No matter what level of leadership you are at in an organization you will be asked at some point to create a plan. This plan will be born out of the organization’s visions and directed towards meeting one or more of your goals. But, how do you accomplish that effectively?
That is a question I get asked a lot. The good news is the process is pretty simple. The bad news is the process takes a lot of focused, dedicated, and intentional work to get to the final answer.
First, let’s discuss the process. It revolves around asking four questions over and over until they can’t be answered anymore. What are those questions?
If you have a clear understanding of the organization’s vision then this one should be easy. The answer to this question should always be some variation of, “Because it moves us towards X goal.” If that isn’t the answer then the real answer is that it isn’t worth doing in the first place. So, your real goal here is to make sure the effort is aligned with the overall vision and goals.
Once you have determined the action is worth taking you need to ask how can you accomplish it? This is the strategy you will use to achieve success. The first time you ask this question the answer will be fairly broad but it will narrow each time you ask it again.
Now that you have identified how you have to ask, “What do we need?” This question is where you identify the resources you have available. If you don’t have them available then you go back to “how?” How do you get the resources?
You always want to give each step its own time component. “When can this piece be accomplished by?” Take the answer and set a date.
Be sure as you are answering these questions you aren’t doing it alone. You must have your team involved along the way. By doing so you get better answers, find better solutions, and you make the plan their plan. You generate buy-in because you generate ownership. That, in and of itself, increases the effectiveness of the plan.
That is it. By repetitively asking these questions until they no longer need to be answered you will have the plan. You created it from the top down with the overall vision and goals at mind and checked that alignment at each step so there are no moral or ethical obligations to worry about. You have identified each incremental step that needs to be taken to achieve success, you have a complete plan.
All that is left now it to execute. But, by knowing the small pieces of the plan and having incremental milestones to celebrate along the way you have even taken the sting out of that a little bit. People love achieving. By not having some obscure plan with no real measurables you have built in points where the team can actually stop and celebrate those achievements and that motivates them to hit the next point.
Now, think of a time when you had to create a plan for your team. What method did you use? How did it work for you? Do you wish you had followed this process instead?
Hit me with your feedback, I look forward to hearing your tips as well.
What did the election really teach us?
Since the night of Nov. 8th, 2016 and the world found out Donald Trump would be the next President of the United States of America there has been a lot of discussion about what is wrong with our election system. The problem is almost every discussion has missed the real problem, the two party system we have fallen into.
What is wrong with the two-party system?
On the surface, the two-party system in the US may not seem like a bad way to operate. It has served us fairly well for many years. But, it flies in the face of everything we know to be true about problem solving, team building, diversity, and leadership!
How so, you may be asking? Steadily over the years each party has mainstreamed their party philosophy so well that Congress is essentially comprised of 4 members, one from each party in each chamber, instead of the 535 members it is intended to have. When you homogenize such an important team to that level it is no wonder we are seeing the issues we are as a Nation.
Why are more parties the answer?
Professor Scott Page has made a name for himself in the world of diversity, specifically in the area of cognitive diversity. Mr. Page’s research has led to the development of an equation that has been proven fairly accurate in each situation it has been tested against. That equation is; Collective Accuracy = Average Accuracy + Diversity.
What this tells us is the more diversity we add to our teams the higher the accuracy of the final solution. The more important the decision being made the more important the diversity of the team becomes. Think of each party like a unique person on your team. They will each bring a different perspective to the same solution and allow you to view it from more angles. This means the final outcome will be a much better, well-rounded, and more appealing solution than is you just have two parties making it.
Personally, I can’t think of a team that makes grander, more important, decisions than them United States Congress. U.S. Congress makes decisions on a constant basis that have immense global impacts. So why do we leave those decisions, essentially, up to two thought streams?
Now is the time for more parties!
With the importance of Congress’ decisions only rising now is the time for the American voter to embrace the concepts of cognitive diversity and get comfortable exploring, and electing, 3rd, 4th, and even 5th party candidates. We need more perspectives, more eyes on these critical issues in order to come to better solutions.
So, I urge each of you to take this time in between election cycles to do your homework. Find your true voice and let us all lead the way in building a much better team in our United States Congress. This is truly a situation where each and every U.S. Citizen has a leadership role!
I’ve said it before, leadership is one of the trickiest words in the English language to fully understand. In fact some would argue that you never really can understand it all. I consider myself one of those “some”. Why? Well, today’s post will outline the paradox of leadership. I will also give you some tips on how to navigate through it. Let’s dig in!
You are simultaneously the most important factor and not the most important factor in your organization! Let that sink in just a second, you are simultaneously the most important factor and not the most important factor in your organization. You are probably already asking yourself, “How can I be both the most and not the most?” Well, we will explore that by breaking down both sides.
You Are The Most Important Factor
Leaders and their leadership are the most important factor in an organizations success. The tone they set, the examples they display, and the culture they foster are all critical elements that define success or failure. Their guidance can be the difference between sustainability and decay.
This is a responsibility you must take seriously. Not only do your teammates depend on you and your guidance but so do their families. For every team member you have you should view them as at least 2-4 people once you include families into the mix. That makes you and your skills the most important factor in your organization.
Your Team Is The Most Important Factor
No amount of leadership will make up for bad and under-performing teams. High performing and innovative team members are the most important factor in an organization’s success. True, it is your responsibility to pick the right people and this makes you one of the most important factors again but after that it is up to those people to take initiative and ownership of the organization to keep her successful. These teams and their performance represent the reputation of the organization. From the front desk receptionist to the CEO, bad team members contribute to bad reputations and good team members contribute to good reputations.
Furthermore, you will not be around forever. The people you bring in are the future of the organization. In order to build a strong, successful, and legacy generating organization the people you bring in must be of the highest quality and by in to the mission completely.
Balancing The Paradox
Balancing out these factors requires a high level of maturity, unselfishness, and willingness to see others succeed. The leader must balance when to lead with when to follow and do it so seamlessly that nearly nobody notices. This paradox is a big reason why two of the principles even exist, know yourself and know your team. Mastering these is the only way to arm yourself with the knowledge necessary to make the right choices.
It also helps to accept this paradox and remember you can do nothing about it. If you truly believe that you are simultaneously the most important and not the most important factor to your organization you become more comfortable transitioning between the two roles. When it comes your time to be important you will know it is true and when it is your time to empower and step back you will also know that it is true.
This paradox has existed since man began forming tribes. At times we need a leader to make all the decisions and other times we need it to be a team effort. Every time we have gone astray it is because we did not accept and honor this simple fact. Dictatorships occur because the team is never the most important and anarchy rules when there is not a leader that is most important.
What I am about to tell you is something you likely already know. You succeed as a team or fail as a leader. You may not realize you know it but, thanks to your personal experiences in life, you will know it is true by the end of this post. It is a concept so integral to leadership and team building that Jocko Willink and Leif Babin made it the focus of their first chapter in Extreme Ownership. In this chapter Jocko relays the story of a mission in Ramadi, Iraq that went sideways in one of the worst ways possible.
The short version (For the details you should read the book, great read!) is that , despite intensive planning and coordination of the mission there were a lot of small failures that took place leading up to the actual execution of the mission that l;ed to one fatal mistake and several near fatal mistakes. As is typical when mistakes of this magnitude occur there would be an investigation that would follow. As the SEAL in charge of the mission Jocko would be tasked to do a thorough analysis, write the report, and brief it out. While gathering this information he quickly discovered many contributing errors. He knew the higher ups would be looking for someone to blame and it was clear they would have their pick of people. Hell, Jocko could have picked any one of several people to completely dump blame onto but, he did not. He took full responsibility. He took Extreme Ownership!
You see, Jocko understood the simple that you succeed as a team or fail as a leader. In fact he writes in this chapter, ” On any team in an organization, all responsibility for success and failure rests with the leader. The leader must own everything in his or her world.” He goes on a bit later to say this about leadership, “It mandates that a leader set ego aside, accept responsibility for failures, attack weaknesses, and consistently work to build a better and more effective team. Such a leader, however, does not take credit for his or her team’s successes but bestows that honor upon his subordinate leaders and team members.”
Wow! Now tell me you wouldn’t already follow that guy to hell and back! Leaders how do this, who reach this level of Extreme Ownership as they call it, set excellent examples and positively influence the organizational culture. This culture will not fear failure because they will not be thrown under the boss, they will learn from it, they will implement change to prevent it from happening again, and they will move on as a team. This removal of fear relieves pressure, promotes innovation, promotes deeper teamwork, actually reduces mistakes thanks to the increase in personal ownership, and in general builds stronger teams.
The team succeeds because it is led well. It fails because the leader has failed the team. There is no way around this truth. As I wrote here, get comfortable with the phrase, “It’s my fault!”
Now, I can practically hear you screaming at me right now. You are likely thinking, “No, mister know-it-all! We failed because X showed up late to the meeting!” No, Mr. or Mrs. Leader, you failed for one of several reasons. Perhaps you didn’t clearly state the time and date of the meeting. Perhaps being on time is not part of the culture you have fostered so being late is not considered to be a big deal. Perhaps you failed to emphasize the importance of the meeting. Perhaps you have a message on your phone that you missed stating this individual was in an accident and would be late due to unforeseen circumstances.Or, perhaps you had the wrong person on your team to begin with. In any case, its your fault and you need it identify why it happened and take corrective action so it does not happen again so your team will succeed next time.
“But, but, what if we failed because Y just didn’t execute the plan properly?” They may not have executed the plan but that is your fault. Perhaps they were never capable of executing the plan and you chose them for it anyway. Perhaps the plan was flawed and in-executable. Perhaps the plan was too rigid and needed adjustments but you have built a culture that does not foster adapting on the fly and requires several layers of checks for changes and by the time approval was granted for change the objective slipped away.
Again, team succeed because they are led well and equipped with the tools, culture, responsibility, trust, and sense of ownership needed to succeed. They fail because they are led poorly. It truly is that simple. You may think you have done a great job at all of these and that you have led your team well. The only way you truly measure that is by successes and failures. Own the failures, adapt your approach and correct them. Acknowledge the team for success and build off of what worked and what you did well.
So, do you still not believe me? Then I challenge you to post up a scenario and let’s talk through it. I guarantee you that we will find where you failed your team and how we can fix it to increase your leadership success!
Okay, so in total it will be way more than three words but by the end of this article you will have the three words I believe best truly describe millennials. What may surprise you is that they are not going to be words like lazy, selfish, or entitled. No, I believe these words should be tossed out of the millennial conversation all together. I mean, are there lazy, selfish, and entitled millennials? Sure thing! But really no more than any other generation has had. Which is why I really do not understand the bad reputation this generation gets. If you by into the millennial trashing you are missing out and I am here to change your mind!
So, now, onto those three words!
Millennial Word One:
The first word I am going to use is, misunderstood. Yes, millennials really are just misunderstood. They are motivated by vastly different things than previous generations. I think the main reason for this is, thanks to technology and social media, they have more tools to cause more change easier at a smaller scale.
In previous generations there was a pecking order of sorts. You worked hard, made money, and then you turned to philanthropy. Well, millennials don’t have to follow that model anymore and they know it. They can find a cause, create a movement around it, market that movement, make money doing it, and change the world. There are countless programs out there that are millennial run and operated that have built schools, provided food and clean water, provided clothing, vaccinations, housing, and even employment to the less fortunate around the world.
What some see as just bumming around the world on donations and profits from “cheap” products is really an individual hell-bent on making a difference in the world through the best mechanism they have to do so. Don’t dismiss millennial endeavors just because you don’t understand what makes them tick!
Now, lets talk a little bit about the lazy part. There is a magic statistic that everyone loves to quote that millennials “quit” their job every 4 years on average. That isn’t entirely true. They don’t quit as much as they outgrow their current positions at that rate. The reason they leave is most organizations are not nimble enough to take advantage of that growth.
Millennials are driven by two words that are near and dear to veterans like myself. Those are task and purpose. They are driven by the purpose that calls to them and are loyal to the tasks that help them reach that purpose. If you and your organization do not fill those roles then they will find a place that will.
Finally, they do not tolerate bad business and/or bad leadership. As an entrepreneur today you have an immense pressure to provide a great, purpose driven business model and lead them well. If you don’t someone else will, or, they will strike out on their own and lead themselves.
The point of this section is that all the problems we like to lump on the millennial generation are as much, if not more, our problems than they are theirs. Take a look at yourself and your business before you just blame it on a “lazy and entitled generation.”
Millennial Word Two:
The second word I am going to use is, disruptive. Now, you have no doubt heard this word a LOT lately. And I do mean a LOT! Well, millennials are nothing if not disruptive and I mean that in all the best possible ways the word can be taken.
You see, that misunderstood passion for creating world change coupled with the technological leaps and the ease of messaging through social media have allowed millennials to disrupt the status quo in ways no other generation has ever been able to before. They disrupt through problem solving and they do it regularly.
Homeless people don’t have shoes due to cost? Give a motivated millennial a half a second and they will be connecting you with cheap shoes made in a small village half the globe away that will not only enable the homeless to have shoes but provide employment to the villagers. And they believe they can because they have been inspired by those who came before them just at the tail end of Gen X, sometimes referred to as “cuspers” because they are on the cusp of the generational transition point, like Blake MyCoskie of Toms.
Truth is, if you see a problem today and you want to fix it you NEED to have millennials on your team.
Millennial Word Three:
The third word I will use is, greatest 2.0. And, yes, in the modern era that is still one word!
Remember you heard it from me that the millennial generation will go down in history as The Greatest Generation 2.0. Millennials comprise over 70% of the active duty U.S. military and have now been at war longer than any other generation in U.S. history. When you couple the natural resourcefulness and problem solving I spoke about earlier with the discipline and leadership skills instilled by military service and combat experience you have the next Greatest Generation and they are already living up to that name you just haven’t realized it because they don’t fit the stereotype.
Just look around you at the number of veteran run businesses that pop up. They are businesses that are innovating their fields and changing lives.
Misunderstood, Disruptive, Greatest 2.0
So, the next time you feel like cracking jokes and belittling millennials just remember these three words. Take the time to understand them. Don’t be afraid of their disruption. Above all else, recognize them for all their generation has actually lived through already and understand that you are witnessing The Greatest Generation 2.0 finding their feet and beginning to reshape the world!
Team building is an important aspect of any organization and building strong teams is the sign of a great leader. The best part of it all is that team building is amazingly simple if you make the right investments. There are three essential investments you must make to build high performing, resilient and successful teams.
These aren’t monetary investments, money can’t buy good teams. No, these are investments made by and of the leader and the organization. So, what are these three amazing team building investments? Continue reading →
You’ve heard it a million times by now, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast!” WRONG! Culture is simply a part of a a triangle for success. Culture, strategy and the team make up the three sides of this triangle. So, lets talk about culture and explore the entirety of this success triangle for you to measure and guide your organization with.
Culture is obviously important but how well do you understand what it is? Culture, simply put, is the average behavior of your organization. This means it is important for you to be cautious in what behaviors you allow to flourish.
If you allow and encourage good behaviors then you will have a good culture. If you allow bad behaviors to thrive you will have a bad culture. Or, as Larry Winget puts it, “Nip it in the bud!” The basic idea is what you allow to exist in your organization means that behavior is what you condone. What you condone over a long period of time becomes your culture.
Now, here is the kicker. What I just said trumps anything you will say to your team. What I mean by that is that no matter what you tell your team acceptable behavior is doesn’t matter as much as what you actually do to enforce it. If you tell your team you have a no gossip culture but you tolerate gossip then you actually have a gossip culture. If you tell your team punctuality is a part of your culture but you allow people to show up late then punctuality means nothing to your culture.
Guard and nourish your culture!
Team is another side to the triangle. All the culture in the world won’t save you if you don’t have the right team to foster and promote it with you. This is why knowing the culture you want is important before you hire any team members or any new team members.
You see, this is a critical step a lot of organizations skip in their hiring process. They hire based on resumes or answers to the same interview questions hiring officials have been using for years. What you really need to look for in hiring is the right person. You can fill in minor competency gaps with on the job training for the right people. One way to do that is ask a new question.
The flip-side is that it is much more difficult to train highly qualified people to fit into your organizational culture. All the qualifications don’t matter if they clash and disrupt your current environment in a negative way. Don’t tolerate bad behaviors that don’t fit for the sake of credentials.
Strategy completes the triangle. You need a strong culture, the team that can live in it and a strategy to guide the organization to success. But not just any strategy will do. The strategy has to match the other two sides.
Just like any other pyramid, if one side isn’t like the others the whole thing will collapse. When that happens you are left with nothing mess to clean up and a decision to make. Do you move on or try again? Tip: You should almost always try again.
Bringing it all together
Now that you know what the three components are, where do you start? My suggestion will be with strategy. While I do believe that culture is the foundation of an organization it is strategy that dictates how the other two sides are constructed. A popular example of this is Zappos!. You have probably heard their story a few times by now but I’m going to use them again anyway.
Zappos did not set out to be a shoe company that was great at customer service. They set out to be a great customer service company that sold shoes. But, what if they hadn’t known that in the beginning and stayed with wanting to be a show company that provided customer service? What could the difference have been? Let’s look at each scenario and how it could of played out versus how it did.
Shoe company that provides great customer service: The focus of this strategy is being a shoe company. Customer service is secondary. Yes, it is still the desired culture but it isn’t the primary strategical focus. The means when hiring an emphasis would likely be placed on knowledge of shoes versus customer service. This view could lead to a team with much heavier shoe expertise than customer service expertise which would make the desired culture more difficult to achieve. The sides of the triangle would not match and the organization would have spent a lot of time trying to even them out or, worse, collapsed in on itself.
Actually, there is one other possibility that may have been worse. They could have compromised and changed their strategy so they could just be happy being another shoe company. Which would have likely only prolonged a collapse. It is never a good idea to make an organization something it just wasn’t mean to be.
Customer service company that sells shoes: This strategy clearly embraces the desired culture of customer service first. As soon as hiring begins people are hired more for their customer service skills than shoe knowledge. As a result they ended up with a great team that bought into the culture and executed the strategy. The sides of the triangle were pretty even and fit together well and the organization is a success.
Now, sure, there are exceptions. Maybe with the first scenario they would have ended up with a team with “good enough” customer service and improved from there. Or, in the second scenario, they could have ended up with a team that didn’t know enough about shoes and had a lot of teaching to do there. The point is if you have the clearly defined strategy, clearly defined strategy and the team that buys into both you are much more likely to see success.
It was a hot, humid day in Biloxi, MS back in 1998. I was in the USMC Basic Weather Observer School which was part of a join training command at Keesler Air Force Base. We had just finished a long day of training and were on the mile march back to the Marine Corps Detachment barracks when our platoon heard some god awful yelling and screaming going on. Now, considering most of us had just finished boot camp and Marine Combat Training we knew what go awful yelling and screaming meant. Somebody messed up.
Across the filed we saw an Army kid getting railed by an older Army guy. You could tell by their clothing who they were with. You could also make out a few words here an there but, suffice it to say, if you are going at somebody hard enough to make a Marine do a double take you are pulling off an impressive feat. Our platoon leader at the time stopped us, gathered us around and had us take a knee and then he uttered what has become one of my favorite phrases.
Anyone can yell and scream to get somebody to do what they want. A leader just has to ask and you will want to do it for them. – Sgt. Saxton
It took a few years and a lot of other bad examples for the full weight of those words to sink in but it was a profound piece of knowledge. It summed up the difference between influence and authority very well while emphasizing the importance of tact and bearing in good leadership.
So, ask yourself this question, “Does my team do what I ask because they are afraid of my reaction or because they are bought in to my vision?” If the answer is that they are afraid of your reaction then I strongly urge you to get your leadership back to the basics and master the 25 Leadership Fundamentals and begin rebuilding yourself as a leader. If it is the second, keep up the good work and don’t forget what got you there.
During the recent years of economic down turn, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, teen unemployment rates have been near or at record lows. This has created many problems for the current generation. It has not only hit them in the wallet but deprived them of some of the more important developmental skills many of today’s successful individuals have identified as critical tot heir success. You see, flipping burgers and earning minimum wage has never been about making a living as much as it has been about learning skills to take with you into the next phases of life.
Sure, the economy turned that upside down for a while and dropped those already in that next phase back into the minimum wage ranks. This means highly skilled workers who lost jobs went back to flipping burgers and took those jobs and opportunities from the current generation. So, what does this all mean?
What is the big concern?
In my point of view, the biggest concerns are the lost life lessons. These lessons include time management, money management, teamwork, general responsibility as well as customer service and leadership lessons, both good and bad. Think about it, when you look back on your first experiences in these areas they, usually, go directly back to your first employment. For some that could be as early as a lemonade stand before you even broke double digits in age. But, for most it is that first summer job at a grocery store, fast food establishment or other sector that seemed to specialize in short-term, high turnover employment.
So, the short-term effects may be more obvious. For instance, we can quantify lost income and tax revenue and relate that to drops in the sales of items that income is usually spent on. What I mean here is that your average teenager will spend their money on items differently than your middle-aged worker trying to keep their family fed.
The long-term effects, however, are not completely identifiable. We can generalize them but we may never know the true value of the loss of these experiences. Some kids will have found ways to fill the void but others won’t be so lucky. What impact will these lost leadership lessons have on the future?
Filling the void
This is why it is important for society, as a whole, to look for opportunities to fill those voids and provide alternatives sources for these experiences. Following are some suggestions for parents, schools, businesses, churches and personal solutions.
If your child is having difficulty finding after school employment, do them a favor and provide it. This is a good time to get them doing chores, if they aren’t already. Instead of hiring a lawn service, teach them how to mow and when to fertilize and pay them for it. Instead of hiring someone to clean the windows, give them a squeegee and a ladder and let them earn some cash. Even better, help them market themselves for these services to the neighborhood. The important part is teaching them responsibility and work ethic. Critique the work and provide the type of feedback they would get from a manager and help them learn to manage their time and money. This also teaches them to be more creative, independent and just might instill an entrepreneurial spark that takes off.
Now, more than ever, extra-curricular activities are important. We all know schools are facing tight budgets like everybody else, but, expanding these programs to include one or two more students each will be an immeasurable investment. Also, get creative and look for other programs you may not have going already.Does your school have an economics club, or, mock stock investing club? Or, perhaps, even entrepreneurs club? If not, and you have the resources, think about starting these up. They can be a fun way to fill a need and engage more students.
Now would be a great time to expand volunteer and internship opportunities. Believe it or not, there are students of the college and high school ages that are looking for opportunity and experience. Take a chance, invest in them and build some loyalty. Who knows, the kid you give a chance today could be the next best thing that happened to your company tomorrow.
Your role, right now, is very much like business. Look for opportunities to expand your community involvement and draw on this demographic as a resource to accomplish that. Provide them with mentors and guidance while giving them the opportunity to enjoy community style service. It will give them a sense of investment and the experiences of teamwork and customer service.
You are the most important factor in your life. No, that’s not saying to be selfish but it is pointing out that you hold all the power. Are the opportunities described in the bullet points above available to you? Do you know for sure or are you just guessing? If they are not available, have you contacted the appropriate party to try to get them going?
You would be surprised what going to a parent, business, school leader or church official with an idea and a plan can accomplish. The point is, just because things are tougher right now doesn’t mean you have to sit back and roll with it. Some of the greatest opportunities in life are the ones you create for yourself.