Doug Dickerson is an award winning columnist and director of Management Moment Leadership Services. He is the author of the new book, Leaders Without Borders: 9 Essentials for Everyday Leaders. Visit www.dougsmanagementmoment.blogspot.com to learn more.
Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed on an equal or greater benefit. – Napoleon Hill
Lou Holtz shares the story of a blind man who was being led down the street by a guide dog. When they came of the corner of a busy intersection, the dog crossed against the light. The blind man had no choice but to follow. Cars swerved to avoid them; drivers honked their horns and swore loudly.
Somehow, the duo reached the other side unharmed. As they stopped on the corner, the blind man reached into his pocket, pulled out a dog biscuit, and offered it to the reckless canine. Having just watched the two as they crossed, a bystander tapped the blind man on the shoulder and said, “Sir, that dog almost got you killed. The last thing you should do is give him a biscuit as a reward.” The blind man smiled and said, “I’m not giving him a reward. I’m trying to find his mouth so I can kick him in the rear.”
The attitude we adapt in times of adversity will not only define the moment but will determine the future. Winston Churchill was right when he said, “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.” Your attitude in adversity will either demote you or promote you. Here are four common attitude approaches when times are tough. Which one will be yours?
‘Why me, why now?’ A common reaction when adversity comes is to ask the age old question of “why me?” No one likes adversity and it would be nice to live life without it. But in leadership as in life, adversity is a reality. When a leader begins to entertain these early negative thoughts the seeds of doubt are being planted. Be careful.
‘This is not fair.’ This attitude is not only a snapshot of your current state of mind but is the framework of how you are prepared to deal with it at least in the short term. Brian Tracy writes, “You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude toward what happens to you, and in that, you will be mastering change rather than allowing it to happen to you.”
The attitude formula looks like this: WR (wrong reaction) +NE (negative energy) = BE (bad ending). Before you kick your bad attitude too far down the road take Tracy’s words to heart. It’s not too late to turn around a bad ending, but you better hurry.
‘Why not me?’ At first read this might sound like arrogance. I prefer confidence. The difference maker between a leader with less skill who succeeds and a leader with more skill who fails comes down to attitude. A good attitude is the tipping point. Zig Ziglar was right when he said, “Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.”
The attitude of the leader who says ‘why not me?’ is the one who does not shy away from adversity but confidently believes that these are defining moments of his leadership. A good attitude gives way to confidence.
‘Everyone together’ Compare and contrast the attitude choices in play. Notice the difference between the leader with the positive attitude and the leader with the negative one. The leader with the bad attitude is focused on himself and the bad hand he was dealt. The positive leader chooses to see his opportunity and how together with his team it can be overcome.
The attitude formula in play looks like this: GA (good attitude) + RA (right actions) = GO (Great Opportunity). A good attitude gives you a distinct advantage as a leader. It is the single greatest asset you have when facing the challenges of leadership.
William James said, “It is our attitude at the beginning of a difficult task which, more than anything else, will affect its successful outcome.” Adversity in leadership is not unique, but the right attitude will give you the advantage. How is your attitude?
Adopting the right attitude can convert a negative stress into a positive one – Hans Selye
It was reported in the September issue of Inc., that 43 percent of small business owners and managers say they feel more stressed now than they did a year ago. What are they stressed about?
• 54% say they are stressed about losing the company
• 51% are stressed about losing clients
• 41% are stressed about personal health
• 52% stress about repaying personal debt
• 38% stress about being on call 24/7
• 35% are stressed about repaying company debt
• 49% stress about being unable to bring in new business
We live in unprecedented times as it pertains to the economy and stress factors are clearly on the rise as Inc. points out. Even in the best of times leaders have various stress factors to reckon with. How leaders deal with stress matters not just for themselves but for those around them.
But there is a big difference between knowing what people are stressed about and understanding why and what a leader can do about it. Stress points come at us from many directions. Here are three things about stress you should be aware of and why it matters to your leadership style.
Stress that is out of your control. Many of the stress factors you deal with you have no control over. Comforting isn’t it? These stress points can come from a wide variety of sources that impact your life and business in one way or another. How you cope with this type of stress will lead to one of two things: more stress or a better management style.
In his book, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, Richard Carlson writes, “When you look at life and its many challenges as a test, or series of tests, you begin to see each issue you face as an opportunity to grow, a chance to roll with the punches. Whether you’re being bombarded with problems, responsibilities, even surmountable hurdles, when looked at it as a test, you always have a chance to succeed, in the sense of rising above that which is challenging you.”
You may not have chosen the stress you face, but you do choose your response to it. When you face it, not in a destructive way, but with a belief that “this too shall pass”, you can lead by example take control of it.
Stress you cause. Let’s be honest, there are times leaders cause stress. This happens when leaders espouse unrealistic expectations, delivers inconsistent communication, or promotes an unclear vision. In his book, The 360° Leader, John Maxwell writes, “In an organization, security flows downward. When leaders are insecure, they often project that insecurity down on the people below them.” And this is the mistake leaders make by being the source of stress for their team.
Caring leaders conscientiously strive to relieve the stress that finds its way into the organization by being the stress spotter and finding ways to reduce it. Your team is under enough stress as it is without you being the creator of it. Are you a source of stress or a deflector of it?
Stress you capitalize upon. Ultimately, no one is immune from stress. It is a part of life and leadership and there is no escaping it. However, stress can be a positive motivator if you choose the right attitude. Mark Sanborn, author of The Fred Factor says, “Freds know that one of the most exciting things about life is that we awake each day with the ability to reinvent ourselves. No matter what happened yesterday, today is a new day. While we can’t deny the struggles and setbacks, neither should we be restrained by them.” What a great thought.
Tough times call for courageous leaders who will step up and embrace the stress and turn it into something positive. Instead of being discouraged and defeated by it why not recognize it for what it is; a blessing in disguise and an opportunity for growth and development?
To be sure, stress can cause many problems, health and otherwise. Yet it is when we take an honest look at the stress that is out of our control, the stress we cause, and the stress that we capitalize upon that we can begin to get it under control.
You can start right where you stand and apply the habit of going the extra mile by rendering more service and better service that you are now being paid for. – Napoleon Hill
Service-based leadership is the life-blood of your organization. In his best-selling book, The Fred Factor, Mark Sanborn writes, “The best Freds are true artists at taking ordinary products or job responsibilities and services and making them extraordinary. They are real-world alchemists who practice the art and science of ‘value creation.’” He is right. Do you have a culture of service within your organization? Here are three tips to help you turn that picture of service-based leadership into a practice.
Re-create your culture. In a recent survey by Consumer Reports, consumers revealed their most irritating customer service gripes. Topping the list? Not being able to get a human on the phone, rude salespeople, many phone steps needed, long waits on hold, unhelpful solutions, and no apology for unsolved problems, just to name a few.
If you are going to re-create your current culture and transform it into a service-based leadership culture, you must change your point of view. This is done when you quit your navel-gazing ways and look at your operation through the eyes of your customers. Solicit their feedback and audit their responses and see how you measure up. Re-creating the culture within your organization begins when you shift the focus off yourself and onto those you serve.
Refocus your priorities. Service-driven leadership begins with fundamental shifts in attitudes and actions. This is characterized by making sure that your core values are clear to everyone within your organization and practiced with everyone outside of it. If your values are not clear internally do not expect any help from those you serve because they will not know either.
The responsibility for service-based leadership rests with the leader at the top of the organization. Ken Blanchard said, “True success in servant leadership depends on how clearly the values are defined, ordered, and lived by the leader.” How clear are your organizational values?
Re-claim your purpose. What is the true meaning or purpose behind what you do? Billy Sunday said, “More men fail through lack of purpose than lack of talent.” He’s right. The secret of service-driven leadership is found in your purpose. When your purpose and passions are clear so is your mission.
Without purpose you may find yourself like Alice in the fairy tale Alice in Wonderland. In a conversation between her and the Cheshire Cat, Alice asked, “Would you tell me please, which way I ought to go from here?” “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the cat. “I don’t much care where,” said Alice. “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,”said the cat.
Which way you go matters. Service-based leadership is deliberate, focused, and is crucial to your success. Service-based leadership is simply servant leadership principles lived out in the marketplace. In order to get ahead you must be willing to serve.
The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime. – Babe Ruth
A recent Gallup report revealed what many have believed about teamwork for quite some time. The world’s top performing organizations understand that employee engagement is a force that drives performance outcomes. In the best organizations, engagement is more than a human resource initiative-it is a strategic foundation for the way they do business.
The commitment of these top companies to a purposeful strategic plan that places an emphasis on employee engagement is not just lip-service but a fundamental component of its operation. The report highlights that in world-class organizations, the ratio of engaged to actively disengaged employees is 9.57.1 whereas in average organizations, the ratio of engaged to actively disengaged employees is 1.83.1
One shining example of an organization that understands the power of teamwork is the Mayo Clinic. Business Management Daily reports that after a diagnosis, patients at the clinic meet with a team of specialist who help them understand what’s happening so they can decide about their treatment together.
Asked why health care so often lacks collaboration that makes Mayo famous, president and CEO Denis Cortese traces the problem to medical schools, where he says students aren’t trained to work in teams. The problem is further complicated he says due to so many specialties and sub-specialties and that it’s difficult to take care of patients with five different conditions, and Cortese adds, “that requires teams.”
Is there a disconnect that exists in relation to our understanding of team concepts and the implementation of teamwork? Understanding the potential of teams and living out the reality of what successful teams can do is another. So how do we connect the dots and make sense of the power of teamwork. Here are three tips for consideration.
Personalize your definition of teamwork. The teamwork strategy for the Mayo Clinic may not be the best teamwork approach for your business. And while general principles such as communication may be standard, not all of the specific details will be the same. Simply put, find what works for you and do it.
It is important to remember what Gallup points out; employee engagement is the foundation of all top performing organizations. The key here is to personalize your definition of teamwork by including everyone, defining boundaries and objectives, and include routine performance assessments.
Promote a teamwork environment. The Gallup report sheds critical light on what happens when employees are actively disengaged in their organizations. It reveals that “disengaged employees erode an organization’s bottom line while breaking the spirits of colleagues in the process.” Gallup estimates this cost to be more than $300 billion in lost productivity alone.
World-class organizations have placed employee engagement at the foundation of their operation. The promotion of teamwork and employee engagement is not a guarantee of success, but world-class organizations did not attain that status without it. Smart leaders promote an environment where teamwork thrives and people willingly contribute.
Prioritize teamwork initiatives. A patient at the Mayo Clinic will meet with a team of specialist to formulate a treatment plan that is best for that person. Within your organization are people with certain skill sets that best formulate the chemistry needed to tackle the objectives you seek to accomplish. The pairing of these individuals is critical to the success of the team and to the organization as a whole.
The chemistry of the team, not to mention the egos involved, can be both a challenging and rewarding experience. When leaders empower teams to think creatively, seek unconventional solutions to uncommon problems, and not worry about who gets the credit, great things can happen. The secret to unleashing your potential is in releasing the genius and power of teamwork.
I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody – Bill Cosby
Ask any Green Bay Packers fan and they will tell you without any hesitation that the infamous call at the end of the game against Seattle was blown and it cost them the game. Before the lockout with the regular NFL officiating crew was ended, the replacement referees were in an unenviable situation of trying to please the players, coaches, and fans. It was a daunting task.
It reminds me of the story of the boy who rode on a donkey as the old man walked. As they went along, they passed some people who remarked, "It’s a shame the old man is walking and the boy is riding." The man and the boy thought maybe the critics were right, so they changed positions.
Later, they passed some people who remarked, "What a shame, he makes that little boy walk." They decided they both would walk. Soon they passed some more people who thought they were stupid to walk when they had a decent donkey to ride. So they both rode the donkey.
Now they passed some people that shamed them by saying, "How awful to put such a load on a poor donkey." The boy and man said they were probably right so they decided to carry the donkey. As they crossed a bridge, they lost their grip on the animal and he fell into the river and drowned. The moral of the story: If you try to please everyone, you will eventually lose your a_ _.
Jules Ormont said, “A great leader never sets himself above his followers except in carrying out responsibilities.” And while he makes an excellent point it is worth bearing out that a leader’s greatest challenge is in trying to please everyone. Not only is it not possible, but it will stress you out in the process. So what is a leader to do? Here are three things to remember when it would appear you are about to lose your a _ _.
Be a leader of principle not of politics. One of the hardest things for new leaders to learn is how to stand on principle and not be swayed by the expediency of office politics. It is much harder to stand alone when making decisions that run counter to popular opinion. After all, who doesn’t want to be liked?
In their book, Winning: The Answers, Jack and Suzy Welch state, “Your number one priority is to win in the marketplace so that you can continue to grow and provide opportunities for your people. Of course, you want your employees to be happy. But their happiness needs to come from the company’s success, not from their every need being met.” That is excellent advice every leader must learn. Lead from your convictions and principles; not politics.
Be a leader of purpose not of power. This is where most in leadership slip up. Some make the mistake that it is the quest for power that matters most. But when the quest for power is your chief motivation then your purpose (mission and vision) tends to take a back seat.
“There seems to be two main paths for people to get ahead in organizations,” writes John Maxwell. “One way is to try to get ahead by doing the work. The other is to try to get ahead by working an angle. It’s the difference between production and politics.” He’s right. When your purpose is clear and everyone is committed to the vision, you will not have to worry about power. Be a leader of purpose, on purpose, and you will go far.
Be a leader for your people not your position. Whenever a leader thinks it is about his position and not about people he will not be a leader for long. In the process these naïve leaders fail to remember this simple rule of leadership: your position does not give you the advantage; leadership does. Positions come and go, but the leader who endures is the one who is committed to serving his people.