12 Things Great Leaders Do Daily

McChrystal

By definition a leader is a person who leads or commands a group – at least that’s what Professor Google says.  My definition is a bit different.  Who wants to be commanded?  Sure there are times, situations, and circumstances when being in command is required.  Directing, ordering, and controlling are verbs that often come to mind when we think of leaders.

Just about anyone can be taught to do these things.  Just about anyone can dish orders, direct others, and attempt to control.  Many “leaders” regardless of training can do this for some period of time before being discovered as ineffective.  Great leaders however, take a different approach.  These leaders must do all the directing, ordering, and controlling as previously mentioned but it’s how they accomplish these things that set them apart.

Great leaders are great because they:

  1. Understand how to empathize
  2. Effectively communicate their vision
  3. Ask great questions, deep questions that provide insight
  4. Act in their own authentic way, not trying to be someone else
  5. Adopt a beginners attitude
  6. Surround themselves with people smarter than they are
  7. Spend time on self-reflection, how they operate and the result produced
  8. Network and connect with others to learn
  9. Ask for, and accept help when needed
  10. Lean on mentor(s) for coaching and perspective
  11. Roll up their sleeves, never asking others to do something they haven’t or wouldn’t do themselves
  12. Inspire others through their words, actions, and behaviors

So start today with some self-reflection.  What are you doing?  What do you spend most of your time on?  How do you interact with those around you?  What’s the reaction of others when you walk in a room, speak during a meeting, engage with others in a break-room?  Consider this list and strive to embrace each one in a genuine way and you’ll find your results improve in a timely manner.

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Why Your Role as Sales Leader Isn’t to Motivate

MOTIVATION word cloud, business concept

Many people think “cheerleader” when they envision an effective sales leader.  Someone who gets the team fired up, screams and shouts, and sets everyone on a rah-rah march into the field to meet prospects.

The sales leader is expected to be a high-powered extrovert, charismatic, outspoken, aggressive, and perhaps even a bit shocking.  We have all worked for sales leaders that possess these characteristics and shall I dare say, some other, more wild ones to say the least.

Early in my career I worked for such a sales leader.  He’d stand on a chair or a table during sales meetings screaming at the top of his lungs, face beet red.  The hair on the back of your neck would stand on end.  You were pumped.  There was nothing you couldn’t do.  But when he finished his super-charged motivational speech, the result felt more like a tirade than an inspiration.  There’s an enormous distance between rallying a group with fear versus inspiration.

So what is the sales leaders responsibility as it relates to motivating a sales team?

Are you ready for the answer?  None.  You have no responsibility to motivate your team.  Each sales person on your team is responsible for motivating him, or herself.  So what is your job as the sales leader?  Provide vision and inspiration.

People want to follow a leader who demonstrates the confidence that he knows where he’s going, how he’s going to get there, and why getting there is so important and beneficial.  I’ve built a number of sales teams over the years.  I have worked hard to be an inspiration – doing this provides your team members with the “why” should they do what you’re asking them to do.  Inspiration transcends motivation.  You can motivate for an hour or a day but motivation is time constrained.  It lasts only as long as the instigator – you – are on duty.  But to inspire, creates a fire, that burns deep into desire.  The greater the fire you build the more insatiable the desire is to achieve the goals you’ve set – whether you’re around or not.

Your job is to find out what drives your team.  Is it money?  Is it recognition?  Is it invention or innovation?  Is it client engagement scores?  Once you know what drives each person on the team you will be able to create your inspiration roadmap.  That roadmap will provide a clear picture to:

  1. Where are we going?
  2. Why are we going there?
  3. What’s in it for us?
  4. What will we feel once we’ve arrived there?

Most organizations fail due to a lack of clarity around the vision. You’ve got to assemble a team that WANTS to a be a part of your vision.  Trying to convince someone they will be happy going to Buffalo in the winter probably won’t sell.  You can expend all your energy convincing or you can set out to find those who are interested or intrigued with going to Buffalo.  It’s the Good to Great philosophy of getting the right people on the bus and the right butts in the right seat.

Lead by example.  Walk the talk.  Model the behaviors.  Do these things and you’ll increase your ability to inspire your followers to achieve remarkable results.

What It Means To Lean In

Trapeze

Life happens.  We have ups and downs, good times and bad, successes and failures.  It’s easy to be positive and happy when all’s going well but the reality is that nothing goes perfect forever.  Eventually even the best of us, the hardest working among us, and the most optimistic will be tested.  That’s life.  How we deal with those tests determine our success, state of mind, and fulfillment.  Notice I said fulfillment and not happiness.  Fulfillment in life comes from experiencing all life has to offer including the good and bad.  We learn and grow far more from our failures and the bad stuff than the good.  It’s during the times we are tested the hardest that our character comes to light and we grow as human beings. So how do you handle the bad times?  How do you deal with some of the tests life throws your way?  You lean in.

Years ago I was working through a rather difficult period in my career.  I was running Sales for a company that was in turnaround mode.  The company had experienced some success but was on the ropes with just about everything seeming to go wrong.  Sales and service were both failing and cash was tight.  Our employee morale was withering away to nothing.  With each stumble there were layoffs and cutbacks which led to a growing distrust across the employee population.  I had never seen anything like it before, and what had worked for me in the past wasn’t working now.  Frustration was running high and doubt was setting in.  That’s when I talked to Jeff.

I shared my thoughts and concerns with Jeff, a Board member and mentor.  I walked him through my plans, my thought process, and my confidence level relative to making the turnaround.  As a hugely successful entrepreneur, businessman, and corporate CEO, Jeff listened, sat back and said, “You’ve got all the right pieces. You’ve thought everything through.  Now you’ve got to lean in.”  This was the first time I had heard this phrase.  It certainly sounded good coming from Jeff but I needed to understand exactly what he meant by it, so I asked.

Leaning in, is about positive momentum.  If you’re on your heels self-doubt and second guessing quickly set in and you’ll surely fail.  You could have developed the best plans possible but failure will still visit you because you lacked conviction. Fear of failure causes us to lean back.  Failure makes us second guess ourselves and those around us.  It makes us focus on the wrong things.  When we lean back we’re looking for a way out, an excuse, someone to blame. We often get caught up in worrying about how others will perceive us should our plans not work out.  Fear that our personal reputation will be tarnished. And by leaning back we don’t fully commit.  We have one foot in and one out.  We’re the trapeze performer with a safety net under us.

In listening to me Jeff sensed I was leaning back.  He knew I had put a great deal of thought into the plan I developed.  He knew I identified the most probable risks and put plans in place to mitigate them.  But I was still leaning back.  He stressed the importance of leaning in.  He said, “Imagine you have no safety net under you.  What would you do?” And then he said the one thing that all great leaders don’t just say but demonstrate…he said, “Joe, I support everything you’re doing.”  Those words, backed-up by my faith and trust in him as a leader, gave me the added strength I needed to lean in.  To commit and not look back.

So when tough times arrive, or when everything seem to be going wrong, lean in.  Way in.  Imagine not having the safety net and that’s when you’ll realize that failure is not an option and you’ll make a bad situation into a good one. And most importantly find your “Jeff”.  A mentor is an absolute necessity to help you navigate the stormy waves of life.

Stop Trying to Fit In and Start Being Remarkable

remarkable

Everyone wants to fit in. To be a part of the crowd. Some people go to extremes to remain invisible whether at school, the office, the gym, or anywhere else in pubic. Blending in is part of our culture. Why do you think brand names like Nike, Levi’s, Coke, Asics, Hollister, and Target are so valuable? They represent the main stream. Sure they offer quality and value but they also offer a strong emotional connection to safety. I’m safe if someone sees me wearing Nike, shopping at Target, or buying a Diet Coke.

But success doesn’t come to those who play it safe. Success isn’t for the faint of heart, or those who want to be part of the crowd. No. Success usually comes to those willing to take chances, to challenge the norms of society, to stand out and be remarkable.

Are you remarkable? Do you stand out at work or are you one of the crowd? Do your co-workers look at you as a thought leader? A progressive thinker? Or are you one of the many doers that get things done but not the one “cutting the edge?” Do you invest in building your personal brand? Are you working to create awareness around your ideas and opinions or are you silent, laying back, waiting for the next set of directions to come your way?

History is a great teacher of the correlation between remarkable and success. Thomas Jefferson, Steve Jobs, Donald Trump, and The Beatles all were remarkable for their time. Dimon, Reagan, Lincoln, and Gates made bold decisions, often unpopular, but remarkable in ways that led to great discoveries, financial stability, and peace through power.

We all have the ability to be remarkable. We may not all be Thomas Edison’s or Michael Dell’s but we each possess unique characteristics that if amplified make us remarkable. A great sense of humor, the ability to provide calm during turbulent times, or being able to rally people together for a common cause can be remarkable characteristics. What makes you remarkable?

Great Mentors. The Difference Maker.

partner

In my previous blog, 5 Important Differences Between a Coach and a Mentor, I provided clear differentiation between these two advisers. Both play a valuable role in your development but go about it in entirely different ways. Understanding your current circumstances and having semi-clear objectives – goals – is critical in knowing which, a coach or mentor, would provide the greatest value.

While most coaches tend to have very specific areas of expertise, mentors are completely opposite. Mentors bring a broad set of skills, perspectives, insights and opinions to your developmental party. If you are fortunate enough to have a real mentor in your life consider yourself blessed…and lucky…for they’re not all that common. Remember, you select a coach, a mentor selects you. Great mentors can come from a variety of areas in your life. A relative, a friend, co-worker, boss, or business associate can all be potential mentors. What are the ingredients that make a great mentor?

  1. Deep life experiences. These experiences do not need to be in the area of your specific profession. The mentor has been in and around many different situations that have provided them with incredible insight and perspective.
  2. Demonstrates a personal interest in you. The mentor takes a proactive role in wanting to help you by providing valuable feedback, and guidance. Often times they proactively reach out to check in with you rather than waiting for your call.
  3. Excited and passionate about your development. The mentor never makes you feel like you’re on the clock. Instead they make you feel like they exist specifically to help you. Their energy and authenticity is tangible and easily recognized.
  4. Honest in a positive and constructive way. The mentor provides hard-hitting, honest feedback and observations, but does so in a way that doesn’t put you on the defense, or belittles you.
  5. Teacher, Coach, Counselor, Motivator all rolled into one. The mentor has a natural ability to weave in and out of these roles effortlessly with a near “cloak of invisibility” as they do so. Their deep understanding of you allows them to take the role most effective for the situation at hand, with the genuine intent to aid in your development, while never lecturing or criticizing.
  6. Trust. The single most important ingredient for any great mentoring relationship is trust. A strong, trusting relationship with a mentor creates the bond that is necessary for free-flowing, honest, personal, and sometimes difficult feedback without the fear of embarrassment or intimidation.

Great mentors do all these things and more. Having the benefit of a mentor gives you the ability to make better decisions, broadens your perspectives, and often times provides the clarity you need to move forward. These unique and wonderful people grace us with their active presence in our lives, teach us in ways others can’t, and provide us with the strength we need during life’s most crucial moments. Great mentors are in fact the difference makers in a life full of success and personal fulfillment.

5 Important Differences Between a Coach and a Mentor

Helping-Mentor

Throughout your career, you will encounter moments that will present great challenges and/or opportunities.  Knowing what to do at those specific times depends on several things including experience, attitude, skills and capabilities, and the strength of your personal support network.    As you grow personally and professionally, the complexity of these circumstances increases and may create anxiety as you determine your next steps.  And while this is perfectly normal from a developmental standpoint, having a coach or a mentor by your side can make a huge difference in the quality of outcomes.  Understanding the difference between the two is the first step to making the right selection.

Many people believe mentors and coaches are the same…interchangeable terms.  But they’re not.  Mentors are quite different from coaches.  The key differences between the two are listed below:

  1. You select a coach, a mentor selects you.  As such, mentor relationships tend to last for years, if not a lifetime.  By the mentor selecting you, he or she is demonstrating their personal commitment and genuine desire to help with your personal development.
  2. Coaches focus on improving specific performance, usually on the job, while a mentor focuses on your overall development with a much greater focus on you, the person.
  3. Coaches interact through a formal structure, usually the same day and time each week – office hours.  The session follows a certain flow or formula for the review and update on the items discussed in your last meeting.  A mentor interacts as needed.  They’re “on-call” and happy to be so.  Less formal in nature, free-flowing, and very personal.
  4. Coaches tend to be “career-point-in-time” resources.  Meaning, few coaches can provide value in all stages of someones career.  A great high school football coach does not automatically equate to a great NFL coach simply because he understands the game of football.  As the stakes grow higher in your career, you will need to find a coach whose skills are equally equipped for the circumstances you are encountering.  The coach you had when you were 35, and in your first senior manager role, most likely will not be as effective for you when you are 45 in an executive role.  In contrast, a mentor is always focused on the “broad YOU”, gathering deep and intimate knowledge of the real you, thereby allowing them to provide valuable insights and guidance in nearly any circumstance.
  5. Finally, and perhaps the biggest difference between a coach and mentor is how they are paid.  Coaches, at least professional coaches, charge a fee for their service.  These fees range anywhere from a few hundred dollars per session into the thousands depending upon the circumstances, and length and frequency of the engagement.  A mentor has no fee.  They’ve taken you under their wing.  They have a personal connection with you and are committed to your development and success.

It’s important to understand that while different, there is a need to have both a coach and mentor in your life.  Both play very different, yet important roles in your personal and professional development.  Having a general understanding of your circumstance, time frame, and objectives will help guide your decision on selecting the right coach or mentor.  I will visit specific benefits of coaches and mentors in upcoming blogs.