Five Things Great Leaders Do Right by Rich Berens

To state the obvious: Great leadership is vital to any organization. Great leaders set the direction for the organization and determine resource allocation to get it done. They create the tone by how they lead and make decisions. They nurture and enable a culture to thrive. And to do their jobs well, they must be deeply committed to the business and to empowering their people to succeed.

Over the years, I have learned there are many great leaders out there who work hard to do the right thing and have the best intentions to do right by their business and their people. Yet, a recent study by Kelton research shows us that less than 50 percent of employees view this as the truth1. This begs the question: Why aren’t employees’ perceptions matching up with leaders’ intentions?

If you’re concerned that your people don’t have confidence in you as a leader or that the perception of the leadership team doesn’t match your efforts, you may need to reassess things. The best leaders always learn to fine-tune their game. Below are five qualities I have found exhibited by successful leaders, all of which are critical actions and behaviors that help leaders be more authentic and create greater confidence and followership.

Why aren’t employees’ perceptions matching up with leaders’ intentions?

1. Leaders are storytellers.

The best leaders have the ability to paint a compelling vision for their people by defining what winning looks like in a powerful, understandable way. They connect with people’s hearts as much as with their heads. They aren’t following a PowerPoint presentation at a town hall meeting; rather, they are speaking passionately, without jargon or business catchphrases, in a way that inspires and motivates their people.

2. Leaders are dot connectors.

Successful leaders create a common view of where the business is, where it needs to go, and how it’s going to get there. They provide clarity at all levels so individuals have a well-defined idea of how their personal goals fit into the big picture.

3. Leaders keep important conversations in the room.

By creating an environment built on trust, honesty, and safety, leaders make it okay for the meaningful conversations to happen “in the room” rather than the bathroom, hallway or water cooler. When people trust their thoughts will be heard in the right way and feel safe that their careers won’t be limited by a new or different idea, they’ll speak more openly. Strong leaders welcome “against the grain” thinking and the resulting debates – that’s when the best ideas come out.

4. Leaders are transparent about decision-making.

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Don’t Be Lousy by Dan Rockwell


Past tense leaders don’t clarify results or methods, before you take action. But, when it’s over, they critique and tweak what you did.

Lousy leaders are wise after the fact.

Correcting the past:

Short-sighted leaders insult, belittle, and demoralize teammates when they explain what should have been done. But, what they really mean is, you should have done it the way I would have done it. They weren’t smart enough to tell you before you stepped out.

Small leaders think you’re an idiot if you didn’t do it their way and brilliant if you did.

Lousy leaders say:

•You should have.
•They could have.
•Why didn’t you?
•It would have been better if….

But, if you can’t critique the past, how can you improve?

7 questions for evaluating past performance:

1. What were you trying to accomplish? Always explore this question before any evaluation. Leaders who give advice or criticism before clarifying your goals are pressuring you to be like them.
2. How do you know you succeeded or failed? (Observable behaviors and results)
3. What did you do to achieve your desired end?
4. What worked?
5. What didn’t work?
6. What will you do differently next time. (Not, what do you wish you would have done.)
7.How can I help?

6 questions when performance falls short:

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The CEO’s Checklist to Keeping Employees Happy and Fulfilled by James Parsons

When employees have a casual, stress-free time at work, they’re going to be more productive in general. As a business owner, it’s your job to establish procedures that will keep your employees happy and motivated.

Before diving into specific advice, it’s important to realize that every workplace has its own dynamics. And, much like how a principal doesn’t have a grasp of how schoolchildren treat each other in the trenches, a CEO doesn’t necessarily know all of the interpersonal dynamics that go on amongst their employees. Many of the most hostile, toxic actions taken in a workplace come in an attempt to curry favor with the boss.

Therefore, it’s important to keep an even hand, avoid showing favoritism and always be aware of your lowest-performing employees. Finding out why they’re underperforming can help you boost your entire workplace.

But when considering how to keep everyone happy and engaged, here are a few tips:

Allow individuality in dress code.

Dress codes are a thing of the past. Individuality trumps uniformity every time, so let your staff’s personality shine through – within reason. You can provide guidelines of what is appropriate and what isn’t (financial companies will have a completely different dress code than journalists) but try not to make it too stringent. They will thank you for it.

The reason being is part of the problem with a restrictive dress code is the atmosphere of oppression it conveys. Mandating a certain color suit, shirt and tie, strict haircut regulations, these take professionalism to an extreme.

Provide tools for success.

It’s often much more effective to give your employees direction and tools to accomplish their goals than it is to set down rigid guidelines and a process they must follow.

You can see this in practice in retail, when cashiers are given enough autonomy to adjust prices and extend expired coupons on the fly. That simple bit of autonomy keeps customers happy, and when customers are happy, cashiers don’t have to worry about dealing with an irate customer.

In corporate problem solving, the same kind of freedom and autonomy can boost morale and productivity. How often have you come up with a viable solution to a problem, only to find a rule or policy that prevents you from acting? Allow for creativity, don’t squash it.

Make training and learning available.

Most people naturally want to better themselves, if for no other reason than to further their career. Offer free training programs and educational opportunities to anyone who wants to partake.

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7 Ways To Tell If You’re Ready For Management Responsibilities by Lisa Quast


One question I’m asked a lot is how to know if a person is ready to move from an individual contributor role into a job that includes people management. Unfortunately, determining the answer isn’t as simple as taking a few tests, such as the written and driving tests you must pass to qualify to drive a vehicle. Although, it would be nice if it were that easy.

Whenever I’m evaluating clients or employees to determine if they’re ready for people management responsibilities, I look for both content knowledge as well as the ability to consistently demonstrate behaviors that will lead to good people management. If you’re interested in moving into a management role, here are 7 areas you should evaluate:

1. You achieve consistently positive results in your current job. If you can’t complete outstanding work in your current job, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to handle the additional responsibilities that come with managing others. You must prove you are organized, self-motivated, and ready to take on higher-level challenges.

2. You have established positive work relationships with employees throughout the company. Being a good people manager means you must be good with – people. I look to see if the person has cultivated trustworthy relationships with other employees, especially those in different departments. If you’re a loner who rarely interacts with others, then you might want to reconsider your career goals or seek out opportunities to test your people management skills, such as by leading project teams.

3. You can demonstrate successful leadership of project teams with multiple participants. Most employees aren’t given a manager title with people management responsibilities unless they can prove they are ready. One way to do this is to volunteer or take on roles leading project teams with at least three or more members. You should be able to demonstrate success in these types of leadership roles, managing project teams with progressively more challenging work and with increasing numbers of participants. Even better is when you can prove your success leading cross-functional and cross-cultural teams.

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The Powerful Leader by Dan Rockwell


Powerful leaders:

1. Fully align with organizational values, mission, and vision. Power comes to those who live under authority.
2. Use your strengths to help powerful people reach their goals and weak people get ahead.
3. Invite feedback and input from others. Those who explore options sit in the power chair.
4. Identify your inner critic. Talk to yourself like someone with high potential.
5. Pour yourself into meaningful purpose.
6. Spend less time doing things that don’t matter.
7. Err on the side of action.
8. Break the rules and move forward without permission.
9. See the big picture. Don’t get lost in the weeds.
10. Accept others as they are, not as you wish they were, before calling them to rise up.
11. Accept reality as it is, not as you wish it was. Power isn’t about pretending. Blame reflects weakness.
12. Be grateful for what you have, even as you reach higher. Ungratefulness makes you weak.
13. Show compassion and tenderness. Enhance your power by giving second chances.
14. Learn from others but don’t lose yourself to imitation.
15. Hold yourself and others to high standards.

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Boss, It’s Just Not Your Job by MARY C. SCHAEFER


Thinking for your employees is not your job. Facilitating their empowerment is. Creating a culture of personal leadership is.

Sometimes I hear this from manager clients. It bugs them when their staff agrees to put a new procedure in place and then discover later that everyone has fallen back to old habits.

I’ve been there myself. You go into redesigning a process with good intentions. Then you come to find out the new process is abandoned or worse – your staff is doing both the old process and the new one at the same time. All the efficiency you hoped for go right out the window.

Why Powering Through Doesn’t Work

It’s easy to think, “I guess I need to put it in my tickle file to check in and remind them more often.” Uh, no.

Maybe you should just tell them they have to do it – no ifs, ands or buts. That would probably get some compliance for some period of time. But not for the long haul.

When I coach my clients the last thing I want is to add more to their to-do list, like checking and reminding. What if we look at what would make a change stick?

Boss, This Is Your Job

So many times we think we’ve communicated, but we really haven’t. We assume because we all speak the same language or because people nod their heads they get it.

Managers show up in my office complaining about an underperforming employee. They assure me they’ve had discussions. When we go over the conversations, they invariably involved a lot of talking on the boss’s part. They often concluded with a question like, “Do you understand?”

A more helpful question is: “What do you understand about what we talked about today?” or “What will you do differently based on what we talked about today?”

When Changes Don’t Stick, Be A Detective

For Example:

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