Tom Rath

What is the measure of a leader?

measure of a leaderThe only true measure of a leader is in the followers.

John Maxwell once asked, “If you’re all alone as a leader, are you really leading?” He went on to say, “If you think you are leading and no one is following, you are only taking a walk.”

With all due respect to social media (I use it myself), but the measure of a leader is not just in the number of followers; it is in the success of followers.

Why do followers follow leaders? In the short run it could just be the latest fad – everyone else is…or it could be that they are looking for something big. In the long run, if you see a leader with committed followers it’s because they are successfully fulfilling these three needs of every follower:

Strategy – Opportunity – Priority

Strategy. Everyone wants to be a success in their life. Each of us wants personal success along with all that we are involved in to be successful. We want the team to win, and we want to be a winning part of that team. The first measure of a leader is their ability to devise a strategy for that to happen for every member of the team.

According to Tom Rath, author of six NYT and WSJ bestsellers on the role of human behavior in business, health, and well-being, “Followers need to see how things will get better and what that future might look like.”

Opportunity. Each person is gifted with abilities unique to them. The key to individual and team success is to use the abilities of each person. The second measure of a leader is how well they connect their followers to opportunities that use their strengths.

Sochiro Honda, the founder of Honda Motors, talked about a Japanese proverb that says, “Raise the sail with your stronger hand,” and explained that it meant, “You must go after the opportunities that arise in life that you are best equipped to do.”

Priority. There are always more ideas and projects than any team can accomplish in limited time with limited resources – and do them well. Prioritization is a requirement of winning people and teams. The third measure of a leader is do they give their followers permission to not do some things so they can do great things.

Bestselling author and expert on high performance human achievement, Denis Waitley, says this about prioritizing, “Don’t be a time manager, be a priority manager. Cut your major goals into bite-sized pieces. Each small priority or requirement on the way to the ultimate goal becomes a mini goal in itself.”

Employee rewards and motivation

rewards show me the moneySHOW ME THE MONEY!

Cuba Gooding Jr. says that line many times in the movie Jerry McGuire.  As a professional football player, Gooding’s character knows what other players earn and he wants to be similarly paid for his contribution to his team.  As you watch the movie it becomes evident that the line, “Show me the money,” wasn’t really just about the money; it was about recognition and respect for the character’s abilities.

In a recent survey by Gallup, people were asked if they would continue to work if they won a $10 million dollar lottery. You may be surprised to find that even among those actively disengaged, only 40% would stop working, and 20% would stay in their current job.  At the other end if the spectrum in terms of job satisfaction is those who are engaged.  For this group only 25% would stop working and 63% would stay in their current job.

These hypothetical lottery winners now have at least a comfortable $5 Million after taxes, yet the majority of them will still keep working. Why?  Because job satisfaction is not just about being shown the money.  Certainly employees want and deserve to be fairly compensated for their work.  However like Maslow’s hierarchy, once the need for food, shelter, personal and financial security are met, people seek relationships, respect, and opportunities to do their best.

The great Zig Ziglar put it like this, “Employees have three prime needs: Interesting work, recognition for doing a good job, and being let in on things that are going on in the company.”

Interesting work.

For work to be interesting it must provide an opportunity for employees to use their strengths, grow personally and make a difference.  Without these three opportunities work is a drudgery, boring and meaningless. Here’s why:

Using strengths.  According to Marcus Buckingham, former Global Practice Leader with Gallup, and coauthor of Gallup’s best-selling management books First, Break All the Rules and Now, Discover Your Strengths,A strength is an activity that before you’re doing it you look forward to doing it; while you’re doing it, time goes by quickly and you can concentrate; after you’ve done it, it seems to fulfill a need of yours.” Working in your area of strength is fun because you are good at it.  No one wants to be in a job where you struggle all day.

Growing personally.  People are genuinely pleased when the company they work for is successful; this brings job security and pride in their association with the company.   Sustained good feelings though, come from also having personal success which only comes through personal growth. Leadership expert John Maxwell said, “Growth is the great separator between those who succeed and those who do not. When I see a person beginning to separate themselves from the pack, it’s almost always due to personal growth.”

Making a difference.  True fulfillment comes from helping others achieve success.  One of my favorite phrases is, “We don’t use people to complete projects; we use projects to complete people.”  Successful projects really aren’t that hard to accomplish.   Focusing on developing successful people isn’t easy, but the rewards are worth the effort. As Tom Brokaw said, “It’s easy to make a buck. It’s a lot tougher to make a difference.”

Recognition for doing a good job

Everyone wants and needs to hear “Good Job.”  It is one of the easiest rewards to give, and one of the best to receive.  It’s good to hear in private, and great to hear in public.  Sometimes we put too much emphasis on “Producing a Moment,” instead of just telling your employees that you appreciate what they did.  Certainly there are recognition ceremonies for special events and those are worthwhile, but don’t forget the quick email, phone call, or comment in a meeting as well.  As a leader you should also realize that this is not only good for the employee but great for the team and the company. 

Tom Rath, Bestselling Author & Senior Scientist at Gallup has studied the effect of recognition in depth.  His findings show that, “Employees who report receiving recognition and praise within the last seven days show increased productivity, get higher scores from customers, and have better safety records. They’re just more engaged at work.”

Being let in on things going on in the company

This one has nothing to do with gossip.  It’s not water cooler talk.  Employees feel empowered and will do a better job if they are involved in decision making that impacts their job.  Involve them from the beginning to the end.  Ask for their opinion when writing your mission statement, ask them what the most important projects are, and ask them what they think is the best way to accomplish the important projects.  Not only will you motivate your employees, you will get better ideas and better results in your company.

“Effective Communication creates Engaged Employees who create Loyal Customers who in turn create Bigger Profits.” – Andy Parsley

Your strengths are like diamonds in the rough.

strengths are diamonds in the roughDiamonds are carbon that has fully developed its strength. It is a naturally occurring mineral, the hardest mineral known today. All diamonds start as carbon in its most basic form. Only after mining, cleaning, and cutting are they ready to be used in industrial tools or polished into beautiful jewelry.

Just like the diamond in the rough, everyone is born with strengths inside of them, but that potential needs to be set free. Michaelangelo once said, “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”

Here are the three steps to bringing forth the leader inside of everyone on your team.

Prepare them to recognize and use their potential.

Mining for people’s strengths can be a challenge. In this area I am a big fan of the Strenghfinders books and tools. I have used these for many years with several hundreds of former and current team members. The key concept in the book is that each person is born with certain natural strengths. Some might call these talent. These strengths are in areas such as communication, strategy, learning, maximizing, analytics and others. Your strengths do not define what you can do, but they help you understand how you could best approach what you do.

I start every mentoring relationship, and every leadership assignment with a thorough review of the Strengthfinders results. As the author Tom Rath said, “The key to human development is building on who you already are.”

I have not once had anyone disagree with their Strengthfinder results. But, somehow seeing their strengths in print as strengths, frees people to use them to their maximum potential.

Polish their strength so they can shine

The true beauty of a diamond does not show until it is cleaned and polished. Recognizing the potential of your strengths only offers potential success until your strengths are allowed to shine. Once my team knows their strengths we use every opportunity for them to practice. We work together to bring their full potential to the surface. This brings rewards in two ways: my team develops confidence in their strengths, and other people recognize their success.

Marilyn vos Savant, the columnist Ask Marilyn, is known as the person with the highest recorded IQ at 228. Her take on this area is, “Success is achieved by developing our strengths, not by eliminating our weaknesses.”

Point them in the right direction

Not all diamonds are destined for the jewelry store. In fact about seventy-five percent of diamonds are used for industrial cutting tools. Of the twenty-five percent that are used for jewelry, each diamond’s use is based on the four C’s: color, clarity, carat, and cut.

Your final job as a leader is to place your team in the roles that will allow them to make the most of their strengths. This gives each member of the team personal success, and it provides the best opportunity for team success. Five time NBA All Star Paul Westphal said, “The key to any game is to use your strengths…”

 

Every successful leader was once a diamond in the rough.

focus on your strengthsDiamonds are a naturally occurring mineral, the hardest mineral known today.  All diamonds start as carbon in its most basic form.  Only after mining, cleaning, and cutting are they ready to be used in industrial tools or polished into beautiful jewelry.

Just like the diamond in the rough, everyone is born with the potential to be a leader inside of them, but that potential needs to be set free.  Michelangelo once said, “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”

Here are the three steps to bringing forth the leader inside of everyone on your team.

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