Thursday, 28 December 2017

Passport Optimism

I recently renewed my passport.  When I was asked how long of a renewal I wanted – 5 or 10 years – the agent told me that the oldest person who opted for the 10 year renewal was 99 years old.  It struck me that the applicant must have had an optimistic view of life.

On the one hand, he was still alive and functioning at 99.  On the other hand, he was confident that he was still be fit enough to travel. Furthermore, his optimism was such that he expected to stay in this shape for a minimum of another 10 years.  I was impressed on all three counts.

I know many people 30 years younger than that who won’t buy an extended warranty for fear that they will not outlive the basic guarantee. Some won’t buy green bananas!

Attitude, you see, has much to do with your outlook on life. 

And it applies equally, if not more so, to the way in which you lead.

Your optimism, grounded in realism, rubs off on all within your sphere of influence.  Even if the prospects are bleak, you have a responsibility to find the positive and to build from there.

Without hope you have little likelihood of success.  And you certainly cannot motivate others to higher levels of achievement. 

As we approach 2018 we can be certain that some challenges lie ahead.  That is the nature of life as it is the nature of business.  Make the decision NOW that your response will always be one of optimism; accepting these challenges as a test of your initiative, your ingenuity and your skills as a leader. 

You don’t want to be a Pollyanna and deny reality.  But the positive attitude that you take in your approach will make success much more likely.

My very best to you and yours for a success in the New Year!

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Sophie's Choice

Increasingly we are being challenged to make a ‘Sophie’s Choice’ when discussing those in positions of leadership.  Our choices are, too often it seems, between competence and character.

In some instances it has been this whole issue of harassment – sexual, physical, emotional etc. – that so many leaders have exhibited.  The list grows daily and I suspect that we have only just begun to scratch the surface.

In other instances it has been fiduciary. We learn of schemes like those at Wells Fargo or TD Bank where fake bank and credit cards accounts have been set up simply to achieve financial goals.  This, in turn, has allowed executives to ‘earn’ substantial bonuses and inflate stock values.

And then there are the numerous cover up’s that we learn of only well after the fact.  Equifax, Uber and others come to mind as examples in which leaders have not been forthright with the public in disclosing data breaches or other activities of material interest and importance.

In all of these examples, those in positions of responsibility have somehow concluded that leadership is an either / or proposition.  They expect us to make Sophie’s Choice between competence and character.  Essentially they want us to overlook their moral, ethical and legal shortcomings because the delivered on the performance metrics.

But they miss the point.  Leadership must always be a BOTH / AND proposition.  Competence and character are interlinked.  Indeed the former is only confirmed by the latter.  There cannot be true competence without unimpeached character.

Sadly, we have come to not only tolerate this type of behaviour but to expect it.  There is no universal outcry or rally against it nor is there any true penalty.  Abusers simply cash in their chips and move on.  The consequences rarely fit the crime!

Authentic leaders need to be more vocal in their condemnation of their peers’ behaviour.  The media must find a moral compass and communicate truth.  The public must demand more!

If you are in a position of leadership then you are also in a position of influence.  Make 2018 a year in which you elevate your competence, your character and your voice.  The silent majority must also take its’ stand against these trends and end the Sophie’s Choice dilemma.

Taking a strong position often requires that we offend others.  But the stakes are too high to ignore.  Leaders must lead!

Thursday, 7 December 2017

A Leader's Challenge

Every day brings it unique challenges.  Whether your business is prospering or languishing, or somewhere in between, no two days are identical. Your skills as a leader will always be tested in new and different ways.

To succeed you must depend upon the support of your team and the intrinsic skills and commitment that each individual brings to the table.  Your job is to maximize their performance each day and thus to bring closure to each challenge.

The question then is how best to secure this maximized performance. 

Should you use your motivational skills to stoke the flames of determination?  Should you step in and install a ‘how to’ approach for problem solving?  Maybe you roll up your sleeves and pitch in. Any of these tactics might help but you would likely have to hit the ‘repeat’ button each time a new challenge presents itself.

There may be a place for any of these approaches in certain circumstances.  But the one that produces the best and most rewarding results is when you encourage your staff to THINK FOR THEMSELVES.  Define the problem and what would represent an acceptable outcome and then let them get to it.  You are there to equip and facilitate and offer advice when asked.  Your fingerprints don’t need to be all over the solution and you don’t need credit for the success.  The success (or failure) of the team is the testimony of your leadership.

As the leader, what do you need to do to define your success?  I submit the following:

1.    The courage to let go to offer others the opportunity to grow.
2.     A willingness to allow failure to teach because not all outcomes will be a success.
3.     Humility that rejoices when others receive praise while you simply reflect their success.
4.    Satisfaction when these three come together to the mutual benefit of the team.

Those who understand authentic leadership recognize that you can move forward by stepping back when others are recognized for their contributions.  Curiously, there is always enough praise to go around.