The Best Leaders Tip #7 – Be a good leader, not just good at your job

This is my 7th of 12 posts about how to be among the Best Leaders.  In these, I provide inspiration for everyone seeking professional and personal growth as a leader of people, projects, groups, teams and organizations. I welcome your comments and feedback.  Visit my website for more information.


Best Leader Tip #7          Be a good leader, not just good at your job.  People get promoted much of the time because they’re proficient at the core business of their organizations.  CPAs become CFOs, engineers become project managers, journalists become executive producers.  Organizations need to do a better job at making sure the core requirements of these promotions include expertise related not just to technique, but also to people.  This includes getting educated and experienced in areas like interpersonal communication, motivating teams, creating and communication an organizational vision, providing formal and informal feedback, holding effective meetings, predicting and managing change, and so much more.  conducting evaluations, giving and receiving feedback, and self-awareness, which is the foundation of all of this. (For one example, click here for a New York Times article about 360-degree evaluations.)


The Best Leaders Tip #6 – Get Smart: Effective listening is not passive

This is my 6th of 12 posts about how to be among the Best Leaders.  In these, I provide inspiration for everyone seeking professional and personal growth as a leader of people, projects, groups, teams and organizations. I welcome your comments and feedback.  Visit my website for more information.


Best Leader Tip #6          Listening isn’t passive.  Effective listening is active, in which the listener participates by asking questions, summarizing what they’ve heard, and clarifying.  At the same time, they refrain from assuming, interrupting, cutting the speaker off, arguing, and making it about them.  How do you know if you’re listening enough?  After your next meeting, ask yourself what specific points of information you gained. If it’s fewer than three items, chances are you’ve spent most of that meeting talking, not listening.  A bonus:  Listening shows you’re interested in people.  And the best leaders are all about their people.

The Best Leaders Tip #5 -Get Smart: Listen more than you talk!

This is my 5th of 12 posts about how to be among the Best Leaders.  In these, I provide inspiration for everyone seeking professional and personal growth as a leader of people, projects, groups, teams and organizations. I welcome your comments and feedback.  Visit my website for more information.


Best Leader Tip #5          To be smart, you must listen more than you talk.  However, somewhere along the line and especially in our Western culture, talking a lot, being outgoing, loud, and demanding attention became synonymous with leadership.   We talk about qualities like listening, collaboration, and inclusion, but these are not yet seen as the dominant leader traits.  (Maybe because they are less obvious.) No matter what is popular. Listening provides information and insight.  Information is power.  You can’t listen if you’re talking.  So, as they say, close your mouth and open your ears – and your eyes – so you can take in all the important nonverbal communication cues, as well.

The Best Leaders (a new series)

Leadership is a topic widely discussed, researched, and written about – a recent online search for “effective leadership” yielded 13.5 million results; 424,000 in the last month alone.  And apparently we all want to get better at it – there were 203 million hits for an online search of “leadership courses.”

Is all this plethora of information falling on deaf ears? Why are 3.1 million people leaving their jobs this year in the U.S.* –  75% of them because of their bosses**?

Because information and academic programs are not enough – we have to put all this wonderful knowledge into practice as leaders.  Obviously, we’re not doing this well enough yet, and we must get better immediately.

Why?  First, it costs you every time an employee walks out the door – $11 billion is lost due to employee turnover annually.***

Second, the long term success of our organizations is at stake.  All leaders, whether good or bad, set the tone and role model behaviors for their organizations.  If we want good leadership to show up in the future, it has to take root now.

Third, we’re all leaders.  No matter what our job titles or positions in life, we’re all in charge of something – a household, a team, a project.

Fourth, adopting the qualities of good leadership can make us better people, overall.  And who doesn’t aspire to that?

So how do we become better leaders?  Based on my years of experience and study, I’ve put together a list of top 12 qualities.  Together, they add up to this simple mantra:

Have a soul, be brave,  get smart, and be a grown-up.

The complete list of tips appears in my upcoming 12-post Best Leaders series.  Watch for it!

For references and more information on Best Leaders, visit my website.



*Wall Street Journal, February 2016)

**Gallup/Dale Carnegie

***Dale Carnegie Training





Designing Communication – Thought of the Week

Committed to designing effective organizations and courageous leaders, this Thought of the Week series provides tips for reflection and your use.

Communicate During Change

In all the stages of change, great leaders know what emotions to expect from their people, and how to manage those. The key: communicate from the time you introduce the change, to the next phase of planning how you will approach the change, to executing the change plans, and finally through the time change ends and becomes integrated into your organization as your new normal. Communicate often, honestly, with empathy, and be open to hearing what your people tell you they want.

Communication inspiration from MLK Jr

people art“People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.”
— Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Being creatively brave

Many of us are doing our 2015 strategic planning, and I found this AdAge December article relevant and wanted to pass it along (link is below).  It is an 8-step plan to bring more value to the organizations we serve,  and includes ideas like “get noticed by the right people” and “put business results at the center” as well as “ask tough questions” and “disrupt your processes.”  I love the final tip –  “recognize that your product is creative bravery,”   asking us to provide magic to organizations by being brave enough to bring ideas that challenge convention and the status quo.  While I’m not quite sure I agree we are still in a slow growth economy, I was inspired.  So what do you think?   Are you ready to be creatively brave?  Look forward to your thoughts!


To inspire employees during change, communicate on a human level

During times of change, leaders often feel compelled to get the word – any word – out to employees, sometimes before they know what to say. Although hearing from the top is important, employees will only be confused or tune you out if you rush to communicate. Setting the tone and expectations for content when you communicate about change is crucial, right from the start.

How to start? David Grossman, founder and CEO of The Grossman Group , has an approach that works.  It is based on the premise that all of us, on a human and a professional level, are concerned about a spectrum of things, especially during uncertain times, that mirror Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.  Fundamentally, we are anxious about what’s happening to me in this situation; then we care about what’s happening in our immediate external environment.  Once we feel comfortable with those two levels, we can move on to care about what it all means for everyone else and the organization; and finally, all other needs satisfied, we can offer ourselves to the situation more altruistically.

So in every piece of communication related to a change situation, David offers these Eight Key Questions™ you can answer for employees, in order:
1. What’s my job?
2. How am I doing?
3. Does anyone care about me?
4. What’s going on?
5. What’s our business strategy?
6. How are we doing?
7. What’s our vision and values?
8. How can I help?

(You Can’t Not Communicate 2 by David Grossman, ABC, APR, Fellow PRSA, 2011)

Even the shortest speeches, memos or videos can answer all eight – that’s where being crystal clear about your message and great writing come into play.  The bottom line: employees do care what’s happening and they want to contribute – you just have to address them where they are, and you can inspire great things!

david book 2

Eight Tips for Diversity Excellence in the Workplace

1. Have a diverse leadership team.  Gandhi’s oft-quoted “Be the change you seek in the world” means that, to have a diverse workforce, you start at the top, you start with yourself.  If younger professionals can’t picture themselves at the top of your organization, they probably won’t stay for long.  Show them there is a future for them, don’t just tell them.multicultural marketing isn’t diversity and inclusion

2. Define “diversity” accurately, and make it personal. Every company has to define what it means to be a diverse and inclusive culture – for themselves, taking into account operations, industry, size and type of their workforce, their type of business, and other considerations. In addition, start with knowing what diversity is – it is surprising how many companies don’t know.  Generally, diversity and inclusion are business strategies, ideally led from the C-suite and embedded at every level of an organization, that values and practices hiring and retaining people from many types of backgrounds, cultures, ethnicities, ages, lifestyle preferences, and other attributes. It is an internal, employee set of programs, that can expand to supply chain, partners and other stakeholders in the organization’s sphere (if a company purposefully seeks out diversity in those groups). Having multicultural marketing programs, doing business across the globe – these do not automatically mean you are effectively practising D&I.

3.  Hiring is only the beginning. Once you have your diverse workforce, you need a plan to keep them, train them and move them up.  This is where inclusion matters, and it is the key, even more than diversity.

4.  D&I must be driven from the top.  It’s not a recruiting thing, not an HR thing, not a positioning thing…  diversity and inclusion need to be a culturally embedded mindset embodied by the C-suite and those just below them, who must drive the concepts and behaviors deeply into all levels of the organization. Measure results, repeat.

5.  It’s not about the money nor the recognition.  Some D&I programs depend too heavily on money spent on sponsored workshops,, conferences, dinners, and awards, and they appear on “best” lists galore.  Some of this can be important to show your commitment and for learning opportunities. Don’t rest there, though. Remember, D&I is iglobal diversity imagenternally driven programs to help your organization work better. Be sure the glamour supports that.

6.  Be ultra patient.  Cultural changes, mindset shifts, behavioral outcomes… these take time.  Maybe a lot of time, depending on the size of your company and your starting point.  Take some deep breaths and steadily, persistently, consistently, keep moving toward your goals, gaining support along the way.  Mark and celebrate your milestones. You will have them!

7.  Have a strategy, a roadmap, a plan of action.  This is a MUST!  If you don’t know where you’re going, you won’t know when you arrive… it’s trite, and true!  The most successful D&I programs have a near and medium term plan (1-5 years), reviewed by leadership teams and measured against results 1-2 times a year.  This is important to measure the ROI on your D&I budget, too.

8.  Learn as you go.  D&I, like every other business area, is growing and changing along with the population, the economy, the age of the workforce and all those other lovely factors we can’t control.  Talk to people in other companies similiar AND DIFFERENT from yours. Make D&I part of a learning environment. It’s a journey – make it a joyful one.

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