Monday, September 29, 2014

Bad Leader Habits

"Is your workplace frustrating and lifeless or is it engaging and inspiring?"  Do you need a
little help transforming your lack luster culture?  So happy to welcome a guest post by author and speaker Chris Edmonds.  His new book, The Culture Engine: A Framework for Driving Results,Inspiring Your Employee, and Transforming Your Workplace, is on the shelves today.

Originally published on June 16, 2014 at

I learn a great deal when I’m coaching leaders and executives. Recent conversations have brought to mind three bad habits that leaders need to break.

A habit can be defined as an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary.

We humans find comfort in routine – even if those routines and habits don’t serve us well all the time!

If habits are “almost involuntary,” we are likely less aware of them. We might be even less aware of the benefit or disservice our habits cause us.

The following “bad leader habits” consistently cause disservice – to the leader, to their team members, to team performance, and to team member engagement. And, I see leaders struggle with the impact of these bad habits quite frequently.

The first bad leader habit is not listening. If leaders don’t listen, they’re working in the dark. They won’t understand the current reality. They’re disconnected from their key players and from key information required for good decision making.

There are two components to leader’s effective listening – understanding the speaker’s ideas, needs, or concerns, and having the speaker feel heard. Understanding the speaker’s ideas requires the leader to pay attention to what’s being said. The leader may need to ask clarifying questions to ensure he or she understands the situation or opportunity as the speaker see it. The leader may need to make notes to ensure they don’t miss anything important that’s being shared.

The speaker will feel heard if they experience the leader paying attention, showing appreciation for the speaker’s insights, and learning the speaker’s recommendations. Note that listening doesn’t mean you agree! The leader can describe their view after listening well to the speaker’s point of view.

The second bad leader habit is abdicating. Abdication is the absence of dialog and mutual problem solving. Why might a leader abdicate to a team member? The leader may trust the team member thoroughly – but isn’t positioning their delegation of authority and responsibility very well. The leader may not know anything about the issue or the opportunity – and doesn’t engage in dialog because they might feel “stupid.” Another common driver of abdication is the lack of time for the leader do to anything with the information the speaker provides.

Strategic delegation is an effective way to assign authority and responsibility. That approach requires discussion, planning, goal and deadline agreements, and the like – which doesn’t happen if the leader abdicates.

The third bad leader habit is fixing – which is the polar opposite of abdication. Fixing happens when the leader takes control of the issue or opportunity and either 1) acts on it him or herself, 2) tells the team member exactly what to do and how to do it, or 3) assigns the issue or opportunity to a different team member.

Even if the leader has the skills necessary to fix the issue, is it a good use of the leader’s time to engage in that micro-level activity? Probably not. If the team member raising the issue or opportunity doesn’t have the skills to fix it, the leader and the company would be better served to engage someone to help teach the team member those skills. That would build capacity for addressing these needs in the future.

Do you engage in any of these bad habits? The best way to find out is to ask your team members. Learn their perceptions. If you discover that you have some bad habits, refine those habits, ask for feedback, and continue to refine.

Chris Edmonds is the founder and CEO of the Purposeful Culture Group, which he launched after a 15-year career leading and managing teams. Since 1995, he has also served as a senior consultant with the Ken Blanchard Companies. Chris has delivered over 100 keynote speeches to audiences as large as 5,000, and guided his clients to consistently boost customer satisfaction and employee engagement by 40+% and profits by 30+%. He is the author or co-author of six books, including “Leading At A Higher Level” with Ken Blanchard. His next book, "The Culture Engine: A Framework for Driving Results, Inspiring Your Employees, and Transforming Your Workplace"  will be published by John Wiley & Sons in September 2014.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Make It So

Mark Twain said, "It isn't so astonishing, the number of things I can remember, as the number of things I can remember that aren't so."

Being a leader means that information is coming at you from every direction.  With so much information to decypher, why is it that people remember so many things that aren't so?

Leaders have to realize that they're not always getting fed the best information.  Unfortunately subordinates and number crunchers want to make themselves, or the company, look the best they can . . . even at the risk of a few "fibs".  And what would we rather remember - good things or bad things?

Leadership is not a title.  It's an attitude.  No one becomes a leader because of a name plate.  It takes learning and understanding.  And that means learning to be able to sort through information in order to make the best decisions.  You need to learn to be able to cut through the . . . bad info, and focus on what's right.  It's not always going to be good.  It's not always going to be something you want to deal with.  But it's a skill that will allow you to make better decisions down the road.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Muffin Communication

I had a good laugh the other day while I was reminiscing.  I was my director's second in command.  She was someone I had a good working relationship with and often stood in for her for meetings and decision making.
Around Christmas time one year she was out of town for about 10 days or so.  On her very first day out of the office another director had dropped off some homemade muffins to her - muffins that, the directors, looked forward to every year. . . . I think you know where I'm going here.

Obviously, they would be stale before she got back so everyone in the office turned to me . . . almost in unison.  "Make an executive decision", they all said.  "It would be a shame to let them all get old."  So a decision I made.  They were delicious.

When our boss got back she was asked how the muffins were.  "Huh, what muffins?"  She wasn't too happy, and after everyone in the office pointed, went looking for - you guessed it - me.

Well after I made my many apologies - and hearing snickers from around the corner - I explained the reasoning behind it, and to make a long story short, everything was good.

This is a pretty light hearted example but it could have been something way worse.  Point is, this confrontation could have been avoided with an email, voice message, or even a sticky note.  Sometimes you need to make those executive decisions.  But ALWAYS be sure you keep the communication lines open.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Friend or Boss?

Today is release day for the 10th anniversary edition of The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do, by Ken Blanchard & Mark Miller. In honor of today's release, I'm pleased to be able to provide you a guest post by Mark Miller.

Whether you have read The Secret in the past or not, it is truely worth picking up this 10th anniversary edition. Besides the easy to read (and understand) business fable style,it includes a leadership self-assessment and answers to the most frequently asked questions about how to apply the SERVE model.

You'll want to get one for yourself and your team . . . this is a SECRET worth sharing.

One of my current projects involves traveling around the country speaking to audiences
filled with predominantly young leaders. This question came from this group. However, the question is not confined to young leaders… Can I be someone’s boss and their friend?

Although friend and boss may be a paradox, the answer is yes – you can be both. It is not only possible, I believe it’s desirable to have deep friendships at work.

First, the case for friends at work…

For most of us, we spend more waking hours at work than we do with our families. What a tragic place work would be if devoid of friendships.

Although friendship and community are not synonyms, they are closely related. Community is the turbo-charger of performance in a team-based organization.

The Gallup organization discovered that a “best friend” at work enhances performance. Statistically speaking, friendship is an elemental ingredient for full engagement.

How do you make it work?

Clear roles and expectations are critical. Do your friends, or potential friends, at work clearly understand what’s expected of them? Working with friends is no license to be sloppy about expectations or performance. On the contrary, I think you’ll find people will work harder, show more diligence and exercise more creativity for a friend than an enemy.

In the end, the mission, vision and values of the organization must trump personal friendships. As a leader, you are paid to help the organization create a preferred future. This is accomplished one goal at a time. That is your job. If you have a friend on the team and they cannot fulfill their role, you must respond accordingly. You must do your job and lead.

Maturity is required. I am not suggesting that working with friends is easy. I am suggesting, I wouldn’t want it any other way. The longer you lead, the easier this will become. Also, my guess is the more mature you become as a leader, the more you’ll want to go to work with friends.

Some of my best friends are men and women I work with every day. Many of them have been my direct reports at some point over the years. I’m glad I didn’t have to choose: friend or boss. Well, I guess I did choose – I chose both. You can too!

Mark Miller, Vice President of Organizational Effectiveness for Chick-fil-A, believes that leadership is not something that’s exclusive; within the grasp of an elite few, but beyond the reach of everyone else.  In the tenth anniversary edition of The Secret, Miller reminds readers of a seemingly contradictory concept: to lead is to serve. With more than 600,000 books in print, Mark has been surprised by the response and delighted to serve leaders through his writing.