Where are all our leaders?

Several announcements of webinars on leadership have crossed my desk lately. And I tell you, I doubt the timing could be better.

It’s election season, and once again I’m asking myself, “Where are all our leaders?”

Is it just me, or are you wondering the same thing?

When you’re a leader, you collaborate and you influence others. You set aside personal agendas and, if you’re a political leader, you put the nation first.

But here’s the frustrating thing: These days, few of our politicians seem to lead and to put the nation first. 

At a time when our country faces myriad problems, government watchers report that the 112th Congress is on track to be the least productive in modern history. Wrangling between the Republican-led House and the Democratic-run Senate has taken its toll on legislative action. The House and Senate have passed the fewest number of bills in any Congress since 1947 and enacted only 90 laws (at this writing).

The parties blame each other, and the stalemate continues.

Leadership lacking in education and corporate America, too
From my point of view, leadership is missing in education and in the corporate world, as well.

In education high school dropouts continue to be a national problem. And college students show little if any growth in the ability to perform tasks requiring critical thinking, complex reasoning and written communication after two years of study, according to the Social Science Research Council. The council’s study, entitled “Improving Undergraduate Learning,” also shows that 36 percent of students demonstrated no significant improvement in learning as measured by CLA performance after four years of college.

What would happen if you were a manufacturer and close to 40 percent of your products failed? (That’s rhetorical, of course, but if you answered, “Most likely I’d go bankrupt,” you get a gold star.)

Moving on to leaders in corporate America: I hear, and I’m sure you have too, that we can’t shrink our way to greatness.

One problem though: that’s exactly the course so many of our corporate leaders take these days, cutting jobs, cutting hours, expecting workers to do more with less…

Dr. Lance Secretan, author, speaker and founder of The Secretan Center, Inc., an organization specializing in leadership and cultural transformation, wrote about the fallacy behind this tactic in a March, 2012, blog post:

“…it is stunning to see the lack of imagination among many of America’s corporate leaders who see success in terms of numbers and fail to grasp the concept that until we inspire the hearts and minds of all the souls who get everything done in our organizations — employees, customers, suppliers and everyone else who connects them — we have no hope of growing and restoring recently lost greatness.”

So what does Dr. Secretan suggest? Investing in people, inspiring them, inviting them to contribute and serve, and trusting them to do their best, live and work with integrity and set examples for the rest of us.

Says Dr. Secretan, “They need to be asked, ‘What can you contribute that will put us back on the road to greatness?’ and, ‘As your leader, how can I serve you best to make that happen?’”

Here’s the bottom line. If you’re in a position of leadership, you can no longer assume that someone else is leading. Further if you have been given the ability and responsibility to lead others, you not only have the opportunity to do it well but to mentor and teach others the art of leadership.

That’s good for them, and it’s good for you and your business.

Tips: Seven Tips to Help You Lead Successfully

As a practical matter, becoming a leader means starting at the bottom rung and  developing skills and behaviors of successful leading. (At least that’s true for most of us. For a lucky few, I suppose, it comes naturally.)

If you are an aspiring CEO, or simply a team leader seeking the best possible level of productivity from your people, here are 7 tips to help you develop your skills and behaviors to become a successful leader.

1. Set a good example
Demand from yourself the same level of professionalism and dedication you expect from others. If you expect upbeat and friendly team members, make sure you are upbeat and friendly. If you expect error-free written reports, double check your own work.
2. Start with great expectations
Do you scold, criticize and demean your employees or do you encourage them constructively and positively? I hope you encourage. Studies show people perform up — or down — to the expectations set for them.

3. Communicate clearly
Always, always fully inform your team about project goals, priorities and those all-important deadlines. Effective communication establishes your credibility and gains the support of your team, so be sure to provide clear direction and always welcome questions and feedback from others.

4. Give constructive feedback
Talk to your employees about their performance often. Give constructive feedback. If you limit your feedback to criticism, your employees will have little incentive to try harder. With constructive comments and helpful words of encouragement, however, they will likely improve their performance.

5. Offer recognition
Publicly recognize your team’s efforts and achievements. You will build up confidence and encourage future contributions and effort. Praise does not always have to be formal. Make praising employees part of your day-to-day communication with your team.

6. Show your employees “WIIFM”
To motivate your team to your vision, you need to outline how that vision will help them achieve their own goals — the WIIFM: What’s in It for Me? Remember, the company’s goals and visions are important to no one but the company. For example, what would motivate your employee in the statement “We want to lead the industry by 2015?” Instead, try, “We want to lead the industry by 2015, and to do that, we want you to become the expert and lead our strategic sales team.” Show your team how their roles fit into the company’s larger goals and overall objective, and they will understand how their tasks can impact the company’s reputation, success and bottom line.

7. Admit you have much to learn
No one knows it all. You will help yourself and your team if you keep yourself open to learning new ways of motivating employees and managing teams.

Following these seven tips is just a beginning step in learning to lead. There’s much more to do. But it’s well worth it: Learning to lead and then putting leadership to work, will have an enormous impact on your business.


Your Solution Toolbox: Help in Identifying Leadership Skills

I've seen it happen time and again. Sally's team just doesn't seem to perform like the others in her organization, but no one seems to know why. Perhaps the missing link is effective communication. Or, maybe Sally isn't delegating to her team members as she should. Or not adjusting to changing circumstances.

Whatever the reason, Profiles' Checkpoint 360™ can identify Sally's strengths and the areas she needs to develop, and its Checkpoint SkillBuilder Series™ can help her improve her leadership and management skills. 

I love recommending Profiles' Checkpoint 360™ and Checkpoint Skillbuilder™ to businesses because in my experience, the more a manager knows about himself, the better he will lead.

CheckPoint 360™
CheckPoint 360™ allows your leaders to receive a job performance evaluation from the people around them — their boss, their peers and the people they supervise. 

From this feedback, managers can compare others' opinions with their own perceptions, positively identify their strengths and pinpoint areas of their job performance that need improvement.

CheckPoint focuses on a manager's job performance in eight competency areas: communication, adaptability, task management, productivity, development of others, leadership, building relationships and personal development.

CheckPoint is easy to use. Each participant completes an evaluation on the Internet or on paper, a process that takes about 15 minutes. Results are compiled in a report, which the manager receives.

Besides giving this feedback, which the manager can use for self development, the CheckPoint report encourages managers to link directly into an online system called CheckPoint SkillBuilder™, which takes them through a step-by-step process of developing a comprehensive and personalized development plan.

Checkpoint Skillbuilder™
Because it is an organized, self-paced, self-study professional development system, CheckPoint SkillBuilder™ requires minimal HR effort.

At the same time, it contains thoroughly researched material that helps managers improve performance in eighteen competencies:
• Listening to others
• Processing information
• Communicating effectively
• Instilling trust
• Building personal relationships
• Delegating responsibility
• Adjusting to circumstances
• Thinking creatively
• Providing direction
• Facilitating team success
• Working efficiently
• Working competently
 • Taking action
 • Achieving results
 • Cultivating individual talents
 • Motivating successfully
 • Displaying commitment
 • Seeking improvement

You can use Checkpoint Skillbuilder™ any time or anywhere because it's on the Internet. Further it's easy to use. Your employees respond to questions and complete online exercises, and then print a customized plan of action for their professional development.

What's easier than that?

If you want to give your managers tools they need to maximize their strengths, become better managers and lead more effectively, call me today about Checkpoint 360™ and Checkpoint Skillbuilder™ at 952-322-3300. Or, send an email to mgorski@mgassessments.com

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