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December 2011 Archives

Sitting in Santa’s Lap

Published on: Dec 20, 2011 | Tags: General, Productivity, Self Leadership, Goals, Decision Making

We made the annual trip with our grandson to see Santa this week. He is three and a half years old and really fascinated with Santa from a distance. There was much debate about the outcome of the endeavor. Last year was more of a wrestling match with mom near Santa than sitting in his lap and talking with him about desired Christmas gifts. As we waited for Santa Claus to arrive there was much anticipation and when he walked up our grandson was obviously very taken with him – from a distance. This year he was much more aware of the need to talk with Santa to ensure receipt of the desired bounty on Christmas morning, but as we stood in line he was adamant saying “I don’t want to talk to him.” He was a little scared of Santa. He also wanted Santa to know what he wanted for Christmas.

Leadership begins with self. We all experience times when there is something we need or want but there is risk in pursuing it. It can be either an opportunity or a responsibility with clear potential benefits. Being an adult does not remove the human desire to avoid that which we anticipate will be unpleasant, or beyond that risky. It is true that levels of risk and the unpleasant are different for each of us, but at some point we all face both. It can be in professional or personal life, but it will occur. When those times arise we have to make a choice. Will we remain in perceived safety and ignore either the opportunity or the responsibility because we will not face the avoidance that is within us, or will we lead our self through the internal challenges?

 The greatest leadership challenge is leading me well. As 2011 ends, we consider all the potential 2012 holds. The expression I hear to describe its potential is uncertainty. Uncertainty does not engender confidence in decision making for most of us, but decisions will be made. At some level most decisions begin with determining what we as individuals will or will not do. Where will our decisions take us if fear and avoidance are their primary drivers? Our grandson did sit on Santa’s lap much to our surprise. He seemed pleased with himself after he had. That may not seem like a big deal to us as adults, but I watched him lead himself through the internal resistance he faced with the support of those around him and enjoy the result. It was a great reminder of the joy found in accomplishment. What results will you enjoy because you lead yourself well in 2012?

Sitting in Santa's Lap

Defining Leadership

Published on: Dec 12, 2011 | Tags: General, Productivity, Organizations

There are 71,347 results at when I search for books on leadership, and 6,772 of those were published in 2011. That is a lot to keep up with if you want to stay current on the topic of leadership. As one who has been interested in leadership for a couple of decades, there is one interesting fact about all of these books (and no I have not read them all). In the crowded field of leadership gurus there is not an agreed upon definition of leadership nor is there any agreed upon best way to become a leader. We are always learning more about organizations and work groups as social systems. They are dynamic and changing because the world in which we live is dynamic and changing.

 We must also recognize that the focus of most companies is not leadership. While it is described as important, the satisfaction of a client or customer with goods or services is why companies exist. If key processes are those that produce goods or services we understand the real priority of an organization is not leadership. Our company’s services produce leaders for other companies, but I understand that most companies are not primarily concerned with creating leaders. They are concerned with producing a profitable service or product by engaging employees in a highly productive organization. This makes leadership a secondary or support function where leadership development is seen as a cost of both time and budget.

 In a discussion a few days ago, someone described investing in leadership development as the difference between taking pain pills versus taking vitamins. Most of us ignore mild symptoms until the pain is so great we have to address it and then we go to the doctor for relief. That is the western mindset, wait until you are sick and then go to the doctor. There is organizational pain we may not interpret as leadership pain because it appears in areas that one might not relate to leadership until it has grown to unbearable levels. Symptoms such as high employee turnover, failure to achieve goals, resistance to change resulting in project failure, low customer satisfaction or loss of market share.

 While I am not suggesting that every pain you experience in your company can be alleviated by leadership, I am suggesting that you consider it as a possible factor. If your pain would be alleviated by people coming together and finding meaning in overcoming the challenges related to your problem, then leadership is a foundational resource.  Beyond that, if you want to stop responding to pain and move out of reactive mode into proactive organizational health, perhaps investing in vitamins is not a bad idea. Because, at its essence, leadership is the capacity to bring people together who achieve a desired result that has meaning to all involved. That, as I understand it, is the definition of leadership. What is your pain today?

Creating a Great Team Environment

Published on: Dec 05, 2011 | Tags: General, Team Leadership, Team Work, Productivity, Systems

It is common, in training employees on how to be team players, collaborate effectively, or how to resolve conflict with co-workers, that participants ask me if their supervisors will participate in the same training. Is it possible that what I am equipping people to accomplish may be limited by the very manager who sent them to the training? The manager sees no need for training because the problem is the inability of adults to act appropriately. The employee believes he or she is limited because the manager does not address issues directly. We need clarity on who is responsible for the quality of interactions between people in a work group. Not that any of us have negative experiences in working with others, but just imagine the possibility. We might answer that everyone is responsible, which is true. But is everyone’s position the same in addressing the issues that inevitably arise when people work together?

 It is the manager who leads and influences those on his or her team. The environment that your team experiences and operates within has a direct impact on both the quality and quantity of work accomplished. Your approach to leading the team is a primary influence on that environment. Understanding that, you as a manager must also accept that inaction has as much impact as action in this social system you call a team. Both inaction and action have implications beyond the individual you may see as a problem or the one you rely on the most. Beyond that, the way you approach one person on your team impacts everyone in the group.

 Consider how those you lead respond to your leadership. Not just their response to you, but to each other. Their interactions with each other are indicative of your leadership. If the interactions are positive and productive be aware of the investment you are making in the group that results in these qualities. If the interactions are not positive or they are hindering productivity then consider your actions or inaction that may be influencing the environment within the group. As you reflect on your leadership, realize that any real change you make as a leader will result in a change in your team. If the team does not reflect the positive, productive group you desire to lead what change can you make that will move them in that direction today?

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