Leadership Caffeine™—Can One Person (You) Make a Difference?

mindset2I hear the same doubt expressed over and over again by good people upset over conditions in their workplace. It sounds something like: “Can I really make a difference? I’m just one person.”

The often unspoken trailer is: “…and I am not the CEO or a senior executive, and they are the ones who have to change to make this place better.”

To the core question, my answer is a resounding “Yes, YOU can make a difference. YES, one person can make a difference.”

Here’s Why and How:

  • In the stormiest of corporate cultures, you can create an oasis of civility, respect and support with your team. 100 percent of these behaviors are within your control.
  • You can choose to pay attention to people around you and offer meaningful coaching and feedback. There is no person or policy or cultural norm that can keep you from doing this in the course of your daily interactions.
  • You can lead the charge on addressing orphan problems. Many lingering organizational problems exist in a gray zone where ownership is uncertain. You can claim these unglamorous issues and bring others together to take care of them.
  • Communication is always an issue, but you can be the solution. No one is barring you from sharing updates, inviting people outside your department to your meetings or going the extra mile to keep everyone around you informed of changes.
  • Tunnel vision emerges on almost every team and in every organization, but no one has forced blinders on your eyes. There is not a single barrier keeping you from teaching and pushing people to look beyond the window in the conference room overlooking the parking lot to customers, the industry at large and the changes and happenings in other industries and technologies.
  • We like to complain about the decisions of others, yet there is nothing stopping you from cultivating, teaching and applying good decision-making processes and practices.
  • Most of the work of an organization takes place well below the ranks of senior leaders. You can foment a positive revolution of respect, continuous improvement and customer focus by serving as the example.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

Your positive example in dealing with every person and every issue will stand out to others as a sign of inspiration and hope, even in the worst of cultures. While many around you like to complain and point fingers, the few who choose to stand up and lead are the difference makers. Be one of those. It is completely within your control.

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Practical Lessons in Leadership

book cover: shows title Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development by Art Petty. Includes image of a coffee cup.

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Art Petty is a speaker and workshop presenter focusing on helping professionals and organizations learn to survive and thrive in an era of change. When he is not speaking, Art serves senior executives, business owners and high potential professionals as a coach and strategy advisor. Additionally, Art’s books are widely used in leadership development programs. To learn more or discuss a challenge, contact Art.

Leadership Caffeine™—The Book and Coming Attractions!

stackofbooksrenderfileAs I mention in the video below, an off-hand comment from my brilliant webmaster, Bob, at DigiSage, gave life to the collection of essays in Leadership Caffeine—Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development. While Bob’s idea turned out to be a lot of work in culling down from 1,000 essays into the final 84, and then editing, annotating, and organizing them for publication, I am grateful for his brainstorm.

The best testament to any leadership and professional development book is that readers find it useful for advancing their cause.

The primary audience for this book has been groups, including: corporations, teams, departments, and industry associations, and the feedback I regularly receive assures me that readers find help for their most vexing challenges somewhere between the covers of this collection. I hope you do as well.

In celebration of the upcoming publication anniversary, I am pleased to offer an updated video overview of the book. For anyone interested in ordering 10 or more copies for their team, drop me a note for pricing information.

The Leadership Caffeine Family is Expanding: 

Last winter, I introduced the free e-book: A Bold Cup of Leadership Caffeine: A Short Guide to Stimulate High Performance  featuring all-new content beyond the book. This free resource blasted off on day one and continues to be downloaded at an impressive clip every day. Please share it far and wide with your team members and with my appreciation for your readership.

Incoming-Focusing on Project Leadership: 

In a few weeks, I will launch: Leadership Caffeine for Project Managers: Ideas and Inspiration to Help You Survive, Sustain and Succeed!

Many of you know that I have spent much of my professional time in the world of high tech and software project management and that I serve as a graduate management instructor in the topic. This collection is a direct outgrowth of my experience and work as an educator and team developer in this arena and as a testament to my regard and belief in the professionals in this great and critical role. I cannot wait to make it available to you!

Look for details on pre-launch pricing in the upcoming weeks as well as information on the  webinars and the keynote and workshop offerings that correspond with the book.

Yours in professional development and success,

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Art Petty serves senior executives and management teams as a performance coach and strategy facilitator. Art is a popular speaker and workshop presenter focusing on helping professionals and organizations learn to survive and thrive in an era of change. Additionally, Art’s books are widely used in leadership development programs. To learn more or discuss a challenge, contact Art.

 

Leadership Caffeine™–Decisions and the Least Bad Option

image of a foam coffee cup with brown outer sleeveA good number of decisions in business (and life) include choices that beg selecting the least bad option.

  • Do we pull in that big deal with a discount incentive to dress up this quarter’s poor numbers and in the process, create a hole for the next quarter?
  • Do we go public with our findings, or hope that the situation that triggers the problem never occurs?
  • Do we continue investing in this initiative regardless of the fact that our competitor just released something that trumps our yet-to-be-born idea?
  • Do I look the other way on that transgression, or fire the person who has proven so valuable to our firm?
  • Do I cover for my boss or go over her head?
  • Do we bet everything on the new strategy, or stick with the old one hoping we can be the one firm that grows in a dying market?

When facing these decisions we strive to rationalize the choice that exposes us personally to the least amount of risk. It is our survival instinct. We do this as individuals, and we most definitely do this as management teams. Usually, this is the wrong choice.

In a course on decision-making I teach every year, the students (all professionals) describe regret over the choices they made where their self-interests overrode their thinking about right and wrong.

Alternatively, the students look back with pride at the hard calls they made that were morally (to them) the right calls. Interestingly, even in situations that did not work out favorably, those who made the harder personal calls for least bad option scenarios describe those decisions as pivot points in their lives and careers. They frequently point to a string of subsequent tough decisions where the right choice propelled their careers and firms forward.

When you face a choice between two unattractive options, there’s usually one that is the better choice for the bigger picture. In the examples above, the right choices exposed the decision-maker(s) to greater risk.

Perhaps the right approach when facing a choice between two seemingly unattractive options is to break the mirror in front of you and look beyond your own self interests.

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Art Petty serves senior executives and management teams as a performance coach and strategy facilitator. Art is a popular speaker and workshop presenter focusing on helping professionals and organizations learn to survive and thrive in an era of change. Additionally, Art’s books are widely used in leadership development programs. To learn more or discuss a challenge, contact Art.

Get the latest e-book (free) from Art: “A Bold Cup of Leadership Caffeine: Ideas to Stimulate High Performance.” 

See posts in the Leadership Caffeine™ series.

Read More of Art’s Motivational Writing on Leadership and Management at About.com!

book cover: shows title Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development by Art Petty. Includes image of a coffee cup.

 

Leadership Caffeine™—Don’t Let a Bad Employee Experience Define You

image of a foam coffee cup with brown outer sleeveEvery person who has spent any significant amount of time in a management role has encountered at least one employee from that warm place, and I am not talking about Phoenix. The best of the worst are master manipulators who work within the system confounding attempts to discipline or dismiss them with vexing, nose-thumbing ease. Along the way, these walking toxic waste dumps destroy group morale and drain the life energy for leading from their bosses.

While it would be nice to believe you could avoid these close encounters of the evil kind, life is never that easy. A bad apple slips through the hiring cracks. An employee passed over for a promotion feels slighted and seemingly devotes her free time to thinking of ways to torture you. The brilliant but mercurial employee you support because of her brilliance turns out to be the epicenter of dysfunction on your team. And those are just three I dealt with at various points in my career. I hear new examples regularly from my coaching clients.

These are often bitter, crushing situations filled with regrets and second-guesses and creeping self-doubt. “If only I had…” is the refrain I hear most often as managers describe their own painful situations. And while some readers might wonder why the managers failed to exorcise these people from the workplace, the reality is that the system is typically set-up to minimize litigation and not maximize speed of resolution. Due process in some firms becomes dead-slow process, where the manager is forced to survive and teammates suffer while the individual in question skates along on the thin line between survival and elimination.

In most instances, these situations eventually come to an inglorious ending and the manager and team are left to clean up the mess and cope with the post-traumatic stress fallout that follows in the wake of these bad apples. I know a few managers who lost their love for their work of guiding and developing others and made radical changes in their careers. Others have become suspicious and cynical about everyone they encounter and hesitant ever again to extend their trust, lest it be trampled upon. And some managers use these experiences to come back stronger and more committed to their work than ever before. It is the behaviors of this latter group that most inspire me.

Four Lessons in Constructive Recovery from Dealing with a Toxic Employee:

1. Press the restart button. Use the immediate post toxic employee period to build stronger relationships with your team members as individuals and as a group. One manager met with her employees and without revisiting the entire painful experience, took full responsibility for her missteps and the past pain. She apologized and committed to doing everything in her power to avoiding a repeat scenario. She met personally with each team member to let them vent and she redoubled her efforts to insure accountability for respect and results in daily activities.

2. Roll up the lessons learned and apply them moving forward. One of my personal favorite examples of constructive recovery involved a manager who engaged a mentor to review what had transpired and to identify situations where she failed to act or to act properly to drive a speedy resolution. She summarized the lessons learned, shared them with her boss and her boss’s boss and identified how she would improve her handling of a difficult employee situation in the future. From faster, most specific feedback and follow-up on the feedback to immediate engagement of human resources to ensure that the proper processes were followed from the start, she was well prepared for her next difficult situation.

3. Reset on your group’s or firm’s values. Another manager recognized that he had failed to live up to the values of the firm in his handling of a challenging employee. He admitted as such to his group and asked for their help in creating an internal initiative to review the values and identify opportunities to translate them into daily activities. The group’s effort was appreciated by senior management and soon became a company-wide initiative.

4. Take a break. I actually did this. It turns out that after a few months of being responsible for no one but myself, I realized how important it was for me to be supporting the efforts of others. The break allowed me to reset and rethink how I practiced leadership. I came back ferociously committed to helping others develop while helping my business succeed.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

The common threads in the “survivor” lessons above include the recognition and admission of responsibility and the resolve to turn the negative situation into a set of strong, positive behaviors in the future. Those who give up miss out on the opportunity for growth created by a tough experience. They allow themselves to be defined by this one situation and the world loses someone who now has the context and experience to truly help others in the future. My counsel: lick your wounds; admit your responsibility; rethink your approach to leading and turn this one lousy experience into a set of behaviors that help others succeed on their career journeys. And remember, no one said this would be easy.

Get the latest e-book (free) from Art: “A Bold Cup of Leadership Caffeine: Ideas to Stimulate High Performance.” 

See posts in the Leadership Caffeine™ series.

Read More of Art’s Motivational Writing on Leadership and Management at About.com!

Art Petty serves senior executives and management teams as a performance coach and strategy facilitator. Art is a popular speaker and workshop presenter focusing on helping professionals and organizations learn to survive and thrive in an era of change. Additionally, Art’s books are widely used in leadership development programs. To learn more or discuss a challenge, contact Art.

book cover: shows title Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development by Art Petty. Includes image of a coffee cup.

Leadership Caffeine™—Quit Hacking Your Way Through Your Days

image of a foam coffee cup with brown outer sleeveA coaching client—the CEO of a successful software firm—was struggling to help his firm navigate a critical transition to a new strategy. He was forcing his actions, leading by command, and generating stress and strife in his wake. After listening to the comments of his colleagues and then sharing this input with him, he went quiet for a few minutes and then sighed, and offered: “This situation is critical for our firm. I fear that if we fail, the lights will dim on what should be a bright future. I feel like it is my responsibility to bring this new strategy to life, and I am failing.”

He made my job as a coach easy, because internally, he understood that he was the cause of the problem. Like an athlete on a bad day, he was off his game—his actions were disjointed and his mental game was a wreck. After challenging him to reassess his role and ask his team members how he could best help and support them with the strategic transition, he relaxed, focused on purpose and regained his leadership flow.

Too often in the world of leadership development and coaching, we preoccupy on the visible manifestation of leadership—the gestures, actions, styles and habits—when the real work of leadership is forged in our minds, invisible to all but the lone individual waging war against self-doubt or other insidious dark forces.

I call this the “Inner Game of Leading,” in tribute to Timothy Gallwey’s fabulous 1970’s era book: “The Inner Game of Tennis: The Classic Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance.” (While tennis is a vehicle, the book is an extraordinary guide to succeeding with the challenges found between your ears.) This book was an early influence on me as I worked to overcome my mediocre—on a good day—serve and my spotty, temperamental backhand. Later on, it served as a guide for keeping my ego in check and learning not to defeat myself on the leadership court.

Yes, in our training courses and programs and books and blogs, we spend most of our time focusing on the motor skills of leadership and not enough—and in many cases, not at all—on the inner game so essential to leading effectively. That’s too bad, because success goes to those who get the inner game working—creating flow and eliminating spotty behaviors and unforced errors.

If you’ve not asked and answered some variation of the following questions recently, it is likely your inner game is out of sync with your leadership actions.

  • Why do I lead?
  • What is my real purpose?
  • What do my team members need from me to help them succeed?
  • At the end of this project (relationship), what will my team members say that I did?

The Bottom-Line for Now:

The questions above are simple, yet your answers have a profound impact on how you play the game. Answering them honestly every day and at every encounter and you will mostly avoid hacking your way through your days.

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Get the latest e-book (free) from Art: “A Bold Cup of Leadership Caffeine: Ideas to Stimulate High Performance.” 

See posts in the Leadership Caffeine™ series.

Read More of Art’s Motivational Writing on Leadership and Management at About.com!

Art Petty serves senior executives and management teams as a performance coach and strategy facilitator. Art is a popular keynote speaker focusing on helping professionals and organizations learn to survive and thrive in an era of change. Additionally, Art’s books are widely used in leadership development programs. To learn more or discuss a challenge, contact Art.

book cover: shows title Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development by Art Petty. Includes image of a coffee cup.