“Responsible for individuals and their actions” -- what an ominous statement; a little scary, yet that is the blessing and scourge because a joyful moment can go terribly wrong in an instant. How you respond will determine the overall experience for everyone affiliated with you.
Most people relate leadership to a job, yet leadership traverses service organizations, Labor unions, theater, business, parenting and, of course, you. The greatest challenge is learning to lead yourself to success. Personal leadership is paramount to you being effective in anything you do. You need to understand why you are doing something because success does not always result in a financial gain. Emotional satisfaction is frequently what makes you tick.
How do you help an individual achieve success? How do you delegate a task? How do you follow up with an individual? How do you inspire people to achieve their personal greatness? Here are a few ideas, which are peppered with several stories of how I’ve dealt with situations. Enjoy.
The first time I was put in charge of people I was in the military. It was not by choice, skill or aptitude; it just happened. I was the most senior-ranked person by 48 hours and one of the youngest people in the section. The orders from my officer in charge were to not mess up.
I figured the older guys were going to eat me alive when they found out I was in charge, but they ended up betting on how long I would last. I wanted to take part in that wager, but they would not let me because they thought I would throw the job to win the bet. Little did they know that my ego was in full gear and I was determined to survive. I was not sure how to survive while not getting my clock cleaned in the process.
Not knowing what to do I took the wager sheet and asked every person whose date had passed to give me a chance and asked them what they were willing to do so our life together would be easier. None of the requests were out of line, and there was one in particular that has stuck with me all these years.
One sailor who was a lot older and bigger than I, he admitted to me that he had a hard time reading. Every day, when out of sight of everyone, we worked on his learning how to read and use the library. After about six months he drilled enough and had the confidence to pass the test for the next rank. The greatest compliment I could have received was he decided to get his G.E.D. and he stopped calling me “college boy.”
The result was I survived not because of my military rank but by getting everyone to willingly show up to work on time, do their job right the first time, and learn how to not be caught if they were going to goof off. My first lesson was finding success in mutual goals. Rank and title did not mean success in doing the job; it was how I treated the people who reported to me. Having that success, I still could not buy a good conduct ribbon with six years of service.
I have found that as soon as you become the leader you seize the job with enthusiasm whether you became the man for it on purpose, or by default. Do yourself a favor, be gracious and do not say you do not want to be the leader. Whether the command comes from respect, talent or skill, it elicits a special emotion from those who come into contact with you if you are the go-to person, so behave with class.
There was a time while running an insurance agency I made a hard decision to lay off a sizable portion of my sales staff. After completing a training conference on goals, I took a long look in the mirror and, as my father would say, “If you don’t like what you see in the mirror, change it.”
The old rule of 20% of the organization did the work while the other 80% were drinking my coffee applied to my agency. I liked all of them, I had moved up the industry ladder with these people, and this was not going to be easy yet it was my responsibility to help them move on to a different career. Their non-production on the job indicated to me that they were not going to change. Agency production standards were not being met, and in some instances neither were their basic financial needs.
When I presented the plan to my sales managers’ to change the environment they were not on board with my decision. We had a lengthy managers meeting off-site wherein I met with each manager and reviewed each of their agent’s records to determine if we had met all of our responsibilities in fulfilling an intra-dependant entrepreneurial relationship between the independent contractors and the agency.
I asked each manager about their goals and desires and asked them to evaluate me so I would be more effective in supporting them. There was resentment from a few managers, because in their opinion things were fine the way they were. The end result was I lost about 40% of the sales force and several managers, yet the interesting thing was production actually went up after they left.
The six months I spent rebuilding the agency paid off for everyone. Everyone was earning more money, attitudes were better and I actually spent less money on marketing because the good sales people I had hired appreciated the gift of a referral. I wanted more for my co-workers, my family and, yes, for myself.
Leadership opportunities within service organizations can be a wonderful training ground for the person who wants to develop the skills required to get people with various skill levels to voluntarily complete a project together. I admit I have a soft spot for veteran causes and artistic organizations, and where my actions are concerned, I can become myopic when volunteering for these types of causes.
Remember, when you work with various groups be careful that you do not become a volunteer junky. Volunteerism is great as long as it does not take away from your ability to lead yourself to economic success.
A very wise mentor coached me to understand responsible volunteerism. He recommended that a person stay in a leadership position for a maximum of two years with any one group. He went on to say that by subscribing to this approach, you show others that the organization is bigger than your personal need for recognition. You foster fresh ideas when you involve the participation of new people. Your main objective is to help develop a competent, enthusiastic replacement for your position. The whole idea is to give back and, hopefully, you have encouraged others to step into your position.
Do not be a Jeckle and Hyde. How many times have you seen the boss/person-in-charge behave one way outside of the work environment and then assume a different identity while at work? What I am saying is do not take on a different persona while in charge because people will not want to work with you in future endeavors even if a paycheck is involved.
Behaving in a draconian manner will only alienate people. You will have high staff turn- over and incur all the related expenses of finding and training a replacement staff. Instead of focusing your energy on growing your business, you will continuously attempt to maintain your core goals and will never have the opportunity to expand your operation. You will never be able to develop people’s skills and utilize their talents in your future business ventures.
Many people who work with me feel they are an important part of the success of the business for the simple reason that their opinion is always heard and, if it makes sense, their idea is implemented in the action steps. By allowing people to feel they have an “ownership” in the project enhances the chances of it being successfully completed.
Being supportive, inclusive, or being a good guy does not mean you should let your team or staff walk all over you. If a situation arises wherein a person does not participate responsibly with you and others in the company, you need to deal with it.
There was a sales manager working at my mortgage company who had a salary, bonuses and personal production incentives, and he decided he needed more even though he was not producing at any level. Another manager and he enjoyed inviting me out to lunch and a majority of the time I picked up the tab. I noticed they were not doing their job and were becoming evasive and combative when I questioned them about production at the weekly management meetings.
One day I invited them out to lunch and they eagerly accepted. As I was leaving the office, I mentioned that I needed to stop by Costco for something and invited them in while I grabbed some things. They were fine with that.
One of the things I love about Costco is that on certain days the food samples are fantastic. As we walked around, I encouraged them to sample the food and to, in fact, take two of each. After several samples, one of them stated that he needed to save room for lunch. That is when I informed them that this was their lunch because the free ride with me was over and they needed to produce business in 30 days.
One of them straightened up, the other became more defiant, so I let him go sooner than later because he had become disruptive in the work environment. Human Resources scolded me for the way I broached the issue at lunch. Thankfully, the facts were well documented so my decision was justified.
No matter how easy or difficult the project, do not be surprised if something goes wrong. How you respond will set the tone of how everyone else responds. You are the one who needs to have broad shoulders, so accept the situation and ask the person who made the mistake, “How are we going to fix it?” What is important is that they know you support them.
If you have a spouse or partner, talk to them and do not keep them in the dark, especially when things are not progressing the way you had planned. When you talk to your special person, make sure you have both ears open and the mouth shut when they talk.
The pearls of wisdom given to me by my wife have always enabled me to put things into perspective. If your partner is not supportive or you feel he or she does not understand the problem, do your partner and yourself a favor and seek professional help so both of your communication skills improve. Invest in your relationship, not in a triste. After 24 years of marriage, I feel my partner and I have done well together.
Take the opportunity to avail yourself of some form of education to improve your skills. This will enable you to have the tools to keep your ideas fresh ideas and ensure your success, and do not forget to give yourself time to review your successes and things you think you need to improve on. Most of all, keep a gentle sense of humor.
By Ed Badrak
Phone/Text: (442) 273-0073
Email: support@pro-publishing-company (dot) com
Address: Pro Publishing Company, P.O. Box 3406, Vista, CA. 92085 United States
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