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How to Become a More Admired Leader…By the End of the Day

admired

There is a lot to learn about leadership.

Leadership is in some ways very multifaceted, complex, and unique to the situations where it is called for.

Recently, I attended the unfortunate and unexpected yet uplifting funeral of a legend of Southwestern culture, Spencer Hays. Spencer was a personal mentor of mine and someone whom I’ve always admired.

Spencer made generous decisions as a leader that will impact many eras of people who come after him.

And one by one as his friends, family, colleagues and business partners took the podium to talk about him, a recurring theme kept coming up…

It reminded me that, while sometimes complex, there are some simple truths about leadership that are bankable.

One of those is that leadership is always about working with and through other people.

And people, although also incredibly diverse and unique, very often exhibit similar behaviors, desires, and needs in similar situations. 

Generally speaking, one thing people yearn for is to be appreciated.

Very often, even more than making more money, they yearn to feel valued.

They yearn to not only be recognized, but to feel wanted, successful, and admired.

Therein lies a tremendous opportunity that is immediately available to anyone who wants to become a better leader and that is this: 

Learn to make people feel special.

Learn to make people feel important.

Learn to make people feel wanted.

Become an expert at it.

If people feel cared for, they will likely be more committed to contributing.

Because we don’t live in a world that really lacks information, knowledge, or education.

We live in a world however where people are often starving to feel valued and important.

Spencer was a rare leader who understood this and practiced it day in and day out in a way that mattered to so many. 

It’s ironic perhaps that in our social media society we have more “friends” and get more “likes” than ever before, and yet somehow it has all seemed to erode the number of times in our life where we actually feel special.

That creates an amazing opportunity for us to lead because that is one of the core parts of what leadership is: connecting with and inspiring people.

If you want to lead people; listen to people.

If you want to lead people; look after people.

If you want to lead people; lift up people. 

If you want to lead people; love people. 

Make them feel special. Make them feel valued. Make them feel important.

If you can do that then many of them will immediately follow you because unfortunately there are only a rare few, like Spencer, who actually know how to truly make everyone feel special.

Why Competition is Over Rated

Competition

You don’t have to beat other people to dominate in business. 

There doesn’t have to be a loser in order for you to be a winner. 

And the business world today, seems to be rewarding those who have more of a selfless focus on serving than those who have a relentless focus on competing. 

Those getting ahead seem to have more of an intrinsic drive to improve than an extrinsic drive to defeat. 

Success in business today doesn’t really allow time to be concerned about how you rank compared to other people. 

Because in order to survive and compete in this fast moving generation, you need every extra ounce of that energy focused on how to improve your customer experience. 

You have to have more of your creative capacities going into innovating and less going into comparing. 

It’s not about finding ways to defeat your competition; it’s about finding ways to serve your customers. 

The speed of communication, the speed of technology and a growing overall climate of customers becoming accustomed to having their needs and preferences hyper-tailored to, means that we need every resource possible focused on keeping up with and surpassing their expectations. 

If we do that we’re more likely to win. If we don’t we might be in trouble. 

Many of the industries that have experienced disruption have resulted from the traditionally stable providers benchmarking against their competitors more so than thinking about how to better solve the customers problem. 

That line of thinking encourages the status quo inside an industry and opens the door for those outside the industry to come in and find a better way. 

It’s as if innovation is sometimes forced to come in from outside an industry when the age old players inside the industry are squabbling for market share instead of obsessing over customer needs. 

AirBNB, Uber, digital cameras and Netflix were all created from players outside an industry. 

When it could’ve been hotels, taxi companies, Kodak and Blockbuster that figured out a smarter way to serve customer interests. 

The point is that when we focus on beating other people, we might risk missing out on something more valuable. 

When we focus on serving other people we activate our senses. We come alive. We invent. We innovate. And we combine time tested principles with modern tools to find a smarter and better way to solve customers problems. 

The same is true of personal success. 

Our success is irrespective of what is being accomplished or not accomplished by those around us. 

Our success is measured by how we perform compared to ourselves. How we perform compared to our potential. And most importantly how we perform compared to our capacity to best serve those around us. 

We are only trying to beat who we were yesterday. 

We are only trying to crush the way we’ve always done it. 

We are only trying to compete with the best possible ways to get ourselves and our clients to the next level.

The Essence of a Leader

leader

Everyone wants to be a leader…until that moment where they have to truly step up and lead. 

Because we often associate leadership with impressive titles, more pay, and additional job perks. 

Yet leadership isn’t made in corner offices or fancy boardrooms. Real leadership happens on the front lines. 

And what most leaders don’t understand about leading is that it isn’t telling people what to do; it’s showing them what to do. 

Which means that essentially a big part of leadership is simply this: “I’ll go first.”

Whatever I’m asking you to do I will do. 

Whatever needs to be done won’t be done by you; it will be done by us. 

And whatever sacrifices need to be made will be made by me first. 

I’ll be the first to risk. 

I’ll be the first to invest. 

I’ll be the first to do the work. 

I’ll be the first to create the model. 

I’ll be the first to invent the path where there is none. 

I’ll be the first to take the heat. 

I’ll be the first to make the difficult decisions. 

I’ll be the first to take the blame. 

I’ll be the first to learn. 

I’ll be the first to change. 

I’ll be the first to cut. 

I’ll be the first to meet that standard. 

I’ll be the first to break that belief barrier. 

“I’ll go first.”

That kind of leadership isn’t assigned; it’s assumed. 

That kind of leadership isn’t demanding; it’s inspiring. 

That kind of leadership isn’t bestowed; it’s activated. 

That is the part of leadership that can’t be taught in classrooms; it can only be revealed in battle. 

But if you’re willing to be that kind of person…

If you’re willing to step up…

If you’re willing to go where no one has gone before…

Then you don’t need a title. 

You don’t need an office. 

And you don’t need perks. 

You are already on your way to developing the essence of a great leader. 

5 Steps to Create Transformational Team Unity

Unity

A team is a group of people held together by a unifying set of beliefs.  

But what those beliefs are, unfortunately all too often are unspoken.

Typically, people gather with people who they are like or who believe what they believe.

Yet there is some nearly mystical power that comes about as the inspiring byproduct of when a team takes the time the codify their beliefs.

At Southwestern Consulting, we’ve walked many of our clients through this and we call this “The Creed Conversation”.

We first discovered the power of this activity by realizing the need to apply an age-old part of Southwestern’s culture around positive self-talk to our Southwestern Consulting team as a whole. We realized we had not yet taken the time to write out our shared philosophies at Southwestern Consulting. It ended up being one of the most transformational pivot points in the history of our own company.

It’s so simple to do, that virtually any team at anytime can have a “Creed Conversation.” Many companies have a formal “mission statement” or “values” but this process takes it a step further by empowering collaboration and most importantly assimilating it into the regular course of our workflow.

All you need is an audio recorder, someone who can type, a group of some of your key leaders and a facilitator. Then follow a few steps:

1.Set the Stage – Explain to everyone that despite being a team for x amount of time, it dawned on you that you have never created, as a team, a list of the principles that you all believe in. While you may have a company mission statement or something, it’s not nearly as powerful as something created by the team of people who do the work every day. Tell them the goal is simply to document a list of shared philosophies of the team. It can also be a good idea to play for the Simon Sinek’s famous Ted talk “Start With Why.” 

2.Ask the Questions – Start the audio recording (so you have it for future reference) and then simply ask the group (best if done in person with less than 20 people) a series of open-ended questions just to get them thinking in the right direction. Write down EVERYthing everyone says in the random order that it comes out. If possible it’s best to do it on a word document on an overhead projector so everyone can see it start to take shape and come alive. Here’s some sample questions you can ask: 

  • What do we know to be true about the way we do business?
  • Why do we work so hard at this business?
  • What philosophies do we have that are un-compromisable?
  • How do we want to treat our clients and each other?
  • How do we want to be remembered as a team?
  • What do we want to be known for?
  • What do we want people to think when they think of us?
  • What are we most proud of in the way we do business?

You can ask any question in this vein and you can’t really go wrong. The only way you can mess this up is by taking too much control of the conversation and providing all the answers yourself. This is for the team to come up with, and you are a team member so you can contribute, but let them speak and create it.

3.Organize and Edit – Once all has been captured now it’s time to assimilate and edit. It helps to have someone with some decent writing skills here to guide this step. What the writer will want to do is first copy and paste similar statements or philosophies together into paragraphs without altering any of the statements as they were initially said. You’ll notice that many themes probably kept getting repeated during the exercise and that’s a good thing but here’s where we’re going to manage that.

After that, the writer is going to have the challenging role of reducing many of the paragraphs down to one sentence each based on the recurring themes so there is 1 sentence per theme. The key here though is to try and preserve the actual semantics used by the people in the group as much as possible. Try to grab key phrases, repeatable mantras, or colorful language from the group but without being too repetitious.

 Then the last and hardest part will be to edit and massage all of these ideas into simple, concise, powerful, active sentences. Don’t say “we strive to do the best we can for our customers whenever possible.” Instead say, “we always do the right thing.”

Once you have all of the statements complete, next you will want to write an opening paragraph that pulls in some of the corporate vision, values, and mission statement. And then write a short closing paragraph that is a unifying and rallying call to action to live out and execute all of the philosophies that were just listed. Oh…and all of this at most has to fit onto one page.

4.Represent for Approval – Now that it’s all been synthesized by the writer/editor, the next step is to send it back out to the team for final suggestions and feedback. At this stage it’s a good idea to even send it out to the team at large (who wasn’t included in the initial meeting).

Invite the team to discuss this in their smaller teams and within their departments to get reactions from people all throughout the organization. Give everyone an opportunity to suggest additions or changes.

It’s a chance to get everyone’s feedback and input. Work on the edits until everyone agrees and you can formally vote on it and ratify it as a part of your continuing corporate culture. (It should be a living document that can be edited later as necessary with unanimous vote.)

5. Put it in Use – The key to making a creed work is making sure it doesn’t just end up in a drawer somewhere with other corporate jargon that never gets looked at. It needs to come alive and be referred to early and often. Here are some of the best ways to get it in use:

  • Read it out loud at the start of every meeting (there are many fun ways you can vary this up.)
  • Refer to it whenever you have a difficult decision to make.
  • Make it be the first thing you show to recruits and new hires and explain that it is the predominant criteria for being hired or getting promoted.
  • Cite elements of it whenever you roll out a new change for the company.
  • Ask people to cite it whenever they see something that is a real-life illustration of a principle that is documented in the creed.
  • Ask people to cite it whenever they see something in the company that needs to be improved or challenged.
  • Include elements of the Creed on walls, trophies, certificates, and anywhere else it makes sense.
  • Consider creating awards in your company for people who exemplify specific lines of the Creed.i)“Initiate” new people by inviting them to read it out loud (or part of it) their first day on the job.
  • Make it a part of your personal affirmations that you read every morning.

A Creed can be a synthesizing and rallying time for your entire team.

There is something tremendously powerful about having a documented, agreed upon, and declared set of values that govern the behaviors of members.

It can turn losers into winners.

It can turn doubters into believers.

It can turn pacifists into activists

If you create a Creed, you will create a culture. 

4 Ways to Know You Might be the One Who’s Crazy

crazy

At least half of what we worry about is a complete figment of our own imagination. 

It’s an astounding capacity of the human brain to be able to take one iota of negativity, one hint of upsetting feedback, or one small challenging circumstance and exponentially multiply it through mental mushroom in the wrong direction. 

I’ve found that this can especially be true when it comes to interfacing in communication with other people who are a different behavioral pattern from us. 

People who we don’t naturally connect or communicate well with can sometimes be the sources of our greatest stress. Because their communication to us and ours back to them for some reason just regularly gets misinterpreted. It’s literally “miscommunicated.”

Like two people speaking two different languages, it doesn’t matter how many times we say the same thing over again or no matter how loud we say it, we just can’t seem to get through to them. And similarly we can’t seem to understand they’re explanation or defense to us. 

In the absence of understanding their words, the challenge then becomes that we are left to our own devices of doing our best to interpret what they were actually trying to say. 

And that’s a slippery road. 

Because once we have conflict and misunderstanding with another person  based on our inability to communicate with them, we inevitably start to question their intentions. 

“Why are they saying that?”

“Why would they do that?”

“Don’t they know that _______?”

On and on it goes…

So how do we resolve these issues? 

I’m not sure I have a good quick answer for that. 

But I have learned what will make it worse and what not to do. 

What you don’t want to do is mental mushroom. 

You don’t want to start trying to read into their words more than they are saying. 

One thing you can be sure of is that if you can’t understand what they’re saying to you when they speak to you, you certainly won’t be accurate at formulating their intentions in their absence. 

Here’s a few signs that you’re allowing things in your head to spin out of control making it worse than it really is:

1. If you add words to what they actually said when you recount the conversation. And if someone challenges you on that, you respond with “well c’mon that’s what they really meant.” Chances are, no they did not. Chances are that the words they actually used to say what they said is closer to their legitimate intention the is your interpretation of what they said. 

2. If you start spending time thinking about their motives. Once you rabbit trail down asking “why would they say/do that?” You’ve pretty much gone overboard. Not only will you not find accurate answers; you’ll also drive yourself crazy as there is no end to the amount of time you can spend thinking about this and the number of stories you can invent.  None of which will bring you any resolution. 

3. When you start forecasting negative extremes way out into the future. If your spouse says one thing that rubs you the wrong way and your mind immediately launches into asking “does that mean we need to get a divorce?” then you can be pretty confident your creativity is now running the show and not your logic. Your creativity likes to work way out in the future and with fantasy more than it does with the reality of here and now. Creativity working in the positive direction is vision but creativity working in the negative direction is fear. 

4. When you have grand visions of conspiracy. The moment your brain starts correlating one person’s behavior with another, or one circumstance with another, that is a strong indication that your mind is creating more of a movie to keep you entertained than it is informing you with data you need to come to a resolution. 

Interpersonal communication is essential for anyone to be a great salesperson, entrepreneur, leader, friend, or spouse. And of course in times of conflict and disagreement you will always be certain that it’s the fault and intentions of the other person that is the problem. 

But chances are it might sometimes be you who is driving yourself a little crazy. 

If you want to be paid like a professional, you need to act like one.

paid

Professionals study until they become expert. 


Professionals work hard even when they don’t feel like it. 


Professionals execute the game plan even when things feel hopeless. 


Professionals work consistent hours and create consistent processes. 


Professionals have a proper attitude.

Professionals are persistent. 


Professionals treat their clients like gold and continually work to service them and strengthen the relationship. 


Professionals master their craft.

Professionals invest into their own personal development.

 
Professionals innovate. 


Professionals do not whine.

Professionals take care of the details. 


Professionals do not make excuses. 


Professionals are consistent. 


Professionals are extremely rare, and are paid accordingly. 


If you want to be paid like a professional, make sure you are acting like one.