Posts Tagged ‘story’



This leadership tip has something in it for managers everywhere, but it’s particularly targeted at those of you with large company backgrounds who have made career moves to smaller businesses that you own and/or manage. 

My background is primarily in large scale management of IT organizations.  The companies where I’ve worked were places where changing a process or behavior took some time.  I always thought I was quicker than most, and action oriented.  As a small business owner, I found I had to be much quicker. 

I’ll offer this leadership tip in the form of a story.  It’s a story of how taking your eye of the ball can cost you money, and worse than that can cost you customers. 

My First Small Business 

I opened a small personal services business.  It was located about an hour from my home office, and with all my other commitments I knew how important hiring the right manager would be for this shop.  It took a few tries, but I found one with a good background and references, and she seemed to quickly develop loyalty to the business and to me. 

For the first six months we grew slowly but steadily.  We were behind plan in terms of customers and revenue, but the trend was up.  There were a few staff issues, but overall turnover was okay.  I decided to invest a little more in marketing to try and get more new faces in the door. 

Over the next three months, customer counts were mostly flat, and average sale was actually down a little.  Concerned, I visited the shop a few times more than usual.  The people were not as upbeat as they had been.  When asked about that, they attributed their moods to less business and less enjoyment of the job.  I wondered about seasonality, the economy, and whether I needed even more marketing investment. 

Want to know what was really going on?  My trusted manager had some personal problems that I had not been aware of before, and was exhibiting some totally unacceptable behaviors: 

  • Criticizing staff in front of customers
  • Intimidating staff, letting them know they were at risk of being fired, and telling them I was out to get them.
  • Stealing money by voiding transactions and other means  

The Damages 

I’m still figuring out how much money all this cost me, but the money is only today’s problem.  The customers I’ve lost are a more serious longer term issue, because many of them won’t be coming back. 

When I figured out what was going on, I moved quickly to fire the manager.  There were only two problems:

  • I was too late, and there had been several months of damage done;
  • There was collateral damage.  I had to fire two other employees who had adopted the attitude and behaviors of the manager. 

Today, I’m working on putting together data to see if I can assemble a case for prosecuting the employees and the manager.  An even higher priority, though, is the work I’m doing to recruit and orient new staff and develop a recovery plan for our customer service reputation.   

This leadership tip was a painful lesson that I hope never to repeat.

Leadership is a two-way street by julie puentes last week, i had an enlightening conversation with a fellow horse person that caused me to reflect on an important dimension of leadership

Leadership is a Two-Way Street
by Julie Puentes

Last week, I had an enlightening conversation with a fellow horse person that caused me to reflect on an important dimension of leadership. She described her recent challenges with her horse who has always been a friendly, reliable, and sweet guy. But, recently his behavior had changed drastically. He was now aloof, hard to catch, fearful, and sometimes defensive. She was worried and desperately wanting him to return to his former self, so she was using various training techniques in an attempt to modify his behavior. I was struck by how her initial instinct and answer seemed to be to train and manipulate his behavior to suit her needs, rather than search for underlying reasons for his change. I realized that this is a common response when we desire a different response from people (or horses).  We complain, demand, and attempt to control the behavior of others and are often frustrated when they don’t acquiesce to our notion of how they should act. When it doesn’t work, we feel frustrated.  Frustration, after all, is just an emotional message that tells us that whatever action we are taking is not effective.

Many times, this frustration stems from the fact that we don’t realize how our own expectations and beliefs are coloring how we perceive someone else’s behavior. For example, we sometimes fail to recognize our desire for someone to act a certain way in order to make us happy, forgetting that it is not that person’s responsibility to do so. An insistence that others act differently prevents us from being curious about the message behind people’s behavior and stops us from questioning our motivations and stories that might contribute to our dissatisfaction.

So, what can we do when confronted with behavior that frustrates, confuses, angers, or saddens us? Here are three things to remember in these situations.

  1. Accept where the person is and allow them to have their emotions. This does not mean you have to agree with their behavior or reactions, but it does mean that you realize they are acting in the best way they can in the moment. Allowing the behavior of people (or horses) without immediately jumping in to judge or react negatively gives both of you the space to relax and reflect without feeling the added pressure of your judgment or demands for change.
  2. Ask yourself how you could adjust your own behavior or responses to positively influence the situation. As in the story above about the woman and her horse, we often begin by thinking of the ways we can convince or manipulate others to act the way we think they “should.”   A better place to start is by asking yourself what shift you can make in your responses that could shift the relationship and encourage dialogue, trust, or openness. For example, you can ask what negative reactions or preconceived beliefs might be preventing you from being open to what is going on for this person? Or, ask yourself, is there something about the way I am showing up that is helping to fuel the very behavior I don’t like? Am I withdrawing, lashing out, or holding judgments? Sometimes, the answer is no and sometimes it is yes.  However, what is most important is the willingness to explore these questions, which increase your awareness and at the very least, encourage you to try different approaches rather than doing and saying the same things over and over with no significant change or improvement.
  3. Be relentlessly curious. This applies to your own behavior and actions as well as others. In every situation and in every conversation, there is a tremendous amount that we simply don’t know. We can’t just assume we know what is going on from our own assessments because they are only based on the information in front of us and how we interpret it. By trusting that we don’t have all of the information we are more likely to discover information that helps us understand, have compassion, and ultimately arrive at a solution that works for both parties and improves the relationship.

What does this have to do with leadership? Everything.  Leadership is born out of the willingness of others to follow your guidance, direction, and vision.  True leadership does not occur when you attempt to “train” others to fix or change their behavior. Rather it occurs when others believe that you have their best interest at heart, you care, and can be trusted to provide a safe space for them to show up authentically. Under those conditions, others will be willing to follow you. Remember, they may not agree with your choices either, but by using the tools above, you have a better chance of successful interactions and fulfilling relationships.

As an executive coach, much of the work i do is helping executives and business owners bring clarity about the possibilities for their organization and themselves

As an executive coach, much of the work I do is helping executives and business owners bring clarity about the possibilities for their organization and themselves.  So often when we start working together the executive’s goals are vague and ambiguous. Without clear goals, the executive may have a roadmap but no precise destination and accompanying directions to get to their goals.

Making Goals Powerful

You may have heard the story about the study concerning the goals of some Harvard Business School graduates. The story basically supports the contention that written goals are more likely to be achieved than those that aren’t written down. However, this study never took place.  Instead a Dominican University study provides evidence that when accountability, public commitment, and written goals are implemented together they enhance the rate of goal achievement.

%???lements extends its ‘Value’ offering in Simply Cashback launch” href=”/shopping-articles/simpl them to people important to them.  These people can then act as an accountability mechanism for tracking the person’s progress. Goal Development Your goals should be written down as a SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound) goals.

· Be Specific – A goal that is described in specific terms has a much greater chance of being accomplished than a goal described in general terms.

Make it Measurable – Developing specific criteria for measuring your progress toward the attainment of each goal will help you to measure your progress, and stay on track to meet your target dates.

· It should be Attainable – When you identify your goals, you will begin to figure out and visualize how to accomplish them.  You will develop not only the energy level for attaining your goals, but also new and existing attitudes, abilities, and skills to reach your goals.

· Make it Realistic – In order for a goal to be realistic, you must be both willing and able to work towards the goal.  Be sure that every goal represents substantial progress.  Your goal is almost certainly realistic if you truly believe that your goal can be accomplished.

· Create Time Sensitivity – Goals should be grounded within a specific and clear time frame in order to create a sense of urgency in accomplishing the goal.Beauty Goal Success

Now that you have your specific goals written down, who will you share these goals with?  I recommend choosing more than one person and that the people you select be individuals who will be supportive as well as keep you accountable to your goals.

Keep your goals visible.  Reviewing your goals frequently will help you release the energy, creativity and the drive to attain them. Tracking your goals provides you with a sense of accomplishment when you meet your goals.

Create a habit of asking yourself daily, “are the decisions I am making getting me closer or further from my goals?” The more your remind yourself of your ultimate goals, and make the choice to move in the direction of attaining your goals, the more likely you will be successful.

And finally, don’t forget to celebrate your accomplishments! Creating and attaining goals takes a lot of discipline and hard work.  Therefore, how do you plan to celebrate your accomplishments once you have crossed the finish line?

Often, as leaders within an organization, you are asked to lead a team of people in a certain direction and you do so to the best of your abilities

Often, as leaders within an organization, you are asked to lead a team of people in a certain direction and you do so to the best of your abilities. But then, you get a call from the powers that be requesting that you change the direction your team is headed and to do it quickly. This can be a very tough position to be in. After all, your team has probably spent a lot of time, effort, and energy on the previous project and now they instantly need to switch gears. Frustration will quickly seep into the minds of your team members.

So how can you communicate with your team in such a way that it will diminish any frustrations or concerns? You can accomplish this if you simply relay, relate, and rally. 

Relay: First you obviously will need to relay the message to your team. Be direct when you relay the message. There is no need to “huff and puff” out your personal frustrations with the decision when you share it with your team. If you show your own frustration, you open the door to a whole mess of complaints and whines from your team. You are the messenger; relay the message clearly and concisely. Also, be as neutral as possible when sharing the message. You don’t want to fall into the trap of bad-mouthing the person who made the decision or make them out to be the bad guy. Don’t play the “victim card” either. Yes, you and your team have to deal with the consequences of the decision, but painting you and your team out to be the victims of the evil higher-ups will not get you anywhere. Your team will quickly take your emotional lead, so be aware of your tone and attitude. 

Relate: Once you have shared the decision with the group, now you can relate to their feelings. This does not mean that you open the flood gates by saying, “Oh, I know how you guys are feeling. I can’t believe they’re doing this to us. I mean, who was the idiot who came up with this idea? Do they know what we have put into this project already?” This kind of talk will only create more anxiety and stress for you and your team. Instead, let your team know that you understand what they’re thinking and feeling by relating it to a previous, outside situation. That means you should share a story about a time in your life when something similar happened, when you were forced to take an unexpected turn. You felt what they are feeling now, but everything turned out okay in the end. It is best if you can choose a story about a similar situation but is not about your current company. This way you are able to relate to their feelings by describing a past situation without sounding like you’re being passive aggressive to your current employer. 

Rally: Lastly, you want to rally your team into feeling better and more proactive towards the new change. You do this by laying out the next action steps in a positive manner. You also want to use a concentrated amount of “we statements”. This means that instead of saying, “So all you guys need to do is….” or “And your next steps are simply….” You should rather say, “So all we need to do is….” or “and our next steps are simply…” This way you are keeping a strong sense of “team” within the group rather than separating yourself from the team. 

Facing a quick and sudden change within an organization can present many difficulties and quite a few headaches for a leader. However, if you use the relay, relate, and rally method, your stress level and frustrations will diminish because you’ll have your team in gear and on your side.

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