Archive for April, 2012

Expectations of Professions

                 I was watching a news clip recently of Bill Cosby, during which there was a comment about his service in the Navy.  Immediately I looked up the information to find out that he had been a hospital corpsmen.  While my regard for Bill Cosby has always been high, this elevated my respect for him because he is a military veteran.  I stopped and thought about my reaction to learning about his service time – why did his service make a difference?  The bottom line I came up with is simply because it does.  I went a step further to decide if my reaction was in kinship with him as a fellow Navy veteran or because of his service alone.  It was because of his service alone, I decided. Then I thought about some other professions that inspire this same sort of immediate respect: doctor, police officer, clergyman. 

                 Analyzing the general characteristics of a US military member, a list of words comes to mind: disciplined, honor, hardworking, committed, and trustworthy, to name a few.  These same words are usually applied to inspiring people and leaders as well.  Upon learning that someone is a veteran, there is an automatic correlation of these character traits to the person.  Along with the qualities listed comes an expectation of performance. People who are assigned these types of characteristics must continue this type of lifestyle at all times. This may be unfair, but it is the truth.  When people in respected positions act in a way that is contrary to our expectation, it is hard to overlook or forgive.  In fact, I think it is harder to excuse poor behavior or lapse of judgment for these persons than it is for say a professor.

                 Why is that?  Why should we expect more?  People in certain professions are specifically trained for leadership roles.  They are taught to handle crisis situations, people management, and technical competence. That is part of why society automatically associates desirable traits with the profession.  It is then up to the individual person to live up to society’s expectations and perform at or above the level required. 

                 

          Lori Buresh

CEO, The Professional Development Team

Advertisements

, , , , , , , , ,

2 Comments

New Ideas – It’s About Managing Change

            “THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX!”  It is a phrase we hear over and over again.  The point is to come up with different ideas and new concepts, which are fantastic but I see two things usually occur: 1. new ideas are not accepted or 2. new ideas are not implemented correctly and fail.  The problem, I believe, is as new ideas or new process changes are discovered the first thing upper management does is question – How much will it cost? What is the impact?  Yet the designer of the fresh concept probably does not have the answers right away.  Upper management has legitimate questions and concerns; that is why businesses stay focused on their target areas.  However, if a unique idea is immediately shot down or poked so full of holes with negative comments, then the creativity that generated the new idea is diminished.  I find that many business leaders want a new approach to processes yet fear the change that is automatically involved.  This is the time for business leaders to face that fear but not so far as to jeopardize the organization.  If a leader is asking for help with coming up with fresh concepts, then he or she must also be ready to support the idea at least through an initial phase of research and testing.  I suggest the approach to prove the concept won’t work – come up with all worst case scenarios FIRST!  Then the hard work of proving that the new concept is able to withstand the trials is already accomplished.

                Once an innovative concept passes the test of acceptance (at least by upper management), the next challenge is correct implementation.  Many great ideas fail to live up to expectations because of poor integration – into the current processes and into the company culture.  People are inherently resistant to change, and an implementation means change.  The best thing is to work on the plan for implementation so the entire team knows the steps involved and its expected role.  The next step before anything else must be education and training.  The more communication the better! For example, I always share good news and bad news as soon as I know it because no one really likes surprises (except on their birthdays).  If it is bad news, then the initial shock can diminish and I can be better prepared later on. Good news means happiness, but I can still be prepared for the upcoming changes.  I feel the worst when something is different from what I expect and I figure it out on my own, and THEN get the memo about it.  At this point I’m already unhappy about the situation; telling me the details after the fact will not help.  In fact, my trust in the process and in my leadership has been negatively affected by this lack of communication.

                After communicating the changes early and often, the new idea is ready to roll out to a prepared environment.  It takes time, planning and effort but it is worth it to see something really make an impact!

 

          Lori Buresh

CEO, The Professional Development Team

, , , , , , , ,

5 Comments

Positional vs. True Leadership

               A common opinion (and one that I share) is there is a big difference between being a manager and being a leader.  I’ve heard it said: “People follow managers because they have to, people follow leaders because they want to.”  The difference between those words – have and want – can be massive.  When you are required to do a task, there is almost a reluctance right from the start to get it done.  We all have things we must do in life like paying taxes each year, and we can take different attitudes toward the MUSTs in life.  The positive spin placed on a HAVE TO or a MUST task comes from a distinct effort on each person’s part to look at life and its challenges this way.  Applying the word WANT to the same project, there is no such effort for positivity.  The implication of the word WANT is that it is a desired action – something we are looking forward to or volunteering to accomplish. The word WANT turns a drudge into a delight.  

             Unfortunately many managers feel they are leaders just by virtue of their positions.  This is the downfall of many businesses – positional leadership is different from true leadership.  Positional leadership gives people the authority as well as the responsibility of a team’s accomplishments.  A key point is that people with this type of leadership are appointed in some fashion by someone above them.  This is not to say the person didn’t earn his or her position through hard work or good results; the idea is that is not enough to demonstrate true leadership.  For example, when I was in the Navy, I had many people with positional authority over me just through their rank.  Unless the order given was unethical or immoral, I had to follow the directions given.  My Executive Officer was one such positional leader.  He gave directions will little thought to the consequences or impact to the person or team involved; he just wanted his order followed immediately.  As discussed in a previous post, giving and following orders will only accomplish the minimum level required for success.  If the person giving the order were a true leader, there is a high potential the results provided would be of a better caliber.  My last department head (direct boss) worked with us as a team to outline all the tasks required and the workload to balance out the effort.  Not only did he give us orders, he also gave us guidance and support in order to get the orders followed. The results were then often better, quicker, and the effort included more drive. 

                It is my own belief that a positional leader is like a dictator – leading through fear, intimidation or consequences.  A true leader has no need for such negative impetus because the people following are doing so willingly and with energy. 

-Lori Buresh

CEO, The Professional Development Team

 

, , , , , ,

5 Comments

Communication is Important for Leadership

        The more I think about leadership, the more I think about the importance of communication.  In fact, I would go so far as to say leadership is 80% communication and 20% all the other stuff like talent, ability and charisma.  The reason I think communication is so pivotal is without it, leaders are not really leaders.  In order to be a leader, one must have followers.  How do you have followers?  Standing in the middle of the room shouting “Follow Me” is not exactly the path I’d take.  I know I follow others who inspire and motivate me. Again, how does that happen?

                I am inspired by actions taken by others that I witness or are told to me. The actions normally revolve around a selfless or charitable event.  Through these actions, I learn about the character of a person.  The character of a person is then enhanced through direct interaction with me.  How a person makes me feel plays a lot into my level of inspiration or motivation.  If a person communicates in a way that is honest, compassionate and humble, it increases my respect for that person.  On the flip side, an ignorant, brash and egocentric person may perform heroic deeds but the style of communication negates the action.  While it may seem unbalanced, someone saving a small child from a car wreck who asks for no recognition or attention inspires me more than a person who saves a small child and then demands to tell everyone how great s/he is for the effort.  The act is the same, but the communication and character is opposite.

                Back to communication and leadership, I find it is not only the words we use but the way we use them that make the biggest difference.  The tone of voice can turn an innocent question into an accusation.  The words used may make the difference between engaging a team member in the project or pushing him or her aside.  Probably the biggest impact, though, is when leaders don’t speak at all but just listen.  It takes time and practice, but great leaders let others’ voices be heard first so their input is valued. 

– Lori Buresh

CEO, The Professional Development Team

 

, , , , , , , ,

1 Comment

Leadership Overcomes Fear

Part of what makes a strong leader is their ability to face fear. There are many levels to fear – fear of failure, fear of embarrassment, and even the fear of death for themselves or their team.  Fear manifests itself in different ways but for many people it leads to a lack of confidence or a decline in ownership of a problem. It is the fear of the consequences and the fear of the unknown that makes most people hesitate.  A leader has the same internal thoughts but instead of feeling paralyzed by the consequences or the unknown, they take the risk of moving forward.  The great leaders are those that can quickly analyze a situation and make the best decision possible at the time. 

With the economy the way it is today, making the ‘wrong’ decision is a big deal that can affect someone’s employment and in turn, their family.  Within the military, making decisions may cost someone their life.  This is a huge responsibility that is not to be taken lightly however it should also be embraced for what leadership can achieve too.  Think about where the world would be today if Harry Truman had not made the tough choices he did to end World War II?  What about the choices Bill Gates and Steve Jobs made for their teams to move technology forward?  Not all decisions are bad but there has to be ownership of the choices to move in the intended direction. 

It’s easy to say ‘let’s go left’ or ‘let’s move to the right’ but then living that decision and taking on that choice is what leaders must do.  The biggest thing for leaders though is to be able to handle the choice if it is the wrong one.  Admit mistakes, adjust to the outcomes and correct the course of action.  The important thing is leaders learn from mistakes and need to share that knowledge with others.  A leader will not always have the right answer or want to make the tough decisions but the true character of a leader is shown during those situations. 

 

          Lori Buresh

CEO, The Professional Development Team

, , , , , , , ,

1 Comment