Archive for the ‘leadership tips’ Category
Daily Leadership Tip #21
For Day #21 of our daily Leadership Challenge, look for some time today to practice leadership principle #21, “Give Strength Centered Compliments“. We encourage you to apply each of the 28 daily leadership principles in this series by focusing on just a single principle every single day of the four-week challenge. This is the last of the seven principles that are designed to help you gain enthusiastic cooperation from others, so this is the last principle of this week. Next week, we will show you seven ways to build your next generation of strong leaders.
Give Strength Centered Compliments
“The life of many a person could probably be changed if someone would only make him feel important.” — Dale Carnegie
In our modern society, the art of giving people a sincere compliment has gone the way of the vinyl record or the Model T. You come across them every once in a while, but they are few and far between. I have asked hundreds of different audiences across the country why they think that we don’t give as many compliments as we probably should (or receive the number of compliments that we probably deserve), and I have heard every answer under the sun. But what I find most often is that we are mainly too self-centered and too busy to take the time to give a sincere compliment to our fellow man.
There is also a negative connotation about giving compliments to people. We think of people who give compliments as brown-nosers or kiss-asses. In the modern era, we have confused a sincere compliment with flattery. To most people they are one and the same.
Men are also less inclined to give compliments to female coworkers out of fear of being accused of harassment.
With all of these challenges to overcome, most people just don’t bother to compliment other people now. It’s easier just to keep to ourselves. However, a good leader who gives solid strength-centered compliments can really set herself apart from the crowd.
You can compliment people on what they have. A compliment like this would be something like “Nice tie.”
You can compliment people on what they do. “Thanks for turning in the report early,” is an example.
However, each of these types of compliments has a chance of being seen as insincere.
If you give the people around you a compliment based on who they are or a strength of character that you notice in them, the compliment will always be seen as sincere. Give them a strength-centered compliment and their confidence will grow. You will also be well thought of by that person. To do this, instead of complimenting them on what they do, look for the strength or the character trait that allowed them to DO the thing that you are admiring. For instance, what allowed the person to get the report completed early? It could be that the person has a great work ethic or is detail oriented or is a great time manager. If you compliment her on one of these characteristics, then the compliment will mean a whole lot more to the person.
“I may not mention this enough, but I just wanted to tell you how much I admire your work ethic. You are one of the few people who consistently turns in the reports before the deadline every time. I really appreciate that about you.”
Strength centered compliments will boost the confidence of your coworkers faster than anything else that you can do.
Any CEO or manager knows brainstorming is a major collaboration tool that elicits a slew of creative ideas from enthusiastic participants. But because it can often turn combative when ideas get shot down with criticism from other participants, some managers settle for its tamer version, soliciting ideas in writing. How can effective leaders optimize brainstorming exercises and practice the excellent facilitation skills of leaders that encourage animated discussions and minimize the hostility? Have a clear purpose for your meeting and stick to that purpose. Set clear guidelines prior to the brainstorming meeting. Finally, a few distinct facilitation skills (leadership and communication skills) can avoid the heated discussions.
Facilitation Skills of Leaders
Have a Clear Purpose and Limit
Emphasize the time limit when sending notices to your team and they’ll show up eager to contribute. Why? They’ll appreciate that your meeting promises to be different from the meandering kind that goes every which way and extends on and on.
Open the meeting by stating what you expect to accomplish by the end of the set limit. Better yet, make finishing the brainstorming session on or before the agreed time a part of your goal. I’ve been in a meeting that opened with everyone energized and the manager so enthusiastic that’s he forgot the time. The meeting ran close to 5 hours! It ended with everyone exhausted and thinking up an excuse to avoid the next meeting. You don’t want that, right?
Set Clear Guidelines
Rules are accepted by children as a fun part of any game to mark progress toward winning, but your team may view rules as burdensome constraints. Instead of rules, introduce meeting guidelines as tools to accomplish the goal within the time period. Few will object to a meeting with a time limit.
After stating the goal and time limit, distribute the brief written guidelines. Let each read in turn, one guideline at a time, repeating if needed until everyone has taken a turn. By reading aloud, they declare understanding and agreement. The use of “we” and “our” gives a sense of ownership to all present.
Facilitation Skills of Leaders – Examples and Guidelines
- We remember our Purpose.
Example: Our purpose is to gather 15 to 20 ideas for an advertising/PR campaign to promote product X. We will do this within 3 hours.
- We will not monopolize the group’s time and attention. We will yield the floor to others.
- We will not interrupt when someone is talking. We will give them our attention. We will not engage in cross talk.
- When giving feedback about another’s idea, we will make “I” statements, not “You” statements.
Example: “I feel our clients may misinterpret that change of refund rules” instead of “Your refund rules stink.”
- If we feel the group is going “off-track” we will ask for a pause so the group can re-align with the purpose and the guidelines.
Heated Debate or Lackluster Response
While avoiding a hostile atmosphere where people’s ideas get blown to bits, you don’t want to end up in the other extreme where everyone’s being diplomatic and always concurring. Implement these steps to maintain everyone’s creative sparks while brainstorming.
- Dedicate the main part only to getting 15 to 20 ideas. Assign one person to list them. No remarks are allowed at this time. This avoids negative, knee jerk reactions.
- Ask the assigned person to read what’s on the list and another to re-state the idea. This catches misunderstanding of ideas.
- Spend the rest of the meeting to discuss the suggestions, eliminating the non-workable ones and ranking the best ones. This encourages lively debate while remembering the guidelines.
- Be quick to acknowledge merits of ideas. If tempers flare, pause. Then ask protagonist A to state how he understood protagonist B’s case, and vice versa. Disagreement can often be traced to semantics.
Your team may be suffering from brainstorm aversion or fatigue. When you succeed in activating their enthusiasm for this valuable exercise, it’ll be a rewarding leadership experience, on several levels.
Michelle Riklan is president of Riklan Resources and an instructor for The Leader’s Institute® in the Northeast region. She is based in Trenton, NJ but she also teaches in New York, Boston, Philadelphia and other Northeast cities.
The US Federal Government passed a law specifically targeting a single industry. Hundreds of small businesses across the country have been shut down. In a few extreme cases, some of these small business owners have been imprisoned. In fact, the media commonly refers to the most famous of these innovators as a “snake oil salesman”. This moniker, although fairly accurate, distorts this great leader’s contribution to the health of hundreds of thousands of American’s. (And his fantastic use of social media — before social media ever existed.) The term “snake oil salesman” has become a common phrase for describing a person who knowingly sells fraudulent goods or who is himself a fraud. Unfortunately, though, the very first snake oil salesman, was, in fact, a very successful businessman who helped thousands of people reduce discomfort in a time where modern medicine was in its infancy. His discovery is still being used by some of the most successful pain relief companies in the world, and the ingredients are natural — and safe.
Leadership Series: Clark Stanley, the Original Snake Oil Salesman
I know that a number of readers who read the summary of this article might have thought that I was talking about modern small business owners dealing with new regulations. However, government regulations on small business is not new. This article is look at a very successful entrepreneur from the late 19th century who was able to capture the imagination of people to sell them a cure-all medicine. Clark Stanley was an American cowboy from Abilene, Texas, who was born sometime around 1854. Stanley made a big splash with his Rattlesnake Oil Liniment at the World’s Colombian Exposition (The Chicago World’s Fair) in 1893. In the era of P. T. Barnum, Stanley understood the power of showmanship to capture the attention (and imagination) of a crowd and convince them to purchase his product versus the hundred (if not thousands) of other products being pitched at the fair.
The Chicago World’s Fair was established on the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ first trip to America. It was to be a showcase for new products and innovations. Among the products introduced at the fair were Cream of Wheat, Juicy Fruit gum and Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. Technological innovations like the dishwasher and florescent lighting were also featured. (See 7 Things You May Not Know about the 1893 Chicago Worlds Fair.) However, these products and innovations were just a few among many, so Stanley needed a way to create a buzz for his product. Being from Texas, Stanley must have figured that public interest in wild-west shows of the time might be a good hook to pull in customers. Author Erika Janik described Stanley’s pitch in her book Marketplace of the Marvelous: The Strange Origins of Modern Medicine this way.
Stanley claimed to have learned of snake oil’s healing powers from his years as a cowboy out west with the Hopi Indians in the 1870s and 1880s. He shared his discovery with the public at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago where he pulled live snakes out of a sack, slit them open, and plunged their bodies into boiling water. As the fat from the snakes rose to the top of the pot, Stanley skimmed it off, mixed it with his previously prepared oils, and sold his liniment freshly prepared to the crowd that gathered to watch the spectacle.
It is actually quite possible that Stanley did actually receive the recipe from Indians in Arizona. However, some speculate that Stanley actually received the idea of medicinal snake oil from his time in California mixing with Chinese laborers. (See A History of Snake Oil Salesmen.) Most of the Chinese laborers who contracted to build railroads were from peasant families. Many of them brought with them local medicines, including Chinese Snake Oil. The Chinese recipe was made from the oil of the Chinese water snake, which is rich in omega-3 acids. Today, we know that these omega-3 oils actually help reduce inflammation, but the big problem with using Chinese snake oil in America is that… well, America doesn’t have any Chinese water snakes. So, if it is true that Stanley got his medicine recipe from the Chinese, it is also possible that he might have thought, “We don’t have any Chinese water snakes in Texas, but we have a LOT of rattlesnakes, and, heck, most people want to get rid of them.” If that is the case, then Stanley should likely be remembered as a fantastic marketer, but not a great pharmacist.
Federal US Act Shuts Down Stanley
Clark Stanley partnered with a druggist in Boston to produce and market his Rattlesnake Oil. He claimed to have killed over 3000 rattlesnakes in 1901 to supply demand from the public. According to Janik, Clark Stanley claimed that his snake oil would cure “everything from rheumatism and sciatica to lumbago, frostbite, and sore throat.” However, in 1906, the Pure Food and Drug Act was passed by Congress. As a result, in 1916, Stanley’s medicine was examined, and authorities determined that it contained no snake oil at all. It was mostly mineral oil along with some red pepper and camphor. Since the Federal Pure Food and Drug Act was mainly created to ban mislabeled food and drug items, Stanley’s snake oil was said to have no medicinal value. Stanley was fined $20 (approximately $439 in 2015 dollars).
Was the Snake Oil a Hoax, Though?
Interestingly, though, although the snake oil that was examined had no actual snake oil in it, the red pepper and camphor that was there actually had a number of medicinal uses. Many of these medical uses correspond with Stanley’s claims. Today, a number of over-the-counter pain relievers use capsaicin as an active ingredient. Capsaicin is a natural remedy made from chili peppers. It works by inhibiting the pain receptors in the body. The website Natures Poisons posted a great article about these types of medicines. If you’ve ever eaten a hot pepper, you’ve likely experienced this process. The first time that you bite into a hot pepper, you feel pain and heat. As you become more and more accustomed to the peppers, the heat becomes less painful. Eventually, you build up a tolerance. Capsaicin is also a natural fungicide. Camphor comes from the Camphor Tree. It is the active ingredient in Vick’s Vapor Rub, Icy Hot, and Tiger Balm. Many people, today, use these products to relieve achy muscles and chest congestion. It is also the active ingredient in Blistex which is used to treat cold sores, etc.
Stanley (the snake oil salesman) claimed that his medicine would cure a number of different ailments. Here is a list of the big ones:
- Rheumatism and sciatica to lumbago: All of these terms are used to describe different types of muscle or back pain. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12531428″>Recent medical studies have determined that “Capsaicin, a major ingredient of hot pepper, was considered to exhibit an anti-inflammatory property.” The article also said, “Both capsaicin and capsazepine may be a promising drug candidates for ameliorating inflammatory diseases and cancer.”
- Stanley also claimed that his product would cure “bruises” which seems odd until we realize that a toenail fungus can sometimes appear as a bruise under the toenail. Capsaicin has been seen to be a good treatment for toenail fungus as well.
- Will it treat frostbite, though? I have to admit, when I read this, myself, I was skeptical. Then I found an article about a patient who had chronic foot pain from frostbite who received a 50% reduction of pain using a capsaicin patch.
- Sore Throat: Well, a sore throat caused by a yeast infection such as thrush, would likely be cured by use of a natural fungicide. In addition, a number of home remedy websites claim that cayenne pepper works really well to cure a sore throat.
- Toothache: Just as with muscle inflammation, it is quite possible that the snake oil salesman was right about pain reduction for a toothache as well.
So, although the product that Clark Stanley, the original snake oil salesman, was marketing wasn’t actually snake oil, it quite likely was a valuable cure-all medicine of the time. After his company was shut down, it took us another 40 years to create similar products. However, those products are used in great quantities today.
This Snake Oil Salesman was an Incredibly Talented Marketer
If Clark Stanley had showed up at the World’s Fair asking people to spend today’s equivalent of $14 on a bottle of mineral oil and cayenne pepper, I doubt he would have had many takers. (Even though the medicine worked.) But by selling the story, people flocked to his booth. His showmanship using one of the most dangerous predators in the West got attention. He was creating his own social media in a time when social media didn’t exist. People flocked around his booth. They gladly exchanged $.50 for a cure. And, hundreds (maybe thousands) of customers received relief.
It’s not bad to resign from a management or leadership role. By not bad, I mean for the company and yourself. Not so much for your ego though. For some people, there will come a point in their career where they’ll have to come to terms with the reality of the situation. Sometimes, it has nothing to do with your leadership skills. It’s just that the work is too toxic; or you’re starting to think your team might be better with someone more resilient. I’m sure your ego will survive; once you realize stepping down is actually a good decision. You can still do great in other roles. Is it Time You Move on to Other Roles? Here are 5 signs it might be time to step down from a leadership role. These are five things that you can look at to decide.
1. The Pressure is Killing You
Leading a team is tiring. All their problems, challenges, and failures are on you. If they make a mistake, you’ll be the first one to hear about it from upper management. As if the pressure from one side wasn’t enough, the people in your team also look up to you. You’re their mentor and the development of their career in the company is practically in your hands.
Because of constant pressure from all sides, you’re motivated to do your best. But the source of your motivation is also a great source of your stress. It’s because you care for your team and their performance.
2. You Think Other People can Do a Better Job
It’s easy to feel irreplaceable when you’re the boss. You’re good at what you do, no doubt. But are you still as good when you took on that position? Could complacency have caused you to stop learning, stop innovating?
If you’ve been in that leadership role for quite some time, and are no longer challenged by your responsibilities, then it might be time to start looking for your successor.
3. You’re Not Getting Invited to Important Meetings and Work Related Events
You might stop getting invites to important meetings when the higher-ups no longer care about you. This might mean the upper-management no longer values your opinion, or else is talking about finding ways to replace you. It’s the same thing when you stop getting feedback and criticisms. There’s a huge possibility that management already gave up hope on your skills and your team.
4. You’re at a Dead-End Job
You’re already at the top of the field for your job and department. There’s no room to grow, unless you switch fields. You feel like you’ve already learned everything there is to learn. If this is the case, would you be happy doing this until you retire?
5. Someone with an ALMOST Duplicate Job Description Gets Hired
You’re the boss, yes. But leaders and managers are replaceable, too. Yes, the leadership team might say there’s enough work for the two of you. They might even say the team is growing.
Is your team actually growing though? Did they also hire people with similar skills as your team? If that’s not the case then your team isn’t really growing. Management might have hired someone with a different leadership style, or they just want to change directions so they hired someone to spearhead that change.
If you are experiencing ANY of these challenges, before you step down from a leadership role, call one of our leadership development facilitators. Sometimes, minor changes in the way that you manage and lead your team can create fantastic changes in their achievement. Getting a good leadership development coach can help! By identifying what your real strengths are as a leader, a coach can help make sure that this (or your next) leadership role is more of a perfect fit for you.
For Day #1 of our Leadership Challenge, look for some time today to practice leadership principle number one, “Avoid Criticizing and Complaining“. We encourage you to apply each of the 28 daily leadership principles in this series by focusing on just a single principle every single day of the four-week challenge. The first seven principles are designed to help you build trust and rapport with your team, and this is the first of the seven principles that we will cover this week.
Daily Leadership Principle #1
Avoid Criticizing and Complaining
“People have a way of becoming what you encourage them to be,
not what you nag them to be.” –- S. N. Parker
My college football team had an offensive coordinator who was arguably one of the most brilliant minds in the game. However, he used fear and criticism to motivate his players. If someone missed a block, he’d yell and curse. If a player dropped a pass, he’d shout profanities and ridicule the player. Consequently, the players were focusing on their mistakes rather than their successes. The coach eventually moved on, and after he left, morale improved dramatically. The very next year, the team won their first bowl game in years and went on to eight straight bowl games in the following years. The practices were the same. The fan support was the same. The only thing that changed was the atmosphere on the field during the practices and the games.
Think about some of the greatest leaders you’ve known. Are they people who quibble and complain about irrelevant issues? Do they point out every mistake? Probably not. In fact, they probably do just the opposite. They’re probably masters at keeping others focused on the relevant and pointing out every improvement. Any jerk can complain or criticize – and most do. But real leaders are the people who build others up, not tear them down.
Typically, when we point out mistakes that others are making, we are doing so in order to create a behavior change in the person. However, when we point out mistakes that others make, the automatic human reaction is to get defensive or shift blame elsewhere. People rarely make a change in their behavior as a result of criticism. In week three, we’ll cover seven ways to create behavior change in others without raising resentment. Each of these tips will work much better than constructive criticism.
The next time you feel like you need to complain or to criticize someone, think about the outcome you want. Do you want that person to change his behavior? If so, by criticizing, you will cause the person to want to defend himself. This series is full of principles that you can use to build trust with and ultimately influence others. The next time you want to criticize or complain, try silence as an option.
Week #1: Build Trust and Rapport Quickly Principle #1:
Avoid Criticizing and Complaining
Want to improve your ability to influence and persuade others? Most people tend to approach persuasion with one or two favored tactics. But really great influencers consider the situation and the people they have to persuade. Then they combine influencing techniques in an order that helps them be more effective. Let’s look at seven influencing tactics that, when placed in the sequence, can combine to make a powerful influencing strategy. Below are seven keys to help you influence and persuade others.
- “Reason” is the most effective (and most often used) method to influence and persuade. It is one we often use in isolation rather than as part of an influencing strategy. It involves explaining the facts and demonstrating that these are consistent with shared objectives. It is a tactic that can be used with people of all levels of power. It is characterized by the word ‘because’. When using “Reason” opt for quality over quantity — otherwise your opponents may focus on your weaker reasons.
- “Inspire” is a tactic that works with people’s emotions. It is about being enthusiastic and painting a picture of a better future. It is important to use active language that helps the listener use all their senses and visual the ideal situation. When using Inspire it is important that the ideals, values and emotions you suggest actually appeal to the audience. Remember that we don’t need to be famous to inspire others; we just need to choose our words carefully. If we use powerful images and are passionate about our message we can inspire our managers, our coworkers, or our team.
- “Ask” is often used to create buy-in and make people feel that they created their own solution. This technique can be especially effective with people of greater power. To use this technique, the influencer explains the current situation, avoids providing solutions, and then asks the other person how to solve the problem. Interviewers, journalists and lawyers often use this technique, and so do parents. The influencer considers which questions would give an acceptable response. Car salespeople often use this technique. But using “leading questions” can also backfire. Ask is most successful when the question is sincere. In that case the other person will persuade themselves to work with you if you seem willing to work with them.
- “Get them to Smile” is a tactic that makes people feel good about themselves, and then about our argument. GTTS is about offering compliments or putting someone in a good mood. Telling jokes or finding other ways to build rapport are subtle ways of using GTTS. While this tactic can be very effective beware of overusing flattery. If we always compliment someone before asking for a favor, they’ll begin to distrust us. Or they may think we’re flirting. GTTS is a very effective tactic but it should be used sincerely and sparingly. “You were terrific doing that report last month, we’d love to have you do it again is an example of GTTS.
- “Make a Deal” can be overt — “if you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” or covert – here’s a free gift or dinner for you. Researchers have found that even small gifts can yield results. People cleaning windshields at traffic lights or giving out paper flowers in train stations all use “Deal.” When others give us a free hat or keychain we may feel more compelled to give something in return. This is why we say, “There is no such thing as a free lunch.” “Deal,” whether covert or overt is a good tactic to add to our arsenal.
- “Requesting a Favor” is the most basic tactic. Simply asking for a favor is sometimes all that is needed. Especially if we are trying to persuade a friend to help us. But if we rely on the magic word, “please” too often this tactic loses its power fast.
- “Mentioning Silent allies” is a tactic used by businesses when they talk about their other clients. People are persuaded if they think a product or service is popular. Name dropping these “silent allies” can help us persuade.
Two other tactics are far less effective – using our position authority or using punishments or penalties to force someone to go our way. Far better to use a strategy of several of the seven stronger tactics since authority and force do not lead to lasting results.
Line up the tactics in the order you feel will work best for your situation. One woman was desperate to persuade her husband to learn to swim since they lived near a lake. She tried giving reasons but this didn’t work. Then she tried to inspire: “Just imagine being able to swim with the children!” But the husband wouldn’t budge. Then she tried to make a deal, “If you learn to swim we can go on vacation to the Bahamas.” The husband still wouldn’t cooperate. The wife begged for a favor: “Please do it for me, I’m so worried about you and the kids.” Finally she tried the tactic, “ask.” “What will it take for you to go to swimming lessons?” This last tactic worked. The husband realized his deeper fears and sought help to overcome them.
Next time you seek to influence or persuade someone at home or work, remember these seven tactics. Stretch yourself to go beyond your default approaches. Soon more situations will yield to your persuasive skills!
Under fire? Here’s How an Effective Leader Deals with Criticism
By Michelle A. Riklan
Criticism at work starts early, at entry level when you’re focused on the boss’s scathing comments. You console yourself, anticipating your turn to dish out the criticism when you become the manager. But leaders get criticized from above, below, and from everywhere else. The difference is high visibility that requires a calm appearance in the face of the most negative feedback. So, when you are in a leadership position and you begin to feel the arrows of criticism flying around you, below are a few ideas that you can use when you are under fire. Here’s how an effective leader deals with criticism.
How Do You Demonstrate an Effective Leader’s Grace Under Fire?
RECEPTION: Step Back and Get an Objective View
Listen intuitively. Separate valid points from empty rants. Criticism carries truth but often comes with unrelated variables. Was the person reprimanded by his boss, stuck in hour-long traffic, worrying about his kids, or nursing a hangover? Turning analytical is a double win. It cools emotions, avoiding a regrettable knee-jerk display. It zeros in on the issue, clearing the way to a solution. Step back and, as Brock Hansen writes in Shame and Anger: The Criticism Connection, detach from those two emotions and summon curiosity to get the facts.
Be analytical, not emotional.
REACTION: Acknowledge Calmly and Respond Promptly
International hotel general managers are used to getting criticism from head office, the owning company, employees, industry peers, and the press. But guest comments get top priority. These are promptly addressed and expeditiously resolved, so the guest departs happy.
Masters of grace under fire, front-of-the-house section heads routinely listen to irate guests scream at them because of mistakes from other departments. Only when the rant is done do they speak up to verify the issue and offer a solution.
Listening intuitively and responding empathetically are vital in resolving complaints, which can be traced to basic core issues. As InterContinenal Hotels Group CEO, Richard Solomons, points out, “I get carried away sometimes, looking at the complexities of our industry. Fundamentally, people (just) want to come in, have a nice meal, a great meeting, and go home happy.”
A non-response can turn into the main issue, overshadowing the simpler problem. Handled promptly and professionally, complaints are great opportunities to gain loyal guests who spread the good word.
Give it your attention.
ACTION: Take Steps and Don’t Get Criticized Needlessly
Was it a flaw in the procedure or a failure in standards? Was it a decision making error? An effective leader owns up to her mistakes and takes responsibility over her team’s shortcomings. She understands that accountability is a prerequisite to finding a solution, but she doesn’t recklessly bawl out her team. She apologizes when called for but always implements changes, utilizing the criticism as a teaching tool on accountability and as a training point on standards and procedures.
Make personal changes and rally your team so you don’t apologize for the same mistake.
DEFENSE: Clarify Wrongly Placed Criticism
What if the criticism against you and your team is undeserved? Here’s a third win for not taking criticism emotionally. When you clarify objectively, point by point and preferably in writing, how you and your team are not accountable for the issues raised, it will be better received.
Your critic will accept your clarification openly or grudgingly. Either way, he’ll think twice about criticizing you again. You’ll boost team morale, gain trust, and earn respect in the process.
Support your people and set the record straight.
A Different Angle on Criticisms
Getting loads is the measure of a bold, dynamic leader who makes relevant, innovative decisions that challenge the status quo. It shows you’re not just taking the path of least resistance. And others are taking notice. So the next time you’re under fire, welcome the heat with good humor and follow what effective leaders DON’T do. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
You’re a top producing salesman who’s consistently hitting sales targets, contributing marketing ideas, and are well-liked by colleagues. You have a bright future, and you are very optimistic about your opportunities within your company. Your boss, who’s moving up the ladder, decides that you’re ready to move into management and head the team as she moves into her next role within the company. It’s an opportunity to shine as a leader, or is it really? Quite often, new managers fall into a number of potential pitfalls when managing people for the first time. Below are the 4 Mistakes that New Managers Often Make (and how to avoid falling into these traps!) Why do new managers commit these apparent mistakes that seasoned leaders successfully avoid?
Not Recognizing Your New Role
Early on, you need to realize your role has shifted from productive salesman to director of an environment that produces outstanding sales people. If you persist in doing what you’ve done best in the past, you’ll interfere with other people’s work and neglect your role, resulting in more rookie mistakes. You’ll feel justified for taking credit when things work. When they don’t, you’ll indignantly blame others for not doing their job in the first place. Result: low morale.
Make a conscious shift. When clearing up your desk, file digital and physical documents in a folder labeled Sales Person and put it away. Create a new one named Sales Manager to mark your transition, psychologically and kinesthetically. A seasoned manager consciously shifts away from his old role, so he doesn’t hover as his people work. Instead, he focuses on providing the environment for his team to perform well.
Making Sweeping Changes at the Get-go
Perhaps you’ve embraced your role even before day 1 and are so gung-ho to improve procedures. You’re convinced you have a new, better way to do things. Wait before implementing or you’ll create tensions with your team and other managers. They’ll think you’re making their lives difficult or criticizing the way they’ve done things for years. Either way, you’ll get a cold reception or outright opposition.
A seasoned manager acknowledges existing procedures that work well, recognizes his predecessor’s contributions, and collaborates closely with his team when changing systems and policies.
Not Getting to Know Your Team
You might say, “I’ve worked with them for years. It’s the other managers and bosses I need to get to know.” You’re not altogether wrong, but neglecting this important step can blindside you, especially when you concentrate only on pleasing the higher-ups. You’ll take on more work, accept higher sales targets, and get your team swamped. You’ll regularly cascade unpopular decisions from above but rarely raise your team’s concerns to higher management because you don’t know what those are. It’s a situation that breeds discontent.
Meet promptly with each team member to share your expectations and explain job requirements. Ask about their ideal scenarios and pain points and communicate those concerns to top management. A seasoned manager seriously takes her duty of connecting the team and upper management. She knows her team’s motivations, strengths, and challenges as she grooms them for bigger responsibilities.
Losing Site of the Big Picture
You’re settling into your new role, relating well with your team, and the day-to-day systems are purring along. You’ve earned a big pat on the back. But are you so immersed in everyday details and forgetting about planning and strategy? How does your team contribute to the total enterprise and the broader industry?
A seasoned leader reacts quickly to a crisis, but regularly steps back, planning and strategizing to avoid recurrence and adjust standards. She networks with HR, training, support departments, industry peers, and other stakeholders. Then, she sets benchmarks for the team, knowing exactly how the team fits in the big picture.
Leading others can be daunting. Take comfort in this reality: your team wants you to succeed and will overlook early mistakes. Don’t act like you have all the answers. Your initial uncertainty is the best tool for drawing support on your way to becoming a shining, collaborative leader.
Michelle Riklan is president of Riklan Resources and an instructor for The Leader’s Institute® in the Northeast region. She is based in Trenton, NJ but she also can conduct a team activity in New York, Boston, Philadelphia and other Northeast cities.
I’m an enthusiastic but lousy gardener. Thankfully, Rick and I don’t depend on my crops for survival. If we did, we’d be very hungry! But even though I’ve made plenty of mistakes while digging in the dirt, I continue to learn and improve. I’ve also seen how my garden offers lessons on improving my resilience, productivity, and health at work. Thankfully, I don’t have to wait until next season to apply these leadership lessons from my garden. Are the conditions right? Each of my vegetable plants has an array of needs. I am constantly experimenting to see where different crops will thrive. Do they want a sandy or alkaline soil? Is this patch of ground full of nutrients or has it been depleted through overuse? How much sun does this spot receive and is it early morning dappled light or late afternoon heat? Is it too windy?
Finding the right “soil” for ourselves is also key. What do we need in our work? Extraversion? Creativity? Competition? Routine? Stability? Excitement? I’ve tried many different career soils, in some I’ve thrived and in some I have languished. I was glad when I moved into corporate training. It’s been the right soil for me.
Stress reduces productivity. If a plant is stressed it will, like many people, struggle valiantly against mounting foes but yield little. I’m reminded of a yellow, pock-marked bean plant that only produced one or two beans during the entire season. Before wasting too many more resources, I yanked it up and started over. Likewise, are we willing to pull the plug on processes or projects when a situation isn’t working for us?
A friend, Mona, is true to her name: she moans a lot. She’s extremely unhappy in her job and has talked about leaving it for many years. As her unhappiness grows, she’s crabby and angry, especially when hearing about another’s good fortune. Mona is terrified of change and so, even though she is desperate to quit, she struggles to persevere. And like my plants, her afflictions are obvious to everyone around her. Mona may produce a bean or two but she spends most of her energy fighting enemies from without and within.
Are we nurtured and is there room for growth? As a new gardener, I often tried to place too many plants within a small space. I was enthused and the plants were small. But as they grew, my veggies succumbed to diseases, died inexplicably, or were stunted and under-performing. I had learned to feed my seedlings compost but I hadn’t given them enough space to thrive. At work do we have the “space” to grow? Is there time and energy to improve and learn new skills? Do we give ourselves enough psychological space to relax, unwind, and find our own unique nutrients? Aside from good nutritious food, how do we revitalize ourselves?
Pull up the small weeds before they get big: Despite my use of mulch (which led to slug problems), I am forced to weed regularly. I love weeding. It’s a visceral metaphor of rooting out problems. After several hours, I see a big difference — a clean area of soil. If only I could weed out my bad habits or perceptions so completely! At work I need to pull out the small weeds–negative misunderstandings or attitudes– before they become big intractable problems for my team.
Seasons change: A garden is not a static place. Not only do seasons change, but year to year, the amount of rain, sun, heat, and wind can differ drastically. Two years ago, a huge brood of chipmunks decimated my tomatoes as they ripened. The next year they left my crop in peace. Tending a vegetable garden reminds me to be attentive to the actual conditions of today (not yesterday or tomorrow). I strive to be this response-able at work too.
During wintry days it’s fun to daydream about gardens and Spring. As I skim through seed catalogs I think of my tough little plants and what they teach me about being productive, resilient, and healthy at work.
Laura Lewis-Barr is president of Traning4Breakthroughs, and she is an expert presentation skills coach based in Chicago, Illinois. She teaches team building events in Chicago, Minneapolis, Indianapolis, St Louis, and other cities in the Midwest, and works with clients all over the world.
At every waking moment, multiple concerns run through a leader’s mind. The larger the team, the more numerous those concerns — which then, turn into worries. Defined as a state of uncertainty over actual or potential problems, worrying is not necessarily a bad thing, but letting anxiety take over is never good. So, how do successful leaders manage worry and everyday challenges? They accept that problems will come up. Instead of worrying, they get to solving and preventing. Below are a few of our best tips to help leaders manage worry better and keep a more balanced life.
Sharpen Perception and Get a Big-Picture Perspective
Root out perceived problems from real problems. Focus on the second, forget the first. But how do you know if a problem is not a real problem in the first place?
- A quick cause-and-effect or action-consequence analysis can reveal the true nature of your worries. For instance, a manager reprimanded someone in your team for coming in late. But that same person actually had his shift changed yesterday. It’s all a misunderstanding.
- A broader perspective from colleagues and even clients can reveal if there are actual negative consequences to a situation. You worry that ongoing renovation work on the floor above yours will disrupt your team. But the Engineering and Housekeeping department of the building your company is leasing wisely coordinated to schedule noisy work when the offices and commercial spaces are closed. If you mention renovation work to your clients and employees, they’ll probably say, “What renovation?”
Attend Promptly to REAL and On-Going Problems
Among real problems, prioritize actual problems over potential problems that may or may not happen in a few days. Yes, that includes the presentation you’re dreading tomorrow.
Give actual problems prompt attention so you can get them off your list of concerns. Otherwise, new problems will pile up onto your current problems. That’s when anxiety rears its scary head. Jim Folk, founder of www.anxietycentre.com writes that anxiety also persists when the underlying reasons aren’t properly addressed.
Tackle actual problems by breaking them down into manageable segments. Is it equipment failure, procedure flaw, human error, insufficient time, or a communication lapse? Communication is almost always part of the problem. Strive to continuously improve the quality and flow of information within the team and between departments. Once a problem is solved, put steps in place so it doesn’t recur.
Make Preventive Planning a Habit
Potential problems are a major source of worrying. Preventive planning anticipates possible negative outcomes from current ongoing action. But how do you prevent your brain from making away with unending worst case scenarios?
Base preventive planning measures on past problems and their triggers. For instance, a potential client is supposed to meet you at a golf club a few miles away. Do you have a back-up venue ready if it rains? Will you be prepared to talk business if the winds are too strong for a good game? A preventive mindset allows you to set up a plan B and C to avoid foreseeable problems and mitigate unexpected ones.
Practice Delegation to Mentor Others
Are you worrying over problems that others can handle? Assigning someone else to solve a problem is downright hard for high-performing managers. Do it anyway. It frees you to focus on other tasks that ONLY you can really perform. It’s also a good opportunity to groom potential “understudies.”
Meditate, work out, watch a sitcom, or nap to snuff stress and renew your spirit. You’ve covered your bases and ticked off all checklists. There’s little room for worry. You’re now ready for that final step–letting go. When Murphy ’s Law occurs, as it often does, you’ll accept you can’t control everything, and then laugh about it. No worries.
Michelle Riklan is president of Riklan Resources and an instructor for The Leader’s Institute® in the Northeast region. She is based in Trenton, NJ but she also can conduct a team activity in New York, Boston, Philadelphia and other Northeast cities.