26 Leadership Thoughts

(Ideas Related to Each Letter of the Alphabet)

Authenticity: It sounds like a challenging concept but it’s actually quite easy – simply be yourself.  No B.S.  No facades.  That authenticity builds trust between you and your team. 

Bench Strength: If you’re not thinking about and doing rigorous succession planning, think again…Your job as a leader isn’t just managing today’s team – it’s also preparing tomorrow’s team and being ready for the inevitable turnover that comes with any organization.  Build your succession plan.  Now.

Courage: Take a stand for your beliefs.  Don’t let people get thrown under the bus – instead jump between them and the bus and take the hit.  Have some intestinal fortitude to right the wrongs around you despite the cost and risk to you personally.

Delegation: You can’t do it all yourself (even if you think you’ll do it better than they will).  The hallmark of a great leader is being able to let go and let one’s people do things while the leader sets direction, procures resources, and provides motivation.  Let go.

Entrepreneurship: Foster it.  Even huge companies were start-ups at one point in their growth.  Encourage your people to take risks, to build new things, and to challenge existing ways of doing business.  Your business will change.  Either you can change it or the world will change it for you.

Feedback: if you’re not delivering difficult messages to the members of your team when they need to hear those messages, you’re doing them a disservice.  Delivering a tough message is essential to great leadership. Learn how to deliver it well, and don’t forget to “feed-forward” for what you want to see in the future.

Gratitude: Demonstrate it.  Let people know you’re thankful for all they do to make you and the company look good.  Your team needs to know you appreciate their hard work.  A simple thank you note can go a long way.

Humor: See the funny in the frustrating.  When you step back from the frustration and the seriousness, work is pretty absurd and silly.  If you can see the humor in it (and help others to do so as well), the stress level in your organization will be significantly lower than it is today.

Initiative: Take it. Yes, this requires you to assume risk.  That’s the mantle of leadership.  Go out and make mistakes.  Who knows? You may actually get it right and have a huge positive impact.  And if you don’t, you’ve certainly learned something new.

Justice: Dish it out.  When you see unjust behavior, no matter how small, if you let it go without consequences, you’re implicitly condoning it.  Be fair, be fast, and be just.  No one said your job was easy and this will require you to deliver some tough messages. 

Knowledge: Build your knowledge daily.  Read.  Do research.  Look up words or facts you don’t know.  Talk with experts outside your field.  If you constantly seek new sources of knowledge, you’ll be better at spotting risks and opportunities than your competitors.

Leadership: You manage things; you lead people.  Remember – leadership is the art of influencing, setting direction, and inspiring others to take action because they share your vision and goals.  Stop thinking the management tasks you’re performing are leadership.

Managing Up: A major part of your job is buffering for your team.  You need to protect them from distractions and so they can get their work done.  You may be the only shield between them and corporate/company demands.

Negativity: Stop right now.  When the team hears you complaining, not only does it destroy morale, concern them, and make you look immature, it also gives them the right to complain themselves.  Negativity is a cancer.  Prevent it starting with yourself.

Opportunities: Are you creating opportunities for your people to grow, fail, learn, and succeed?  You have to create those stretch assignments and projects if you ever expect them to become more than they are today.

Philosophy: Every leader should have and share their own personal leadership philosophy.  It’s a simple statement of your beliefs and it will help you set expectations and maintain standards. Craft a clear concise philosophy.  

Quitting Time: We work to live, not live to work.  You set an example for balance for your team.  If you don’t know when to quit and go home, they’ll follow your bad example and you’ll burn them out.  Be reasonable about what you ask of yourself because implicitly you’re asking the same of them.

Responsibility: Accountability is an external force holding you to a standard of performance.  Ownership is holding yourself accountable to meeting the standard.  It’s intrinsic.  Make the leap from accountability to ownership.

Strategy: Have one.  It doesn’t matter how big or small your organization is – as a leader you need to articulate a clear destination, goals, and define the path to get there.  If you don’t, your people are wandering aimlessly.

Thinking Time: Carve out at least 4 hours per month to do nothing but think.  Remove distractions and evaluate the major issues your organization faces.  Your job is to look out over the horizon – not to look down at the road you’re driving on.

Under-promise – Over-deliver: Make commitments you know you can keep but always seek to surprise to the upside.  Too many people over-promise and under-deliver, which is a recipe for disaster.  Manage expectations well but then give people more than they thought they’d ever get.

Vision: You need to look into the future and tell people what to expect. Create a picture of the future that is inspiring. Their job is to drive and maintain the bus. Your job is to set the destination and keep your eyes on the horizon to look for unexpected bumps in the road.

Why?:  Ask this question a lot.  Ask why you do things the way you do and if there are new/better ways to do it.  Ask your people why they did something or why they feel a certain way.  You’ll understand them better and be better able to lead them. 

Xenophobia: Avoid it. We’re increasingly global and interconnected.  Celebrate the diversity of your team, your partners, and your customers.  Go to faraway lands to find new people, new opportunities, and new perspectives.  Stop being insular. 

Yelling: Seriously?  No yelling in the workplace unless you’re trying to get someone’s attention as a 1 ton anvil falls from the sky toward their head.  Yelling is crass not to mention ineffective.  Besides, speaking calmly and softly is much, much more effective.

Zebra Cakes: always have some on hand.  They’re good for boosting blood sugar during afternoon doldrums.  I mean, who doesn’t love Zebra Cakes?

Which letters are your favorites?  What would you add to this list?  Adapted from:

Mike Figliuolo – thoughtLEADERS LLC

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You may have noticed the buzz about employer branding over the last several years. As the digital information age continues to flourish, there is a growing awareness among top executives that managing their company’s public, consumer-facing brand isn’t enough. They must also manage their reputation as employers.

The global economy is rapidly changing, leaving 73 percent of CEOs worried about having the right people to meet challenging growth goals. According to Manpower, 38 percent of companies are struggling to fill open positions, which eventually impacts their ability to provide products and services to customers.

As a leader, how can you attract great talent, inspire loyalty, and optimize employee performance? It starts with strengthening your employer brand.

Early on, employer branding focused on how companies could apply marketing principles to hiring employees—typically through employment advertising and later, social recruiting. Today, employer branding has evolved to become an inside-out, strategic process companies use to become an employer of choice and to drive employee engagement. Executives now realize the impact of employer branding on talent acquisition, corporate culture, internal communication and marketing.

Everyone owns the employment brand. Managing your company’s employer brand isn’t the responsibility of a single department—HR, marketing or corporate communications. HR will need to understand how the consumer brand aligns with the employer brand. Marketing teams will need to know how market developments affect workforce planning and employee retention. Everyone will need to become better, stronger internal communicators.

5 Steps to Attracting, Engaging and Retaining Your Best People

The competition for talent, especially in technical, highly-skilled professions, is expected to increase. Here are ways your company can position itself as an employer of choice:

  1. Evaluate your existing employer brand. Marketing can support HR in developing an internal audit of employee perceptions and beliefs to assess existing employer brand awareness and reputation.
  2. Define your employer brand. Why should someone work for your company? And, why should they stay? Your answers become the basis of your employee value proposition (EVP), which describes how you want to be perceived in a clear, compelling way.
  3. Map your employer brand throughout the employee life-cycle. There are four distinct phases of an employee life-cycle that you must consider: attracting new talent, on-boarding new hires, engaging employees, and bidding farewell.
  4. Manage your employer brand. Similar to your company’s consumer brand, your employer brand must constantly be monitored and managed. Many companies leverage social media to highlight key employer strengths, but also to listen to “the word on the street.”
  5. Educate and communicate well internally. It’s one thing to design a strategy for employer branding, but success is in execution. It’s important for managers and employers to know how to deliver on the employer brand experience—through their actions and their words.

Companies can no longer afford to be passive about employer branding. The competition for talent is too high. Plus, the well-known branding advice holds true here: if you don’t define your brand, someone else will. Don’t leave your employer brand to chance.

About Michele Richardson

Michele Richardson is an internal communication consultant and speaker on a mission to build workplaces where people are led by passion and purpose. She advises executives and organizations on how to attract, engage and retain top talent through the art of communication and the science of organizational behavior. Her clients include Boeing, Toyota, CareerBuilder, Sodexo and KPMG. Learn more about how to work with her here or catch up with her on Twitter.

To learn more about Michele’s approach to employer branding, register to attend the next San Diego HR Roundtable Lunch & Learn on March 15 at 11:45 am.

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In most companies culture just happens. In the absence of a concerted effort to define, shape and reinforce an intentional culture, your company will define its own based upon what they see their leaders do (not what they say). Assumptions of how to behave will also be influenced by new additions to your staff, based on the experiences they had in their previous company. And most frightening of all, many assumptions of how to behave and how things work around here are based on the projections of your staff’s biggest fears. (In the absence of information or clear direction, people will make something up to fill the void.)

Is this how you want your company culture defined? If not, it’s time to reassess what kind of culture you want to create and get on with the work of defining, shaping and reinforcing your desired culture. Here is a high level overview of the work that needs to be done.

Leadership defines the desired culture with specific outcomes & behaviors

  • Define 3-6 cultural norms (values) that when embodied in everyday behavior and actions throughout the company, create the desired cultural environment.
  • For each norm:
    • define how this behavior positively benefits customers, employees and the company vision and goals
    • list a minimum of 10 examples of how employees would think or act when demonstrating this norm
    • identify the company processes and procedures that reinforce this norm behavior 

Leadership articulates and demonstrates the Cultural Norms

  • Leadership communications –  newsletters, coffee talks, all-hands meetings
  • Walk the talk – purposely demonstrate the norms in visible real-time situations
  • Participate in and promote 360 feedback
  • Norms imbedded in Managers Development Plans
  • Norms imbedded in Employees/Staff Development Plans 

Create Materials/Program for training staff

  • PowerPoint presentation
  • Laminated cards for employees’ desks
  • Themed Bulletin boards in the lunchroom 

Train Employees – Employees recognize their role in supporting and promoting the norms

  • Managers provide cross-departmental mandatory training to provide thorough understanding of the norms and behaviors and provide skills and tools to use
  • Incorporate in all future new employee onboarding 

Reinforce, Reinforce, Reinforce

  • Quarterly meetings
  • Employee development plans
  • Awards and recognition 

Incorporate into all business materials – Policies and Practices Align with the Culture

  • employee handbook
  • evaluations
  • recognition program
  • award criteria
  • development plans
  • hiring practices

As you can see, this is a big initiative. It is not your responsibility alone to make this happen. It is, however, your responsibility to be the champion for it. If your leadership team doesn’t yet understand the intrinsic value of an intentional culture, then it is your job to be the change agent and mentor them, advise them, cajole them, and educate them. Create enough curiosity and you will soon find them exploring what this “culture” idea is all about. Once on board, help coach the leadership team to sponsor and lead this process. You may never be involved in a more rewarding endeavor. 

Michael Saul is co-founder and CEO of Human Potential Tools, building software platforms to assist organizations to improve employee accountability and communication. HPTs first product, meetingSamurai™ is now in beta. Michael is also the co-founder of Possibilities Consulting, where he specializes in guiding organizations through cultural and values-based change by facilitating visioning, strategic planning, transition management, leadership development and high performance team development. Michael’s clients include Fortune 100 companies such as Hewlett Packard, Intel, Cardinal Health and Medtronic. Michael also serves on the Board of Directors of San Diego HR Roundtable.

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