We have all experienced the quiet anticipation of waiting to hear if our name will be called next. How you feel when that time comes depends on the circumstances. If you are awaiting the name of the next person to be promoted you may feel differently than you would if you were waiting for the next person called when choosing teams for a pickup game. You may either wait with enthusiasm and hope, or fear and dread.
What makes us feel the way we do? It is the individual; it is you who dictates how you feel. Those that are confident of the skills they possess and their ability to make a difference generally look forward to the selection. Those who lack these convictions, who shirk from responsibility and accountability, who do not want the attention or the added pressure, are tense and worried. These are also characteristics that help distinguish one as a leader.
Non-leaders stress over not only being overlooked for a position but also about their ability to perform if they are named. They see failure to be picked as an embarrassment but also fret that their talent might disappoint others. They are pessimists, seeing the glass as half empty regardless of the outcome.
Regardless of the situation, leaders are positive; they expect to get the promotion and expect to be the next one chosen. They are assured of their own talent and self-worth. The selection made by another, even if it is not their name they hear, does not diminish who they are. They look at the decision not as their failure, but as an opportunity to excel in whatever role they are thrust into next.
How do you feel while you are waiting for an announcement?
- Are you confident or fearful? Are you afraid that if your name is not called you will get ‘lemons’ or are you confident that in the worst case you will at least have lemonade?
- When opportunities arise, do you embrace them, raising your hand to take on new challenges? Or are you hiding in the background hoping your name will not be called?
- Are you eager to take on new responsibilities to learn and grow? Or do you focus on the challenges you will face and hope to avoid them?
When your name is called, will you be ready?
Isn’t it ‘funny’ how we can see so many examples of leadership in everyday events if we just look for them? My Thought of the Week this week – “People regret what they do not try/the paths not chosen; they do not regret decisions they make. Leaders know this and act. Failure is in not trying” – reminded me of a leadership lesson I learned in a ‘funny,’ both ironic and humorous, way.
I believe it was Jeff Foxworthy who told the story of an adventurous sea Captain. On one trip, after being on the open seas for some time, the Captain’s First Mate relayed a message from the crow’s nest – that a large pirate ship was approaching from their port side. The Captain, squinting at the horizon, calmly told his Mate to bring him his red shirt and prepare the crew for battle.
The pirates eventually boarded the ship and a huge battle ensued. The Captain and his men successfully repelled the pirates’ challenge. While celebrating, the First Mate approached the Captain asking the question that had been bothering him since the pirates were spotted – why did he want the red shirt? The Captain answered, “Wearing a red shirt, if I should be injured in battle, the blood would not show and the crew would not worry or lose hope. They would continue to fight valiantly if they saw me leading the way.”
- Leaders recognize the value they provide just by their presence.
- Leaders realize the importance of appearance, perception and hope.
- Leaders honor the trust others place in them.
- Leaders plan ahead.
But the story did not end there. A few months later, again while miles from land, a similar scenario arose. The First Mate informed the Captain that four pirate ships were quickly approaching their ship. The Captain peered through the telescope. The First Mate asked him, “Shall I get you your red shirt?” After a few moments of thought the captain replied, “No, bring me my brown pants.”
- Leaders know the importance of having multiple contingency plans.
- Leaders may be fearful, but they must emanate an air of confidence regardless of the situation.
- Leaders may experience fear, but they act in spite of it.
A debate started after a restaurant owner, when asked by a reporter if they would cater a Gay wedding, answered ‘no.’ This raised a firestorm of discussions from proponents on both sides: those who believed the rights of a minority group were being violated and those who believed that a store owner has every right to determine to whom they provide services.
Simplistically the positions are founded either on one’s moral/religious grounds and/or from the interpretation of state and federal laws. While we may understand both perspectives, I believe each side may be looking at it somewhat parochially. They are ‘arguing’ two different points that if continued in this manner, will not produce a satisfactory outcome. Instead of focusing solely on the religious and/or the political aspects of this situation, a look at it from the perspective of a leader would help them recognize and consider the large number of related issues as well. Perhaps a better way to consider this situation is to ask WWLD? – What Would Leaders Do?
What would a leader do when confronted with the question/decision to serve a customer or employee with whose opinions they did not agree? Perhaps they would recognize the power of diversity and individuality and not deprive any person from the services offered.
What would a leader do when confronted with a person who issues a statement with which he/she does not agree? Perhaps they would accept the right of a person to have his/her own opinion and respectfully work toward a mutual understanding and acceptance. Perhaps they would offer the same patience and consideration to the owner than they expect in return.
What would a leader do when confronted with unclear or contradictory laws, rules and values? Perhaps they would understand that “Leaders establish rules not for compliance but rather to encourage growth, fairness and success.
In short, a few things are certain when considering ‘WWLD?,’ for leaders:
• Do not bully.
• Offer everyone the same opportunities and do not deprive any individual from receiving opportunities available to others.
• Allow others to have their own convictions, even if they may not be in line with their own.
• Put others before themselves and work toward the ‘common good.’
• Embrace enhanced communication to arrive at a common understanding.
• Recognize that ‘win-lose’ scenarios produce ‘lose-lose’ outcomes and look for ‘win-wins’ instead.
• Gives everyone every opportunity available to foster growth and potential.
• Respect the feelings and well-being of every individual.
Facts hold true for all. It is not the facts that matter most, however, it is what you do with these facts. It is how you act. Reality is experientially based and consequently is different for everyone. Leaders recognize this, seeing things not in ‘black and white’ but also recognizing the gray. It is in these areas that leaders thrive; it is there leaders find the wisdom and strength within to do what is right!
Let’s face it, there are times when we all wonder if we will be able to ‘keep it together,’ at work and in our personal lives, but that presupposes we already have the pieces together. There is so much happening around us that we are in a constant struggle to keep everything in balance.
Where do we turn for help? There are an untold number of books, articles and blogs that tell us how to be a better leader and how to implement what is deemed to be a best practice. But how many times have you turned to these resources only to find they do not work as you had hoped? This is because of three flaws that generally exist in such lessons:
- There are too many ‘pieces to the puzzle’ to look at something in isolation. Everything in life as in business affects or is affected by everything else, directly or indirectly.
- There is no such thing as a ‘best practice.’ Best practices—the way to do something that optimizes results—is only a best practice within a specific environment. The different history, experiences, talents, resources – the culture of an organization – negate the ‘cookie cutter’ approach to replicating best practices.
- Leaders know we must turn to ourselves for answers because we know best our specific situations. Leadership doesn’t mean doing one thing right one time; it’s doing all things well all the time. This is an even more daunting task given today’s ever-changing circumstances and expectations for businesses. And that’s something that is difficult for any writer to capture, no matter how well respected.
In this series of blogs/articles, I will outline a philosophy to follow in business or in your personal life that will help you find the answers to your particular problems, whether they be strategic or tactical in nature. It is easily understood, easily implemented, and provides a proven approach to achieving desired results. It is not a checklist or a how-to list, but rather a way for you to better manage the complexities of business, stay focused on those matters most important for success, keep the team united in its task, and leverage actions to achieve maximum results: Putting The PIECES! Together
Future articles will focus on each aspect of the philosophy:
- Partnering, with customers, employees, vendors and the community
- Increasing Flexibility, going beyond innovation to find a way to say ‘yes’
- Expanding Your Sphere of Influence, leading beyond your department and company
- Calculating Value Add, keeping focus on the bottom-line
- Enhancing Reputation, gaining the trust of those around you
- Sustaining Results, continuously improving both efficiency and effectiveness
- !, taking care of the people, who make all this possible
By following this philosophy in my own organization, HR didn’t just get a ‘seat at the table,’ but took on the role of chef, who plans, prepares and oversees the strategic and tactical ‘meals’ the entire company encounters. The PIECES! Philosophy allowed us to continually surpass the expectations of our customers and our own employees and ‘raise the bar’ of performance.