Your Retirement Party: What Will They Say When Your  Time Comes?

Retirement parties are very revealing. Despite what you may have spent years focusing on in your career, the truth comes out at these gatherings.

I've worked with many of my clients for a decade or more so I attend many of these events. During all of those occasions, I have never heard someone say, "Boy, Ms. Smith balanced a spreadsheet like no other" or "Jack was my manager and I've never had one smarter than him." 

What you are far more likely to hear are statements that reveal the connections made during that person's leadership. 

  • "Larry took the time to get to know me and understand how I learned. And that's why I appreciate the way he managed me."
  • "Brenda would come by my cubicle when she knew my work was backed up and she would quietly encourage me to stay focused and let her know if I needed any help."

Statements like these indicate that this leader was an influencer and a facilitator. When you manage people by leading them to discover their own strengths and show them how to use them, they will repay you by following you for a very long time-maybe even your entire career. 

We naturally respond with greater enthusiasm and trust to leaders who engage with us in a way that respects the unique gifts we have and help us develop those fully.

When you choose to lead this way, you create a legacy of people who, because of your trust, are willing to help you tackle infinitely bigger tasks than you would have ever imagined on your own. Your willingness to give your employees the 5 Gifts detailed in A Leader's Gift is the only price tag for leaving this kind of legacy behind.

Next time you attend a retirement party, listen to what people are saying. 
How are they remembering the work of the one who is about to leave? Are they talking about how smart she was or how good she was at getting things done through they people she led?

What will they say when your time comes?

Be Encouraged,


Sharing the Spotlight

In commercials, sitcoms, and movies, we've seen countless portrayals of employees who take undue credit for an idea or work product. The typical scene shows a boss asking a team to come up with an idea, ignoring the suggestions offered, and then coming up with the idea himself - accompanied by applause from each team member except the one who actually came up with the idea in the first place.

This is an exaggerated take on the issue, but it's a good starting point for discussing the ways that more subtle occurrences of this behavior affect your ability to lead. A common complaint among followers is the tendency for their leader to take unfair credit, overshadow others' contributions, and make decisions based on what is best for the leader, not for the organization.

In order to be a lasting leader, you must learn to step out of the spotlight and let it shine brightly on those around you. Doing so encourages employees, motivates them for future successes, and creates a loyalty that will benefit you as the leader and your bottom line in creating loyal customers.

Ultimately, you will be putting others before yourself, and that is one of the keys to lasting leadership. Ask yourself:

  • Do I publicly acknowledge the contributions of my associates on a regular basis?
  • Do I express gratitude to those around me for a job well done?
  • Do I take time to offer encouragement to an associate who is having a difficult time with a project?
  • Do I believe our organization is doing well because of me or because of our workforce? 
  • Which do I find myself saying more: I or we?

In answering these questions and thinking deeply about them in an open and honest way, you may find that there is room for improvement in your efforts to put your people first.

Be Encouraged,


Nurturing Future Leaders

When you focus on an individual through the time you spend with them, the way you listen to and encourage them, you will see before they do where their potential lies and where it doesn't.

Lasting leaders nurture their own abilities to see their employees' potential even before they do. Through this relationship, you will find some employees who have great potential to be leaders themselves, and as the leader, it's your job to nurture that potential. 

The way to nurture those future leaders is by becoming a lasting leader yourself, giving your associates the 5 gifts explained in A Leader's Gift.

Let's look at the 5 gifts as they relate to nurturing future leaders:

  • Being Open: As you get to know your associates as real people, not merely as numbers, you will understand what they are and are not capable of, including taking on leadership roles.
  • Investing Time: Only through our investment of time in our employees will we see them grow to their highest potential.
  • Listening: When your employees know that you value their ideas, they will share them with you. Listen to what they are saying and you may hear the thoughts of a budding leader.
  • Offering Encouragement: If you are genuinely interested in helping your associates you will foster the kind of long-term relationship that gives people the confidence to take on greater responsibilities.
  • Expressing Appreciation: As explained in an  earlier post, the right way to show appreciation is to highlight a person's strength and how he or she demonstrated it. Through this kind of communication, you will see those strengths more clearly and your employee will respond by using them again and again.

A leader's ability to see the practice of developing other people as his or her greatest responsibility is nonnegotiable today.

The people who live in your wake will define who you are and, eventually, tell the story of who you were.

Be Encouraged,


The Rules of Being Open to Others

Openness encourages employee engagement and that is fundamental to business success. If you are going to become a boss who is open to your associates, you have to have a plan and the discipline to stick with it.

Your plan for giving the gift of openness comprises these 3 simple rules:

  1. Give first: Don't wait for your employees to seek you out. Choose to be assertive and go to them first. Do this consistently over a long period of time.
  2. Give freely: When you are open only when you need something, you will be caught! At a minimum, you have to be willing to create openness with every member of your team, not just your favorites. (For more on playing favorites, see an earlier post on the topic here.)
  3. Give frequently: The people you lead are the most expensive asset your company has. Being open with them and gaining their trust is as important as any spreadsheet on your desk. Get out of your office and spend time with others on a regular and frequent basis.

With my own employees, I developed a more pointed approach to creating openness. I developed 21 questions, loosely based on Harvey Mackay's Dig Your Well Before You Get Thirsty. The "implication" of each answer collectively provided the specific things that would help me lead in a way that worked for my team and me.

Here is a sample from my list and how I used the answers to become a better leader.

  • Question: Where did you grow up? Implication: Their cultural perspective.
  • Question: What were you like as a kid? Implication: Their early interests and habits.
  • Question: What did you do in high school? Implication: Their natural inclinations.
  • Question: What were your early jobs? Implication: Their first work environment.
  • Question: What happened after high school? Implication: Their education or job pursuits.

See Chapter 3 in A Leader's Gift for the rest of the list and more information on creating openness with your associates to become a lasting leader. 

Be Encouraged,


A Leader's Gift Blog: Lasting Leader Principles in  Practice - Investing Time in Your Team

In my book, A Leader's Gift - How to Earn the Right to Be Followed, I explain how one of the fundamental traits of a lasting leader is the gift of investing time in others.

Leaders are not typically solo flyers or lonely creative thinkers. Instead, they are called upon to assemble a team of people and enable them to be more productive together than any of them could be alone. Though all leaders will attest to being strapped for time, I believe that investing time in your team will yield results that are worth every minute spent.

We can't create time, but when we invest our time to build profitable relationships, we do multiply the effect of our time. I explain this principle fully in A Leader's Gift. Today, I want to focus on one aspect with you: an actionable strategy that will ensure that you are investing that necessary time with your team in a measurable way.

Start a spreadsheet that will track the amount of time you spend with each associate. There are 3 distinct segments of time you have to plan for, measure, and evaluate:

The employees who report to you need time daily. Make sure you spend 60 seconds with every one of your direct reports every day. Avoid patterns that make it seem like a ritual. Use this time to listen to each individual.Your direct reports need time every week. Based on how many you have, this can be between 15 and 30 minutes each week. It should be one-on-one time for up to half an hour over lunch, in your office or theirs, or via Skype or phone for remote employees.Your direct reports need time monthly. Invest one hour one-on-one with each of your direct reports each month.

After each encounter, evaluate by asking yourself:

What did I learn?What action, if any, do I need to take?What do I need to cover in the future with my associate?

You can spend this time now or spend it later, fixing problems or replacing people because you did not invest enough time on them along the way. Giving the gift of time is worthy of our attention, our measurement, and our progress if we expect to create a collaborative environment for success.

For more, see Chapter 4 of A Leader's Gift.

Be Encouraged,







A Leader's Gift Blog: Keynote Speaking - Lessons Learned  Along the Way

I've spent several decades consulting with Fortune 100 companies, developing leadership-development engagements and writing leadership- training programs.

Through that experience, I have been given the opportunity to deliver keynote addresses. I am always honored and excited by these engagements and look forward to doing more of them in the future.

I didn't pay much attention to the introduction, until I heard my name and the audience start to applaud. As I stood on the platform, waiting for the applause to die down, I thought to myself, "This will be a good speech. I practiced every line, memorized every story, and know right where the laugh and applause lines are." The first couple of minutes went just as planned, and then a slow, dull ache began to roll over my entire body. I was doing a great job describing the challenges faced by nurses and healthcare workers, the only problem that group wasn't scheduled for two weeks later. I was actually standing up in front of an industrial distribution association. In that moment, I wished I could have simply cried out "Beam me up, Scotty!" I was embarrassed, I was humiliated, and I brought it all on myself. I was so focused on my performance, that I ignored the purpose of my presentation.

I've picked up a few valuable lessons along the way that I thought I would share with you as you enter into or grow this side of your business.

  • Focus on the results, not the speech itself: When discussing a keynote address with a new client, move away from a review of the points you will cover and toward a discussion of what problem the client is trying to solve. In this way, your fee becomes an investment, not a cost. (See more on this idea in an article I wrote in Speaker Magazine.)
  • Customize the experience: Your client does not want a "canned" speech that requires you to simply insert the company's name where appropriate. Do your research on the front end, uncovering the problems that need to be addressed from the company's and the industry's perspective, and deliver a message worthy of your audience's attention.
  • Care: If you sincerely care about the outcome, it will show in your delivery. People can tell if you are invested in their success or not, and if you are not, you will not be an effective speaker.

What lessons have you learned from giving keynote addresses? What have you seen as an audience member that you found particularly positive? 
 Be Encouraged,


Leader's Gift Blog: Born or Made? The Great Leadership  Debate

It's not a new debate. Are leaders made or are they born? 

You've probably heard during such discussions expressions like, "She's just got a gift for it" or "He's a natural." There's no denying that our DNA does impact a lot of our traits and characteristics, and some of those are more conducive to our becoming a leader. But I maintain that every single one of us has the seeds of great leadership within us, and I am not alone in this opinion.

In a survey by the Center for Creative Leadership to over 350 top-level leaders, only 69 respondents felt that leaders were made. The study concluded that all groups surveyed "overwhelmingly agree that people become leaders in large part as a result of experiences that help them learn how to be a leader." Most research on the subject finds that leaders are both born and made, meaning some innate qualities combine with hard work and result in effective leadership.

Whether you are born with those innate traits that would work for you in a leadership capacity or not, you will need to train, sharpen your skills, and learn how to become a better and better leader continually over time in order to succeed.

Only a few of us will do the work to discover those seeds of great leadership within us; even fewer will invest the time and effort necessary to reap a harvest of influence. 

What do you think? Are you a born leader or a made one?

Be Encouraged,


Leader's Gift Blog: Being Open to Others

One key to finding the gift of openness is being careful not to make assumptions about those who work for us. Everyone who reports to you should be given the opportunity to be heard and understood without bias or prejudice. Ask yourself, how well do you really know your employees?
Take a look at the following questions. Do you know the answers for half of your employees? More? Less? Who are they? Where did they come from? What has shaped their life and how they approach work? What's important to them right now? What are they afraid of? What's their hidden dream? If you don't know the answers, then you are not open and you are not earning the right to be followed.

Failing to understand your employees at this level may result in your intentionally overlooking or failing to hear someone on your team. Repeated occurrences will leave your reputation among your team battered, with many of them even thinking you are rude and inconsiderate. Your lack of openness will cost you in higher turnover, decreased productivity, increased frustration, and more.

For a more in-depth look at finding the gift of openness, see Chapter 3 of A Leader's Gift. There you will find a more comprehensive list of questions to consider in getting to know your employee-and much more.
Be Encouraged,


Leader's Gift Blog: Favoritism - How Playing Favorites  Impacts Your Ability to Lead

Do you have favorites among your employees; those you consistently look to for important projects, promotions, and rewards? Do you look to them because they alone are deserving of the consideration, or are you showing favoritism?

You may not think you show favoritism, but chances are you do. According to a 2011 study at Georgetown University, 92% of senior business executives surveyed have seen favoritism at play with employee promotions, including 84% at their own companies.

On top of being illegal in some cases, favoritism is a problem because it breeds mistrust in you as a leader, lowers morale, and de-incentivizes your team.

Begin by giving yourself an honest self-assessment as it relates to favoritism. Do you show it? To whom? In what ways? Self-awareness of the favoritism you show is a great first step to acting more impartially, and ultimately it will not make you a great leader.

As detailed in A Leader's Gift, being open to all of your employees, not just your favorites, is one of the foundational qualities of great leader.

Be Encouraged,


A Leader's Gift Blog: A Leader's Gift at Home - A Spouse's  Gift

In an earlier post (A Leader's Gift at Home - A Parent's Gift), I introduced the idea of utilizing the qualities discussed in A Leader's Gift to be a better parent.

Parenting is only one part of our experience. How about your spouse or significant other? 

A phrase I repeat often is this: leadership isn't something you do; it's someone you become. Just as your children will feel the effect of how you lead at work, so will the man or woman you live with.

My wife, Janice, and I have been married for over 37 years and I am working harder on communication today than ever before. When I endeavor to respect her in the same way I suggest we respect our employees, life is better! 

Just as with our children and our employees, we should be open to our spouse's dreams and individuality. We should invest time in our relationship that is meaningful and focused. In working on our communication with our spouse, we should really listen (Real Listening) to what he or she has to say to us. 

Why shouldn't you point out her strengths (Showing Appreciation - Part 1) and share a specific example of it in your life together? Why not encourage him in the areas he is attempting to improve and grow in?

I challenge you to make a real effort to incorporate the 5 Gifts in your family life for 30 days and see what happens. I think you will be pleasantly surprised at the outcome.

Be Encouraged,