Archive for the 'Leadership' Category

4 Power Questions That Will Cultivate Your Leadership Tree

Most agree that there are many traits of a true leader, including: highly competent, professional, visionary, trustworthy, instill confidence, good communicator and, of course, courageous.

But great leaders have three other qualities that further set them apart.

  1. In the 21st century marketplace, the prime devotion of leaders is to their people because they know it’s through engaged, high-functioning teams that their “bottom line” goals are achieved. If you can deliver on this trait, you’ll be more likely to accomplish your professional and personal goals.
  2. The most successful and beloved leaders I’ve known had another trait that’s sometimes overlooked: They mentored their people to become leaders. Great NFL coaches like Vince Lombardi, Bill Walsh, Tom Landry and Bill Parcels became legendary through the subsequent performance of the coaches they mentored. It’s called the Coaching Tree. Whose names will be on your Leadership Tree.
  3. This quality has two parts that are as inextricable as the sides of a coin: 1) They’re devoted to asking questions; and 2) they listen.

Number 3 is so important that I want to offer four cardinal questions that will help you become a legendary leader and build your own Leadership Tree. The first two are from my friend and Brain Trust member, Chester Elton, co-author of “What Motivates Me.” The last two are mine.

How’re you doing?
Chester says this isn’t a drive-by question. It’s a look ’em in the eye, “I’ve got time to listen” question. The setting has to be where the leader can be “in the moment” with the other person. And answers are not pre-supposed – might be about their job, their aspirations, or their personal life. Great leaders care about all of that.

How can I help?

Chester says this question creates a safe environment. A mentor once told me, “If you’re in trouble in your job, don’t go down by yourself. Get me involved early and let me help you get out of trouble.”

What do you think?
I call this the Leader’s Power Question and it produces two kinds of fruit: 1) few things cultivate the illusive engagement factor more than when the boss asks the opinion of an employee; 2) valuable information almost always spouts.

What did we learn?
I call this the Leader’s Magic Question, and it may be the four most important words in management. Surely redemption is the most human behavior a leader can demonstrate. And the most powerful mentoring moment happens after a team member makes a mistake taking initiative and the leader says, “Okay, now we know what happened,” then redeems him with: “What did we learn?” Powerful!

Write this on a rock … Become a legendary leader with your own Leadership Tree.

Why trust is a business best practice

Are you familiar with the term “dysfunctional family?”

The simple definition is, a family whose members don’t work and play well with each other. Such relationships typically create emotional, mental, sometimes even physical distress, and/or estrangement.

Sadly, we humans also create dysfunctional businesses. Perhaps this definition will sound familiar: A dysfunctional company is one whose teams don’t work and play well with each other. Such relationships typically create emotional, mental, sometimes even physical distress, and a casualty list.

Someone once said, “Friends we choose – family we’re stuck with.”  Since we get to choose where we work and who we hire, why are there dysfunctional businesses?

The answer is actually quite simple, and it’s the common denominator in both businesses and families: human beings. If your family, or company, is dysfunctional, it’s because of the behavior of the humans.

Humans aren’t inherently bad, but we are inherently self-absorbed. And one of the by-products of self-absorption is self-preservation. When self-preservation shields are up, mistrust flourishes, goals go unmet, and failure is likely. When shields are down, productivity, creativity, and organizational well-being are evident. But the latter only happens if the stakeholders believe there is a basis for trust.

If your organization is not accomplishing its goals and making progress, look around to see if there’s more self-preservation going on than teamwork. Where evidence of individual and departmental self-preservation is found, you’ll also find lots of dysfunction, but not much trust.

In his book, “Built On Trust,” my friend, Arky Ciancutti, goes so far as to say that trust is “…one of the most powerful forces on earth.” He further states that the two most powerful trust-building tools are closure and commitment.

Closure is implied when there is a promise to deliver by a stated time. It manifests when performance happens or, in the alternative, a progress report is delivered in advance of the date.

Commitment, Arky says, “is a condition of no conditions.” When the relationship between two parties is built on trust, there are no hidden agendas. And while commitment may not always deliver the end product, it does guarantee a report about the progress.

Even though closure and commitment are skills that often must be learned, you’ll find willing participants in your employees, because human beings desire trust.  If your organizational culture isn’t built on trust, it’s not the employees’ fault. Trust and dysfunction have one key thing in common: they’re gravity fed. They start at the top and roll downhill.

Humans perform better in organizations built on trust.  Knowing this, successful managers demonstrate trust-building behavior and instill it in others as not only the right thing to do, but as a business best practice.

Write this on a rock — If organizational dysfunction is a poison, trust is its antidote.

Jim Blasingame is author of the award-winning book, The Age of the Customer: Prepare for the Moment of Relevance.

Motivating employees is good business

Smart business owners know that there’s a direct link between motivating employees to be successful in their assignments and the success of that business. Want a good example of why you should be one of these smart managers?

Let’s imagine that your best employee has just resigned. How much will it cost – directly and indirectly – to find, hire, train and get that replacement up to the productivity level of your former employee? The answer is: maybe years. Scary, huh? Now ask yourself if you could be in jeopardy of losing good employees merely because you aren’t motivating them.

There are many ways to successfully motivate employees and all of them require managers to focus on the human beings with whom they work, and who desire to find their own success. Consider these six motivational elements.

1. Communication.

There’s nothing more fundamental to having loyal, productive and engaged employees than good communication. If you’re having problems keeping good employees, the low-hanging fruit for you may be to just start talking with – not to – your people.

2. Professionalism.

This is the aggregation of proper business, ethical and interpersonal behavior, and it’s critical to successful employee motivation.  Professionalism fosters pride and employee loyalty. Demonstrate your professionalism first and then help employees achieve and value their own professionalism. And don’t forget to recognize their progress.

3. Management style.

Check yours. Are you a leader or a driver? Managers who are drivers disregard others, consume people as a means to their end, and are identified by high employee turnover. Leaders value their people and encourage them to be successful. They can be identified by the double-digit numbers representing how many years their employees have been with them, and the multiple black digits to the left of the decimal on their bottom line.

4. Training.

Employee training pays operational and motivational dividends. It fosters knowledge, which fosters self-confidence, which fosters leadership, which fosters employee loyalty, which fosters customer loyalty, which fosters your bank account. How’s that for a training straight line to return-on-investment?

5. Recognition.

A robin noticed a turtle sitting on top of a fence post.  When the robin stopped to ask how he got there, the turtle replied, “Obviously, not by myself.”

When talking about what your company has done, be sure to manage your pronouns properly.  Whenever “I” can be replaced with “we,” do it. This tiny 2-letter pronoun is a powerful verbal high-five that resonates motivational energy throughout your organization.

6.  Fun.

Fun is very motivational. Make sure your organization finds ways to have fun at work. The people I know who are the most successful and the happiest are those who take their work seriously, but they don’t take themselves very seriously.

Write this on a rock….

Motivating employees to be successful in their assignments is not only good business, it’s also the right thing to do.


Jim Blasingame is author of the award-winning book, The Age of the Customer: Prepare for the Moment of Relevance.

Entrepreneurial Telekenesis

Have you ever seen someone who moved objects with their mind, or bent a spoon by merely concentrating on it?  Telekinesis, as defined by Webster, is the power to move an object by psychic force alone. Mind over matter.

The idea of telekinesis has fascinated humans for millennia, including this human. Like me, you probably have a healthy level of skepticism about such claims. But what would you say if I said you are capable of telekinesis?

If you have ever done any physical training, you know that your body constantly sends messages to your brain that it’s ready to shut down. When that first dissenting word from your leg muscles hit your brain did you obey, or did you send back a message that those muscles would just have to tough it out? Sometimes one side of your brain, the side focused on your goal, has to have a word with the other side, the one that is a close friend with comfort.

At some time in our lives, most of us ran, jumped, cycled, lifted, swam, etc., at performance levels beyond which seemed possible to us in the early stages of training.We learned that building strength and endurance requires our body’s comfort to become subordinate to attaining a goal we had set. What is that if not mind over matter?

As small business owners, we perform a kind of entrepreneurial telekinesis every day. We accomplish things that marketplace pedestrians would say are impossible. And if you think I’m using the term telekinesis too loosely, what else would you call it when a small business owner defies the marketplace, the competition, and conventional thought by not only surviving, but actually thriving? Your entrepreneurial mind has the potential to defy the odds, the gravity of the marketplace, and matter, as we know it.

Will is an intangible force created by another intangible, desire. As you desire to move your business forward, whenever the matter is weak, you compensate with will. Mind over matter.

But don’t try this on spoons.

Thanks for being part of my community. I’ll see you on the radio and the Internet.

President Lincoln’s leadership continues to impress

This month marks the 206th birthday of America’s 16th president, Abraham Lincoln’s life and hard times continue to inspire generation after generation of leaders and followers so much that 150 years after his death Honest Abe is still one of the most important individuals in the history of the United States.

Lincoln’s story is especially important for small business owners. Every day along the business ownership continuum, from startup to locking up for the last time, Main Street merchants can draw strength and inspiration from the uncomplicated and honest witness of Lincoln’s character.

lincoln-memorial-2464_1280

CC Photo via Pixabay

But, ironically, beyond his leadership record, we’re perhaps more inspired by how he persevered in the face of painful adversity and professional failures. Consider this partial list of Lincoln’s life challenges:

•  Failed in business in 1831 and 1833

•  Defeated for state legislator in 1832

•  Fiancee died in 1835

•  Had a nervous breakdown in 1836

•  Ran for Congress in 1843 and ’48; lost both races

•  Ran for the Senate in 1855 and ’59; lost both races

•  Ran for Vice President in 1856 and lost

•  Buried two of his four beloved sons

•  Elected President in 1860 as America’s house divided and dissolved into “a great civil war”Reading this list, one is overwhelmed by two emotions:

1.  Sadness - that any one person would experience so many unfortunate things;

2.  Admiration - that in the face of such adversity, anyone could accomplish so much.

Nine years after critics wrote him off as a political player, Lincoln accomplished leadership feats and professional successes that were nothing short of heroic. And for these, history recognizes him as one of America’s greatest presidents.

As 2015 unfolds, if you’re ever tempted to slump into a self-involved pity party because the marketplace licked the red off your candy, go back and reread Lincoln’s failures and setbacks. This time you might feel two other emotions:

1.   Shame - that you allowed yourself to lapse into a funk;

2.   Renewed perseverance – now realizing that, like Lincoln, as long as you’re alive, every new day you show up to work on your business and life could be the day you turn the corner and win the war.

Lincoln taught us that often the difference between bold accomplishment and painful setback is the courage, character and diligence to persevere.

Write this on a rock …

There is no better model of courage, character and perseverance than Abraham Lincoln. Let his life inspire yours.

Beware of the maxim that can become a lie

The maxim is one of the most interesting of expressions because in its definition we find both truth and consequences.

Webster says a maxim is a “generally accepted truth.” But that makes it sound like we voted on it, doesn’t it? Shouldn’t the truth be beyond debate? Well, that’s why something is a maxim; it’s merely “accepted” as the truth, and therein lie the consequences.

In the world of leadership, one of the best examples of a maxim is “It’s lonely at the top.”

But must it be?

Small business owners know all about being lonely at the top. Even though being atop a small business isn’t very high in the greater marketplace, no Fortune 500 CEO can move the loneliness needle as far as an entrepreneur can. But small business loneliness is a self-imposed exile that we don’t have to accept as the truth.

Maxims are usually harmless, unless they turn out to be untrue. For example, sometimes taking the maxim “It’s lonely at the top” too far can actually manifest as dangerous lies.

CC Photo via Pixabay

CC Photo via Pixabay

Lie #1: I’m supposed to know how to solve this.

Lie #2: I shouldn’t ask for help because I’m the only one with this problem.

Lie #3: Admitting I have a problem makes me appear ignorant and uncompetitive.

Lie #4: I don’t know anyone who can help me.

Lie #5: Even if I found someone to advise me, I can’t afford it.

When you allow any of these lies to become maxims the consequence can be maximum failure.

In the 16th chapter of Proverbs, King Solomon coined a maxim that should be prominently displayed in every business owner’s office: “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with advisors, they succeed.”

Here are some of the places small businesses can get counsel, from free to fee.

No Cost: Local peer-to-peer mastermind groups; Small Business Development Centers (SBDC); SCORE.org.

Zero to $250: Local chamber of commerce; continuing ed classes; industry trade groups.

Budget Required: Consultants; franchise peer groups, like Vistage or The Alternative Board; legal, accounting, etc.

Remember, “It’s lonely at the top” - and the five lies - get maxim status only if you accept them. Since you didn’t get where you are today by being a conformist, why start now?

Listen to the wise man, and seek counsel.  Otherwise you could become painfully acquainted with another maxim in Proverbs 16: “Pride goeth before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.”

Write this on a rock… Abandon the exile, lose the martyr act and ask for help.




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