Leadership & Management
It sounds obvious, but most of us have a way of piling up “must-do” priorities, making it impossible to do a very good job on any of them. One recipe for disengaging people is to overwhelm them with things to do, all of which are “Job 1” and “key priorities” and “top-of-the-list.”
But if you unleash people to focus on one, two, or three wildly important goals—no more—they will sense the significance of what they’re doing and they’ll have a chance to win. There is tremendous power in focus. As you prioritize your goals, think about those things that must be done or nothing else matters, focus on those true priorities, and move lower priorities to the back burner.
Given enough support, any human being has virtually limitless power. Each person in your organization is unique and has an irreplaceable set of gifts, talents, skills, and passions that cannot be found anywhere else. Too many leaders have the pernicious paradigm that people are interchangeable, that one worker equals another, that they can easily replace one person with another person. They see a person as an asset, like a computer or a tractor or a robot, easily traded on the market.
I bet most of you are familiar with this adult only concept.
Imagine yourself in this scenario…
You’re commuting home after a long workday. Exhausted, you want nothing more than to eat a quick meal and a chance to relax. As you reflect on your day, you think to yourself that you were really busy, but you are not exactly sure what you accomplished that truly mattered. You further realize that this isn’t the first day you’ve felt this way. It’s merely one in a stream of days where you have found yourself returning home worn out and a bit demoralized.
In many organizations, the typical approach to changing people’s behavior is to reward or threaten them. This is what Stephen R. Covey called “the great jackass theory of human motivation—carrot and stick.”
The problem with this approach is that it treats people like animals, and it works only on the surface and only temporarily. When people who are threatened they develop a paradigm of fear, and so they act out of fear. They will “work” for an organization, but they will never give their hearts. They will never speak honestly, contribute freely, or do more than required. They will never, ever tell you what they really think.
No matter what industry you work in, when your people quit work for the night, your competitive advantage quits too. You might say, “What about our mission? Organizational structure? Internal rewards program? Work processes? Computer systems? Aren’t they advantages that will overcome our competition?”
We are often told of all the things that leaders should be, how they should act, what they should say, etc. If you don’t believe me, just google the word “leadership” and you will find article after article of things that leaders should do (or not do). I know, I’ve written some of them myself.
At the root of most of these articles, you will find a habit that is truly foundational. One that matters most and is the source of much of what a great leaders does.
When our son was a little boy, he discovered a passion for Legos – not a general liking, but a true passion.
His exposure started with a small Lego set. I have no recollection of his first Lego, but it was probably a car, a boat, an airplane, or some other form of transportation.
Over time, his interest grew as did his collection of Lego products. A birthday or holiday would no doubt end with a couple of Legos to build. A small job around the house would turn into cash and a chance for him to go to the store and purchase a Lego set on his own.
Toy’s R Us is dead – at least in the United States. According to CNBC, “Toys R Us is planning to either close or sell all of its more than 800 stores across the U.S.”
The debate is underway about what killed Toys R Us.
- Was it poor strategy and execution? Including specific issues like store selection and website functionality…. (Business Insider)
“Leadership is first, and foremost, a communication activity.” – Hackman & Johnson
We’ve all benefited from the communication efforts of great leaders.
We’ve also suffered through the pains of poor communicators in leadership roles.
I’ve found that great leaders regularly make five communication choices. I invite you to review each, assess how well you are doing, and consider a few quick challenges to improve yourself. I also recommend you share these with new or struggling leaders to help them improve their performance.