Last week I was not only lucky enough to attend but also present at my employer’s first ever Leadership Summit. To say it was a success is a massive understatement. Am I biased because I work for the greatest company ever? Maybe a little. Towards the end of last year, our Executive Team met with the purpose of evaluating and defining the culture of the company. Extremely important to the future of any endeavor, this was phase one. Phase two takes us to the Leadership Summit. This was where we provided the knowledge to our front line leadership in just that, how to lead. We planned to provide them with the tools necessary to take that newly learned knowledge back to the field and convey it effectively to their folks. I could go on and on about the Summit (and perhaps I will later…) but for now, I’d like to impart some wisdom that I was honored to be able to share at the summit.
Being a boss is easy. “do this… don’t do that”. My personal favorite… “because I said so”. It takes so much more than just being able to tell someone what to do. Being a LEADER is something completely different. I had a conversation with my oldest boy who has recently begun working for a very large restaurant chain that shall remain nameless. After picking him up and as we drove back to the house I could feel the frustration radiating off of him. He explained to me that his Manager ran the shift with a iron fist. Long story short… she was a BOSS. She preferred making demands to setting expectations and coaching. It is a popular misconception that in order for management to be successful, you only need to be able to delegate effectively. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Even a Drill Instructor, with all of their barking and yelling, has a grand plan. There is method to the madness. So by now I know you’re asking, “tell me, Dano… how do I become an effective leader?!” the truth is… I don’t know. What I CAN do is offer some insight into what has helped me on the path to success.
LEADERS MUST BELIEVE WHAT THEY TEACH
It’s a simple statement that can completely change the way your message is both delivered to and received by your team. Believing is ground zero. Many, many years ago I briefly worked for a manufactured home builder (that shall also remain nameless). I was hired on to sell said homes from a lot, not unlike a car dealership. After a rigorous and very effective sales training course, I was set loose to sell manufactured homes to the world. A few weeks had gone by and I was yet to make my first sale. One particular day a very clean cut gentleman pulled up to the sales office in a very VERY nice car. My lucky day, I was next up to bat. I greeted the Gentleman and asked how I could help him. He informed me that he had recently purchased some land on the lake and was looking to place a lake house on said property. I crinkled my brow and nodded my head. Quite the predicament… I sure hope I can help remedy your land without house quandary. Then he hit me with the bomb. “If we can find the right fit, I will be purchasing the home upFront”. I won’t bore you with the details but these homes were not cheap and without having to finance the purchase, that mean’t a boost in the office sales numbers as well as a hefty first commission for yours truly. I grinned ear to ear and took him to our top level homes to begin my polished sales pitch. As we walked through one of the more palatial homes, I described in great detail the expert craftsmanship, top of the line building materials and benefits of owning one of these fantastic domiciles. As I rambled on, all the while imagining what I was going to buy with my hefty commission, the gentleman held up his hand, the universal signal for, “stop talking”. I stopped mid sentence. He raised an eyebrow and asked, “Let me ask you something, do you live in one of these?” That was easy. “Sir, with my wages I cannot afford such luxury. No, I rent from a family friend at a discount”. Check. “Okay, let me rephrase the question”, he retorted. “If you could afford it, WOULD you live in one of these?” I was stunned. I had no response other that a meek, “no”. Check and mate. The gentleman thank me for my time, walked out of the home, got into his very fancy car and drove away. Fifteen minutes later, I quit.
If you do not believe in what you are selling, you will not be able to sell it. The key to being able to believe it is to understand fully what you are trying to sell to your team. If you just absolutely cannot buy into what you are selling, that’s okay! Find something you can. It’s amazing the things you can accomplish when you find something you believe in.
LEADERS MUST TEACH WHAT THEY BELIEVE
You can draw diagrams, you can have charts and graphs but if you do not teach your team WHY, you are wasting your time. Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, in their book Extreme Ownership, talk about helping your team see the big picture. This is critical to achieving effective results. Help your team understand. So many times I’ve seen team leaders receive a directive, then relay that directive to their team peppered with eye rolls and sighs. When the team fails to understand the reasoning behind the directive, they are told, “that’s just the way the higher ups want it, that’s just how it is”. The plan has failed before it even had a chance to flourish. There is a fantastic Ted Talk by Simon Sinek in which he discusses starting with the WHY when selling a belief. I don’t think there is a more accurate way to go about it. I won’t attempt to rehash what Mr. Sinek is trying to convey. Click the link, watch the talk. Be a mentor. Teach the why.
LEADERS MUST PRACTICE WHAT THEY TEACH
We’ve all heard this before, perhaps worded a little differently but the idea is still the same; Do not ask your team to do anything you have not, would not or DO not do yourself. If you post a requirement that protective eye wear must be worn in a certain area and then do not wear protective eye wear in that area, you can guarantee that, after time, no one else will either. Integrity is a key ingredient to becoming an effective leader. Don’t just set the standard, BE THE STANDARD.
Am I an expert? No. I struggle every day to become that better leader. At work, at home, as a parent, spouse and a member of the human race. I try every day to be a better person. The three tenets I’ve discussed here have helped make a noticeable difference. Hopefully they can do the same for you. If you have anything to add or would like to discuss further, let me know in the comments. Don’t forget to share and subscribe and as always…