Converting Passion to Profit is a podcast by Hugh Ballou, The Transformational Leadership Strategist teaching leaders to convert their ideas into income. Each session is packed with practical concepts for immediate application.
OS 117: 5 Top Challenges for Today's Leaders
Top Challenges for Today’s Leader
Leadership is a general topic that people understand in different ways; in fact people have contrasting and conflicting perceptions of how leaders should behave and what leaders should do. Therefore, there are many gaps between theory and effective performance for leaders. Over the past 31 years in working with leadership in many types of organizations doing different kinds of work and leading different sizes of groups, I have observed these 5 things that are my vision of why many leaders don't make the progress that they are capable of and don't’ get into a stride of continuous improvement that propels them into the place they deserve. So, consequently leaders are over stressed with too many demands on their time, have lower performing teams than expected, and earn less income than possible.
Here are my thoughts as to why these leadership gaps and ways to address each one:
1) Not Understanding True Leadership: We have had leadership bad models and have been taught things that aren’t working today, and may have never worked. The “Boss” or autocratic leader is a thing of the past. Many people in positions of authority use power of position as the leverage to get people to perform. If we truly have a team of competent people, then it’s crucial to let them perform, as they are capable. Telling people what to do isn’t the answer to getting the best results, unless the leader only wants to be around to boss people all the time and do nothing else. This doesn’t develop capacity for anyone and wastes the energy, time and talent of the leader. True leadership in my world is Transformational Leadership where the leader is the influencer, visionary, and empowering agent for others to perform. Leaders lead. Others do. Whoever taught us that we should be willing to do anything we ask others do to most likely didn’t mean that we had to actually do it. If so, why have others anyway?
2) Not Being Vulnerable: Fear of being wrong comes from the misconception that leaders must have all the right answers. It’s more important for leaders to ask good questions and empower others to have the right answers. Saying, “I don’t have the answer” is a true way of being vulnerable. One strength of leadership is being vulnerable by letting other know we don’t have the answers and that we don’t have all the skills. We lead by example and not by bluffing. When we bluff, then people intuitively know it, so we lose credibility. Being authentic is a top trait of the Transformational Leader. In face, we should have a team of people with contrasting skills to ours and people who fill in the gaps of our competencies. What a novel thought, eh?
3) Not Understanding the Value of Relationships: Leadership is based on relationship. Always work on relationships with those in your charge. This is misunderstood by many as having to be “friends” with employees. No, that not the only choice. And it does not mean that the leader must make decisions so that people will like them. The inverse is true. Make principle based decisions so people will respect you. Value and respect people over results, then they become more focused on results along with you. Leadership is relationships. Communication is also enhanced through good relationships.
4) Not Understanding How to Manage Self: Writer Richard Rohr says that, “Transformed people transform people.” He also says, “Wounded people wound people.” Not managing self is a start of building a dysfunctional team. If the leader is anxious, then the team is anxious. If the leader is dishonest, then the team is dishonest. You get the idea.
OS 116: Complexity vs Simplicity
Everything should be as simple as it is, but not simpler.- Albert Einstein
There are at least 200 working days a year. If you commit to doing a simple marketing item just once each day, at the end of the year you've built a mountain.- Seth Godin (http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2012/09/the-simple-power-of-one-a-day.html)*
Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.- Steve Jobs
Complexity to Simplicity: The Transformational Leader Creates Clarity
Our world already has too many choices. I can remember when we only had the telephone to contact people. In fact, when we needed to call long distance, we needed to have the operator place the call. It was a big deal when we could dial 1 to make a long distance call. Then we got FAX machines. We could send documents over phone lines. This saved sending packages by special delivery mail. Then, the next big deal was email! This was an amazing breakthrough allowing us to communicate with people around the globe. Then came pagers. Then we got cell phones. Then came texting. We kept adding things and not taking away anything. More is not better.
We are bombarded each day with so many messages that it's difficult to discern what's important.
We live in a mostly over-stimulated world.
In music masterworks, some of the most profound moments are those with complete silence or a passage that's pianissimo, following a loud, dramatic passage. There's unique power in the quiet times and the times of silence.
It's in silent, quiet times that the presence of God is most felt, not in noisy praise sessions.
It’s the leader’s duty and delight to pay attention to what’s happening and how it happens and separate the noise from the essential messages.
It’s the leader's job to make the complex simple. This is not a simple task. Cutting through the noise and confusion takes focus, concentration, and a lot of effort. Like the Jobs quote above points out, it’s hard work making things simple.
When I was a young piano student, I heard Van Cliburn play a solo concert in Atlanta, Georgia. I was so impressed that he made playing the piano seem easy. It appeared easy because he had practiced. He had done the hard work. He had prepared in order to release his creative energy in performance. Mozart’s music is seemly simple, however it’s so transparent that every note is exposed. It’s delicacy in motion. It’s difficult, not in playing lots of notes, but in precision. Paderewski was known to have said that playing Mozart was simple for the student and very difficult for the teacher. In other words, the simple is difficult.
We want to hide behind complexity as leaders to protect our deficiencies, our insecurities, and our lack of knowledge. Leadership is identifying our gaps. Leadership is asking questions and not knowing all the answers. Leadership is about integrity, honesty, and open communications. We get things done and we know how things get done. If we don’t know, we find out how.
When the musical conductor prepares for a rehearsal, they spend 2 to 3 hours preparing for each hour of rehearsal. There’s no substitute for preparation.
To get to simple takes work. It takes lots of work. The complexity of leadership is in being able to make things simple so others can follow.
We want stimulation.
* http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2012/09/the-simple-power-of-one-a-day.html (http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2012/09/the-simple-power-of-one-a-day.html)
OS 115: Choosing Vs. Not Choosing
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
― Robert Frost
Choices are very important in leadership. Making the wrong choice costs money and potentially damages the organization. The burden is on the leader for making effective and wise choices.
Not making a decision is a choice. Sometimes, paralyzed by the gravity of the choice, leaders stall and can’t decide. Not making a choice is certainly a choice.
What’s the impact of the decision on the organization?
What’s the impact of the decision on relationships?
What’s the impact of the decision on revenue…customer satisfaction…client engagement…stakeholder involvement…?
Asking these questions before making a decision helps leaders recognize the consequences of the decision.
Maybe asking those questions before not making a choice would be good, as well.
Making wise, informed choices is the duty and delight of the leader. Making poor choices can cost a lot more and, certainly, waiting to make a decision increases the cost or impact of the problem to the culture or to profit as the situation gets worse.
The most difficult of choices typically centers on people issues, such as when to terminate the employee, when to give a salary increase, when to correct their behavior, when to challenge a nonparticipating board member, etc. Each of these scenarios causes leaders to shy away from confronting controversial issues.
Pay the upfront cost and deal with the situation as soon as practical. That might be before you get the chance to confront someone on an issue. Waiting only complicates things and provides an opportunity for the conflict, if that’s the issue, to get worse. A small matter becomes nuclear over time.
Delegate action items so you can free up your schedule and your mind to think effectively about complex leadership decisions.
To decide or not…that’s the question.
OS 114: Being Emotional versus Logical Thinking
The point is not to take the world's opinion as a guiding star but to go one's way in life and working unerringly, neither depressed by failure nor seduced by applause.
- Gustav Mahler
Thinking versus Feeling is Transformational Leadership
Leaders lead. The question is…do we lead with our brains or with our hearts?
In my studies in Bowen Family Systems, a profound paradigm for leadership by managing and differentiating self, I have discovered a better way to make difficult decisions. The way is to define guiding principles for self and for the organization we lead, and utilize those principles for making good decisions. This leadership perspective is crucial.
Bowen defines “Basic Self” as following those principles. When the leader makes decisions for other reasons, like to please others, Bowen defines that as “Pseudo Self.” The bottom line for me is that when I make a decision to please someone else, I’m not serving myself or my vision. Ultimately, the person whom we attempt to please will lose respect for us and completely negate the reason we thought was good for making that decision in the first place.
Many leaders lead with their heart and are considered compassionate and caring. Principled leaders who utilize rational thinking and think in systems, are sometimes regarded by feelers as uncaring and insensitive. The latter is not generally true. Making effective decisions in line with principles brings value to everyone and, ultimately, those critics will respect the leader once the results are self-evident.
Leadership perspective is the key.
To counter the feelings of being uncaring and insensitive and maybe inflexible, here are some tactics to consider that are Transformational Leadership basics:
* Define Your Ultimate Vision: Know exactly where you want to end up, and write it in compelling language expressed in present tense. Define it as having already happened. Share the vision with anyone in your space who cares about you or your organization, and with those who will benefit from accomplishing that vision. Check for alignment with the vision with key stakeholders and collaborators.
* Write Down Core Values: Yes, I have blogged about values being useless. That’s true if the values are the final product. Values are the first step in defining the cultural norms. Values are static statements. That’s fine. Just don’t think that these static statements are going to create value just because they have been created. Moving forward, use these values to create Guiding Principles, and build out the goals without violating those values.
* Create Guiding Principles: Guiding Principles are statements that provide guidelines for making effective decisions, both for the leader individually and for the organization as a culture. When you go to a Disney park, it’s very clear that each employee you come across is operating within the company principles…you are the guest and they entertain you. Write separate principles for yourself on how to manage self and how to make thinking decisions. Create a separate, but compatible, set of principles for the organization in collaboration with those in the organization who will support, protect, and teach them to others. Check my post on Guiding Principles (http://transformationalstrategist.com/principles/)for more information.
* Review and Update Principles Regularly: Once written, the principles must then be activated and applied in every decision. To ensure that this happens, develop a routine for evaluating the principles and revising them as necessary. If you hold weekly meetings, review one principle each week and evaluate how effectively the group is following that principle, and review if the principle still reflects the culture, values,
OS 113: Excellence vs Mediocracy
Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren't used to an environment where excellence is expected. - Steve Jobs
As a musical conductor, I...
OS 112: Equality VS Excellence in Diversity
“I believe in equality for everyone, except reporters and photographers.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
We hear lots of noise in conversations and in the media about striving for equality of gender, nationality, and race - equal opportunity - equal rights - equal pay, etc.
Recently in Blacksburg, Virginia, in a session called “Dialogue on Race,” a young African-American presenter used the phrase “Diversity of Excellence” in his presentation. That phrase made so much sense to me. I have adopted the idea and reversed the words to get “Excellence of Diversity.”
The media make up sound bites and promote phrases to get attention and ultimately to get ratings and make money. We all get sucked into this diatribe of mediocrity. We are driven to the bottom…the lowest common denominator…the drivel of sameness.
I say to women leaders, “Why do you want to be equal with men when, in fact, you are better? You offer a different paradigm for leadership and a fresh perspective. You have a skill set that is different. Why not claim your excellence and move to the top rather than attempting to be equal?” Most agree and react as if they feel empowered.
I repeat this question to minority groups and get the same response.
In a society where we have dumbed down our educational system with standardized testing and set the bar to the lowest point in striving for equality, we are teaching each other that mediocrity is the norm. In an address to educators, I heard Alfie Kohn* describe standardized testing as an “Ethnic cleansing of the society.” In Marva Dawn’s book, Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0802841023/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0802841023&linkCode=as2&tag=httpwwwhughba-20&linkId=FTVFVKIOCLKQCDWR), the first chapter is the history of how education has been dumbed down over the years. She then describes how churches have dumbed down to attract new members when, in fact, the mainline denominations are now losing members at an alarming rate. We have clergy working as consultants, teaching pastors what to do as a simple formula for success, rather than reaching out of the broken paradigm and getting wisdom from a different source.
We have no clearly written guiding principles for personal empowerment in leadership for our organizations.
My guiding principle is to strive for excellence through diversity and let the best people do the best work.
Do we get stuck because we are threatened by the excellence of someone who doesn’t look like us?
What’s your opinion?
* The Case Against Standardized Testing: Raising the Scores, Ruining the Schools (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0325003254/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0325003254&linkCode=as2&tag=httpwwwhughba-20&linkId=UVVENYOII2WVRAVC), Alfie Kohn
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Just listened to several episodes and have learned so many small things I currently need to change in ordewr to succeed...Keep up the great work!!!
Thank you for giving us so many nuggets we can apply on a daily basis. I start off my day focused on leadership because of you,
Very insightful! Super helpful!
Hugh Ballou is a true expert and his wisdom will help anyone looking to grow their influence, impact, and efficiency at work.