A Bit of Irony

Picture this: Driving on the Interstate, it’s 11 pm. There isn’t much traffic. Two billboards appear off the right side, first one and just as the first fades in your mind the second  billboard appears out of the darkness. The first is an ad for the gambling casino at the next exit and features the “120k Giveaway Every Friday in January” as an enticement to stop at that exit. The next billboard is for the small liberal arts college located in the  town five miles away. The second billboard says, “Invest in Your Future” and shows the college’s logo. An interesting little bit of irony, don’t you think?

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Don’s Derailment

Don was a manufacturing expert whose personal style of being “one of the guys” on the shop floor (including crude language and hard-drinking, back-slapping, dirty-joke-telling, in-your-face, confrontational communication) helped him turn around the operations of a large manufacturing company. An expert in lean manufacturing, he had been popular with the work force while obtaining excellent productivity from his employees.

Don moved from operations director to vice president and then to president over the course of two years. Then he began having problems with his board of directors. His demeanor hadn’t changed from his “one of the guys” persona, and he failed to understand that the board expected him to become more diplomatic, more sophisticated, and more “presidential” in his demeanor, communications, and personal style. He aggressively argued with the board one too many times and was fired after barely six months in the corner office.

The board members didn’t clarify their expectations prior to elevating Don to the presidency, and he didn’t ask for clarification. Too bad. His considerable talents were lost to the company and Don was unemployed for more than a year before finding a plant manager position at a much smaller company.

Lessons Learned

As you move to progressively more responsible positions your reporting relationships – and the expectations that go with them – are going to change. Don didn’t take the time to step back, clarify expectations, and decide how his approach to others needed to shift. The board was unhappy when he didn’t intuitively understand what they wanted. Do you think Don learned his lesson from what happened to him?

Skill 8 – Growing Yourself

All of us have some ideas about how we’d like to grow and improve. You may want to get better at providing performance feedback to your employees and coaching them about your expectations. Or you may want to improve some aspect of your communications skills. Perhaps you want to improve your organizational, personal productivity, decision-making skills. Or you might want to develop your skills in more “big picture” areas, such as strategy, teamwork, or project management.

As you think about your current job, are there areas that could stand some improvement? What kind of job would you like to do next? What skills do you need to acquire to be ready if the opportunity comes along? Whatever your current situation, start thinking and behaving like your growth and development is your own responsibility. Because it is.

How about you? What areas are you growing in these days? What are your developmental plans for the rest of this year? Growing Yourself may be the most important of The 8 Essential Skills. What do you think?

Skill 7 – Leading & Empowering

No matter where you work or what you do, if you are going to be effective in managing your team and getting the job done, you will need to be a leader. If managing yourself (Skill 1) is the foundational skill that begins your path to success, then leadership helps you expand beyond yourself and your immediate team. Becoming a leader provides you with a chance to dramatically widen your sphere of influence

Both leadership and management involve acquiring and developing knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors. Once you are reasonably adept at Skills 1 through 6, you will be ready for Skill 7 – Leading & Empowering.

What do you think? How do you go about leading your team to success? Are your employees truly empowered? How did you get that to happen? Let us know what works for you.

Skill 3 – Building Successful Relationships

Your success as a leader will be built on a foundation of two things: (1) your ability to get things done or accomplish tasks, and (2) your ability to forge and sustain positive relationships with other people. True leadership means focusing on both tasks and relationships. No matter how driven, focused, and hardworking you may be, you won’t be effective in life unless you can develop solid, healthy relationships. In today’s organization your ability to build successful relationships with employees, peers, your boss, and customers is a key skill – one that can help move you and your unit ahead or significantly hold you back.

What do you think? Of the 8 Essential Skills, it seems to me that Building Successful Relationships are another key skill. As colleague and coach Mary Jo Asmus says, “It’s all about relationships.” So, what do you think is involved in Building Successful Relationships?