Great leaders demand three things from their teams.
3. That they work in your strengths
Leaders who fail to demand all three of those will never rise past mediocrity. Let’s explore each one in-depth so that you, too, can become a great leader.
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I remember clearly when I realized I was in over my head. I was 27 years old, leading a team of nearly 15 people and I was failing miserably.
I’m going to take a big bite out of the “feedback sandwich.” Mmmm.
If you’re not familiar with the “feedback sandwich,” it’s a method popularized by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson in the book, The One Minute Manager. It basically goes like this”
Praise first, then correct, then praise again.
And I hate it.
Here’s what the “feedback sandwich” often sounds like:
Leader: “I need to correct a behavior or point out something wrong that someone is doing. What should I do? I know…”
Five minutes later…
Leader: “Jim, you are a valuable member of our organization and are doing a bang up job with the new sales reports.”
So what would you do if someone you looked up to told you everything you did wrong when you reached out to him?
Maybe you’ve thought about emailing or calling this person for months or years. And you finally do. And then…
That’s what happened to Mark Sieverkropp recently when he reached out to someone he looked up to. But I don’t want to ruin the story, because it’s really good and there is a lot to learn from it.
So without further ado or explanation, take it away Mark.
I have been waiting several months to share this story. And I don’t believe there is any better place to share it than on Matt’s blog!
This past summer I was working on a project, Happen To Your Career, with Scott Barlow. (You may recognize that name from the fact that our very own Matt McWilliams was featured on our podcast). In the process of this, we were doing some marketing and contacting folks to ask for their help.
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This is a follow-up post to my earlier post, The 3 Most Common Downfalls of Leaders. Today, I show you how to avoid those downfalls.
Avoiding the three most common downfalls of leaders is not difficult, but requires intentional effort.
Without further ado, here is how you avoid each of the three most common leadership downfalls:
Get constant feedback.
I’ve written a lot about leaders getting feedback from others and I suggest you read those posts. Most of what I write comes from my own experience getting feedback. The short version, if you don’t read those posts is that I was completely naïve to my failings as a leader. I was headed for a downfall and didn’t know it…until I got feedback.
Life is painful sometimes.
My aunt Mary recently passed away from a two-year battle with cancer. Her last days were unimaginably painful. While we miss her tremendously, we all breathed a sigh of relief for her sake when she was taken home.
I’ve never experienced the kind of physical, emotional, or spiritual pain she went through. But I have been through pain. Because of the things I have done, risks I have taken, and people I have trusted. For the longest time, I had no clue what to do with it, but over time, I learned how to use pain.
As a leader, have you ever been punched in the gut by feedback from your team?
I have. And I am much better for it.
I wrote about this almost a year ago and chronicled my transformation as a leader. The interesting thing is that I still struggle with all but one area that I did seven years ago.
Feedback and improvement is not a one-time thing. It’s not a six month process. It’s a lifelong commitment, come hell or high water, that you will get better every day as a leader.
As I furiously hit the gas to make the light, I realized one of the ways I have failed as a leader.
Thirty seconds earlier, I watched as the driver of a van failed to notice a green light in the left turn lane. I was mesmerized by this person’s failure to pay attention.
I watched in horror (OK, that might be a stretch, but work with me here) as the van continued not to move for what seemed like an eternity (seven seconds). An endless stream of cars (four) lined up behind this van eager to reach their destination, only to be stopped in their tracks by this incompetent van driver. Seriously…how does this happen?
Finally the van started to go, but missed the light, and in doing so, destroyed the free world as we know it for the countless (still four) cars behind it.
I watched. I judged. I criticized.
And I did the exact same thing.
In my fascination with the ghastly (I think that is an appropriate adjective for such an offense, don’t you?) act of another, I forgot to pay attention to my own light.
And that is exactly what I have done as a leader.
I was always able to find fault in my team members. But, even worse, I allowed myself to get so caught up in their mistakes and shortcomings that I forgot to pay attention to what I had to do to make our team better.
There is a good chance you have exactly zero perfect people working for you. You can interview people 1000 times and be more selective than Harvard and you will still end up with an office full of imperfect people who surprise you every day with the things they can’t do.
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The most powerful words are always the simplest.
For instance, the most powerful word in leadership is “believe.” That is a word we all know, yet we rarely use it with our team. You can read more about that powerful word here.
In his best-selling book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (I have read it three times now and highly recommend it), social psychologist Robert Cialdini tells us about the power of this word. In it, he shares a study by Harvard social psychologist Ellen Langer that shows the almost irrational effect the word “because” has on the hearer:
A well-known principle of human behavior says that when we ask someone to do us a favor we will be more successful if we provide a reason. People simply like to have reasons for what they do. Langer demonstrated this unsurprising fact by asking a small favor of people waiting in line to use a library copying machine: Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I’m in a rush? The effectiveness of this request-plus-reason was nearly total: Ninety-four percent of those asked let her skip ahead of them in line.
Compare this success rate to the results when she made the request only: Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine? Under those circumstances, only 60 percent of those asked complied. At first glance, it appears that the crucial difference between the two requests was the additional information provided by the words, “because I’m in a rush.”
It was a miracle that anyone still worked for us. I was a 28-year old executive in a fast-growing company. I was in way over my head. I had a well-deserved reputation as a hothead and a jerk. Three things a leader should never do. I have done them all and I show you how to […]
My post title is not a typo. This is a crash course for leaders in how to tear someone down. As I have mentioned numerous times, my first true leadership position happened at the age of 26. I was a punk. I thought I was something special, perhaps even God’s personal gift to mankind…or at […]