Leadership is an Apprentice Trade People do not learn leadership from books. They don't start with theory. New leaders learn leadership from more experienced leaders. That's why leadership is an apprenticeship trade. Since the Middle Ages, apprentices have learned their craft from those who have already mastered it. To get the most out of the experience, you should do a few specific things. Role Models: Watching Others Start by identifying excellent role models in the world around you. How do you do that? Ask. People know who the great leaders are in any organization. Once you know who they are you can use them as role models. Ask yourself, "How would Art handle this?" Think about how Grace might deal with a situation like the one you're facing. Then, adapt their behavior to fit your style and situation. Don't stop there. Maybe you haven't spotted a leader who does almost everything the way you want to. Don't let that stop you. Use one leader as a role model for one kind of behavior and another leader for a different behavior. Using role models for guidance is a start. Maybe one of your role models can become a mentor. Mentors: Learning One-on-One According to Greek mythology, when Odysseus left for the Trojan War, he left his son Telemachus in the care of Mentor. Mentor did an excellent job and gave his name to anyone who becomes your trusted teacher and guide. A mentor will help you learn about leadership, taking the role that the master took in classic apprentice training systems. But a mentor will also be a guide to the larger world and often will become a good friend. Many organizations now have mentoring programs that pair up less experienced folks with people who are willing to act as mentors. Many times that doesn't work out because good mentoring relationships depend on chemistry. Even if your organization has a mentoring program, it's probably a good idea to seek out potential mentors on your own. Here's the kind of person you should look for. Your potential mentor should be more experienced than you in areas that matter to you. He or she should have an excellent reputation. Your potential mentor should be a master of the organization as well as leadership. A great mentor will also become your advocate, booster and sponsor. Your potential mentor should be able to explain things well. That's important. Not everyone who can do something well can explain the details to others. You and your potential mentor should have a comfortable chemistry. There's no way to figure out in advance if this will happen, so make your approach and see how things work out. A Framework for Learning The best apprenticeship programs combine formal learning with learning from the masters and learning on the job. There are a number of books and training programs that will help you sort out the lessons from your learning and develop new skills in a safe environment. If you work for a large organization, take advantage of the training they have to offer. Look beyond training in "leadership" skills and try to identify any skills that will help you do your job better. Look beyond your own organization, too. There are lots of classes in leadership and related disciplines at educational institutions. There are public seminars put on by the chamber of commerce. And trade and professional associations offer training and education of all kinds. Read a lot. Find books on leadership, management and supervision. You may find one or two that will give you the structure for your learning. Don't just read books on the topic of leadership. Read history and biography that tell you about leaders of the past and present. Trial and Feedback Reading and courses are not enough. Leadership only happens in a group and it only happens when you do something. Learning leadership is not like learning history. It's more like learning to ride a bicycle, complete with falls and scrapes. You'll learn your leadership trade more effectively if you critique your own leadership performance. I suggest getting a notebook and keeping a record of what you do and the results you get. If you talk to someone who works for you about their performance, make a record of what you did and what happened. Review your notebook from time to time and use it as a guide to changed behavior, learning and development. The fact is that if you're responsible for the performance of a group, then you're a leader. You have no choice because people will treat you like a leader. The only question left is what kind of leader you'll become. To become the best leader you can, treat leadership like an apprentice trade. Learn your craft in every way you can. Find good role models and emulate their actions. Find a mentor and learn the lessons he or she has to teach. Develop a framework so you can get the most out of your learning. Finally, act and critique in an unending cycle of leadership improvement. 7 Keys to Working Successfully with Your Direct Reports The late Chuck Christiansen began his working life in the warehouse at Consolidated Freightways and retired from the position of Executive Vice President. I once asked him what was different about being a top executive and being a crew boss on a loading dock. "It's really the same," he told me. "You still have to get the job done through the people you deal with every day." The higher you rise in your organization, the more of the organization you can have an impact upon. You don‟t have that impact directly. You do most of it through your direct reports, the people you supervise. Here are seven keys to working with those critical people Pick Good People Quality people are the raw material of success. Getting the best results from your team starts with getting the best players you can get on the team. Remember, no matter how much you polish that cubic zirconium, it will never turn into a diamond. It will never cut glass. Look at skills. Get the mix of skills you need for the team to be effective. That's what made Billy Bean so successful as General Manager of the Oakland A's. When other GMs looked for stars, Bean looked for pieces of a performance puzzle. Look at values. The folks on your team should share core values about how to do business. One of my best clients ever was MFA Incorporated. Just about everyone on the executive team was involved in farming in some way and they shared common values that made reaching decisions easier. Look at diversity. The most effective teams have members who bring different perspectives and information sources to the table. This may not always be comfortable, just effective. Look for strength. You want people who are strong and who put other strong people on their own team. Don‟t' settle. It's easy to do. When I was in Language School in Monterey in the 1960s, many students were housed in barracks that had been built as temporary stables during World War I. Many temporary solutions turn out to be distressingly permanent and energy-sapping. Set Clear Expectations You can't hold folks accountable for things they don't know they're supposed to achieve. So tell them what you expect from them. Do this publicly, in meetings, to make sure everyone from your team is on the same page. Do it one-on-one, too, to make sure that each member of your team understands his or her own unique role. Clear is not enough. Expectations should be reasonable, too. Make sure your folks have the time, money and human resources they need to do what you expect them to do. One of my clients, Bob, ran a trucking company. After he'd finished laying out his expectations for performance, and making sure he was understood, he always asked one more question. "Tell me how you're going to accomplish what you've just agreed to." The discussion that followed gave Bob and his direct report the opportunity to test the reasonableness of Bob's expectations. Many times, resources were re-assigned or targets were adjusted to make sure expectations were as reasonable as they were clear. Give Regular and Usable Feedback Expectations are just the beginning. You have to talk to your direct reports about their performance. That's easy when performance is good. But when performance is not up to par, most of the managers I've met don't like talking to their direct reports about it. They come up with all sorts of reasons not to. Here some of the reasons I've heard for not talking with a subordinate about performance. "I don't want to micromanage." "They know what they're doing. I really don't need to talk to them." "They're executives, they don't need supervision." "If they don't know that they're doing poorly, then they shouldn't be in that job." "I don't want to damage their confidence." "I believe you should hire good people and then leave them alone." None of those is a good reason. Your job is to get top performance out of your group. If you've got someone who's not performing, it's up to you to fix the problem. It's your job to give feedback, even when that's hard for you to do. There's a real advantage to catching problems early. The sooner you catch a problem, the easier it is likely to be to solve. I call that the Dinosaur Principle. Like dinosaurs, problems are easy to kill when they're small. But if you let them grow up they can eat you. Feedback assures that sure your subordinate understands how their performance measures up and what the consequences are of good and bad performance. Deliver the Consequences of Performance In my research on top supervisory leaders, I found that the best ones, the ones I call Three Star Supervisory Leaders, have a special way of thinking about reward and punishment. Often, they don't even use those terms. Using lots of different language, they will tell you that the reward or punishment is the natural result of a subordinate's behavior. As one of them told a subordinate once, "Your performance will get you fired. I'm just the one who notifies you." Use the consequences you deliver to help get the performance you want. Praise (and other rewards like money, challenging assignments and promotion) will get more of a behavior. Rewards will help you get people to try things. Rewards require a delicate balancing act, though. On the one hand, most of us don't praise people enough. You don't have to do anything extravagant. In Richland Hills, Texas, Police Chief Barbara Childress passes out "'preciate ya!" cards to folks she catches doing something good. On the other hand, if you reward every positive result, the rewards lose their value. Rewards are best delivered inconsistently. Negative consequences, like reprimands and punishment, are different. In the words of one of my trainees, "they should be as inevitable as nature." That's because negative consequences are most effective when they're delivered consistently. Use negative consequences to get a subordinate to stop doing something. Be careful though. If you use negative consequences too much, people will stop trying anything. Take Responsibility for Communication You're the boss. You're the one who's responsible for the performance of the whole group. Take responsibility for making sure that you're communicating effectively with your direct reports. Those direct reports are like the repeaters in an electrical system. You can't reach everyone in your organization directly. Your direct reports will carry your message. Make sure they understand it. Start by making sure you understand your key messages and that they're clear. Limit your key messages so you only have one or two. Then test those messages on folks outside your organization. My friend, Mike, had teenaged daughters. They were bright, articulate kids. But they didn't care a bit about his business, which was just fine for his purposes. He tested his explanations of business strategy on his daughters. Since, like most teenagers, they were fearless, they told him what they thought and helped him sharpen his messages. When you're clear yourself, make sure your subordinates understand what's important. Use communication tools like Active Listening to assure that you're getting your message across. Find a Way to Discover Reality that Doesn't Depend on Your Subordinates One of the toughest challenges you'll have as a top executive is getting the truth about what's going on. That's because the people who pass information up to you tend to filter it and shape it for their own ends. I'm not talking about conscious deception here, though that happens sometimes. I'm talking about the natural human tendency to avoid giving the boss bad news. Develop your own way of getting to reality. High tech tools like web research and news alerts can help. Simple methods work, too. Leonard owned a successful and busy machinery sales business. As the boss he had lots to do, but he took time, whenever he was in town, to open the mail. Opening the mail was Leonard's way of staying in touch with reality. Other executives do some form of Management by Wandering Around (MBWA), pioneered by the legendary Rene McPherson of the Dana Corporation. Still others use an electronic open door policy that lets anyone in the organization send them an email that they promise to answer. Set the Right Example The job of a leader is influencing the behavior of others using the tools he or she has available. Your most powerful tool is the example you set for your people. The people who work for you watch you carefully. They pay attention to the things you pay attention to. They will be as ethical or not as you are. What you notice and reward, they will value. Make sure that your talk matches your walk. The folks who work for you will know in heartbeat if what you do and what you say don't match up. Shelly Lazarus is Ogilvy and Mather Worldwide Chairman and CEO. She's also considered a role model by many people, especially women. She's not entirely comfortable with that, but she takes being a role model seriously and she works consciously to make sure her actions and her words match up. Here's how she sets the example for her people. "I know that work-family balance is important … I choose always to go to the school play, and field day and all that [because] it gives other women in the company, or clients, the confidence to be able to say, 'I'm going, too.'" It's not always easy to be the role model for everyone. But if you're the boss, that's part of the job. Your job as a leader is to influence everyone in the organization to move productively in the same direction. How you work with your direct reports is critical to achieving the results you want. Visionary's Disease and the CEO by George Smart, Jr. As consultants, we all know the value of vision. The Greek philosophers spoke about it. Former President George Bush recommended attention to "the vision thing." What happens when an organization's problem isn't a lack of vision but too much? What happens when the CEO's vision changes monthly, weekly, or even daily-driving his organization crazy? Welcome to Visionary's Disease. If you are consulting to someone who suffers from it, you are probably very frustrated. Here's a case history. A number of years ago, I was brought into a high-tech company to look at why morale was poor and projects always behind schedule and overbudget. When I met the CEO, the problem was clear. It was my first exposure to Visionary's Disease, and he had a serious case. Like many techno-CEOs, "Don" was young, brilliant, and unorganized. Some months earlier, the company had been given a major cash infusion from a Fortune 500 company. With this new cash, Don could attend virtually any conference he wanted. He went everywhere, from Indiana to Indonesia. He networked with men and women who shaped the industry. Each time, he returned home with a new grand vision, and within 48 hours he called a special management meeting to discuss it. When Don got his own cell phone and laptop, he actually tried to conduct these meetings from the plane. Managers soon learned that "discussion" really meant "announcement." The obvious next step - a discussion of what people should stop doing or do less of to start anything new - was implicitly taboo. Only in the most passive way ("I know we're all busy, but …") would Don acknowledge that everyone was already working above capacity. And Don had been known to say that such discussions "lacked vision." Of course Don's new visions involved heroic efforts and substantial redirection of resources. After each announcement meeting, managers returned to their departments to dismantle what had been underway. A frantic round of meetings and e-mails would bring the company to a screeching halt as frustration levels soared, planning ceased, and everyone scrambled to redirect customers, suppliers, and each other. Then Don would leave for another trip. This happened almost monthly. It was hard to object. Don was brilliant, and the company did have a good product. But Don did not want to listen to objections. He treated practical concerns about stability, capacity, and leadership as signs of disloyalty, laziness, or the most deadly sin of all - technical ignorance. Company turnover soared to 25%, the investors were nervous, and sales dropped because the salespeople were never sure what to sell. Project management stalled and employees had a glazed look. I'd like to report a fitting moral conclusion to this story, something like Don going out of business for his failure to sustain a vision, or investors forcing him to have some kind of leadership epiphany. Unfortunately, Visionary's Disease is infrequently fatal in high- profit high-tech. After all the money ran out, Don simply went out and got more. Millions more. The promise of his software was so alluring that it really didn't matter whether people were managed well or not. Companies with deep-pocketed investors can and do get away with this behavior. Now, with the Internet pouring millions (sometimes billions) into firms, I see Visionary's Disease on the rise. Visionary's Disease is extremely resistant to conventional treatments. CEOs rarely see their behavior as symptomatic of anything negative. In fact, they herald their ability-to- turn-on-dime as a great strength. The collusion of cash and genius, bringing feelings of creative liberation, often marks the beginning of infection. So what can a consultant do when the senior manager shows signs of Visionary's Disease? Here are a few suggestions on how to temper its effects: 1. Surface the assumptions a new vision implies. For example, will it mean bringing in new specialists and in what timeframe? Will it mean the CEO has to stay home more to cheerlead and/or direct a project? Surfacing assumptions immediately puts boundaries on a vision (keep reminding the CEO this is a good thing) and begins the essential crystallizing process from which plans can be sanely made. 2. Agree to reduce the number of times the vision can change in a year. Establish a quarterly strategy conference in which the CEO and others can share what they've learned recently. Setting up exchanges that are expected reduces the stress that frequent, sudden changes can cause. 3. Require a second management meeting before the vision changes, establishing at least a two-week "cooling off period" between the CEO's first meeting and any decisions to start working on it. Agree that nothing changes until the CEO calls this second meeting to formally sanction any new vision. You'll be amazed how frequently the second meeting never gets called. 4. Use crises as teachable moments to give CEO's feedback on organizational capacity. When things are going poorly, resistance to feedback can lessen enough to engage a frank discussion of capacity. 5. Honor the reality of people's capacity. A common corporate fantasy is that people have unlimited capacity and can do everything, but we all know this isn't true. Know what you want to stop doing or decrease before you increase. 6. Honor the reality of people's productivity. Working longer hours is not the answer to all project management problems. Nearly every CEO I have coached is proud of their 60- hour weeks. They wear them like a badge of honor. But any sane plan has to start with realism. If you really want to work smarter, stop working so long, and the really unimportant tasks will fall away. Heart attack and stroke victims learned this valuable lesson the hard way, and they will tell you they are better for it. 7. Have the CEO take an operations person along on some trips. In many companies, operations is the last area to know about a change, yet they are often the most directly affected. Including this function earlier in vision development is a wonderful reality check. Given half a chance, the operations perspective can show the CEO a grander but substantially more implementable idea. At the very least, look at your own practice. Are you changing direction so frequently as to drive your spouse, your colleagues, or your clients crazy? Are you so brilliant a consultant that incoming cash flow obscures the many fits and starts you've thrown your practice into. As with most diseases, the cure starts at home. Spotting & Dealing With Bad Bosses by Sid Ridgley Quick, think of the worst boss you ever had, and we‟ve all had at least one. Chances are you left that person‟s organization, either by transferring to another assignment in the company or by going to another company. Many managers, particularly senior managers who are out of touch with their organizations, believe that people who leave are lured away with the promise of more pay or better benefits. In fact, reviews of the exit interviews that are conducted often confirm that belief. Later, and rarely in writing, we find out that one of the key reasons for leaving was their dissatisfaction with their “boss”. For those that are leaving it is much easier, in exit interviews, to identify “pay & benefits” as the reason. From their perspective they really don‟t want to burn their bridges. I believe (for the most part) that, people leave people, they don‟t leave companies. When Beverly Kaye, a co-author of “Love „Em or Lose „Em: Getting Good People to Stay”, was asked: “Why should organizations be concerned about the impact that bad bosses have on their employees?” She replied: “Because employees now have more choices than they‟ve ever had before and their choices give them options that mean they are truly free agents.” Spotting Bad Bosses Actually, it not that difficult and you probably already know who they are. Here are some of the signs: Higher turnover than other parts of the organization. Higher employee utilization of “sick time”. Higher complaints- from employees, co-workers and Customers. An inherent philosophy of leadership, “it is my way or the highway”. Poor (or non-existent) record of staff development, i.e., grooming others for more senior assignments in the organization. Lack of concern with employees‟ work/life needs because their needs are of a higher priority. Lack of a concerted and sincere effort to involve employees in decisions. In short, they don‟t empower. Difficulty in recruiting people from other parts of the organization to “transfer into” the area. Talented people who work in the area toil away in virtual anonymity. A high level of resistance for accepting personal responsibility for any “poor” performance that occurs in their area. The idea of “being good” to employees is not new. However, with a tight labour market, the financial impact of employee turnover can be (and is) huge. Therefore it is necessary to spot, rehabilitate and, if necessary, eliminate bad bosses. Dealing With Bad Bosses One of the best bosses that I worked for once said to me: “To be successful you need three things; money, good ideas and good people. However, if you have good ideas and good people you‟ll get the money you need. When you really think about it, if you have good people then you‟ll get good ideas. So, in reality, to be successful means you have to have good people.” Now, more so than ever before, our organizations need talent. Here are a number of things an organization ought to be doing: Select the “right” people to be the bosses. Identify leadership and management competencies that are valued. Set out clear expectations about how managers should behave. Provide opportunities for feedback from those the person manages. There are a number of excellent diagnostic/feedback tools available on the market today. Provide on-going training in leadership and managerial skills. Provide personalized coaching and counseling. Often it is less costly to rehabilitate than replace. Reward managers for performing all aspects of their jobs well, and correct and counsel them when they don‟t. Ensure that “annual appraisals” are balanced evaluations. It is easy to talk about “developing people for higher levels of responsibility” or “improving service to Customers”. If they don‟t appear on the appraisal, then they will be ignored. Polling, or soliciting feedback, from all employees regarding the current climate or working environment in the company. Set out the implications for “poor” managerial performance, which could include termination, when necessary. Even the best organizations have bad bosses who have a negative impact on performance, morale, and employee growth. I truly believe that the majority of bad bosses want to be good ones. They are, however, unaware or lack the skills, knowledge and training necessary to be an effective manager. We’ve Already Done That. What’s New? by Leslie Charles In the two decades of my training and speaking career, I‟ve observed numerous workplace topic trends: Management by Objectives, Project Management, Empowerment, One Minute Management, Quality Management, Cross FunctionalTeam Management, and so on. As each new approach came along, people seemed eager for the content, but not necessarily the practice. In speaking about his popular book “The One Minute Manager” Ken Blanchard said people began writing letters asking him, “When do I praise?” and “When do I correct?” or “How do I know when I should goal set?” So with high expectations and the feeling that they were meeting a need, he and Spencer Johnson wrote, “Putting the One Minute Manager to Work.” The book bombed. Blanchard said it didn‟t sell because “Putting the One Minute Manager to Work” asked people to actually do something. Certain books succeed, not just because they are new or inventive, but also because they don‟t ask the reader to “do” anything beyond the reading. As literary agent Michael Larsen once said, “People don‟t want to know as much as they want to be in the know.” Any solid management system, consistently applied, will make a difference. It doesn‟t matter what it‟s called, or if it‟s new or trendy. What really matters is the exposure and the practice or application. And therein lies the rub: we actually have to do something! So don‟t get seduced by the newest trend or catchy idea; simply find a solid, workable method that fits your organization and stick with it. Hone it. Refine it. Help your people help you make it work. The core ideas may not change, but you, your people, and your work- place will change from repeated exposure to the timeless ideas you can put into practice every day. You don‟t need the hottest, latest trend; just keep perfecting what works. I‟ve offered the same topics for years, constantly updated, of course, but have resisted being trendy for trend‟s sake. There‟s more. One training program is a great start, but it‟s not enough. Whether the topic is service, teamwork, quality, or whatever, don‟t expect that everyone will get the same message at the same time, or is even ready for the message. Think of the perennial topics of service, teamwork, management, communication, stress, and change as coming in “waves.” With repeated exposure to the same concepts, more people are more likely to “get it.” But getting it is only the first step. From there, it‟s application. From managers to the front line, everyone needs to practice the same time-tested, classic principles in their daily routines. Indeed, repetition and real-life application are the secret to success. And there‟s nothing as powerful as role modeling from above. A last thought: whenever you offer an in-house program, be sure to set up some kind of follow up system for practice and personal accountability. Even the best ideas are worthless without application How to Make a Logical Decision by Marcia Reynolds Decisions are 90% emotional no matter how logical we think we are. Everything we perceive is processed through the emotional center of our brains first, affecting our judgments and reasoning before we ever have a chance of being logical. Therefore, it is important to have tools and processes to help us make choices. We can't count on our brains alone. Humans are too good at rationalizing, justifying, defending intellectualizing, and denying, which is what we spend much of our brain work doing. According to Elliot Aronson, author of The Social Animal, "Unless we recognize our cognitive limitations, we will be enslaved by them." BRAIN TIP #1. Time to Think. It is important to set quiet, dedicated time aside for making a decision, and then remind our brains of this schedule every time the situation pops into our consciousness. If we don't dedicate the time, we spend too much time letting the arguments run wild in our heads. Then, once the decision is made, we need to stand by the decision without fretting or mulling over it. If you truly can't accept the decision, then reverse it. Otherwise, move on. BRAIN TIP #2. Consider the Angles. Be prepared to answer these questions. 1. What do I need to know (information about the past, present, and future) before I can make a wise decision? 2. Who do I know has made this type of decision in the past? What questions should I ask them that could give the insight I need? 3. Why is it so hard for me to decide? What do I feel is at stake, really? Is it something intangible, such as a loss of control or how people will judge me if I fail? Am I afraid of hurting someone's feelings? Am I holding out for something better around the corner? Am I afraid of calling myself an idiot later? Get the truth out on the table so you can factor this into your decision-making. 4. If there were no consequences for my decision, what would I choose? Know that your heart's desire will haunt you no matter what you decide. BRAIN TIP #3. Work it out on paper. Make a Pro/Con list for each option. Consider how each option will positively and negatively affect your 1) Health, 2) Wealth/Career, 3) Relationships, and 4) Happiness. Make a Why/Why Not list to help you develop additional criteria to weigh your options against. Start with the option you are most leaning toward and list out all the reasons why you like this option, including what seems trivial and silly (we often justify reasons that would seem silly to other people, so why not just tell the truth up front?). Include emotional perks such as safety, status, love, recognition, fame (again, let's be honest. You can decide later if these perks are really worth your time and money). Then list why you don't like this option. Repeat the exercise for all possible options you might consider. BRAIN TIP #4. Face your procrastination head on. It is important to determine if your reluctance to choose is because you don't care enough or you care too much about the outcome. If you don't care enough, consider that the decision might be the result of a compromise where you are not getting what you want at all. If this is the case, no choice will make you happy. Are you giving up your power? Are there other options that haven't been explored? If you care too much, you might be avoiding the decision because doing anything else might be easier than facing this complex and difficult decision. Be careful how long you put off the decision. Situations can get worse (and usually do), opportunities are missed, and even worse decisions are made trying to avoid the inevitable. Then all you have are regrets. I wish for you a head clear of problems so you can fully feel your love, fun, and gratitude for life I Love My Job! by Bette Price It was September 11, 2002, and Tom Brokaw was hosting a Town Hall television program, paying tribute to the many New Yorkers who were personally touched by the horrific events of 9/11 one year before. All were compelling in their stories. Yet one stood out because of his incredible passion for his job despite his personal loss and an unending pain. Recalling a conversation on the cell phone that tragic morning, a grieving fireman shared moments from his last conversation with his twin brother. "Hey, how's it going?" he playfully asked his brother during the early morning call. His brother's response was stunning. Unaware that a plane that had just struck the World Trade Center, this fireman quickly learned that his twin brother, also a fireman, was now enroute to the scene of what would become the gravest attack ever launched on America. Quickly the fireman's mood changed from one of playful chatter to one of angst and concern. That was the last time they talked. To this day his twin brother's remains have not been found. Here was a man who had every reason to question his own future as a fireman. Could he stay in a career that had taken the life of his twin brother and caused him incredible personal pain? Yet when Brokaw asked, "How do you feel about continuing to wear the uniform?" this grieving fireman shifted his body, pulled his shoulders back and proudly responded, "I'm proud to wear this uniform. I love my job!" What was it about this fireman's attitude that allowed him to set aside the tragic loss of his twin brother, knowing that at any time he too could face the possibility of injury or death? As he elaborated on his passion for his work, one thing stood out - the loving, caring supportive environment in which he works. The environment made the difference. Lessons to be learned Today's leaders can take a lesson from this fireman. Research tells us that 70 percent of one's work environment is directly attributed to the employees' leader. Here, we saw demonstrated the powerful impact that a leader has on creating an environment where despite difficulty, bad times, even tragic times, the people who come to work every day are still committed and love their job. Leaders must accept the task of inspiring the many whom they serve by creating caring, trusting, and supportive environments that enable people to withstand the greatest challenges ever imagined. Then, and then alone, will they garner the loyalty and commitment of employees who despite great obstacles, persist, because they love their jobs. While this kind of leadership exists in some organizations, we definitely need to see more of it in the coming years. At Radio Shack's corporate headquarters in downtown Ft. Worth, Texas, this kind of leadership exists. Walk down the halls of this corporate office and you will feel a strong, positive emotion the moment you encounter an employee in the hall. The feeling gains momentum as you move from one department to another. People smile, engage one- another, and you get a strong sense that at this company, people like coming to work. Oh, things aren't always perfect there. The company is not void of any challenges. But you do find that people who work there seem to face their challenges with an attitude of teamwork and team resolve. There is a culture of support that flows throughout and embedded in that culture is a commitment to work as a team to help break through the tough times and share the good times. It's a feeling of trust and support that comes straight from the top-from the company's Chairman and CEO, Len Roberts. When Roberts joined the company several years ago he told managers, "From this day forward there are only gong to be two jobs in this company. You either serve the customer directly, or you serve someone who does." This was Roberts' way of letting everyone know that to work at Radio Shack, you served one another-customers, whether internal or external. He demonstrated from the start that the environment would be one of caring and support. "You can't fake caring," Roberts says. "If you really understand why leaders fail, it's because they are unable to care." That caring environment has been an integral part of the company's competitive advantage. An opposite approach can be found at some of the other Fortune 500 companies, better left unnamed. But, you see it reflected in employee turnover and in falling stock prices. You'll feel it if you ever walk down the halls of their offices. Somber faces on the employees who fail to look up to nod or say "hello," and in their slumping, un-energetic posture. You can feel the stress, the pressure, and tension. It's so strong you can cut it with a knife, and everybody knows it. Going Forward Today's leaders who have created an uptight, careless environment are in for a tough time in a short time. Sure, there's work to be done when times are tough. But, when your best employees feel overworked and undervalued, guess who will be the first to leave when the economy takes an upward turn. And it will--sooner than some think. When that happens, those are the companies that will suffer an incredible negative impact. Jack Kahl, founder of Manco, says, "People feel the coldness and the non-appreciation, so the good people leave, and what you end up with is that there are not enough good people to keep your company together. You end up down there with the dregs and eventually you end up in bankruptcy." He's seen it. That's why when this successful entrepreneur is asked to speak to his peers, his favorite speech is one he calls Don't Park Your Heart at the Curb. Many leaders fail to develop themselves from a human perspective, Kahl says. He doesn't understand some leaders' fear. "The greatest corporations in the world and the greatest passionate military or spiritual leaders are the people that touch your soul, not your head," he says. In business people can sense that "this is a human being, not just a being, not just a bottom-line person." The difference, therefore, is all about leadership. And now, more than ever before in the last decade, it is time for a shift to a leadership that cares about people as well as profits. Corporate scandals have eroded trust and sucked the passion out of employees who once believed that their contributions mattered. As the economy strengthens, companies with value-balanced leadership will be best poised to rebound quickly. They will be the companies best positioned to hire the best talented, committed employees needed to rebuild and sustain the kind of long-term growth that will ensure future profitability. They will be the leading companies of the future. As a leader, this is your moment of opportunity. Are you prepared to meet the challenge? Have you created an environment in which despite all difficulties, your best people will be as quick as the fireman to say, "I love my job?" Let's hope you have because it will determine your company's resilience and serve as a predictor of your potential for the future.
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