The Decision

The Decision, The Standard & The Lesson

What do you do when you come across someone doing the wrong thing?  The easy answer is to say something to that person.  But although this is the easy answer, it is far from easy to make that decision in the split second you notice a problem.  You then have to run through the dialog in your head about how receptive the person will be to your correction, whether you are correct, how you should approach the issue, is it worth the effort to correct, and many other questions and scenarios your brain comes up with.  Then perhaps you decide to fix the problem.  Has there been a clear standard established? What if you are wrong? Or what if you are right, but there should be a change to the standard?  Are you willing to listen and learn something?  That entire drama-filled paragraph is why it is essential to have the foresight to understand three things.

The Decision: 

I’ve heard many times that you don’t choose to be a leader.  Or that the best leaders are the ones that don’t want to be leaders.  I say that is nonsense!  I find it hard to believe that people are accidental leaders.  I’m sure it happens, but I’m willing to bet it is extremely rare.  I think you should want to lead.  Leadership encompasses so much that wanting to be a leader is only the beginning.  Taking care of people, making decisions, critical thinking, empathetic behavior, intelligence, honesty, competent, forward-looking or strategic, and many other things are great traits and actions for a leader.  But the best thing a leader can do is to decide to be a leader.  In any or all capacities.  Deciding to lead is the starting point, and it will open you up to a world of tough actions that lie ahead.  What do you do once you have decided to lead?  Determine the standard.

The Standard:

Everyone has standards but telling someone what your standards are is much more difficult.  A leader must be able to do this.  Perhaps not only verbally but through your actions.  Standards are what you use to guide your actions.  If someone in your organization does something wrong, what do you do about it?  As a leader, you must have that internal discussion and know what you should do.  What behaviors are expected in your organization and how do you articulate those behaviors?  Conversations.  Conversations are vital to the thorough understanding of concepts, and without conversations, we are limited to one-way communication which is a terrible way to establish standards. Once you have the standards figured out, you are good, right?  Wrong.

The Lesson:

The problem with experience is that is can create complacency, or at the very worst it can create arrogance and ego.  With arrogance and ego, the leader believes they know exactly what they are doing and no longer need to listen. This is why it is important to understand that a leader always has a lesson to learn.  There is always a better idea out there.  If you feel like you have arrived at the peak of your leadership mountaintop, there is a good chance you have only forgotten to look around.  You will always gain value from a different perspective, and when you don’t listen, you limit options.  Always look for the lesson you should learn, I guarantee there is one there.

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The Worst Boss

It is one of the most frustrating and demoralizing things we can face in our professional lives, and we have all been there; we have all said it.  “My boss is an idiot!”  Boss, can mean supervisor, manager, etc.  There are many different ways to express this sentiment, but it all boils down to the same thing.  Our expectations from our boss are not being realized.  So, what do you do when you have a bad boss?  There are only two options.

  1. Support them. This is the ideal option.  If you have a boss that is receptive to feedback and is trying to do a good job, this is where you want to be! Sometimes people are hired or promoted based on many things, but sometimes on potential.  If you can help them get better, then do it!  As a leader, there is nothing better than having people there to support you.  Knowing your team is there to make you better and that want to push the team to meet the organizational objectives is the best situation to be in.
  2. Change nothing. You can continue with how you are working and change nothing.  This is an option if things are going well and you just have a poor performing boss.  Or if your boss is weak and refuses to listen or their ego won’t let them.  Although, this is a very frustrating person to work for, usually, your boss’s boss will know how they are performing and you won’t have to deal with them long.

The last thing you want to do is to try to sabotage or make your boss look bad.  Doing so will cause much more drama than it is worth and there is a very real possibility you will lose your job.  They have the positional power and will wield it regularly, especially if you are trying to sabotage them.

Most of the advice you are likely to get is to keep pushing through, and things will work out.  That your efforts will be noticed and even if your boss is bad, you will be promoted or recognized in the way you need.  But this doesn’t always happen.  The best thing you can do it read the situation, if it is really bad, begin looking for a new position or place to work.  If you can deal with the bad things your boss does and you are otherwise happy with where you are at, then stay and enjoy those things that make you happy.  Decide on what you want and work to make that goal happen.  Sometimes you will need your boss to reach your goal if so, build a relationship with them and make it happen.

Managers make a huge difference in our lives, and bad ones can make things miserable.  But good ones can make a good situation great if you can find them!

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Ego Clouds Judgement

When I was active duty Air Force, our organization had an E-9 (for you AF peeps, get over it, he was not a Chief). He would stand in front of the monthly all-hands meeting and put his hands on his hips like Superman. He would then tell the organization and all the leaders everything we did wrong. There was not a positive message….EVER! He was followed because he had the position. Despite his poor leadership the core mid-level leaders put the organization on their back and carried the organization to success. His team suffered because of his ego clouded his judgement. He felt we all needed to bow down because he was the tribal elder. News flash: as Zachary Davis stated, people leave their jobs either because the leader or they feel their work is not valued. There are no bad teams only bad leaders. We had more retirements during his tenure…coincidence? 

Blame game: A leader’s ego will drive them to blame the team. The leader will blame the sales team for not meeting the quarterly quotas. The coach will blame the players the team captain will blame the coach. Nobody wins. The leader owns their space, the leader owns their department, and the leader owns the successes and failures of the team. When the leader gets in the blame game instead of owning the stumbles, the leader loses…the team loses. It is the leader’s responsibility to assess the situation and figure out a way (with the help of the team) to give the team the tools, coaching, and actionable guidance to overcome the challenges. The team and the leader will grow in the process.

Leaders put the team first and hold themselves accountable first. The sum is greater than its parts. Every leader will be faced with the situation when his or her team fails. At this critical point, the leader will decide to blame others or stand up and take ownership of the stumble. If the leader takes the responsibility, the team will rally around the leader. The team will grow stronger and have more respect for the leader. Respect equals success. Ownership equals success. Drop the ego!

Leadership is an active sport, get in the game!