D. Kevin Berchelmann
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Friday, March 13, 2015
In this and 3 subsequent blog entries, I'm expanding on the "5 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership" I outlined in a recent article.
The second law focuses on open communications; too often, usually in the misplaced interest of correctness or conflict-avoidance, we tap-dance around topics, subjects, and even direction. We assume -- often incorrectly -- that someone "knows what we mean," though we didn't come out and say it.
Law #2. If you want something specific done, say so specifically, using clear, plain language. Employees, generally, have some difficulty doing their basic jobs; adding "mind-reading" to their description is just plain unfair.
No hints, implications, or innuendos. Say what you want, and use English! Directness counts.
I was recently doing some coaching with a client executive who was lamenting the poor "listening skills" of his Operations VP. Seems he had told the VP that one of his director-level staffers was not fully competent, and that the VP should "do something about that person."
3 days later, that VP fired that director. My client executive was shocked -- he told me, "I told him to do something with her, you know, like coach, train, or develop. Maybe even warn her of her performance." He said, "I didn't tell him to fire her..."
The VP, of course, simply said, "The boss said 'do something with her, so I did."
Not really... I don't need to tell those of you reading this the difficulty in replacing an experienced mid-level manager in a specific industry. Especially without even making an effort to change her performance or behavior in some way.
Of course, the senior executive felt his comments were sufficient... obviously, they were not. English would have prevented this misunderstanding... simply telling the VP that he should "improve her performance or behavior" would have been sufficient; perhaps even simply asking the VP what he's done to work with the director would have jogged a reasonable conversation.
Instead, a miscommunication -- caused solely by incomplete/indirect language -- has created yet another "situation" at the company.
As if we didn't already have enough to do, we go out creating challenges to deal with.
So, like the doctor when the patient says, "Doc, it hurts when I do 'this,' and the Doc says simply, "Stop doing that."
Stop doing that.
Wednesday, March 11, 2015
Leaders--born or made?
I get this a lot. And though it seems like "the question of the ages," it's really not.
Leaders are made, not born.
I believe this with all my being, and have evidence of perpetual non-leaders "turning a corner" in their professional lives and developing the leadership presence that many only dream of.
I believe they are made because I've seen them made.
Having said that... I've been playing golf for 30 some-odd years. I'm a solid "business-golfer," never embarrassing myself completely (well, there was this one time...), and also never being eligible for a U.S. Open run. I play to a 12-15 handicap, and enjoy the game. Others pick up the sticks, get a few pointers, and then display an immediate proclivity to the game, joining the single-digit ranks in less than a year. I try and run 'em over with my golf cart... wait, did I write that out loud?
Anyway, these "12-month-wonders" weren't born knowing how to golf. They didn't grow in the womb with spikes and a leather glove, knowing then that a downhill lie requires a closed clubface. They were, however, born with the propensity to learn the game that I was not. They picked it up faster--it fit their physicality, their mental grasp, even their character or persona.
Here, then, are your born leaders. They knew nothing of active listening, feedback and decision-making during their mom's first ultrasound; they simply pick up the principles and applications so much faster than we mortals that they appear--like the irritating golfers above--to have been "born" with those traits.
They weren't. They just learned 'em faster than most of us.
I also think that the "born, not made" mantra is promoted mostly by (a) those who weren't born with that propensity mentioned above and need some emotional salve to keep their ego whole, or (b) those who were born with that propensity, and can't understand why others don't "get it."
A bigger question, to me, is what can we do to identify those innate leadership learners sooner, rather than later?
But that's just me...
Monday, February 23, 2015
This first law is based on decision-making; one of the most significant things we must do, as leaders, is to make decisions. Some will be good, some require further decision-making.
Law #1: Never delay or abrogate a decision that must be made. Make it and move on. You may have to immediately make another decision; this doesn't mean your first one was wrong, merely that your second one had the benefit of additional knowledge.
Let me share a story...
I used to work for a 30-year USAF General, a war veteran with a chest full of medals, ribbons, and other colorful accoutrements. Great guy, razor sharp, did not suffer fools lightly. His name was Brigadier General Lawrence Bose.
General Bose was a fighter pilot (F-4) in Vietnam, most notably during Operation Linebacker (the push-back after the Tet Offensive). As it seems with many battle-hardened leaders (military and corporate), he was known to say some pretty profound things. The sorts of things you would tell yourself, "Hey, I need to remember that one..." Some actually stuck, which for me, is nothing short of miraculous. One, in particular...
"Shirt," he would say ("Shirt" was slang for "First Sergeant" in the USAF--the reason is fodder for another story), "Leaders don't really make good decisions or bad; they just make decisions. If they've done their job correctly, the people working for them make the results of those decisions good."
Now, never mind whether you agree that decisions are never classified as "good" or "bad." Set that part aside... more important is the leadership genius behind the comment. Our jobs as leaders is to make decisions. We've heard this a hundred times, so here's a hundred and one: A mediocre decision made promptly and unequivocally trumps a really good decision delayed and hesitant.
Another fairly well known General, George S. Patton, put it this way: "A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week."
Consider this: If we've managed our talent appropriately, and developed our staffs as we should, most of our decisions will result in unmitigated success -- those people working with us will make sure of it.
Just make the damned decision...
Wednesday, January 28, 2015
(repeated from 2013—because it reared its head again with a
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Recently, when discussing the details of succession planning (uh, oh, here he goes again...!) I was asked the following by a colleague:
Friday, October 17, 2014
When we use control and leadership in the same sentence, our brows start to furrow. We see controlling behavior as an anathema to empowerment--something to be summarily eradicated, not embraced.
Well, yes, sort of.
Controlling behavior in leadership--when used within relationships--is clearly bad. The world doesn't need more micro-managers, we have plenty. But make the distinction clear: when used within relationships is the qualifier.
Personally controlling the controllable is something altogether different. And no, I'm not simply playing with words. Let me explain...
Relationships notwithstanding, there is a lot going on in a typical manager's world. Changes, innovations, developing people, idiotic boss demands... the list goes on. Add to that the occasional "he's touching me!" and we see quickly that the old, tired phrase "control is just an illusion" is neither old nor tired enough. In fact, it's still pretty damned active.
There are so many things--most things--over which leadership has little or no control, that for those things we can control, we should do so viciously and purposefully. Our own behavior, for example. The feedback I give others... whether I decide to mentor someone or not... how I act/react to challenges--do I show resilience, modeling that behavior for others, or do I run around shrieking and pulling my hair?
We don't control much in the big scheme of things, but we do control more than we often think. Grab those things you do control, make sure they happen as you want them to, and save the mental and emotional bandwidth for those things where control is simply a distant mirage, making us believe that water is just over the next sand dune.
But that's just me...
Friday, October 10, 2014
Big egos are have been the death of many a senior executive. It's such a waste, and it doesn't need to be that way.
Enter Microsoft's Satya Nadella.
During a recent conference, speaking to a group of women, Nadella said they should wait for pay raises to come when an organization recognizes them. Please note--he didn't say women should wait, or that women should do anything different than men. He just happened to be speaking to a women's group, and social media began flogging Nadella for his comments.
In context, his comments were fine. Taken out of context--the world in which public figures live, like it or not--his words sucked. At best, he misspoke (current political favorite); at worst, he screwed up.
Either way, he fixed it. It's never the first mistake or bad decision that gets us in trouble; it's the second--the one we make after we realize the first one was wrong. Nadella knocked that second one out of the park.
No qualifications, no equivocations... he just apologized. "I screwed up, I'm sorry."
It's that easy, folks. Take notes.
But that's just me...
Wednesday, September 24, 2014
- Decide in advance what’s important, but don’t build a list out of concrete. I know that sounds like a paradox, but we need to know, in calm times, what we believe is important—let’s identify that. But don’t be such a slave to your list that you cannot adapt opportunistically. Needing to read some staff-driven emails may be momentarily important, but don’t close your door when a highly-engaged, usually productive asks “do you have a minute?”
- If it isn’t important enough for a calendar, it’s not important enough to do. Deep-six the countless, burgeoning lists that inevitably create a monument for failure at the end of the day. If something needs to be done, put it on your calendar. Then, of course, pay attention to deadlines.
- My quote above from Star Wars’ Yoda is appropriate for individual productivity, particularly as it relates to procrastinating. Either do it, and do it now, or DON’T do it, and either do something else or give yourself permission to just relax, surf the web, or stare at the ceiling. Worrying incessantly about something you’re “supposed” to be—but not—doing is simply a time-sucker and entirely unproductive.
But that's just me...
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
But that's just me...
Thursday, August 21, 2014