The Roles of Leadership

Last week we discussed ‘Chasing the Dream, Building Your Team’ and the more I thought about that lesson, the clearer is became that I wanted to build on it. I’m often asked, “Where do I start?” and if you are in leadership (and most places in life), the answer is… Start with Self!

While we discussed looking at the roles within the team and who played which role, the most important role for any team is the leader. As the leader goes… so goes the team.

In this week’s podcast, I set out to give my list of some of the roles of a leader and I would love for you to weigh in with your thoughts of the roles a leader could/should play.

In leadership, there are principles and practices; characteristics and competencies. One of the places we start with is what are the needs of the organization? What are the needs of the team? We take stock of the present situation to determine the need. It is essential that Leadership direct all things (people, process, resources) toward an outcome and that cannot occur without an understanding of present reality. Which leads to my first role of a leader:

  1. Assess the Present

In order to lead, in order to attain any destination, we have to look at where we are presently. If we don’t assess the present (with an understanding of what got us here) than we might not make the right moves for the present scenario. Please spend the time to gain full awareness in assessing the present. So what components of the present should we assess?

  • Assess the Situation
  • Assess the Team
  • Assess the Resources

Assessing the present opens up to knowing your product or service, knowing your process, market conditions, customer satisfaction and in the midst of all of that – the team you have inherited to get you there. (Their capabilities, their capacity, their commitment; the present culture)

While keeping an eye on the present is great, we can’t focus only on the present. While keeping one eye on the present, we keep the other on the future possibilities. This is the second role of a leader.

  1. Inspire the possibilities of the future

People need to believe that tomorrow will be better; that the promise of the future is greater than the past. A mark of a good leader is to be able to cast vision for what the future might look like, to inspire the workforce that they can achieve greatness AND to create buy-in that you are the leader that will help them achieve it. ** Belief and Buy-in **

See the envisioned future, raise the bar, and infuse the team with the right mindset (spirit).

  • Believe in your people
  • Develop your people
  • Map the methodology

Once you’ve set roles 1 and 2, the next role is to determine and communicate the next step

  1. Determine the Direction

Leaders orient the team in the right direction. When the true leader speaks with confidence and points the team in the right direction, dynamics start to change. Leaders must set the direction.

This, however, does not mean that you must know the 32 next steps in the process. Many times in leadership, you find out THE next step, take that step and look for the next. It is ok to step out your envisioned future, expecting that after taking a step – the next one will reveal itself. You will be 1 step closer with a little more knowledge and trust that the next door will open.

  1. Setting the expectation.

Another Fullerism comes to mind which is, “What you permit, you promote; what you allow, you endorse.”

Without the right expectations, clearly communicated, how will our teams ever fulfill their roles?

These are just 4 of the 10 roles of a leader. For more on this topic, click the mic to check out the full podcast. Have a great week!





Chasing the Dream, Building Your Team (the Right Way)

All businesses want to “chase the dream” but, to be successful, you have to do it strategically by building your team. Don’t just name your goals and then hope your current team can achieve them. Instead, you have to first define:

  • What are you chasing?
  • What’s the existing skill set of your current team?
  • What’s the plan to maximize capabilities?

Once you’ve defined your goals, and identified current market conditions, it’s vital to strategically add the right people to the mix.

In my book, Iditarod Leadership, I talk about unleashing the power of the team. In the annual Iditarod race, for example, there are roles that must be performed, but who is positioned in each slot is completely and necessarily different. (BTW, Iditarod 2017 starts this next week! Keep an eye on the progress and leverage the race to talk with your team)

The goal is clear: Win the race. To make that possible, we have to define the roles that must be filled. In the example of the race, there are lots—from the musher and support team to a kennel of 100 dogs that is eventually narrowed to the final 16.

In business, it’s the same. While roles are standard responsibilities, each player’s individual strengths and weaknesses come into play. How do we make sure that the right person with the right knowledge is in the right seat, at the right time?

The race has variables that have to be considered when selecting a team. It’s vital that the team include dogs that have physical strength for bursts of speed, as well endurance for the long haul, but early on you have to also begin to measure the conditions. Is El Nino a factor? What are the weather patterns? How is the trail? This year, for the third time, they have moved the start to Fairbanks!

That’s such a key piece for us as leaders in building and running a professional team. Do you know the market conditions right now? How about the next phase? Is this a start-up, maintenance or ramp down?

One of the biggest challenges I see leaders experience is when the people on their team are not ready for a problem when the problem hits. That’s why advance preparation is so key to reaching goals the most efficient, effective way possible.

Are you launching a brand new office, like an Iditarod team blazing a fresh trail after new snow? That requires a strategy all its own. While consulting with a client who was masterminding a huge start-up operation, I found it was better to create a team from scratch—what we would essentially call a strike force. In that situation, you get in. You hit it. You hit it hard.

For the first three or four weeks, it’s go, Go, GO! They needed a ramp-up team, hard-charging lead dogs, to get it done, 20 hours a day, whatever it took—all in. Then they transitioned into the standard business phase and needed somebody else that could do the daily treadmill for about four to eight months. They needed the 8-to-5’ers and then, at least for this particular project, a ramp-down team.

What is your situation? Are you opening new offices? Expanding? Retracting? Moving from Europe to Asia? Asia to other emerging markets? Based on your answer, you can then decide, “What do I need?”

If you’re doing a startup, running 20 hours a day, you need to know if those trailbreakers are also your best picks for the next phase. They like to charge ahead and, if you give them the daily responsibilities, they’re going to burn out—or get bored. For that middle phase, you want the people that can be completely satisfied running daily operations and pursuing performance improvement of 2%-10%. Does that make sense?

That’s what I mean by putting the right team in the right spot for the right run, knowing what you need to do.

The vast majority of leaders already have their team established before evaluating. They approach their task by saying, “This is the team I have and this is what I need accomplished. How do I get that done with the team I have?”

When that’s the case, back up. There may either be ways that you can develop people on your team for the skill set needed ahead, add a different player (even temporarily) or trade a player out. What you don’t want to do is try to get the job done with people that can’t get you there. Remember:

“The team you inherit is not your fault, the team you have a year from now is, squarely, on you!”

Once you’ve taken into account each person’s strengths and weaknesses (including times they’ve been on “thin ice”—and recovered well or not), you can make informed decisions to meet needs.

Be prepared to chase the dream—but chase it strategically. As my mentor, John Maxwell has often said, “Teamwork makes the dream work!” That only happens with the right team.

For more on this topic, click the mic to check out the full podcast. Have a great week!

Challenges, Problems, And Solutions, Part 2

Let’s jump in where we left off last time. Problems and challenges are inherent in the course of doing business, but we don’t have to get stuck there.

Forget the failure. Learn the lesson.

Maturity understands that Everyone, at some point, experiences a degree of personal or organizational failure. When I coach people through those tough learnings, I address two aspects of it. When you succeed, I want you to own that success. I want you to internalize it: You’re the woman! You’re the man! You’re the rock star! Own every bit of that. But when you fail, I want you to filter it as a system or process. Internalize success and externalize failure. When we internalize success, we get the emotional highs that we need to continue and go on.

Internalize success and externalize failure.

When we externalize failure, we recognize success is a process that must be worked to yield the right results. Success is the culmination of proper steps done over time. When we fail, we need to go back and do the diagnostics and identify lessons learned. I call them the “after action autopsies.” It’s time to cut the body open and see what happened. It’ll be one of two things: either you didn’t have the right system or you failed to work it. Either way, it’s a systemic failure. Either way, let’s mature: let’s learn the lessons and work an improved process.

The temptation when you really hit that wall is to recoil and wallow in the emotional pain. Don’t. Chalk it up to a University of Life experience! We’re all going to trip and misstep occasionally. Get up, dust yourself off, do a root cause analysis, learn the lessons, put that back into performance improvement and keep going.

There are a lot of leaders that just won’t admit their shortcomings or failures. Everybody on the team knows, but the leader won’t say, “That was my fault. I should have done something different.” Yet vulnerability-based trust is some of the most deeply connected organizational and personal trust. It builds amazing health into organizations.

Frustration comes from your expectations.

If you expected to run a race and be problem free, you’re going to be frustrated.

I heard someone say, “The glass is not half empty or half full. The realist knows that, regardless of what’s in the glass, it’s going to have to be washed sooner or later.” Welcome to life! Problems exist; there is no such thing as Utopia. There is no such thing as a perfect boss or a perfect company. If you do find a perfect company, please don’t join it—you’ll screw it up. You have to be a realist!

Everyone that walks in the front door after being hired has an expectation of what daily life is going to be like. When expectation meets experience, you’re either going to have fulfillment or frustration. Eventually you’ll either have an engaged or disengaged workforce. It’s one thing if people quit and leave; it’s another thing if they quit and stay. Gallup has done tons of studies on the cost of this to organizations.

The secret is in how fast you learn the organizational dynamics and then adapt. Learn the reality of how daily life is going to look, not the sales pitch you were given to join. Look at your leader and identify his or her strengths and struggles. Every organization and leader has both. As long as you know what they are and then shift in a way that you can cope, then you’re fine.

If you’re in a tough situation, what can you learn? How can you use this particular time to sharpen yourself? Learn how to face the storm that you’re in; turn your face to it and deal with it. Get through the pain quicker, bigger, better, faster. Do something about it; be an owner, not a victim, of your circumstances.

Problems are not the problem. The problem is that we can’t handle the problem, can’t talk about the problem, can’t work together to solve the problem. We are the problem.

Problems are a fact of life and a fact of business, so we shouldn’t be emotionally derailed when they happen. Everyone needs to organizationally rally around the root cause analysis. “What is this teaching us and what are we doing in response to it?” Remember that conflict avoidance is not conflict resolution. Experience the pain—then get out of the pain and into the solution!

For more on this topic, click the mic to check out the full podcast. Have a great week!



Challenges, Problems, and Solutions

Last week’s blog on owning the mindset reminded me of a previous conversation we had about overcoming. Here’s an excerpt:

The ability to overcome obstacles, to face and deal with adversity head on—and move past what’s happening—is a key piece for ‘Maturity’ in life and leadership. Here are a few thoughts to remember:

Everyone faces adversity. It’s not what happens to you; it’s what happens in you.

Although this can mean many things, in Gestalt Theory, it is said that none of us sees reality as it is. Instead, we’re going to bend what we see to our own patterns and internal messages. So what happens in me puts together an entire story about my life and existence and builds a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts. Sometimes it’s tempting to embrace negative messaging and then start piling trash on trash. You can end up feeling pessimistic about all that happens to you, since apparently some great cosmic force has chosen you as the Universe’s dumping ground.

What’s the message in your head when you go through adversity? Do you believe it’s your lot in life to be defeated? Leaders are not in denial, believing nothing bad will ever happen, but neither do they camp out in failure. You know someone’s internal makeup when they confront adversity. Imagine a sponge: You only find out what’s on the inside, when it gets squeezed.

We see a lot of that. In fact, we(Influence Leadership) exist as a service-based business, because people have problems—problems around conflict and problems in execution. Of course, from a business perspective, “problems aren’t problems; problems are money.” If you solve the problems, you get the money. The people who rise highest in organizations are more solution focused than problem focused. They’re worth higher salaries. Why? Because they’re effective at tackling bigger problems. They see adversity as a window to competitive advantage.

•    The higher the barrier to entry and more difficult the business, the greater the opportunity is for us to succeed.

Why? Because our competition will likely fold. In any case, adversity builds a critical leadership component, which is capacity. For example, I’ve got a friend that’s a runner. Though I’m not a runner, I’m told if you run a 5k and can get through that, then you pursue a 10k and get through that. You continue to increase your capacity and go on to run half and full marathons. As you persevere and press through the pain to get to that goal, it builds confidence and credibility. If you quit too soon, you experience the pain, but never reap the benefits of having weathered it.

Weightlifting is another great example, because essentially muscle is built from where it’s torn. You can imagine that’s a painful process, but eventually the perseverance and fortitude leads to greater heights and greater results.

In business, we’ve got to press on. To find ways to reach the top, we learn whatever we need to learn and press on past any obstacles. Otherwise, the pain was experienced for nothing.

The topic of challenges, problems and solutions is an important one, so I’m going to continue it in the next blog post.

For more on this topic, click the mic to check out the full podcast. Have a great week!

’17: time to Adult

Every year I have a theme that I rally around to make that year as impactful as possible.

For this year, I started thinking back to life at 17 for me:

  • Graduated High School
  • Moved out
  • Started College
  • Worked Full-Time

Whatever sweet 16 held was replaced with full-on Adulting (if you’re not a millennial, click to search the term).

It was time to own my future – time to mature!

In looking back over the course of life and business, this is a great theme for the new year; maturity.

There are methods, habits, patterns, and systems that need to improve IF I am going to take life and business to the next level. A person of ‘Maturity’ sees what’s working and what’s not and makes the necessary changes.
So, in looking at your situation, what needs to change? What are the situations (life and business) that you know need to change but you haven’t acted yet?

Consider this:

  • What would your January 2017 self say to your January 2016 self?
  • In 6-12 months from now, what will you be kicking yourself for? Wishing you had completed or worked on?
  • If someone purchased your business, what would they change first?

If you want to survive, if you want to thrive – you have to do that work!

That is maturity; making the moves you know need to be made as soon as possible. It’s time to tighten it up, line it out, and work methodically toward our destiny.

The 3 focal areas for this week, related to maturity, are:

  1. Success is in your systems
  2. Get ready for harvest
  3. Extend (lengthen) the focus

1. Systems
Success is a process.

Having a plan and working a process are no guarantee of success, but without them, you can almost guarantee failure.

So where do you start?

In reviewing your 2016, what were the pinch points? What were those areas of life or business where you felt the pinch? That caused you pain?

We look into the pain so we can find where our success systems are failing us. If success is a process, then I need to periodically review the system to see if it’s working and yielding maximum benefit.

“Systems are meant to support not strangle!”

“You can’t scale a broken model!”

Consider these questions:

  • Do we have Systemic success? Or Accidental?
  • What is the natural outcome of our present methods?
  • Where are we breaking down now?
  • If we wanted to achieve _____, what would have to change?
    • increase 25-30%
    • improve efficiencies
    • etc.
  • What recurring problems can we address?
  • What can we automate?

Maturity understands that, to build a great future, the small support systems (the daily habits) have to be able to lead methodically to the desired outcome.

As a leader, that means you need to understand personal and organizational tendencies.

If we take a step back and look at things, we discover tendencies, or patterns. These patterns, over time, need to mature and adapt to meet today’s reality or tomorrow’s desired future.

Starting points:

  • Start with self
  • Start small
  • Bite-sized pieces
  • Build in accountability

For a period of time:

  • Narrow your focus,
  • Look for root causes and patterns; beliefs and behaviors
  • Build in systems that support

“Lead where you are strong, put a system where you are weak!”

Without an effective system, any harvest gained will be wasted!

2. Ready for Harvest
Another definition of Mature is a financial definition that means ‘Ready for Payout’.

Are you ready for a payout? Aren’t we all ready for some payout?

The next question is a little tougher; have you built the systems that naturally lead to a successful payday?

Your systems should lead from seed to maturity to harvest. If the process fails to mature, the harvest will never fully ripen, and if it matures too long, it spoils.

Your organization may sell 1000 clients, but if you fail to fulfill the clients, you create enemies not champions.

3. Extend (Lengthen) the focus

Many people overestimate what they can achieve in the short term and underestimate what they can achieve over time.

In my R.A.C.E. methodology, I talk about becoming READY, performing the right ACTIONs, having evaluative CHECKPOINTS, and EVOLVEing systems or processes.

It is a great practice to think and plan in segments. What are the 12 components that you can line out and accomplish, weekly, that will put you in an amazing place by the end of this quarter?

Success is a process; let’s

  • mature our thoughts and actions
  • Review the existing
  • componentize the steps forward
  • create systems that support
  • seek outside help (with accountability), and
  • do the work daily.

Maturity may not be a ‘sexy’ word – but when done correctly, you will accomplish the dream and enjoy the life you want!

For millenials, adulting is a habit, a rhythm to get into, a path that, when taken step-by-step, leads to the life you want!

For more on this topic, click the microphone and check out the full podcast. Have a great week!