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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Servant Leadership

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Recall the Scenario

In my last article I introduced you to a scenario where two people, Ben and Chris, are very different types of leaders. At the end of the article I asked for feedback about some leadership elements at play. Thank you for all who responded. Much of the feedback was empathetic (“Are you writing about [fill in the name]? Because ‘Ben’ sounds exactly like them?”)

Other feedback was critical (“I would say that neither of them are leaders, they are just control freaks.”) It’s not easy when you are forced to choose between two imperfect options. But, that often is reality, isn’t it? What you can do to keep your sanity and make the best of things is to understand the natural laws of leadership that are at play in the situation that you are facing and adjust accordingly.

As a leader, you will likely find yourself in a situation where you are in charge of someone who is challenging or difficult to lead, as was Chris in the outlined scenario. You will also likely find yourself working for someone who isn’t the strongest leader, as is Ben. In either situation, the question to you as a leader is this: Are you going to allow the inadequacies of another to determine your own success as a leader?

As a leader, you have the responsibility to demonstrate your versatility and adjust to the situation, both up and down the organization, to ensure you are as effective as possible.

This is why it is helpful to understand what I call the Natural Laws of Leadership.


Natural Laws of Leadership: Empowerment Though Inaction

Just as there are laws of nature (objects will fill fall to earth at the same speed, water will follow the path of least resistance to the sea, smoke rises, etc.), there are also natural laws of leadership. Despite our best intentions and desires, we can’t change these laws. They simply exist.

Leadership is an inherently interpersonal endeavor. Because of this, the natural laws of leadership intrinsically deal with people’s behavior. One of the key natural laws of leadership at work in the scenario described above is the Law of Empowerment Through Inaction.

Let me describe it this way. A person looking to get something will find the easiest way possible to get it. They will follow the path of least resistance to reach their goal. It’s human nature. Ask any parent of a child who wants some candy how it works. The child will go to the parent who they feel is most likely to agree to the request. They will even work one against the other to get the answer they want. The same thing is true of people in a professional setting. Look at the way the staff has learned to adjust to Ben’s micro-meddling in the previously described scenario.

The converse of this behavior is also true.

Any behavior, however inappropriate or unacceptable, will be continued until enough pressure is applied to force the behavior to change.

Therefore, as a leader, one of your jobs is to recognize and respond to behavior that shouldn’t be continued. Part of a leader’s job is to put up the appropriate level of resistance (organizationally, interpersonally, within a team, etc.) at the right place to drive the right behavior and outcomes. If a leader fails to do this, the net effect is no different than if they were to officially endorse the undesired behavior.

What is tolerated and accepted is perpetuated and becomes the norm.

This likely explains why Chris, in this scenario, continues to demonstrate unprofessional and dysfunctional behaviors. This also clearly illustrates, in very real terms, the Law of Empowerment Through Inaction.

Stay Tuned for More

I’ll introduce more of the Natural Laws of Leadership in the coming weeks.

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This post, as well as others from Dave, can also be found at http://linked2leadership.com/author/dhasenbalg/

Dave Hasenbalg is President of Customized Solutions, LLC and does coaching and public speaking on Leadership, Team Effectiveness and Operational Excellence.
He can be reached at dhasenbalg@customized-solutions.com

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Nobody likes to give bad news. But sometimes, that is exactly what is needed, as long as it is honest feedback.

A true leader has the courage to say what is needed, even when that may be the last thing you want to do.

Who are you serving?

While leaders may think that they are being a “nice guy” by not giving someone who isn’t performing well the bad news, in reality they are only making things worse.

Unless you address the problem with the individuals in question, you are doing a disservice to the individual, to yourself, and to the overall organization.


The Pink Elephant Syndrome

A real world scenario

The cascading impact of Leaders who don’t address performance issues is something that I call the Pink Elephant syndrome. While this may sound like an unbelievable story, it is a very real set of circumstances that took place several years ago.

Steve (not his real name) was a Vice President of Marketing at a mid-sized company. Steve was a nice guy who enjoyed his VP title, which he had specifically negotiated to get. Steve was someone who thought more of his abilities than perhaps his track record would merit. His marketing campaigns frequently didn’t generate the kind of increased returns that they were expected to produce. Most of them managed to just keep the current customer base while the competition was making inroads into the market space.

In addition, his staff couldn’t stand working for him. They worked long hours and repeatedly had to make last-minute changes to marketing campaigns. Rarely did those last minute changes result in additional customer orders. Of course, Steve didn’t work late when his staff did. He would give the direction and either go home, or go back to his office, where it was common to see him sleeping at his desk.

Steve reported to the owner of the company, who never addressed Steve’s job performance, his poor team morale, or his tendency to sleep at his desk. The owner didn’t want to “be the bad guy.” So, these things just kept going along, year after year, in exactly the same way. Meanwhile, Steve kept getting annual raises and was told “keep up the good work.”

Changes are sometimes harsh

Then the company was sold. New owners came in and immediately gave Steve feedback that he wasn’t cutting it. While he had marketing experience, he wasn’t performing at the level expected of a Vice President of Marketing. They held him accountable for the results of his marketing campaigns. They told him that it would no longer be acceptable to find him asleep at his desk. Before long, he was on a performance plan that demanded results: or else.

I think you can see where this is going. Within a year, Steve was let go. But, the story doesn’t stop there. Unfortunately, during his time as a Marketing VP, he had also become quite accustomed to the salary of a Marketing VP. Steve had an extremely difficult time finding another job. When he applied for other Marketing VP jobs, it became clear that he really didn’t have the skills necessary for a job at that level and certainly at that salary. He stayed unemployed for over a year.

As a Leader, It’s not about you. It’s about them.

Admittedly, Steve had a role to play in it because he had very little self awareness and did little to improve himself professionally, which is one of the hallmarks of a good leader. But, I would submit to you that the company owner, who never gave Steve the feedback, is just as responsible.

As a leader, if you see someone isn’t performing well, and you don’t address it with them, then who is really at fault?

You see the problem. You know what needs to change. As a leader, it is your responsibility to fix the problem. Will the feedback make you unpopular? Perhaps. Will the feedback seem harsh? Maybe, depending on how you deliver it. But which is worse, giving someone honest feedback that makes them a better performer for you and your organization, or not giving them any feedback and leave them unemployed and wondering, “How things could have gotten so bad?”

As a leader, it’s not about you

. It’s about people you are leading. You are there to get results from your people and to make them stronger contributors. If, at times that makes you unpopular or seem like the heavy, so be it.

 

If you want to lead the orchestra, you are going to have to turn your back on the crowd.

Promise yourself and your people, that you won’t let the Pink Elephant Syndrome happen to anyone you work with. There is one way to deal with the Pink Elephant Syndrome: that is to deal with it.

Are you facing the Pink Elephant Syndrome? Is there some difficult feedback that you should be giving? What could happen if this person never hears the feedback you are avoiding? Better yet, how much better could things be if the person you have in mind improves the things you haven’t told them?

 

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Dave Hasenbalg is Chief Operating Officer of Customized Solutions, LLC and does coaching and public speaking on Leadership and Operational Excellence.
He can be reached at
dhasenbalg@customized-solutions.com

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Aren’t the Holidays great?

Like many people, I enjoy this time of year. It’s a time for sharing time with family and friends, a time for reflection, and perhaps most importantly it is a time to do things for others who may be less fortunate than us. In light of the spirit of serving others and the spirit of Christmas that embodies it, I thought I would share a leadership perspective that is applicable this time of year.

Regardless of your religious affiliation, there are many leadership lessons to be found in the Bible and in particular in the life of Jesus. In homage to the person who is the reason we celebrate Christmas, I’d like to share some lessons in leadership that I have taken from the life of Jesus.

Walk the talk. The most effective way to lead is by example. When the echoes of the words have faded, people will remember what you did more than they will ever remember what you said.

Embrace the value of everyone, not just those with position and title.

Work with what you have and make what you have work. Jesus didn’t complain that he only had a dozen people to change the world.

Don’t be misguided by pageantry and formality. Sometimes the most influential people come from the humblest of places.

If you’ve got something to say, say it. Polling the crowds and authorities to get their preferences will only dilute the message.

Speak to people in a way that they will understand. Leave the flowery speeches and language to the politicians.

When people resist you it is likely done because they are afraid of something. Address the fear and the change will come more easily.

They lied and spoke badly about Jesus behind his back. Don’t kid yourself into thinking it won’t happen to you at some point. If what you are saying and doing is meaningful, someone is going to talk bad about you, don’t take it personally.

There is strength in people that is often unseen. Find a way to tap into it.

Be where you are. Be in the moment. Don’t waste time focusing on what you wanted to do or where you would rather be.

May your days be merry, your holidays be happy, and your leadership be as effective as it could possibly be.

Merry Christmas.

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Dave Hasenbalg is Chief Operating Officer of Customized Solutions, LLC and does coaching and public speaking on Leadership and Operational Excellence.
He can be reached at
dhasenbalg@customized-solutions.com

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Be Honest

How many people woke up this morning and said to themselves, “I’m going to be completely non-productive today.”? How many people went into work this morning committed to finding a way to make mistakes? The answer is nobody. Nobody goes into something hoping to fail. So, why do some people flourish while others struggle? The answer is leadership. And people deserve good leadership.

Ivy League Stars Can Fall

Let me tell you about James. (I’m not using real names here.) James was a star student at a private prep school. He was awarded the highest honors that the school could give. He was captain of several athletic teams and received top honors there as well. After prep school he was accepted to an Ivy League college where he also excelled both academically and athletically. It seemed like James was destined for greatness no matter what he did. At his first job out of college, James began working for Brad. Brad is a hands-off manager. In fact, his hands are so far off you might think that he is absent. James receives minimal guidance and direction. The only time Brad gets involved with his team is when his boss takes an interest in what is going on in the department. When James is given projects to work on, he does them and does them well. But, on any given workday are as likely to see him surfing the web as you are doing anything for work. So what happened? How did this Ivy League star fall so far?

The answer is leadership.

People genuinely want to do good work and to be recognized for it.

In exchange, they will work hard to do what it takes to get the job done, if only the person in charge can connect with them and will lead them. If someone isn’t doing well at work, 90% of the time it is because they aren’t sure what is expected of them or they don’t possess the competency to do the job at that point in time. In either case, it is the responsibility of the leader to address it by making sure the expectations are clear, the skills and experience of the individual align to the work at hand, and the desired outcome is reached. Ken Blanchard calls this situational leadership and does a good job of illustrating it in his One Minute Manager Series of books. Specifically, in “Leadership and the One Minute Manger” Blanchard says,

Everyone has peak performance potential – you just need to know where they are coming from and meet them there.

So, did James suddenly tell himself that he was just going to coast in his career? Did his new job reveal that James is not capable of mastering the requirements of the job? Not likely.

Servant Leadership

What happened is that James came face-to-face with self-appointed authoritarian royalty. Leaders like Brad are more focused on fitting themselves with the crown of authority than they are working with their people to help them achieve great things. Sadly this is an all too common story. The most effective leaders are those who have realized that they will be far more successful if they find ways to help their people to be successful. This is called servant leadership.

Servant leaders find it hard to work with people while wearing the crown of authority because the crown tends to fall off when you bend down to help somebody.

In what ways are you a servant leader? How are you helping people achieve the performance potential of which they are capable?

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This post, as well as others from Dave, can also be found at http://linked2leadership.com/author/dhasenbalg/

Dave Hasenbalg is President r of Customized Solutions, LLC and does coaching and public speaking on Leadership, Team Effectivness and Operational Excellence.
He can be reached at
dhasenbalg@customized-solutions.com

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Posted by on in Awareness

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Have you ever had front row seat to watch a good initiative fail? It can be breathtaking. Literally.

Several years ago I was given the challenge of driving a major initiative in a Fortune 500 company. Our goal: find ways to significantly increase revenue and to reduce expenses in one of the company’s business units.

Several of subject matter experts were taken out of their “day jobs” and gathered to form a team. We took the charge and ran with it. After about 4 months of intense research, analysis, and voice of the customer assessment the team had identified half a dozen opportunities that had the potential to generate tens of millions of dollars of either savings or additional revenue.

About that time there was a change in leadership in the sponsoring organization. Uh oh…

The new leader wasn’t convinced that new initiatives stemming from detailed customer research was the right direction, and preferred to make smaller, more incremental changes in another part of the business unit. Of course, the decision wasn’t made as clearly as that. It really occurred slowly over the next two months and came in the form of multiple, smaller course adjustments, like redeploying key team members and delaying important go/no-go decisions.

It essentially died a slow, painful, and dreadful death. It took our breath away.

Eventually a skeleton crew was all that was left of the once proud team and the only remnants of the savings were the two simplest initiatives that were the easiest to execute and least politically risky. The team was sent back to their “day jobs” exhausted, disillusioned, and cynical. Leadership lesson here: Don’t do this. It’s really short-sighted and the “soft costs” cost way more than you can ever know.

Stick and the Streamer

Does this sound like an initiative you have experienced? What happened? Among other things, this illustrates the fact that many leaders fail to acknowledge the reality that any decision they make takes time to execute. In fact, it takes an exponentially larger amount of time and effort to execute than it took to come up with the plan in the first place. And the larger the scale of the initiative, the longer it may take to execute. I call this the “stick and streamer” effect.

Picture if you will a stick and to the end of that stick is fastened a streamer. If it helps, imagine the ribbon that is used in rhythmic gymnastics. Use this tool to represent the stick and streamer model for leadership.

The stick represents the leader. The streamer represents those being led.

Notice how the smallest flick of the wrist (a leader’s decision) has a much larger proportional impact on the streamer (the led). The same thing happens in every organization. It takes time for each action to make it to the end of the streamer. The more severe the shift in direction, the longer it takes to ripple to the end and get the rest of the team in line with the new direction. The impact to those at the end of the streamer is also more significant. Paradoxically, the smoother and more subtle the action, the more alignment there is between the stick (the leader) and the streamer (the led).

As a former U.S. Army Officer, there is a helpful rule of thumb that each new lieutenant learns that might also help in using this model. It’s the one-third/two-thirds rule. In short the rule says that the leader should take 1/3 of the available time to plan for a mission and then allow his unit 2/3 of the time to prepare and execute the mission. Stated another way, it is going to take your team at least twice as long to execute your initiative as it took you to plan it.

 

So, when it comes to making your own leadership decisions, remember the lesson from stick and the streamer. You can make decisions, but allow your team the time to execute and make that decision successful.

 

In your leadership role, do you really give enough time and patience in allowing ideas to blossom and grow to their desired potential? Do you build correct expectations into your plans so that that you are communicating realistic time lines to your superiors? Do they gives ideas enough time to grow and mature? Or are you or your leaders cutting  ideas time lines down and not providing that needed time frame to engage and fulfill the dream? I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences. Please share!

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This post, as well as others from Dave, can also be found at http://linked2leadership.com/author/dhasenbalg/

He can be reached at dhasenbalg@customized-solutions.com

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