Monday, March 19, 2018

Leadership Lesson from a High School Teacher

Leadership is NOT a position it is motivating and inspiring others. How many of you remember your favorite teacher in high school?  What made them your favorite teacher? I remember my favorite high school teacher, Ms. Poga.  She believed in “everyone”.  She saw the good in everyone.  She championed the students who seemed to be “outside” the popular groups.

 Once she saw something in you, she made sure you had opportunities to be good at that “something”.   She often picked the kids who weren’t the “most popular” to do things for her to show all of us that each person had value.  By believing in everyone she made those who weren’t the most popular believe in themselves.

 Ms. Poga was the advisor for the high school yearbook.  When I was a sophomore she recruited me to work for the yearbook.  At first I worked at writing the copy.  She knew I could tell stories and was able to get others interested in what I wrote. As a junior she asked me to take pictures because she knew that I had the ability to see the moment. When I was a senior she made me the yearbook editor. She saw in me the ability to lead and motivate people to meet deadlines. Because of what she saw in me, she seized the opportunity to help me grow while I served as the yearbook editor.

I learned that leadership is not about power, but about influence. Encouraging others by sharing with them the positive you see in them creates an asset based mind set.  People want to do things that they believe they are good at.  Pointing out those things reinforces in others a belief that they are appreciated for what they are good at doing.  

I remember when I was an assist coach in high school hearing players say, "I suck" after they made a mistake on the court.  I would then pull them aside and ask them to consider a different mindset.  I told them that I would prefer to see the mistake as a one-time event rather than a reflection of who they were as a player.  I often wondered whether or not I was getting through to them.  I wasn't even sure they understood what I was trying to say.  Then one game one of the player made a turn over and looked at me and said, "My bad!"  I was shocked.  In that moment I realized that finally this player understood that a mistake is not a matter of character, but a matter of execution.  

Leaders can go a long way in shaping someone's work self-esteem.  Find the good in people and they will live up to your expectations.  

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

How to Stop Feeling Guilty

As individuals move up through the organization they often face more and more competing demands for their time.  There are just days when you feel like you HAVE to be in two places at once - or even THREE places at once.  During my early years serving in senior management positions I found that I frequently felt guilty when I couldn't be "everywhere all at once."  I wrestled with thoughts that my administrative assistant and I just didn't or couldn't management my schedule effectively.  At other times I felt inadequate because I couldn't be everywhere and meet all of those demands.  I even asked myself why I felt guilt or even thought it was reasonable to consider that I could be everywhere all at once. 

After several failed attempts at addressing my own guilt, I discovered an answer - teamwork.  The answer was right before me all the time.  As I worked closely with the people whose positions reported to me I began making sure that in addition to having the information they needed to be successful in their jobs that they also have information they need in case they have to step in for me should I be unavailable to attend an event or meeting because of competing demands.  Today, this seems like "common sense" to me, but as I evolved in my practice of the "art and science" of leadership I began to discover those nuggets of common sense. 

I found that as I made sure the people who reported to me had ample knowledge to step in at a moments notice that another benefit became evident.  These individuals were able to provide more support to me as we wrestled with complex decisions.  Because of their access to information about situations and the college, these individuals were able to "beat up" ideas and potential solutions as our team studied how best to address the complex situations.  As everyone grew in their understanding of situations and had access to essential information, we became a stronger team and we became more and more dependent upon one-another.  Each person thought about the information and situation differently.  Consequently, we were able to brainstorm more options and see situations through more than one perspective which resulted in better solutions for addressing the complexities we were charged to address. 

In time I had the pleasure of watching each person grow in their leadership skills because they became a partner  at the table working with me on the problems and opportunities we faced.  By participating in these discussions they grew more confident in their problem solving skills.  In time I found many of them just solved the problems and fewer problems came before me to solve.  In time I found that each of the members of the leadership would bring problems to the table as well because they came to value the perspective and skills each other brought to the table. The synergy created became a real leadership lesson for me. 

Growing up my parents tole me often that "Knowledge is Power" while simultaneously encouraging me to learn, read, study and go to school.  Now I see another application of this phrase: by exposing your leadership team to a deeper knowledge and understanding of the organization, you build a stronger set of problem solvers who grow into more effective managers and leaders.