Leadership Caffeine™—The Hard Work of Leading Is All In Your Mind

image of a foam coffee cup with brown outer sleeveThe hardest work of leading you’ll ever do is not the coaching, problem-solving, communicating and other externally focused activities that occupy your days.

Rather, the heavy lifting of creating success as a leader goes on in the space between your ears. It’s choosing right versus wrong; thinking long-term versus short-term, deciding left or right and saying no, when the temptation is yes. Successfully navigating these and the many other challenging issues you encounter demands that you regularly refresh on five key and very personal issues.

Five Personal Issues Every Leader Must Master:

1. Cultivating an accurate view-of-self. How well do you understand who you are as a person and as a leader and how does this internal view manifest in the right behaviors? Do you see and understand and apply your superpowers? Are you aware of your gaps and are you doing something to mitigate or eliminate the adverse impact of your gaps. (Hint: most coaching scenarios with senior leaders involve working with them to stop or alter the behaviors that make people around them crazy.)

2. Retaining and renewing your sense of mission about your role. It’s easy to lose track of your real purpose and approach for creating results. As a reminder, regularly ask yourself: “At the end of our time working together, what will people say that I did?” If you do not have good, honest answers for this question, or, if the answer is closer to, “I approved their expense reports,” than “I changed their lives for the better,” it is time to renew on your mission in your role. To refresh, try asking your team this question and then listen carefully to what they hope you will do to support their efforts.

3. Developing the self-confidence to trust yourself. Trusting yourself is a combination of self-esteem and self-confidence. If you struggle with these issues, everyone feels it. I once coached a smart, talented professional who struggled to make the big decisions on talent and direction. He had been promoted to a leadership role based on his individual contributor skills. In his new role, he struggled with decisions in large part because he feared the repercussions of being wrong. As an individual contributor, he was an expert. As a leader, his expertise did not translate and he became fearful of making mistakes.

His reticence on making the calls frustrated his team members, and when I was called into the situation, they were on the brink of giving up on him. With coaching and a lot of uncomfortable (to him) practice at decision-making, he learned to trust himself enough to quit holding his team members hostage. Today he leads a much larger enterprise and is a mentor to others on developing as a decision-maker.

4. Learning to trust others. The inability to trust is the root cause of destructive micromanaging behaviors. Instead of requiring people to earn your trust over time, give yourself and them a break and give your trust. This shift in the trust-giving process from, “Show me why I should trust you,” to “I trust you, unless you give me reason not to,” is a difficult step for many, but liberating for everyone. No trust, no team.

5. Retaining a strong sense of empathy for your team members and showing genuine commitment. Your success is a function of how interested and motivated people are to work around and for you. Regularly ask yourself (and answer) this important question: “Why will anyone on my team trust me to lead them to safety and success?” For others to trust you, they must perceive that you have their safety and best interests at heart. They need to understand that you care, and they need to see you exhibiting these beliefs on a daily basis.

The Bottom-line for Now:

Self-confidence, self-esteem and clarity of purpose are fundamental to succeeding at leading. You cultivate these critical attributes by regularly renewing around the five core issues identified above. The best leaders seek honest feedback on whether they are getting it right and they are relentless about knocking out the bad habits and inner thinking traps that get in the way of success. This heavy lifting for the inner game pays dividends with effective performance for the external behaviors we associate with successful leadership.

popupimageGet 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.

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New Monthly Leadership Coaching Call Offering from Art

feedbackNEW PROGRAM: Monthly Group Coaching Call.

Join me and a small number of other motivated professionals on a monthly hour-long group call where we will discuss common leadership challenges and solutions and engage in spotlight coaching and live q/a.

It’s a great way to explore distance coaching; gain some real-time help and extend your professional network. Enrollment is limited, although I am happy to set up multiple small groups.

Investment is $125 for 10 calls (one per month). All calls are recorded in case you have a conflict.

Learn more or e-mail me with your questions. Our program will kick-off in mid-March, 2016.

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Leadership Caffeine™—Don’t Back Off Leadership Development in a Crisis

image of a foam coffee cup with brown outer sleeveThe Leadership Caffeine™ series is intended to make you think and act.

When things break bad (even momentarily) in an organization, a number of predictable reflexes kick-in. Expenses are cut. Operations reviews evolve into extended, public proctology exams with everyone taking a long look searching for answers and blame. Time horizons shrink, the collective field of vision narrows to a pinhole and the lofty, noble ideals of developing leaders and teams that top management so passionately espoused during good times are reduced to echoes from a different era…when things were good.

Some of the responses are reasonable and expected. Expenses and forecasts merit exploration. Others are destructive. Suspending the work of developing your leaders and managers is destructive. Instead of letting your training budget dictate your team and leadership development efforts, try a return to the powerful and much needed full-contact work of coaching and teaching. Frankly, we should be doing this all of the time but too often we let external training substitute for our own heavy lifting around leadership development. Tight budgets are no excuse to back off. Instead, try these low-cost, high contact ideas to help support your efforts.

5 Ideas to Double Down on People Development when Things Break Bad

1-Get the Right Conversations Started. Encourage the managers and leaders to form their own reading/discussion groups. You buy the pizza, drinks and occasional reading materials and they talk and then act on making things better. Caution, no need to make this a corporate mandate or H.R. driven program. Sew the seeds…and support the efforts but don’t make it feel like work. You’re lighting or stoking the collective fire for individuals to find a new performance gear and you have to inspire not command involvement. My suggested starter book: the latest edition of The Leadership Advantage by Kouzes and Posner. The discussion and potential for idea generation present in Chapter 1 alone will make this one of your best professional development investments ever!

2-Increase Your Coaching Efforts. Because the time horizon is now perceived as short and the field of vision narrowed to a laser focus on the revenue and cost numbers, the soft but hard discussions are often left for some future date to be determined. They just don’t happen, which is counter-intuitive. Effective leaders redouble their efforts to remain attuned to their own managers and senior team leads and both offer coaching to support strengthening and to shore up morale. While there’s always an opportunity cost to your time investments, this one pays significant dividends. Focus on observing, coaching and supporting your people If your calendar doesn’t have the equivalent of 20% of your time on this per week, you’re not taking it seriously.

3-Mind the Gap on Big Decisions. While closely related to the coaching efforts, any process of recovery invites big decisions on people, projects, structure and investment priorities to the table. Big decisions are often decisions that end up stalling out while everyone’s rushing around putting out fires or simply avoiding the discomfort. Hold your key leaders accountable to moving forward on the decisions and commensurate action items. Coach them through the decision-process and ensure that they’re prepared for the critical next steps on people, structure and programs following the decisions. Nothing supports professional development like the ownership of a big decision and accountability for the actions and outcomes.

4-Pick, Prioritize and Projectize the Recovery Efforts. Develop the discipline to identify and prioritize the limited number of critical recovery priorities and then get teams working on them. In a crisis, there’s a tendency to drive a lot of activity with no vector. Instead, help the employees narrow their own efforts to the critical few activities and then provide support for these project teams. Be deliberate selecting team leaders. These recovery priorities are remarkable developmental opportunities for people you perceive are ready for a new and bigger challenge. Again, nothing supports leadership and professional development like team leadership, particularly when the stakes are high. Ensure that each team is aligned with a good sponsor who understands his/her role to support building an effective team environment, and then let the teams and leaders run hard.

5-Bring Your Firm’s Values to Life. Sometimes the best development tools and opportunities are right in front of you in the form of your firm’s values. All too often the values get lost in the noise…they’re present on the wall and in the employee handbook, but mostly invisible in the daily work of the organization. Home grow a program focusing on exploring the meaning and application of the values in the day-to-day work environment. Let your managers grow a grass roots program to recruit these powerful (and aspirational) behavior statements into the hard work of helping the firm navigate the storm. This work can be a game changer for strengthening your firm’s culture.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

The best professional development always takes place with live fire activities. While budget cuts might kill the external training activities for a period of time, a crisis shouldn’t mean the end to the good work of leadership development. A crisis is a horrible thing to waste. Use it wisely and you’ll come out of it with a stronger team prepared to take your firm to new levels of success.

August 2011 Leadership Development Carnival

image of a collection of admission ticketsIt’s time for another installment of the Leadership Development Carnival! Thanks to Jason Seiden at his “Profersonal” Blog for managing the Midway and organizing some great posts from some remarkable leadership writers. Oh, and yes, Jason was kind enough to include one of mine as well!

If your new to blog Carnivals, these represent a collection of posts from a variety of writers, organized by major themes and presented for your professional and inspirational pleasure. Many thanks to Jason for hosting this month’s installment!

Leadership Caffeine™ Podcast: Dan McCarthy Interview

Cover art for Leadership Caffeine PodcastI’m excited to announce the launch of my new podcast series: The Leadership Caffeine Podcast, and I’m thrilled that Dan McCarthy, the proprietor of the Great Leadership blog, is here as my first guest.

Many of you know Dan through his 500 plus truly great posts on leadership and professional development, and now you have a chance to hear directly from this professional and gentleman.

If you’ve not met Dan before, his easy-going manner, infectious laugh and practical ideas on blogging, leadership and leadership development will underscore why I admire him so much and value him as a blogging colleague and friend.

Show Sound-Bites-Dan McCarthy:

The discussion with Dan is a fun walk through his world of leadership blogging mixed with some thoughts on his 20-plus years involved in organization and talent development.  Although Dan has publicly indicated his “newbie” status as a podcast interview subject, he does a great job in this easy-going discussion, sharing:

  • What it’s like to write and sustain a high level of performance as a leadership blogger for over 500+ posts.
  • Ideas for aspiring leadership bloggers to get started and stick with it.
  • Thoughts on the relevance of leadership fundamentals in this changing world.
  • Ideas for new leaders starting out on their journey.
  • A bit about his suggested reading list for new leaders
  • Some thoughts on his new career adventure and what might be in store for him at his truly great, Great Leadership blog.

Next Episode:

Kevin Oakes, CEO of The Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) and co-editor of The Executive Guide to Integrated Talent Management.

A Bit About My Plans for the Show:

The idea for this show/series has been rattling around in my mind for awhile. I’ve long wanted some method that would allow me to better connect with practitioners, executives, management thinkers and doers and just about anyone else with big ideas on talent, development and performance.  And here it is!

It’s refreshing, invigorating and convenient to be able to listen to great people share their thoughts on success and high performance, and to be able to do it on the road, on the run or sitting at your desk.

My very noble goal with what I expect to be a long-running and regular series, is to share practical, powerful ideas to help listeners improve their performance and the performance of their teams and organizations. I look forward to living up to those lofty words.

Practice, Great Help and Diving In:

I’ve practiced a bit with prior stand-alone podcasts, and worked with the tools and importantly, I’ve connected in the past 30 days with some remarkable people on interviews (see upcoming guests below), and it’s time to get this show started!

I’ve been fortunate as well to gain some technical help from some remarkable people and great friends…Bob Lindner at DigiSage on technical issues, Amber Wallor of Left Hand Marketing for the artwork, Chris Colbert and his radio voice for the intro and outro, and Eric Rodriguez for editing and support. Their work is much appreciated and any and all mistakes or issues are mine, not theirs.  Of course, for anything good, credit belongs to them!

Upcoming Guests:

I’m well-stocked with recorded interviews and adding to the list every week. Just a few coming attractions include:

  • Kevin Oakes, CEO of The Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) on trends and best practices in integrated talent management.
  • John Baldoni, leadership expert and author and blogger extraordinare, shares some thoughts on his work and the leadership challenges of the upcoming generation.
  • Kevin Eikenberry, co-author of Bud to Boss, offers his expert perspectives and advice for professionals navigating that first-time leadership role.
  • Author Linda Finkle shares her expertise from her book, Finding a Fork in the Road, concerning that delicate balancing act of building partnerships that succeed.

Those are just a few of the great people and topics. Stay-tuned for more!

Have Some Big Ideas to Share?!

And of course, if you are interested in being considered as a guest here on The Leadership Caffeine Podcast, drop me a note via e-mail. I’m looking for professionals with big ideas who are passionate about developing others, driving great leadership practices and creating and supporting high performance.