What Great Leaders Know and Do: The Importance of Reinventing Continuously

My last couple of blogs were lifelong learning online adult education and knowledge building,dedicated to the first two elements of the SERVE model from The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do, the first book Mark Miller and I coauthored, which was just released as a 10th Anniversary Edition.

For a quick review, the S in the model stands for See the Future and points out the importance of having a compelling vision for the future. The first E in the SERVE model stands for Engage and Develop Others. As a leader, you must be able to put the right people in the right roles, and you must invest in their development.

Now I want to tell you about the R in the SERVE model, which stands for Reinvent Continuously. This is a very big concept so I’ve broken it down into three components: Personal reinvention, systems and processes reinvention, and structural reinvention.

First, if you want to be a great leader, you must reinvent continuously on a personal level. Simply knowing how to do your job today doesn’t secure your success tomorrow. Read, watch videos, listen to audio books or podcasts, talk to colleagues, work with a mentor, or join associations or special interest groups. It’s important to keep up with this ever-changing world so that you can be innovative and bring new ideas that will respond to future challenges. In fact, Mark and I believe if you stop learning, you stop leading.

The second component applies to reinventing systems and processes. It’s critical to keep looking for ways to improve how your business is conducted. A key point to always remember, whether you are looking for ways to cut costs, reduce errors, increase speed to market, or simplify processes, is to talk to your people. Because they are in the trenches with your products, services, and customers, they often generate ideas executive leaders wouldn’t come up with. Getting input from people at all levels in your workplace also increases buy-in.

The third part is all about structural reinvention. Sometimes the way an organization is structured just doesn’t make sense for future growth. The best leaders recognize this and are willing to be flexible when it comes to restructuring teams, departments, and sometimes entire functions.

Continuous reinvention is a long-term quest. To get started on your reinvention journey, ask yourself these questions:

  • Who are my mentors?
  • What am I learning?
  • What systems or processes need to be changed to improve how we do business?
  • Do any teams, departments, or functions need restructuring to enhance future performance?

I’d love to hear from you. In what ways have you reinvented yourself, your workplace systems and processes, or your organization?

Do You Have the Heart of a Leader?

teach, inspire, motivate  - a collage of isolated words in vintaI’ve worked with thousands of leaders over the years and the most successful ones achieve results while acting with respect, care, and fairness for the well-being of everyone involved. Many companies put pressure on leaders to reach or surpass goals at any cost. But wise companies realize that leaders who can achieve results by creating a motivating work environment are the leaders who will sustain future success.

What’s the secret behind this kind of leader? I think truly effective leadership begins on the inside—with your heart. Leading from your heart is about leadership character and intention, which form the backbone of servant leadership. As a leader, you must ask yourself why you lead. Is it to serve or to be served? Answering this question in a truthful way is so important. You can’t fake being a servant leader. I believe that if leaders don’t get the heart right, they simply won’t ever become servant leaders.

The most persistent barrier to being a servant leader is a heart motivated by self-interest that looks at the world as a “give a little, take a lot” proposition. Leaders with hearts motivated by self-interest put their own agenda, safety, status, and gratification ahead of those who are affected by their thoughts and actions. Leaders with a servant heart believe their role is to bring out the best in others. They thrive on developing people and helping them achieve their goals. They constantly try to find out what their people need to perform well. Being a servant leader is not just another management technique. It is a way of life for those with servant hearts.

The Power of Clear Values and a Trusting Environment

bigstock-Core-Values-Concept-53563306I’ve talked often of the importance that values play in achieving your corporate vision. Your purpose as an organization tells you where you want to go as a company, but values tell you how you are going to get there.  Clearly defined values provide guidelines for how to make daily decisions that impact your future success—or failure.

I recently had the chance to hear Stephen M.R. Covey talk about the impact that the lack of trust has on all of us, and I realized something: there is another layer of underlying behavior that impacts our ability to live by our values. Trust and values actually work hand in hand to create a strong company. Continue reading

Don’t Be a One Dimensional Leader—Adjust Your Style to the Task

Leadership and the One Minute ManagerHarperCollins just released our revised edition of Leadership and the One Minute Manager. Much has changed since the original book was published nearly 30 years ago—workforces are more diverse, workplaces are less centralized, and technology has revolutionized business communications.  Surprisingly, much has remained the same, especially when it comes to managing people.  Today more than ever leaders have to do three important things. First, they have to help people set clear goals. Second, they have to diagnose people’s development level on each task. Third, they have to match their leadership style to the development level of the person they’re leading, to provide that person with what they need to succeed.

Notice I said “diagnose people’s development level on each task.” Even among experienced managers, it’s easy to fall into a trap of seeing people as beginners, or moderately competent, or highly experienced.  When we paint people with a broad brush—for example, assuming that because a person is an expert in one aspect of their job, they’re an expert in all aspects of their job—our assumptions often lead to misunderstandings and poor performance. Continue reading

Trust Works!

I’ve written more than a few books over the years, but I still get excited when a new one comes out. We’ve just released a new book I coauthored with Cynthia Olmstead and Martha Lawrence called Trust Works! Four Keys to Building Lasting Relationships. We think it will make a difference in people’s lives while giving them a smile.

trust-works-book-coverThe first part of the book is written as a parable about a dog and a cat and how they learn to trust each other. It’s interesting—we asked people for feedback on one of our first drafts, and some dog lovers were offended because it seemed as if the dog had to do all the work to get the trust from the cat. We realized that we needed to emphasize that trust is a two-way street. So in our finished story, not only is the dog trying to get the cat to trust him, but the cat has to get the dog to trust her too. Of course, the story is a metaphor for any relationship where people need to create and build trust with one another. Readers will be able to apply it to their working relationships as well as their relationships with family and friends.

Cindy Olmstead spent years developing the wonderful ABCD Trust Model™ we use in the second part of the book to highlight the four behaviors that need to be present in order to build trust. If even one of these behaviors is absent, trust erodes.

First, you have to prove that you’re Able. You are competent to solve problems and get results. You strive to be the best at what you do and you use your skills to help others.

Next, you have to be Believable. You act with integrity and honesty. You show respect for others, admit your mistakes, keep confidences, and avoid talking behind others’ backs.

You also have to be Connected. You care about others, which includes showing interest, asking for input, and listening.  You praise the efforts of others and share information about yourself.

Finally, you need to be Dependable. You do what you say you will do. You are organized and responsive. People know you will follow up and be accountable.

How would you assess your trustworthiness in these four key areas? Go to http://www.trustworksbook.com and take the self-assessment. While you’re at it, ask the people you work with to evaluate you as well.

That’s how I learned that my lowest score in these four areas was in the Dependable category. What an eye opener! I never thought of myself as undependable but since my executive team and I understood the four factors, we were able to have that conversation and zero in on the problem. Turns out that my desire to please everyone showed up in real life as a tendency to over-commit myself—which resulted in people ultimately being disappointed because I couldn’t meet their expectations.

Using the ABCD Trust Model™, my team came up with a great solution for me. Now when opportunities come up, instead of saying yes without thinking, I hand out my executive assistant’s card so she can make sure I have the time and resources to follow through.  As a result, my Dependable score has soared!

In most organizations, trust issues are simply avoided until they reach a breaking point. You can’t just assume that trust will grow over time—sometimes the exact opposite happens.

Trust is hard to define. You can tell when it’s absent—but how do you create it and build it when it doesn’t exist? Trust Works! provides a common language for trust—and essential skills for building, repairing, and sustaining it. Building trust is one of the most needed skills for leaders today. Don’t leave trust to chance in your organization.