A.C.T. to become an Effective Leader by Jim Johnson

ACT a

I’m always looking for ways to engage my leadership team to become the best leaders they can be.  In 2015, we are going to learn how to A.C.T. like leaders.  What does this mean?  We want to identify, know, and embody the

Attributes

Characteristics

Traits

of effective leaders.

 

Together, each month, we will select an A.C.T.  Then individually, for the next 30 days, we will research this A.C.T. to find a good working definition, discover areas where we are already individually strong in and where we need to improve, and then work to identify what success will look like when we put this A.C.T. into practice with our teams and colleagues.

Then in our monthly meetings, we will collaboratively choose the working definition of the A.C.T.  We will then share what we’ve learned, where we personally need to grow and develop (accountability), and explain what we believe success will look like. I know my team – there will be great discussions, encouragement, and challenging moments.

I’ve started a list of A.C.T.s we might consider.  Here’s a partial list:

 

  • Vision
  • Communication
  • Decision Making
  • Energy/Drive
  • Staff Development
  • Accountability
  • Results/Performance
  • Reputation

 

This blog has readers from around the world.  I would love to read your ideas of some the A.C.T.s of effective leadership.  Simply make a comment, and I’ll publish it so we can all share our thoughts and ideas.  I appreciate, in advance, what you will contribute to this experiment.

I’m looking forward to 2015 with my leadership team.  Thank you for being a part of this experience.  Together, let’s grow great teams!

 

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So There’s a Problem on Your Team…by Jim Johnson

No manager/leader will ever have a career where everything goes according to the plan.  Something is wrong on the team you lead. The wheels get wobbly on the wagon.  Sometimes they fall off.  Sometimes you have folks in the wagon that you wish were on someone else’s wagon.  Stuff happens.

There are times where a turn-a-round is a pretty simple fix.  Then, again, you’ll be faced with a team that is out of sorts – with each other, with you, or both.  Those times can be tough.

As the leader of your team, it is your responsibility to keep everyone on the same page, right?  Your boss will expect this of you.  Your company’s culture, I’m sure, demands it.  Teams that don’t function appropriately quickly stand out.  Managers who lead these teams also stand out.  So if you’re “stuck” in this situation, how do you handle it?

First, own it.  Whatever is happening…whatever has been said…what ever is the complaint…own what you can of it.  Take responsibility.  There is truth in difficult situations.  Find it and act upon it.  Yes, there will be drama, lies, and innuendos.  Stay clear of those.  Acknowledge the truth and act.

Second, understand your role and your team’s role.  As the leader, you will be setting the tone and leading the charge towards change.  Your team will be watching you.  That’s good.  Model the appropriate attitude and behaviors.  And know that it’s not all on you.  Each member of your team needs to be committed to helping the team out of its hole.  Personal opinions and biases get in the way.  Leaders can fall into the trap of blaming the team.  The team will talk about the leader behind his/her back.  Everyone is looking for a personal win.  But in business, “the house wins”.  You and your team needs to realize that the success of the business is paramount.  The best scenario is to bring alignment from both the leader and the team to what will be the “win” for the company.

Third, communicate.  If things aren’t going as you wish they were, don’t stop communicating.  You are still the manager.  Tell your team where they are succeeding.  Share with them where they are not.  Communicate change clearly.  If you don’t, your team will fill the “holes” with what they assume is happening in the change.  

Fourth, coach.  Spend significant time moving your individual team members forward.  A difficult team environment is not an excuse to stop developing your team.  They need you more than ever.  Keep the conversation on personal growth and your team’s/company’s metrics.  Don’t get caught up in the drama of one employee talking poorly of another employee.  Keep the conversation on what that team member can control and encourage them to meet/exceed their goals.  Give them the resources to do it.  Be there for them.  

Fifth, listen.  If you don’t, someone else will (i.e. HR, CEO).  Practice active listening.  Ask questions and then listen.  Take notes.  Follow up and follow through on what you hear.  Your team has a voice – listen to it.  

If you’re in a rough team environment, take heart.  You have what it takes to lead them out of it.  Keep short accounts with your team.  Don’t ignore bad behavior.  And by all means, DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT your interactions with your team.  You’ll be glad you did.  

You are a team leader.  If your team is off track, lead them back on it.  It won’t be easy.  But it’s your job, right?  You can do it.  

 

“Nothing will work unless you do.”  Maya Angelou

 

 

Perform Under Pressure by Jim Johnson

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Proud dad moment here. My 8 year old son – who was incredibly shy a year ago – has grown so much in the past 12 months. Tonight he faced a pressure situation and did not fail to perform.

He plays little league baseball. It was the bottom of the 5th inning. 2 outs. Runners at 1st & 3rd. A storm was about to roll in. Winds were blowing from left field and gusting over 15 mph. My son came up to bat. The score was tied.

After a ball and then a strike, my son hit a single and the runner on 3rd scored!

He knew the game was on his shoulders. He stepped up, concentrated, and performed when it really counted.

I’m beyond proud. Not only for the win, but for how he handled himself under pressure. He learned how to perform under stress. He did the basics and followed through.

Lead by Telling or Lead by Questioning by Jim Johnson

We’ve all had “that boss” who would dictate directions from afar.  We would be fearful of taking any action on most anything for fear that we were heading in a direction that they would not like.  So, we sat on our hands waiting for our orders.

Leading by telling is not an effective or efficient way to get things done.

One of the things I’ve tried to get better at is to lead by questioning.  This leadership tactic has required me to roll up my sleeves and spend time with my team leaders.  I’ve worked hard to build trusting relationships with them so they aren’t afraid to disagree with me, challenge me or question me.  I’ve had to make it safe to do this with me – the “ownness” is on me.

Just the other day, I sat down with one of my first-year leaders to talk about some results I needed to see improved.  I had been using a report that, I thought, demonstrated the need for improvement in a sales area.  I asked her a lot of questions about the performance of her team and how she managed them in this particular area.   She began questioning where this report came from, who showed it to me, and was it the same report that the lending department actually used.  Since someone in lending gave me the report, I had assumed (oops) that the report was valid.  It was not.  I was able to find the right report and we both got on the same page right away.   But I only learned this when this leader questioned me on it.  We then created a better tracking mechanism that she can use with her team to predict their performance by month’s end.  It was a very good use of our time.

In this interaction, there were a lot of questions and clarifications being used – and this was healthy.  We got to the heart of the matter.  I worked hard not to simply tell this manager to “fix it”, but we talked through the issue and found the resolution that we both needed.

In her post “If You’re Always Giving Order, You’re Not a Great Leader”, Jessica Stillman shares the following:

“Think about a leader and chances are your first image is of someone giving orders — maybe it’s the quarterback in a huddle outlining the next play for his teammates, maybe it’s an army officer coolly  barking commands in the heat of combat. But chances are, when many of us think of leadership, we picture a person telling others what to do.

After all, that’s the essence of leadership, right?

Wrong, says Christine Comaford, an executive coach and author of SmartTribes: How Teams Become Brilliant Together who recently participated in a series of interviews on the website of fellow author Keith Ferrazzi. In the course of a long exchange about leadership, she tells the story of an executive she was coaching who couldn’t stop telling his employees how to do day-to-day things.”

She goes on to say that when a leader asks more questions vs. telling the employee what to do, good things happen:

  • The employee learns that they do have responsibilities (and the abilities) to get things done on their own.
  • The leader cannot create an environment where the staff will not act unless they get permission.  Nothing will get done this way.
  • The leader and the employee will both learn more with this method.

“The great leaders are like the best conductors –

they reach beyond the notes to reach the magic in the players.” –Blaine Lee

Show Them, Grow Them by Jim Johnson

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Do you have a new manager to train? Did they get promoted and then left to figure things out for themselves? I hope not.

Here’s a simple process to work through with them. This will develop your new managers into effective leaders and decision-makers:

1. You do, they observe – you discuss together

For a new activity (i.e. report pulling/analyzing, writing reviews, etc.), it is important that you set the standard. For the major “firsts”, you need to show your new manager how to do it. Explain your expectations. Show them how to find and analyze reports that they will need to manage from. Are they taking notes? They should. Tell them that this is what they will be doing…without you.

Let them ask questions. Ask them questions. Make sure you know what they know.

2. You do together – you discuss together

Now work on a projects, reports, etc. together. Don’t hog the work. Give them the reins and you’ll quickly learn what they now know and what they still need help with. This part of the process should have plenty of dialogue. Listen, watch, ask, involve, challenge, encourage.

3. They do, you observe – you discuss together

It’s time for them to fly solo – under your watchful eye. It’s time for them to prove that they understand and can demonstrate what they’ve learned. Do they understand the story behind the numbers? This will answer that question. Again, resist the urge to butt in. If they fail, they’ll learn. Most likely, they will not make a mistake that cannot be fixed. You should be making notes of your observations so your coaching sessions will have more meaning.

4. They do

This new manager will have more confidence and courage as they stretch their wings. Observe from a distance. Again, mistakes will be made. That’s ok. Don’t “rescue” them. The learning continues.

When you stepped into your first leadership role, hopefully you were not on your own. If you were, change that legacy and create a new one. If you were mentored early on, pass that on to this new leader. They will appreciate it and you will be developing a new leader who will develop and grow an effective team which will lead to your department’s and company’s success.

Smart Tribe Leadership

I’ve just begun reading Christine Comaford’s book, Smart Tribes (Portfolio/Penguin, 2013).  Here’s an excerpt from the first chapter. This is a timely book for me personally and professionally. 

the “American workforce where 71% of workers are emotionally disengaged and simply working for the money, we know it’s essential to fix our state of so-called leadership…True leadership inspires people with vision.  Vision pulls people not only to take action but also to care about the outcome, to take personal ownership of it, and to bring their ‘A game’ every day. 

The team benefits tremendously too.  As the leader grows in focus, team members feel the leader is increasingly more aware and cares about them more….As the leader’s influence grows, the team members feel the leader is more capable and collaborative.  Over time as results are sustained, team members feel safer and more loyal.”

Sounds great, doesn’t it?!  You can find this book on Amazon at this link.  

 

Click here to learn more about Christine and her work. 

 

Follow Christine on Twitter @comaford

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100% Team by Jim Johnson

Image you coach a baseball team, and your team just lost a game.  In the post-game talk, you tell your team that they didn’t give it their all – they played at around 85%.baseball coach

Two days later, you arrive for the next game.  You gather your team together for the pre-game pep talk.  Would you say this?

“Ok, team, a couple of days ago I told you that you played at 85%.  I know you can do better.  You know you can do better.  Today, I want 89%!  Now let’s go get ’em!”

No coach I know would ever say that.

An effective coach wants 100% out of their team.  Not perfection, mind you.  But 100%.  Coaches want players to play to their potential.  To give it 100%. 

We’ve all read articles and book where we’re told that most companies see team performance following the 80/20 rule.  What would your team look like it everyone worked at 100%.  Not realistic?  Perhaps.  But why not set that vision?

Refuse to allow your team to live/work to the lowest common denominator.  Give them the vision of higher standards.  Set challenging goals.  Inspect what you expect.  Cheer them on.  Coach them.  Believe in them.

Coaches want their players to play to 100% of their potential.