Category Archives: Leadership Shift

Knowing & Becoming Known…A Challenge for the New Boss

new_boss_tshirt-p235578270226180427qj9t_152It’s never comfortable being the newcomer. This is especially true when we start a new job, and even more so if that job involves leading an organization or taking charge of an already established team.

Three words come to mind when I think about this: Culture, Trust and Change. These are big issues and huge, if you happen to be a new boss. How you address them will often make the difference between a reasonably smooth leadership transition and a very shaky one.

For instance, inserting oneself into an already established culture requires some delicacy and some time spent in learning how people think; what they value; and the assumptions they operate from.

As well, most organizations work from a platform of earned trust rather than assumed trust. As such, if you are an unknown commodity, there will be skepticism about your motives, and the effect your presence will have on the status quo. While we like to think people will readily embrace change, we know that it just isn’t that easy. But, the reality is that change comes with every new leader and the immediate challenge is to find ways to send the message that this is a good thing…or at least, the right thing.

All this needs time and work. The point is, in this world of speed and technology, we have to find ways of accomplishing things faster. That includes expediting the process of knowing and becoming known. The question is, how?

Well, it’s a tricky one…but like most things, not impossible

There is, for instance, the New Manager Assimilation Process, which is a structured way of speeding up your collective orientation. Specifically, it is designed to help new managers quickly establish positive working relationships with their direct reports while also building a solid foundation for the future.

But, whether you decide to use this kind of formal process or a less informal one, know that the first few days, weeks and months as leader, will lay the foundation for how you will work and be perceived in the future.

When I think about inserting myself, as leader, into an established group, these are some things that come up:

Listen

People like to know they are being heard. As a new manager this is particularly important. There will be things they will want me to know about them. There will be other things they will want me to know as well, like what they are proud of, or what worries them. And, they will have ideas to share that will help shape how we move forward together.

Respect what went before

As the new one in town, there will be things that were established before I arrived that will have a lot of value. Rather than take a ‘new broom sweeps clean’ approach to my new role, I would take some time to learn what is good about the way things are.

Be clear about my vision and purpose

As an unknown, people will be curious (and possibly anxious) about what I see as my role; what I want to accomplish and; how my personal beliefs and values align with their own. In short, they will want to be able to see themselves in the picture I create. The more often and consistently I communicate these things, the quicker I will become known.

Be accessible

This is not just about keeping my office door open. It’s also about making myself emotionally available and showing my humanness. I would want to give people an opportunity to know me as a person as well as a boss.

Ask for help

It doesn’t matter what I bring to the new organization, there will always be things I’m simply not going to know. Asking for help gives me the opportunity to learn… and others the chance to show me what they know.

That’s what I think anyway.  What do you think?

 

Note: This post was originally published in November, 2011

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Filed under Leadership, Leadership Development, Leadership Shift, Leading Teams, Organizational Effectiveness

We Don’t Need Another Hero…

I was watching an old episode of Frasier the other day. It was called Head Game.  For those who don’t know, Frasier was a popular comedy series a number of years ago.  The series highlights the antics of it’s main characters, Frasier Crane and his rather neurotic brother, Niles, a psychiatrist.

In this episode, Niles gives some advice to a professional basketball player who is in a serious slump.  The advice is simple and yet, when acted upon, results in great things and suddenly, Niles finds himself in the spotlight.  Everyone sees him as a hero.  The adulation he receives is overwhelming. The pro player becomes dependent on him and comes to believe that by simply rubbing Niles’ head before each game, he will always come out a winner.

This started me thinking more seriously about our very human attraction to heroism.  These days, it is politic to deny our propensity for it but I think when we find people who seem to rise above the rest of us, we still somehow become glued to them by a hope that they will save us, solve our problems or make our dreams come true, even if we are less willing to admit it.

There are those of us too, who like the idea of being a hero.  After all, it is a great boost to the ego when people view us with undying admiration.  At those times, everyone wants to be our friend.  And, if we get enough of that, we can come to believe we are invulnerable to the pitfalls of ordinary life.   We stand proudly on a pedestal and feed on the myth that we can do no wrong.

Of course, there is something amiss with each of those perspectives.

Perhaps in the last Century, it was easier to indulge in hero-worship.  It was, after all, not as difficult to hide the shortcomings that punctuate peoples’ lives, especially those whose lofty place in business or society seemed to exempt them from being imperfect.

In this century, though, ready access to information through social media and other means affords us the opportunity to see humanity in action, warts and all.  And that kind of takes the shine off the notion of Superman or Wonderwoman swooping in to save the day.  And too, we have seen much evidence of seemingly powerful people falling, like Icarus, from a great height having ignored the warning signs that signify the onset of chronic arrogance.

I like to think that the demise of the traditional hero is a very good thing.    For one thing, it takes the pressure off those who feel obligated to lead the charge brilliantly all of the time.  And, it makes room for the rest of us to take our turn in the hero’s place.

But first, we need to believe it’s possible for a hero to live somewhere inside each of us and to re-define what heroism means.  To me, a hero looks like an ordinary human being who, at one time or another, shows great courage in the face of difficulty.

Until we are tested or dare to take a leap, we may remain unaware of what we can really do but there are countless stories of heroism among so-called unremarkable people, stories like this one:

The truth is, we are all remarkable.  We are all capable of being a hero to someone, at some time.  Whether we lead, or follow, each time we step up to a challenge; make a sacrifice; serve the greater good; take a personal risk or make life better for someone else, it comes under the heading of heroism.  And no one’s head has to be rubbed in the process.

So perhaps, as Tina Turner suggests, We Don’t Need Another Hero”.  We just need to recognize heroism in ourselves and in each other and then dare to use it to serve a collective purpose.

That’s what I think anyway.  What do you think?

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Filed under Leadership, Leadership Shift, organizational culture

Choosing to Lead and Two Simple Truths

Leadership, while studied widely and deeply, remains misunderstood by a surprisingly large number of people.  In this world, there are some who would have us believe that leadership is only for a select few.  There are some too, who believe it is the job of leaders to rescue the rest of us from our various predicaments. And, when they fail, these same people feel somehow justified complaining about it.

I think leadership is available to all of us.  It is a choice we make.  It doesn’t always come with a title or a big office but it is there and it asks us to do something with it.  Of course, the more we learn about it, the more likely we are to make it a conscious part of our lives.

Those among us who  remain unconscious and unaware of their own potential to lead would do well to rouse themselves.  The world needs us all to wake up, not simply to point fingers of blame or criticism in someone else’s direction but to stand up for something, take responsibility for something or set a positive example for someone else.

If this sounds daunting, it could be.  But, it doesn’t have to be.  There will always be greater and lesser leaders among us.  But leadership does not always have to be larger than life. Nor does it have to be complicated.  There are two simple truths that guide me and here they are:

The First one is this.  Leadership is not about you

Real leadership happens when our role as leader becomes about something other than ourselves. At these times, our individual importance is overshadowed by the purpose we are there to serve.

Evidence of it is shown in the quality of our relationships with those around us. Leadership asks that we give others what they need to be at their best.  It asks us to guide them, coach them, talk to them, listen to them, encourage them, and expect the best from them.  Whatever we do, it must  be about that and about a shared purpose.  Real leadership is never about any one person.

The Second Truth is this.  You don’t have to be a hero

Peter Drucker once said, “No institution can possibly survive if it needs geniuses or supermen to manage it.  It must be organized in such a way as to be able to get along under a leadership composed of average human beings.”

Most of us are just that…average human beings.  We do not have to have special powers to lead. Sometimes all it takes is to believe in something enough to be willing to go first. Leadership is about caring.  It is about doing and participating.  If we expect perfection from it, we will be disappointed.  If we spend our time looking to the few for answers, we miss the opportunity to find our own answers and to explore possibilities that can only be found in the brainpower of the many.

The bottom line is, leadership is neither heroic nor about any one person.  It lives in us all.  We show it when we exercise our right to vote.  We show it as parents.  We show it in our communities when we volunteer.  We show it in our workplaces by being there and doing our best, regardless of our title.  So when we doubt our ability to make a difference because we don’t see ourselves as leaders, we would be doing ourselves a service by remembering that acts of leadership are choices we make. Be they big or small, all are important.

What do you think?

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Filed under building awareness, Leadership, Leadership Shift, Servant Leadership

Knowing & Becoming Known…A Challenge For the New Boss

It’s never comfortable being the newcomer.  This is especially true when we start a new job, and even more so if that job involves leading an organization or taking charge of an already established team.

Three words come to mind when I think about this: Culture, Trust and Change. These are big issues and huge, if you happen to be a new boss.   How you address them will often make the difference between a reasonably smooth leadership transition and a very shaky one.

For instance, inserting oneself into an already established culture requires some delicacy and some time spent in learning how people think; what they value; and the assumptions they operate from.

As well, most organizations work from a platform of earned trust rather than assumed trust. As such, if you are an unknown commodity, there will be skepticism about your motives, and the effect your presence will have on the status quo. While we like to think people will readily embrace change, we know that it just isn’t that easy. But, the reality is that change comes with every new leader and the immediate challenge is to find ways to send the message that this is a good thing…or at least, the right thing.

All this needs time and work.  The point is, in this world of speed and technology, we have to find ways of accomplishing things faster. That includes expediting the process of knowing and becoming known.  The question is, how?

Well, it’s a tricky one…but like most things, not impossible

There is, for instance, the New Manager Assimilation Process, which is a structured way of speeding up your collective orientation. Specifically, it is designed to help new managers quickly establish positive working relationships with their direct reports while also building a solid foundation for the future.

But, whether you decide to use this kind of formal process or a less informal one, know that the first few days, weeks and months as leader, will lay the foundation for how you will work and be perceived in the future.

When I think about inserting myself, as leader, into an established group, these are some things that come up for me:

Respect what went before

As the new one in town, there will be things that were established before I arrived that will have a lot of value.  Rather than take a ‘new broom sweeps clean’ approach to my new role, I would take some time to learn what is good about the way things are.

Be clear about my vision and purpose

As an unknown, people will be curious (and possibly anxious) about what I see as my role; what I want to accomplish and; how my personal beliefs and values align with their own.  In short, they will want to be able to see themselves in the picture I create.  The more often and consistently I communicate these things, the quicker I will become known.

Be accessible

This is not just about keeping my office door open.  It’s also about making myself emotionally available and showing my humanness.  I would want to give people an opportunity to know me as a person as well as a boss.

Ask for help

It doesn’t matter what I bring to the new organization, there will always be things I’m simply not going to know.  Asking for help gives me the opportunity to learn… and others the chance to show me what they know.

Listen

People like to know they are being heard.  As a new manager this is particularly important.  There will be things they will want me to know about them.  There will be other things they will want me to know as well, like what they are proud of, or what worries them.  And, they will have ideas to share that will help shape how we move forward together.

What about you? If you were the new boss, what would you do to accelerate the process of knowing and becoming known?

 

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Filed under Leadership, Leadership Development, Leadership Shift, Leading Teams, Management, Organizational Effectiveness

To Be A Better Leader

I have long believed that making the shift from individual contributor to leader is not accomplished by process of osmosis.  It requires concentrated effort, support and application. That’s why I’m happy to support the launch of the new book, From Bud to Boss written by Kevin Eikenberry and Guy Harris.  I’m particularly delighted that Becky Robinson, Director of Social Media Marketing and Community Building at the Kevin Eikenberry Group,has agreed to write a guest post for “You’re Not the Boss of Me”. Becky is a mom of three daughters who blogs about finding everyday ways to make a difference through leadership and social media at Weaving Influence.  In all her work, she enjoys making connections and sharing stories, and she hopes you will join her in the Bud to Boss Community to share your leadership story with others. I hope so too.

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I’ve been working with Kevin Eikenberry and Guy Harris to prepare for the launch of their new leadership book. I knew them both, to varying degrees, before I joined their team late last year. I have gotten to know them much better in recent weeks.

It is fitting that these two men who spend their days writing, teaching, and coaching others about leadership live out the principles in their book every day.

I have heard Kevin Eikenberry say, on several occasions now, that when you work at becoming a better leader what you really become is a better human.

So, although his book with Guy Harris teaches principles to help people make a transition to leadership, it also teaches principles that are applicable to anyone who wants to be a better human, a better leader.

Becoming a better leader, like becoming a better person, requires focus and determination. First, we reflect about areas in our lives and decide to work on areas that need improvement.

Becoming a better leader, like becoming a better person, requires a commitment to learn and grow. People who want to learn and grow can find resources everywhere: books, blog posts, mentors.

Becoming a better leader, like becoming a better person, requires action, putting what we read and learned into practice. Reading a book doesn’t magically make you a better leader. We have to move beyond thinking about new tools and skills; we have to act on our good intentions. Daily, we decide to choose more helpful ways of communicating or interacting with others.

When we become better leaders, we will also be better humans; ready to make a difference wherever we are in the world.

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Kevin Eikenberry and Guy Harris’ new book, From Bud to Boss, outlines practical steps new supervisors can take to face the challenges of leadership with confidence. Each section offers a chance for self-assessment and goal setting, so readers can identify their own areas for growth. Launch day for this new book is Tuesday, February 15th.  Watch for it, won’t you?

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Filed under building awareness, Building Relationships, Leadership Shift, organizational Development

Making A Transition to Leadership

When people first take up the reins of leadership in their organizations, a number of changes take place.  Among them is a change in how the leader relates to those who report to him or her.  I call this the Relationship Shift…not very original but there it is.

For instance, as individual contributors, we often develop relationships with our co-workers, many of whom may actually become our friends.  We tend to pick and choose the people with whom we become close.  We become involved in their lives.  They become involved in ours.  And the balance of power between us tends to remain reasonably level.

Promotion to a leadership role changes all that. In fact, a promotion to a leadership role demands the establishment of a professional distance between the leader and those who work under his or her supervision if it is going to be effective.

If you are a new leader, this does not mean that you must isolate yourself from the people who work with you, far from it.  It does mean though that the relationships you develop must transcend your personal feelings about the people in your work group and expand to include an impartiality that allows you to make appropriate decisions and get the work done.

This shift in relationships is not a one-way street.  With promotion to a leadership role comes a change in the balance of power.  People who were once peers become, (organizationally speaking), subordinates and that means that you will have some influence over areas of their working life that you previously did not.   They will be looking for evidence that they can trust you with that.  And they will expect you to be fair about it.  So, you may not be invited to lunch as you once were.  And if you are, you should consider the wisdom of accepting.

The up side to this (and there’s always an up-side) is that as a boss, you will have opportunities to build new relationships with not only those who work for you but with a new set of peers.  One of the crucial roles of a leader is to build relationships across a variety of lines of work.  This allows for easier communication, collaboration between and among people and an opportunity to learn new things from a variety of perspectives.  And that’s a good thing.

So while you may initially feel the loss of your previous working relationships, there is a bigger world out there for you to explore.

In 1989, a movie was made about the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, a Civil War regiment comprised of all African American men.   The movie is called Glory, a wonderful, often heart wrenching, sometimes graphic film. It is also the story of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw and his experience in making a significant relationship shift of his own.

Here’s a clip.

So, when you first became a leader, how did your relationships change?  What did you have to get used to?  What surprised you?  If you are a leadership veteran, what advice would you give new leaders?

If you looked at the clip, what did you notice about the relationship between Colonel Shaw and his second in command? Between Colonel Shaw and his friend Thomas?

What else did you see?

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Filed under Building Relationships, Change Management, communication, Leadership Development, Leadership Shift

Becoming a leader…Shifting the Balance of Power.

When I first became a manager, I tried to be friends with everyone.  Often that meant that I regularly went out to lunch with one or two of them.  I confided in some of them…personal things.  I expressed my private frustrations, cares, fears and concerns to them. I became personally involved in their lives.   And, while I was doing all of that, I was not doing my job.

And then one day, someone came to me and told me I was failing her.  Oh, she didn’t use those exact words but that’s what she meant.  From her perspective, she felt that I might be favouring one or two of the group over the others.  And, truth be told, she was worried because my own issues seemed to be distracting me.  She didn’t feel safe.  She wasn’t sure I was being fair.

Well, this came as something of a shock to me.  All I had been trying to do was be one of them; to let them know that I was human; that by being their friend, they could trust me. I was wrong.  They didn’t need me to be their friend.  They needed leadership from me.  And, up until that point, the only person who had shown any leadership at all was the brave woman who came to tell me how I was letting her down.

This is a hard lesson for a newly minted leader to learn but it is a truth that anyone who wants to be a good leader needs to know.

So what did I learn?

Well, I can think of a couple of things and here they are:

The minute you become a designated leader is also the minute the balance of power shifts

This means that as leader you will have influence over other peoples’ working lives, something you didn’t have before.  Those people will be looking for evidence that they can trust you with that.

The Relationships you develop must transcend personal feelings and biases

In other words, your job is not to be everyone’s friend but to ensure that the group and the individuals, who work in it, get what they need to give their best effort.

People who look to you for leadership are less interested in your worries and more interested in your ability to meet their needs.

Simply put, being a leader is not about you.  If you believe yourself to be more important because you carry a title, you might want to think about that a little more.  Your job is only done well if you have enabled others to excel in theirs.

So, what are your thoughts?  What would you add?  What do you think it takes to make a successful transition from individual contributor to leader?

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Filed under Building Relationships, communication, Establishing Direction, Leadership Shift