Labor and Leadership

Sometimes you have to Labor if you want to be a Leader

Labor and Leadership

As I sit here this morning and gather my thoughts, I am tired. I am feeling my age. And I am feeling the effects of the last several months. It was not full of physical labor. My work does not require the kind of heavy lifting and strenuous physical activity that many folks experience in their jobs. But, I have labored nonetheless. 

In the time since my last article, I have had significant changes and lots of added responsibility at work. We have sold our old house and bought a new house and moved into a house twice the size of the old one. And I have continued to try to market the book that launched last Fall.

And so it goes. Nothing gets done without some kind of labor. So it is in that context that I want to consider whether leadership is easy, or hard, and if it requires a little labor in order to be successful.

Easy Leadership

If “easy leadership” exists, it exists in the higher echelons of an organization. It is at those levels that there are resources available to help you as a leader. There are resources like budgets and coaches and dedicated followers who receive either satisfaction or compensation based upon the success of the leader. That kind of environment would make leadership at least easier than trying to lead in many other environments where there is conflict and little or no resources to support the leader and the organization.

Hard Leadership

The last sentence of the paragraph above sort of defines “hard leadership.” Leadership is hard in an environment where there is open conflict between the leader and followers and even when there is open conflict among the followers. Leadership is hard when the challenges that an organization faces are sucking the life and energy out of the team. Leadership is hard when there are no resources for even the basic tools that are needed to achieve a goal.

Labor and Leadership

We Need to Accurately Assess Our Abilities

Although this may not seem to fall under the category of “labor,” it is nonetheless one of the hardest tasks we undertake as a leader.

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A Leadership Development Methodology

There should be some structure for the plan and the coach

There must be structure and a methodology in a leadership coaching relationship if you want to maximize your chances of success. A leadership coach must have a personal organizational structure and a methodology in order to be successful in their own leadership role. And they must be able to communicate that methodology or advocate for one more suited to the client if they are to be a successful leadership coach.

Create an Organizational Context 

Writing a guide or creating a framework that essentially cobbles together the best ideas from multiple bestselling business books is not a plan. And it does not do the client nor the organization any good. It would be better to just buy the books and let your client read them. Organizational development needs to focus on how ideas apply to the individual organization in very specific ways: first honing them for general leadership, and then applying those skills to the local organization. Successful organizations with good strategic plans include very prescriptive language about how they differentiate themselves in the market. Leadership training should be an output from the strategic plan. If organizations can’t tie leadership development to furthering the organization’s strategic goals, then that needs to be either dropped or reworked until the right links can be fashioned.

Reconcile Management and Leadership 

Many secular organizations create frameworks, competencies, and guides intended to help employees see a broader world beyond their jobs, and to help move them progressively through more responsibility, and hopefully, more pay and benefits. Management is dramatically and fundamentally different from leadership. Most leadership clients that be candidates for some leadership development or coaching will have subordinate staff. They will, at a minimum be surrounded by others that they must continue to “manage” in some form or fashion. Therefore, ensure that leaders know they remain responsible and accountable for their management assignments as well as their influence (leadership).

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A Problem, A Tool, & Three Principles for Mentoring

The TEAL Methodology Utilizes a Mentoring Model

Mentoring - A Problem, Tool, 3 Principles

Leadership is not taught. It is modeled. Therefore, it must be lived out and demonstrated before our very eyes in order to be able to impact followers and those who yearn to be leaders. In other words, it is “caught” and not taught. If it is true that leadership must be modeled, and I believe it is, then it is incumbent upon me to provide information to help you to model mentoring with intentionality. 

Mentoring is not a mass production process. Rather, it is done more in the style of an artisan or craftsman who painstakingly creates works of art one at a time over a substantial period of time. Not that we are “creating” a leader. A mentor cannot make a leader out of a person with zero aptitude for leadership. It is akin to the old sports analogy that says: “You can’t coach speed. Either you have it, or you don’t.” A coach can make you faster. But a coach can’t make you FAST. There must be some inherent speed abilities with which the coach can work. Likewise, as mentors, we can’t make our protégés leaders. But, if they are willing to follow and learn, we can make them better leaders tomorrow than they are today.

Mentoring to become an Emotionally Agile Leader is a six-step process with some basic principles undergirding the process. At the very highest level, it can be summarized in the following manner. I will talk about the six steps in a future article. But, for now, let’s look a problem, a need, and the three principles.

The Problem with Mentoring

One of the ways to make the mentoring experience more productive is to address the frequent problem in many mentoring relationships. The problem is that protégés get super excited about mentoring. Often a book is recommended by the mentor and commitments are made to read it faithfully and come together each week to discuss a topic each week based upon the material covered in the assigned chapters. And then life gets in the way. Even the most committed protégés face timing and prioritization challenges. 

This is most certainly true of leaders who have existing and ongoing leadership responsibilities.  We cannot call a halt or press the “pause” button on life while we work on something that will inevitably make us better. This results in the mentor and the protégé coming together for a session and facing the awkward reality that the protégé has not read the required material. Reasonable discussions on the material are difficult. All that is left to discuss are politics or sports. And that is frustrating for both parties.

The Need for a Tool

The TEAL Methodology has acknowledged that reality and addressed that through the use of “TEAL Topic Cards.”

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Leadership Development Coaching

What to look for in a leadership coach

Leadership Development Coaching

Everything does not rise and fall based upon a well thought out and proper plan when it comes to leadership development. You may think so based upon the content of my previous article on this topic. A good plan is important. A good coach is of equal importance. 

That is especially true of certain leadership situations where there may be greater leadership experience existing among the “led” than what exists within the leader. The challenge is for the “shepherd” to be able to accept leadership coaching and guidance from one of the “sheep.” So, in reality, a willing client is vital to the overall success as well.

An Acceptable Coach

The best leadership development programs include a strong central coach and a secondary coach, who share years of practical leadership experience with demonstrated success and who have effective interpersonal instructional skills. It is important to look outside of the existing circle of peer leaders in the leader’s existing circle of influence. Peers often make horrible coaches or mentors because there is too much of shared intimacy, shared frustrations, or shared deficiencies that neither recognize in the other. Instead, focus on those who possess this experience and who have the skills to work with people in a 1-on-1 situation. 

Peter Drucker once said, “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right thing.” Make sure coaches are coaching leaders to lead others, not teaching basic management skills. We will worry about leaders leading and creating other leaders later in the process.

Traits of an Acceptable Coach

There are many traits or attributes that describe great coaches. And my list is not exhaustive. Neither is it in any particular order. It does, however, provide some traits that would make a coach acceptable to most clients. Now, whether the leader will accept them is a different story. And I refer you back to my thoughts earlier about a shepherd accepting guidance from one of the sheep. 

Honesty — A coach must be honest. They must be willing to answer tough and pointed questions by the client. Telling a client what they want to hear is not helpful and beneficial to the intended outcome.

Integrity — A coach must be above reproach and have zero ulterior motives regarding the client. They must not push them in a direction that is beneficial to no one but the coach.

Self-Awareness  A coach must be aware of their own strengths, weaknesses, shortcomings, and areas where they struggle the most.

Social-Awareness — A coach must be constantly mindful of the flow of interaction between their self and their client.

Gentle — A coach must be gentle. They must recognize that the client is extremely vulnerable during a coaching engagement.

Confrontational — A coach must at times be confrontational. The nature of a coaching relationship may require confrontation of habits or behaviors that are contrary to good leadership.

Clarity — A coach must be clear about where the client is and where they are trying to guide them. Clarity is more important than agreement.

A Willing Coach

Is the coach willing to take on a client at this point in their life?

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Leadership Development Plan

What are the key components of a good plan?

What are the key components of any good and well thought out plan? Surely there would be some components to all leadership development plans that would be universal and common regardless of the specific leader being developed. And there are. There are components that are common whether you are a CEO, a front-line supervisor, departmental manager, a military officer, or the pastor of a small church. So, let’s identify what those components would be.

I am approaching this from the perspective of someone who is a coach for individuals who are seeking to become better leaders. So, all of my thoughts and words are based on the premise that I am engaged in a coach and client relationship. It may be a formal paid engagement. Or it may be an informal or ad hoc conversation where someone is coming to me for advice. However, for purposes of this article, I am going to use terms that indicate a coach and client scenario.

So, what are the common components?

Is there a current assessment? — Is there some assessment, either a self-assessment or a 360 assessment, that can be used as a baseline for where the leader is today? If not, why not? If we don’t have a baseline, how will be able to assess progress?

What are the strengths and weaknesses? — Every leader has both strengths and weakness. Great leaders strengths more than overshadow their weaknesses. Poor leaders weaknesses overshadow their strengths. So, let’s identify what those strengths and weaknesses are.

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Free Resource for 2019

This year, it is all about reflection and a single word

Each year for the past several years I have given away some free book or resource that was purposeful and original. And this year will be no different. This year I have taken my recently completed annual reflection and planning process and turned it into a workbook that YOU can also use to kickstart your best year ever.

Introducing this year’s free resource — A Leaders Annual Reflection and Plan. It came together with great ease and efficiency as I just allowed my process this year to flow out through my fingertips and onto the keyboard of my trusty old MacBook Air. 

This outflow became a workbook with guidance and resources that you can use now while the year is still fresh and while many folks are still enjoying some vacation that they have carried over from 2018. I know that is exactly what I am doing. Just peruse my two most recent articles and you will get the basics and the content of the workbook. But, if you want the content in one resource file, then just hit the button below and it will take you to the landing page where you can request the resources as one .zip file. 

Free Workbook

It will be available all year long. But, now is the best time to grab it and use it to make 2019 the best year ever for you from both the personal and professional perspectives.

Happy New Year and enjoy the free resource.

My Word for 2019

Finding a word to guide my thoughts for 2019

What began as a simple task of reflecting on the year that is about to be behind us and preparing for the year that is before us is evolving into much more of an integrated exercise of intentionality. This overall process has brought me today to the point of identifying one word that will help me create an overarching sense of purpose for the activities and actions that will form the body of 2019.

And that word is — Mindful.

How did that word come to embody my aspirations for 2019? 

I am a fairly introspective person by nature. When you look at the results from my original Emotional Intelligence profile from TalentSmart, it shows a high level of self-awareness. That component was higher than the self-management score. But that is a topic for another time. As I have reflected back on 2018 and as I look toward 2019, the one thing that keeps creeping into my thought process from every angle is the need to be more “mindful” in all that I do. 

My Process

We must first come to realize that this entire process is one of intentionality. It cannot be done haphazardly nor while flipping through Facebook or LinkedIn on our smartphones. It requires specific times that are carved out of our daily allotment of 24 hours.

Set aside a time of reflection and self-awareness — This part of the process is a solo activity. There will be times for sharing a little later. But, this part is intended to be done alone and in whatever setting creates the greatest sense of peace and quiet focus. For me, it is at my desk at home while listening to soft jazz as a sound backdrop. This not always easy as my house if full and energetic. But, it can be done. And I have done it.

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The Importance of Reflection

Leaders Need a Time of Personal and Professional Reflection

What were you doing at this same time last year? For many of us, it is a family time of year. We are basking in the glow of Christmas. And that glow causes us to have an optimistic outlook for the coming year. Is there any value in looking back with some intentionality before we look forward to the new year? I think so.

Consider the words of the ancient Chinese philosopher, Confucius. He said:

By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.

Confucius tells us that the highest and best method of becoming wise is by reflection. Do you suppose there are any leadership development implications or inferences that we can draw from his words?

The Problem

Many leaders are “Action Oriented.” We are in constant motion and we move from task to task, crisis to crisis, meeting to meeting and we do it from morning till night. There is zero time in our daily schedule for reflecting. Many leaders have adopted methodologies or routines that call for a time of daily planning. I have such a time scheduled on my calendar for the beginning of every day. That time is a time of planning and of looking forward to the events and activities of the day. The day becomes a week. The weeks become months. And the months become a year and we have spent the entire year planning for what is right in front of us or just over the horizon. But, how much time has been spent in reflecting on the outcomes, successes or failures from all of that planning? Do you see the problem?

The Solution

Let me advocate a moment for a solution.

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Emotional Intelligence, Emotional Agility, and Leadership

Their interconnected nature in a very successful leader

Emotional intelligence is a topic that I have covered many times here in this setting. And I have explored the relationship between higher levels of emotional intelligence and overall success in life. Therefore, it is worthy of some additional coverage because of the major influence it has on your success as a leader. More importantly, it is worthy due to the fact that these are skills that can be learned and developed.

The key to understanding the link between emotional intelligence and leadership is the development of the sense of how our persona and how we communicate our ideas are being received by those that we are leading. Can we agree that most of our communication is non-verbal? A fellow writer on this site and a dear friend for many years has a mirror on his desk that was given to him in a training session more than 20 years ago. It serves to remind him that even when we are on the telephone, when we’re smiling, the attitude transmits and is received by the person on the other end of the line.

Intuitive or Learned

For many leaders, this is intuitive. For many, it is not. This is not to be considered as an indictment against those to whom it is not intuitive. There are many leadership styles and there are many successful leaders who don’t care one whit about “Emotional Intelligence”.

But my point is that as a leader we should want to care about how we are perceived by those we lead. We should learn that part of “seeing the big picture” is being able to communicate that picture in authentic and personal ways to those around us. We should want to use words and approaches that are meaningful to the receiver.

Emotional Intelligence has been likened to the graphic equalizer control in music. It tweaks the sound with a range from high to low and it adds depth and color to the sound. The actual lyrics or the musical melody are only a small fraction of the message in the music.

Emotional Intelligence can be learned, developed and maximized with a little awareness and little more effort. And it is incumbent upon us as leaders to do whatever we can to maximize our effectiveness.

The Leadership Application

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