I had this great moment with my son recently – he inspired a wonderful aha. It took me barely any time to write down my thoughts, which turned into this blog/article, and before I could think twice, I shared it with my contact and Editor at West Michigan Woman, Amy Charles. I told her I had no plan when I wrote it – I wrote it for me – and she could use it as she saw fit. To my happy surprise, just two weeks later, I opened the online magazine to see it had been published! See below…
Have you ever driven a zero-point-turn mower? I was recently and reluctantly granted permission to use my dad’s coveted mower while helping my parents manage their five acre yard due to Dad’s health issues. As a kid, I loved driving…anything – tractors, minibikes, motorcycles, snowmobiles, cars, and horses (technically you ride a horse not drive it, but you get my point). And now I was going to add zero-point-turn mower to my list. I anticipated I would put my earbuds in, enjoy the sunshine, and have a relaxing uneventful ride. Well, that was my intention anyway.
I didn’t realize it was initially going to be such a challenge! Full engagement!! This machine required my full attention, so no earbuds. You see, the clutch, the power/gas, the steering wheel, and the gear shift/neutral are ALL maneuvered from the handles…separate right and left handles – requiring supreme coordination. God forbid you itch your nose while driving, and end up veering off in the wrong direction…oops, was that a strawberry plant?
In the first half-hour of my grass-cutting adventure, I could not stop thinking about all of the leadership metaphors! Primarily centered around engagement. I was so “in it to win it”. My senses were heightened. I was excited. I was challenged. I wanted to do a great job for my parents and prove myself worthy of the task, and that meant taming this beast. How silly that I could be having so much fun cutting the lawn?! But I was!
I realized all three of the factors from Daniel Pink’s book DRIVE were fulfilled – Mastery, Autonomy, and Purpose. Mastery: My desire to learn, master, and quickly conquer this machine was off the charts. Autonomy: My dad had given me a quick lesson while still parked in the barn, covering the basic mechanics and some trouble shooting, and then I was off to figure it out on my own. Purpose: All of us, my sisters, and spouses included, were helping out during this rough patch with Dad’s health. Taking care of the yard was important to him, so it was important to us.
Engagement is a huge topic in business as the estimated and conservative costs of disengagement are 10-20% of revenue according to the forbesbooks.com article, “The Real Cost Of Employee Disengagement”. And, based on the Harvard Business Review “Disengaged Employees? Do Something About It” article, only 30% of employees are engaged, which means 70% are disengaged! The impact on business is substantial. What to do?
Some of my aha’s:
- The challenge of learning something new is/was fun! When’s the last time you were engaged?
- Basic training followed by the freedom to figure it out and work out the kinks…mistakes included, was critical.
- “Goldilocks” feedback is a critical step in the engagement process – not too much, not too little…training/guiding/tweaking while encouraging.
- Mastery takes time. Period. Get out of your head and cut yourself some slack. I know I didn’t do a perfect job, but for a first timer, I did do a great job. [NOTE: I see this with many clients who step into new roles…they berate themselves for not being immediately accomplished and go into “giving up”/disengagement mode very quickly. Incredibly self defeating. Do yourself a favor and discuss and set realistic expectations]
- Some people enjoy the challenge of learning something new, some people enjoy the perfection of a job well done, some people want the praise from a respected leader, etc. etc. Learn what your constituents need and want. Find ways to engage them.
- My first few rounds were slow. Be patient with yourself. I couldn’t have gotten up-to-speed as quickly if I hadn’t taken time to learn on the front end.
All said and done, it was great to be so engaged in something! My ultimate test was the last section right behind the deck (short up and down turns) …with my father watching. My absolute best and tightest turns of the day. I got the nod.
Many business travelers know this feeling…realizing you just missed your connection by 20 minutes at the end of the night, in the middle of a snowstorm, with no hotels left in the area. leadership
I just rescheduled my connecting flight for an early morning departure. Bummer. After asking the ticket agent if there was a spot for stranded travelers, I was directed to a huge pile of mattresses, blankets, and pillows in a big heap at the end of the concourse. I collected my loot and asked another woman for the “best place to sleep” – she winked and directed me to a quiet little secret hideaway on the concourse balcony. Up the stairs I climbed with my mattress, pillow, blanket, purse, and backpack in hand. Out-of-breath, I chose “my spot” – not one of the fellow straggler-travelers glanced in my direction. In an effort to change the dynamic, I dropped my belongings and immediately began introducing myself to my new roommates. Nearest me were Steve, Hannah, and ticked-off grumpy guy.
In terms of airport-overnight stays, I hit the jackpot! An outlet for my devices, chairs to act as a wall, a mattress (vs. a cot – once upon a time in O’Hare…awful!), and a “trust buddy” in Steve (Steve and I made a pact to watch out for each other on bathroom runs, etc.). Right now, sitting on these two chairs with my feet up, I really couldn’t be too much more comfortable in my own living room – that’s what I’m telling myself anyway. It’s all good. Let’s see what I say in the morning – LOL.
In these situations I love the leadership metaphors that emerge! Here are a few from tonight:
- Trust is a visceral, gut-level, instinctual thing – Standing in line to rebook connections for our 3-4 hour-delayed flight – the young woman behind me, who had barely spoken a word, looked up at me and said “when we get into MN, I live 10 minutes from the airport – you are welcome to stay in the spare bedroom – you can Uber back in the morning to catch your connecting flight.” I laughed, suggesting she was being a bit hasty to invite a stranger into her home, and she responded, “No…I can tell, you’re a good person. You’re welcome to come over if you want.” Unfortunately we lost each other after the flight, but the gesture was not lost on me. Tia, my hero! I so appreciated her trust in me (it was mutual :)).
- How you conduct yourself in a crisis says everything about you as a leader – Need I say more? We’ve all seen the range of behaviors at the airport…
- A common goal or situation can bring people together if rallied. But until rallied, they are just individuals experiencing the same situation.
- People generally don’t trust (or like) grumpy/negative people…or leaders – Everyone steered clear of grumpy guy – I know I felt his bad energy and definitely avoided him. We had this cool vibe going with the other passengers coming together, and he did not fit in. At some point in the middle-of-the-night he disappeared. Our energy speaks louder than our words!
- Unaware people/team members can negatively impact the team. This section of the airport is designated as a “quiet area”. Travelers are attempting to sleep (it is midnight after all) and the influx of unaware late-comers is disruptive and rude at best…loud sarcastic comments (man, this sucks…living the dream!) and lengthy phone conversations (go in the hallway!). Clueless.
- Put yourself out there and do the right thing – AND – Human kindness is our default mode. When I introduced myself and suggested we be “trust/watch-your-stuff-buddies”, the look of relief was palpable…often times, others are “thinking the same thing” but are afraid to speak up. My new buddy Steve, and I, took care of each other…nothing like shared subs, apples, and toothpaste to say “I care.” And again, Tia.
Whether traveling across the country, or traveling into your office…what does your leadership say about you?
One of my very cool business-owner-clients sent me a great thank-you note about the culture work we did in 2017, with a motivating message about our 2018 plan. Great note and proudly displayed on my desk. However, my favorite part about his note was the envelope, this envelope…now posted on my bulletin board – I love this quote!
Because I reflect on these words everyday, attitude has been on my mind lately, and a primary focus… The lens through which I am viewing, my lens, is “leadership”. Based on my executive coaching interactions, I can easily say, the majority of leaders with whom I work (ha…like 99%!), go directly to “how do I fix this employee’s bad attitude?” (Do Not Pass Go!). From their perspective, “attitude” is all on the employee. No culpability on their part. Well…that’s not totally accurate. Maybe it’s more like they do not believe, or even realize they directly influence attitude. They can, and they do. You do too.
In the March 2017 Harvard Business Review article, “Motivating People Starts with Having the Right Attitude”, author Monique Valcour states,
Many leaders don’t understand that they are an integral part of the motivational ecosystem in their companies. The motivational qualities…[persistence, being a self-starter, having a sense of accountability for and commitment to achieving results, and being willing to go the extra mile on projects or to help other team members] appear most frequently when employees feel valued, trusted, challenged, and supported in their work — all things that leaders can influence. For better or worse, leaders’ attitudes and behaviors have a huge effect on employees’ drive and capacity to perform.”
Our ability as leaders to directly influence or “fix” an employee’s negative attitude, or at a minimum, enhance an employee’s positive attitude, is threefold.
#1- Are you a leader your followers want to follow? [A great read is the classic HBR article “Why Should Anyone Be Led by You?”]
#2 – Are you a living example of great leadership?
#3 – Are you modeling a good/great attitude yourself?
Are you influencing and motivating a/an (take your pick: positive, productive, performance-enhancing, empowering, engaging, can-do) attitude while being a strong leader? This is key to leveraging your organizational talent. Taken from Entrepreneur.com, and the article “6 Key Tips for Leading by Example”, the 6 key tips impacting employee drive, performance, and excellence are (drumroll please!):
1. Establish an impeccable standard of excellence.
2. Deliver on results promised.
3. Value people and nurture relationships.
4. Promote strategic cooperation
5. Resolve conflict quickly and effectively.
6. Freely develop and support others.
No big surprise take-aways…just basic great-leadership tenets. Do these well, and enjoy the cascading, domino effect.
Lead by example…model positive attitude…influence positive behavior in others…increased engagement…greater ideas, bigger effort, enhanced quality…employee happiness, improved quality, increased customer satisfaction, increased sales, greater profits…
…and it all starts with YOU!
Given today is Halloween, a day of all things creepy and gross, it seems a perfect time to share a recent incident I experienced…
I returned to my office building after an offsite appointment to find a package propped against my door. Cool. I knew what it was. My dear friend Robert from Texas had sent me a book he was insistent I would enjoy (that I had not yet purchased despite his insistence!)…this must be it. I quickly ripped open the packaging and set the book on my desk. I had forgotten something in my car, and when I returned, I froze in the doorway. My mind is obviously playing tricks on me…how can they make a cover like that??! My newly unpackaged book was sitting in the center of my desk, and because it was titled “The Dragonfly Effect”, I thought maybe (just maybe) there was some super-cool-super-strange-“insecty” optical effect/illusion. It looked like there were ants crawling on the cover. Weird, I didn’t see this when I opened the package. Wait. No!!! This isn’t an optical illusion, those are real ants. Grosssssss! Ants literally poured from the book and were spilling onto my desk!!!!!!! Ewwwwwwww……oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh…so gross!
I quickly grabbed the book and hightailed it out of my office, walking briskly down the hallway, attempting to maintain some sense of professional decorum, tentatively holding the book by its edges…gross, was there something sweet on my desk that attracted the ants? No, it couldn’t have happened that fast. As I was scurrying down the hallway, the book-cover jacket separated from the actual hardcover book. I looked at the space in-between. OMGosh!!!! There it was. Hundreds of ants! Hundreds!!!! I could see discoloration on the binding…this must be Ground Zero. My brisk walking turned into a run. I dropped the book on the walkway, ripping the jacket off, watching hundreds of ants scatter in the process. I just stood there in (super grossed out) amazement. After what seemed like a couple of minutes (maybe really only 10 seconds) I ran back to my office and took the pictures you see here…only a small representation of my reality…so gross!!
Ha! Morals of the story:
- It only takes one negative interaction to make you feel “guarded”. Leadership is the same. My trust in the retailer has been compromised and thus, my behavior has changed. I just don’t open packages the same anymore 😉
- No matter how great something/someone looks on the outside, you just don’t know what version of “ewwww” is underneath. Sometimes you need to look beyond the surface to see what’s really going on.
- I just heard a podcast today that defined great leadership as the ability to “read the situation” and adapt. Identify anyone/anything that compromises you/your offering/your team/your organization, and get it, metaphorically, off your desk/out of your organization.
- Root cause is important. (I am thankful this was not an UPwords Inc. problem, and from what I can discern, not the shipper…seems to be at the retailer level – customer service has been notified and they are relaying the info to the warehouse)
- It’s easy to freeze in a crisis, thinking a lot of time has passed. Get your bearings, know it has really only been a blink, assess, and go into action.
- As a leader, if there is something super attractive about you, people will swarm to you. (LOL!) 🙂 🙂
Happy Halloween everyone!