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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The Paradox of Leadership and New Mindsets

Leading with Honor Video Coaching from Lee Ellis

Balance Paradox

Changing Your Mindset About Stinky Fish: Embracing Leadership Growth

The temptation is there for all us, but it’s easier to notice in others – “Why do they lead this organization the same old way? And why do they only see life from their myopic view?

dead fishThe ability to break free from old mindsets and gain new ones is a valuable attribute—especially for leaders who find themselves thrown into paradox.

And what does it have to do with stinky fish??

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
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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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Improve Your Team by Developing the HERO Inside You!

Be The Hero

Real heroes don’t really wear capes or have supernatural powers. In the real world, HERO’s are simply ordinary people who choose to respond to a set of circumstances in a way that inspires others. And it IS possible to develop the HERO inside you.

But before you can lead others, you must first learn to lead yourself.

That’s how you develop into a HERO.

The Hero Inside

There are battles inside you that go on every day, and those battles are the reason that you haven’t accomplished as much as you promised yourself you would back on New Year’s Eve. Internally, there is a part of you – a HERO – that wants to succeed and has strong values and great ideas and when you wake up it is your best self that is energized and bold and determined.

Friedrich Nietzsche called it the Übermensch. The term, loosely translated, means “superhuman.”

But your best self, your internal hero, has enemies…

  • Every day your HERO has to wage a battle against distractions, and disappointment, and disparagement.
  • Every day he has to struggle with ghosts of regret or monsters of misfortune.
  • Our history, things that happened in the past.
  • And our experiences, things that happen to us and around us, can sometimes seem devastating.

Fighting Your Battles

Imagine being a recently divorced woman, caring for a 3-month old daughter, forced to go on welfare after losing her job. Those would be hard battles to fight! And even though those circumstances and experiences are dangerous adversaries, they are not as powerful or impactful as our internal response to them.

If we respond poorly, we experience more painful outcomes. We become victims of our own negative responses. 

People, and teams, are not victims of circumstances. They only feel this way when they do not develop and use the HERO within them.

Winning the Battles Within

Too often our internal HERO’s greatest threat is our own fear, or contentment, or excuses, or doubts… those deceitful soldiers that protect the walls of our comfort zone.  And it is amazing what sometimes we can allow ourselves to grow comfortable with.

But if you want to develop the HERO within you and accomplish your ambitious goals, you have to:

  • Exile your excuses
  • Dump your doubts
  • Crash through that comfort zone that has caged you

The HERO Formula

So, what separates the average man from Nietzsche’s Übermensch?

The answer is a simple equation.  H + E x R = O

History + Events x Response = Outcomes

We cannot control our history… or the events that occur to and around us. But we CAN control our RESPONSE to them. And no matter what the first parts of the equation are, OUR RESPONSE DETERMINES THE OUTCOME!

To get something different, to feel something different, to become something different, you will have RESPOND differently!

I offer team building for teachers, for athletes, and for corporate groups that inspire unity and boost morale, but the key to any group’s improvement is each individual within the group claiming responsibility for their response to the history and events around them.

The HERO Attitude

Remember that single mother we imagined above? Well that was J K Rowling, author of the famous Harry Potter series.  She developed her HERO because she decided to choose a positive response to her circumstances.

We cannot control our circumstances.  But we can control our responses. Regardless of the circumstance, we get to choose our attitude and our actions. We can develop a victim attitude and spiral down, or the kind that J K Rowling did and ascend far beyond expectations.

And if you keep a good attitude and take appropriate action consistently, those habits will lead you to accomplishing the goals you have set for yourself.

But your focus must be on changing the equation with a quality response. The world is not going to change  and we remain victims as long as we are waiting on someone or something else to change for us.

Becoming a HERO

So, how does one become a HERO? Commit to responding to your history and your experiences as your best self. Remember, you cannot choose where you were planted – but you CAN choose to bloom there.

Want to improve your organization and inspire team development? Want to improve your family?  Your community? Your workplace? Then develop the HERO inside you. Your example and responses WILL impact others. Whatever your history or experiences, your response to the events you experience will determine your teams success.

So how are you responding to your past and current situations in life, at work, and in your community? Are you mentally stuck in the past and still paying a heavy price? If so, WHY? What steps can you take today to reprogram your responses so that you can get those superhuman results and lets the HERO soar? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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Sean Glaze

Sean Glaze is Speaker, Author, Coach, and Facilitator at Great Results Teambuilding
He delivers Engaging Events that Transform Laughter into Lessons
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Imaginary Leadership (Part 2 of 2)

Ending the Persecution of People, Productivity and Profit

Empty Suit

Many leaders may be imaginary, but the pain, problems and privation they cause to people, productivity and profit are all too real!

In part one of the two-part series, I compared the profile of Imaginary Leaders to that of Real Leaders—a distinction with a profound difference—and introduced what I consider to be the top three practices of Imaginary Leaders:

  • The persecution of people by proxy
  • The persecution of productivity by process
  • The persecution of profit by policy

Now I want to spend some time breaking these down a bit, so they’ll be easier to spot for Real Leaders and those who endeavor to make the transformation to Real Leadership.

Persecution of People by Proxy

A “proxy” has the authority or power to act as a substitute and, in this case, it is the Imaginary Leader playing the part. It could also be the Manager who confuses his roles and supplants Real Leadership with Managership. In either case, the persecution of people occurs when their:

Personal strategies related to aspirations and conduct

Interpersonal strategies related to one-on-one interactions with others

And organizational strategies related to using systems, structures and resources to influence the thinking, behavior and performance of others actually promote a defensive/unadaptive operating culture.

Punishing Pratices

I’ve written elsewhere about these types of unhealthy cultures and the damaging effects they have, so I won’t go into detail here other than to reinforce the idea that they devastate people through the Leadership-Culture-Performance Connection.

Below are a few of the more popular punishing practices that emerge in a cause-effect layout, along some ideas on alternatives for your consideration:

Personal

  • Withholding information from someone who could learn, change and grow from it or could actually fix/ improve the system as a result of having it.
    • Effect: “An individual without information can’t take responsibility. An individual with information can’t help but take responsibility.” – Jan Carlzon
    • Alternative: Follow Meg Wheatley’s advice in Leadership and the New Science: “…create much freer access to it….everybody needs information to do their work….it is no wonder that employees site poor communication as one of their greatest problems. People know it is critical to their ability to do good work. They know when they are starving.”

Interpersonal

  • Using fear to manipulate performance (e.g., annual performance/ merit review, management by numbers/ objectives, as well as outright threats, intimidation, bullying, etc.) or allowing fear to be propagated by others.
    • Effect: Personally, fear is an extremely limiting emotion. According to Dwoskin in The Sedona Method (Chapter 3), it is just above Apathy and Grief in the hierarchy of suppressed emotions, limiting our energy to the point it is mostly painful. Organizationally, it creates loss from “…an inability to serve the best interests of the company through necessity to satisfy specified rules, or…a quota” and “…where there is fear, there will be wrong figures.” – Deming, Out of the Crisis (Chapter 8).
    • Alternative: Deming suggests driving out fear (Point # 8 of 14, Chapter 2) through embracing new knowledge—to discover by calculation whether performance deviations are out of control with respect to other conditions—for improving the system and also eliminating annual performance appraisals/ merit reviews (Deadly Disease #3, Chapter 3).

Organizational

  • Applying extrinsic motivators, otherwise known as reward and reprimand or “carrots and sticks.”
    • Effect: Destroys intrinsic motivation and any value in the work itself, as well as pride and joy in workmanship.
    • Alternative: Commit to removing the demotivators (e.g., micro-managing the down-line, telling them that their “job is to make you look good” and holding them accountable for things they can’t control) and barriers to successful work that exist. Use the Deming/ Scholtes-style of MBWA—not just walking around, but knowing what questions to ask and stopping long enough to talk to the right people and get the right answers (e.g., Genchi Genbutsu or Gemba)—as a strategy for finding out what those demotivators are. This “go and see at the real place” approach will provide feedback from the voice of the customer (i.e., the employees) and the voice of the system (i.e., the process) that will invariably require something the leader must work on improving, whether related to him/her self or the system.

Stop and ask yourself this:

To what extent am I relying on these strategies as part of my personal leadership platform?”

Then yield to an awareness that produces learning, acceptance that produces change, action that produces growth and achievement that produces new levels of Real Leadership.

Persecution of Productivity by Process

The persecution of productivity (and I include quality and competitive position in my use of the term) occurs when Imaginary Leadership doesn’t understand the work that they or their down-line are responsible for and, as a result, can’t do much of anything to measure or improve performance.

Deming once quipped:

If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you are doing.”

He also said in The New Economics:

We should work on our process, not the outcome of our processes.”

The Heart of Quality

As Scholtes taught in principle number two of his six Principles at the Heart of Quality:

Leaders must understand their systems, processes and methods in terms of capability and variation. Data gathered on the variation of systems and processes over time will help leaders understand the characteristics of work performance in their organization.

When managers don’t understand the variation inherent in their systems and processes, they make themselves vulnerable to some serious problems:

  • They miss trends where there are trends.
  • They see trends where there are none.
  • They attribute to employees–individually or collectively–problems that are inherent in the system and that will continue regardless of which employees are doing the work.
  • They won’t understand past performance or be able to predict future performance.”

Understanding Process

But how many leaders today still don’t understand processes—not to mention the system; what Deming defined as “a network of interdependent components that work together to try to accomplish the aim of the system—or, if they do, still focus more on process outcomes (results) than on the process (effort) itself?

This isn’t a hard question to answer. Just check to see how many of your current metrics are defined around outputs vs process or inputs. Better yet, just think about where you spend most of your time.

Is it truly on understanding characteristics of work performance like variation around materials, methods, equipment/ machinery built into the end-to-end process or on trying to improve certain outcomes of a sub-process (usually by focusing on the attentiveness, carefulness and speed of individual workers) that you know “the boss” is going to ask about?

Deming would again suggest that this invariably leads to optimizing the sub-system at the expense of the total overall system.

Persecution of Profit by Policy

This may seem harsh, but research and reality suggest that, as mission and operating philosophy (e.g., goals, strategies and policies) emerge as part of any organizations maturation and development process, ways of people relating to each other and their work are collated into a comprehensive framework of “the way to do things,” and much of that operating philosophy is not conducive to improving financial performance.

The persecution of profit occurs when Imaginary Leadership continues to deploy policies that constrain organizational value-creation for customers, whether related to innovation, quality/ service, speed or cost.

These include policies that are intended to govern/ control who, what, where, when, why, how and how much a company purchases in products/ services, attracts/ trains/ retains talent, measures/ improves performance, et al., and the outcomes typically effected include things like teamwork, turnover, earnings/ sales volatility and net profit after taxes (NPAT).

For what to do instead, I’ll simply refer the reader to an article on The W. Edwards Deming Institute Blog by John Hunter: Nobody Gives a Hoot about Profit, which includes an incredible video with Dr. Russell Ackoff about Values, Leadership and Implementing the Deming Philosophy.

Ending the Practices of Persecution

It is not going to be easy, but it is worthwhile. It starts with changing your point of view and I’d refer the reader back to Continual Improvement (CI) in part one of the two-part series. This commitment to transformation must come from you, personally…there is nothing anyone else can do.

Personal transformation can’t occur without your permission. It is a choice, and herein lies a danger that both Deming and Drucker pointed out. It is not mandatory. No one has to change. Survival is, and always will be, optional.

Choose wisely!

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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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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
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Imaginary Leadership (Part 1 of 2)

Ending the Persecution of People, Productivity and Profit

Imaginary Leader

Have you ever met an Imaginary Leader or experienced the displeasure of working for one?

Unfortunately, it is altogether likely that you have, and it is a foregone conclusion that you didn’t like it.”

It also follows naturally that the group/ company suffered as a result. The reality is, there are a lot of Imaginary Leaders (defined below)…many occupying positions of authority, but all wreaking havoc on people, productivity, and profits.

Punishing Practices

Perhaps you can relate to one of the following based on your experience with leaders in your professional walk:

  • The persecution of people by proxy
  • The persecution of productivity by process
  • The persecution of profit by policy

There may be others, but these are the top 3 punishing practices of Imaginary Leaders that I’ve identified over the past 31 years. In contrast, these are practices that Real Leaders avoid. Not only that, they make a habit of identifying where and when they occur and go out of their way to stop them, every chance they get.

Imitating the Imaginary or Getting Real

Today, Imaginary Leaders not only abound, they continue to grow; mostly because future leaders tend to lead how they were led and since many have served, and been promoted, under Imaginary Leaders…well, you get the point. I should clarify, however, that while their leadership is imaginary the problems (e.g., negative impact/ results) are very real and should be stopped.

But before we can identify and bring an end to these punishing practices, we need to understand a little more about who we’re talking about and the proximate causes that create the persecuting effects.

Two Leadership Profiles

Following is a basic profile of both Imaginary and Real Leaders.

Imaginary leaders are Leaders-in-Position—entitled by promotion to a position (granted by someone higher in the organizational structure).

The Leaders-in-Position is characterized by one or more of the following:

  • Exert mostly positional power (i.e., legitimate, coercive, reward) and often abuse it
  • Have “direct” reports, but only imagine they are being followed
  • Followership is “voluntold” (not voluntary) and motivated by fear, desperation
  • Use authority as the principal source of social, political and professional influence
  • Employ more restrictive than prescriptive leadership strategies
  • Fix the blame when things go wrong
  • Place a primary, if not exclusive, focus on short-term results (and behaviors/ attitudes)

Real Leaders, however, are Leaders-in-Person—earned by appointment to a provisional role (regardless of position, ‘Leader’ becomes a title given by those who choose to follow, regardless of where they are in the organizational hierarchy).

The Leaders-in-Person is associated with the following characteristics:

  • Rely mostly on personal power (i.e., expert, referent, informational) and use positional power judiciously
  • May or may not have direct reports, but actually garner a large following
  • Followership is voluntary; motivated by respect, inspiration
  • Use authenticity as the principal source of social, political and professional influence
  • Employ more prescriptive than restrictive leadership strategies
  • Fix the system when things go wrong
  • Place a primary, but not exclusive, focus on long term results (and effort/ thinking):

Let me add that every leader has a choice to make here; whether our leadership will imitate the imaginary or get real. So before moving on, I want to challenge you to stop for a few minutes and perform a quick self-evaluation against these two distinct leadership profiles.

How have you been led? Where do you fall?”

What “Lies” Behind the Cause

Hidden safely behind the proximate cause(s) are a host of assumptions and theories that undergird and support this contrast. But for the sake of time and space—running the risk of oversimplifying—it can be reduced to basic differences in the following equations when it comes to the performance of people, productivity, and profit:

Command & Control Model

McGregor’s Theory X + Skinnerian Behaviorism + Taylor’s Scientific Management = Command & Control [CC]

Continual Improvement Model

McGregor’s Theory Y + Kohn’s Model for Motivation + Deming’s System of Profound Knowledge (SoPK)/ 14 Points = Continual Improvement [CI]

While generalizations are not always accurate, the following may help add some much-needed color inside the lines for better contrast:

I’ve embedded some links for further study, but what’s important to understand here is that these combined theories-in-use (i.e., CC and CI) are incompatible and irreconcilable.

A Situational Leadership Dilemma

It may be fanciful to suggest that situational leadership dictates which approach gets applied, but the reality is that this never happens.

Here are a couple of illustrations to support this point.

  • If you hold a CI frame of reference, you won’t ever need to adopt a CC approach to resolve performance problems related to people, process or profit, and the reasons are simple: (a) SoPK has already revealed to the Real Leader that 94% of the performance problems they will encounter are built into the system as a common cause of variation and they’ll seek to reduce variability around these causes in order to improve, and (b) the other 6% of the time that performance problems can be attributable to special causes, they’ll be able to constructively resolve without abandoning CI as there is simply nothing about the CC approach that is more helpful in these situations.
  • If you hold a CC frame of reference, you won’t ever choose to adopt a CI approach to resolve performance problems with people, process or profit. I’ve never seen this occur. In a crisis or performance problem situation, I’ve never seen an Imaginary Leader fix the system after already fixing the blame…NEVER! The reasons are equally simple: (a) they lack Profound Knowledge, so how could systems thinking, a knowledge of variation, the theory of knowledge, and psychology ever inform their actions, and (b) their theories-in-use have convinced them that the performance problem is effectively resolved once “accountability’ firmly fixed the blame, so there is nothing else to do.

The Practices of Persecution

Every leader will engage in certain practices when approaching others and their daily work as a natural consequence of the assumptions they make and the theories they adopt.

It is unavoidable in the thinking-knowing-doing-performing cycle.”

The problem is that, while all theories, by definition, are valid, some are simply more useful to leadership when it comes to improving individual, group and organizational performance.

Even though mounting evidence continues to suggest that the CI approach is based on more useful theories, CC is still extremely prevalent. Compounding the problem is the simple fact that an Imaginary Leader using CC can still get promoted, make more money, and experience all the trappings of success—at least in the short-term.

We see it all the time. Tragically, the longer a CC theoretical framework remains entrenched—both in Academia and in Business—the more likely it is that misattribution of success  (borrowed from Human Synergistics® International’s original defensive misattribution† description) will occur/ recur and the harder it becomes to abandon.

Misattribution of Success occurs when an Imaginary Leader actually begins to mistakenly attribute their success—at least from a short-term perspective and based on certain financial and business-process measures of merit—to CC (and the assumptions/ theories that support it) rather than to other internal factors like a defensive organizational culture (where CC flourishes) or substantial resources with minimal demands (where the group/ organization can succeed in spite of CC).

† Cooke, R.A. and Szumal, J.L., Handbook of Organizational Culture and Climate, pp. 152-159, Copyright © 2000 by Sage Publications.

This is why we find ourselves where we are today with Imaginary Leaders and the corresponding practices of persecution mentioned above, which you can read in greater detail here: Imaginary Leader (Part 2 of 2).

In the meantime, I would love to hear your thoughts!

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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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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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The Most Valuable Leadership Gift This Season

The Sacrificial Gift and Benefit of Listening

One of the most important ways to lead with honor is actively listening to your colleague, team, and clients. Lee share his valuable how-to advice in this video clip. 

Listening

Leading with Honor Coaching Article

“Leadership Gift-Giving Pressure and the Value of Listening”

You may be feeling the pressure of the gift-giving season. How can you make your gift meaningful? What do you give the person who has everything?

As you plan your giving, I have the perfect gift suggestion; it’s costly and valuable, but you don’t have to spend any money on it. But, first my personal confession…

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 | Twitter

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