The Leadership GPS

It’s time for the midyear review. How am I doing?

midyear reviewAt midyear we stop and reflect on where we are in relation to our goals.  You will be looking at your employees’ accomplishments and talking to them about the second half of the year.  If you have an employee who is not quite where you would like them to be, what do you do?  Start at the beginning and refocus.

All employees are given resources like money, training, equipment, and sometimes a team of their own to lead.  These resources are an investment from their owner intended to fulfill the goals of the company.  If the goals are not being met then the employee is spending the resources that were provided in areas that don’t generate the expected return for the team or the company.

If you find that one of your team members is fully using every resource that you have provided but not generating the success that was expected, they are likely focused on the wrong goals.  From the surface it often appears that they ignored the goals that you had for them and pursued other goals that achieved individual success but did not accomplish the purpose of your team.

Before you settle on the easy conclusion that this employee only cares about themselves, I suggest you follow the advice from Jim Collins, author of Good to Great.  In essence he said, “In times of success great leaders look out the window to credit others, and in times of trouble great leaders look in the mirror to evaluate what they could have done better.”

You see, people are very capable of generating success when provided adequate resources.  Your job as the leader is to focus your team’s strengths on successfully accomplishing the vision of the team.

Here are four questions to review together with each employee that is not on goal:

Do you understand the purpose of the team? If you have not fully defined the purpose of the team, your team has two choices; operate with no purpose or define their own purpose. Absent a clear purpose, the employee who is geared to success, will have chosen their own purpose.  You are responsible for defining the purpose of the team so each employee will seek to accomplish the same end.

“You have to know where you’re going. If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never know if you’ve arrived,” – Denis G. McLaughlin, The Leadership GPS

Do you understand how the vision achieves the purpose? Even if you have a clearly defined purpose for your team, there are many ways to achieve it.  Your vision sets the route your team will take to reach its purpose.  If you don’t over communicate how your team will achieve its purpose than you aren’t communicating enough.  Left undefined, the employee will define their own vision.

The very essence of leadership is that you have a vision. It’s got to be a vision you articulate clearly and forcefully on every occasion. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.” – Theodore Hesburgh, as quoted in The Leadership GPS

Does you understand how what you do fits into the vision? Ok, so you have a clearly defined purpose and vision for your team.  There is one more level of understanding you must focus on: taking the vision down to the employee level.  The employee may struggle in seeing the connection between their individual goals and the larger vision and purpose of the team.  Remember, employees are success driven, without this connection they will instead focus on what they think will help achieve the team’s goals.

“Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who…offer a solution everybody can understand.”  – Colin Powell, as quoted in The Leadership GPS

Are you achieving personal success in accomplishing the success of the team?  Each person is looking for personal satisfaction in their life and in their job.  For your vision to be effective you have to set it in motion and it must have an immediate impact on your team members.  With each success, they need to feel that their job satisfaction is improving, along with the purpose if the team being accomplished.

“Successfully achieving your team’s purpose comes through a vision that consistently delivers small successes for each team member.” – Denis G. McLaughlin, The Leadership GPS.




Release: The most important word in leadership

releaseAt some point you have taught your leaders enough, and they are ready to be successful on their own. Your team will never reach their best unless you take off the training wheels and release them to try.

Releasing control is easier than you may think. It’s just like when your child rides their bike for the first time without training wheels. You run next to them, holding onto the back of the bike until they get up enough speed, then you do it…You release the bike and they ride as you encourage them with every turn of the wheel.

A successful leader must release his team to succeed on their own. 

In my book, The Leadership GPS, we follow Brian Alden as he builds a team of successful leaders only to release them to become leaders on their own.

Like the parent with the bike riding child, release your leaders to run the meetings and projects and make decisions. Stay close by their side to remind them of all that they’ve learned, and encourage their leadership skills. Before you know it, they will be racing ahead of you.

Diverse ideas: All of us are smarter than one of us.

diverse peopleFor a leadership team to be successful you have to all be focused on the same goal – but there are multiple paths to each mountain.  Some leaders surround themselves with other leaders who could be mistaken for their mirror images and don’t get the benefit of diverse perspectives.  When this happens, every new challenge has only one solution: the ones we already know.

Each individual is limited by their own knowledge and experience in their ability to offer solutions to problems.  But each person has a diverse set of strengths formed by their abilities, knowledge, and experience.  When people with diverse strengths are brought together, the ability to offer multiple solutions to problems becomes possible.

In my book, The Leadership GPS, we follow Brian Alden as he fills his team with leaders who have diverse perspectives and he finds that success comes much easier. Brian learns that he doesn’t have to be the one with the best answer; he just needs to find the right answer.

An ancient Japanese proverb sums this up well: “All of us are smarter than one of us.”

Success comes from a habit of hard work

HabitVince Lombardi said, “Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.” How does winning become a habit? Sarah Knowles Bolton, a press correspondent and author of the late 1800s, wrote several books that summarized the lives of successful people: statesmen, artists, and scientists, to name a few. In her research she found that “The victory of success is half done when one gains the habit of hard work.”

In my book, The Leadership GPS, Brian Alden is building a new team and needs successful leaders.  His grandfather, Michael Tennyson, teaches him that, “Leaders with a history of success have developed a habit of working hard to achieve their success.”


Learn from past mistakes, yours or other people’s

mistakesFred Brooks wrote about his experiences managing systems development at IBM in the book The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering. In his book, he reviews many common software mistakes that he witnessed and even made himself.

The book coined what is known as “Brook’s Law,” which states “Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later.”

Brooks discovered this law when he made the mistake of adding programmers to a project falling behind schedule, then concluded that it delayed the project even further. Using this and other examples of mistakes he witnessed in his career, Brooks is quoted as saying, “Good judgment comes from experience and experience comes from bad judgment.”

In my book, The Leadership GPS, Michael Tennyson, teaches his grandson Brian Alden, that those who have learned from mistakes – their own or others’ – are in the best position to lead.

What are you doing to prepare yourself for leadership?  Making some mistakes on your own is inevitable and one way to learn; but learning from the mistakes of others is the easier route. 

Set Your Leadership Vision In Motion

Dont shout vision, live itWhether you are starting a new team, or just became the leader of an existing one, things will be different for this particular set of people on the team.   They might all buy into the goals you set, but your vision for how to achieve those goals will be unique and new.  It will take time to establish their trust in your vision.

The best way to establish the trust you need to lead the team, is through success.  And the best type of success is that which consistently delivers many small successes for each team member.

Don’t just shout your vision from the top floor; live it on the office floor. – Denis G. McLaughlin

For your vision to be effective you have to set it in motion. These early successes are called Quick Wins.

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Leaders: Listen First and Maximize Second.

listen first and maximize secondIf you are a leader who has the passion to maximize everything and everyone, that is a great strength and a great calling. People need leaders who are in their corner, always encouraging them to be their best. In the spirit of wanting to help everyone succeed, they offer their opinions freely.

Leaders that see so much potential in every person and every situation should know that if they aren’t careful their actions can come across as being critical.

In my book, The Leadership GPS, Brian Alden learns a hard lesson about being critical while trying to maximize the success of his situation.  He freely offers his opinion before he knows all the facts. This experience stays with him and guides him through his future successes.

If you are one of these passionate leaders, and want to avoid having a hard lesson of your own, here’s what you should do.  When you really feel that passion to maximize someone or something, before you offer your opinion, follow the advice of Blaine Lee who said,

“Before you attempt to set things right, make sure you see things right.”

The Best Leaders Are The Ones With The Best Information

knowledge is powerBenjamin Disraeli was a prominent member of the British government during the 1800s. He served in leadership positions for three decades including twice as prime minister. Disraeli said:

“The secret of success in life is for a man to be ready for his opportunity when it comes…The more extensive a man’s knowledge of what has been done, the greater will be his power of knowing what to do.”

In order for you to be a success as a leader you need to understand the conditions in and around your team:

  • What internal and external pressures HAS the team faced in the past?
  • What internal and external pressures IS the team facing now?
  • What internal and external pressures WILL the team face in the future?

Once you’ve obtained that knowledge – use it to enthusiastically go after your goals.

In my book, The Leadership GPS, Brian Alden learns the three step process to gain understanding and knowledge, and uses it to achieve success.

1) Look for information that already exists in books, surveys, or websites. This is a great place to learn what did happen and what is happening.

2) Listen to people with information gained through experience. Talk to your team, your boss, experts in the industry.

3) Learn what people need by analyzing the two together. Make a decision on how you will achieve your goals now that you understand the conditions.

The information you gather by looking, listening, and learning will be that on which you base all future steps to successful leadership.

Purpose: If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never know if you’ve arrived

PurposeWithout a purpose, there is no way to measure your success.  This applies to everything you set out to accomplish.  You must have a firm picture of the What, When, and the How:

  • A project at work – What is the end goal? When is it scheduled to be completed? How many resources do you need?
  • A vacation drive – What is the destination? When is your vacation time? How are you going to get there?
  • Your dream house – What neighborhood do you want to live in?  When do you want to move? How will you pay for it?

Dwight Eisenhower said, ‘We succeed only as we identify in life, or in war, or in anything else, a single overriding objective, and make all other considerations bend to that one objective.’

In my book, The Leadership GPS, Brian Alden learns the What, When, and How of his purpose – in work and in life – and achieves great success.

Can you share some examples of goals that you have achieved by knowing the What, When, and How?

Great leaders look at people’s potential greatness

committed to their successAs leaders we are not creating other great leaders.  We are encouraging others to realize that they already have the potential to become great inside of them, and assisting them on that journey.  Our job is to see where they can go and open the right doors for them to pass through.  Our job is to focus on what is there – their strengths – and remove the focus on weakness – what is not there.

Michelangelo said, “A great statue already exists inside a block of stone. The sculptor’s role is to uncover it.”

If you want to achieve success as a leader, you have to intentionally focus your leadership efforts on unleashing the greatness inside of everyone you influence. Once your team knows you are committed to their success, they will commit to our vision.

In my book, The Leadership GPS, we read the story of Brian Alden, whose potential is unleashed by his grandfather. In turn, Brian opens the doors of success for his new team and many others.

Do you remember who recognized greatness in you?  Who told you that you could be anything you set your mind to? Was it a parent, grandparent, teacher, coach, pastor, boss?

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