Want Top Flight Performance? Give Your Employees C.R.A.P.

July 17, 2018 • 6 minute read • by Saeed


“Leadership is not a position or at title, it is action and example.” ~ Unknown

If you think there are a lot of definitions of leadership then you might be very concerned by the number of models there are to explain what leaders actually do! In fact, there is solid leadership research and literature that points the way to a more conscious approach that leads the path to accomplishing extraordinary things in organizations.  Here is one of the simplest definitions offered by management guru Peter Drucker:

·        Leadership: from an ancient Greek word meaning path-maker

·        Management: from an ancient Greek word meaning path-follower

What Does Poor Leadership Look Like?

You wake up, take one look in the mirror, and realize that you simply can’t face going into the office. You feel demoralized, dejected and defeated. Your expectations have gone unmet and your boss just doesn’t seem to get it. Like a polar ice cap, their unconscious behavior has slowly eroded your morale over time. You complain to your friends and spouse that all you get at work is crap.

Here is some of what they do:

  • They contact employees on their time off
  • They micromanage instead of fostering trust and empowering you
  • They are unwilling to listen to new ideas (or worse yet, take the new ideas but don’t give you credit)
  • They provide vague, useless feedback
  • They don’t foster a learning and growth environment
  • They criticize publicly
  • They iterate and reiterate your work until all feeling of satisfaction and engagement is squeezed out of it like a wet sponge

Do you recognize any of this? The truth is it doesn’t have to be this way.

What Does Good Leadership Look Like?

When working at their best leaders challenge, inspire, enable, model and encourage positive behavior, creativity and productivity. They do this through committing themselves to particular sets of behaviors linked to these values.

These leadership traits are an observable and learnable set of practices, available to anyone prepared to spend time developing them. Now, let’s look at some of what great leaders actually do:

  • They thrive and learn from adversity and challenge
  • They take risks and regard failure as a chance to learn
  • They seek challenging opportunities to help you grow, innovate and improve 24/7
  • They envision an uplifting and ennobling future
  • They enlist others in a common vision by appealing to their values, interests, hopes, and dreams
  • They achieve results through others and build trust in doing so
  • They are impeccable role models (and readily admit failure)
  • They recognize individual contributions to the success of every project
  • They celebrate team accomplishments

These traits and others, all go hand in hand to create a working environment that empowers employees to be their best. When employees feel that growth in the company is impossible, their motivation goes out the window and they stop performing at their best. And can you really blame them? What happens next is crucial. They either give up and move on, or face the dysfunction head on. Most choose the former. Look around. Is there a constant exodus in your company?

Give Them C.R.A.P.

The key to employee retention, engagement and satisfaction is consistent quality supervision.  People want caring, respect, appreciation and praise (C.R.A.P.) from their organization. But unfortunately, leaders are often not trained and don’t know how to show they care and that they respect their people or how to give appreciation and properly praise people. Training leaders on these skills is crucial. Most want to give their people C.R.A.P but have not been taught how to. If they are equipped to give their people C.R.A.P., they will, and if they are not, well, they just end up giving them crap!

A Final Word…

By giving your people C.R.A.P. you will inspire loyalty and your impact on the organization will go beyond the bottom line. Most leaders, I believe, have the desire to succeed but have never been trained on basic leadership skills. They are unconscious. Much of leadership is about becoming conscious, learning and then applying skills that support and serve your workforce. If an organization does not have consistent, ongoing leadership training, it will struggle with employee retention, because supervisors and mid-level leaders are the drivers of employee retention. Without trained leaders, you will never optimize your employee retention, and ultimately, your bottom line will flounder. There is a better way. Give them C.R.A.P.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate your readership. If you found this article valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to FOLLOW ME on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

A Special Offer:

In addition to being an organizational development and leadership consultant, I am a personal leadership coach who specializes in helping passionate, thoughtful, creative people like you find your inner leader and live the life you deserve.

As a trained co-active coach, I am currently enrolled in a 6-month professional development program to complete my certification. As part of that training, I need practice clients to try out my new skills, and I am offering a huge (>50%) discount for the first five practice clients.

You can do a free call with me to see if my approach and style would be a good fit for you (and no worries if it’s not – coaching is super personal and I’m happy to recommend you to other coaches that might be a better fit for you).

You can check out my website here. You can also contact me on LinkedIn.

The Most Powerful (and least used) Leadership Tool

June 19, 2018 • 4 minute read • by Saeed


“Dialogue leads to connection, which leads to trust which leads to engagement.”

~ Seth Godin

Authentic and conscious dialogue is the most powerful tool available to us as leaders. It’s also the most underutilized.

Trust is the cornerstone of all relationships and it tends to grow over time – with mutually beneficial dialogue. Dialogue is the process of fostering ‘power with’ instead of ‘power over.’ That’s why it engenders trust.

Leaders often fall into the trap of believing in their own ‘power.’ Little do they know that their power is limited by their immediate circumstance and is always ephemeral. Even Presidents turn over every 4 years.

Dialogue is an art. In dialogue, we offer our thoughts and feelings as new dimensions of the collective exploration. In dialogue, we place the emphasis on hearing everyone and considering all facets of a problem until the best obtainable truth or solution, agreeable to all present, emerges. Dialogue refers to people exploring meaning together. “Meaning” might refer to ideas, experience, or feelings. In other words, things we talk about in dialogue are not trivial or irrelevant. In dialogue I’m engaging with meaning, not just socializing.

In dialogue, we are mining for shared values, affinities and understandings. This usually involves a more sophisticated process. It involves partnership. Engagement in dialogue requires conscious awareness. Authentic dialogue involves following an unfolding inquiry.

In dialogue, we are practicing co-evolution, co-exploration, co-intelligence.

There are many ways to explore meaning together. And there are many aids to mastering dialogue as a skill. More will probably evolve.

In my experience, the quality of exploration in dialogue depends largely on how open people are willing to be with each other – it depends on how conscious we are. If the dialogue is being facilitated, it also depends on the quality of facilitation. Positive, collective engagement and conscious dialogue is the progenitor to positive change. So what does that look like?

In conscious dialogue, we start from a place of appreciation.

In conscious dialogue, our attention is the currency of exchange.

In conscious dialogue, we use silence as well as words.

In conscious dialogue, we are fully present.

In conscious dialogue, our orientation is towards a solution.

In conscious dialogue, we are active listeners.

In conscious dialogue, we employ, rather than avoid confrontation.

In conscious dialogue, we have no hidden agendas.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate your readership. If you found this article valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to FOLLOW ME on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

A Special Offer:

In addition to being an organizational development and leadership consultant, I am a personal leadership coach who specializes in helping passionate, thoughtful, creative people like you find your inner leader and live the life you deserve.

As a trained co-active coach, I am currently enrolled in a 6-month professional development program to complete my certification. As part of that training, I need practice clients to try out my new skills, and I am offering a huge (>50%) discount for the first five practice clients.

You can do a free call with me to see if my approach and style would be a good fit for you (and no worries if it’s not – coaching is super personal and I’m happy to recommend you to other coaches that might be a better fit for you).

You can check out my website here. You can also contact me on LinkedIn.

What is True Leadership? (hint: it is NOT management)

April 26, 2018 • 3 minute read • by Saeed


“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”

~John C. Maxwell

Leadership is influence.

Leadership comes from our heart and our head. It’s our attitude, and attitude is everything.

Leadership is also the ability to focus a team’s attention and the ability to inspire a team towards a grander vision – a purpose that is bigger than ourselves.

In 1961, JFK visited the NASA Space Center. The United States was in the space race with Russia, a crucial period in geopolitical history. The Russians were ahead of us, and we felt threatened as a culture and a society. Kennedy wanted us to be the first to put a man on the moon. He offered a challenge and a penultimate goal to the dedicated people in the field:

“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon returning him safely to the earth.”

– John F. Kennedy

Notwithstanding the risk to his own reputation, which was at stake on the world stage, his vision shook NASA to its foundations. In part because, the spacecraft they would use had only a tiny fraction of the computing power of the smarphone that is in your pocket right now.

But at the same time accountability, engagement, motivation, and morale within NASA soared. Most leaders find this surprising. We tend to think that morale is impacted negatively when accountability and pressure are at their highest. The reality is the opposite: providing teams with an inspirational stretch goal, narrowing their focus and harnessing their attention increases both accountability and the engagement of the team.  This is what James Collins and Jerry Porras in their 1994 blockbuster book Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies meant by Big Audacious Hairy Goal (BHAG).

As evidence, consider that during his tour of the NASA space center Kennedy stopped to speak with a janitor. He asked, “What do you do?” The janitor responded, “I am helping to put a man on the moon.”

How are you influencing others?

If that influence is coming from your heart and your head, it will have a positive impact on others. That is true leadership!

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate your readership. If you found this article valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to FOLLOW ME on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

Why would you follow me?

The most compelling reason I can think of is this: I believe what I write and I write what I believe. I see myself as an alchemist of ideas writing at the intersection of personal, professional, and organizational development to help readers be the most effective human being they can be in order to create lasting impact in the world. If we dig together, we’ll find the gold.

©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

*Photograph of President Obama and White House custodian Lawrence Libscomb by White House photographer Pete Souza

Communication Breakdown at Work?

April 26, 2018 • 2 minute read • by Saeed


“What we have here is a problem to communicate.”

~ Spoken by Strother Martin (as the  prison warden) in the 1967 film Cool Hand Luke

George Bernard Shaw best summed up the problems that lead to communication breakdowns. The single biggest problem in communication, he said, is the illusion that it has taken place. And therein lies the problem.

Here is a perfect example of what he meant spoken by a U.S. government official: “I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant!”

Ha?

Question: How do you communicate with impact?

Answer: Strategic Listening.  Here is how it works:

Step 1: Put away the smartphone.

Step 2: Suspend judgement.

Step 3: Reflect on what’s being said.

Step 4: Ask open-ended questions to bring people out and get them to expand their ideas.

Step 5: Then restate their ideas to show you’ve been listening.

Step 6: Have a real conversation.

Good luck:)

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate your readership. If you found this article valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to FOLLOW ME on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

Why would you follow me?

The most compelling reason I can think of is this: I believe what I write and I write what I believe. I see myself as an alchemist of ideas writing at the intersection of personal, professional, and organizational development to help readers be the most effective human being they can be in order to create lasting impact in the world. If we dig together, we’ll find the gold.

©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

10 Ways to Make Your Performance Reviews Not Suck

 

April 4, 2018 • 6 minute read • by Saeed


“Not that there’s anything wrong with that.” ~ Jerry Seinfeld

Performance reviews are dreaded beasts of burden for managers and direct reports alike. They make people feel small. They reduce people to banal check boxes and categories. But they don’t have to be like this. If you are still marking people as ‘fair’ or ‘exceeding expectations’ in your annual form, you should really rethink your system. While this article is not about re-hauling your system, it is about helping you cope with whatever system you currently have in place. This article is about the universal principles you can deploy for better delivery, greater impact and ultimately stronger performance. Adopt these and you will exponentially improve the experience of giving and receiving your performance reviews on both sides of the table. Neglect them, and well, the experience will suck.

1.    It starts with intentions. You need to check your intention going into the meeting. You need to ask yourself if you are sincerely interested in learning and understanding what drives your employee or just being right. Do a serious check in with yourself and then really try to see the person for who they are. Leave your agenda at the door.  Remember, it’s about behaviors not personalities.

2.    Fail to plan, plan to fail. This is the worst time to wing it dude. You have to be ready if you get hit with information you were not expecting and is important to consider. You have to be ready to be flexible to create a mutually beneficial strategy if problems are surfaced you were not expecting. If you think you’re heading into a one-way conversation, you’ve already lost. If you can’t meet their expectations, be ready to acknowledge the importance of what they are saying, and then explain what you need to do and why. Be prepared for salary increase requests and revelations you may have not been aware of before. Don’t act surprised. Act curious.

3.    It’s about facts, not fiction. This is not the time for your opinions. Don’t let it become a case of he said, she said. If you share your opinion, you are opening the door for a counter opinion. Instead, be prepared with facts and evidence to support your case. As a best practice, keep a log of performance pluses and deltas throughout the year. Keep copies of related work you want to use as examples. Anticipate and be prepared for counter arguments but always present the facts.

4.    Emotions will get you in trouble. If you feel emotional or emotions begin to creep in, reschedule. This is not the time or place to emote. Emotions have no place in a performance reviews so you would do well to manage them accordingly. Being able to do this means the difference between responding or reacting, which can make the difference in a calm or chaotic performance review experience.

5.    Strengths and weaknesses are so yesterday. Can we not do better than this people? Seriously? Yes we can. Most performance reviews focus on strengths and weaknesses. Instead of strengths and weaknesses, focus on values and opportunities. It’s a better framework that invites a deeper understanding of what motivates the people you work with and it will help you coach and lead them to better performance outcomes. You’re welcome.

6.    Zip that lip. I’m always surprised by how little people listen. Listening is the most underrated element of communication. You can glean so much about what’s going on in the mind of your direct reports by listening and asking a few strategic and well placed questions. Trust me. The intel you gather through listening is indispensable and far more valuable than whatever you have to say. So zip it and learn.

7.    Values eat everything else for lunch. Values are in your DNA. Your values are probably your parents’ values. Values drive engagement, decisions, behavior, and well, you name it. A person’s emotional reaction is the easiest way to pinpoint a value. Negative emotions signal violated values. If the person becomes more emotional and animated in speaking about a topic, that’s because it’s important to them. There is a value hiding in there. Listen for repeated themes. Mine them for gold.

8.    Change the frame. People are locked into their own frame of reference. Change their frame, that is to say, change their perspective, and you’ll change their mind. Try asking powerful coaching questions: What if we could see this situation differently? What would a more positive perspective on this situation look like? Some people’s perspective is so intractable you may find yourself beating your head against the wall. Some people just aren’t willing to explore perspectives that are outside the realm of their own experience. It happens.  But at least you have made the effort if you try to get them to a new perspective. Recognize when the conversation should be terminated in order to maintain a respectful relationship and move on rather than trying to force your own viewpoint on the situation.

9.    At the end of the day, we work for the same place. Getting to agreement is not that hard. It’s just a process that’s well managed. Put everything on the table on both side and then look for the common ground. You don’t have to agree on everything but you both have mutual goals that intersect at some level. That intersection is what’s best for the enterprise and it’s where you should start looking for common ground. Sometimes you will need to reach to a higher level to do this so don’t try to get there too early. Make sure that the person feels sufficiently heard first. That’s your threshold for readiness. Once you cross that threshold, most people are congenial.

10.            Lock in the accountability.  To make sure everyone is walking away with a common understanding, solidify some action steps with clear timelines for who, when, how and how much of the behavior change you expect (did I say it’s about behavior?) Create opportunities to check in regularly during the year on the accountability action plan and support your direct report in maintaining their momentum to success. Provide more coaching support as needed.

A final word…

Performance reviews are generally not done well. People wait all year to provide critical feedback. This is a mistake. Nothing should be said at this stage that is a surprise to the employee because they should be working in a feedback rich environment that is constantly nurturing their growth. But we all know that’s not reality. So many workplaces suffer from so many dysfunctions. If you are lucky enough to work in a place where the culture supports a more progressive approach to performance reviews, then much of the above is already baked in to your day-to-day operations. If you are not, arm yourself with these tips and at least create a better experience for you and your direct report.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate your readership. If you found this article valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to FOLLOW ME on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

Why would you follow me?

The most compelling reason I can think of is this: I believe what I write and I write what I believe. I see myself as an alchemist of ideas writing at the intersection of personal, professional, and organizational development to help readers be the most effective human being they can be in order to create lasting impact in the world. If we dig together, we’ll find the gold.

©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

You Can’t Be A Great Leader If You Can’t Do These 5 Things

March 23, 2018 • 4 minute read • by Saeed


“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” ~ John C. Maxwell

All leaders agree that certain leadership skills are must-haves in order to achieve the long-term results you desire. Here are the 5 that make my list in order of importance:

1.      Managing People

Managing people is part of leadership, but it’s a part that may not come naturally to some. In almost every job, people skills are every bit as important as technical, or hard skills. Inevitably, this means managing people to overcome interpersonal conflict, helping staff with their own goal setting, time management, and collaboration challenges, encouraging staff to diagnose their own performance, and establishing a culture of accountability for the team.

In short, the best leaders know how manage people to bring out their best as individuals and as a collective unit in order to get the results they want.

2.      Communicating Effectively

While technical skills are important, skills such as being able to communicate effectively are indispensible to you as a leader. We spend large portions of our careers learning the hard skills required to do our jobs, but relatively little time learning how to build effective relationships, communicate clearly, listen actively or communicate to persuade. These skills are critical to leadership and should not be seen as merely ‘soft’ skills.

In short, the best leaders use the full gamut of their communication skills to get the results they want.

3.      Empowering People

The best leader knows how to make staff shine, by delegating responsibilities according to each staff member’s strengths and weaknesses. They use an effective delegation model because they know that a leader’s ability to delegate will have a significant impact on driving business results. This means knowing how to define the span of freedom and responsibility in executing tasks for direct reports, empowering with clarity, ensuring staff take personal ownership for delivering on commitments

In short, the best leaders know how to best nudge, motivate and deploy their staff’s strengths to get the results they want.

4.      Leading Meetings

Leading effective and productive meetings is one of the most important skills a leader needs to have. This may seem like a superficial skill to focus on, but consider how many meetings are run daily in an organization and how many are in fact ineffective. Almost all meetings will be run by someone in a leadership role. You need to step back and consider how effectively organized those meetings are and look at the productive outcome. This means having the ability to engage people and knowing how to get everyone involved and participating in the meeting topic. It means managing meetings effectively, so each member is heard and getting to the main meeting points quickly. It means staying on time and on task, focusing on core objectives and limiting distractions, and perhaps most importantly, it means generating actionable results.

In short, the best leaders know how to hold productive meetings and use the format to get the results they want.

5. Managing Change

While you can’t know exactly what the future will bring, there is one thing you can train leaders to face: Change. Even seasoned leaders who may not be undergoing a complete culture transformation may be challenged by change management. These are difficult choices to make. How do you educate others about a change? How do you choose whether to try a different change tactic? How do you assess your own impact toward change? How, what and where do you communicate about the change?

The best leaders know that they must get everyone on board to share the same perception about the change effort to get the results they want.

A Final Word…

The Failure of the field of Learning and Development is not having taught people the bedrock principles about people, leadership and management.  Yes, people are complex but at the same time, there is a ton of research about what works and what doesn’t. And as long as you apply the research and your own experience in a thoughtful and intentional way, you will get the results you want.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate your readership. If you found this article valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others. 

I also invite you to FOLLOW ME on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

Why would you follow me?

The most compelling reason I can think of is this: I believe what I write and I write what I believe.

By that I mean your life is a reflection of you. If you want to change your life, you have to change yourself. If you want to change the world, you have to be that change.

I see myself as an alchemist of ideas writing at the intersection of personal, professional, and organizational development to help readers be the most effective human being they can be in order to create lasting impact in the world.

It’d be great to have you along on this journey.

©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

The One Secret All Great Leaders Know

March 21, 2018 • 5 minute read • by Saeed


“Management is doing things right. Leadership is doing the right things.” Dr. Peter F. Drucker

If you only know one thing about leadership, make it this one: the most powerfully motivating condition people experience at work is making progress at meaningful work. If your job involves leading others, the implications are clear: the most important thing you can do each day is to help your team members be engaged and experience progress at meaningful work.

As a leader, your obsession should be keeping people engaged in their work. Countless studies have shown that companies with higher rates of employee engagement have been shown to meaningfully outperform those with lower engagement.

Engaged employees at work in a vital environment is not accident however. You must understand what drives each person, help build connections between each person’s work and the organization’s mission and strategic objectives, provide timely feedback, and help each person learn and grow on an ongoing basis.

You may win battles, but without engaged employees, you will lose the war.

The best leaders understand that to realize their higher purpose, to create value for all their stakeholders, and to win in the marketplace, they must win in the workplace. They understand that if you only focus on results, then it can be very easy to get distracted from building the team you need to get the results you want.

Here are 10 things great leaders do clearly and consistently to help employees be engaged and make progress at meaningful work:

1.      They continuously confirm that everyone understands their roles and responsibilities.

2.      They are relentless about motivating people and giving people energy to their best work.

3.      They create an environment where high performers feel unmistakably valued for their input and their output.

4.      They are uncompromising about maintaining standards of quality but do so by caring about their employees.

5.      They acknowledge mistakes and don’t blame others or take credit for their work.

6.      They understand that a good plan well-executed beats a perfect plan poorly-executed.

7.      The deliver on results consistently and repeatedly.

8.      They are role models for the standards they evangelize.

9.      They build and inspire trust.

10.  They hold others accountable and are accountable to themselves.

 A Final Word

In my over 30 years of leadership experience teaching and coaching leaders at various stages in their careers, locally, nationally, and internationally, I’ve developed a very clear worldview on what leadership behaviors contribute to success. This comes from my own leadership experience as well as hundreds of research articles, books on the topic and my observations of other leaders I have worked with. I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t.

In a nutshell, I’ve observed that the very best leaders are masters at inspiring, influencing and setting up the structures, processes and environments that help highly valued people maintain their engagement and make progress at meaningful work. That is how they win every time.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate your readership. If you found this article valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others. 

I also invite you to FOLLOW ME on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

Why would you follow me?

The most compelling reason I can think of is this: I believe what I write and I write what I believe.

By that I mean your life is a reflection of you. If you want to change your life, you have to change yourself. If you want to change the world, you have to be that change.

I see myself as an alchemist of ideas writing at the intersection of personal, professional, and organizational development to help readers be the most effective human being they can be in order to create lasting impact in the world.

It’d be great to have you along on this journey.

©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

What is Leadership Presence and How Can You Develop It?

March 14, 2018 • 5 minute read • by Saeed


“Presence is more than just being there.” ~ Malclom S. Forbes

Recently, I’ve been getting a lot of requests in my executive coaching practice for the development of what is called leadership or executive presence (EP).

It’s a hot topic. But what exactly is it and why does it matter?

Many of the articles that cover it define leadership presence as the ability to communicate and resonate effectively with your audience. These articles talk about the importance of having gravitas and charisma and espouse the virtues of being an extrovert. They talk about using body language, projecting your voice and using appearance to convey power.

To be sure, the ability to connect and engage with others in a way that is positive, impressive and inspiring is important. The ability to make a strong first and last impression has great value. But that’s only half the story. It’s only as they say, the tip of the iceberg. Actors also search for a strong “stage presence.” But rather than just a practice of technique, the best actors tap into their inner core to communicate their message to the outer world.

What preoccupies me is what’s below the water line, that is to say, the depth of character that gives rise to leadership presence. That is because for me, leadership presence has more to do with substance than with form. Leadership presence is about being comfortable in your own skin. It is a deeper archeology of who you are and how you show up in the world every day. It is from these depths that leadership presence emanates.

To demonstrate, let’s excavate.

Leaders are made, not born. First, is there such a thing as a natural born leader? That’s a complicated question and we can debate it for days. While there are certain personality traits and temperaments that are more suitable to leadership, the truth is that leadership can be developed, taught and learned. At the same time, leadership cannot be reduced to a set of strategies and tactics that automatically make you a leader when you practice them. For example, giving inspiring speeches is one of the qualities many great leaders exhibit. But if they don’t live the convictions they espouse, their rousing locutions are little more than empty rhetoric no matter how well delivered or how well constructed their sentence structures may be.

Leadership presence is about character. Character is such a central, important element of leadership that it should not and cannot be ignored in any discussion of leadership because character fundamentally shapes how we engage the world around us. If as a leader, people perceive your character as having serious defects, no amount of gravitas will save you. A key function in leadership is to engender trust in people. To do so, you must possess the character, competencies, and commitment to be a leader. Leadership presence is about exhibiting the values and virtues that embody leadership and the judgment to know when those virtues become vices in their excess or deficiency.

Leadership presence is about emotional intelligence. Self awareness, self regulation, social awareness, and relationship management are the hallmarks of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is the engine that drives leadership presence. Like many things in life, the building block for leadership and leadership presence starts with self-awareness. Self awareness is the foundation of personal as well as professional growth. It starts with an acute awareness of your strengths and your vulnerabilities, but it is also a deeper awareness of your saboteurs, fears, and motivations. It is an awareness of how you see yourself and how others see you and an awareness of what drives you and what inhibits you. This awareness is crucial in the cultivation of leadership presence.

Leadership presence stems from your core. The source of leadership presence is rooted in your values, your purpose, your principles and your convictions. It is not a strategy. It is not a tactic. It is not swagger. It is not a front. It is an indelible impression made on you by your life experiences that you turn outward to the world. If you have lived an examined life, your ability to tap into this aspect of who you are and why you exist will be much easier. There is a correlation between how much you have excavated your own inner psyche and how confident you may be in your own skin as a leader.  Leadership presence is the ability to deploy who you are at your core against your leadership objectives.

Leadership presence is about congruence. Finally, leadership presence is what you believe and how you live what you believe every day. It is the authentic integration of what you believe with what you say and do. What comes out of your mouth should not be different than the actions you take or the behaviors you manifest. It is the alignment of your actions and words and the congruence between what you believe and how you act in the world that demonstrates who you are and your leadership character. Therein is the integrity that all great leaders demonstrate. If you are a lone wolf who demands collaboration, you are incongruent as a leader. If you are incongruent as a leader, those you hope will follow your message will see through this incongruence and will be unsettled by it. Ultimately, they will not follow.

A final word

While some might argue that presence is an innate quality, you can demystify the building blocks of presence and train yourself to strengthen our own engagement with audiences. Think for a moment about a person whom you consider to have remarkable leadership presence – someone you admire and respect. What qualities do they possess? What behaviors do they engage in? Were they born that way or did they learn along the way? We know when someone has it – and, on the flipside, we know when it’s missing. Leadership presence is not about power posing. Leadership presence is about self awareness first and foremost. This is followed by situational awareness and the emotional intelligence needed to cater your response to the person or circumstance at hand. If you start from the inside and work your way out, not only will you tap into your inner leader, but you will do so in a way that is authentic and lasting. Anything else, is an exercise in superficiality.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate your readership. If you found this article valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others. 

I also invite you to FOLLOW ME on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

Why would you follow me?

The most compelling reason I can think of is this: I believe what I write and I write what I believe.

By that I mean your life is a reflection of you. If you want to change your life, you have to change yourself. If you want to change the world, you have to be that change.

I see myself as an alchemist of ideas writing at the intersection of personal, professional, and organizational development to help readers be the most effective human being they can be in order to create lasting impact in the world.

It’d be great to have you along on this journey.

©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

6 Essential Things All Great Managers Do

March 6, 2018 • 6 minute read • by Saeed


“Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers.” ~ Stephen R. Covey

Managers get a bad rap the world over. Meddling managers are seen as a distraction to real work rather than as facilitators of strategy, collaboration and career growth. The truth is that bad managers are actually a liability and good ones a commodity.

If you are a manager and if your job involves leading others, the most important thing you can do each day is to help your team members experience progress at meaningful work in a positive work environment. It is not rocket science. People perform better when their workday experiences include more positive emotions, stronger intrinsic motivation (passion for the work), and more favorable perceptions of their work, their team, their leaders, and their organization. While I usually make a distinction between the two, for the purposes of this post I’ll be using manager and leader interchangeably. Let’s take a look.

1.      Great Managers are Great Coaches who engage in regular coaching conversations with their team members helping them articulate their goals and challenges through powerful open ended questions that help individuals tap into their own inner creativity and resources. They co-create and sustain a developmental alliance that supports them in taking ownership over their own learning, and helps them develop the skills they need to perform at their peak.

2.      Great Managers are Great Connectors who understand the importance of relationships, motivation, and meaning. They know what drives each person and gives their inner work life purpose. They help build connections between each person’s work and the organization’s mission and strategic objectives, and they provide timely feedback when there is misalignment between the individual and the organization in order to help each person learn and grow on an ongoing basis. They are also focused on growing their internal and external networks because they recognize that these connections are a source of opportunities they can leverage on behalf of their teams and organizations.

3.      Great Managers are Great Talent Agents who select top performers and focus on their strengths. The craziest thing I see organizations do is hire people and then put them in roles that expose their weaknesses rather than exploit their strengths.  Once exposed, they create performance goals around these weaknesses with elaborate schemes to ‘improve’ them that just turn a potentially star performer into Sisyphus. Great managers help people find systems, both personal and organizational, that help them deploy and maximize their strengths.

4.      Great Managers are Great Communicators which is not to say they talk all the time. Yes they are clear when they communicate and can motivate and inspire others through their speech. But just as importantly, they have well honed listening behaviors. They know that listening to and respecting others helps shape organizational culture, builds working relationships and creates the opportunity for impact. They get that work is all about relationships and that listening is a vital component of creating and maintaining relationships.

5.      Great Managers are Great Delegators who ensure even allocation of work and understand that employees are more effective performers when they feel challenged and stretched by assignments that help them grow. Great managers do not micromanage but make sure that the staff person understands exactly what is expected of them and what success looks like. Once they have communicated clearly about progress milestones and deadlines, they step back and give employees the freedom to do their job how they think it is best done, so long as the desired result is reached.

6.      Great Managers are Great Role Models who earn the respect of others because they lead by example and act as servant leaders. If they demand that their employees work more, it is because they work more. If they demand punctuality, it is because they are punctual. If they require stronger commitment, it is because they are fully committed. They cultivate a culture of trust based on their integrity infused behavior and they strive to develop other leaders rather than hog the glory. In short, they walk the talk of great leadership.

A Final word…

Leadership and management are not simple. If they were, great leaders and managers would not be so highly valued and such a rare commodity. The 6 traits highlighted above are by no means exhaustive. Great managers must excel at seeing the big picture, create loyalty, exercise emotional intelligence, create engagement and do much, much more. There are many personal qualities a great leader must develop over the course of their life and career. But these 6 traits are essential. I have never seen a manager succeed at being a great leader without them.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

Respect is the Currency of Great Leadership. Here are 5 Ways to Earn It and 1 Rule to Remember!

February 9, 2018 • 6 minute read • by Saeed


“Thinking is easy, acting is difficult, and to put one’s thoughts into action is the most difficult thing in the world.”

~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

High respect = High performance.

But you have to earn my respect. If I don’t respect you, why should I follow you?

The principle is simple. If people respect you, they will give their 100% to their work. But not 100% of the people will respect you.

That’s because of the 20:60:20 rule.

The rule says that 20% of your highest performing and most dedicated team members respect you already. Then, you have a reasonably high level of respect with your solid citizens (the middle 60%) that are good but not great. As for the bottom 20%, well, no matter how much you try, not everyone will love you. Trying to win the respect of your least productive people is, unfortunately, not an efficient use of time and effort, particularly in today’s time starved business environments.

Leadership is not a popularity contest. Leaders who strive to be liked absent respect, fail as often as authoritative rulers. Respect is earned not given. And if you buy the above arguments, namely that respect is the currency of leadership and that leaders need to at least ensure they have the respect of the 20+60%, then another key question emerges: How can leaders best earn the respect of their teams?

While the answer differs according to context, I have generally observed that leadership respect is a combination of five important factors:

1.      Respect is about listening:

Lean in, share acknowledgment and paraphrase what you hear them say. When you actively listen, you are not thinking about what you will say next. Be with them in the moment. This means that when employees talk with you, show interest and enthusiasm for their thoughts. Leaders who only like the sound of their own voice, never gain the benefit of the many voices around them. No matter how good you are, after a while, people will stop listening if you are not listening to them. Respect is a reciprocal act of listening and communication. By being open to input from peers, colleagues, and subordinates, you broaden your sources of information. By helping others be open to input from each others, you expand possibilities and opportunities to accelerate progress. This is how listening makes you a better leader.

2.      Respect is about accountability:

Successful organizational management necessitates accountability. There is no way around it. In practice, respect must form the foundation of accountability. Accountability is being responsible for our actions at all levels. It is about owning, correcting, and learning from our actions. It is about being transparent. It is also about being aware of the perceptions we create and taking responsibility for our emotional footprint at work (emotional intelligence). When leaders take personal accountability, they are willing to answer for the outcomes of their choices, their behaviors, and their actions in all situations in which they are involved. Accountable leaders are fixers, not blamers.

3.      Respect is about sharing success:

It shouldn’t seem hard. Give credit to others for their success; take responsibility for your own failures; and learn from both. If you are the type of leader who takes the credit for the work of your team members, you are no kind of leader at all. Good leaders share the credit with their teams when things go right and take the blame when things go wrong. Being a blame thrower spreads insecurity and decreases the odds of your employees taking ownership. Sharing credit builds investment in your enterprise by your employees and allows it to flourish.

4.      Respect is about consistency:

Are you constantly sending mixed message? Are you the manager who says she wants ideas from her staff and then proceeds to put down every idea brought to her? Without respect, it’s just harder for you to get shit done. If a leader develops a reputation for being inconsistent in either their words or actions, employees will eventually lose confidence in their ability to lead effectively. Consistency is not a concept; it’s a personal discipline. If you consistently demonstrate your commitment to a desired goal and are willing to invest the necessary time and effort to achieve that goal, people will also notice that and be inspired by your example.

5.      Respect is about walking the talk:

Lead by example. It’s the oldest leadership lesson in the book. Being a role model is about being value driven and being value driven earns respect. Child development specialist and author Dr. Robyn Silverman suggests that healthy self-confidence manifests as pride in who you are and what you’ve learned throughout your life. Show courage when faced with difficult decisions. Demonstrate trust (the cornerstone of all relationships) towards others and take actions to earn their trust. Demonstrate ongoing commitment to excellence. Do everything to the best of your ability; always.

As leaders, we must acknowledge the role we play as exemplars. People are savvy. If you don’t walk the talk, they’ll notice. Earn respect through actions and strong work ethic. To be a trusted leader who earns the respect of others, you must honor your words with actions and care for others beyond yourself (servant leadership). This helps build respect and trust within teams, between peers and colleagues, and ultimately promotes a sense of fairness that is essential to an engaged workforce. Walking the talk is the mark of a true leader and is exactly why leadership is so tough and exactly why there are so few real leaders. When you let promised work go undone, you lose respect and set a bad example. Effective leaders do not avoid responsibility, they do not procrastinate, and they do not under or over commit. If unsure about whether they can commit, they say no to the task and yes to the person asking for the commitment. In this way, leaders provide their own insurance that they won’t let promised work go undone.

 A Final Word…

The organization as collective entity achieves great results not only because of strong sales, growth, operational efficiency and competitive position, but also because of the positive workforce culture and strong values of respect and accountability. This concept applies to everyone in the organization but especially to the leadership who should be held accountable for their actions. Exercising complete respect consistently as a leader enables environments that bring out everyone’s best performance. It is essential for creating economic as well as social value. Leadership is not about being right all the time. It is not about having all the answers. It is rather about acknowledging when you don’t have all the answers. It is about the near-wins, not the wins. It is in the striving and the reaching, the journey, the promise of getting there, and the perpetual self-refinement.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.