If No One is Following You Aren’t Leading

images (8)Whether you are in a management position or play a leadership role in your organization, the challenges remain the same. New leadership skills are required for the workplace of today and the next decade. Not everyone chooses to lead – but everyone gets to choose who they want to follow. What do you look for in the leaders you follow?

Worth Remembering … “One of the most important things about being a good leader is to lead with a heart. You have to know the business, but you also have to know what’s at the heart of business and that’s people.” – Oprah Winfrey

Daniel Goleman, in his groundbreaking book Working with Emotional Intelligence, might have said it best: “We are being judged by a new yardstick: not just how smart we are, or by our training and expertise, but also by how well we handle ourselves and each other.” Soft-skills, your ability to communicate and interact more effectively with others, now plays a more pivotal role in your success and the overall success of your organization. You stand little chance of winning the hearts, minds and hands of those you lead without the ability to connect with them.

Worth Remembering … “Communication is the breakfast of Champions.” – Ken Blanchard

All the great leaders: Churchill, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Thatcher, Trudeau and Clinton, they all had one thing in common – they had the ability to communicate. They had the ability to communicate in such a way that you could see a future that you wanted to be part of.  The power of the spoken and unspoken word can’t be overlooked. The words you choose and how you go about saying them can be a catalyst for action or in-action. You can build people up or tear them down simply by the tone of your voice and the non-verbal message your body language sends. Regardless of your political beliefs, President Barack Obama’s ability to communicate and connect with others inspired a Nation – and changed our World forever. Agreed, leaders also need to be patient, understanding, flexible and great listeners. But, if you can’t communicate in a way that others will want to follow – then you aren’t leading.

I believe you aren’t born a great communicator but, I believe you can learn to become one. Here are a few suggestions on ways to communicate and interact more effectively with others.

  • Provide regular opportunities for informal, casual discussions. This is a great exercise for building collaborative teams.
  • Check for points of disagreement or misunderstanding by being more intuitive to the non-verbal signals being sent. Ask closed questions for clarity. Ask open-ended questions to promote dialogue.
  • Listen more than you talk.
  • When giving instructions use direct, to-the-point communication without a lot of social chatter. Too much information muddies the water and tends to confuse rather than inform.
  • Use two-way dialogue, responding to a person’s feelings is just as important as what is being said.

Give them a try. After all – the worse thing that could happen is you’ll draw a crowd. And for today’s leaders, that’s not such a bad thing.

Copyright (C) 2013. Brian Smith – Reformed Control Freak. Brian is available for speaking engagements and seminars on a variety of topics including: communication, dealing with difficult people and challenging situations and leadership development. To find out more visit http://briansmithpld.com

Trust Matters – Without It You Have Nothing 3

Trust 2People won’t trust anyone they don’t respect first. Have you ever met someone for the very first time and thought, “Oh, yuck – What a dink”? (And I don’t mean Double Income No Kids.) You didn’t know why – you just knew that there was something about that person you didn’t like. But, after you spent some time with them, and got to know them better, did you ever change your mind? Building relationships and establishing trust with the people you work with and interact with is crucial to your overall success as a manager and business leader. Trust matters – Without it you have nothing. Once you lose the trust and confidence of your team mates – you lose your ability to manage and lead them.

Worth Remembering … “If you want to be interesting – you first must be interested.” – Dale Carnegie

Trust and respect do not come automatically just because you’ve been given a title. You must earn both, one person at a time. Establishing trust between you and the people you work with is a 3-step process that I refer to as the 3 R’s – Rapport, Relationships and Respect. It’s a process that everyone must go through when meeting someone for the very first time. Some people will go through these steps more quickly than others. But it’s a journey that everyone has to go on. A close friend of mine is great at this. She can meet someone for the very first time and within minutes they are carrying on a conversation as if they have known each other for ever. People just naturally open up to her. She is also great at remembering names. (I have to admit I’m not so good at this) Think how powerful it would be if you could remember someone’s name, their children’s names, their birthdays and interests and you were able to remember them and use it in a conversation.

The 3 R’s – Building Relationships to Last

Step One: Rapport.  The first step is to build rapport. Find out something about the other person other than the job that they do. Do they have hobbies? Are they married? Do they have children? What do they like to do in their spare time? You need to be able to carry on a conversation with them on a subject that they enjoy talking about. Idle chit-chat is important if you want to develop rapport. You can’t take the next step without first establishing rapport.

Step Two: Relationships. The second step in establishing trust with the people you work with and interact with are relationships. Successful salespeople understand the value of building relationships with their clients. They understand that people choose to do business with people they like. The same holds true for the people on your team. People like to work with and hang out with people they like. No one wants to let a friend down. A recent Gallop survey revealed that companies with less than 10 employees or small teams within the organization have the most committed workers.

Step Three: Respect. The final step in establishing trust is respect. Always keep in mind that people won’t respect anyone they haven’t built a relationship with first. Respect is reciprocal. Try this little experiment. The next time you go into a shopping mall or office building that has a double set of doors – open the first set of doors for the people behind you. I will bet you that someone within that group will hold the second door open for you. Respect works the same way. If you give it – you’ll get it – but you must give it first.  People feel obligated to return the favor. It’s part of our DNA.

Worth Remembering … “Trust is to human relationships what faith is to gospel living.” – Barbara Smith

If you have navigated the 3-step process successfully you will be able to establish trust in your relationship with your team. Without mutual trust and respect, your team will abandon you and you will eventually fail. You might be able to bully them into doing things they don’t want to do in the short-term but, it will come around to bite you in the end. (Pun intended) What goes around comes around. Having trouble establishing trust? Try my 3-step process and let me know how things work out. – 🙂

Copyright (c) 2013. Brian Smith – Reformed Control Freak. Looking for a speaker? Planning a lunch-n-learn or training session on soft-skills or leadership development? DM me – Let’s talk. briansmithpld@gmail.com or visit http://briansmithpld.com to find out more.

Without a Rudder Any Direction Will Do

images (6)It doesn’t matter how much wind you have in your sails, without a rudder, you stand little chance of ending up where you wanted to go. Life is a planned event – wishing and hoping won’t make it so. Hedge your bet for success and make a list of what needs to happen for you to accomplish your goals. We have a tendency sometimes to do what we like to do first – not what needs to be done, so prioritize the items on your list and the expected date of completion for each one to help keep you on course.

Don’t let yourself get discouraged or side tracked, keep your eye on the “prize” and remember why you are doing what you are doing. Think of all the good things that will come your way. Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed with the number of things you need to do before you arrive at your destination. Be patient, take one step at a time, accomplish one thing at a time and you will eventually realize your dream.

Be Confident: Be confident in your own ability to accomplish what ever you set out to do. Be confident that no matter what roadblocks you come across you will find a way around them or over them.

Be Competent: Know what you know but, more importantly, know what you don’t know. You aren’t born knowing all you need to know. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. Asking for help is a sign of strength. No one ever accomplished great things alone.

Use Common Sense: The only thing common about common sense is that it’s not very common. Common sense should be called life sense. It just seems to me that the older we get – the smarter we get. Learn from your mistakes. And trust me, you’re going to make mistakes. Look at mistakes as your opportunity to grow, as your opportunity to try again but this time  more aware of what not to do. Remember that failing and falling down is not the issue. Not getting back up and trying again is.

So adjust your sails, take a look at your map and keep your rudder pointed in the direction of your goals. And most importantly, enjoy the journey. I wish you good sailing. 🙂

Copyright (c) 2013. Brian Smith-PLD. Looking for a speaker, planning a lunch-n-learn or training session? Visit http://briansmithpld.com. Let’s talk.

The Art of Managing and Leading in the 21st Century 3

images (1)It doesn’t matter what environment you work in – retail, manufacturing, construction or the corporate world, the challenges remain the same. New leadership skills are required for the workplace of today and the next decade. Your success as a manager or business leader is no longer dependent on your technical ability alone. Soft-skills – your ability to communicate and interact more effectively with others, now plays a more pivotal role in your success and the overall success of your organization. It doesn’t matter what book you read, the workshops you participate in, or the seminars you attend, know for certain that there are no silver bullets here. Unless you are committed to a new way of managing and leading others you will get left behind. The workplace is changing and if you don’t adapt to keep pace with those changes you stand the risk of falling by the wayside.

Do you feel at times that your staff are turned off or have tuned out? Is it getting more challenging to motivate others? Are you finding it difficult to attract or retain talent? You are not alone. Gallup’s ongoing survey findings indicate that 70 % of workers are not engaged. According to Gallup   “Millennials are most likely of all the generations to say that they will leave their jobs in the next 12 months if the job market improves”. If you want to re-engage the disengaged and attract new talent then you need to master the art of managing and leading in the 21st Century.

The Four Step Leadership Development Model (C)

I believe the key to retaining and attracting new talent is to develop and fashion your leadership style around these four easier said then done disciplines:

Congregate: People work for people they like. Learn how to build collaborative teams and develop those all important relationships.  No one is successful by themselves. Together everyone achieves more. Always keep in mind that you need your people a great deal more than they need you.

Communicate: If you can’t communicate, then you can’t manage or lead others. If you can’t communicate in a language that others will understand – then whatever you say will mean absolutely nothing. You can never communicate too much. Be open and receptive to what others have to say. Give your people a voice.

Educate: People aren’t born knowing what they need to know – it’s a learned behavior. It’s your responsibility as a manager or leader to teach them the skills needed to take the organization to where it needs to go. Take the time to discover what your people do well and then put them in positions where they can play to their strengths.

Delegate: Surround yourself with people who do some things better than you do. You’ve got to give up control to get control. If you aren’t sharing some of your responsibilities with the people around you  – you are robbing them of their opportunity to grow. Resist the urge to micro-manage.

Copyright (C) 2013. Brian Smith. Excerpts taken from Brian’s soon to be published second book – “Leadership Lessons from a Reformed Control Freak – The Art of Managing and Leading in the 21st Century” (C) To find out more visit http://briansmithpld.com