Lasting Leader Principles in Practice: Showing  Appreciation Part 2

I introduced the gift of appreciation in part one of this part one of this post and encouraged you to take a 30-day challenge in showing appreciation to your associates. Those of you who rose to that challenge are undoubtedly sold on the idea that your shows of appreciation are gifts that will translate into higher productivity and drive among your employees.

If you are ready to develop this gift fully, I encourage you to follow the 7 steps I have outlined below. I have taught these steps to thousands of leaders who have told me repeatedly that they work and have changed their perspective as leaders.

  1. Pick up an inexpensive spiral notebook (or use your smart phone or computer if it's easily accessible) and label a page for everyone who works for you.
  2. Write down examples of the strengths you see in those associates. Plan to take time daily for this activity.
  3. Scan the notebook once a week and ask, "Who needs a word of appreciation from me?" Prepare to tell the person the strength and then the specific example of when/where you saw him or her doing this. (For more on this way of expressing appreciation, see part 1 of this post here.)
  4. Scan the notebook at least once a week and ask, "Who needs a written note of appreciation from me?" Again, tell the person the strength and the specific example, but in writing.
  5. Avoid any mention of improvements your employees need to make. That is for another time.
  6. Be consistent. Don't miss a single day jotting entries in your notebook to use later. Don't miss a single week without someone hearing from you.
  7. Take a risk and try this at home with your children, spouse, or significant other.

It takes about twelve weeks before you will start seeing a change in both your attitude toward these associates and their performance. When you start to look for the things people do right, it will alter your perspective; you will begin to see the person you were ignoring all along. 

Be Encouraged,


Lasting Leader Principles in Practice: Showing  Appreciation Part 1

The words that leaders use when speaking to their team, especially the words that show appreciation for their employees' strengths, are like air and water - essential for survival on the job.

There are right and wrong ways to show appreciation. Flattery is not the right way. Flattery only raises more questions with the recipient, such as, "What does he want from me?"

A show of genuine appreciation that really works contains two key elements:

  • It identifies the strength you believe the employee is showing, such as preparation, dedication, attention to detail, enthusiasm, and a myriad of others.
  • It contains a specific example of that strength at work.

For example, during a recent presentation to a big potential client, Brenda put in many late nights getting her research done and putting together the materials for the meeting. After the meeting, you could tell her, "Brenda, I want to thank you for your efforts in getting ready for this meeting.  Everything was ready in advance and you had a firm grasp of all the information needed to deliver our message to this important potential client. That level of preparedness is really appreciated."

I challenge you to take the time over the next few weeks to express appreciation to at least 20 associates. If you are rolling your eyes at this notion, you are not alone. I give this same challenge to leaders I coach in my consulting practice and am often met with heads shaking and eyes rolling.

When those same hesitant leaders come back to report their progress weeks later, I see a totally different attitude and an enthusiasm for continuing the practice - because it works!

You will begin to see better relationships emerge with your team and improved performance from those you are appreciating. If you continue for at least 30 days to regularly catch your team doing something right, it will no longer be something you do but rather the kind of person you are becoming, that is, a leader who brings out the best in his or her associates!

Be Encouraged,


Letting Go - Recognizing the Time to Replace an Employee

Lasting leaders pay attention to their human capital because they recognize that those people investments are a key reason they consistently outperform the market.

Sometimes the people working for us become disengaged and ineffective, and we as leaders have two outcomes to choose from: reengage them or replace them. Recognizing when it's time to let someone go is a difficult part of our work as leaders but a necessary one, as all of our people must be good fits in order for us to be optimally successful.

When is it time to let go? What signs or clues can we see that will lead us to this outcome over the other? 

First and foremost, you owe it to your associate and yourself to attempt to reengage the employee before moving to termination. Coaching, support, goals, and a plan for improvement should be tried. During the period of re-engagement, look for some of the following worrisome signs that things may not work out in the end:

  • Continued decline in performance: If your employee isn't doing better with the work after you've added the extra support it may be that this person just isn't cut out for the job.
  • Spreading like wildfire: As described in an article on the subject in Forbes, one problem employee can quickly turn into multiple problem employees. If your other team members are burdened with extra work or being infected by negativity from the struggling employee, it's probably best to cut ties.
  • Lack of enthusiasm: Your employees need to feel passionate about the work they do and show some enthusiasm. If your associate just doesn't seem to care anymore, that individual probably doesn't care anymore and it's probably time to part ways.
  • The Net Effect: Stephanie Kaplan of Her Campus Media says that you should look at the net effect of the employee. As a whole, does having the person in your organization help or hurt the company?

Most managers I have worked with hesitate to replace team members because they keep hoping that they will come around. Stop hoping and know.

When you invest serious time in an associate's development, you will know, and the employee himself may even recognize when he is not the best fit.

Have you had to fire an employee? What signs made it clear to you that it was time? Share your experiences in the comment section below.

Be Encouraged,


A Leader's Gift at Home - A Parent's Gift

The way we manage the people who work for us, and even the clients we serve, will be a mirror of how we relate to the people who matter most to us - our family. How much influence do you have with your children? Are you willing to see them as individual people first? What kind of legacy are you leaving at home?

In developing the ideas contained in  A Leader's Gift - How to Earn the Right to Be Followed, I began to see that those principles could be applied to my home life as well. I'd like to visit this side of the 5 gifts with you periodically and explore how these qualities can make us better parents, partners, spouses, and friends. 

Today, we will begin this exploration by taking a look at how these gifts can impact our parenting. Using the principles from A Leader's Gift as a parent doesn't mean you are hands off; it means you are engaging your son or daughter and trying to help that child become who he or she is as an individual; you are not shaping your child into a younger version of yourself. You should be open to your child's dream for his or her life, even if it is not what you expected or would choose for your child.

For me, this switch from being a parent who tried to direct his sons' lives to one who helped them discover their unique strengths and realize their goals meant that I got nothing I had planned for, but everything I could hope for: a relationship with an adult child that was whole and complete. 
Of course, there still needs to be discipline and clear expectations, 
but parenting with the 5 gifts will actually make that much easier - on both of you. 

If you are open to who they are (and not who you want them to be), if you spend time with them, and if you appreciate their strengths and tell them so, you can expect one day to hear your children say thank you, despite all the ups and downs along the way. 

Try incorporating the 5 gifts into your parenting and see the positive changes that can happen. Being open, encouraging, really listening, appreciating, and giving time will improve your relationship with your child or children and help them become all they are meant to be.

Be Encouraged,


The Power of the Present: Harnessing the Here & Now

Each day brings us an opportunity to connect with those we lead in a genuine, meaningful way. Those interactions are an important component to our overall strategy in becoming effective, giving leaders. 

It's easy in these moments, and in times of internal struggle or challenge, to get bogged down in the trials and problems of times past or in fear of what is to come. This nagging concern for the past or for the future chips away at productivity, both our own and our team's. We must learn to harness the power of living in the present in order to give our employees the gift of lasting leadership.

One way to help your employees stay in the present is to offer encouragement in completing the task at hand. Likewise, you can abstain from judging your employees too harshly based on past mistakes or anticipated failings in the future. 

If you have trouble with the idea of working in the here and now, try implementing some or all of the tips listed below into your daily life.

Focus on the task at hand: Don't let your mind wander to your next to-do or the heated exchange you had earlier with a client, coworker, whomever. Just do what you are doing right now and let the rest fall away.

Hear your thoughts but don't listen to them: This is kind of a tricky one and is more fully explained in an article on Paid to Exist. Let your thoughts occur rather than trying to quiet them but don't pay so much attention to them that they become a distraction. Treat them as sounds, not directives.

Drop Multitasking: This relates to focusing on the task at hand but deserves a second perspective given our societal affinity for multitasking. Don't try to do two or three things at once. Do one thing at a time with your full attention and you will do it well. You will also hone your skills at living in the present.

Do you find yourself getting caught up in thoughts of the past or the future? What advice can you share for living in the present? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Be Encouraged,


Open Communication - Is Your Door Really Open?

As a manager or leader, you are familiar with the "open door policy" most leaders promise to staff. It's easier to make this promise than to keep it, especially when you find yourself face to face with someone you just don't relate to naturally.

Despite your promise to openly communicate with him anytime, your facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice may be conveying an entirely different message.

If you want people to freely come to you with their ideas, problems, and solutions, you need to make good on your promise of open communication and convey genuine interest in engaging with them.

The best way to accomplish this is to actually BE genuinely interested in what your employees have to say by giving them the gift of openness (as fully explained in A Leader's Gift - How to Earn the Right to Be Followed).

In the meantime, start to take note of your facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice to see what they convey.

Facial Expressions

Some people wear their heart on their sleeve while others let their face do all the feeling.Watch your employees' reactions the moment you look at each other. What is reflected back to you?Chances are, you will see in their face what they currently see in yours.

Body Language 

Body language monitoring goes beyond ensuring that your arms are not crossed and your back is not turned away from the person speaking.Are you half-listening while also responding to an email on your smart phone, or are you making eye contact, actively listening to, and responding to your employee?Engaged leaders drop everything and listen with their whole body and mind.

Tone of Voice 

It goes without saying that yelling, being curt, or sighing in exasperation when approached by an employee will convey a very clear message that you are not interested in what he or she has to say.Though those examples are extreme, subtle changes in your tone of voice can also yield negative results when trying to convey genuine interest.Listen to your voice when speaking to lots of different people throughout the day. How does it change? Why? When?Become aware of patterns and triggers so that you can begin giving your employees a consistent and calm voice in return to their communications.

Open door policy or not, ask yourself: Is your door really open or is it cracked just enough to let everyone know you are there, but not wishing to be disturbed?

Be Encouraged,

Joe White - Lasting Leaders End Well

Joe White was one of two men who demonstrated for me the traits of a leader who draws people to him by being open to others and encouraging them. Joe invested in both his employees and his customers over more than 3 decades and grew his small family business, Castle Supply, into a national leader in the industry.

I worked with Joe and the company president, Bob Cardwell, in developing their leadership team and documenting their strategic planning. As I worked with them, I began to notice a pattern; men and women in every branch and most departments had a story to tell about how Joe White had taken a chance on them and then stood back and let them grow. In return, Joe had a team of loyal employees who put customers first and built a highly profitable business.

An international company that also was a major force in the same industry put an offer on the table to buy Joe's company that couldn't be ignored. Joe wanted to talk to me immediately and I wasn't surprised by what I was about to hear. Joe was worried first about how his family would react to the sale and second what this would do to his employees. Joe negotiated the sale of the business over several months, and at every step, he calculated how to keep his family's interest foremost and to protect his employees.

The closing day came and those long-term employees, including Bob Cardwell, were rewarded for their loyalty. I have never seen any other business owner leave as much on the table for his associates. Joe White was open, he listened without judging, he invested time, he encouraged continuously, and he appreciated the strengths of those he led.

Real Listening

“Lean forward . . . keep your eyes focused . . . nod your head . . . that’s good!” If you’ve ever attended a seminar on listening you likely heard those instructions. I’m asking you now—please forget it!

Real listening, by which I mean genuine listening that allows you to bring out the best in your people, comes from far below the surface. I myself had to learn, and have shared with thousands of leaders since, a set of skills that will help you do just that. If you begin practicing these 5 skills you will be surprised at how the people you lead will respond more positively and more quickly to you.

Skill #1: Stop, Drop, and Listen

o   When your employees are speaking to you, drop everything else you are doing and listen.

o   Be there and nowhere else.

o   This first skill will send a message to your employees: I value you and want to hear what you are thinking.

Skill #2: Suspend Judgment

o   When you are talking to a team member, learn to hold back your first response and make no judgment until you have exhausted your conversation with this associate.

Skill #3: Search Deeper

o   Bring out what the other person is thinking by probing deeper.

o   Ask revealing questions such as: How do you mean that? Can you give me an example?

Skill #4: Seek Misunderstanding

o   When the dialogue reaches a decision point, whether in the moment or days later, speak up and say, “I want to clarify what I understand about this issue so there is no miscommunication between us.”

o   Then restate the key point and invite your associate to amend or correct it. 

Skill #5: Show Appreciation

o   It takes courage for employees to have an honest dialogue with you, their leader, so when it happens, celebrate it!

o   Thank them, ideally in person but at the very least over the phone.

o   This will encourage them to repeat the behavior.

These 5 skills are reviewed in depth in Chapter 5 of my book A Leader’s Gift – How to Earn the Right to Be Followed.

The Nurturing Leader

I recently came across an article that struck a chord with me as it relates to the gifts of lasting leadership.

The article, written by Scott Williams on his blog, Big Is the New Small, is about nurturing leaders—what they really are and what they can do for those they lead. Williams contends that nurturing leaders are not the soft pushover figures your mind may begin to conjure when you think about the terms “nurturing” and “leader” together. Rather, they are “some of the best kinds of leaders as they are focused on feeding, protecting, encouraging and developing those they lead.”

He goes on to say, “Nurturing Leaders don’t see people as an ends to a means, they see people as a gift to steward, a life to shape, a person to encourage and a leader to release. Just like a mother loves to see her offspring grow, develop and reach amazing heights, the nurturing leader loves to see those they lead grow, develop and reaching amazing heights.”

The nurturing leader is not the mother hen, coddling and protecting her young from the outside world.The nurturing leader is a lasting leader, giving the gifts of openness, time, listening, encouragement, and appreciation to those he or she leads so that they may grow, develop, and reach new heights.

These gifts will transform the working lives of those you lead and help them to become leaders themselves.

In A Leader’s Gift I show how to use these gifts not only to change the kind of leader you are but also to change the kind of person you are so that you can leave a lasting legacy of leadership in your organization and in your life.

Welcome to Leader's Gift Blog

My name is Barry Banther, and I want to welcome you to the Leader’s Gift blog.

In our first entry here at Leader's Gift Blog , I want to introduce myself to you, give you a brief overview of the leadership qualities explained in my book, A Leader’s Gift, and tell you what kind of content you can expect to see here.

I have decades’ worth of experience as a business leader, corporate executive, and public servant. I consult and train with the leadership teams of Fortune 100 companies, including Pfizer and Rockwell International. I’ve been the lead consultant on over 400 leadership development engagements and have written over 50 leadership-training programs that companies use worldwide. In my experience as a leader, I learned the hard way that when leaders put others first, they themselves become more valuable to their team and their company than any authority or job title could ever mandate. I’ve identified five qualities that aren’t things leaders have, but rather things they give away—freely and frequently—to everyone they lead in the workplace.

The gift of being open to others: Being open to the real people you lead in such a way that they will place higher value on the relationship they have with you and be more prone to preserve it through improved performance.

The gift of investing time in others: Choosing to invest time in your employees as a priority in your workday so that your employees know that they are important to you.

The gift of listening to others: Being the kind of boss who solicits the opinions of those who work for you, suspends judgment, and conveys your genuine interest in each of your employee’s thoughts.

The gift of offering encouragement to others: Encouragement allows our employees to break through barriers, gives them confidence to complete the job at hand, and helps them remove unforeseen obstacles.

The gift of expressing appreciation in others: Being the kind of leader who is constantly trying to catch his or her associates doing something right.

This blog will be a place to find information on these leadership qualities and how to use them to become a lasting leader; discussions about various challenges faced by leaders; ideas for self-improvement that will carry over into your professional life; as well as ideas for incorporating these gifts into your personal life. In presenting the information found in A Leader’s Gift and at this blog, I have aimed to show you how to become not only a better leader but also a better partner, better parent, and better friend. I warmly welcome you to this journey and am confident that I can help you discover your gifts as a leader who earns the right to be followed.