Leading by walking around

Leading by walking around is a great management techiniqueThis article about leading by walking around (http://bit.ly/leadbywalking) stimulated recollections about my own experience while working at National Decision Systems. The first three years were the best experience of my career. Why? Because the CEO did exactly as this article suggests. He led by walking around.

He wouldn’t just call people on the phone or send emails. He dropped by their office unannounced and asked thought-provoking questions. Visiting people where they work is an excellent leadership technique to follow and one I made sure to model.

I remember one such visit to my office after turning in my report on the most recent user conference I had run. My first thought was, “Oh, oh. What did I not do right?”

He wanted to know why I thought the conference was successful. How did I measure success? Wow! No one had asked me that before. I had to really think about it. The purpose was to generate new sales, which we did. It was also to get customers more engaged with the products….which we did. So that met two of my measures of success. The 3-day event went smoothly for attendees – that was another measure of my own. Yes, there were hiccups, but only I was aware of them, and I resolved them right away. The customer feedback was also excellent, so that also told me we hit a home run.

Leading by walking around makes an impact

The CEO’s appearance in my office to sit down across from me and ask my input made a real impact on me. I modeled my own leadership that way with my direct reports. Instead of sitting in my office and calling them in, I got up and went to their desks to ask questions and get their input. I did this with people in other departments as well. If I had a question that needed answering, I walked over to their office and asked the question. That action helped me build great working relationships throughout the company and a willingness to help even when it was outside their immediate scope of work. If they knew the answer or how to get it done, they would pitch in.

Leading by walking around helps you build those relationships. You also learn so much because you give others the opportunity to share their knowledge and expertise. This type of technique should not be to deliver bad news or only to give praise. If the only time you visit someone’s office is to do either of these, then eventually the staff gets jaded.

Visit your people in their offices to ask thoughtful questions and find out what they know. You might be very surprised and learn a few things yourself!

Leadership: Cheerleader, Coach, Dictator & holding people accountable

By Eric Denniston, Managing Director, Denner Group International  November 16. 2014

Takeaways: Compare three common leadership styles. Coaching as a leadership skill for business leaders. Eight “Be Attitudes” to help you maximize your ability to hold your team accountable.

Sometimes leaders display confusion about some very basic ways to be a leader. One we often encounter is an individual who consistently focuses on cheerleading-type activities, often ignoring other types of reinforcement, both positive and negative. They praise their team for their hard work and mention how much they appreciate them, but the leader is not working off any sort of plan with measurable results. How do you think the team members really feel about how they are being treated? Truly valued, or perhaps just being snowed? Granted, cheerleading is important since it ensures both the leader and the team members are reminded that celebrating successes is very important. But imagine a sports team that consistently has a losing record and is constantly being told what good job they did when the results say differently. At least in sports there is a scoreboard clearly identifying measurable results. What measurable results and programs for celebrating success do you have for your team?

Coaching skills are valuable

Coaching skills in business leaders have become one of the most valuable traits we can employ in leading teams. Coaches facilitate the team’s individual and collective success by first understanding very deeply what drives the team and ensuring the team is extremely clear about the desired outcomes of their work. Coaches also facilitate the maintenance of a shared set of values. There have been many very visible sports team coaches over the years whose success is legendary, as has their toughness with their team members. When we look closely at their styles in leading their teams, it’s clear they leaned much more toward facilitating their teams’ success instead of commanding or demanding it. Their toughness comes through more as having an uncompromising commitment to a system of values that helps keep the team members focused on their outcomes. This also distinguishes successful business and government leaders.

A dictatorial style of leadership has historically ended both abruptly and badly, for the dictator and the team being led. Regardless of whether a leader was leading a government, a non-profit, a commercial enterprise or a sports team, we consistently see a pattern of the team coalescing in support of the leader, high levels of energy toward the objective set by the leader and uncompromising pressure toward objectives set primarily by the singular leader. This is later followed by some thoughtful sub-leaders naturally questioning their direction, then external pressures rapidly growing against the leader and finally a relatively complete destruction of the organization and often the leader. Consider short lived sports teams, athletic teams and whole leagues involved in unsportsmanlike activities, many leaders of nations and yes, many leaders of large and visible businesses. Companies like Enron and Lehman Brothers, Arthur Andersen and Washington Mutual all displayed many of the characteristics of dictatorial leadership, straying from best practices in management and pursuing unrealistic and massively exaggerated objectives. They also knowingly violated generally broadly accepted tenets of law and human behavior holding team members accountable to very narrowly defined results and little accountability to a shared set of values.

Holding people accountable and leading them to achieve mutually desired and measurable objectives may just be one brief way to describe a successful leader. Of course, it’s not necessary that simple. I am reminded by the eight “Be Attitudes” of holding people accountable put forth by Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, a respected Fortune 500 senior executive, author and CEO of Leadergrow, Inc.

He lists those attitudes as:
•    Be clear about your expectations
•    Be sure of your facts
•    Be timely
•    Be Kind
•    Be Consistent
•    Be Discrete
•    Be Gracious
•    Be Balanced

Bob Whipple of LeadergrowIf you would like to gain more insight on these attitudes you can do so at the Leadergrow, Inc. website.

Developing and applying successful leadership skills are keys to succeeding in any type of managerial endeavor, but in leading strategy and change these are even more critical. How good are you at practicing the eight “Be Attitudes”?

WD-40 Tribal Culture Creates Lasting Change

By Jeri Denniston, Denner Group International   January 28, 2014

Takeaways: How WD-40 created a tribal culture that focuses on SMART goals, living the company values, and sharing knowledge and expertise.

Book Review
Helping People Win at Work
by GaRry Ridge and Ken Blanchard,
2009 Polvera Publishing and Garry Ridge

Buy-Helping People Win at WorkThis book is a partnership between Blanchard and Ridge about leadership and management. It looks at business as a partnership between managers and staff to ensure everyone in the organization is doing their best to strive, learn, and be the best they can, all while living and acting the company’s core values. How a company gets there is the story Ridge tells of the processes he implemented at WD-40 around the philosophy of “Don’t Mark My Paper; Help Me Get an A”. The book is divided into four parts.

In Part One, Ridge describes the fundamentals of the performance review system he implemented at WD-40, which is organized around Planning and Execution and Review and Learning. Planning involves setting SMART goals and executing them according to company values. SMART stands for Specific, Motivational, Attainable, Relevant, and Trackable.

In Part Two, Ridge describes the culture changes that had to occur before the performance review system could be revamped. A big part of that was to ask his people to view themselves as members of a Tribe rather than a Team. Tribal members share their knowledge and folklore with younger, newer members. That’s an important value at WD-40.

In Part Three, Ridge shares his viewpoints on leadership and motivating people and how those developed. In this area he describes his expectations of others and what they can expect of him. Servant leadership is a big part of his personal value system.

In Part Four, Blanchard shares the 12 “Simple Truths” he and his colleagues have learned over the years that are crucial to helping people succeed at their work. These include day-to-day coaching, reprimanding with candor, building trust, and accentuating the positive rather than the negative in both coaching and performance reviews.

The book is filled with great nuggets of wisdom and includes samples of the WD-40 Goal Review Form and how it is used. The company’s success is a testament to how well this system works. Headquartered in San Diego, they employ just under 400 people, market their products in 188 countries, and recorded sales of $368.5 million in fiscal year 2013. WD-40 projects to generate $383 million to $398 million for fiscal year 2014. Learn more about their values and culture here.
Buy the book.

Mentoring Can Be Rewarding

Did you know there is a non-profit organization, National Mentoring Month (NMM), dedicated to promoting mentoring? President Obama, Maya Angelou, former President Bill Clinton, Clint Eastwood, Senator John McCain, Quincy Jones, General Colin L. Powell, Cal Ripken, Jr., Bill Russell and Usher are just a few prominent people who have participated in NMM’s campaign to build awarenes around this concept.

What are the responsibilities of a mentor? How do you find a mentor if you don’t have one? How do you become a mentor? These are some of the questions you may consider about being a mentor or finding one within your organization.

Why should you do this?

If you work in a large organization, having a mentor a few levels above you in the hierarchy can help you in your career path. A mentor can act as a sounding board for new ideas. He/she can help steer you in the right direction as changes occur within the organization, help to ensure you make the right decisions and even help to mitigate some of your unintended gaffs.

On the other hand, if you’re a middle manager or an executive, mentoring someone below you helps to train the next generation of managers and executives. As a role model and leader in the organization, you ensure that those coming up behind you have the qualities, expertise and sensibilities required to succeed and keep the organization on a growth or sustainable path.

If you’re an entrepreneur or a small business owner, you may choose to mentor someone outside your organization. While it requires additional time commitment on your part, the rewards are great. You know you’re doing something important to help make a difference in another person’s life.

Measuring Mentoring satisfaction

How do you measure that satisfaction? One way is through the responses you get from those you mentor. Another way is by monitoring your mentee’s progress in overcoming work and life challenges. 

There are many ways you can choose to be a mentor, for example:
•    In your community,
•    through one of the schools your children attend,
•    through your church or other faith-based organization,
•    through online communities and social and mobile media
•    through a local mentoring organization (here’s a list for your area in the US)

In today’s mobile world, online communities are also a powerful way to mentor others from a distance. Sending text messages to your special mentee and posting on their Facebook wall can help to brighten their day.

Become a mentor and do your part to help the next generation become the best they can!

Building a World Class Organization

By Jeri Denniston, Chief Marketing Strategist, Denner Group International 4-12-2011

Takeaways: Both passion and purpose are needed for building a world class organization. It’s important to know the difference between passion and purpose.

I’ve been reading Michael Gerber’s E-Myth Mastery to see how his recommendations dovetail with Cathedralsystems thinking. He is, after all, a systems thinker, and an intentional dreamer, looking at business as a whole system made up of many systems or parts. Frequently, the parts don’t work fluidly together because we get so mired in the day-to-day activities, we lose sight of the end goal….the reason we started the business in the first place. His book, E-Myth Mastery is about building a world class organization regardless of size.

E-Myth Mastery goes beyond his first book, The E-Myth, which is all about systems and planning, to help the entrepreneur get back in touch with the passion, the vision, the dream….the reason for being an entrepreneur. Then he applies what he calls “The Seven Essential Disciplines” to the entrepreneurial planning and management process, which become a road map for building a world class organization.

According to the author, “Building a World Class Company is a commitment to the integration of passion, purpose and practice.”

Develop Clarity of purpose first

In our practice, we go a step further by including a review of the external world outside your business as one of the steps in a total strategic management system. The first step in a holistic approach to your business is developing clarity of purpose and connecting with your passion. This is perhaps the hardest part of the process.

You started your business because you thought you could produce a better product or deliver a better service to your customers. Perhaps it’s because you got tired of having someone else call the shots, telling you when, what and where to do your work. That was the passion that got you started.

Now, you’re mired in all the day-to-day emergencies of meeting payroll, solving customer or production problems, handling employee issues, and any number of other things that keep you from doing what you love, yet have to be done in order for the business to operate. Now, instead of a boss telling you what to do, it’s your employees, your customers, and the very business itself, demanding more and more of your time, and leaving you frustrated and exhausted. You’ve lot the passion for the business. What happened?

According to Gerber, this is a common problem among entrepreneurs. Even those who have followed his E-Myth systems, found themselves so mired in running the systems and tracking their progress, they feel like gerbils running on a circular treadmill. Everything demands their attention, and none of it is fun anymore. They can hardly imagine building a world class business when they are busy putting out fires every day.

Now is the time to take a step back, take a deep breath, get away from the business for a little while, and give yourself time to THINK. Yes, that ugly five-letter word, THINK. We’re so busy doing, we don’t take time to just sit and think. Think about why you started the business. What is it really that you set out to do? Is it just to repair shoes or was there a grander passion behind opening up that shoe repair business? Was it to repair other people’s clothes or to clothe the world with designs that flatter any body? Was it to repair computers because you have a knack for understanding how they work? Or was it grander like Microsoft’s, to envision a PC on every desktop? What was the spoken or unspoken vision you had when you started your business?

What was the dream you set out to create?

The difference between passion and purpose

The key to getting back in touch with your passion is to understand the difference between passion and purpose. Passion is what calls you to action. It’s the vision you have for the future you want to create. The tingly feelings you get when you think about this grand idea. Purpose is HOW you put that vision into action. It’s the WHAT that you do everyday. Vision is the WHY.

Have you heard the story of the three men who are laying bricks? When asked what they are doing, the first man says he’s laying bricks. The second says he is building a wall. The third man answers, I’m building a cathedral. Now that’s a vision!

What are you building in your business…..are you just laying bricks or are you building a cathedral?