Communication Breakdown: Are You Resonating With Your Audience?

How Leaders Can Refine their Focus to Know their Audience

Communication Breakdown

Over the course of my career many leaders have lamented this: “Little I say seems to be resonating!?!?”

Although this can be very frustrating, it certainly does not mean that you should just stop communicating (as I’ve also heard…)

Knowing Your Audience

Problem:

Most likely, the failure to communicate effectively an indicator that you need to take more time to find out what makes your audience tick, and how and when they’re most receptive to information.

Solution:

Think about any questions and concerns they might have that will impede their ability to hear you. By anticipating audience needs and concerns, you can ensure that you shape your message in a way that will resonate with your listeners.

The Real Communications Challenge

As challenging as it can feel to state your thoughts clearly and concisely, the real challenge is shaping those thoughts clearly and concisely for your audience.

Employees (and any audience) want you to appeal to them in terms that speak to them and their needs, often on a personal and emotional level—yes, even if you’re just talking about work.

Especially if you’re talking about work.

When leaders don’t understand their audiences’ needs or perspectives, they make these two common missteps:

  • They mistake any communication for good communication
  • They communicate from their perspective instead of the audience’s

Your Communication Role as a Leader

As a leader it’s your job to use communication to help your audience make the connection between business objectives and their role in helping you meet them. But it’s important to understand that before you can get to the business big picture, you’ll need to address employees’ personal needs first.

At the end of the day, employees want to know “What’s in it for me?

They might articulate that need in any number of ways:

  • “How does this affect me?”
  • “What does this have to do with me?”
  • “What should I be doing?”
  • “Does anyone care about me?”

The Solution: Know Your Audience

Know your audience and speak to them. There’s real magic in addressing your audience’s needs first. When you do your audience is more likely to trust you, and as a result be more generous, open and receptive to big-picture, strategic communication.

All communication should always be tailored to the specific audience to make them aware of their role in the organizational whole.

That’s what leads to engagement and the discretionary effort all of us want.

Then, you can truly inspire employees to action as only a great leader can by giving them feelings of significance, community, and excitement through your communications.

Specifically as a leader you should:

  • Contextualize organizational information to ensure your team understands how it fits in.
  • Craft information so that it’s relevant to individual employees and teams.
  • Provide job-related information so that individuals and teams can do their jobs effectively.

When it comes right down to it, it doesn’t matter what you say, it’s whether you can make it relevant to your employees.

So, how clear are you about who EXACTLY is your audience? Have you developed the right mindset to serve them in a way that will work with them? Or are you stuck in a place where you seemingly don’t connect well? If you are, what would you do to get to a more effective platform for your audience? I would love to hear you thoughts!

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———————
David Grossman
David Grossman is Founder and CEO of The Grossman Group
He is a much sought-after Consultant, Speaker, and Executive Coach 
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On Leadership and Overcoming a Crisis

By Jack Davis

Lemonade

Make no mistake about it, there will be moments when a crisis strikes. Life has a way of making sure that plenty of lemons come our way.

And it seem that none of us can escape this truth.

Leaders often have to manage through crisis. This can only be done with good information. Because of a crisis, you may feel like your life has been a waste. But don’t worry… there are plenty of chances to turn those lemons into something good.

Mistakes are Inevitable

In my experience, no one is always happy, excited, or hopeful. We may not always see progress. At times we see things slipping backwards. Sometimes through no fault of our own, yet often through our own mistakes as well. Everyone makes mistakes, the mistake is not the important part, the lesson is.

Here is a key truth to overcoming our mistakes:

Admitting your mistake quickly positions you to extract wisdom from it

That’s right. You learn when you admit your mistakes openly and transparently.

Laugh them off, brush them off, learn the lesson, and move on to your next (even greater) accomplishment!

You see, pain births a willingness to change. No matter what has to change around you, the first thing to change is YOU. Renew your mind to what a crisis is to you.

These steps may help:

Understand that your feelings are created by your focus

What you are focusing on determines how you feel. Here are a few ways to change your feelings:

  • Through focus
  • Through music
  • Through the people around you
  • Through praise

And if you are so inclined…

  • Through worship

Understand that your feelings can change as quickly as they arrived

Did you suddenly get upset at something? Then you are able to suddenly get happy again! It’s all a matter of what you decide to focus on. That will get your joy back.

Nothing is ever as bad as it first appears

What you see as a loss is actually an investment – if you perceive it through new eyes. Bad times can activate great relationships. Think about it, when the bad time hit, your fair weather friends left, didn’t they? But your true friends stuck with you. Your relationship with them is now cemented even better than before. What a wonderful gift to receive! Absolutely priceless in my book.

Quitting does not improve your life

WOW, WOW, WOW! This one hit me strongly the first time I read it. It just never occurred to me that QUITTING HAS NO REWARD. What does quitting give you? Regret, guilt, shame, more fear, less faith. Nope, I don’t want any of those, I’ve had enough of feeling those things. So I have decided today that I’m not quitting. How about you?

Endurance is a bridge

Everyone walks through a wilderness experience. Everyone walks through the rough places. Everyone experiences crisis, even those who seem to “have it all together.” Get real. They don’t. If you could see deeper into their lives, you would see that they don’t have it all together.

Instead, see that your endurance will increase access to someone – a friend, someone to help you, someone to encourage you, someone to help you solve the problem.

Your endurance is a testimony of encouragement to others

Someone is watching your life. Someone is learning from what you are doing. Someone is secretly rooting for you to win. People love to see the underdog win. So if you are feeling like that underdog today, take courage in knowing that when you do win, it will be a heroic and inspirational story! You will encourage others with it! So today, allow encouragement to sink in. You will win if you do not give up.

Always know that I am here to help put things in perspective and to be your friend and encourager!

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——————-
Jack Davis

Jack Davis is a John Maxwell Certified Success Coach and Speaker
He serves as Coach, YouthMax Speaker & Board Member Team Xtreme Ministries
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From Humble Leader to Narcissist: Where Are You on the Continuum?

Leading with Honor Video Coaching from Lee Ellis

From Humble Leader to Narcissist: Where Are You on the Continuum?

Typically, narcissism is historically associated with physical beauty.

You may recall that in Greek mythology, Narcissus was the handsome young man who became so enchanted with the image of himself in the pool that he could not pull away.

Today we hear about a leader who has narcissistic tendencies, but it’s not so much about their physical beauty as their strong, offensive ego.

Where do fit on the narcissistic leadership continuum? Pinpoint your spot –

Read Now

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——————–
Lee Ellis

Lee Ellis is Founder & President of Leadership Freedom LLC & FreedomStar Media.
He is a leadership consultant and expert in teambuilding, executive development & assessments
Email | LinkedIn | Web | Blog | Book | Facebook | Ter

His latest book is called Leading with Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton.

 

How Leaders Can Created Informed Employees

Part 1 of 3

Employee Knowledge

Your employees are your lifeblood, and as a leader, one of your most important tasks is making sure they stay happy and productive.

There are thousands of techniques you can use to boost employee satisfaction and output, but one of the more overlooked options is creating informed employees.

Informed employees are more likely to become engaged employees. They feel ahead of the curve, valued, and confident in the direction your company is heading. As a result, they’re more likely to be loyal, spread positive cheer about your brand, and feel more personally invested in the work they do.

Knowledge Is Power

It’s easy to get caught up in the need for speed, efficiency, and frugality — and leaders across the globe are constantly searching for ways to cut costs and run lean. But employee satisfaction often takes a backseat in their attempts to do this, and making this mistake can have major negative effects on a company.

A survey of more than 300 randomly selected businesses showed that the lowest-performing firms were more focused on cutting costs and boosting productivity than on developing customer and employee relationships. Further, 45 percent of these low performers fell short of their net profit goals as a result.

When employees don’t know what’s going on, they feel much less connected to their companies. It becomes harder for them to do their jobs, they don’t feel any real urgency to create high-quality work, and their productivity declines.

Because they aren’t engaged, they’re less willing to collaborate with peers and go the extra mile. They become bored, start going through the motions, and check out.

What It Really Takes to Inform Employees

Informing employees takes more than sending cheesy, cheerful company newsletters and maintaining an office bulletin board. It requires transparency, creativity, and technology.

Use the following four guidelines to ensure you’re informing your employees the right way:

  1. Honesty is the best policy. Creating a culture of transparency is ideal, but it’s no easy task. Fifty percent of employees say that a lack of transparency holds their company back, and 71 percent feel their company fails to spend enough time explaining its goals. It’s up to you to empower your managers to take ownership of what they communicate. Tell them they need to honestly and directly communicate with employees, explaining the “why” behind every company initiative.
  1. Consistency is key. Be consistent and frequent with your approach, and always make it clear that communication is a two-way street. In a recent poll, 85 percent of employees said they’re most motivated when management offers regular updates on company news, followed by encouragement to ask questions and give opinions. If you decide to hold monthly staff meetings, stick to the schedule. Only cancel or reschedule them when absolutely necessary.
  1. Make it fun and easyMotivation and gamification strategies are great ways to increase engagement — and technology can play a major role in making informational exercises fun for employees. In one study, gamification led to a 48 percent increase in engagement and a 36 percent reduction in turnover. Perhaps you can create a fun video featuring executives, along with short quiz questions, to replace antiquated compliance trainings. Or you might create an app or immersive digital experience for performance reviews. With today’s tech, the possibilities are endless.
  1. Open your earsInformed employees must feel they have a voice. They have nothing to gain from hiding their insights from co-workers, so if you give them a platform to express themselves, they’ll be more likely to share and collaborate. The more informed they feel, the more likely they’ll be to share feedback on what’s working and what isn’t.

When you successfully keep your employees informed, you’re setting the stage for a more productive workforce — one that will ultimately return the favor and speak highly of your company.

Boosting communication and informing employees is just the first step. Next, you need to engage them to the point that they follow through with action.

For more on this, see Part 2 of 3 and Part 3 of 3.

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——————–
Russell Fradin

Russ Fradin is the founder and CEO of Dynamic Signal
He is a Digital Media industry veteran and an Angel Investor
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Leadership Lessons: Success and Fatal Flaws

3 Flaws That Never Get Talked About

Fatal Flaw

There is so much glitz and glamour that comes with that power-word “success.” It says “You’ve made it!” And “From here on, life is good! Right?”

Well, no… Not so fast…

The biggest distraction to success is all the stress and anxiety that sits like a weight in the pit of the stomach that often comes with the territory. It has to do with the worry that it will all disappear tomorrow, the next day, someday.

Falling From Grace

You know the saying:

The higher they go the harder they fall?”

It’s a warning to watch out, be careful because you never know when the party is over.

How about this saying:

“Don’t rock the boat.”

This tells you to play it safe and not take too many chances, especially once you have the houses, the cars, the perks.

Keeping Your Grip

So many films show the fall from grace; quickly going from success to the gutter. Why is this amorphous thing that we all covet, called success so tenuous to grab and to hold?

Partly because once success hits, there is a tendency to hide the fear by acting over-confident. You get used to being bowed to, applauded, and respected by folks who only know you by reputation.

They never see your uncertainties, hesitations, and inadequacies.

  • But what explains the unsettling tendencies for success to be so tenuous and difficult to support?
  • What are the enemies to success?
  • What causes a strong journey to fail along the way?

Take a look at these recipes to sabotage success.

3 Fatal Flaws

Here are the 3 Fatal Flaws that never get talked about:

1) Entitlement

Paradoxically, many people do not feel entitled to success.

Stupid idea? Perhaps.

However there is a sense that many successful people have, the “if they really knew me syndrome.” That thought of being in a masquerade, being seen as more than one really is, waiting to be “caught with pants down” often is a fatal flaw that sets up the fall down the slippery slope to failure.

You see so many times we have these self-fulfilling thoughts and deep in us we would rather be right than to be happy!

Doesn’t make logical sense, yet in the emotional parts of the brain, it is exactly correct and makes total sense.

2) Loyalty

Another flaw is loyalty spawned from generational expectations. This is where we look at success in terms of our lineage to understand benchmarking and standards. Consider this line of thinking:

If it is good enough for my parents and grandparents, then it is good enough for me.”

That is a set-up to not be capable of going beyond the level of the family, often for generations and generations. It means that if no one ever went to college, well you may be able to wear that cap and gown, but don’t ever expect to get the top job.

Or, if you do become the top dog, expect the fall from success to come along eventually. “After all, one shouldn’t stray too far from living at the level of the rest of your family.”

Does this make sense? Not really. Does it happen often? Absolutely.

3) Patterns

We all play roles in our families that become familiar ways to stay safe and accepted. Often these patterns show up when we are tense and anxious. When stress hits the hot button, we all tend to revert to childhood patterns that were there for security and survival.

These patterns may not be effective in high level positions, yet there they are making us look like we have spilled a bowl of oatmeal on our shirts.

So, if you think you’ve been acting like a baby, you’re right!

Now you know the flaws to watch. Take the time to understand and work on these areas of entitlement, loyalty, and patterns. By bringing to light these often invisible forces you can harness and refine them so that you will continue to build on success after success and leave a powerful legacy for future generations.

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——————–
Dr. Sylvia Lafair, Business & Leadership Coach

Sylvia Lafair, PhD. is President, Creative Energy Options, Inc.
She does Workplace Relationships, Conflict Resolution, Exec Coaching & Consulting

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Employee Development: Who Should Take Responsibility?

Training Development

Having been on both sides of the manager-employee equation, I sometimes wonder who should take responsibility of an employee’s growth and development.

This because I am a firm believer of self-awareness and constant growth of an individual.

Finding the Way

The process of identifying a development area and then working on it is now ingrained in me and I consciously work on it. However, some aspects of an individual are harder to identify and work on, than others. Some habits if not identified and worked on in the nascent stage can become an annoying trait.

These annoying traits can come back to bite an individual in the most crucial times.

I believe that in addition to an employee taking responsibility for their growth, managers should also take the time to give timely and appropriate feedback.

On Strengths and Weaknesses

Of all of my personality traits I have worked on over the years, some were easily identifiable by me. However, there were a couple of weaknesses that if not pointed out by my manager, I would never have identified the root cause and possibly never worked on them.

From my experience, each and every aspect of an individual can be worked on by carefully identifying the root of the problem and then coming up with appropriate steps to correct it. Having an understanding mentor or coach is the key to this process especially for those problems that are harder to work on.

Sometimes a couple of different solutions may have to be tried before one can completely fix a problem but the key is to keep trying.

Performance Reviews

What I have often seen is that most managers (if not all) dread when the time comes to giving performance evaluations to their employees.

This begs the question why?

  • Evaluating an employee’s performance should not be such a fearful process.
  • After all aren’t managers are also supposed to be coaches for their direct reports?
  • Isn’t annual review the time for employee growth and development?
  • Shouldn’t performance evaluation be the time where managers can be proud of their coaching skills?

Well, there is only one explanation of why this happens. These managers don’t give direct feedback to the employees all-year-round and wait for the yearly performance evaluation cycle. Some companies conduct mid-year evaluations. Even if companies don’t mandate a mid-year performance evaluation, managers should make it a habit to give feedback to their employees throughout the course of the working year.

Be Wise, No Surprise

Another important aspect of the review process is that any feedback should not come as a surprise to the employee at the performance evaluation time. If the feedback is a surprise, it would certainly make the process difficult and dreadful.

Coaching employees is one of the most rewarding skills for a manager and they should make it work to everyone’s advantage.

I would urge all managers to not let any annoying habit fester in an employee. Help them identify the root cause and work with them to correct it. It is quite possible that they may not be fully aware of the issue and simply need an empathetic guidance.

So how are you doing at identifying your personal and professional needs for growth? And better yet, how well are you doing this same thing for the people that you lead? What can you start doing TODAY to provide the helpful feedback your people need to help them learn, grow, and develop better performance? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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———————
Aditi Chopra
Aditi Chopra is an experienced leader in the software industry
She is a consultant, writer and a leader
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Leaders: You Do Not Need to Be Nice to Be Kind

Chess Move

Kindness is not softness, it is not weakness, and it doesn’t always have to be nice.

In fact, sometimes kindness requires you to be tough and direct. I have seen the misinterpretation of this word negatively impact many organizations.

Leadership Mistakes

Leaders, in an attempt to be kind, move under-performing employees from position to position in the hopes that they will finally succeed or at least survive. Others allow deadlines to pass without repercussion or avoid having that fierce conversation that is needed in order to drive improvement and productivity.

Many of these leaders have adopted this style of kindness out of a reaction from working with or for a tyrannical ruler. They have witnessed how ineffective fear is in motivating people and driving an organization forward.

However, in an effort to be the antithesis of what they witnessed, they too have become ineffective.

Some are just new to their leadership role and worry about being liked. They lack the self-confidence needed and therefore, spend much of their time trying to please who that work for them.

But, neither of these is true kindness.

Leadership Wisdom

People need to understand where they stand, how they need to improve and what is at risk if they don’t.

Kindness requires empathy, honesty and trust. It means that at times you must be a mirror, reflecting back to a person the impact of their habits and behaviors.

Feedback, constructive criticism and accountability are all forms of kindness. People need to understand where they stand, how they need to improve and what is at risk if they don’t.

Leadership Looking Glass

It means that at times you must be a mirror, reflecting back to a person the impact of their habits and behaviors.

It may be counterintuitive, but letting someone go from their job could be a great act of kindness. For that individual, it very well may be that you are releasing them from the pain of being in the wrong job, giving them the freedom to finally pursue one that better fits their skills.

It could also be that difficult but teachable moment, where someone with a sense of entitlement finally realizes in fact they are not. Although no longer employed by you, they are now much better prepared for their next employment opportunity.

Maybe most importantly, it is an act of kindness to the rest of the organization.

It can be so demoralizing to be hard-working, a driven performer and not see those who aren’t be held accountable for their lack of performance.

Leadership Courage

When we care about others, we don’t want to be the cause of any pain or suffering.

No one relishes having difficult conversations or enjoys taking tough action. When we care about others, we don’t want to be the cause of any pain or suffering. But, avoiding those conversations and failing to take the needed action can be far more damaging in the long run.

Not only damaging to that individual, but also, to the efficacy of your own leadership and to the organization as a whole. Kindness requires that you push past your own discomfort and insecurity to take the needed action that best serves the interest of the company you help to lead.

You do not need to be nice to be kind. But, you must make people feel heard, cared for, valued and respected.

It is also essential that you always act with integrity and honesty and, that you have the conversations and take the action needed to best serve the organization you represent.

If you do all that, you are in fact a kind leader.

Remember: You do not need to be nice to be kind.

Thanks for reading.

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———————–
Elliot Begoun

Elliot Begoun is the Principal Consultant of The Intertwine Group, LLC.
He works with companies to Deliver Tools that Enable Growth
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People Before Profits: 5 Ways to Lead Your Company and Brand

Lead With Heart to Boost Your Business

People or Money

My company sells wine, changes lives, and is growing rapidly. As a CFO-turned-CEO, my business philosophy is simple: Put people first, and the profits will follow.

I am in business to expand job opportunities and awareness for the nearly 57 million Americans who live with disabilities — including my son, Matt. Although my company, 100 Percent Wine, donates all profits to organizations helping people with disabilities find jobs, I’ve seen revenue grow and my brand expand.

The trust and loyalty, generated by brand alignment with a cause, is a powerful differentiator.”

Building Trust

In fact, 90 percent of consumers are more likely to trust a company that supports social or environmental initiatives. Similarly, nine in 10 consumers say they’d switch brands to support a good cause, given a similar price and quality.

As a businessman, I know shareholders want the company to turn a profit. Fortunately, shareholder gains and social responsibility can do more than coexist — they can actually further one another. For instance, the 2014 Global Economics of Disability report proves that companies that support people living with disabilities actually produce higher long-term returns for shareholders.

My Son, My Business

My son was the inspiration for my company. As a father, it pained me to watch Matt face the stigma and assumption that he couldn’t do things I knew he was fully capable of doing. And throughout his life, Matt will have to work hard for job opportunities.

Just 17.1 percent of people with disabilities are employed, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

I took my business background and set out to change that. While my company is still young, its mission has generated a healthy buzz around the wine and the brand. Considering that 100 million Americans have a friend or family member living with a disability, who doesn’t want to expand opportunities for this community?

Socially Responsible Leadership Strategies

If you want to help the world, cultivate goodwill toward your brand, and boost sales, it’s time for you to employ a “people before profits” philosophy at your company.

Here’s how to do it:

1. Authentically Share Your Story

Authenticity is a critical component of a people-first business strategy. Customers are too smart for greenwashing, and they can see through half-hearted giving. FIFA has no shortage of environmental and social initiatives, but that has done little to improve the organization’s public image.

Instead, tell customers what inspired you to show that you’re serious about improving society. Although I hesitated to share Matt’s story, I quickly realized that customers needed to know why I had dedicated myself to this cause. Now, people understand why I’m doing this and empathize with my mission to improve the world for people with disabilities.

2. Donate Wisely and Expect Results

Customers want to see you give charitably, not just talk about it.

However, be sure you vet charities carefully to ensure your dollars do as much good as possible.”

I searched long and hard to ensure 100 Percent Wine’s profits go to the most innovative, creative organizations working to provide jobs for people with disabilities.

We gave our first grant to UCP Heartland because it helps businesses find qualified staff from this community, and we’ll measure our impact by the number of jobs created through our donations.

3. Get Involved

While financial support is important to fixing any of our world’s ills, doing volunteer work for the cause shows customers you’re willing to work in the trenches.

100 Percent Wine seeks to partner with both nonprofit and for-profit organizations that create jobs for people living with disabilities. Sure, I could just write a check every month, but actually working to create sustainable jobs for people with disabilities is so much more valuable. Show your customers why you care by volunteering, working directly with nonprofits, and advocating.

4. Engage the Entire Organization

This can’t just be a CEO initiative; the whole company should care about your cause. Hold rallies to pump up employees, and look for empathy and dedication when hiring new team members.

I’ve made sure every member of my company cares about helping people with disabilities just as much as I do. I hired my talent scout Chuck Blossom to make sure we had the right people on board. Chuck was previously CEO of Boone Center Inc. in St. Charles, Missouri, which employs hundreds of people with cognitive and physical disabilities. He is the right guy for his role.

Additionally, more than one-third of our team consists of people living with disabilities. As we expand further, I’ll continue to vet people not just on their skills, but also on their dedication to helping individuals with disabilities.

5. Think Long-Term

A mission to improve lives can’t be a short campaign. When considering a socially responsible brand strategy, ensure your company’s leaders are on board for the long haul.

To effect change and build loyalty, your brand must be committed to a cause for years to come.”

Newman’s Own has given $450 million to thousands of charities since its inception in 1982. The brand has built a following around the fact that it donates 100 percent of profits to charity, and people everywhere associate the name with charitable giving.

In fact, Newman’s Own inspired my pledge to give 100 percent of my company’s profits to organizations helping the community of people with disabilities.

Leading Lifelong Decisions

Even before my son Matt was born, I knew business should do more than make a profit. But the experience of fatherhood has influenced me to spend my days working to benefit Matt and everybody living with disabilities.

The decision hasn’t just given me a strong business — it’s creating a better world for people living with disabilities.

So what can you and your business do to put people before profits and make the world a better place? What sort of organizing and leadership will it take from your organization to get things moving in a better direction? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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——————–
Scott Monette

Scott Monette is the founder of 100 Percent Wines, a premium winery.
He donates all profits to nonprofits helping people with disabilities
Email | LinkedIn | Web

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6 Leadership Lessons From Rudolph

by Eleanor Biddulph

‘Tis the season! One annual tradition in my house is gathering to watch Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer. This year, I watched it through the lens of leadership.

Imagine Burl Ives, as the voice of Sam the Snowman, applying the lessons of Rudolph to the workplace…

6 Lessons in Leadership

Scenario 1

Rudolph first apppears as the new deer at the playground. The other reindeer notice Rudolph’s shiny nose as it glows, and begin to laugh at him and call him names. Meanwhile, at Elf School, Hermey the Elf is also being ridiculed because he wants to be a dentist. Hermey has lots of ideas about how to make sure the dolls have healthy teeth, which, of course, the other elves think is just silly.

Lesson #1:

As leaders, we need to be in tune with how new employees are being welcomed into the team. Hopefully, we’ve created an environment that welcomes new people bringing new experiences, new ideas, and new skills to help the organization be great. Diversity of all kinds must be embraced, not driven away. Ideas should be respectfully heard, not ridiculed.

Scenario 2

The head elf even tells Hermey, “You’ll never fit in! Now you come to elf practice, learn how to wiggle your ears, chuckle warmly, go hee-hee and ho-ho, and important stuff like that. A dentist! Good grief! ” Soon, both Rudolph and Hermey are singing the same song; “Why am I such a misfit? I am not just a nitwit. You can’t fire me, I quit. Seems I don’t fit in.”

Lesson#2:

As leaders, it is important that we have the right people in the right positions, matching an individual’s skills and desires with job function and team purpose. We also need to recognize when a team member shows an aptitude for another role. A good leader will help that person reach their career goal, rather than forcing them to be in a role they are clearly not a fit for.

Scenario 3

Rudolph, feeling rejected, runs away and meets up with Hermey, on the road after quitting elf school. The two of them then meet Yukon Cornelius, the prospector who also doesn’t fit in with the general population. All three set out to try a find a place where they can fit in.

Rudolph, Hermey and Cornelius come upon the Island of Misfit Toys. There’s Charlie-in-the-box, Spotted Elephant, and more. Charlie is the sentry who welcomes them to the island. It is clear, as he bounces about, that he can be a great toy. The only thing “wrong” with him is his unexpected name. Spotted Elephant is cute and cuddly. He would make some little girl or boy a wonderful gift, except that his outside isn’t the color people would expect.

Lesson #3:

As leaders, we need an awareness of any pre-judgments we are attaching to people. Someone might not look or act the way we expect them to, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be successful. A team member might not have the background we expected, but they might still be well-skilled for the job at hand. Are we minimizing people because of our ideas, rather than welcoming them for theirs? Are we treating them as mis-fits, just because they are a little different?

Scenario 4

After a time, Rudolph, Hermey, and Cornelius set out to tell Santa about the Island of Misfit Toys. They promise the toys that they will help Santa see that even though the toys aren’t what people might expect, they can still be loved and enjoyed by a needy child.

Lesson #4:

As leaders, are we in tune when our team members “manage up?” Sometimes, we don’t realize how our own behavior or ideas impact others. We can be even better leaders if we are open to the wisdom and observations of others. The success of the leader and the team is interdependent and we need to welcome feedback that is shared with us.

Scenario 5

As we all know, the story ends well. One foggy Christmas Eve, Santa realizes that Rudolph’s nose, so bright, is just the thing to guide the sleigh that important night. Once the leader embraces Rudolph, so does the rest of the reindeer team. The sleigh stops at the island to pick up the misfit toys, and drops them into the homes of needy children who will love them dearly.

Lesson #5:

As leaders, we set the example. If we view a new project with enthusiasm, so will the team. If we see a challenge as an opportunity, the team will follow our lead. If we seek out ways to use the strengths of our individual followers, they will be embraced by the rest of the team for their uniqueness, rather than ridiculed for it.

Scenario 6

And, then, there’s the Abominable Snowman. Throughout the story, he is feared. He’s big, loud, grouchy, and mean. However, it turns out that he has a major toothache! After Hermey uses his dental knowledge and pulls the Snowman’s bad tooth, the monster becomes a big old softy. His height is perfect for adding the star to the top of the Christmas tree.

Lesson #6:

As leaders, we all have experienced that really difficult employee. Sometimes, there just doesn’t seem to be anyway to break though a tough exterior. They might be rude, disruptive, attention-seeking, poor performers. Or, they might be someone with a lot of potential who is in some kind of pain – physical or emotional. If we take the time to have an honest conversation with them, coming from a place of caring about their success, we just might find that what is “wrong” can be made “right.” This may not always be the case, but just imagine if your abominable snowman ended up hanging the star on your tree.

Can you see leadership lessons in any other holiday tales? I hope you’ll add a comment and share them. Have a wonderful holiday and successful new year of leadership and growth!

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———————–
Eleanor Biddulph
Eleanor Biddulph
 is the EVP of Client Services at Progressive Medical, Inc.
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You, The Truth and Nothing But Your Leadership!

Building Platforms for Converting Potential into Performance

Platform Building

Is there anything new under the leadership sun?

Leadership Platforms

With the wealth of information available to us about leadership—the sheer numbers of which have been well-covered in other L2L blog posts and myriad other sources—it would seem easy to answer this question in the affirmative.

In fact, this post is yet another example and becomes inexorably part of the statistic.

Recognizing that, in writing this, it is impossible to avoid falling into that trap, I still want to caution all of us not to jump too easily toward an answer we believe is nothing more than a blinding flash of the obvious. We also shouldn’t assume away the question as rhetorical or disregard the question as some sort of trick.

Grappling with the Answer

Leadership certainly appears to be among the most overused terms of the 21st Century, so much so that it begins to suffer the death of a thousand qualifications—rendering the term almost meaningless. As I’ve written elsewhere:

This isn’t all that surprising. With the rarity of real leaders, the preponderance of imaginary leaders-in-position and the sheer amount of new information mentioned earlier, most now tune out at a mere mention of the word Leadership.”

We can get so overwhelmed in trying to understand what leadership “is” or “looks like” that we either get lost in the shuffle or simply start shuffling along with the lost. The natural but dangerous side effect of this is that we never begin defining, describing or developing it on a personal level. Continuing a thought from the previous quote:

[We’ve] already heard it all and have “had it up to here” with all the talk about leadership, so little effort is ever applied to defining it personally and little consensus is ever reached on how it should be defined organizationally.”

Yet, as you search farther backward to examine the etymology of leadership or further inward to get at the essence of leadership, it really comes down to a personal recognition of two things:

  1. The limitless capacity of “born-in” potential as human becomings
  2. The limiting tendency of “made-in” performance as human beings

We are all born with unlimited potential for learning, changing, growing and leading, but there are myriad tendencies that inhibit our capacity for improving performance. These include our orientations toward awareness, acceptance, action and achievement. But the most interesting thing about the debate around whether leaders are born or made is that they both relate to a person, not to an impersonal idea or abstract concept.

In fact, when questions of leadership are raised, they are either raised by a person or about a person. And the questions are considered legitimate only because people have intrinsic value. And herein lays the secret…the hidden TRUTH to anything new in leadership.

Building Your Platform

If you really want to create something new when it comes to leadership, try building (or refurbishing) your own leadership platform.

In fact, I’ve become convinced that the only way something new in leadership can truly emerge is when individuals—unique in time past, present and future—start answering the questions they are asking. If we really want to understand what Leadership looks like, we need to look in the mirror.

We need to honestly describe or define who we are as a leader, and be open to accept feedback from what others observe and feel when they evaluate our leadership. This is not easy, however, because as Ravi Zacharias puts it, in any interplay between a person and information, the first test is not the veracity of the information, but the truthfulness of the person.

Avoiding the Pitfalls

It’s easy to think that the “person” mentioned in the last statement is the one providing the feedback. While it may be true that some will not provide honest feedback due to their own hang-up’s, I’ve found that most will give you straight talk, but only if they believe you:

  1. Are genuinely interested in them and what they have to say,
  2. Have demonstrated that you are serious about getting better at who you are and what you do as a leader, and
  3. Will never hide, hurl, blame or retaliate—otherwise known as defensive misattribution of failure—when the uncomfortable information is presented, will give you straight talk

Indeed! There are a lot of conditions to whether or not you’ll get at the “new information” about your leadership that is yet to be written or revealed. But there is an even bigger danger lurking in the shadows, poised to jump out and stop-you-up-short when it comes to truly learning, changing or growing as a leader: defensive misattribution of success.

The defensive misattribution of success occurs when personal leadership success (e.g., how I got this job in the first place or why I’m the boss and you’re not) is attributed inappropriately to the very behaviors that are causing incredible damage through the persecution of people, process and profit, ultimately deteriorating long-term organizational performance.

Understanding the Implications

Robert Cooke and Janet Szumal, Human Synergistics International, include a great organization-level expansion and exposition for this unfortunate reality in their Chapter 9 contribution to the Handbook of Organizational Culture and Climate (Ashkanasy, Vilderom, Peterson; 2000).

They contend that the defensive misattribution of success occurs when organizational success is attributed to a Defensive culture when instead it is substantial resources and/or minimal demands that account for the success currently enjoyed by the organization.

Organizations with strong franchises, munificent environments, extensive patents and copyrights, and/or massive financial resources are likely to perform adequately, at least in the short term and possibly even over the long term, if environmental pressures for innovation, adaptation, or flexibility remain minimal.”

In such cases, they say that managers can “get away with” creating an Aggressive/Defensive and/or Passive/Defensive organizational culture. Worse yet, it is almost guaranteed—thanks to attribution theory and self-serving biases—that these managers will credit the Defensive culture that they created (or inadvertently allowed to emerge) as being the source of their organization’s effectiveness.

Sadly, this holds back anything new when it comes to the real creative potential of leadership and keeps the organization locked in yesterday. Cooke and Szumal conclude this section of the book as follows:

Although the impact of culture may be overshadowed by the impacts of resources and demands, Constructive norms would nevertheless enhance the performance of these organizations, increase their adaptability, and protect them from being blind-sided by forceful and unanticipated environmental changes.”

Breaking Free to Newness

The good news for all of us is that there is a way out. There is a means by which we can find newness in leadership. It is a simple but difficult journey for all who endeavor, but it will produce the kind of performance that all of us are after. All that is required is you, the truth and nothing but your leadership. Are you ready?

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——————–
Richard Dillard

Richard S. Dillard is Founder/ Managing Partner at Dillard Partners, LLC
Pursuing Success at the Speed of Leadership!
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