, in control, and on top of every little detail as a master showman can be.  He is The Boss today but for very different reasons than way back when!

After watching his performance I can assure you he is a good leader. He has such high energy and regard for people including his bandmates and crew, the fans, and all those that he can help. (Bruce brought seven different fans on stage to jam with him, sing, and to share their cause). Without fear or thought that they might in anyway be there to hurt or harm him or others!

All of this Boss talk got me thinking. Do you like being called boss? I had a favorite admin. who called me jefe, which means boss and I hated it. She insisted she meant it in a different meaning than the stereotype. Jefe meant that I was in charge and that she could count on me.

So I looked up the definition of boss. And guess what I learned?

Boss as a noun seems reasonable enough to me. Someone in charge of a team or organization. Each culture and its value is different in each group however, someone, is always responsible for a team—even in self-directed teams.

So how about Boss as the adjective? Boss means excellent or outstanding. If everyone can be the boss and live up to excellence or be outstanding then let’s all get name tags!  An environment of results and outstanding can’t be all bad, right?

ID-10066133Now we are getting into it. Boss as the verb. To dictate. To lord over. To domineer.  To push around. To browbeat. To create undue pressure. This is where the stereotype exists!

No one wants to work for a boss. Few people tolerate dictators or lords if they can help it.  No one wants second class treatment when they can be equally important. I’m sure that being pushed around or browbeat isn’t motivating for long. Bossing and managing by fear mongering works for as long as the Boss has power. Which is usually only as long as it takes employees to figure out what to do about it.

So unless you’re Bruce Springsteen, be careful about acting like a boss!

Can Your Team Handle the Truth?

May 14th, 2014

Several weeks ago my leadership team went through a self-conducted Patrick Lencioni exercise. If you don’t know Patrick he is a consultant and writer of wonderful books that generally use the power of a good story to reinforce certain principles around team building, leadership, communication, and organizational health.

In his newest book, The Advantage, Patrick recommends that each leader write down the answer to the following two questions:

  • What is one strength that each individual team member brings to the group?
  • What is one non-strength or challenge that negatively impacts the group?

ID-100255083At first, most leaders have to think long and hard about whether or not their team has the organizational maturity and closeness to pull this off. So, it starts with the leader and with all team members giving their positive feedback. That part is not so bad really. In fact, it is actually a compliment and a feel good. Then the negative feedback begins. And guess what? That is even better than the positive. We all kind of know our strengths and our big impact. However, we all really wonder what people think about our leadership qualities. To get this directly without caveats and not sandwiched between two positives is beyond refreshing.

So what did my team say about me? NOTHING surprising. They said that I need to be more direct and clear. (Be careful what you ask of people) I also need to make sure I am not too understanding in our team environment. My team reminded me that we all want to be in a winning environment and that it is my job to hold all to that high standard along the way!

The best part about all of this is that it’s a shared experience. One that leaders remember and can use in their efforts in the grey areas with their peers. This is a safe reminder for all of us. Chris, be direct. Leaders, please be more open. Listen. Or whatever else you need to work on.

This is all about creating an open, honest environment that encourages and builds a real team. One that can work through differences, can care enough to offer feedback, and challenge each other. Most teammates fight to get their work improved, not help the broader team. To know that this behavior will be rewarded—well, then we have something special to build on!

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