Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Leadership - what is it all about?

Well...it was inevitable.
Everybody gets older. I turned a year older this very year. I think it likely you did too, or you will.
I know, life. Crazy... 
For those of you who don't know me. I'm a guy who is still in my forties with a few wrinkles appearing on my face when I smile now, I'm happily married, I have a 17 year old son, a 21 year old daughter, a 3 year old granddaughter and a 9 year old step son. There's a lot more salt than pepper in my beard and hair now than there was a year ago (possible reference to all the children) and I'm less inclined to go for a cross country run now than I was when I was 20.  
No wait. Scratch that. I've always hated cross-country running. Face turns red, you sweat and overheat, struggle to breathe, and the constant running thing never tickled my brain. With all those symptoms, I'm pretty sure they're all signs of an allergic reaction.
Plus, running for fun? Have you ever seen a happy runner? No. And there you have it. I do enjoy exercise though, but swimming. Not running. I'm not built to run. I'm more of a stand and see what happens kinda guy.

But I digress. The point of this article is to provide some general guidance on how to be a good leader/manager, and call on a few of my own experiences and from successful people behaviours I have observed to use as examples. My hope is that the insights will enable you to have a successful career in your chosen field, and perhaps even in life. 
So let's kick this off. So, how does a guy like me - who did not excel in school but did fine, was not a superstar in any chosen field just fine in most, was not particularly well supported by my teachers due to my incessant curiosity, who came from a single parent home - end up doing all the incredible stuff I have done (and with more to come) across so many businesses and with so many amazing people? 
The answer is the very same answer that I've been writing about in almost every single post I've ever written. It all comes down to;
"Attitude"
Yup - this old nugget. "A" double "T", "i" and another "t" with a whole lot of "uuuude" thrown in for good measure.
I - like a lot of the successful people I know - strive each and every day, to focus on the good, to turn not-so-good situations into better, to be proactive greater than 20% of our time and turn the negative thinking of others and ourselves, into more positive views. Dwelling on negatives does no one any good. Learning from negatives becomes a positive and that does everyone good.

By constantly looking for win/win's in every situation, being open to learning from everyone and anyone, by building a genuine, honest rapport with the people you work and interact with, you build a good base with people. Maintaining a constant drive for transparency and integrity in all your dealings, things will often fall into place where they're supposed to. Add to that, doing exactly what you say you're going to do (and striving to become well-known for all these traits), you will build up a size-able level of respect. It's how its worked for me in all the businesses I have worked within. 
And judging by the numerous head-hunting messages I get through LinkedIn etc and emails each month, I can only guess that perhaps this respect has translated into word of mouth that I'm a good guy to have on the team too. Always nice to be wanted :D
For you reading this, all that effort I've noted might seem a lot or hard work, but it's not. It is just a simple state of mind. Nothing more.
The result of having this type of attitude ensures that you have the opportunity to grow both professionally and personally without burning any bridges along the way. Whilst sure, as a leader you will have to make decisions that ultimately challenge what others are doing and you might get things wrong but in my experience, whatever bridges you "singe", you 'll never burn to the ground. Often the burns will fade once people realise you have not ever deviated from being a genuinely caring person with integrity who they trust. And more often than not, a person's reaction to anything you do, is often reflection on them, rather than you. Especially when you have a good, kind heart with the attitude to match.

And that raises the big point. Being successful in business is never about being heartless. In fact, it's quite the opposite. The people and businesses I have seen become successful, have been all about the heart. Being honest. Valuing people highly. Caring. Whilst there are always dollar decisions to be made, if you have a core set of values of how you view the world and they ultimately reinforce a heart approach and why you're in business in the first place, then you cannot go wrong. And it's easy to see the people and businesses who fall off this path too. You can almost see the disengagement amongst their employees from the moment they suspect they've become numbers rather than human's and their leaders have disengaged. 

Whenever you are working, whatever you are doing, if you have the right attitude towards it and those around you, you will succeed. Make sure you're not just sitting back and "expecting" things to happen for (or to) you, and things will get easier and you will keep yourself ahead of the curve. Nice people in business do get somewhere. Nice people with go-get-it attitudes get even further. It does also depend on what you consider is success.

For me, my guide is about making a positive difference to those around me, genuinely helping people develop and grow, building relationships that will stand the test of time, all whilst being well rewarded for my efforts. Not so that I can go buy "stuff", but so that I can provide for my family (be that travel to expand their minds, safer cars they love, healthier food on the table, etc) to the very best of my ability. Your career will take off the moment you define what you want out of one. 
For the attitude, people will see this great attitude in you, a confidence, a know-where-they-stand understanding and as a result, will not only work hard for and with you, but you will also garner their respect and belief in what you're trying to get done. 
Sounds great, right?
But what about all the experience, the skill? What if you're just starting out?

Along with the attitude, you also need to allow yourself to make mistakes, not be too embarrassed to make them so that you then don''t try, become too afraid to ask questions.
You have to be brave.
"It's ok to make mistakes"
So many people beat themselves up unnecessarily regarding making mistakes, but ask yourself some logical questions each time you make one;
"What have I learned?"
I'll bet you leaned how NOT to do it again, right? So is that a negative or a positive?
"How did that happen in the first place?"
Root cause analysis. Time to start looking at the process and how you got there, which will lead quite nicely into...
"How can I stop that happening again?" 
Forward thinking to help yourself and others.
"How wide did that mistake go? Who else did it affect?"
This is a good one to consider. Shows caring, plus can open up your mind to stop thinking just about your backyard, this one enables you to think all the way across the business you're in.

Regardless of the mistake, it is absolutely possible to turn it into a "positive" by learning from it and acting on it.  
Did you know about the potential to make this mistake before you made it? 
Maybe you did. What actions did you take to ensure it didn't happen? If you didn't, now you do. What will you do with this information you've just learnt?
Will you try to cover it up and fingers crossed no one realises? Well, you could...but where will that get you? Constantly having to hide it? Anxiety that someone might eventually find out? That doesn't sound like any fun now does it. Always better to confess, own any errors you make and spread the word! You don't want anyone else doing the same thing you did, right? 
Thing is - your $40 mistake (or even $4000 mistake) that you've just learnt from and are striving to fix/repair etc could be potentially plug a massive dollar hole the business you work for, that no one knew about. You raising it will highlight it. Good trustworthy people spread the word and endeavour to protect the business.   
And since you've found the error, by you alerting others to it, your little mistake could potentially save your company millions of dollars in the long run.
So...when you make a mistake, why would you beat yourself up again?  
LEARN FROM IT, 
ANALYSE IT, 
FIX IT, 
OWN IT, 
SPREAD THE WORD ABOUT IT.
If you need an acronym to remember - try F.O.A.L.S
That's a real positive. 
 
So give these things a go - consider the environment you work in and look toward upping your personal profile within the business. Think about who you interact with, what your job is, what your role is (job and role can be different) and why you're there.
A few key points to consider too if you want to be well thought of, trusted and successful.
1. Never be a suck-up - everyone can see through sycophantic behaviours, even if you're world class at it. You will effectively lose all respect from the people you work with and miss out on even normal opportunities. No one likes a suck up attention seeker.
2. Keep your cool when others aren't or can't. Someone who can think crystal clear in any crisis is an asset to any business.
3. Never go to a meeting without preparing for it first - you can choose to go as a spectator or a participant. NEVER choose to go as a spectator.
4. Do what you say you're going to do - use outlook calendars, phone reminders etc do whatever you have to make sure you don't forget. If you do forget, don't bother with excuses, own it. You made a mistake. Learn from it.
5. Allow yourself to have fun, and those who report to you. Don't be serious all the time. No one will relate to the person who can't have a laugh. They won't follow you or support any goals you have either.
6. Admit when you don't understand - which would you rather? Know how to do something or do it wrong and have to re-do it?
7. Be genuine/real. This, is numero uno and the MOST important thing of all. Fakes never gain trust. Better to be respected for who you actually are, than respected for someone you're pretending to be.
8. Show empathy for others. Care and concern is a strength, not a weakness. The leader who can empathize, can show vulnerability, is the one people will follow. You "get" them, they "get" you.
9. Proof read every email you send before you send it and re-read every email you receive at least once.
10. And lastly (but by no means finally) - challenge yourself. You're a lot stronger, braver and smarter than you give yourself credit for. Trust that fact and give things a shot. How will you know what you can achieve if you only ever sit back and don't push yourself?

I'll leave this all with you to have a bit of a re-read through - it is a big post. 
I sincerely wish you the best of luck with your career. I'm sure you've got this and perhaps all the stuff I've blathered on about, you already knew. If you did, sometimes its just good to have it written down as a reminder. If you didn't, I hope it is helpful. 

So please, have a great day...

...and dream big.






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