Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Playing Hurt

Whatever happened to the days when team members could be counted on by other team members no matter what? I know they do not grow warriors like Cal Ripken, Jr. or Brett Favre on trees, but has the expectation to "play hurt" for the overall benefit of the team dwindled in recent years.

Okay, let's step out of the realm of pro athletes for a second. What is the expectation among your team? Do your team members pick up the slack for one another when one member is unable to perform? Do folks in your office or on your team readily volunteer to cover vacations for one another? A deeper question to ask yourself is just how much of a role does the quality of leadership play when it comes to the willingness to "play hurt?"

The culture of team-building is a tricky science. A mentor of mine used to refer to the "team" as an ongoing science or chemistry project. That analogy always kept the dynamic of team-building fun. Proper planning, goal-setting, levels of accountability and a low-tolerance for poor performance are all critical in formulating the winning team. Do you want your team-members to "play hurt?" If so, they need to know exactly why they should be laying it all on the line at all times. What is the mission, the vision, the end goal? In professional sports this can be obvious in the form of a championship, a legacy or a Hall of Fame induction. In the business world, this is often up to the team leader to define, plan and execute. Does your team clearly understand and support the goal? Are they zealots? When people are passionate about their work, they execute at higher levels of performance. Part of a leader's responsibility is to be constantly stoking this fire. A unified goal, cause or mission will go a long way to creating a "playing hurt" performance culture. Which will in-turn go a long way in helping the team exceed performance expectations.

"As long as I can compete, I won't quit. Reaching three-thousand is not the finish line as long as I can contribute." – Cal Ripken, Jr.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

You: Defined

How would you define yourself in terms of your most special set of skills? Better yet, how would others describe your professional expertise in one word or phrase? Want to better differentiate yourself from others? Find your one special skill and begin to build a professional brand around your expertise. Are you the "Sales Guru," the "Tech Expert" or the "Get Things Done Person" in your office? If so, build upon this image. If you have yet to define yourself or carve out your special skill within your organization, it is time to give this simple process some thought. In today's employment environment, it is important to increase the value you bring to your organization. Build your own personal brand within your organization. Put forth some effort on this simple yet effective project and you will see positive results. Go ahead; carve out your special niche. The extra effort will also help you in terms of working on your own professional development. Never, never stop investing in your own development. Make sure you learn and work to develop yourself each and every day.

What is your one special skill? How would your boss, peers or direct reports communicate this to you? Are your own thoughts similar to the feedback you receive? If you answered no, why not?

Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else. ~Judy Garland

Never mind searching for who you are. Search for the person you aspire to be. ~Robert Brault, http://www.robertbrault.com/

Monday, April 27, 2009

While in attendance at the Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA) conference in DC last week, I attended a keynote in which Jack Welch (former CEO of GE and best-selling author) shared his insights as to what business leaders need to be focused on given the current business climate. The following is a bullet point list of Jack Welch’s thoughts that made it into my notebook while listening.

On positive indicators that we are nearing reaching a bottom to the recession…
Consumer confidence index is up.
Affordability index is up.
There are low mortgage rates and lower housing prices.
We still do not know the health of the financial markets.
If there is a recovery, it will be consumer lead.
With regards to the economy, “Uncertainty is the word I think you have to live with.”

The recession offers as many opportunities as it does troubles…
The ensuing playing field will be less crowded.
People – “Take care of your best.”
Competition – “Buy them or bury them.”
Go after your competitor’s best people.
Go on the offense.
Make sure you are doing the things to be prepared for tomorrow.
Multi-tasking is not for leaders, your job is to get your people focused on what is important.

You have to manage for the long and the short. You must eat while you dream. Managing is doing both. - Jack Welch

On managing the people process…
Fire the bottom 10% of your poorest performers every year to raise the bar of excellence in your company.
“Good people can always get a job.”
“Reward people in the soul and in the wallet.”
Match up your value system and your reward system.
Compensate on your values and you will get what you want.
As a leader you want people in your organization that do not need you.

On decision making…
On most decisions, leaders take way too much time.
Leaders usually do not act fast enough.
“I wish I would have waited six months before I did that,” is a comment you never hear leaders make.

In today’s climate leaders need to…
Have generosity of spirit.
Invest in the growth of your people.
Make ordinary people think they can do anything.
Make HR your partner in building a great organization.
Get out and engage your people. You are worthless when you are in your office.

On hiring decisions…
Look for hunger and a burning desire to be successful.
You need people that will excite others.
Hire for the “runway” or long-term future/potential.
Jack mentions that he looks specifically for the “4 E’s and a P.” Get this right and you “bat” pretty well.

>Energy (candidates)
>Energize (ability to energize others)
>Edge (ability to say yes or no)
>Execute (someone that gets things done)

On how to position a company to emerge successfully from the recession…
Take care of your best people.
Over communicate.
Tell everyone what you are doing and why to overcome fear.
Energize your workforce.
Do not get caught up in defense.
Make the bold moves; there will be a tomorrow.
For the second time, take care of your best people.

What a great keynote/general session! Many thanks to the folks at AAHOA for bringing Jack Welch in to share his insights and thoughts on what leaders should be focused on to effectively navigate the recession.

In my opinion there is a reoccurring theme in the notes I took. Do you see it?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Investment of Time

When you are in a leadership position you are subject to getting things done through others. It can be easier, less aggravating and ultimately quicker to follow the old saying, "If you want something done right you do it yourself." While a do-it-yourself mentality certainly works well for some, in my opinion it is not a practice to which effective leaders can subscribe. Leaders have to have patience to allow for those that they are leading to learn to execute. This also means that at the beginning stages of leading or teaching new projects or skills there will be a greater investment of time in getting the job done correctly and up to the leader's standards. Leaders have to allow for failing-forward and the potential for errors or less than perfection based on their own standards. A mistake creates a learning opportunity. Effective leaders use these instances to teach, coach and counsel. Of course, the leader's ultimate goal is that, in making this investment, he or she will be able to completely hand-off the responsibility for accomplishing said tasks and be confident that they will be executed properly.

The next time you catch yourself wanting to take the reigns, be prepared to permanently hold on or start looking for the person who is willing to learn and who will show continuous improvement and profit from his or her mistakes.

"No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself or get all the credit for doing it." -Andrew Carnegie

"The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it." -Theodore Roosevelt

Friday, March 20, 2009

Perception Versus Rejection

In our professional careers, we come across many different types of individuals with a wide ranging number of personalities. Most of us will find that we gravitate towards some and away from others. It is only natural and human that you will ultimately want to spend more time with certain individuals. Unfortunately this is not always the best mix for success in business. Even the individuals with whom you may not get along (at any level) have the opportunity to contribute value in the form of good ideas if you keep an open mind. Make sure you do not automatically discount the ideas of individuals for whom you may not be fond just because of your own personal perception of that individual. Even though they are not someone that you would enjoy spending time with away from the office does not mean that their ideas and ability to contribute are any less. In fact, this interaction can sometimes provide good balance for you when making key decisions.

I am not saying that there is great value in always being a contrarian or to seek out those who always tend to disagree with you. There does after all need to be some form of "team fit" for an individual to be a successful part of the team. Just be careful not to discount a good idea because of the individual who came up with it in the first place.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Smoke, Spark or Fire

What is it that distinguishes a great leader from an ordinary one or a visionary leader from one that struggles to gain followship? While sound business skills, proper planning and execution will take a leader far, it is the level of passion a leader possesses that is the ultimate identifier.

One of my earliest professional mentors liked to talk about "the fire in the belly." How would you define your level of passion? Is there smoke, a spark or fire in your "belly?" If your answer is "smoke" or "a spark," it might be time to stoke the embers by placing additional focus on your strengths as to add a higher level of satisfaction to what it is you are doing professionally. Where can you contribute the most to add value to your organization? Find it, embrace it and invite others to contribute to it while allowing these same individuals to add value to the cause based on their strengths. This will ensure that your key folks do not lose their passion. People feel productive and part of a greater cause by being able to see the vision of a leader they will follow. What is a leader without followers? Ironically, followship can feed a leader's passion, but it is a leader's passion that will allow for followship.

In his book The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader, John C. Maxwell identifies passion as a leaders first step to achievement, a way to increase willpower and ultimately a way to make the impossible possible.

Understand and follow your passion. Use your "fire quest" as a way to guide your vision and construct your strategy. This will allow for the smoke to spark into a fire of passion that will create energy to lead your organization to new, higher levels of success.

Time for a gut check: Smoke, Spark or Fire? Go ahead, make the "impossible possible!"