Sunday, April 29, 2007

"Impedership" vs. Leadership

Dale Dauten writes the syndicated business column The Corporate Curmudgeon. In his February 4, 2007 column in the Boston Globe, he coined the term "impedership" to describe leaders who decrease the productivity of their employees by acting like jerks. "Impedership" not only slows down your team's productivity, but gives you a reputation as a jerky manager that follows you in your career. The folks at ej4, a corporate training company, ran with the idea and created a great video expanding on it. I hope you don't see too much of yourself in the video, but if you do, have the courage to address the problem immediately.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Volunteer for Leadership Training

In the workplace, leaders have an unfair advantage in getting their teams to follow them: Their employees want to keep their jobs. Hopefully, you aren't the kind of leader who overtly threatens your employees if they don't support your direction. Nevertheless, your employees understand that if they don't follow your leadership, they risk not satisfying you and at best limiting their career options.

On the other hand, leaders of volunteer organizations recognize that volunteers can walk out any time they feel like it. Because of this, volunteer leaders learn how to motivate their teams without the advantage of fear. Success in this arena depends on a leader's ability to understand what will motivate each team member and address those needs.

I gained many of my leadership instincts in college as the editor of our student-run yearbook. I encourage you to take a turn leading volunteers. At the very least, you contribute some of your skills to your community. You may also learn something.

Corporate leaders too easily rely on their power to drive their teams to follow them. Power certainly works, but using only power doesn't give you the hearts of your team members. If you want the hearts of your employees, you need to understand and work with what motivates them to support your vision. Getting your employee's full support is worth putting away the easier, fear-based leadership approach.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Leadership Requirement for College Admissions

I'm on vacation this week with my family. We are taking my daughter on college tours. The admissions officer at the college we visited today said she looked for two things on an application that I hadn't expected. First was evidence of an ability to take on a long-term commitment. She wants to see that the student is able to participate in anything for multiple years. The second unexpected thing she looks for is leadership experience. The admissions officer explained that leadership experience shows a level of passion that drives you to share what you are passionate about with others. She also explained that only the truly passionate are willing to do the management required for everyone else to participate. There are lessons for us everywhere if we listen for them.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Get Comfortable Presenting

Most people feel uncomfortable giving presentations. Unfortunately, effective leaders often find themselves in the spotlight. Don't presume, though, that other leaders feel comfortable giving presentations. While some do feel comfortable, many have merely learned to look comfortable. Nevertheless, they don't shy away from getting up front. Here are some hints for feeling more comfortable with public speaking:
  • Start small - if the best you can do is speak up more at meetings, then do so. The more you practice the more comfortable you will feel. If you can speak comfortably to a group of four people, practice that.
  • Work up to larger groups - challenge yourself to speak to groups a little larger than you feel comfortable with. Over time, you will acclimate to larger and larger audiences.
  • Know your material - the root of many people's discomfort is a fear of looking foolish. the better your know your material, the more comfortable you will feel presenting it.
  • Have a plan - more than knowing your material, you need to have a plan for what you want to achieve with your presentation. Focus your presentation on just those things that you need to present to achieve your plan.
  • Learn from others - don't just listen to when other people present. Look for what you like and don't like in how they present. This gives you many more opportunities to improve your skills.
  • Practice, practice, practice - face your fears by seeking out opportunities to speak in public. Call meetings where you might otherwise send an email. Stand up at a whiteboard where you might otherwise run a meeting from a chair. Volunteer to facilitate meetings for peers. The more you practice, the more comfortable you will feel.

Communication is one of our key leadership tools and we can't afford to limit our approaches by avoiding public speaking. You need to learn to get through your fears and develop your skills for standing in the front.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Leadership Analogies from Home Car Repair

What leadership lessons can we learn from home car repair?
  • It's worth getting the Chilton guide for your car.
  • Make sure you have a way to get parts before you disable the car.
  • You are going to bang your knuckles loosening a bolt.
  • You are going to bang the same knuckle a second time.
  • Keep your head to the side and carefully remove the oil plug.
  • Don't over-torque bolts.
  • Keep a tray for all the small parts as you take something apart.

As usual, you should use your own imagination to fill out the analogies.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Leadership Analogies from Woodworking

Here is the second post in my "analogies" series. What can we learn about leadership from woodworking?

  • Measure twice, cut once.
  • Sand with the grain of the wood.
  • Take time to sharpen your saw.
  • Jigs are a big help when making multiples of the same thing.
  • Watch your fingers and wear you safety glasses.
  • The better joints are harder to make.

Again, I will let you attach meaning to these analogies.

Thoughts on The Apprentice: LA, Episode 11

New lessons have become hard to see in recent episodes. My best advice is to go back and read some of my earlier posts. There is very little new here. This will be my last Apprentice post unless this changes and there is something valuable to add.

Rather than leave you with nothing, there was one interesting new lesson this week. Oddly, it came from the reward. Kinetic's reward for winning the task was a night with a member of their family. No other reward garnered more excitement and emotion from the candidates. This is a good point to remember as we consider the motivations of our work teams.
Lesson: Most people are motivated by time with the people they care about.