Archive for September, 2012

Empowerment – Let People Make Mistakes

 Like parents for children, sometimes we as leaders have to let our teams think and do for themselves.  This means they may make mistakes or stumble along the way but it is necessary in order for our people to learn valuable lessons.  We have to be ready to let go and entrust our people with responsibility and authority to get the job done their way.  Deciding when it is appropriate to let others have control and possibly make mistakes is a tough balance; especially when we know as leaders that any negative fallout will rain down on our shoulders first.  Doesn’t that mean we should take charge at all times?  

       John Maxwell talks about The Law of Empowerment in The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.  He states “If leaders want to be successful, they have to be willing to empower others…To lead others well, we must help them to reach their potential.”   To me, this includes letting people make mistakes.  Maxwell uses Henry Ford as an example of the Law of Empowerment; Henry Ford refused to let anyone change his Model T for almost 20 years. Maxwell is specific about what he calls ‘barriers to empowerment’ – issues that prevent leaders from empowering others.  They are:

  1.      Desire for Job Security
  2.      Resistance to Change
  3.      Lack of Self-Worth

          Looking at these three barriers, any one of them can stop someone from becoming a great leader.  By focusing on job security, a person is concerned with their own success or future – leaders have to be more self-sacrificing than that.  Resisting change is almost the antithesis of leadership since true leaders are ready to embrace change and guide others through change.  Low self-worth is the same as low self-esteem, something leaders cannot afford to have.  Leaders must have confidence in their teams and in themselves to provide trust and credibility to move forward on the path ahead. Leaders can only become great when they are ready to give up control and power in order to allow others to achieve. 

-Lori Buresh

CEO, The Professional Development Team

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The Need for Leaders and Action

                “Without sufficient self-confidence, people lack the conviction for taking on tough challenges.  The lack of self-confidence manifests itself in feelings of helplessness, powerlessness, and crippling self-doubt.” – The Leadership Challenge by Kouzes & Posner.  I read this passage, and it struck a deep chord with me but not about myself. I applied this statement to the leaders in power today. I have been feeling very frustrated with the country’s current economic situation and response within the global arena, specifically the Middle East. My feelings of frustration are carried alongside emotions of helplessness and powerlessness when reading the news each day.  When applied to the statement from The Leadership Challenge, it makes sense – I have little confidence in the leadership at present.  This lack of confidence stems from the current absence of action.

                While looking through news bits, almost every other article includes the words “leadership” and “action”.  These two words are not synonymous, but they do work together.  Leaders are those who drive toward results and accomplishments, which require taking action.  Taking action is something that teams sometimes fail to do because of a fear of reprisal, repercussion or not having the guidance or authority to act. What is needed to drive the team forward is a true LEADER who is willing to take some risks and has some power (formal or informal) to do so.  Due to the inter-relationship of these forces, it is easy to draw the conclusion that we expect and need leaders to ACT! When they don’t, the opening statement becomes true.   

                I will take a moment to digress into a more personal point of view – something I normally refrain from with this blog.  My frustration has nothing to do with political parties and is not directed at the president but at our overall government and current paralysis of clear direction.  Those who serve in government and the military take an oath to support and defend the Constitution, against all enemies foreign and domestic; that they will bear true faith and allegiance to the same.  I took that oath, and I still hold it sacred to my heart, even out of military service.  What is occurring overseas right now are attacks on our sovereign soil (embassies are considered part of the parent county’s land), no different than the attacks on 9/11. The response so far has been tepid at best.

                I agree we should not storm blindly into fights; however, I feel we are in no way asserting ourselves (even through political speeches) and standing up for what is right and wrong in accordance with our Constitution.  Today is Constitution Day – a day to remember exactly what our founding fathers wrote to help define our country.  Those men took action and with it birthed our great nation.  My personal expectation is for our current government leaders to ACT both domestically and abroad, and as long as they do not, I feel powerless and helpless although never in doubt of America. 

Lori Buresh

CEO, The Professional Development Team

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Job Satisfaction – Why Leaders Should Care

               As leaders, we are always looking to inspire and motivate our teams. We hope to get the most productivity and creativity out of each individual and the group as a whole. The question then is what role does job satisfaction play in the equation?  The answer is a lot!  First of all, we have to define what job satisfaction means.  According to Stephen Robbins and Timothy Judge who wrote Essentials of Organizational Behavior, job satisfaction is “a positive feeling about a job resulting from an evaluation of its characteristics.”  What does that mean?  It means that a job is more than its processes like paperwork or customer service.  Jobs mean adhering to company policies, working well with other team members and supervisors, achieving goals and maybe accepting some aspects that are undesirable like shift hours.

                Robbins and Judge lay out six different areas where job satisfaction has a direct impact. These are:

  •   Job Performance – Obviously people who are happy with their job will do their work better and more productively.
  •  OCB (Organizational Citizenship Behavior) – Positive job experiences lead to positive attitudes in and outside of work regarding the organization which leads to more cooperative and collaborative performance.
  • Customer Satisfaction – Most employees interact with customers, both internal and external, which means the better people feel about their job, the more that positive attitude will be projected to the customer. Employees will also tend to work harder to please the customer in order to uphold the standards and reputation of the organization.
  • Absenteeism – People who don’t like their work tend to try to avoid going, which puts a larger strain on the rest of the team; conversely, people who are satisfied with their jobs tend to enjoy the work and coming to work each day.
  • Turnover – If people are dissatisfied with their work, they will look elsewhere for employment which costs the company money to hire and train a replacement as well as the lost corporate knowledge
  • Workplace Deviance – Not everyone who is unhappy leaves the job. He or she may stay on but make life difficult for everyone else which creates an unfriendly and potentially hostile work environment for others.

             Each one of these factors can have a high impact on productivity and overall cost to the organization.  Leaders have to be aware that job satisfaction plays a huge part in the success of any team or business.  While there are different tactics to apply specifically for the areas listed, the underlying solution is to identify the root cause of the dissatisfaction by the employee.  Why is he or she unhappy?  What is causing his or her antagonistic behavior or negative attitude?  The decision after that is if the leader has any authority or control over the issue at hand. It is worth the effort to save an existing employee if the return in productivity is at least equal, but hopefully greater than before.  However, leaders have to keep in mind that one bad apple can spoil the bunch, and when it comes to business, we don’t need bad apples.  

-Lori Buresh

CEO, The Professional Development Team

 

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Communicating Decisions – A Case Study

            Let’s face it, not every decision we make as leaders will be popular.  How do we handle those situations?  I was witness this weekend to an example of how NOT to do it.  First, you have to understand the circumstances of the decision and this is the story.  On Saturday, September 1, 2012, Notre Dame played Navy in Dublin, Ireland in what was titled the Emerald Isle Classic.  This was just the second time this game had ever been played outside of the United States and it is a fairly significant rivalry.  Due to the time difference, the game was slated to start at 9am EST/8am CST.  Being big Navy fans, my family and I (okay, me..) were excited to spend our morning cheering our team.  Also, in my particular area of the United States, USNA does not get much attention by the local schools, this was an opportunity for the area to get to see more of the Naval Academy (in propaganda form). I checked the local guide the night before to make sure I knew the right time and channel for the next day.  After waking up with the kids and making homemade cinnamon rolls, we were ready to go however instead of the advertised Notre Dame vs. Navy football game; we were subjected to Doodlebops and all of the other morning cartoons.  I voiced my displeasure via email to my local television station and via Facebook.  What happened next was amazing, shortly after I got done pouting (not really) there was an announcement posted on the local television station’s Facebook page from the president and general manager explaining his decision making in pre-empting the football game.  He explained that the FCC has rules regarding how much air time must be devoted to children’s shows and to other programming.  He specifically stated that “we can’t please everyone” therefore he chose to keep the regular Saturday morning family viewers happy and not air the game. 

                The power of the internet is underestimated.  From what I could gather from the president’s message, there were A LOT of upset Notre Dame fans which stands to reason since there are only about 6 Navy fans in this region.  There was an immediate and immense response on both sides of the issue.  There were emotions running high on this particular topic which was amazing to watch.  There were comments related to the failure of the television station to broadcast something that was unavailable on any other channel while children’s shows were readily accessible all over the stations. Opposing those comments were the people who believed children’s Saturday morning programming was critical to family happiness and to let the kids watch their shows. There were direct questions to the president asking why all of the other regional affiliates neighboring our region were able to handle the FCC guidelines and air the game.  The response was so powerful, the president of the station turned off the children’s shows an hour early to turn on the game (time delayed) however that decision upset the people who were waiting to watch the US Open Tennis match, then he turned off the game and went back to tennis.

                The president of the station was right, we can’t please everyone all the time.  In fact, sometimes we have to make choices that we know will make at least a section of our customers unhappy.  The mistake the president made was not to communicate this change.  Number one issue – the programming guide stated the game would be aired.  That set up the expectation by the customers (including me) that the game would be on at the scheduled time.  When it was not shown, with no explanation as to why, I was disappointed and confused which led to a more emotional response.  It was only after there was a large backlash by the people that there was any notification or communication regarding the programming change.  This made the president look foolish and the television station was railed against on the internet. 

                In this case, the president had every right to make the choice he did but the failure was the lack of communication to the customers.  Maybe he underestimated the popularity of the game or the response by the people but the consequence of his actions means his television station took a big hit in confidence and support in this area.  What should have happened was a correction in the scheduling guide or at least earlier notice through social media to alert people.  This particular example shows when there is an expectation that is not delivered upon, the response is always negative.  Not that people would have agreed with his decision had he communicated it earlier, but the credibility of the station would not have been damaged as much as it was. 

-Lori Buresh

CEO, The Professional Development Team

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