Leadership and the 5 steps to reducing stress

As a leader, you set the tone for the team, department and organization. Under stress you may appear and act differently than you intend. This impacts you and your team significantly. The “5 Steps to Reducing Stress” can help.

I received a call from a very stressed-out young lady. She had just started a new job and was feeling more than a little overwhelmed. She asked me if I would help. She was a new supervisor, eager to succeed, and she knew that as a new leader she might fall victim to the common mistakes new leaders make. She did not. What she did face, however, was stress — stress in the staff, stress in her own supervisor and of course, stress in herself.

No time to succeed

To give a bit of background, this particular young lady was supervising 15 people. There was an amalgamation of services offered at her place of business and she was responsible for ensuring the shift in supervision went smoothly. She visited each site, ensuring people knew about the recently formed head office.

She heard about the lack of communication and coordination that went along with this new structure. She fielded questions, filled in for no-shows, established new and complicated schedules all while learning her job. Her supervisor was short, abrupt and unyielding. There was no time, literally, for her to do what was expected. Within two weeks, her supervisor threatened corrective action if she was unable to complete tasks assigned to her within an arbitrary time frame. Of course, things came to a head and through a difficult conversation, this young lady found out that her supervisor was facing similar difficulties and admitted the stress from it all was overwhelming.

Unfortunately, after the conversation, nothing changed. That’s because it takes more than recognizing stress to reduce stress, but it’s a start. How can the “ 5 Steps to Reducing Stress” help leaders?

Step 1: Understand stress

It is important to know that unchecked stress in any organization and especially in the leader reduces productivity, increases conflict, and contributes to serious errors that lead to physical and mental harm. Leaders need to understand the impact of stress and not expect themselves or their staff to just push through it, work harder and work longer. The leader and the organization in my example ignored the impact of unreasonable workloads and deadlines. Don’t do this.

Step 2: Take stock

Review what is important and urgent in the short term. A leader and staff cannot operate successfully in the long term by reacting to the urgent. Reacting to urgent and important tasks triggers the stress response with no time to focus on the important tasks (see Covey, 1989 for task matrix).

Step 3: Manage the external

What can you do, as a leader, to help staff cope with stressors in the work environment? Perhaps it’s improving communication with a vendor or another department. Maybe it’s relaying good news about staff impact. What would make life a little easier? Ask staff to get the answers you need.

Step 4: Manage the internal

No matter what the job, people want to feel as if what they do matters. Your role as a leader is to ensure that happens. Connect their work with the values, mission and vision of the organization. Let each staff member know how he or she is contributing to the team’s success. Make sure to check perceptions, especially during difficult times. It is easy for people to focus on the negative aspects of work. Communicate successes, recognize accomplishments and reward innovation and creativity. Recognize and thank staff when a project successfully launches or deadlines are met. Celebrate. Create opportunities to trigger the relaxation response for the mental health and well being of staff members and you as leader.

Step 5: Take action

Select what will help you and determine what will help staff. Then, do it.

Genella Macintyre is an author and international trainer and consultant with a focus on improving the quality of personal and professional living. With experience in human resources management, executive leadership, personal and executive coaching, individual and family counseling, and program development and evaluation, she helps organizations large and small develop productive, profitable and psychologically safe workplaces.

Learn more about Genella Macintyre and her books at www.FiveStepsToReducingStress.com

Works Cited

Covey, S. R. (1989). The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. New York, New York: Simon & Schuster.


Team building: find the GLUE that binds your team

Danny checks his email and finds a message advising him that he is the new team leader for the Alpha project. The email goes on to say that “during your time at this company, we believe you have shown the skills needed for success as a leader.” He immediately hits panic mode because his dream has come true — but he’s not quite sure he is ready to lead.

He has always been successful in completing the tasks assigned and he knows his business like the back of his hand, but he does not know where to begin as the top dog. The process of leading a team is about communication and organization.

Initially, you must determine the course of action based on all that you know about your industry and the project that has been assigned to you. Then, begin by outlining a plan to complete the task with success. When you have completed your outline for the plan of attack — and you can present it with confidence — you are ready to face the team. It is confidence and preparedness that allows them to buy in to you as the team leader.

Once you have amassed and organized the knowledge you possess in your industry, leadership is about finding the glue that binds your team together.

Let’s look at the GLUE.

Gather Team Information

Listen to the Team

Unify the Team

Empower and Execute.

Gather information about the team members and their backgrounds and skill sets. Sometimes that information is available within the organization. Other times you are fortunate enough to know your team members.

No matter how you acquire the information, learn what you can about what the players have done on other teams or within the company at large. This background information is essential as a basis upon which you will build the infrastructure of your team.

Now keep in mind: People change. Therefore, this collected information will be subject to modification and change as you watch the team come together during the life of the project. The initial information should be reviewed and analyzed as much is you analyze the project itself.

If the information you are gathering is subjective: consider the source. Depending on who provided the information, it may or may not be accurate. Ultimately, it is in the next phase — as you listen to your team members and learn — that you will begin to determine the strengths and weaknesses of your team in reality.

Listen to their concerns and knowledge to determine their ability to understand and comprehend. As you do so, the several types of players will surface. Listen closely to the comments and thoughts of your team. The way they speak and address the situation at hand will give you great insight into the type of team member they will become.

As each team member speaks or reacts to your plan, you must balance their words and actions against the information that you have gathered about their backgrounds and with the plan that you wish to implement.

Team members will all individually bring positive skillsets to the table. Pay attention to those who will be constructive team members and aggressive participants as well as those with initiative who will lead their portion of the project with excitement. You may find that one person is an expert in the subject matter at hand while another is an expert in organization.

As you determine the place in your machine for each of the players, you will want to make sure that you speak to the expertise of the individuals so that they feel that you are speaking directly to them. For instance, when you were speaking of technical elements, you will want to look directly to your technician.

On the other hand, while you are mapping out the course of action, you may want to begin with and acknowledge that you recognize a specific individual’s organizational skills, and indicate that you trust them with keeping the task on course. If someone is questioning every action you take, give that person value by letting them know that they are beneficially keeping you on your toes. This will give that person value as your conscience.

Unify them by finding a common thread, or by creating one that they can commit to. Once you have identified the type of team members you are managing, you will want to present the project and the individual tasks in a format that speaks to the specific skillsets of the individual members.

Create unity by making it clear that they are all essential and necessary members of your team.  Help them understand that they are working for the common good of the team and the organization, and let them know that their relationship to each other is vital for success. If they can understand how they fit into the big picture — and how the project fits into the big picture of the organization — they will be more likely to feel like a part of the solution.

Empower the team to execute the plan with dedication and passion. Make the path ahead clear. Allow them to understand the stages of development as your project progresses. Give them feedback as you move along the way, and be ready and willing to step in and assist with mediation if conflict or hostility begins.

By allowing the team to clearly visualize the direction upon which they are embarking, execution will become more fluid and guaranteed. Always keep an open line of communication with all team members in a transparent and open fashion so that you will minimize the risk of competition for control.

With his plan outlined, and with a firm grasp on who his team members will be, Danny can walk into the conference room with all the information he could gather. He can now pay attention to the team members and listen carefully so that he can unify and empower them. He has the GLUE to bind his team. He must now put the plan in motion as he fosters the all for one and one for all mindset.

Joe Curcillo, The Mindshark, is a speaker, entertainer, lawyer and communications expert. As an adjunct professor at Widener University School of Law, he developed a hands-on course, based on the use of storytelling as a persuasive weapon. He has been a professional entertainer helping corporations and associations improve their communication techniques since 1979. For more information, visit www.TheMindShark.com.   

Do women and men respond differently to change?

TAs a leader in today’s business environment, you may wonder, “Do men and women respond differently to change?” Before answering, consider the following statement by Greek philosopher Heraclitus:

“You never step in the same river twice, for other waters are continually flowing on.”

As the Greeks had to handle change, so do leaders today. Change is a constant. It’s here to stay. Understanding that concept allows us to view change from a more neutral position.

Smart leaders know that all change doesn’t have to be embraced. Before deciding, take time to understand it. How will it affect the core values of your organization? While core values should remain constant, the tactics of how they are applied can and should change. Here is an example.

When I worked for Southwest Airlines a group proposed to bring a bullet train into the Dallas-Houston market. This would have directly impacted one of the most profitable routes that Southwest was flying. As employees began to react negatively, I remember then-CEO Herb Kelleher saying, “Let’s do a study to see if taking passengers by train is more profitable than by airplane.”

“Why would we do that?” we responded. “Aren’t we in the airline business?”

“Actually, we’re in the transportation business,” he said. “If it makes more sense for us to take people from point A to point B by train, wouldn’t we want to do that? It wouldn’t change the core of who we are as a company. We are a customer service company run by great employees. That wouldn’t change if we drove trains versus airplanes.”

And we got it. After the study was commissioned we realized that it was not a profitable venture so we abandoned the idea. But his viewpoint stuck with me. You need to consider all aspects of the change before making up your mind.

Since change is here to stay, as a leader, ask the following questions:

  • How prepared are you to handle change?
  • What can you do to ensure your workforce understands and embraces change?
  • With women comprising 47 percent of the workforce, should you consider gender when thinking about communicating and implementing change?

Here’s six proven tactics I share with leaders to help them with change.

Know how you as a leader personally handle change. Do you love or resist change? Your employees will follow your lead. If you’re not sure, ask your family and friends. They know you better than anyone and they will be honest.

As a team, take professional assessments like Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and/or Gallup’s StrengthsFinder. I like these two assessments because both address change.

Before making any change, gather employees into a focus group to explain the change and get their opinions. You’ll get a chance to not only get their input, but to find “change agents” within that group that can help you explain the change to other employees.

Don’t rush change. Pre-planning the communication is critical. The words you use, the reasoning behind it and the benefits of it must be explained. Pay special attention to your wording. Every culture has a unique language. For employees to fully understand the change, use that language.

Don’t run afoul of the law. Understand what laws are in place to protect specific genders and cultures before implementing any change.

Handling change is a teachable skill. There are a lot of good classes for leaders. Find one and learn from the experts.

So, to the question of “Do men and women respond differently to change?” I would posit that communicating change is not about tailoring to gender. Instead, I advise leaders to consider approaching change as gender-neutral. I’ve worked in male-dominated industries for years and as a female, don’t feel that reaction to change is gender specific. Change is change.

As a leader you must learn to accept that change is a constant. Do your homework and, once you decide to implement change in your organization, use the tips mentioned above. Whether managing men or women, they will help you maneuver successfully through the gauntlet of change.

Lorraine Grubbs recently co-authored “Beyond the Executive Comfort Zone: Outrageous Tactics to Ignite Individual Performance” (www.executivecomfortzone.com). She is president of the consulting firm Lessons in Loyalty. As a former 15-year executive with Southwest Airlines, she takes principles and practices she helped develop to companies that strive for better employee engagement and loyalty.

How the company you keep drives leadership, growth and success

While thousands of CEOs will say that being part of a CEO peer advisory group has transformed their lives and their companies, too few of them ever join one. Most CEOs don’t experience what’s called “peer advantage.” By giving language to this powerful resource, the hope is that more CEOs and business leaders will discover how much they can benefit from it.

Smart Business spoke with Leo Bottary, vice president of peer influence for Vistage, about how participating in a peer group can benefit executives.

What is peer advantage and how can it help CEOs and other leaders who struggle with isolation?

As CEOs, presidents and business owners, we all at times face ‘make or break’ decisions that will have great impact on our business and personal lives. The peer advantages are being able to make these decisions with the benefit of having the wisdom, experience and expertise of peers who have been in similar situations and been successful.

Feedback from staff is most often tempered by agenda, biases and fears. Even advisers such as accountants and lawyers may be afraid to offer their honest opinions for fear of being fired. Without a peer group, an executive can wind up with groupthink, reinforcing what the CEO thinks and not challenging his or her ideas. But pulling a punch in the idea phase can get a company beat up in the market.

What are some other key reasons a CEO might consider joining a peer group?

CEOs join peer groups because they want better results and better lives. Executives can benefit from an empathetic, impartial sounding board. They offer CEOs both the insights to make the best decisions and the increased confidence to act on them.

Another benefit is diversity of perspective. By engaging with CEOs from a broad range of industries, executives discover best practices that can be applied to their businesses that they would not likely have discovered by working with leaders within their own industry sector.

Why is vulnerability a necessary element for a successful peer group experience?

Executives’ peers can’t give solid advice if executives are unwilling or afraid to share everything about what they’re facing. That includes being open about thoughts and feelings that may be difficult to share. The outcome will only be as good as the input.

CEOs can be hesitant to say what they don’t know. They may be guarded out of the fear of being exploited or perceived as weak for not knowing. Being among a group of people that can be trusted in a setting that is safe, confidential and free of judgment, not only helps in meeting a particular challenge, but also serves to build an enduring trust among group members.

How can peer advantage benefit and accelerate business growth?

An unbiased peer group operates with the best interest of the members involved. It challenges them, supports them and holds them accountable to what’s most important to their role as an executive.

A peer group gives members an opportunity to talk openly about strategies they’re considering and get honest, direct feedback that will help determine if those strategies will make a positive impact in the market. It affords CEOs the opportunity to work on their business rather than in their business. Given the myriad activities executives must deal with that can be a distraction, talking with a peer group helps CEOs recalibrate and focus their attention on strategically positioning their company for the future.

A peer group environment is free of agenda and bias. It’s safe and confidential, and a place where each member can question the most important parts of a leader’s life and decisions. The feedback from such groups can provide options to the CEO that will help them become better leaders, which can only improve their company’s results.

The results are ultimately what matter. Dun & Bradstreet surveys have shown that companies that are members of peer advisory boards significantly outperform companies that are not in terms of compound annual growth rates.

Insights Leadership is brought to you by Vistage International Inc.

Culture leadership: Soft skills build strong teams, optimize your company employees

Think of the organizations that have strong connections with you — more than great service or products, you have a strong, emotional connection with them. To achieve this level of engagement, they’ve likely worked very hard to create an internal culture that reflects their external culture.

Zappos.com is a compelling example of building culture and employee engagement with its staff and customers. The company is so committed to creating a culture of passionate, engaged employees that they now offer $5,000 to anyone that would like to leave the company at the end of the training period. If a one-time bonus exceeds one’s commitment to the Zappos brand, then they want to know at the beginning of the relationship.

Their cultural development process is more than a tactical plan — it’s a deeper layer that taps into the emotions and deep desires of human nature.

Building culture

Even in challenging times in the prisoner of war camps of Vietnam, our senior leaders instinctively created a winning culture to fuel passion and commitment with me and my comrades. Here’s how they did it.

As the senior ranking officer in the camps in the early years, Lt. Col. Robbie Risner wasted no time in issuing simple and direct guidance: “I’m in charge, and here’s what I want you to do. Be a good American. Live by the Code of Conduct. Resist up to the point of permanent physical or mental damage and then no more. Give as little as possible and then bounce back to resist again. Pray every day. Go home proud.”

Risner’s policies passed quickly through the camps via covert communications, clarifying our mission, vision and values for what would turn out to be a long war.

Values and beliefs

Organizational cultures are shaped by the values and beliefs established by leaders and shared by the people and groups in the organization. Positive cultures increase motivation, teamwork and commitment. With a clear understanding about core values, operating styles and standards of behavior, people can focus their talents and energies toward common goals.

A common mindset also enables people to operate independently while remaining aligned together.

Establishing a culture requires clarity, commitment and creativity:

  • Clarity about vision, mission, core values, and operational policies. Over-communication is a key to clarity — sharing it multiple times, multiple ways.
  • Commitment to the organization’s mission and defined values. An over-arching principle in the military is a “Be responsible, No excuses” attitude, for example. Creating an attitude of ownership and healthy accountability with your team also cranks up the commitment level.
  • Creativity to make the cultural story unique and compelling. What are some ways that you can make the culture-building process more fun or emotional? Think beyond a set of rules and descriptors.

Once the culture is defined, it must be communicated fervently and frequently, until it is caught and bought in every corner and on every level of the organization.

The big payoff

What’s the payoff for creating strong employee engagement and a positive culture?

A Gallup survey found that organizations that engage their employees grow their earnings more than 2.5 times faster than organizations that do not. In addition, “optimized” teams within an organization — those that are in the top 50 percent of teams on both employee and customer engagement — generate a 24 percent boost in financial performance compared with teams that fail to engage their employees and their customers.

It’s an emotional process that yields positive strategic and tactical outcomes. What has been your experience and tactical steps to creating a winning culture?

Related Articles:

– Zappos – http://finance.yahoo.com/blogs/the-exchange/amazon-offers-workers–5-000-quit–but-it-s-not-crazy-190943041.html

– Gallup Article – https://leonleeellis.wordpress.com/2015/06/17/the-next-business-discipline-applying-behavioral-economics-to-drive-growth-and-profitability/


The ‘It” factor — What’s your executive presence?

You know it when you see it. A leader walks into a room and heads turn. The person instantly attracts positive attention and people gravitate toward them.

Executive presence is the ability to project confidence, poise under pressure and engage others. Research shows that about 55 percent of your credibility comes from how you look. How you sound accounts for an additional 38 percent, only 7 percent of your credibility is based on what you say.

The reality is that executive presence isn’t in anyone’s DNA.  It is, however, possible to leverage your existing strengths and address elements of executive presence that may be weaknesses now but can be developed.

So the good news is that anyone can cultivate those skills. Successful leaders have summed up their assessment of executive presence to include style, substance and character. 

Style is the first impression people make of you. Yes, we do judge a book by its cover.

It’s harsh but everyone does it. Confidence is clearly conveyed when your image is precise and meticulous. So grooming habits, color choices in your wardrobe and alterations to tailor your outfits all add up to a commanding presence.

A common mistake is not taking the time to shop and update basic pieces.  Just because it still fits you does not mean it is the right choice. Showing a current head-to-toe image will give you a competitive edge.  Understand how to present a precise, meticulous but approachable persona.

Substance is made up of your social presence — your demeanor in leadership situations. Leaders show a natural interest in those around them, exude warmth and are able to engage people.

Being approachable, trustworthy and “present” means that we are fully invested in what others are concerned about. The leader who is able to ask the right questions to encourage someone else to do all the talking instantly becomes memorable.

Substance also includes the nonverbal body signals that sometimes sabotage our success.  Focus on posture, direct eye contact and smile to send out a positive vibe.

Character is your inner core — the personal traits and values that define you. Leaders are authentic and sincere. They have identified four or five values and strive to model these in everything that they do consistently.  Clearly communicating in everything that they say and do helps leaders become transparent.

Whether entertaining a client for dinner, conducting a presentation or leading a staff meeting, executives understand how to excite people’s imagination, win hearts and minds and project an authentic and confident image. Executive presence provides an edge to help you grow your business as well as develop relationships.

Shelley Menduni, a Dublin, Ohio-based executive image consultant, trainer and speaker, is the author of “New You: Discover the Best Version of You,” a new book to help people establish a personal brand and manage perceptions of others. Learn more at www.professionalimagery.com .

Can your company handle the truth?

“I want the truth!” That’s the famous line from Tom Cruise’s character in A Few Good Men — to which the fearsome Colonel Jessup responds, “You can’t handle the truth!”

Thirty years of research at VitalSmarts shows most organizations also can’t handle the truth. And it costs them in every way from customer retention, profitability and diversity, to employee engagement and safety. In fact, our general finding is that you can pretty much measure the health of an organization by measuring the average lag time between identifying and discussing concerns.

The pattern is repeated everywhere from the board room to the shop floor. Employees assume their boss, peers and even direct reports can’t handle the truth. So they stay mum. They withhold ideas and concerns most every day of their work life.

The lever that changes the world

There is one aspect of your company’s culture that deserves disproportionate attention. The question that should occupy leaders the most is, “Do our employees think there is something more important than the truth?” If the answer is yes, here are some of the ways it is costing you. And here are four things you can do to change their answer.

Talk. First and foremost, make silence discussable. Point out the tendency and consequences of withholding the truth. Start by letting people know you care more about truth than comfort — that your ego is less important than your mission.

Ask. Ask for feedback. Make time for questions. Learn to ask questions in a way that demonstrates your sincere desire for truth.

For example, after making an impassioned pitch for one of your cherished ideas, plead with people to poke holes in it. Many leaders think they can’t share their opinions without shutting down debate. This isn’t true. The only limit on how strongly you can argue for your own view is your willingness to be even more passionate about encouraging people to disagree.

Model. You have no moral authority to ask people to take social risks unless you do the same.

Teach. People mistakenly assume that when others don’t speak up, it’s because they lack courage. Our research shows it is more often about competence. We often want to say something but don’t know how.

In one experiment, we tested whether people spoke up when someone cut in front of them in line. Few did. That reluctance changed dramatically if the victim had previously heard someone else confront another line cutter — in fact they even used almost exactly the same words they heard the previous victim use.

The best way to change a culture of silence is for leaders to not only model the skills, but to also teach them.

The health of your organization is a function of the lag time between people seeing problems and people discussing problems. There is nothing you can do as a leader to have a more profound impact than to create an organization where nothing is more important than the truth.

Joseph Grenny is a bestselling author, speaker, and leading social scientist for business performance. He is also the cofounder of VitalSmarts. His work has been translated into 28 languages, is available in 36 countries and has generated results for 300 of the Fortune 500. www.crucialskills.com

How to lead your employees to soar

Have you noticed that your employees or staff members seem stuck and unable to move upward? Do you have employees who sit in meetings like a plane stuck on the runway? Have you noticed that your employees don’t seem to be reaching for the sky?

If you have noticed any of these situations in your business, it may be time to PILOT your employees more than merely manage them. Not only will you notice an increased amount of motivation among employees, you will begin to notice that they are contributing more and becoming more involved and invested in your business.

When you PILOT individuals you help them realize their full potential and become the type of leader that every business needs in order to soar. Not only will the following guidelines help your team become more motivated, they will also help realize their own potential. Many employees are not as successful as they have the potential to be, simply because they do not realize the power they have within. Being a PILOT for your employees will help them realize their abilities and use them to become more effective, productive, and be a catalyst to their growth.

  • P – Potential
    Leaders develop others’ potential: to be a better person, to perform better in their job, and to be better equipped to grow into leadership. Leaders develop leaders. But you may not understand how?To develop leaders, you must be someone that they can emulate. Show your employees that you are learning alongside them. Your employees want to learn from the way that you handle failure and you can do so with grace and ease. When your employees see you fail, they see that you are just like them. You are still learning and working at becoming a better leader. As a leader, you need to use your failures as learning experiences that you can share with your team. These experiences will create a culture that allows for creativity and educated risk-taking to allow failure and not fear it. People tend to learn more when they feel safe and secure enough to make mistakes.
  • I – Implementation
    Have you ever had a meeting to discuss the meeting before the meeting? Are you spending more time getting ready to get ready? These behaviors occur when we become stuck in “Analysis Paralysis”. In order to turn your ideas into actions, you need to take action! There is a fine line between waiting for perfection and taking a calculated risk.Ask yourself, “Is the speed of implementing this more important than perfection?” “What will we gain or lose from pulling this trigger? What will we gain or lose from waiting?” Then, ask yourself these questions: “Are you hitting the mark?” “What are the performance indicators we need to watch for?” Involve everyone on the team in the problem solving process and put everything up for consideration and then discuss the pros and cons for each possible adjustment.
  • L – LeadershipIt’s always good to be the first. Leading your industry demonstrates innovation, and innovation does not happen without first, taking educated risks. Leadership is such a broad and all-encompassing term that may be difficult to explain. Effectively leading means communicating in a clear and concise manner. As a leader, it is important that you clearly communicate the vision and inspire your employees to perform their duties in the manner that is expected of them.The speed at which you act can determine the amount of time in which it takes for your products or services to hit the market. The sooner you take action, the faster your clients will be able to benefit from the products and services that you have to offer. As a leader, you need to commit to a course while you communicate with your team and take the required actions to achieve your goal.Your communication and action will lead you closer to your vision, because as we all know, if you are not moving closer to your vision, you are actually moving further away. When your employees see your drive and dedication to achieving the end result, they will follow and lead their team more effectively because they can clearly understand your vision and the actions needed to reach your goal.
  • O – Optimize
    As a leader, you need to understand that you are responsible for the nurturing and culture of your organization and how it responds to risk, change, and learning from failures on any level. To evaluate the strength of your team, you should evaluate how your team embraces change, welcomes change, initiates change, recommends change and ask for ideas on how to change. If new ideas are raised in a meeting, do you properly explore them or shut them down immediately? Do you allow your employees to have a voice?At the close of every meeting, do you take the time to ask your employees if they have anything they would like to address? Do they have any feedback over what was covered in the meeting? Effective leaders understand the importance of asking these questions and actively listening to the responses.
  • T—Tenacity
    Too many people give up when they are so close to success. Don’t give up; on yourself as a leader, on your employees, on your organization. You are essential to their success. Be the Pilot in Command of your organization, not the co-pilot who follows along.You want your employees to willingly follow you! No one asks themselves “How can I be an average leader today?” Every day, you need to show your employees that you believe in the vision of your organization, your employees, and the work that they are doing. To do this effectively, you need to take the time to be the Pilot in Command and lead from you are, in order to drive the action!

Elizabeth McCormick is a speaker, author, and authority on Leadership. A former U.S. Army Black Hawk Pilot, she is the best-selling author of her personal development book, “The P.I.L.O.T. Method; the 5 Elemental Truths to Leading Yourself in Life.” She teaches real life, easy to apply strategies to boost your employees’ confidence in the vision of your organization and their own leadership abilities. Visit: www.YourInspirationalSpeaker.com.


Follow these six principles, and you’ll develop strong leadership skills

Editor’s note: This is another installment of “Ask Mal.” Mal Mixon, former chairman of Invacare Corporation and a well-known entrepreneur, will regularly share his business advice and experience with Smart Business readers. Ask him a question at ceointerview@sbnonline.com, and your inquiry could be the inspiration for his next column.

Q: I’ve just been promoted into management and would like to ask what you consider the most important principles of leadership?

The leadership principles I learned in the Marines and from my experiences are timeless. They are:

  • Set yourself as an example. Don’t ask your associates to do more than you do. In business, if you are unwilling to take the red-eye to California or to confront tough problems, how can you expect your people to do that?
  • Develop loyalty downward; care about your people first and not yourself. Listen to what all your associates want to say — usually their opinions are quite different. The important thing is to listen. Get their input before you make important decisions. You are only as good as your team. Become interested in your teammates and their families as people. You have to understand them and individually deal with any issues.
  • Make integrity a priority. Never make a promise that you do not intend to honor or keep. That is simply a matter of ethics. Never lie to them. Sometimes we agree on a matter and it may not work out the way we had hoped, but I think it is important to follow through. Sometimes, it is persistence that causes it to happen.
  • Keep your tenacity and resolution strong. Cultivate an unfaltering determination to achieve your plans and goals. Some people may become discouraged easily when something doesn’t quite go right. They may think, ‘Well, I can’t do that; the competition did this.’ You really have to have a killer mentality about getting it done. If you think you can or think you can’t — you are probably right.
  • Become an expert in your profession. A snow job never works. When a new associate is hired at a company, if that person is a phony, within 30 days everyone will know it. You can’t fool people very long. I’ve always advised people to become an expert at something; become a great marketer, a great engineer, a great operating person.
  • Emphasize courage and honor. Face difficult problems and circumstances squarely and lead where others may be apprehensive or unsure. Leaders have to tackle the tough problems and not the easy ones like those you get off your desk right away. You have to have the mentality of ‘I like to deal with problems. I like to fix things. I know when I fix it, the company is going to be a lot better.’

Top management’s most important function is leadership. I first wrote down these leadership points more than 30 years ago, and I don’t think my views about leadership have changed at all since then. Looking back at the tests my company has had — expansions, acquisitions, trials of running out of money and changing computer systems, which almost brought us to our knees — we’ve always been able to get through them. They made us bigger, better and stronger.

Mal Mixon is the former CEO and chairman of Invacare Corporation. A complete story of Mal’s rags-to-riches journey is told in his book, “An American Journey,” published by Smart Business. It can be found at www.anamericanourneybook.com and on Amazon.com. 

Five things every leader should stop doing

It’s official — the countdown is on! The holidays are here, the end of the year is near, and, as a leader, you are likely in the throes of determining how to make upcoming months a success. No doubt, you’re probably considering what you can do to become a more effective leader. Sometimes creating change isn’t about adopting new habits but dropping certain ones that you shouldn’t be doing in the first place.

So challenge yourself to let the following “To Stop List” guide your responsibilities, style, and approach for next year. It may surprise you, but abiding by this list is a proven practice for countless Disciplined Leaders. Give it a try to build a greater focus around what matters most. 

The Leadership “To Stop” List

  1. Stop focusing on the “Trivial Many.” Disciplined leaders make it a habit to ignore or delegate their “Trivial Many” activities and, instead, focus on the “Vital Few.” How can you determine your Vital Few? Use the Pareto Principle, or the “80/20 Rule,” as a guide for choosing the 20 percent — the most vital activities that will drive 80 percent of your results and success. Apply this model to everything you do, including planning, goal-setting, strategizing, decision-making, etc.
  1. Stop overusing the “I” word. Your duty as a leader is to share recognition and put the spotlight more on the team and less on yourself. Start loading up your language with “we” versus “I” (again, 80/20) and you’ll create a more inclusive, empowered culture that shares in accountability and feels more personally motivated to work toward and achieve your company’s goals.
  1. Stop trying to be right all the time. Realize that you don’t always have to be right to demonstrate your competence. In fact, if you’re obsessed with trying to be right and winning every argument, you will reflect a questionable, less confident leadership style. Admitting you don’t have all the answers takes greater guts. What’s more, self-assured, strong leaders will happily change their position if they recognize another person has brought something better to the table. They feel liberated from thinking they must always have the perfect answer to every problem and can better focus on their vital leadership tasks. 
  1. Stop playing favorites. You’re going to like certain people more than others. It’s human nature. But in leadership, don’t give preferential treatment to an employee just because you really click with that person. Nothing will get your team’s attention faster and erode morale quicker than playing favorites. This game of preferential treatment can build barriers and hostilities, create a “mini-culture” of exclusivity among your people, and most certainly damage your leadership credibility. Avoid this leadership sin at all costs by consistently treating everyone fairly, always striving to sustain a reputation for being a leader who doesn’t play favorites. 
  1. Stop being the answer guru. It’s not your job to provide most of the solutions for your people. In fact, you’ll make more progress toward goals if you turn over problem solving to employees. When they come to you with questions or issues, demand that they come up with a few solutions first. This may feel counterintuitive or uncomfortable but go with it. This is a proven strategy for effective problem-solving, one that, again, will allow you to better focus on your vital job: leading.

Final note: If you’ve just read these five points and think it’s going to require some grit, know you’re not alone. It’s often tough to break old patterns and commit to different strategies. But here’s some good news: Lots of leaders have found that the “To Stop List” works. The key, however, is discipline. To really get the results you want, only you can discipline yourself to adopt these habits and create the impact you want and need.

John Manning is the president of Management Action Programs Inc. , a general management consulting firm that’s helped 170,000 leaders and 15,000 organizations nationwide create breakthrough results. Manning is author of the newly released book, “The Disciplined Leader.”