Know When To Let Go

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When you have got an elephant by the hind legs and he is trying to run away, it’s best to let him go. – Abraham Lincoln

A well-known story in some sectors of coastal communities such as where I live is that of the crab mentality. It is used to describe selfish or shortsighted people whose thinking bends toward the notion of, “If I can’t have it, neither can you”.

The crab basket mentality says that if you have a pot of crabs and one is climbing out in an effort to escape, then the others will pull him back down rather than allow it to go free.  The other crabs had rather share the same doomed fate than allow another among its ranks to climb out.

As a leader, you may find yourself in a crab basket with others who have the same intentions for you. You get the raise or promotion and inevitably someone is jealous and you feel that subtle tug. You landed that coveted new account and strangely now begin to feel the claws of others around you. Every time you make an effort to move up and better yourself you have to resist the tug of those who would like to pull you down and hold you back. But you have to learn to let them go. Here are three things to consider as you climb out of the crab basket.

Let go of your past. Before anyone in your present can restrict you in a negative way you must lighten your load and let go of negative things from your past. So long as you hold on to past defeats, mistakes, or bad attitudes you will never climb to the heights you desire.

Your climb to the top of the basket begins when you make peace with your past and place yourself in a position to climb unencumbered toward your goals and dreams. When you let go of the past you can create your future. Your climb up begins here. You may have to forgive others; you may have to forgive yourself. But you will not move up so long as you allow your past to hold you down.

Let go of bad people. This is perhaps one of the hardest things to learn as a leader. But if you are ever going to climb your way to the top of the basket and live above the level of mediocrity you will have to separate yourself from those who want to hold you down.

It may be hard because up until now you may have seen these crabs as your friends. They have been colleagues; you have enjoyed happy hour together and thought of them as allies. But keep this in mind – good people do not try to sabotage your success they celebrate it. Good people do not try attempt to pull you down and but had rather climb up with you. As a leader, you have to wise up and recognize that not everyone in the pot with you wants to see you succeed. Be strong enough to acknowledge it and have the courage when necessary to climb alone.

Let go of small dreams. In the bottom of the crab basket, there is not much room for growth and the view is always the same. The way out is up. It’s when you fix your eyes on larger dreams and possibilities that you begin to realize that life in the basket is never going to change. The road to your improvement begins with the choice to climb out.

It’s been asked many times and I will share it again here: What would you attempt to do if you knew that you could not fail? What are your dreams? I don’t know what’s in your heart but I do know this to be true – until you let go of your past, and let go of bad people, you will always have small dreams. It’s time to let go of every bad attitude, toxic relationship, and negative influence that would attempt to pull you down.

Your way out begins with by taking the first step. Let go and start climbing!

© 2017 Doug Dickerson

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Four Ways to Lead Through Conflict

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Difficulties are meant to rouse, not discourage. The human spirit is to grow strong by conflict. – William E. Channing

French novelist and playwright Alexandre Dumas once had a heated quarrel with a rising young politician. The argument became so intense that a duel was inevitable. Since both men were superb shots they decided to draw lots, the loser agreeing to shoot himself. Dumas lost.

Pistol in hand, he withdrew in silent dignity to another room, closing the door behind him. The rest of the company waited in gloomy suspense for the shot that would end his career. It rang out at last. His friends ran to the door, opened it, and found Dumas, smoking revolver in hand. “Gentlemen, a most regrettable thing has happened,” he announced, “I missed.”

While the way we deal with conflicts has improved, there is still no shortage of conflict. Workplace conflict can be a strong source of stress and your leadership during these times takes skill.

It’s widely known that workplace conflict leads to increased staff turnover and absenteeism. One survey I read stated that 81% of HR professionals had seen employees resign as a result of conflict, and 77% have noticed increased absenteeism, resulting in increased business cost.

What do you think are the leading contributors to workplace conflict? According to a study, the top five causes of workplace conflict were; warring egos and personality clashes, poor leadership, lack of honesty, stress, and clashing values. While conflict in the workplace may be inevitable, ignoring it is not an option. So what is a leader to do? Here are four suggestions for consideration.

Acknowledge it. Until management acknowledges that there is a problem there is no correcting it. As a leader, you don’t need to be the last in the room to recognize what everyone else knows and experiences. How many employees must leave, how much revenue must you lose, and how much abuse do you think your employees must endure before you act? When you identify the problem you can begin to work on solutions, but not until then. Poor leadership was cited for a reason. Don’t add to the problem through omission.

Welcome it. Yes, welcome it! Warring egos and personalities among your people, when properly channeled, can be one of the single greatest sources of inspiration you need. General George S. Patton was accurate when he said, “If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.” When perceived threats are removed and differences are celebrated rather than attacked it can be the turning point in creating the company culture that you’ve been missing. Don’t squelch diversity; welcome it.

Elevate it. Now that you have acknowledged and welcomed conflict you can elevate it to a higher level. Rather than allowing warring personalities to be labeled as enemies, bring them together as allies to channel their creative energies for something good. Invest in a training program like DISC to discover personality styles and how to create the chemistry your team needs to succeed. It’s when you respectfully have everyone on the same page, when values are clear, and communication is honest, that you can learn to see the value conflict can have. It might sound risky, but consider the consequences of inaction.

Celebrate it. Leading through conflict will not be easy. It will take honesty to face your conflict and courage to change it. But once you do you can position yourself to be the benefactor of conflict and not the victim. When your employees see each other as teammates rather than adversaries it can be celebrated.  A diversity of thoughts, ideas, and personalities is one of your greatest assets and it should never be destroyed by poor leadership or out-of-control egos. Your workplace should be a place for the celebration.

 

© 2017 Doug Dickerson

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Five Rules Of The Blame Game

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A good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame, a little less than his share of the credit. – Arnold H. Glasow

John Killinger tells a story about the manager of a minor leader baseball team who was so disgusted with his center fielder’s performance that he ordered him to the dugout and assumed the position himself.

The first ball that came into center field took a bad hop and hit the manager in the mouth. The next one was a high fly ball, which he lost in the glare of the sun and it bounced off his forehead. The third was a hard line drive that he charged with outstretched arms; unfortunately, it flew between his hands and smacked his eye. Furious, he ran back to the dugout, grabbed the center fielder by the uniform, and shouted, “You idiot! You’ve got center field so messed up that even I can’t do a thing with it!”

The coach in the story reminds us of the type of culture we live in. The blame game is easy to play and in the end, it serves no meaningful purpose. But as a leader, if you want to grow, move your organization forward, and create a culture of excellence it’s going to require a different mindset in order to pull it off. Here are my five rules of the blame game that can help you navigate your way forward. 

Begin with yourself

In a “blame others first” culture this is where you are set apart as a leader. The tendency is to find someone to be the “fall guy” when things go south, but the leader steps up and takes responsibility. When you shoulder the responsibility as the leader you demonstrate that you are with and for your team not just in the good times but also when the chips are down. A good leader takes personal responsibility for his organization.

Look for solutions

Once responsibility has been taken it’s the time to move beyond whom to blame and work on solutions. This can be as simple as diagnosing a poor communication problem or perhaps something more complex. The point being; don’t dwell too long on who messed up but rather channel your energies on what to do next.

Attack bad attitudes

In order to coalesce team members around a new culture of excellence and move past a blame game mentality, you must address bad attitudes. “Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude,” stated Zig Ziglar. Bad attitudes will ground your organization and will be the single greatest challenge to your leadership. The work of your team will be a reflection of their attitudes. Attack bad attitudes, keep yours positive and change your culture.

Manage mistakes wisely

The way you manage mistakes can pay great dividends but it all depends on how you handle it. Rather than demoralizing the offender with a wrong response why not use it the opportunity to do something constructive? As a leader, how you handle the mistakes of others speaks volumes about what’s most important to you. Those who blame belittle. Be a leader who encourages and turns the mistakes into something positive.

Examine motives

Understanding the blame game begins with identifying the motives for blaming others. Possibilities might include professional jealousy, subtle expressions of bullying, the deflection off of one’s own insecurities, etc. By examining the motives of those caught in playing the blame game card you can learn a lot about the inner workings of your organizational dynamics and patterns. As a leader, you need to have a handle on what is taking place in order to correct it.

Playing the blame game is too easy. Leading up is hard. Your leadership will rise when you rise up and do the right thing. If you want a better way forward then stop with the blame game.

 

© 2017 Doug Dickerson

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Six Reasons Why Your Employees Don’t Believe A Word You Say

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“Don’t believe what I say. Believe what I do.” —Carlson Ghosn

Two psychiatrists meet at their 20th college reunion. One is vibrant, while the other looks withered and worried. “So what’s your secret?” the older looking psychiatrist asks. “Listening to other people’s problems every day, all day long, for years on end, has made an old man of me.” “So,” replies the younger looking one, “who listens?”

That humorous story reminds us as leaders of not just the necessity of listening but of the importance of how we communicate. It’s not so much what we say that’s important but that we are leaders who understand why our people should listen to us in the first place.

If your people are tuning you out and not believing what you say then your leadership is on life-support. Knowing the symptoms is the first step in turning things around. If your people don’t believe a word you say then here are six reasons why.

You are self-centered

If you are a self-centered leader your people will not believe you because you are only looking out for yourself. When decisions are made based upon what is best for you –what makes you look good- then you are using your people. Self-centered leadership tends to be manipulative and puts what is best for you above what is best for the team. If you are a self-centered leader you’d better wake up before it’s too late. One day you will look around and you’ll discover that not only are your people not believing you – they are not following you either.

You are inconsistent

Inconsistent actions produce inconsistent results. The flow and continuity of your leadership are essential to your success. If you say one thing and do another then those very actions will lead to mistrust and will marginalize your leadership. Flexibility is a must for any team moving forward. Unexpected things happen and your people will have to learn to go with the flow. But if you are inconsistent in terms of what you communicate or how you treat them it will be impossible for them to move forward or have faith in your leadership.

You don’t have their backs

Nothing will empower your team faster than having the backs of your people. A good leader knows this. But your people will not believe you if your message to them says “I have your back” yet you are nowhere to be found when they need you. When you empower your people and have their backs you create a momentum that can take your team to new levels of success. Don’t squander the drive, motivation, and ingenuity of your people by failing at this one critical element of your leadership. If you have the backs of your people they will have yours.

Your ego is front and center

If, as a leader, your ego is front and center, your employees won’t believe a word you say. Your ego can prevent you from seeing the world as it really is; you begin interpreting reality through your own biased lens. When your ego is front and center you send the message that your opinion is the only one that matters. Soon your employees, tired of hearing about how you know everything, will stop listening to you at all.

You lead with fear

If you lead with fear you will never earn the trust of your employees and they won’t believe a word you say. Fear stimulates the fight or flight response. In this state of mind, there is no higher-level cognitive thinking. When you lead with fear your employees disengage and become more focused on protecting themselves than what you are saying. Your attempt to control your employee’s behavior through fear will result in distrust and will undermine your ability to share your message and vision.

 They don’t feel valued

Our success is deeply intertwined with our ability to collaborate. When your employees don’t feel valued they lose interest in continuing to try to contribute to the team. They withdraw and you lose the value of their unique skills and knowledge. Your employees need to have a voice and to have their individual contributions recognized and valued. Communication is a two-way street and when your employees don’t feel valued, you lose their respect which has a negative impact your ability to communicate and influence as a leader. When your employees don’t feel valued they won’t believe a word you say.

The key to leadership is trust and influence. If your people don’t believe a word you say, you have lost your ability to lead. It’s time to evaluate your leadership. Is your leadership self-centered or inconsistent? Do you have your employee’s backs? Is your ego front and center? Are you leading with fear? Do your people feel valued? Answer these questions honestly, make a change, and start leading today.

 

© 2017 Doug Dickerson and Elizabeth Stincelli

 

 Elizabeth Stincelli is the CEO of Stincelli Advisors. Learn more about Elizabeth by visiting her website at stincelliadvisors.com

 

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How To Bring Doers and Dreamers Together

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The world needs dreamers and the world needs doers. But above all, the world needs dreamers who do. – Sarah Ban Breathnach

In his book, Rules of Thumb, Alan M. Webber writes about the differences between talkers and doers. It is a special relationship in organizational structures between those who talk up great ideas and those who can make it happen. Webber writes:

In your company, who gets listened to when it comes to assessing an idea or evaluating a project? If your company is like most, good talkers get taken more seriously than real doers. The people in the field who are closest to the problem and closest to the customer may be useful when it comes to doing what our experts have advised.

Herein lies the primary challenge to the discerning leader. How do you take the best and brightest ideas from the talkers and mesh them together with the people who can carry out the vision – the doers? Sound like a familiar challenge?

Let’s face the facts: companies need visionaries as well as people to execute the vision. Every organization depends upon both to be successful. Unfortunately, the marriage between the two can be rocky because each uses a different side of the brain in the process.

In keeping with the marriage metaphor, Dave Meurer said, “ A great marriage is not when the ‘perfect couple’ comes together. It is when an imperfect couple learns to enjoy their differences”.

When a leader understands the dependency upon both the dreamers and the doers, it creates an interdependence between the two which opens up the possibility of great things happening. It’s not easy. In fact, it can be messy. But if you want great results for your organization, you must find a path forward. Here are a few things to consider on that discovery.

Dreamers must trust the doers with the details

It is important to understand the influence of the dreamers. T. E. Lawrence said, “All men dream: but not equally…but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, to make it possible”.

Think of where your organization would be today were it not for the dreamer – those who see the big picture long before everyone else and point the way. Dreamers are invaluable in terms of their creative genius to move the company in the right direction. Yet, when it comes to the execution of those plans, dreamers must give way to the doers.

By deferring to the doers, dreamers are in essence passing the baton as in a race to the ones who can carry the team to victory. And when the dreamers understand that the doers can take the vision to completion, it no longer becomes a territorial issue but one of what is best for the team.

Trust must flow between the dreamers and the doers in order for the ideas to work. It’s about learning to share the dream and make it a reality.

Doers must trust the dreamers with the vision

In many respects, doers and dreamers are predisposed to be skeptical of one another. Both work and live on different sides of the brain, and therefore, do not always understand how the other thinks.

But when the doer learns that the dreamer is just as invested in the organization and its success as the doer is, then progress can be made.

Trust between the two is like assembling a jigsaw puzzle for your organization. The dreamer knows what the picture is supposed to look like once assembled. Doers have to trust that the dreamers have the right picture or vision for where the organization is going before the doers start putting the pieces together.

Doers and dreamers must remember that they are on the same team

Trust is nurtured when leadership builds bridges between doers and dreamers. This can be a difficult proposition when you factor in turf wars and egos – especially when the doers and dreamers have been kept apart. Suspicions can run deep.

But Webber adds another point worth mentioning. He says:

But don’t forget: you’ve got plenty of streetsmart frontline people in your own organization, men and women who are close to the customer and have deep working knowledge about what works and doesn’t work in your company. How do you get access to their kind of knowing, the kind that comes from actual doing?

As a leader, this is what you have to figure out. But it begins when you bring your doers and dreamers together. You have build bridges between your doers and dreamers and get them talking, sharing their ideas and perspectives, and help them build relationships. Because when you do, your organization will be unstoppable.

 

© 2017 Doug Dickerson

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The Power of Unseen Leadership

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Once you have a burning yes inside you about what’s truly important, it’s very easy to say no to the unimportant. – Stephen R. Covey

I’ve always had a fascination with learning the back stories of successful people.Be they entrepreneurs, authors, musicians, sports icons, etc. How they attained their level of success has always been a source of curiosity for me.

I read once where Plato wrote the first sentence of his famous Republic nine different ways before he was satisfied. Cicero practiced speaking before friends every day for thirty years to perfect his elocution. Noah Webster labored 36 years writing his dictionary, crossing the Atlantic twice to gather material. Milton rose at 4:00 a.m. every day in order to have enough hours for his Paradise Lost. Gibbon spent 26 years on his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Bryant rewrote one of his poetic masterpieces 99 times before publication, and it became a classic.

Your success as a leader hinges on making discipline a core component of your leadership. It’s a choice that’s really not negotiable. In the book, No Limits, John Maxwell writes:

Successful people are highly disciplined in doing their important work. They are self-disciplined. They guide and encourage themselves to do the work they ought to do, not just the things they want to do. And that’s why the rewards in this world are usually reserved for those who are willing to do what the majority of people are unwilling to do.

Your capacity to achieve is tied to your ability to lead a disciplined life. As a leader, it’s not always easy. Life happens. So here are a few things that tend to get in the way of living and leading a disciplined life.

The tyranny of the urgent

Some years ago I came across this saying and it stuck with me. How many times in your leadership have you dealt with the “tyranny of the urgent”? It’s important for you as a leader to distinguish between what is an “urgent” matter that requires your time right in that moment and what can wait.

So long as you are reacting to every “urgent” matter that comes across your path, you will never carve out for yourself a disciplined life as a leader. You will simply another member of the bucket brigade putting out fires. Maxwell states in that segment that you are the boss of you-  start acting lt. Discipline is an inside job.

The acceptance of excuses

How many times have you or someone you know embraced excuses that diminished their leadership potential? It’s when you entertain negative thoughts and attitudes that it thwarts your growth and potential as a leader.

Pursuing a disciplined life as a leader will be next to impossible so long as you entertain negative thoughts and embrace excuses. Your potential will never be realized. Living a disciplined life as a leader requires a disciplined mindset, attitude, and belief in your God-given abilities.

“I hated every minute of training,” said Muhammad Ali, “But I said, ‘Don’t quit’. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion”. His words reflect the value of a man who committed himself to a disciplined life – a life of a champion.

The applause of the crowd

Call it human nature- call it what you will, but a leadership trap many fall for is the applause of the crowd. The reason it’s a trap is that we tend to believe our own headlines and fail to keep our focus on what’s important. We thrive on the applause and think we can simply phone it in going forward.

Living and maintaining a disciplined life as a leader requires the countless unseen hours of work, sacrifice, learning, failures, and frustrations that go into being a ‘successful leader”.  

But yesterday’s victories do not automatically translate into tomorrow’s wins. Discipline creates momentum. With it, you can be unstoppable. Without it, you’re stuck.

The power of unseen leadership has many ingredients, but namely among them is a disciplined life. Don’t be distracted by the tyranny of the urgent, the acceptance of excuses, or the applause of the crowd. It’s your discipline as a leader that will lead you to success.

© 2017 Doug Dickerson

 

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Five Ways To Lift Your Leader

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Leadership is practiced not so much in words as in attitudes and in actions. – Harold S. Geneen

In his book the 360° Leader, John Maxwell shares a story about President Harry S. Truman speaking at the National War College. In the speech, Truman said, “You know, it’s easy for the Monday morning quarterback to say what the coach should have done after the game is over. But when the decision is up before you-and on my desk I have a motto which says ‘The Buck Stops Here’- the decision has to be made.”

On another occasion, Truman said, “The president-whoever he is- has to decide. He can’t pass the buck to anybody. No one else can do the deciding for him. That’s his job.” For the leader, the weight of responsibility can be a heavy burden to carry. Seldom do others see behind the scenes the struggles many leaders deal with on a regular basis.

Regardless of your present station in your organizational structure, there are things you can do to lift your leader. Why is this important? When you commit yourself to lifting your leader you are creating the kind of culture within your organization that can have residual effects that ripple through your organization in a positive way. Consider these five for starters.

Lighten your leader’s load. When you lighten the load of your leader you are freeing up his or her ability to focus on larger and more consequential things for your organization. Lightening the load happens as you look past just what is good for you and look at what is good for the team. When you lighten the leader’s load you increase his capacity to grow.

Listen to your leader’s concerns. The “Buck Stops Here” responsibility weighs heavily on your leader. You can lighten a load of your leader as you listen to the verbal and pay attention to the non-verbal communications. When you know what is on the mind of your leader you can do your part to put his or her mind at ease.

Leverage your leader’s strengths. You always want your leader in a position of strength in any given situation. Leveraging the strength of your leader can also include finding creative ways of assisting in his weaker areas. When you are contentious of this it can be a real boost to your leader and can give your company extra leverage it may need. Strong leaders make for strong teams. Lift up the strengths of your leader and everyone benefits.

Learn from your leader. You can lift, encourage, and empower your leader when you commit yourself to learn from him. The investment he or she has made in you should be cause for enough consideration that they feel you have some potential. Succession in leadership is not a birthright, it’s earned. You can lift your leader by showing respect and learning from their experiences and expertise.

Laugh with your leader. Leadership is a journey filled with many surprises. It’s filled with joys and heartache and a little bit of everything else in between. Charles M. Schultz said, “If I were given the opportunity to present a gift to the next generation, it would be the ability for each individual to learn to laugh at himself.” Never underestimate the power of laughter in leadership.  You can lift your leader when you laugh with your leader.

Lifting your leader is a matter of strong intuition, being a little less selfish, and realizing that one day you may be a position where you’d like to call upon these acts of kindness. When you lift your leader you are growing as a leader.

 

© 2017 Doug Dickerson

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