Accountability ≠ “Gotcha!”

Do we even know what “accountability” looks like?

Once again I want to remind you of my deep love for great pithy quotes. And today is no exception. In fact, it hit me right between the proverbial eyes. Are you ready? Here it is:

“Hypocrisy exists in the space between language and action.”
— Henry J. Evans

I can’t guarantee that is the right attribution for that quote. But, his name seems to be associated with it in the most contexts in which I see it. If anyone has any information to the contrary regarding the correct attribution, I want to be accountable for its accuracy and give credit to the originator.

Blaming and Finger Pointing

My fear as I write this article is that we are so far removed from a culture of accountability that we don’t even know what accountability looks like anymore. Whenever we do experience something that someone claims to be “accountability” it feels more like “blame” and “finger pointing” than anything else. So let me state emphatically that accountability does not equal a great big gotcha when something goes wrong. It is quite different and begins way upstream of whatever incident or accident has just occurred. But it should point out the space between language and action.

Let’s Move Upstream

Let’s agree right now that you can’t inject accountability into a process or a project in mid-stream. At least, you can’t do it without a lot of wear and tear on all parties concerned. So, what do you do? You build it into the next project or the next process or the next planning and execution event. You go upstream.

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Principles of Intentional Mentoring 

4 Things That Must Be Considered

There are some genuine considerations for the would-be protégé. In fact, there are four that I would have you consider today.

We need to identify a leader that is worthy of following.

It is an indictment of our culture, and maybe even our own judgment sometimes, that we would need to be reminded of this consideration. Not every leader is worthy of following. We must understand that consideration from both the leader’s and from the follower’s perspective. As a follower, I must find a leader that is worthy to follow and whose successes are not compromised by their ethics or methods. As a leader, I must always be diligent to be “worthy” to be followed.

We must learn how they lead.

Is there some “secret sauce?” Usually, there is not. It is just a lot of hard work and some careful application of emotional intelligence concepts. But, as a protégé, they will be asking: “What is the secret to your success as a leader?” So, as a leader, ask yourself the following questions: What makes you worthy to be followed? And what are you doing specifically that makes you “successful” as a leader?

What makes one leader successful will not always work in another place and setting. That is why I am stressing that it is important to learn how they lead. It is the “how” that will be filled with those traits and characteristics that will be the earmarks of an Emotionally Agile Leader.

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Sticks and Stones 

What I “think” about it really matters

How many of you remember growing up and playing on the playground? What did you say when someone said something mean or hurtful to you? Maybe you said what many children have said when you repeated a little saying.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

Oh, how I wish that were true. As we have gotten older, we have realized that words hurt more than the sticks and the stones. In fact, I heard a person say one time that “it is not what you think about me or even say about me that hurts me. It is what I think about what you think about me or say about me that hurts me.” What they are saying is that it is my perception about something that drives my behaviors.

What does this have to do with leadership?

I am working on some “appendix material” for my upcoming book. And I am working on a leadership development resource for 1-on-1 mentoring. I am working on the issue of self-awareness or self-perception. My focus for that section is on how we perceive ourselves, how others perceive us, and how we perceive that others perceive us. This can almost become a carnival house of mirrors scenario where that loop can become almost infinite. So, let’s not go that far.

Psychologists often use words like self-perception, other perception, and meta-perception. They indicate that we can be good or bad at each the of perception. I love alliteration. It helps me cement a concept in my mind. So, I am modifying their words to help me get a better grip on them and their leadership implications. So, I will use Self-Perception, Social-Perception, and Circular-Perception.

Self-Perception is simply a matter of how you see yourself. Our role as leadership mentors is to help our protégés to help them really see themselves as they are. And not just as they perceive themselves or even as others perceive them to be. Let’s face it. Very few of us are “black belts” at self-awareness. mentors must never come across as having become too much of an expert in this regard.

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Leading Without the Adrenaline Rush

5 Characteristics of Leaders for the Long Haul

Crisis leadership is a 24 hour a day adrenaline rush. It is a crisis and you are leading folks through that crisis. You have led well. The crisis has passed. And now you are coming down from the adrenaline rush that has flowed through your veins for the past few days or weeks.

Now what?

For some, the immediate crisis is over. If you are in the south Texas area, you are in this phase. If you are in Florida, the immediate danger is over, but the crisis remains as the sun is up and you are getting a chance to survey the damage that occurred overnight.

What if there is no adrenaline rush?

What if your situation is fairly stable? What if there is no looming, current, or recent crisis to deal with? How can we be leaders for the long haul where we must get up every day and lead through the mundane?

I would submit to you that this is difficult leadership. There is no crisis to rally around and there is not a tragedy to motivate us. This is where the bulk of leadership takes place.

Consider for a few moments five characteristics of leaders in it for the long haul.

Long Haul Leaders are Committed — It takes real commitment to be a part of something for the long haul. The metaphor of the over the road trucker jumps to my mind. The road is long. And many times the scenery is boring. But the journey is every bit as important and the cargo is every bit as important to those who rely on the trucker to deliver the products we need every day to thrive. Likewise, the Long Haul Leader is committed to the process even though the hours are long and the scenery is repetitive.

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More Than Goal Setting

One of the Myths of Leadership

More Than Goal Setting

I was walking back to my hotel room today to check out from a weeklong conference that I have been attending. And I overheard two people walking directly in front of me. One said to the other, “You know, the key to great leadership is goal setting.”

I wanted to stop them in their tracks and open a conversation with them. But, I am tired. And I am sure they are tired from this conference. I wanted to tell them that leadership is so much more.

So much more?

Yes! If it was as simple as just setting goals, then we could just boil the process down to a mathematical formula. Assign a numerical value to each of an organization’s objectives and put them in order. That will give you your organization’s goals in a ranked priority. Simple. But, leadership is not about “goal setting” as much as it is about “goal planning”, then “goal execution”, and finally “goal achievement.”

So, what is a leader to do?

Leadership has a lot of responsibilities regarding goal setting. Consider these:

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Genuine or Joke?

What kind of a leader are you?

Genuine or Joke?

This world is full of fakes and phonies. Some would call them “posers.” But I tend to write alliteratively and I needed a word that began with the same phonetic sound as the word, “genuine.” So I ended up with “Genuine or Joke?”

One of the words I hear a lot these days in the leadership lingo is a buzzword — Authentic. Do you hear it as often as I do? You are more likely to hear it in the non-profit world than the commercial profit ventures. From what I can tell, to those folks who use that word most often, being authentic is just an excuse for poor behavior and a lack of self-discipline. They are not genuine leaders. They are a joke.

So, how do you tell the difference between genuine and joke?

Genuineness and authenticity do not have totally objective measurements. In fact, genuineness and authenticity may be a little like how the U.S. Supreme Court has dealt with the issue of obscenity. They said that they may not be able to define it. But they know it when they see it. Consider the following comparisons between leaders who are genuine and leaders who are a joke.

Leaders that are genuine

Genuine leaders are comfortable in their own skin. They are comfortable with who they are at a very basic level. To be clear, they are always seeking to improve. They are not complacent. But they are comfortable with who they are without the need for pretentious behaviors and overt gestures.

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You Can Conduct Valuable Team Meetings

A Few Easy Concepts

You Can Conduct Valuable Team Meetings

Almost 2 weeks ago, I discussed team briefings and the importance of communications in the process. But I really didn’t take the time to address the mechanics of conducting a valuable team briefing. So, today, let’s focus on that.

Create the Environment

As the leader, you must establish the proper environment. Think about the environment you want to create for these briefings. It doesn’t necessarily be a super-formal environment. But, it just needs to be a positive environment. People must understand what to expect when they attend one of your team briefings. Here are a few things that make for a good environment:

  • Ensure that you understand what is going on in the organization and that you have been properly briefed yourself. Make sure your team leaders know what’s happening at various levels, and with various other teams, throughout the organization.
  • Provide training or coaching on how to conduct effective team briefings.
  • Recognize and reward supervisors and managers for conducting effective team briefings.
  • Brevity is the soul of wit. If you can’t say it in 15 to 30 minutes, then a team briefing is not the right vehicle for a more complex message.

Have a Structure and a Process

As the leader, you must commit to a structure and a process. You have invited the team and they are gathered for information sharing.

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How to Recognize True Success

I have had my share of them, also.

True Success

Last week I refreshed an article that I wrote several years ago about leadership failure. And, as promised, here is the follow-up dealing with leadership success. Whenever you write an article like the one on failure last week, there is always a significant amount of trepidation about how it will be received. When you consult with other leaders you always wonder what one of them will think when they read one of your articles. You wonder if they think it is about them.

(Why is there suddenly a Carly Simon song playing in my head)?

Well, today, I hope that all of the leaders that I have worked with over the years think this article is about them much more than some may have wondered about last week’s article.

I have written over 360 articles describing, in some way or another, what it takes to be a superior leader in the home, on the job, in a church or volunteers capacity, and in society. Some researchers and authors claim a superior leader possesses certain traits or abilities innately; others say it is all personality, style, and charisma. Still, others maintain it is the behaviors or actions that I take — if I do this, then my followers will do thus — that are crucial to determining success. Regardless of the how and the why, these are some signs that your followers are indeed following you and that you are succeeding as a leader:

Signs of Leadership Success

There is leadership success when the team catches your Vision. Successful leaders have followers that have a clear understanding of your vision and what it means to them as an individual contributor or follower. You have articulated it to them. And they can now articulate it to others. They see it and they own it. There is no ambiguity. If you ask them on an elevator to describe the vision of the organization, they can express it with clarity and passion.

Ask yourself: Am I surrounded by followers who see the vision that I see? 

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Ignorant or Oblivious Leaders

Is there any real difference?

Are You Ignorant or Oblivious?

Did you have a chance yet to read my article on the importance of “thinking” from last week? If not, I think it is well worth the few moments to step back and read that one first to get a baseline.

Just like that old saying that I found in an old frame, I know that there are some things that I know. And I know there are some things that I don’t know. The problem is that there are potentially a lot of things that I don’t know that I don’t know. Do you know?

That sounds almost like a line from a Gilbert & Sullivan musical. For those of you who are not theater buffs or who are under the age of 50, go “Google it.”

There were a lot of comments sparked and conversations started about the importance of knowledge and awareness of our own leadership situation. And those comments and conversations have caused me to want to take another look at this issue of ignorance and obliviousness.

There is a difference

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Thoughts on Thinkers

Leadership Lessons from a British Journal from 1866

Thoughts on Thinkers

I don’t know very many folks who don’t know the cliché, “Ignorance is bliss.” But I am wondering today just how many know where the phrase comes. It comes from a poem written in 1742 by Thomas Gray. The phrase is in the closing lines to his poem entitled, “Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College.” And the full sentence is:

Where ignorance is bliss, ‘tis folly to be wise.

There are many thoughts as to Gray’s purpose for ending his poem with such words. In those final lines, he may be expressing thoughts on returning to his old school and there remembering the simplicity and innocence of his youth. It also appears that he is joining two worlds together in this line of the poem. He is joining a world that has not grown up yet with one that has. In a sense, it is a world that shaped him into a man and perhaps, as with many, has beaten out those innocent aspirations of early life.

The modern day interpretation of the lines in the poem and the implications of the cliché are significant if examined in the light of leadership principles. The implications can be summed up in these two statements:

  • You are more comfortable if you don’t know something.
  • Lack of knowledge results in happiness.

Statement number one is pretty bad. I am never comfortable in the state of lack of knowledge. In fact, it scares me and motivates me to seek after knowledge and understanding. Statement number 2 is downright ridiculous. Happiness is not a state of intellectual ascent. Rather, happiness is a conscious decision to maintain a positive and joyous outlook on life regardless of the circumstances.

So, what is the leadership principle here?

It is to be reminded of our responsibilities as leaders to work on every aspect offer leadership skillset. Specifically, the area of “thinking” or “reason.”

Too many leaders are quite comfortable in their ignorance. They are comfortable because they are not fully engaged or aware of what is going on within the organization that they lead.

Awareness and knowledge carry additional responsibilities. If I am aware of a need or am aware of deficiency within myself, then I am now accountable for that knowledge.

I do not blame these leaders who are “unaware” per se. And blame may be a little strong in this instance. Although it is the leader’s responsibility to assure that they are aware of what is going on in the organization. Further, it is the leader’s responsibility to actively seek feedback from those around them regarding their performance as a leader. And it is the leader’s responsibility to develop their leadership skills on an ongoing basis.

This is not a new problem!

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