Episode Focus: Looking at several leadership articles from around the world including topics such as:
- First impression biases
- Various aspects of leadership
- Leadership in the military and professional cheerleading
- Leadership burnout at work and leadership observations during vacations
- The need to take action when something is going wrong
- The victim mentality surrounding a broken iPod
The last episode was very quiet – lesson learned – don’t record early in the morning in a hotel room – you try to be too quiet!
Lining up more interviews
Helping out a fellow podcaster coming up with a solution on effectively podcasting and post writing. I hadn’t realized how much I’ve learned over the past year until I saw how quickly I had been able to help him solve his pain points. If this is something you need a hand with, please let me know!
VOCL Resources and Articles
This week – a random selection of 10 articles on different aspects of leadership.
“Are Your First Impression Biases the #1 Cause of Your Hiring Mistakes?” by Lou Adler at LinkedIn
This article focuses on the dangers of making a ‘hasty’ decision about people based on first impressions. As you assume more senior leadership roles throughout your career, you are more likely to have greater input in the people selection process. You really want the best people, since they are the ones that will be executing your vision. First impressions can be skewed for a variety of reasons, so the author provides actionable advice on how to avoid this pitfall:
- Listen to the judge (take 30 minutes instead of 30 seconds)
- Measure the first impression at the end of the interview
- Treat candidates as consultants (we believe them to be competent until proven otherwise)
- Change your standard from possible best friend to a strong co-worker (this is not a date…)
- Use evidence to make the assessment, not gut feelings
(Original article has been deleted)
“4 Cs of Enlightened Leadership” by Ekaterina Walter at LinkedIn
In leadership articles, the ‘C’ usually stands for ‘Chief’ (as in CEO or Chief Executive Officer). In this case, the author identifies four words, beginning with the letter ‘C’, as being critical for leaders:
- Character – who you are
- Competence – what you know
- Collaboration – who you bring on board
- Courage – how far you are willing to take your vision
From a content perspective, I agree with these being important. From a composition perspective, I would have changed the order of collaboration and courage.
(With a title like that, you know I had to use the letter ‘C’ to make my points!)
(Original article has been deleted)
“How to Become a Better Leader” by Rick Hein at CIO.com
This is a fairly lengthy leadership article that covers a significant amount of leadership factors for all leaders, but with a particular emphasis on Chief Information Officers (CIOs). I’ll mention the key aspects here, but you’ll have to go to the article to get the in-depth discussion on why they are important.
- Find a good mentor in your organization
- Empower your team
- Develop your strategy skills
- Develop your communication skills
- Become a better listener
- Be a better networker
- Be consistent and honest
- Know yourself / be authentic
- Don’t micro-manage
- Surround yourself with people smarter than you
- Always be learning
My favourite quote came from the communication skills section – it speaks to the need to tailor your communication for your target audience:
“A long time ago, when I started out in engineering, I had this problem of overly detailed technical explanations. An exasperated senior manager once told me – “I am asking you for the time, and you are telling me how to build a watch,”
This article also generated several lengthy comments in return – which side do you fall on?
“Micromanaging can stifle employees” by Gladys Edmunds at USA Today
Leadership articles can take several forms such as lists, case studies, etc. – this article is an answer to a question posed by a reader. What captured my interest from the start was that the man posing the question thinks that people need to be made to work and his wife believes that people need to develop their own capacity for work – they seem to demonstrate McGregor’s Theory X (the husband) and Theory Y (the wife) in one couple!
What makes the article so compelling is that the author admits that she once held a Theory X point of view, but was counselled by her mentor (another entrepreneur) that her micromanagement style would eventually erode confidence – she now makes a point of believing in her followers and developing them to the best of their ability.
Articles like this make me wish I could see the follow-ups such as those seen in reality TV – not only for the man posing the question but for the author’s own business. There are likely to be ups and downs on any given day, but I would assess that there was a positive change in the workplace culture and environment.
“6 Leadership Lessons From A 3-Star General” by Jenna Goudreau at Business Insider Australia
As you can tell by now, military-infused leadership articles resonate with me – this article is no different. The author provides military leadership insights that she heard from a recently retired general. In addition to the 6 lessons (more on this later), I like the program that was developed to give the business leaders a “taste” of military life – the Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference did a smaller-scale event with our group.
This article is a really good read – the six lessons are:
- You’re only as strong as your least experienced team member (you have to develop everyone on your team)
- You have to know what right looks like for each role in the organization (success comes from putting the right people with the right skill sets into the right position. If someone’s not quite right in one role – let them know and see if you can’t find a better place for them)
- You have to talk straight with your people (although this can be tough, it’s best to be forthright with everybody)
- Shared challenges bond team members together (it creates a sense of teamwork and trust – military units are good at this)
- Effective communication is a three-step process (don’t use a ‘bullhorn’ technique of just shouting into the void – effective communication also involves the person telling you what they’ve just heard, and you providing correction if there was a misunderstanding)
- You must preserve your force and their families (you are leading people, not machines – people have lives, emotions, issues, etc.)
I’m surprised that vision wasn’t discussed, but perhaps it simply wasn’t covered in the article. For point #4, this is true at all times, but especially in times of high stress. In Haiti, the United Nations Military Force Commander and the incoming US Military Force Commander had both trained together in an airborne (paratrooper) course. Because they had a common bond, they were able to quickly and effectively work together to optimize the tens of thousands of military troops as part of the global military response to the 2010 earthquake – they each knew what the other was capable of doing and they trusted that person.
“Leadership Burnout: A Simple Way to Re-engage” by Janice L. Marturano at Huffington Post
Leaders can be incredibly busy. This article highlights the desirability of finding some time in your day, even if it’s only for a few minutes, to pause and reflect – the author calls this a Purposeful Pause. This will give you the opportunity to re-focus on what is important.
“Leadership Lessons (Seriously) From the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders” by Victor Lipman at Forbes
An interesting article that provides insight for leaders when delivering bad news.
“6 Leadership Lessons Learned On a ‘Backroads’ Bike Trip” by Todd Essig at Forbes
The author uses a group bike trip vacation as a backdrop for six leadership lessons, and offer ways on how those lessons can translate to other groups and environments:
- Front-load preparation and expertise (doing your homework in the preparation/planning phase can help ensure a good start to the execution phase)
- Invite task-consistent individual differences (giving people roles and responsibilities consistent with their skills and interests)
- Establish clear rituals for information exchange (make sure that you give people enough information to ensure success – this includes providing the overarching vision)
- Self-disclose positive experiences for increased positive emotions (focus on the successes of your team – this can lead to greater success in the future)
- Support positive group identity with downward comparisons to other groups (people enjoy being part of something special)
- Pick a team committed to the group’s goals (it’s easier for the group to meet its goals if everyone is primarily focused on the group’s success)
The 5th point can be potentially dangerous – yes, it’s nice to be part of a special group but care should be taken to not ‘over-do it’ and creating an acrimonious atmosphere with other groups within your organization.
“Leadership and The Boiling Frog Experiment” by Henna Inam at Forbes
This article speaks to the need to speak out when something seems wrong. The analogy used is that of the boiling frog experiment (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boiling_frog) and that people won’t speak up if the change is gradual enough. Aside from this anecdote being scientifically incorrect, I can see the point that the author is trying to make:
- If you know something is wrong, do something
- If you’re not sure if something is wrong, talk to someone
- Stand up for what you believe in
- Keep raising the alarm until someone listens
- Learn to communicate after the fact, especially if trust/feelings have been broken
This can be tricky, sometimes change can be so gradual that you may not notice until it’s too late. As leaders, take careful note of the culture amongst your followers. Try to track any deviations from the norm – no matter how gradual. If it continues, take early action to appropriately solve the issue. For those of you with a project management background, this may sound somewhat similar to the process chart during the control phase of Six Sigma (http://www.brighthubpm.com/six-sigma/27134-dmaic-phase-five-the-control-phase/).
“A Broken iPod and the Victim Mentality” by Chris Haché at Voices of Canadian Leadership (Yes, it is an article that I wrote myself. I wish that the story was fictional, but alas…)
Recently, my daughter came home from school in a highly distraught state – her iPod screen was cracked (again). It seems that she had placed it ‘safely’ in her locker, but then another child came by, banged against the side of her locker and caused the iPod to fall. My daughter started going into a rant about the other child, blaming her for the broken iPod. From a leadership perspective, I had a serious issue with this.
Risk management. Yes, the other child banging into the locker may have been the final act that led to a broken iPod, gravity and rapid deceleration trauma as the iPod hit the ground notwithstanding (she did have it in a case). It was, however the last in a series of events over which my daughter had complete control. Some questions that immediately came to mind included:
- She said she placed it ‘safely’ in her locker – was it truly safe
- Could she have taken other measures to ensure that her iPod was safe?
- Could she have removed the risk?
- Could she have transferred the risk to someone else?
- Note that I didn’t ask myself how much will this cost – it’s happened far too frequently and I’m sure I know all the repair shops within a three-hour drive…
- For those who like to brainstorm, what other methods could potentially have been employed? A police barrier around the locker?
The Victim Mentality. Regardless of how she could have handled risk before the fall, how she chose to perceive the event is my greatest concern. She chose to immediately blame the other person. Following that route, she is simply a powerless victim, passively unable to influence events around her. She has no say in the outcome of her life. Even if we fix the iPod, if it breaks again, it’s just another ‘catastrophic event’ (she is a teenager after all, and gadgetry is her life force) where she is a victim once again.
Empowering yourself. The prevention of the accident is not the main point of the story – rather, it’s your perception of events as a person and as a leader. In this case, although my daughter was disappointed about the broken iPod, she should have started asking herself on what she could have done. “Could I have put it at the back of the locker?” “Could I have placed it in a pocket, or put it in my bag?” “Could I have left it at home?” “Could I have asked another kid to hold my iPod for a minute?” Note that the purpose of these questions is not to blame yourself, but to develop the following:
- Understanding that you choose how to perceive events in your life.
- Getting yourself thinking about possible solutions to the problem (prevent future occurrences).
- Understanding that you have the power to shape your life.
Empowering your team. As a leader, you must be careful of introducing the victim mentality among your followers – this starts with continuously monitoring yourself. Your followers will take your lead, so if you are a victim, they will become victims. If you see one of your followers acting like a victim, take the time to ask them questions on how the issue could have been solved in the first place. Help them understand that only they can choose how they perceive events. Only they can choose to go from being a victim to being able to influence their life.
Conclusion. There will be times in life when there is absolutely nothing that you could have done to prevent an accident or a terrible event – car crashes, assault, etc. I am also not advocating that we need to blame the victim. In many cases, however, there is something that you could have done. Taking early action, thinking through risks, counselling your followers and even speaking up and identifying a fault that does not directly impact you (seeing a slippery patch of ice near another business) are all ways that you can empower yourself, empower your team, and hopefully avoid future iPod repairs.
If you have any suggestions for the resources and articles section, please let me know.
VOCL Closing Thoughts / Future Episodes / Call to Action
Takeaways and introspection
- Are you letting your first impression from your followers affect you as a leader? If so, what strategies will you employ to make sure that you get a full understanding of your followers?
- If you find yourself burning out as a leader, you are likely not doing anyone any good, least of all yourself. Take a break, recharge, and come back stronger than ever. In fitness, growth doesn’t come from doing the exercise itself – it comes from the rest period as the body adapts to make itself stronger than ever.
- If you find yourself or your team acting as a victim – stop. Think about how you can empower yourself and take positive action to solve the issue.