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How to Strike the Right Balance between Guiding and Micromanaging

Posted on June 30, 2014 | 8 Comments
Categories: Guest Blogger, Leadership

US Navy LeadershipToday’s post is by Mark Nevius of Administrate.com.

Whether you’re an entrepreneur who has recently opened his first office and hired the first set of people, or an eager-to-please manager, micromanaging tendencies can set in any time.

It’s an easy trap to fall into. Some people confuse being a hands-on boss with micromanaging their staff. Others take it too far in the opposite direction. You want to avoid both extremes, and like a true enlightened being, walk the middle path to find your peace.

The Tendency to Micromanage

If you feel you have the tendency to micromanage, ask yourself why do you feel the need for it? Not getting psychoanalytical here but this is a pertinent question. Some of the common reasons for micromanagement include:

A lack of trust in employees

Some people have the bad habit of abusing Internet privileges or coming in consistently late or complaining about the boss to others on Skype. You will run into such employees from time to time, but that shouldn’t cause you to think that they are all the same.

You think your employees are incompetent

If you genuinely feel your employees are no good and that they cannot perform without constant supervision on your part, you need to ask yourself why you hired them in the first place. And in case you discovered their alleged incompetence after having hired them, why are you still persisting with them?

You’re a perfectionist

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How much do you involve others in your decision-making?

Posted on June 26, 2014 | No Comments
Categories: Leadership, Poll

EKG Pulse Graph with Glowing Blue Line

Our reader poll today asks: How much do you involve others in your decision-making?

- I always seek outside opinion before making a decision: 30%
- I sometimes seek opinions but make many decisions alone:  63%
- I rarely seek outside opinion and make most decisions alone: 6%
- I never seek outside opinion when I’m making a decision: 1%

Trading off information for speed. In a tremendously complex and fast-moving work environment, it’s clear we never have all of the information we need. To make good decisions, gathering additional information is always a good thing as long as it’s done in a timely manner and doesn’t derail the decision-making process. Your job as a leader is to find that sweet spot between gathering information and building consensus without taking so long to do it that you miss your opportunity. Additionally, taking in too many opinions can erode your credibility as a leader because people might begin thinking you’re not confident in your decisions. Find the balance in all of these objectives, and your decision-making will almost always be sound.

Do you agree with these poll results?  Let us know in the comments below!

- Mike Figliuolo at thoughtLEADERS, LLC

Did you enjoy this post?  If so, I highly encourage you to take about 30 seconds to become a regular subscriber to this blog.  It’s free, fun, practical, and only a few emails a week (I promise!).  SIGN UP HERE to get the thoughtLEADERS blog conveniently delivered right to your inbox!

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Taking a Ride on the Leadership Highway

Posted on June 25, 2014 | No Comments
Categories: Career, Leadership

Highway in AutumnAs I was driving to the airport the other morning, I couldn’t help but notice driving on the highway has a lot in common with leadership.

First I’d like to explore some leadership questions that come up when we think about driving on the highway.  Next I’d like to examine the different kinds of drivers (leaders) and I invite you to evaluate (honestly) which type of leader/driver you are.

Leading is like driving

First, you need a purpose for taking a drive.  Sure, sometimes you go out just to enjoy your car and the weather.  Other times you need to go to the store or to visit friends.  Sometimes you’ve got to catch a flight or be at an appointment right on time.  If you pull out of your driveway with no sense of purpose, odds are you’re going to get lost and frustrated on your drive.

Leading your team is no different.  When you take on the mantle of leadership, you need to understand your purpose for doing so.  Are you there to improve a broken team?  To take a group of high performers to the next level?  Do you need to grow the business?  Stabilize it?  Sell it?  Are you leading a downsizing?  If you’re not clear on your purpose as a leader, you’ll be just as frustrated as you would be driving around town not knowing where you’re going.

Second, your vehicle must be prepared to drive.  You need gas, air in your tires, wiper fluid, snacks (lotsa snacks), and all your mechanical and electrical systems need to be in working order.

Are you personally prepared to lead?  Are you taking care of yourself physically?  Mentally?  Do you have all the resources your team needs to be successful (budget, time, support from business partners)?  Your job as a leader is to ensure your team is ready to tackle the challenges it faces every day.

So what kind of driver (leader) are you?

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The Surprising Truth about Leadership – Everyone is a Leader

Posted on June 23, 2014 | 2 Comments
Categories: Books, Guest Blogger, Leadership

The Next Gen Leader by Robert C. McMillanToday’s post is by Robert C. McMillan, author of The Next Gen Leader (CLICK HERE to get your copy).

What Is Leadership?

To truly understand leadership, let’s break it into small, understandable parts. When you look at the word leadership, what do you see? If you were to ask The Leadership Institute at Harvard University what the word leadership means, they would define it as the skill of motivating, guiding, and empowering a team toward a socially responsible vision. The American Heritage Dictionary defines leadership as 1) The office or position of a leader; 2) Capacity to lead; 3) A group of leaders; 4) Providing guidance and direction. These definitions are very general in nature.

Another way to look at leadership is from the some of its whole parts. As asked previously, what do you envision when you see the word leadership? There are four distinct words with similar meanings but different impacts that make up the word leadership. The words in leadership are: leadership, leadership, leadership, and leadership.

To understand leadership, we must first break down and define each word separately. Most traditional and institutional universities do not take that into account when defining or explaining this most complicated business term. First, the word lead is defined as: 1) To show the way by going in advance; 2) To direct the performance of activities; 3) To serve as a conduit; 4) To have charge of.

Second, the word leader(s) is defined as: 1) A person who leads or guides; 2) One who is in charge of others; 3) One who has influence or power over others; 4) A person who has commanding authority or influence.

And finally, as defined earlier, leadership is: 1) The office or position of a leader; 2) Capacity to lead; 3) A group of leaders; 4) The act of providing guidance and direction.

Consider the following questions:

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How rigorous is your prioritization process?

Posted on June 19, 2014 | 1 Comment
Categories: Innovation, Poll, Project Management

EKG Pulse Graph with Glowing Blue Line

Our reader poll today asks: How rigorous is your organization’s prioritization process?

- We do a great job of regularly prioritizing work: 21%
- We do an OK job of prioritizing: 38%
- We don’t prioritize well; we try to focus but aren’t always able to: 28%
- We prioritize poorly and pursue any opportunity presented: 13%

Saying “no” matters. Your resources are limited and two of those critical resources are time and focus. If you’re not being rigorous in prioritizing your projects, your focus is diluted and it impacts the quality of your work. Invest the time once or twice a month to stack rank all your projects, prioritize and draw the line below which you’re not going to work on. As projects above the line are completed or de-prioritized you can work on things below the line. Your execution will improve and your project success rate will increase. For the 21% who are rigorous in prioritization, just be cautious that you don’t become inflexible and that new high-priority projects have an opportunity to enter the work queue.

Do you agree with these poll results?  Let us know in the comments below!

- Mike Figliuolo at thoughtLEADERS, LLC

Did you enjoy this post?  If so, I highly encourage you to take about 30 seconds to become a regular subscriber to this blog.  It’s free, fun, practical, and only a few emails a week (I promise!).  SIGN UP HERE to get the thoughtLEADERS blog conveniently delivered right to your inbox!

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The Importance of Knowing Your People as Individuals

Posted on June 18, 2014 | 3 Comments
Categories: Books, Communications, Leadership

Peeps Demonstrating IndividualityThe following is an excerpt from One Piece of Paper: The Simple Approach to Powerful, Personal Leadership (CLICK HERE to get your copy). This post focuses on the importance of knowing and treating the members of your team as individuals.

The better you understand your people, the better you will relate to them. First you must treat them like individuals. No one wants to be a nameless cog in a big machine. All too often we inadvertently make people feel that way. You disagree, you say? Have you ever heard or said things like the following?

“She’s my analyst.”

“Talk to my project manager.”

“My VP thinks we should do this.”

Where are the faces that go with those statements? How different would the culture of our organizations be if “she,” “project manager,” and “VP” were replaced with “Terri,” “Jack,” or “Kim?” People lose their identities when we refer to them by title alone. They begin to feel interchangeable, one-dimensional, and replaceable. If you do not agree with this assessment, go home and refer to your spouse as “husband” or “wife” or your significant other as “fiancée,” “boyfriend,” or “girlfriend.” That would not go over too well, would it?

Referring to someone by position or title alone dehumanizes them. Harkening back to the “manage things, lead people” mantra, I would like to call your attention to the word “people” – not “positions.” Leading people requires you to treat and understand them as the unique beings they are. The personal foundation of the relationship between leader and led creates the common ground of trust and respect necessary for a good leadership environment. Leadership without personal understanding is superficial, impersonal, and ineffective.

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Turn the Bad Boss Blame Game to Your Advantage

Posted on June 16, 2014 | 2 Comments
Categories: Business Toolkit, Career, Communications, Guest Blogger

Boss Yelling at EmployeeToday’s post is by Dr. Noelle Nelson, author of Got a Bad Boss? (CLICK HERE to get your copy).

Break room, 10:00 a.m. You’re complaining about your boss. You rant to your head-nodding-I-get-ya co-worker about your boss’s latest tirade: blaming you because you were unable to dig up the info he was looking for. The boss doesn’t want to hear about the software crash that prevented anyone from finding anything.

Your co-worker listens sympathetically, and launches into her own “Our boss is the devil” story.

And on it goes. All through the day, no matter what time you hit the break room, someone is angsting or raging about the bad boss’s behavior.

Which is perfectly natural, make no mistake about it. Getting frustrated, depressed or just plain angry about yet another unwarranted outburst from your bad boss is the human thing to do. After all, it is demeaning, disgusting and at the very least, disrespectful. However, wallowing in your misery prevents you from pushing through to the very success you long for.

Here’s an easy three-step process to get off the blame game (oh, you didn’t notice you were blaming your boss for blaming you?) and on to your own success:

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How much time do you dedicate to innovation and new ideas?

Posted on June 12, 2014 | No Comments
Categories: Innovation, Poll

EKG Pulse Graph with Glowing Blue Line

Our reader poll today asks: How much time per month do you dedicate to innovation and generating new ideas?

- A significant amount (3-5 days/month): 20%
- A moderate amount (1-2 days/month): 20%
- A small amount (2-4 hours/month): 36%
- Almost none: 24%

Some of you are spending substantial time on innovation. Whether that’s new products, processes, services or operational efficiencies, your task is to ensure you don’t end up with a bloated idea pipeline with little prioritization or execution. Be rigorous in chasing the biggest ideas and focusing on those to the exclusion of the others. For those of you not dedicating enough time to innovation, you can’t compete forever that way. It’s not much to carve out 5-10% of your time every month to look at your organization through new lenses and come up with ideas for improvement. Get your heads out of the status reports, dashboards and daily operations and spend a little time thinking about the future — your competitors are.

Do you agree with these poll results?  Let us know in the comments below!

- Mike Figliuolo at thoughtLEADERS, LLC

Did you enjoy this post?  If so, I highly encourage you to take about 30 seconds to become a regular subscriber to this blog.  It’s free, fun, practical, and only a few emails a week (I promise!).  SIGN UP HERE to get the thoughtLEADERS blog conveniently delivered right to your inbox!

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Stop Being a Victim of Your Work

Posted on June 11, 2014 | 4 Comments
Categories: Balanced Lifestyle, Career, Leadership

Arrow on Sign Showing ChoicesI’d like to offer a perspective on choice, free will, and their implications in terms of how you view your work.

“I have to finish this presentation.”

“I have to go in early for the meeting.”

“I have to answer all these emails before I go home.”

“I have to follow our policy because that’s the way we do things.”

Um… no you don’t.  Last I checked, the vast majority of us operate on an “employment at will” basis.  AT WILL.  YOUR WILL.

These are choices you make.  You choose to work on the presentation.  You choose to go in early for the meeting.  You choose to reply to those emails and follow your policies.  In saying you have to, you’re robbing yourself of your freedom.  Not only that, you’re coloring your workplace with an unfortunate shade of 1970′s olive drab and cowpie brown.

When you say you “have to” do something, you’re abdicating control.  You are making yourself a pawn.  You’re taking on the victim role.  As long as you see things as “having to be done” you will never exert the control over your life that you truly have.  When you put yourself in that situation, you tend to feel helpless, frustrated, dissatisfied, and generally unhappy.

So let’s change that dynamic, shall we?

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12 Keys to Delivering a Litigation-Proof Warning Letter

Posted on June 9, 2014 | 1 Comment
Categories: Business Toolkit, Career, Communications, Guest Blogger, Leadership

Triangular Warning SymbolToday’s post is by Johanna Harris, author of USE PROTECTION: An Employee’s Guide to Advancement in the Workplace (CLICK HERE to get your copy).

Why a Written Warning is so Important

A written warning is not simply the lens through which an underperforming employee can see his deficiencies and correct them. It is the backbone of an employer’s defense in the event that an employee fails to improve, ends up being fired and then challenges the legality of the termination.

Basic Questions to Answer First

Before you start to draft a written warning, you need to answer some basic questions. Exactly what aspects of your employee’s performance are unsatisfactory? If he has performed poorly on specific tasks, are these tasks clearly within his job responsibilities? Is the employee’s inadequate performance in fact the fault of several people, and if so, is he alone being singled out for a warning?

No Legal Jargon or Technical Terms

Your written warning letter should be understandable by a neutral, non-lawyer third party who has no intimate knowledge of your company’s business. Don’t use insider’s abbreviations or complicated technical terms. Avoid informality, sarcasm, or any hint of disrespect. “Hi Joe, Your bug fixes to version 7.5.2 of the PLX interface haven’t cut the mustard” needs to give way to “Dear Joe, Your performance on your more recent computer programming assignments has not been satisfactory.” Above all, your warning letter needs to be accurate. If one of Joe’s programming jobs was, in fact, satisfactory, you’ll need to say that his performance on “all but one” were unsatisfactory.

A Dozen Critical Components

Now that you’re ready to draft the actual document, you need to know the 12 key components of every warning letter.

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