From Strings To Wings

It seems odd at times, but the ultimate success of being a mentor is when you can cut the strings because you are no longer needed.

Successful mentoring doesn’t happen overnight. It takes an investment of time – yours and the person being mentored. But the return on your investment is worth it.

There is a Chinese proverb that says, “If you want a harvest in one year, grow a crop. If you want a harvest in ten years, grow trees. If you want a harvest that lasts a lifetime, grow people.”

Some compare mentoring to a classroom where knowledge is taught. There is definitely a transfer of wisdom, but it isn’t so much taught as it is learned – through experience.

The best mentoring takes place through the process of trying out what is taught. The great scientist, Albert Einstein, had much to teach and was a professor of science at various time in his life. He is quoted as saying, “I never teach my pupils; I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.”

It is important that mentors share what they know, but it is equally important to help people discover what they already know. Benjamin Disraeli once said, “The greatest good you can do for an individual is not just to share your riches, but to reveal to them their own.”

Once people realize all that they can accomplish, then they are ready to fly.

 

 

Lead like an individual contributor

lead like an individual contributorIn a recent Forbes article Jack Zenger said, “Individual contributors are forgotten leaders.”  Can individual contributors really lead? It depends on your definition of leading..

Here are some definitions on leading that we can look into as we talk about leading like an individual contributor:

Brian Tracy said, “Leaders think and talk about solutions.”

Colin Powell said, “Leading is solving problems.”

Donald McGannon said, “Leadership is action.”

Steve Jobs said, “Leaders are innovators.”

John Maxwell said, “Leadership is influence.”

Here is what the collective definitions says leaders do: Think and talk about solutions, solve problems, take action, innovate, and influence.

There is nothing here that isn’t done by individual contributors every day.

Your position or title is not the ultimate measure of a successful career. It is what you do with your position or title that matters.

The key is to do your best where you are, when you are, with what you are.

 

Successful teams always agree.

conflict resolutionBeing a successful team doesn’t mean you always agree, at first.  It means you develop a method to come to agreement. Here are the five steps you should take to resolve conflict:

Make the first move. Reach out, make a phone call, and schedule the meeting. Get the discussion going. Don’t wait to be invited to the party, host the party.

Reaffirm your dedication to the desired end state. Make sure there is understanding and alignment on the positive outcome that you both desire – we are in this together trying to get to the same place.

Begin with what might be your fault. Ask yourself, then the other party, two important questions to start the discussion on a positive track: What should I have done? What could I do now? You can’t get around the obstacles until you agree on what the obstacles are.

Listen for their perspective. Conflict always involves emotion. The most powerful action in conflict is for people to know they have been heard and understood. Only then is resolution possible.

Agree on the path forward. The goal is not to prove you are right, it is to provide the light…to the right answer. Ask questions about possible options, offer potential solutions, all with a keen focus on the desired end state.

Peace is not the absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.” – Ronald Reagan

The Commitment of Leadership

commitment LombardiLeadership is not for the faint of heart. If you want to succeed, plan on making the commitment to being in it for the long haul. As Abraham Lincoln said, “Commitment is what transforms a promise into a reality.”

There is no overnight successes in leadership, but there are steps you can take in the right direction towards success if you are committed to the climb. For every person who climbs the ladder of success, there are a dozen waiting for the elevator.

Now here are the challenges that many face when they look to make the commitment of leadership:

What if I don’t have a complete plan for success? Here is the thing about plans – they always change. If you wait for the perfect plan before you will make the commitment, you will never commit. As long as you have a clear picture of what success looks like when you achieve it, you can start moving in that general direction and modify your plan as you learn more.

“You need to make a commitment, and once you make it, then life will give you some answers.” – Les Brown

What if I don’t have time for a commitment? Here is what I have found in my life. I do lots of things throughout the day, week, month, or year. When I choose to make a commitment to something I free up time to fit it in by not doing other things that don’t lead to success.

“I have the time for anything I am committed to.”

I am not sure I’m up for a long-term commitment. Actually a long-term commitment is nothing more than a set of daily activities that leads to long-term success. Take this one day at a time, one action at a time.

The only way saying ‘ I will’ leads to ‘I did’ is through the daily practice of ‘I do’” – Denis G. McLaughlin

The Leader is…

leaders know the wayTrusting

Leaders don’t earn trust, they prove they are trustworthy. For your team to trust you, they must know you– and if they trust you they will follow you. Does your team know you?

The best way for your team to know you is through communication – you listen to their needs, then you tell them how you will lead them to success. The trust part comes when you actually do lead them to success – small success at first, then bigger and bigger…

“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.” – Stephen Covey

Can your team trust you?

Teaching

Leaders already know the storms their team will face. You have been there before and survived. What bothers the team doesn’t bother the leader, but the leader is bothered when the team is bothered.

Teaching is not telling people what to think, it is helping them learn how to think. The best leaders help their teams discover the answer for themselves.

“The thing I loved the most about teaching is that you can connect with an individual or a group, and see that individual or groups exceed their limits.” –  Mike Krzyzewski

Can your team learn from you?

Testing

Leaders help their team gain confidence in their ability to succeed on their own. The true measure of success is not in the learning, it is in the doing.

Put your team to the test at the right time in the right environment. Test them enough to prove their strengths and fuel their desire for more growth.

“Boxing is the ultimate challenge. There’s nothing that can compare to testing yourself the way you do every time you step in the ring.” – Sugar Ray Leonard

Can your team succeed because of you?

Lead with no distractions

No distractions robin sharmaSuccessful leaders know that their toughest leadership assignment is themselves. They are keenly focused on the needs of their teams, their company, and their customers. What do successful leaders need to focus on to lead themselves?   They need to eliminate distractions – if they want to remain successful.

Distractions that are the most difficult to conquer are subtle and internally driven. Anything that keeps us from focusing on the ultimate goals and the path that leads there is a distraction. Distractions can derail our ability to grow and be the best we can be if we let them.

Robin Sharma said, “We are so deep into daily distractions and ‘being busy’ that we miss out on those moments that – if jumped on – would get our careers and personal lives to a whole new level of wow.”

Three internal distractions that leaders need to eliminate take place in their thinking, speaking and doing.

Distractions in thinking, speaking, and doing

Thinking. All leaders have to think; they key is what you think about. The easiest way to be distracted in your thinking is to focus on things other than that which will help you achieve your goals. Don’t think about the great assignments, or titles, or anything else that other people have. You may want to achieve the same stature someday, but you won’t get there by thinking about what they have; you get there by focusing on what you have – your goals.

“If you think the grass is greener on the other side then water your lawn.”- John Maxwell

Speaking. Verbal communication is very important in leadership. Don’t let your conversations become a distraction. Choose your words, think before you speak, and speak succinctly. Don’t over explain or under explain. Don’t over talk or under talk. Look for a balance in your speaking.

“The conversation should be about what you say, not how you say it.” – Denis G. McLaughlin

Doing. Make it real, this is where it all comes together. If you lead without distractions you will think about your goals, talk about your goals and execute your goals.

“By prevailing over all obstacles and distractions, one may unfailingly arrive at his chosen goal or destination.” – Christopher Columbus

What’s Next Leadership

next chapterLeadership is always looking forward. It doesn’t matter if you are just coming off a big success, or you think things couldn’t be worse. Leaders don’t chase what’s now, they create what’s next.

Completed a project – What’s next? You and your team have just completed a big project, it was thoroughly successful. Is it time to kick back, look back and revel in your success? The answer is yes, for about ten minutes, then you turn your focus to what’s next.

Get your team and yourself ready for what’s next. The next project, next goal, next team. Go where the people are that need leadership. Don’t relax, don’t take it easy.

“Leadership isn’t about your comfort, it’s about your commitment.” – Denis G. McLaughlin

Made a mistake – What’s next?  You and your team just dropped the ball, made a poor choice, or missed the issue entirely. Is it time to drop your shoulders, look down and remember all that went wrong?   The answer is sure, it’s ok to be frustrated, for a bit, and you should analyze the cause of the situation, but defeat only happens when you stop trying. Take stock in the mistake, learn from it and get onto what’s next.

John Maxwell says there only two positions that leaders are ever in: Up and Getting Up.

“Don’t dwell on what went wrong. Instead, focus on what to do next. Spend your energies on moving forward toward finding the answer.” – Dennis Waitley

Leadership is not about what is…it’s about what’s next. – Denis G. McLaughlin

Travel on the road to a clear vision

clarify your visionA clear vision is an interesting concept for leaders. The word vision makes you think that the end-state can be seen in the physical world. In reality the most powerful vision is one which describes not what is, but what can be. This is what Warren Bennis meant when he said, “Create a compelling vision, one that takes people to a new place.”

There are four steps that all successful leaders follow as they travel on the road to a clear vision:

See the vision. Leaders must visualize the end-state clearly in their mind. They can see the future and the plan to get there.

“Leaders establish the vision for the future and set the strategy for getting there.” – John P. Kotter

Share the vision. A vision in the mind of the leader is only a dream until it is shared with their team. Talk it up – let everyone know your plans for success.

“Good leaders must communicate vision clearly, creatively, and continually.” – John C. Maxwell

Set the vision in motion.  Seeing the vision clearly, and hearing about the vision continually are important first steps, but you won’t get any closer to success until you begin moving forward. Leaders take the first step.

“The vision must be followed by the venture. It is not enough to stare up the steps – we must step up the stairs.” – Vance Havner

Spread the vision.  The first three steps on the road to a clear vision are all about the leader – it is a vertical path. For vision to work it has to spread out horizontally across the team members. This only happens when the vision becomes personal – people who see change want to be changed. Encourage celebrations of individual success that leads to the vision.

“If you are working on something exciting that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed. The vision pulls you.” – Steve Jobs

The one way to team success

team success - common visionThere are three common ways used to achieve team success, only one works over the long-term:

Do what the leader says is right, do what you think is right, and do what the team agrees is right.

“In the end, team success only comes when working towards a common vision.”- Denis G. McLaughlin 

 

 

Do what the leader says is right, follow the rules. Which leads to this….

  • - Short term activities that have no long-term vision attached
  • - Waiting for direction
  • - No sense of belonging to anything bigger than the activities
  • This may lead to short-term success, but over the long haul it falls short. Rules from the top can never cover every decision that must be made in every circumstance.
  • Mike Krzyzewski, the first coach in NCAA Division I basketball history to record 1,000 victories said, “The truth is that many people set rules to keep from making decisions.”­
  • Do what you think is right, make up the rules. Which leads to this…
  • - Short term activities that have no team-centered vision attached
  • - Searching for direction
  • - No sense of belonging to anything bigger than yourself
  • Even if every person has the best of intentions, they come from a limited perspective. Each individual can have a unique view of success for the team and will head in their own direction to pursue that success.
  • Hockey great Wayne Gretzky said, “Hockey is a unique sport in the sense that you need each and every guy helping each other and pulling in the same direction to be successful.”
  • Do what the team agrees is right, agree on the rules. Which leads to this…
  • - Short term activities that lead to achieving the long-term, team-centered vision
  • - Having a direction
  • - Belonging to a group who together achieve success
  • Vince Lombardi, one of the most successful NFL coaches and namesake of the Super Bowl trophy said, “Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”
  • In the end, Team Success only comes when working towards a common vision.

The Energy of Leadership

successful leaders energizeIf you want to light a lamp in your house how do you do that? Simple, flip the switch.

Before the switch can be activated, electricity had to be disseminated to your home through transmission lines and transformers that make sure the right level of energy is delivered to your lamp; and before the electricity could be disseminated to the lamp, it had to be generated in a power plant.

The Energy of Leadership follows the same course as electricity: Generation, Dissemination, and Activation.

  • Leaders Generate vision
  • Leaders Disseminate resources
  • Leaders Activate goals
  • Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric said that leaders need tremendous personal energy and the ability to energize their teams. This flow of the energy of leadership is what makes a successful team.
  • Sometimes I think this doesn’t happen as often as it could because we spend too much time and money trying to set up the perfect apparatus. Invest the time needed to clarify the message but don’t waste time when you could be moving forward. Like Dennis Miller said about electric energy, “Why is electricity so expensive these days? Why does it cost so much for something I can make with a balloon and my hair?”
  • Leaders Generate vision.   George Carlin once joked that, “Electricity is really just organized lightning.” Lightening is random and its power difficult to harness, but when focused into electricity it can provide power to light up a city. Leaders generate the same type of power when they focus the attention of the team on a single vision. A scattered collection of activities can now become a united effort to achieve success.
  • Leaders Disseminate resources.  Like electricity that is stepped up and down so the right voltage is delivered to each user, the energy of leadership is only really useful when it is at the right place, in the right format, to the right people, who know how to use it. I heard it said that, “It doesn’t matter how many resources you have, if you don’t know how to use them, they will never be enough.” Leaders should ensure that their team has the resources needed to accomplish the vision.
  • Leaders Activate goals.  Once the work is done to generate and disseminate electricity to the house, the lamp is activated by simply flipping the switch. The goals in the energy of leadership should be that simple. Layout the key activities that need to be done and watch success come to light.  As Earle Nightingale said, “People with goals succeed because they know where they are going, it’s as simple as that.”
1 2 3 19  Scroll to top