Flexibility in Leadership

Lately I’ve been having a lot of interaction with a variety of leaders, ranging in experience, function and more. I was impressed to see diversity in the ways they were able to successfully perform the role and each conversation allowed me to understand the complexities a leader faces every day. Although many of their styles have differed, I did notice two traits that seemed to be common across the board. They were humanized and they were flexible.

With the evolution of the workplace, both with an increase in members from multiple generations and diversity, leaders now have to face the challenge of being able to perform leadership functions in a way that will be effective for the ranging personalities. With the variety of people found there, a leader must know how to be able to show the qualities that these people value to get buy-in. Although some people may disagree or have varying opinions, I appreciate the following traits in the leaders I’ve come across.

  • Humanization: Although some leaders are a little more open than others, I like the ones that aren’t scared to show that they aren’t perfect. I appreciate it if a leader tells me that they don’t know something 100%, asks for help, or is willing to collaborate on something. I don’t necessarily need a perfect leader but I do want someone who can admit when they’re wrong, show that they’re willing to learn and respects his/her employees enough to trust them to take ownership on a project.
  • Collaboration: Falling in line with the leaders who admit that they aren’t know-it-alls, I like it when leaders are open to working with others and/or are open to learning from one of their employees. The leaders who are willing to work together with his/her team to find a solution is one that I can have faith in.
  • Flexibility: As I said earlier, the varying personalities in an organization means that a leader has to be flexible. To be able to notice when a certain way of working with someone isn’t as effective as with someone else is key when determining the best way to lead the team as a whole and the individual members. It may take a bit extra time, but it has favorable results.
  • Ability to identify potential: Although a leader’s job is to forge forward and help the business to progress, it’s important for them to take a look back at those they are leading. Employees have potential, some are very vocal about it while others are a bit more subtle. Identifying the potential and finding ways to foster it is so important to helping the business grow.
  • Passion to develop: I know leaders are busy and don’t necessarily have the time to notice each individual person, but that needs to change. A leader won’t be there forever, so it’s important to take the time to develop their successors to feel confident that the company and the team will be left in good hands. Developing others can even help discover new areas of opportunity that may have not been uncovered otherwise.

I’ve been lucky enough to work and learn from some really great leaders. Each of them are unique and have found a way to encompass all of these characteristics in their own way. Because of it, I’ve seen employees and the organization flourish in ways that I’ve never seen at other companies. I’m looking forward to learning from them and will find ways to incorporate these qualities and others as I progress throughout my career.

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Be a Leader Worth Following

Nothing like a little healthy discussion about leadership on #Tchat last week. Of course, there are plenty of leaders out there providing their advice on how to be an effective leader, but I don’t think leader-to-leader advice is the best way to consider all angles. In this chat, we were able to get some employee/follower insights about what we would want out of our leaders. It was very interesting to get their responses and discover the attributes that they value in a leader and also what they think needs some improvement.

Are you missing the mark?

  • Stop walking too far ahead: of course, a leader’s main objective is to pave the way for the future. But are they pushing through the obstacles and trudging ahead without a glance backwards? It’s important to provide direction to your people but you need to also be involved in the group, otherwise you’ll never know if you’re being as effective as you could be.
  • You can dish it out, but you can’t take it: a big thing that is valued in the world of work is continuous feedback. But it shouldn’t only be one-way. Sometimes people need to be led differently. A leader will never know the greatest way to lead his/her people to the best of their abilities if they don’t open up to two-way communication and feedback.
  • No one’s perfect and you’re not an exception: the quickest way a leader can lose faith from their followers/employees is to act like they know everything. We don’t want to hear, “It’s my way and that’s final” or “This is how it’s always been done and we’re sticking to that.” Things in business change pretty quickly and so should you. We will respect leaders who are open to continuous learning even if they experience some failure along the way. Why would anyone want to follow someone who seems to be out of touch with the current state of things?
  • Are you using the tools forced upon us: companies are adopting all sorts of new procedures or technology to help collaborative efforts. Additionally, these things are supposed to help with communication. But what good is it if the people that can make a change (cough, leaders) don’t actually utilize these things? So, basically, we’re wasting our time going through these motions without being heard.

We’re not out there pointing fingers at leaders and telling them they’re at fault for something. Honestly, we just really all want to work together in the best way that we can, which will take equal effort on both our parts. Sure, things can get messy and sometimes our attempts won’t always pan out. But even if that’s the case, are you still a leader worth following?

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Are you a Leader of Collaboration?

In last week’s #Tchat, we discussed the different between collaboration and polarization and the ways it was used in the workplace. Many contributors gave great examples of situations they’ve come across, their understanding of the two, and the reasons why they feel that an organization promotes one or the other. So, as usual, I’ll spend today’s blog post sharing all the input that this great community had offered through the hour long chat.

First off, let’s discuss the difference between the two. Collaboration is often considered the “coming together” of people and ideas to achieve a specific goal or purpose. It can easily be described as teamwork. Polarization is when individuals work individually towards a goal and/or do not share in the teamwork.

With the world moving so quickly, it would seem as if though a collaborative approach would be best for business. Having diverse thinking and additional teamwork can ensure that projects and goals are efficiently completed. Additionally, this can avoid groupthink or stale ideas, among other benefits. But why does collaboration seem to be a struggle within the workplace? How can we create a culture of collaboration? Leaders: it’s time for you to step up and start encouraging it.

Some ideas:

  • Follow the leader: as a leader, all eyes seem to be on you. This would be a perfect time for you to encourage collaboration by actually participating in collaboration meetings and situations yourself. Be transparent about it. Show your team that much can be done if you take the time to work with others. At the end, give them the results and tell them that it was accomplished because each member of the group played a crucial part.
  • Participate: take the time to make your rounds and participate in some of the meetings and groups that your workers are involved in, even if it’s only for a few minutes once in a while. Ask questions; learn about which each member is contributing; and give feedback.
  • Create a connection: I know sometimes it can be hard for a leader to know everything about their employees and their unhidden talent/potential. However, if you can have their department managers take the time to learn these things; it can open up opportunities for collaboration. Additionally, have department heads meet with each other to discuss projects or needs going on within each department. Allow the managers to inform the other dept. heads about their employees that might have a skill that can be useful for their needs.
  • Welcome in the devil’s advocate: as mentioned earlier, it’s important to have diverse thinking within a group to ensure that there isn’t any groupthink. Having an alternative perspective or opinion can help others in the group consider additional options or review the situation from all angles. However, make sure your devil’s advocate presents these thoughts in a constructive way rather than a way that will put everyone on the defense.
  • Review your policies: technology has been a great tool to have within the organization but many companies have policies in place that make employees fear using it. Are your policies discouraging employees to utilize it to their best potential? If so, take time to review and revise the policies. If that’s not a feasible option, then take time to clarify any part of the policy so employees feel more comfortable using the technology for communication and collaboration.

Polarization may have occurred when the economy took a turn for the worst. People felt the need to keep their cards close to heart and protect their jobs by having an “every man for themselves” mentality. They may have felt that showing their employer that their sole efforts were directly correlated to an end result can give them a sense of job security. Also, with limited job openings in organizations, workers may have felt the competitive pressure to stand out against other employees for a promotion. All of these situations are understandable but it’s not doing your business any good if you allow that to be the norm. As a leader, make it your effort to create a collaborative culture.

If you enjoy topics like this, be sure to check out #tchat on Twitter- Wednesdays at 7pm EST.

More Links:

Smart Leaders Collaborate

Collaboration Mojo Meets Basic Instinct: #Tchat Recap

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Leaders: Find the Connection

Today’s post might be a little more about opinion than it is facts- and that’s completely fine with me because sometimes we need a little thought provoking blog post to get us all thinking. As I thought about some of the best and worst leaders I’ve dealt with over the years, I considered some of the qualities I appreciated in the leaders I truly felt strongly for. There are a few people in my life that had made me believe in them and their goals. Call me a skeptic- but this is something that’s hard to accomplish with me. And I’m sure many of you have dealt with the ups and downs caused by the economy, so there are probably plenty of you out there that are feeling the same way. So what qualities of a leader made you not have your doubts about them?

For me, it’s all about a leader that can take the time to find the connection. In my crazy and idealistic mind, I truly believe that everyone has something to relate to with someone else. Tiny things or “Hey! We’re practically twins!” things are what can really help build a relationship between others. Sometimes, leaders almost seem unattainable because of their status or how busy their schedules are that many of us never really get to know our leaders for who they are and they don’t get to know us, either. So how can we put our faith in our leaders if we feel like we’re following blindly? Will this person lead us over a cliff? And how can leaders expect to gain the allegiance of their followers if they don’t even know what their followers value?

Ok, I get it- leaders are busy but that’s no excuse for them not to make a periodic presence to help build a connection. Whether you are running a 2 person start up or a Fortune sized company, you need to make the effort. Relate to people, find the connection, and make them feel like “my leader really gets me.” I don’t care if it’s every day, once a month, or once a quarter- you need to make that effort. Unfortunately, over the last few years, the changes in the workforce have weakened loyalty among employers/employees. If the loyalty and devotion isn’t there, then how can you expect to get the best out of your workforce? Are they 100% in or are they 50% in and 50% securing other options if things go sour?

The best leaders are the ones that get involved. They’re not always the singer on the stage in front of their loving fans. They’re the ones that dive into the crowd and get in the middle of all the action. They take it all in, listen, and emerge themselves in the bigger picture.

Leaders- isn’t it time we did this together?

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Are you a Good Coach to Your Employees?

Recently, I had the pleasure to discuss some human resources, management, and leadership topics with Nick Sarillo, founder and CEO of Nick’s Pizza and Pub. He initially reached out to me regarding my passion for company culture and engagement and conversation took off from there. I absolutely loved his outlook on how he manages his employees and he even was kind enough to share some links to articles discussing this. Today’s blog post will discuss one of Nick’s qualities in terms of management: managers should be coaches.

I think many of us can remember back when we first entered the workforce and were simply trying to figure out how to gain the skills to be successful at our jobs. I’m sure we’ve all had the situations where a boss or manager were maybe a little too harsh, too impatient, or too judgmental when it came to a task we hadn’t quite mastered yet. I know that myself and many others would feel a bit deflated in these types of situations and maybe even had a sense of doubt of whether or not we’d ever get it down. Even if you aren’t a new employee and have been working for several years, these types of situations still can arise. But what can managers do to make it better?

Nick had told me about how he coaches his employees and manages them by “trusting and tracking.”  He decided that the best way to help engage his employees is by training them thoroughly and giving them all the necessary skills and knowledge they need to perform a job duty. From there, he stands back, let’s them take charge and be accountable for the results. He noticed that this method had helped employees take pride in their work and actually take more initiative when it comes to their growth and development.

Nick built on this method, taking the time to update his training and then allowing his employees the space to develop their roles. Although Nick trusted his employees to progress, he still made sure he monitored them to help them in areas that they were struggling in. Even if he needed to step in, he still made sure the feedback was positive to allow the learning and training experience be a good one for his employees. Some tips that Nick suggested in regard to this are:

  • Make sure you are not giving constant orders and criticism.
  • Offer training, coaching, support, and positive reinforcement.
  • Build training systems into your company and management.
  • Provide helpful feedback on a regular basis.
  • Make expectations clear, track progress, celebrate met goals, and give help when needed.

I was very inspired by this management style and was happy to hear that Nick stuck with it even though other business owners (including his own father) told him he was crazy. This style has helped Nick’s business become one of the top 10 independent pizza companies in the United States. Moreover, Nick has some of the lowest turnover found in this industry.

Nick Sarillo is the founder and CEO of Nick’s Pizza & Pub in Crystal Lake and Elgin, Ill., and the author of A Slice of the Pie: How to Build a Big Little Business (Portfolio; hardcover). www.nicksarillo.com.

More Links:

Bosses Should be Coaches not Cops

Nick Sarillo’s book, “A Slice of the Pie” on Amazon.com

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What Makes a Good Leader?

#TChat once again had a great topic that is hot in business. Tons of people are speculating over what constitutes as good leadership. As we investigated and broke down this topic, we have come to realize that it deals with more than just leadership. In fact, it deals with the leader themselves. In order to live up to the expectations of good leadership, we must dive deeper and understand what characteristics and qualities make an exceptional leader.

The co-author of “The Character-Based Leader- Instigating a Leadership Revolution, One Person at a Time,” Meghan M. Biro, had suggested that great leaders have five core attributes. A leader must display integrity, trustworthiness, emotional intelligence, openness, and motivation. These attributes can play in to the followers’ (or employees’) need to not only have a leader that is transparent, but also one that offers a sense of stability or consistency to their leadership efforts.

The workplace ecosystem is delicate and good or poor leadership can really make an impact on it. In order to maintain a good workplace and ultimately positive work performance, leaders must make the effort to genuinely possess and display the attributes listed above. Employees want to follow a leader that seems to be making strides towards the greater good rather than for their own selfish desires. They want a leader that keeps them in-the-know about things. And most importantly, they want to know that their leaders are human (because let’s face it, we all make mistakes). And if the leader does make a mistake, forecasts incorrectly, or made a misinformed decision- it would be in the leader’s best interest to handle these situations gracefully, professionally, and honestly.

Followers don’t only care about what a leader does, but who the leader is. Considering a leader’s character is highly regarded and leaders should ensure that having these attributes should be high on their priority list. Good leadership can increase employee engagement, morale, and company/employer branding. Essentially, being a leader with good character can majorly benefit a business.

If you liked topics like this, be sure to join #TChat on Twitter on Wednesdays at 7pm EST.

More relevant links:

#TChat Recap

The Character Based Leader

Are You a Character Based Leader?

Talent Culture 

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Why You Should Consider a Participative Leadership Style

Throughout my years in the working world, I’ve come into contact with many different leadership styles. Some were extremely open, some were a little more autocratic, and then some where just a complete mess of different styles mixed into one. Throughout all my different experiences, I felt that participative leadership style was one of my favorites, mainly because this leadership style seems to present a lot of benefits not only for the leader but for the employees, as well.

Participative leadership style involves many other people in the decision making process. This style opens up discussion for other participants to voice opinions, suggestions, and concerns. Most importantly, it keeps everyone in the loop. Some noteworthy benefits of this style are:

  • Everyone is given a voice: This style of leadership allows all employees (no matter what role or title) to have a voice and participate in the decision making process. Because they are involved, they will be more accepting of the decisions made because they contributed to it and were also involved in the process so they will not be blindsided by the end result.
  • It gives employees a sense of accountability: employees will know that what they say will matter and could be a vital contribution. With this in mind, employees can make suggestions or voice ideas that will be more results oriented.
  • It increases morale: employees will appreciate the fact that you are not only keeping them in-the-know about a decision or organizational change, but they’ll also be appreciative of the fact that you are including them. This appreciation and gratitude could increase employee morale and create a positive work environment.
  • It can help you learn more about your business: including employees who work in different roles, titles, or business units can allow you to get insight about some of the successes and woes of each area of your business. It can help you ensure that the decision you make will be the best because you will have a better understanding on how it will affect each business unit.

If you don’t currently use this style, I challenge you to try this out with a few of the decisions you need to make in the near future. I’m sure you will be surprised at the feedback you receive from employees. Additionally, it may help you make better choices.
Some Additional Reading:

The Advantages of Participative Leadership

5 Benefits of Participative Leadership

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