Leadership Barometer 55 Get Off Your Butt

June 18, 2020

My favorite saying is “The highest calling for any leader is to grow other leaders.” That is why my company is called “Leadergrow.”

Observation: There are too few outstanding leaders in this world because of the lack of great mentors to bring them along.

Top level leaders are so consumed with trying to optimize performance in a frantic and messy world, that often they do not take the time out to nurture the next generation of leaders. I believe that is a huge mistake.

Three examples of leaders who understand the value of teaching leadership while performing leadership tasks are:

Jack Welch (when he was at GE),

Warren Bennis (known as the Father of Leadership), and

Ed Betof, author of “Leaders as Teachers.”

These leaders are individuals who model the concept of having the senior leadership not just talk about developing people but actually spend their time in the classroom doing the teaching.

If more leaders understood the incredible payoff of this concept, we could multiply the number of excellent leaders in this world by a factor of 10 in a single generation.

Granted, not all CEOs have the skills required to perform well in the classroom, so this philosophy is not intended for 100% of leaders.

I maintain that a higher level of personal involvement by most leaders in teaching rather than just modeling or advocating good leadership would be a significant step forward.

The people in your organization who are the best teachers of leadership are not the development staff or the outside consultants. While there is a vital role for trainers and consultants, I believe it is the leaders themselves who are in the best position to train the next generation of leaders.

Too often they sit in musty budget meetings or downsizing briefings all day and never get the chance to actually pick up a marker and share their passion for leadership with their employees.

What a tragedy! I believe they are abdicating their responsibility, not only to their organization, but to the broader society as well.

There are many exceptions to this observation, and these leaders should be honored for their giving spirit and their foresight.

They have understood the opportunity and gotten off their butt to get out and teach rather than just perform the leadership function all day, every day, as if playing a Whack-a-mole game.

I will mention just three notable exceptions here for brevity, but there ought to be hundreds of thousands of exceptions like this, because the simple logic is so compelling.

Jack Welch got the idea a couple decades ago and built his Leadership University at Croton on Hudson.

Jack was known to say that the times he felt best about his job were when he was actually in the classroom (called The Pit) teaching the next generation of GE executives how to lead.

He devoted much time and energy to this effort, and it paid off huge rewards not only for the corporation but also for a whole generation of outstanding leaders who were fortunate enough to participate at GE during Jack’s tenure.

Ed Betof has written a book titled “Leaders as Teachers,” in which he describes the journey to this model of excellence in the Becton Dickinson Company, a manufacturer of medical supplies and syringes.

Ed was the CLO of BD working under the direction of CEO Ed Ludwig, who understood the value of having the top brass actually doing the instruction instead of relying exclusively on training professionals.

For a great video describing their program you can navigate to http://www.corpu.com/leadersasteachers/

Probably the most famous and long term practitioner of the notion of having executives roll up their sleeves was Warren Bennis, who taught leadership for over 60 years.

As a leader himself for much of that span, Warren spent a good chunk of his time actually facilitating classes on leadership. Warren died in 2014, and the world lost a great example of how to teach leadership.

He noted: “The single most important thing I’ve done at USC over the past 15 years is to co-create and co-teach a course on leadership with Steve Sample (the President of USC until 2010).”

So, if you are a highly paid executive working crazy hours doing the business of business, I humbly suggest you get off your butt and walk down the hall to where they are conducting the leadership classes for your upcoming generations of executives.

Roll up your sleeves, and start sharing your philosophy of leadership. The first thing that will happen is that you will shock the suspenders off everyone in the room.

Second, you will begin to realize this is a key part of your function as a leader.

Third, you will come to really enjoy this activity as the high point in your day or week. You will see the immense benefits and willingly carve out time on your calendar in the future.

Finally, after doing this for a while, not only will the profitability of your organization be substantially improved, but the morale of your executives will be greatly enhanced.

Bob Whipple is CEO of Leadergrow, Inc. an organization dedicated to growing leaders. Website http://www.leadergrow.com BLOG http://www.thetrustambassador.com He is author of the following books: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind, and Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change.


Leadership Barometer 47 More Delegation

April 24, 2020

I work with leaders on a regular basis, and most of them wish they were better at delegating. I have yet to meet a person who believes delegating is a bad thing to do.

Granted, it is possible overdo the technique and get into trouble, just as one can overdo any good thing, but for most of us, we would be far more effective if we did more delegation rather than less.

The reason for not delegating stems from each person’s desire to have things done well. We want things to be done the way we would do them, and are afraid that some other person will not live up to the standards we have for ourselves.

The excuse often given is “it is much easier to just do it myself than to teach the other person to understand how I want it done and make sure he does it that way.” That thinking sounds like just being honest, but it is not a helpful way to think.

The fear is not just about getting the work done the “right” way. It is also a sociological fear that if we need to have the work redone, then we have made an enemy or at least have to do some coaching to calm the other person down.

The dread of having to deal with the consequences of a failed attempt and the rework involved is very real and makes us feel like the time is better spent just doing the job ourselves. That approach will also prevent the time pressure if there is an urgency to the task.

You cannot use the “Law of Leverage” to multiply your good influence in the world until you let go of the idea of perfection and grab onto the concept of “excellence by influence.”

By trusting other people to figure out the best way to do something and leaving them alone to do it “their way,” you unleash the power of creative thinking and initiative in other people. They will often surprise you by delivering work and solutions that are far better and arrive sooner than you would have done yourself.

To have subordinates perform as you wish, it is first important to ensure you have defined the desired outcome. Make sure they can recite the objective back to you before they go off to accomplish the task.

This is also a great time to verify they have the resources needed to accomplish the work. Many managers fail to provide the time, money, or other resources that will be needed to do the job and then become frustrated when an employee tries to improvise a sub-optimal solution.

A typical problem is that managers have a preconceived idea of what the ideal solution will resemble. When we see the result of the work done by a creative and turned-on individual, it just does not look like the solution we envisioned, so the “not invented here” syndrome takes over, and we send signals that the work is not good enough.

It is hard to admit that the solution we are presented with is, in many cases, a superior one. Here are some ideas that can help you lower this rejection reaction and be more accepting of the solutions others present.

1. Does it do the job?

In every task there are countless ways to achieve a result that actually does the job intended. When you see the work of another person, try to imagine that the solution you see is one of hundreds of alternatives, including the one you had in mind.

2. Did it help the other person grow?

Our job as managers and leaders is not only to get everything done according to some standard. Our primary purpose is to help people grow into their powerful best, which means putting higher value on what the person is learning than on the particular solution to a specific task. Even if the solution turns out to be flawed, it still is a success in terms of helping the person learn and grow.

3. Are you making a mountain out of a molehill?

We often get so intense about how things are being perceived by our own superiors that we lose sight of the bigger picture. By showing high trust and enabling more people to leverage their skills, you are going to be perceived very well, even if there is an occasional slip.

4. Who is the judge for which is the best solution?

Clearly if you have a preconceived idea of what the solution looks like, you are not in a position to be objective. You are already biased in the direction of your vision.

5. What kind of culture do you want?

To have an engaged group, you need to empower people by giving them tasks and trusting them to use their initiative and creativity to find their own solutions. If you want everything done “your way,” you will end up getting what most organizations typically do, which is roughly 30% of the discretionary effort that is available in the workforce. You end up with compliance rather than excellence.

6. What are you really risking?

When you stop and think about it, the risks involved are really quite small. Even if something does not work out, it will be of little consequence in a week or two. The risk is even lower if people are becoming more engaged in the work and more skilled over time through trial and error.

7. What is the best for you?

Realizing that you have a choice to micromanage or not and choosing to be an empowering rather than stifling manager lets you sleep a lot better at night. That is a huge advantage and well worth having to endure a serviceable solution that is not exactly what you had in mind.

The benefits of good delegation are well documented. Few people would vote for less delegation by any manager, so why not learn to set good objectives and trust people to come up with good solutions? You will find it is not as hard as you imagine, and your overall performance will go up dramatically as you leverage resources better.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations