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LME028 – What do you wish you knew, before becoming a successful leader?

A lot of people, who aren’t in an executive position think that if you are promoted  in a company or an organization or if you become your own boss as an entrepreneur, people will just follow you because now you are the leader.

And everything becomes more easy because now you are in charge and people follow you.

Sorry, guys! But this isn’t true. Becoming a leader is mostly totally different to what you might expected.

What do you wish you knew, before becoming a successful leader?

Therefore, I invited 5 leaders with different backgrounds for my podcast show. I wanted to know from them, what they wish they knew, before becoming successful leaders.

What we would have loved to know about Leadership

 

1. Dan Lovaglia

Dan Lovaglia

We start with Dan. He is a ministry consultant and leadership coach in the Chicago area in the US.

I recently heard Patrick Lencioni author of “The Motive”, his most recent book and business leadership consultant say:

“Everyone has influence. And they probably shouldn’t.”

This quote rocked me to the core. The fact is when I stepped into leadership, the one thing that I didn’t know was that it was going to cost me something. I was going to have to pay a price.

In fact, I’ve used this phrase over the years. If I lead, I will pay a price. If I don’t others will.

My name is Dan Lovaglia. I’m a staffing and coaching associate with Slingshot group. We’re a nationwide team that works with ministries and churches across the US to build remarkable teams.

I love being part of an endeavor where we get to walk alongside people, partner with them as they grow in their leadership, grow the ministries and initiatives that they’re wanting to be about because they know that they’re stewards of something important.

And they know that if they don’t stand up, speak up, take steps forward, somebody is going to pay a price. And hopefully as a leader, they recognize – like I’ve come to recognize I’m going to pay a price first.

It’s important for me to step into leadership, knowing that I’m going to have influence, and I want it to be the right kind of influence for the right direction and the right reasons.

I think Dan is spot on. If you lead you will have to pay a price and you need to think about that before you start to become a leader.

If you like to contact Dan, just click here:
https://www.linkedin.com/in/danlovaglia/

2. Gleb Tsipursky

Gleb Tsipursky

Gleb helps leaders to avoid disasters. He is a best selling author, a coach, trainer and speaker and lives in the Ohio area in the US.

You should never go with your gut. Does it sound surprising to you that I say that? After all, you get so much advice to go with your gut, follow your intuition, be primal, be savage and so on.

What can Huff calls, whatever? Well, unfortunately, the people who give you such advice are just giving you the modern equivalent of snake oil.

Going with our gut. Intuition is terrible advice. It is pretty horrible because intuitions are not adapted for the modern environment. There are definitely for the ancestral environment.

Think about how we meet friends. Like let’s say how we’re meeting COVID-19. We have a very intense fight or flight response that stems from our environment.

We have to jump at a hundred shadows to get away from that one saber tooth tiger. And now people are responding to the COVID 19 with either a defensive response going out and buying a lot of stuff that they won’t need later, or the flight response, but ignoring it, they’re saying, you know,

Hey, our life is great. Everything is fine. But it can be a problem. We are not responding well at all to the reality that the COVID-19 is a huge, slow moving train wreck.

I really don’t see leaders literally preparing for the reality that we’ll be living with it for at least the next two to three years until we have a vaccine and distributed them widely.

So this is a big problem that leaders aren’t changing their business model and individual professionals aren’t changing their career track to adapt to the reality of COVID-19.

Very true. I believe I would have made less mistakes in my business life if I paid attention to this. Yes, you should never go purely with your gut intuition.

If you like to get in contact with Glen, click here:
https://www.linkedin.com/in/dr-gleb-tsipursky/

3. Jessica Dreistadt

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Jessica has served as the leader of a family center system in a public school district, a shelter for families experiencing homelessness, a community development corporation, and a women’s leadership network.

My name is Jessica and I’m the facilitator of the women’s creative leadership network.

There are several things I wish someone would have told me on the way to becoming a successful leader.

And I also believe that as a leader, it’s important for us to share this knowledge with the next generation.

The biggest thing I wish that I had known is that there’s no such thing as perfect. There’s not one right way to do things or only one best choice.

Leading is really much more complex than that. When we hold ourselves to impossible standards as leaders, it just sets us up for disappointment and it wastes precious energy that could instead be put into learning.

It’s also demoralizing to the people around us. So in other words, it’s okay to make mistakes, just be open to learning from them.

And if you’re not making mistakes, then you probably aren’t taking enough.

I fully agree with Jessica. As a leader we need to recall again and again that there is no such thing as perfect.

I foyu’d like to get in touch with Jessica, click here:
https://www.facebook.com/jess.dreistadt

4. Ola Yetunde Harris

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Ola is a sales and marketing expert from Johannesbourg in Southafrica.

Hi, my name is Ola Yetunde Harris. I manage several different entrepreneurship groups on Facebook, as well as a sales team.

And the biggest thing I wish I knew before becoming a leader is that you never been to get it all passive. You need to just keep moving, put your best actions in and just strive to get things done rather than get things perfect.

The other thing would be that, as a leader it is you job to always be on the look out for the best people that suit certain tasks, because you cannot win by putting square pegs in a sicko.

Or in other words, you have to look at what people natural talents are and try to fit them into the task that you need to get done.

Those are the two things that I really wish that I knew before becoming a leader and not having to force that.

Thanks Ola for giving us 2 lessons. I believe it is very important to understand that you never get it all perfect. Most important is: You need just to get moving. That’s so true. And yes looking for the right place for the right people to work for you is crucial.

If you like to get in touch with Ola, just click here:
https://www.facebook.com/olayiwola.odemwingee

5. Paul LaRue

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Paul lives in the Colorado are in the US. He is a restaurant operations consultant. He is a leadership & organizational coach and speaker.

Hello, this is Paul LaRue, leadership and business consultant and founder of the UPwards Leader.

Back in my university days, I was part of the student leadership organization.

Our institutions laws had criteria for membership, solid grades, supporting the local community and being active and other student organizations.

After my second year with the group, I noticed the ideas we were founded on are becoming diluted. Sitting members were loosening the selection criteria for new members.

It was becoming more of a social group rather than an institution that stood as the standard for other campus organizations.

One member D wanted to bring his friend Robin in because he thought Robin was cool and D wanted to gain status in our group.

Robin fell short of our member criteria. D was able to get Robin approved.

Soon afterwards Robin ended up violating our bylaws and face expulsion, but D was able to maneuver and maintain Robin’s membership.

I saw this downward trajectory and organization and mentioned it to a fellow member, but we failed to act.

Two years after I graduated, our organizations charter was permanently destroyed. It was then I realized that culture with proper checks and balances is essential for the success of any group or company. Bringing in a board of people do the culture fit, not ego or status is about the purpose of any organization and the glue that holds it together.

When culture is not held as the measure of what an organization is and who his people are, that institution will inevitably fall apart. It was a valuable lesson that has served me well all these years.

Thanks Paul for that important insight. Yes, in any business or organization it is crucial that proper checks and balances exist. The culture fit not ego or status of the people involved holds an organization together.

If you like to get in touch with Paul, click here:
https://www.linkedin.com/in/paullaruejr/

 

Thanks a lot for all participants. I’d like to end this post with an inspiring quote from Jack Welsh:

„Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others“

 

Listen to the podcast

 

LME027 – One-on-one meetings! What matters most!

As a leader you should have one-on-one meetings with your direct reports regularly.

But how do you introduce one on ones to your direct reports? How does such an one-on-one meeting work? How do you get started and what exactly should you say in such meetings?

one-on-one

one-on-one

My experience with one-on-ones

During my time as a manager, I had lots of meetings with my direct reports.

However, from todays point of view, I should have conducted one-on-one meetings more frequently and especially regularly. Over time, I realized how valuable this management tool – the one-on-one meeting – is and how important it is to build trust with your direct reports.

When I talk to executives about these one-on-ones, I often hear:

“I know that I should regularly take the time to talk to each of my direct reports, but I don’t have time for it. There is always so much to do.”

Well, if the one-on-ones are important to you – I mean really important to you – then you should find the time to talk to each of your direct reports at least 20 minutes every week or at least every 14 days.

Of course this is easier said than done, but in the long run these conversations will bring you an incredible return on investment. They save you a lot of time and money.

If you do it right, you will get motivated people who will think along similar lines and pull in the same direction along with you.

These one-on-ones will help you to get to know your employees better and better. But most important: You build trust which makes it easier for you to delegate tasks.

If you have one-on-ones regularly, you will become much better at understanding what is going on with your employees and how you can support them.

 „OK – and what do I have to consider for these one-on-one talks?“

It’s a conversation between two people.

If possible, these conversations should take place in a quiet, relaxed environment. That can, but does not have to be in the office. You can also have such a conversation during a walk together, so to say a meeting “on the go”.

Focus on your direct report.

It is important that you are focused on the matter and only concentrate on your employee. No distraction! Avoid interruption of any kind!

And please remember: In a one-on-one meeting its clear that your smartphone is switched off. I don’t have to point that out, do I?

A one-on-one is an employee meeting!

Why is it called like that? That is because the employee talks more than the boss.

It is mainly the time of the employee spending with his manager, not the other way around.

“Well, but how do I start such a conversation and what should I talk about?”

The one-on-one process

Let´s talk about the rough process of one-on-one meetings first: Each one-on-one is different. They are unique because people are unique.

Nevertheless: Especially if you have just officially started regular one-on-one meetings, it is beneficial to provide a rough framework. For simplicity, we assume 30 minutes. You can then divide these 30 min one-on-ones into three 10 min parts, for example:

Part 1: Employees time only

You start the conversation with a question and then you listen. This is the time when your direct report wants to discuss matters that are important to him or her.

Part 2: Your time

The manager addresses issues such as giving feedback for instance. You can also inform about goals or talk about organizational changes and hear your employee’s opinion on them.

Part 3: It’s about the future.

What is in store for the next few days. Talk about your plans. Ask about his or her plans. If you have agreed on actions to be carried out then you can briefly summarize them at the end of the one-on-one meeting.

It is just a framework…

As I said before, these 3 parts are just a rough framework, a kind of guideline that can be helpful to you especially when you start one-on-one meetings with your direct reports and if you haven’t done it before.

The meetings don’t necessarily have to be 30 minutes. Start with 15 minutes or 20 minutes. The individual parts can also be of different lengths. If the employee has many things to discuss, just talk about them and skip the other parts. That’s ok.

The key is: just start with one-on-ones. And very important: do one-on-ones regularly – and I mean weekly or at least bi weekly.

“I feel stupid about it. I don’t know how to start the conversation …
What should I talk about?”

Good question. I have put together a free checklist for one-on-one meetings with examples and tips how to conduct one-on-one meetings. You’ll find the link to the free download in the YouTube description and in the comments.

If you introduce one-on-ones, you may feel uncomfortable at the beginning. That’s normal. The situation may seem strange to you.

“What does the employee think about me when I suddenly start with such personal meetings?”

Just hang in there. It is worth it.

You can easily start a one-on-one by asking open questions, for example:

 “John, how is it going? How are you doing? “

or

“John, what is your biggest challenge right now?”

or

“Is there anything I can currently support you with?”

If that leads to nothing, you can also ask about current developments in the company, e.g.

“John, what do you think of our recent organizational change? What´s your take on that? “

All the questions are used to break the ice and start a conversation with your employee. Get involved, be interested in her or his opinion and ask.

You can also ask questions like:

Where did you feel friction in the last week? Where there specific meetings or situations where we as a team can improve?

or

You know that we strive in our company for customer satisfaction. But I also know that some of our rules and customer processes are not ideal at all. I ‘m interested in your opinion. Where do we need to improve? What needs to change?

or

What feedback do you have for me? Where can I as a manager improve?
For example: What do you want to do me more and what should I do less?

 

Start with open questions.

But note that it is your job to start with such open questions. After that, you listen actively. You can ask if you don’t understand something but you listen carefully.

If you are introducing one-on-ones, explain to your employees why you are doing this, what the talks will roughly be about and what advantages your employees will gain from it.

The greatest advantage of one-on-ones?

Do you know what most employees consider the greatest advantage of such meetings?

It is the undisturbed, undivided time they can spend with their manager. Your employees know very well that you are always under time pressure. So if you take your time and spend them with them, that shows appreciation.

I, the employee, am important to my boss because otherwise he wouldn’t spend regularly time with me, right?

What to do if I feel uncomfortable…

If thinking about starting one-on-ones still makes you feel uncomfortable, talk about it. It’s not weakness but strengths when you talk about that feeling.

For example, you can say the following:

“John, I’d like to conduct 1 on 1 meetings with each of my direct reports on a regular basis. This is very important to me because I believe that if we spend more time together, we will understand each other better and I can support you much better.

To be honest, starting with these one-on-ones still feels a bit unusual or awkward to me. But I strongly believe it’s important to start with it and it will help us to improve working together.
So: How’s it going with you: Is there something I can currently support you with?”

By conducting one-on-one you offer your employees a forum to exchange ideas with you. Of course, your employees also want to hear your opinion, but it is particularly important that your employees can share their thoughts and issues with you.

One-on-ones are not about you.

Therefore: One-on-one meetings are not about you, they are about your employees. Be sincerely interested in them, in the job they do and in their personality.

I promise that one-on-ones will be a game changer in your leadership. They pay off in the long term for everyone involved.

I have put together a checklist for one-on-one meetings. You can download this check list for free here:

The inspiring quote

“We have this religion that everyone has one on ones on the team. We think everyone should be doing it. It just leads to a happier work place, and it takes almost no investment. It really pays off.“

David Cancel

How to deal with a demanding boss

Do you have a demanding boss? A boss who asks you to meet unrealistic or even impossible to reach goals?
How can you deal with this as a manager yourself being in the sandwich position?

During my time in middle management, I had some tough negotiations about goals with my bosses. Often I didn’t know how to react to these demanding bosses. But over time I learned how to deal with these situations and how to handle unrealistic goals.

How to set goals

Before we talk about these demanding bosses and how to deal with them, let’s have a look on how to agree on goals in general. There is a big difference between setting goals or agreeing on goals. Unfortunately, some managers don’t seem to be very clear about this:

“Come on, John! We´ve talked enough. This is your goal: You have to accept it!”

Uh no. This is not an agreement! That is just setting a goal.

But you should agree on goals rather than set them. Because, you need committed employees who want and are capable to achieve these goals. You´ll gain nothing from just setting a goal and your employees are not committed.

If, you want to have people in your team who think actively and who don’t come to you with problems but with solutions, you have to agree on goals.

You have to ask, you have to discuss and you have to convince your employees about goals. You need to negotiate about the goals with your employees not just set them.

A goal that your employee has set himself or herself, that has a much stronger meaning for him or her.

For the bosses: Listen Carefully

By the way: Listen carefully to the ideas your employees have.

You will probably be amazed at the high goals that motivated employees set themselves. That was often the case when I proceeded that way.

But my own boss is very demanding…

How to deal with a demanding boss

But my boss doesn’t agree on goals. He sets goals and sometimes these goals are very demanding. And now, I have to convince my team to agree on them. How can I do this?

Not an easy situation. If you are convinced that you and your team can reach the goal, then it is important to win over your employees.

If  you are not convinced of the goal your boss set, then you´ll have to tell your boss directly.

Try to speak to him and understand why the goal is so important to him. What is really behind it? If you know this, then you can make a counter-proposal. In this way you have a much better chance to change the goal.

How to deal with unrealistic goals

Sometimes bosses set unrealistic goals  – not out of madness, but because they assess the situation and the resources differently:

“Well,  John: The goal for you and your team is to introduce the new ERP system within the next 6 months. It will be tough, but I’m convinced you can do it. ”

You may reply:

“Sorry boss, but 6 months? That won´t work!”

But that´s not how you should respond. Simply blocking, does not help.

The counter proposal

Instead, make a counter-proposal, for example:

“I understand that we have to introduce the new ERP system as quickly as possible. I also promise you that we will work on it with full commitment. But we can’t do it in 6 months. At least not with the current team. If we can temporarily get 2 external consultants, I think we will make it. But if we don’t get any additional resources, then it will definitely take us at least 10 months. ”

Now your boss can decide whether 10 months are ok or if he changes the budget and adds two external consultants for the project.

 

How to deal with impossible to achieve goals

What can you do if your boss demands impossible things and won´t change his mind about it?

“Come on, John. You and your team have developed this great gas engine with 97% efficiency. It surely will be possible to increase the efficiency a bit.

Take our sales team for instance. They increased sales by 30% last year. It´s not too much to ask if I want 4% more efficiency. 4% come on: 101% efficiency is not a big deal. Just ask the sales department how they do the 30%. – Anyway, the goal is set. Increase by 4%! Go for the 101 % efficiency”

If your boss has unrealistic demands, you can’t just accept them.

You have to act immediately and you have to tell your boss in a friendly but persistent manner that this goal is impossible to achieve. In this example, the goal even contradicts physical laws.

When you cannot accept a goal of a demanding boss…

You can’t just accept impossible goals and pass them on to your team. That will not do it. If you did, your team would no longer accept you.

And your boss will later blame you if you failed to achieve the impossible goal. – And 101% efficiency: this will keep you on your toes, believe me!

“Well, John didn´t really disagree with hs goal. Of course, I assumed that the 4% goal could be achieved. I’m not a technical guy! He is the expert. And now we are in a mess. It is end of the year and we did not reach our goal. That will have  consequences for John!”

So what can you do if your boss has unrealistic demands?

Here are my 3 tips:

1. Clarity

Say it kindly, but immediately, in a straightforward way and without beating around the bush: This task is not feasible. It cannot be achieved.

2. Counter-proposal

Make a counter-suggestion of what a realistic solution could look like and how a realistic goal could be set.

Consequence

If you have said

“No”

to an impossible goal from your point of view, you must remain resolute and consistent.

You can be persuaded to accept a challenging goal, e.g. 30% more sales or something like that. But an impossible goal to achieve, a goal that you have identified and named as such in front of your boss, you can´t reject at first and then at some point later still accept it.

You have to stay consistent and say “No”, even at the risk that your boss will not like it. Yes that might have negative consequences for you, but if you don’t reach the goal, the consequences are worse by far.

Sorry! There is no other way!

How to stay focused at work when everyone wants your attention!

How to stay focused at work

How to stay focused at work!

Today it is difficult to stay focused at work especially as a manager. Everyone wants your attention: clients, colleagues, your employees, your boss!

I mean: The day only has 24 hours, right? What should you do?

How can you stay focused and work on the most important things without distraction?

 

Do you work efficiently?

Do you have enough time to really work on the important things?

” I am the manager here. Everything is important to me!”

OK. How accessible are you for your employees?

“Well, I must be accessible all the time. My door is always open to all my employees.”

Oh, really?

“Well, I’m just a good manager. Always accessible. I mean my people need me to take fast decisions. So I have to be accessible all the time, right?”

Do you think you are doing your employees a favor?

“Yaaa”

Are you sure? Do you really want to be always accessible to your employees – all the time?

Sorry, but that’s nonsense.

Yes, I know you want to demonstrate employee orientation. I understand: after all, It is important these days to be there for your people – to be accessible for them.

That is well-intentioned, but it doesn’t make any sense in this way.

Any boss who is always accessible struggles with constant interruptions. Anyone who is always available by phone, anyone who reads every “DM” message immediately and who is also proud to answer every email immediately, is not working properly.

Well-intentioned doesn´t mean well done.

Anyone who can be interrupted in this way works completely inefficiently.

At the end of the day, a lot seems to have happened, you feel stressed but you haven’t done anything really important.

I mean, you haven’t had the time to focus and to work on something deeply enough. Mostly the crucial, important work has been left behind and is postponed.

The problem: Constant interruptions!

Being constantly accessible means you frequently will be interrupted in your own work.

An employee calls and urgently needs you to make a decision. Others come in your office to ask you something. I mean in the end you have an open door policy, right?

Most of the time, these are only short distractions, but every disturbance interrupts your own work flow. This is exhausting.

When you return to your actual task again, it will take a few minutes until you can fully concentrate again on where you left off.

It just takes time to be fully refocused on the actual task. Working with constant interruptions is extremely inefficient and stressful. In addition, the more mistakes you make, the harder it is for you to focus on your work.

It’s your choice to stay focused at work!

Research has shown that office workers can only work in average for eleven minutes without getting interrupted.

Imagine what it is like for managers who are and want to be accessible all the time.

It is up to you as the boss to decide if you really want this. Most employees don’t have the freedom to decide, but you have. As a manager it is possible to isolate yourself from most interruptions – at least for a certain amount of time every day.

But you need to decide that.

You need to want this. But that means you have to ditch the always open door policy.

It it is sufficient, if you are available and open for conversations – and you are available if an employee can leave you a message at any time, for example by email or with your secretary if you have one.

The one who has reached out to you will get an answer as soon as you are available again – but not immeadately. That is not necessary.

For example, I usually read my e-mails on working days within 24 hours and in important cases also reply within 24 hours. That is a reasonable expectation, which I also generally consider reasonable for most managers.

Email is an asynchronous communication medium.

That means using e-mails allows me to be self-determined. I decide when to read emails and when to reply, not someone else or a beeping system.

Anyone who expects me to respond to emails immediately has a wrong expectation. Sorry. That is their problem, not mine. E-mails are not made for immediate reading and reply.

A phone call is synchronous!

It´s a different situation when it comes to a phone call. I refer to this type of communication as synchronous. Because as soon as someone calls you and you choose to pick up the phone, you have to communicate immediately.

If your conversational partner asks you a question on the phone, you can’t wait and just answer after 8 hours.

Before you pick up the phone, you are self-determined, after picking it up you are not self-determined any longer. Now you are other-directed because you are caught in synchronous communication.

The same also applies to personal discussions.

Of course that is also synchronous. As soon as you allow yourself to be involved in a conversation, your response times are determined by others, just like on the phone.

No of course not. But if you want to be as self-determined as possible – which you should as a manager – try to arrange and schedule phone calls and meetings and not to conduct them offhand.

Now, you may say:

“Yes, that sounds nice, but that doesn’t work for me. My employees need quick decisions from me on a lot of things daily. I have to do that quickly. They can’t wait.”

Stop! Most operational, urgent tasks should be decided by your employees anyway. This means you have to give your employees the freedom to make the decisions they need to make.

Focus on important things!

Take your time and focus on the really important things yourself and delegate the rest. Don’t solve problems that your employees are supposed to solve and don’t decide things that your employees can actually decide.

Focus on few but essential tasks!

And don’t let yourself be constantly distracted.

Ditch the open door policy!

Schedule meetings and calls and don’t screw up your schedule.

The problem quite often is – and I am guilty of this sometimes as well –

Sometimes we love to have an excuse for postponing unpleasant tasks.

Well, and then sometimes there is something else: It is that we love to hear the latest news. We want to be distracted. We are wired like this. It is inherent in all of us.

Somehow it feels nice to be distracted by a new message that pops up on the screen of your SmartPhone. While you are working on an important presentation, a new e-mail notification appears on the computer.

Believe me, important things that are also urgent will not come in an email. If your house is on fire, the fire brigade will for sure not send you an email.

How can you stay focused at work?

Don’t allow systems and others to interrupt you.

1. Turn off all notifications.

No notifications on the phone. Not from Facebook, Snapchat or Twitter, no Whats App or LinkedIn or…

2. Switch off your email program

Very important: Always switch off the email program on your computer or laptop. Only open your email program when you want to read and answer your emails – and you shouldn’t do this more than 3-4 times a day.

3. Close the door and forward calls

If you are working on an important matter, do not answer the phone and close your door. Yes, in this times you have to ditch the open door policy – and that is a good thing.

4. Turn off your smart phone during meetings

So important. When you’re in a meeting, turn off the damn smart phone – or best of all, don’t bring it to the meeting in the first place.

5. Always be available, but don´t be accessible all the time.

Of course, as a manager you are there for your employees. Your employees can send you an email at any time. This is how they can reach out to you. However, you are not always accessible. You schedule a meeting or a call, but you are in the drive r seat.

Don’t let anyone screw up your schedule.

 

If you do all these, you are much more self-determined. Doing this will help you to stay focused on the really important things.

How to stay focused and rejecting requests

Do you also have a tough time rigorously rejecting requests? It’s difficult to say “No” to calls for help or opportunities when these are outside of your area of focus. If you’d like to know how to deal with this, check out my post on

How to stay focused on your goals and say “NO” if needed.

 

 

Focus on doing the right things instead of a bunch of things.

Mike Krieger

LME026 – Entrepreneur’s Rocket Fuel – Interview with Mark C. Winters

Marc C. Winters, Co-author of Rocket Fuel

Mark C. Winters, Co-author of Rocket Fuel

Today we talk about why it needs not just one but two entrepreneurs to build a successful business and why it is essential that these two have dramatically different roles.

I will talk about this with Mark C. Winters who is the co-author of the book rocket fuel.

If you are an entrepreneur or you work for a small business, this interview may be an eye opener for you.

Listen to the podcast version

About a year ago a friend of mine told me about a book called “Rocket Fuel”. He said:

“Bernd, you need to read this.”

I was amazed to hear that and wanted to know more about it.

The situation of my entrepreneurial friend

My friend told me that by reading the book he finally understood why he has been frustrated with his company over the last years although from outside he was a successful entrepreneur.

In less than 5 years he has built a company with 30 employees. The company was well positioned in the market and – at least from outside – quite profitable.

Working 24/7

But he was working his butt off. He was working more or less 24/ 7.

Of course he was passionate for his business, but taking care about the day-to-day work, the nitty gritty details that was frustrating for him.

He complained about his employees. They were not working on the right things, they didn’t understand quickly enough what he wanted from them. He had a lot of great new ideas for new products, for new marketing and sales ideas but in the day-to-day business he didn’t find the time to work on them.

His solution: Rocket Fuel

He told me, when he read the book Rocket Fuel he finally understood the reason for his frustration. He understood his role in the company. He told me:

He is the visionary. That’s the leader who should focus on new ideas and on new products, on product improvements and on customers. But this was not what he was doing most of his time. He wanted to spend more time in his role as a visionary.

But to do this, he needed someone who could do all the day-to-day work, who focuses inside the company. A person with this role is a so called integrator.

The two roles in a business

In the book Rocket Fuel the two authors describe these two roles:

“The visionary possesses a pioneering spirit that seizes market opportunities, dreams big, and inspires people behind a common vision. Visionaries notice problems in the word and find ways to solve them. They are a continuous source of new ideas.

The integrator is a realist. Integrators ensure commitments are kept, deadlines are met, and resources are managed. Integrators align resources to make the visionary’s dream a reality.”

The two roles  – the visionary and the integrator role – are vital to building a great company.

The problem of a lot of entrepreneurs

The problem is, that rarely one person can fulfill both roles. Normally an entrepreneur starts a company because he or she is an entrepreneur and a strong visionary.

But mostly after some time one or more of 5 frustrations kick in. Marc C. Winters and Gino Wickman, the authors of Rocket Fuel describe these 5 frustrations of a visionary as follows:

  1. Lack of control

You started the business so you can have more control over your time, money and freedom, but once you reach a certain point of growth, you realize that somehow you actually have less control. The business is now controlling you.

  1. Lack of Profit

No matter how hard you work, the numbers just don’t add up.

  1. People

Nobody seems to understand you or do things your way. You’re just not on the same page.

  1. Hitting the ceiling

Growth had stopped. The business is more complex, and you can’t figure out exactly why it isn’t working.

  1. Nothing is working

You’ve tried several remedies, consulted books and instituted quick fixes. None of these have worked for long.

The solution is: You – as the visionary – need to embrace your visionary nature and you need to get an integrator on board.

“The integrator integrates the major functions of the business, run the organization, and manage the day-to-day issues that arise. The integrator is the glue that holds the people, processes, systems, priorities, and strategy of the company together.”

Rocket Fuel describes the roles of the visionary and the role of the integrator in detail.

It focuses on how to find an integrator and how the visionary and the integrator can successfully work together. As you can surely imagine, it is not easy for a visionary to hand over responsibilities and decisions to the integrator. But this is crucial in order to work successfully together. Only then the integrator can do his job.

Find my interview with one of the authors of Rocket Fuel: Mark C. Winters in this podcast episode:

 

 

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

Author unknown – quote from Africa

LME025 – Leading in times of crisis

Today we will talk about how to lead in times of crisis.

How can you control the chaos? How you can stay calm and positive with in the storm and how can you engage the hearts and minds of your people in tough times.

Sounds interesting? – Read on!

Listen to the podcast version


I am writing this in the beginning of April 2020.

It is unclear whether we are in the middle of the crisis or just at the beginning. Our public life is becoming increasingly restricted due to the corona virus. There are shutdowns, lockdowns and we all have to reduce our social contacts to a minimum.

Governments worldwide are trying to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on healthcare systems to slow down the spread and save time. Will it work? I hope so, but nobody really knows.

What does that mean to us?

How can we control the chaos?

Can we control the chaos?

I believe, you can’t control what comes from outside, but you can control how you react.

Let me give you my 3 ideas how we can deal with the chaos.

1. Self awareness

I believe it is most important that you have a clear understanding of your personal strengths and values. It’s important that you have your own compass heading in the right direction.

You need to be clear on: What do you stand for? What motivates you? What is really important to you? If it is money than think twice.

And I also mean if you think money gives you security. Be careful. How much money do you need? 10.000, 100.000, 1 Mio, 10 Mio? What will happen if we suddenly face an hyper inflation? Your money is gone like that. Will money really help? What happens if you become ill and there aren’t any beds in the ICU’s for you?

I personally believe: What really is important: that’s people. Take care about others. Take an active role and help others especially in times of crisis. So, think about what is most important for you and what do you stand for?

2. Have an infinite mindset

My next impuls I got from Simon Sinek

“Have an infinite mindset! You are in for the long term.”

What does it mean?

Times like this are especially tough for people who love clear structures and high planning security. They love to have a detailed plan and a clear goal, for example reaching sales of 1 million Dollars. That’s the opposite: It is a finite mindset.

In times of crisis this thinking doesn’t help. You need to be much more agil and you need to think in the long run. Having an infinite mindest means that you have aclear why. Why you are doing what you are doing. You know what you stand for and you have a vision. A vision is always emotional and it is vague. It is a great picture of a better future. It is not a clear plan.

In times of crisis this helps a lot. In that way your mind can adapt more quickly and is not bound to your detailed plan. You may work with a short term plan and change depending on the situation, but with your vision you have an understanding where you want to go.

3. Think in scenarios and have contingency plans.

We don’t know, what happens in the near future. But we can think about different scenarios.

What we know can do is to prepare for these different scenarios. We have plans for the different scenarios and we assess the regularly short term, which scenario becomes more likely to happen – and based on that we adapt our actions.

In crisis it matters most how you think and feel. Do you believe you are in survival mode? Or are you in a reinvention mode?

You can ask youself:

“How do I get thru this?”

or you ask:

“How do I gone a change to get thru that?” 

A German collegue of mine – Lars Vollmer – was on spot when he said:

“Change is great – but to be changed is terrible!”

So, in times of crisis it is better to have an active role and accept to change, change what we do, change goals – not the long term vision and change business models.

A good example for this is the German entrepreneur Wolfgang Grupp. A few days ago his company Trigema changed a big part of the production from producing shirts to producing respirators. With this change he helps our healthcare system and it helps his company to survive this crisis.

My piano teacher changed his business model from teaching in school rooms to teaching online.

How can you stay calm and positive with in the storm?

Last Sunday I send an E-Mail to my German E-Mail list of about 8.000 managers and entrepreneurs. I asked them: “What is your biggest challenge today in this crisis?”

Several hundred of them answered with partly very detailed comments.

There were 3 major types of situations they were describing:

  1. The problem working at home and leading out of the home office. This is a struggle, but their jobs are still save.
  2. Right now working around the clock. Very stressful because things inside the company need to be organized. But the company is still doing ok for the next 2-3 months.
  3. Survival mode. These people, mostly entrepreneurs or solopreneurs don’t know how to pay the rent. There business model collapsed. Their sales is zero and they don’t have savings. They don’t know how to proceed with their business in the next weeks.

The more you are in the situation of category 3 the more you need to stay calm and positive in order to be able to see opportunities and in order to find other business models.

For them I have the following tips, I try to use for myself as well.

Get enough sleep!

Sounds obvious, but is so important: “Get enough sleep!” Only then, you are able to think properly.

Take an active role.

Don’t stay passive. Even if you think everything collapses, stay in the driver seat. That means have a clear structure or your day. Get up at the same time.

Don’t watch Netflix all the time. Help others. Work on things which you always wanted to do. Get in touch with others.

Stay focused.

Don’t listen to the news all the time. Habe maybe 1 hour a day to watch the news and scroll your facebook feed, but then stop that. Go to work or do something productive.

Regularly take your time to keep the overview. Where do you stand? Think about the different scenarios and watch out for opportunities. Then go back to work, focusing and and talking with others to get inspired.

And on last impulse her:

“Things are mostly not as bad as they seem!

How you can engage the hearts and minds of your people?


During a crisis like this, there is uncertainty. And for many people uncertainty leads to fear.

Fear that relatives could get infected, fear of losing the job. What is going to happen? What is going to happen to me now, to my family?

In addition, there are all sorts of news: special programs on TV, real news as well as fake news on social media channels and, and, and. Uncertainty and fear are growing.

In fact, nobody knows what’s coming. Will the crisis be over in 2-3 months and everything goes back to normal? Or will it take years and there will be a great depression like in the 30s?

Nobody knows. Everyone is looking for answers.

What do your employees need the most?

So what do your employees need the most now – in this situation?

It’s trust. Trust in you as a manager. Trust that you take on responsibility, that you speak openly and honestly, and trust that you make decisions to the best of your knowledge and belief and that you are there for your employees.

How can you build trust now?

Take care of your employees. If possible, speak to each of your employees.

It is about dealing with fear and uncertainty and stilling your employees fears wherever possible.

Ask your employees how they are doing, what they need right now. If you work at your home office, make a call or skype.

Take the time to respond to fears, whether private or work related. I know it’s not easy, especially when you don’t know how to proceed. When you are afraid and feel insecure yourself.

Now it is important for you not to hide and not to stay in the background. Take on the role of the one who leads, who helps others. If you actively take on this role, it will also help you to better deal with your fears.

Explain to your employees what your view on the situation is and which decisions you are making or will be making and above all: explain why you do these things.

What matters now?

  1. Don’t shy away from telling the truth. Don’t beat around the bush.
  2. Only promise things that you can keep.
  3. Be totally clear about what you know and what you don’t. At the moment everyone is looking for answers.
  4. Explain scenarios: With regard to the future, explain possible scenarios and how you and the company are likely to respond to them. Also clearly state what that would mean for your employees. Don’t downplay the situation.
  5. Take responsibility for your decisions.

What does taking responsibility mean?

You are now making a decision to the best of your knowledge and belief. In retrospect, it can turn out to be wrong decision. That can happen, but it is always better than not making a decision at all.

The important thing is: take responsibility for your decision but also apologize afterwards:

“Yes, I made the wrong decision ..”

Stay optimistic.

Try to be a bastion of calm.

If you act like this, then you are credible. Then you have a great chance that your employees will trust you. If you are totally clear about what is going on when you address the fears, it will help your employees to deal better with fear and uncertainty.

Are all of your employees going to trust you this way?

Probably not. In a time of crisis we can distinguish between 3 types of employees:

1. Promoters

There are employees who have always put complete trust in you. They are your promoters. They think the same way you do and they have the subjective conviction that you are doing or will do exactly the right thing.

2. Skeptics and doubters

The second category, those are skeptics and doubters. They are unsure as to what extend they can trust you. It is particularly important to get these employees on board with you and to convince them that they can trust you during this crisis.

3. Opponents

Theoretically, you can do whatever you want. You will never convince them that you are the right person, that you are doing the right thing and that you can be trusted.

If you work in a small company and have a good working atmosphere, there is a good chance that you will not have a Category 3 employee. This is unlikely in larger organizations.

You will have to deal with all three categories, but focus on the Skeptics and Doubters.

If you want to be a leader…

If you’re a leader, don’t hide, but take responsibility. Help your employees and be the one they can trust. In times of crisis the true character of a person is revealed – or, put it that way, a crisis builds the character.

 

The inspiring quotes

“Everything is going to be fine in the end. If it’s not fine, then it’s not the end.”

Fernando Sabino

LME014/015 Leadership Mistakes! The Top Ten and how to avoid them!

Leadership mistakes happen. People make mistakes. Nobody is perfect. But the main thing is to realize your mistakes, analyze them, and then try to change your behavior to avoid making them again in the future.

But that is easier said than done. When trying to improve, the first step is decisive: You have to realize your own mistakes.

Listen to the podcast versions

That is why today I would like to share with you the WORST 10 leadership mistakes. Probably many of the mistakes will already be familiar to you. Perhaps you remember some of your own bosses who you had to endure.

But more importantly, think about whether you, as manager, have made these mistakes yourself. I have made a few of these mistakes as manager. The effects they can have on employee motivation can be devastating.

Leadership MistakesSo let us take a closer look: Here are the WORST 10 leadership mistakes, which you should watch out for and avoid:

No 1 of the top leadership mistakes: Avoiding making decisions!

Decisions need to be carefully considered. But to wait as long as possible because of this, until you think you have every last bit of information, is usually the wrong way to go. Accept the fact that you, as manager and leader, must make decisions even when you don’t have a complete overview because you still haven’t got all the facts.

As leaders and entrepreneur you need to make swift and clear decisions, and you have to live with the risk of making the wrong decision.

One of my bosses once laid it out for me really clearly:

“As manager you bear all the risks in the decision! So let’s make one thing clear: To be a manager means accepting that you can get fired!”

The higher you are in the hierarchy, the more unpleasant the decisions that you must make will be. Some examples which come to mind are firing employees or shutting down plants, for example.

If you continually put off making decisions because of anxiety or for political reasons – if you even keep out of sight of your employees and simply don’t reply to emails on the subject anymore – then you will frustrate and demotivate your employees, especially those who are very motivated and committed.

As manager it is your job to make the decision.
What are you like? Do you avoid making decisions?

2 Being non-committal!

Many managers don’t trust themselves to tell it like it really is. They don’t want to commit themselves. They want to keep all options open.

Their non-committal nature can often be recognized in their speech. Phrases get mangled, and weak expressions are used, such as:

  • Synergy effects
  • A new-orientation to bring things into focus
  • Proactive downsizing

Some of these managers don’t even notice anymore that they only emit meaningless mumbo-jumbo – but their employees sure do!

That’s why I say don’t skirt around the subject. As manager you want to be understood. Get to the point. Commit yourself. Formulate goals clearly and tell your colleagues exactly what you expect from them. Be decisive and dependable, because that will make you consistent!

Are you decisive and consistent?

3 Not listening!

Many misunderstandings in daily exchanges can be prevented, if only managers would take the time to simply pay attention.

Why do managers find it so difficult to listen actively?

I believe it is for the following reason: Most managers want to be perceived as active doers. I know that because I went down this path! It#s a very common leadership mistake. Often, activity seems to give you a supposed feeling of being in control. In contrast, listening is wrongly equated with passivity and subordination. That’s why many managers concentrate more on speaking than on listening. After all, the boss has the final say.

But: People who don’t listen and pay attention are more likely to make the wrong decisions!

Unfortunately, many people only listen briefly and form their own opinion much too early on. The technical term for this is “premature assessment”. Many managers suffer from making premature assessments. They form judgments on statements by their staff much too quickly.

But when they do that they are not actually really listening to their staff. They are already engrossed in their own ideas for solving problems, and don’t even take the time to really understand the problem and the point of view of their staff. When this happens, misunderstandings and wrong decisions are inevitable.

Do you listen enough? Or do you judge and react even while your people are still speaking? Click here to learn more about how to become a better listener.

4 Micromanaging!

Micromanagement is a classic example of demotivating manager behavior. The micromanager assigns tasks and then controls them in minute detail, without permitting his subordinates to participate in decision-making. The manager not only specifies the goal, but also the detailed plan of how to achieve it.

By their behavior, micromanagers demonstrate their lack of trust in their subordinates. This frustrates, demotivates, and paralyzes subordinates’ ability to think on their own.

Do you want to know if you have micromanagement tendencies? Then answer the following questions:

  • In every project do you constantly have to have an overview?
  • Do you want to know everything in detail for every project?
  • Can you take responsibility for all the work of your subordinates yourself?
  • Do you believe that you, as manager, know more and can do more than your subordinates?
  • Do you suffer from email overload?

If you answer even one of these questions with yes, then you should take a closer look at whether you are micromanaging in your daily work.

Ask your staff if you allow them enough freedom to do their work. If not, learn how to delegate instead of only controlling.

5 A conceited view of yourself!

Managers don’t have much time. Their schedules are hectic because they have a lot to get done. They are very committed, and bustle from meeting to meeting. Ultimately they are really important, after all things would collapse without them.

That is why they often think that they can take the liberty of doing things that their subordinates would never do, such as coming to a meeting too late (after all, there was that critical telephone conversation with a major customer…). Such managers also have so much to do that they naturally think they must read their emails while a colleague holds a presentation. But woe unto the employee who reads his/her emails during a meeting while the boss explains the new company strategy!

Some bosses are so important and have so much to do that there is no area where they don’t try to save time, even when it comes to saying please and thank you. After all, they can streamline things even more by leaving out the formalities, can’t they? And when the stress becomes unbearable, one has to accept that a guy just has to fly off the handle sometimes – which can get pretty unpredictable!

If you demonstrate through your actions to your staff that “I am important, you are not so important!”, how do you think that will affect their motivation? How would you feel?

You have to act as a role model first for whatever you demand from others. It is important to treat your staff like you yourself want to be treated. Do you do that?

6 Acting unfairly and unjustly!

Fairness is an important basis for a good company culture, but some managers seem to forget this in the midst of hectic day-to-day activities. They are so pre-occupied with themselves and their work that they don’t take the time to put themselves in the position of their staff.

Often they are not even aware of how they hurt their subordinates with their conduct and words. This happens, for example, when the boss gives preference to a few favorite staff members by giving them all the interesting projects. Or if an employee makes a mistake and the boss gives him/her a dressing down in front of the whole group. Such behavior is unjust and unfair, and that is exactly how it is perceived by all the other employees. This leads to frustration and demotivation among them.

A really critical issue is remuneration. It is very important that the boss behaves justly and fairly.This is especially true in the case of the salary. Don’t be stingy when determining payment.

The salaries you pay must be appropriate and plausible. That is especially true in the case of the internal salary structure.

More important than the actual amount of the salary is the relation of salaries to one another. Are the differences in the salaries of your colleagues fair? Imagine if the salaries would be revealed for all to see. Would you be able to explain in good conscience the differences in the salaries of all your employees? Are these differences in salary justified?

If you are convinced that performance based bonus and performance based salaries is a good idea, you better read this post: “What you ought to know about performance based bonus“.

7 Not standing by your word!

Leadership only works with trust. But trust is something you have to earn. The only way to build trust is to actually do that which you also say.

If you make a promise, then keep it! Not only in the big things, but especially in the small things. If you tell your colleague you will forward the report in an email today, then he/she should get it today, and not tomorrow! After all, you promised this. What you have said is your word of honor!

Have you ever heard this typical sentence;

“Especially now, in the current crisis, we need to communicate credibility”?

What nonsense. You don’t have to communicate credibility. 
You must be credible!

Take a clear stand; keep your promises – and as manager you need to act consistently.

You will lose your credibility very quickly when people expect something of you and you let them down. That’s why you shouldn’t make any promises that you can’t or don’t want to keep! Building trust takes time. But you can lose people’s trust in a matter of seconds!

How credible are you?

8 Only trusting numbers, data, and facts!

Another typical leadership mistake you should avoid by all means. If something goes wrong in your company, don’t only concentrate on numbers, data and facts. You have to really get to the bottom of things. But you can only do that if you understand the underlying emotions and motivations of people, and to do this you need to ask questions and listen – but you have to do it right.

Especially in the case of difficult colleagues, it is important to understand their emotions and motivations. Why does the colleague behave exactly like this? How does he/she see the matter? What is his/her view of reality?

Avoid drawing premature conclusions. When you convey respect you will gain trust. This way you can gather valuable information, assess the situation better, and thus avoid misunderstandings.

Do you only trust numbers, data, and facts?

9 Demanding zero mistakes!

The new manager who was just hired just made a fatally bad decision. This bad decision will cost the company a million dollars.

The company owner then calls him in for a meeting. With head lowered and sagging shoulders, the manager enters the owner’s office.

“I expect you are going to fire me.”

But the owner replies:

“Do you think I’m crazy? After I just invested a million dollars in your training?”

This anecdote wonderfully highlights how managers should deal with the mistakes of their colleagues.

Mistakes are permitted – as long as one learns from them and doesn’t make the exact same mistake a second time. Demanding zero mistakes is absurd. Everyone makes mistakes – me and you too, just as much as your employees. Managers who demand zero mistakes, get zero mistakes, too. That is because either their staff don’t report mistakes anymore or because they act according to the following saying:

“If you work a lot you make a lot of mistakes.
But if you don’t work a lot you only make a few mistakes.
And if you don’t work at all you don’t make any mistakes!”

Do you really want your staff to make no mistakes?

We all are human beings and we learn by making mistakes. Noone wants to be treated by a “Darth Vader Boss”.

How can you as a leader create a failure tolerant culture without allowing your employees to make lots of mistakes? Mistakes which may compromise safety and security of your company?

In this video I’d like to give you 3 tips on how to deal with employees making too many mistakes:

10 Giving employees no opportunities to develop!

Most people want to improve. They want to develop themselves. They want to grow and become better at what they do.

Naturally, you should give your employees an opportunity to take extra training and learn new things. But if you really want to help your employees to improve, you shouldn’t set any unrealistic goals, and you should put them to work according to their skills and strengths.

Feedback is extremely important. People need criticism and praise. Anyone who wants to improve him or herself needs sincere, constructive feedback. As manager you should recognize the work of your colleagues in a sincere way, and give them constructive feedback.

Do you do that? Do you support the development of your employees, in their efforts to improve themselves?

 

BONUS: 3 ways how employee motivation gets destroyed!

This video is a bonus for you: As a leader don’t focus on motivating your employees but take care that you don’t demotivate them!

 

The inspiring quotes

“In some South Pacific cultures, a speaker holds a conch shell as a symbol of temporary position of authority. Leaders must understand who holds the conch—that is, who should be listened to and when.”

Max de Pree

 

“True intuitive expertise is learned from prolonged experience with good feedback on mistakes.”

Daniel Kahnemann

LME008 – Performance Based Bonus – What you ought to know about it.

Performance based bonus

Performance based bonus:
image: zastavkin/ resource: www.bigstock.com

Does a performance based bonus really work?

Of course, as a manager and entrepreneur you are constantly looking for new ways to improve your operation. Your employee’s job is to support this and to pull on the same string with you.

For this reason, nearly all large companies pay their managers performance based bonuses.

Their annual income is split into a fixed and a variable portion. The company intends to motivates with the variable compensation. Therefore, they link it to the attainment of individual objectives.

Listen to the podcast episode

 

Does performance based bonus work for small companies?

You may now be asking yourself:

“Should we not also pay our sales team performance based bonuses? There must be something to it since all the other successful large companies are doing this as well.”

Wait a minute. First, let’s take a look and see whether variable compensation truly delivers on its promise:

Objectives of performance based salaries

Variable compensation is often referred to as performance based salary or performance related pay. What is the underlying idea behind it?

The company or the supervisor and the employee agree to objectives. The intent is to get the employee focused on the objectives.

To ensure this, the company only pays a portion of the employees income if he attains his objectives. The company hopes to motivate the employee into acting in the company’s interests.

If he is particularly diligent, he can even outperform his objective. The employee then receives even more than 100% of the agreed to variable income portion.

The proponents of performance related pay primarily list the following benefits:

  • The variable portion motivates the employees.
  • The company pays the employees for performance.
  • Compensation management effort costs little, but gets good returns.

Do you also believe that variable compensation allows you to get more out of your employees? Well, let’s take a look at this in detail:

Employee motivation

I find it astonishing that companies feel that they need to motivate their employees to act in the interests of the company. I thought, the employee has an employment contract. In this contract he signed the obligation to perform this service. The company pays him his salary for it.

Now the company assumes that the employee is likely to only perform a portion of his productive output. The company’s position is that the employee will not honor his contract. Why would the company even employ someone who is very likely to not honor his contract?

Compensation structures in large companies

But it gets even more confusing:
Let’s take a look at the compensation structure in a large cooperation. This is how it works:

The higher the employee within the hierarchy, the higher their income, and the higher is also their performance based pay.

For instance, the variable income portion of a department head is typically between 10% to 20%.

However, the variable income portion of an Executive Board member can be 50% or more.

Watch my YouTube video on performance based salary of managers:

Motivation of CEOs

Performance based bonus for a CEO?

Performance based compensation for CEOs? Photo: goodynewshoes/ Resource www.bigstock.com

It gets even more extreme for the variable portion of a Chief Executive Officer working for a company listed on the stock market. The stock options and other bonus payments are in the millions.

Come on: Does somebody like that really have to be motivated to do his job properly in order to honor his contract? Is this truly necessary?

Amazing: The CEO already earns a base income of EUR 500,000 and still has to be “motivated” with a variable income portion, stock options and other bonus payments to the tune of several million dollars.

Please do not take this the wrong way: The company should generously compensate the CEO  if he is doing a good job. This should even be several million EUROS.

But a person like that does not have to be motivated! Either, he is intrinsically motivated, or he should be sent to hell!

Motivating lower-level employees

They are doing an outstanding job – although their organisations only pay a small fraction compared to the base pay of a CEO. Never mind a bonus and variable income portion.

Performance based bonus for elderly care takers?

Elderly caretakers are not paid performance based!
Photo: alexraths/ Resource: www.bigstock.com

What’s about the motivation of nurses, elderly caretakers, police men or soldiers? To the best of my knowledge variable income portions don’t motivate these people. Much more likely, these people are frequently highly motivated on their own.

As an aside: Even Presidents and Cabinet Secretaries are not motivated by variable income portions. That would really be beyond the pale!

Agree to objectives

During my 9 years as an employed Managing Director in a large international industrial cooperation, my compensation also included a variable component. My employees as well were paid based on performance.

Originally, I too was convinced that this performance based salary is fair and correct. But over time I became increasingly suspicious that something wasn’t working properly:

At the beginning of each year, I had a long meetings and objective discussions with each of my department heads. The meetings were always very important to me. Ultimately, we wanted to use these discussions to jointly paint a picture of the future, and to explore the options for the company’s and department’s direction. The idea was to find out what is feasible. The objectives from this were intended to be challenging but attainable.

The discussions actually went quite well with several employees. But in many cases the meetings were difficult because the employees sandbagged the objectives. They were not genuinely interested in finding out what was possible, and to set motivating objectives. Instead, they wanted to lower the bar for their personal objectives, in order to be assured of a maximum income with the least amount of effort.

Objective discussions turn into income negotiations

The more of these employee discussions I conducted, the clearer it became to me:

If an employee has a variable income portion,
every objective discussion is also an income negotiation.

This is counterproductive. As soon as the own income depends on objectives, most people are not motivated to even consider challenging objectives. I don’t even blame them. This is ultimately not in their interest. It even violates their underlying personal goals.

Employees become income optimizers!

Today, I am convinced that tying variable income to personal objectives is a waste. It frequently demotivates employees. In many cases, this linkage even has a more negative impact.

Let me tell you a terrific example for the damaging effect of a well intended objective that is coupled to income:

The Executive Board for a large telephone company issued a new customer bonus. Sales employees were to receive an additional bonus if they generated sales revenues with new customers.

What did the salespeople do? They prompted their long-standing customers to cancel the contracts, in order to sign them up as new customers. Instead of focusing on actual new business, they preferred to benefit from easily realized pseudo-new business.

When you create financial incentives you should not be surprised if your employees do not focus on the company’s success, but rather on how to maximize the incentive.

When bonus systems can be useful

The expectation of a bonus is only motivating and purposeful when routine assignments are processed according to 3 points:

  • Simple rules apply.
  • A clear-cut objective is set.
  • The path is clearly described and easily understood.

But this is rarely the case especially in todays world. Here, you need employees who are creative, who think on their own feet and contribute, accept ownership, and are reliable.

You therefore need employees who are self-motivated, i.e. intrinsically motivated. They need to understand the purpose of their work. You should therefore not attempt to increase employee motivation with a compensation scheme! The individual sense of purpose will fall by the wayside. Do not attempt to compensate for deficient leadership by means of a compensation scheme!

How should you structure an alternative compensation scheme?

Treat your employees fairly and pay fairly and avoid common leadership mistakes.

Especially in a small company, you don’t need a complicated compensation scheme for this. All you need is common sense and empathy.

Take the following rules to heart regarding your employee’s incomes:

  • Lead with objectives, but don’t tie the income to the objectives!
  • Agree to a fixed income that correlates with the employee’s performance!
  • If the employee demonstrates consistently good performance, you can increase his income!
  • If the employee consistently underperforms in spite of support, you should reduce his income or separate from the employee.
  • At the end of the year, pay a bonus to all employees if the company made good profits. If the company is doing well, then the employees should participate in this. That is fair. If the company is doing poorly, then it is also clear that a bonus cannot be paid.

LME001 – What is leadership and how can you find time for it?


 

If somebody asked you to explain what is leadership? How would you respond?

It’s hard, right? The concept of leadership is vague – and the funny thing is as long as we don’t have a good definition how can we talk about leadership?

What is leadership?

What is leadership?Let me give you my definition of leadership. For me, leadership means defining where to go. Who leads deals with the future of the company and with the people in the company.

If you are  in leadership mode, you work on the vision of your company, you formulate goals and strategies. You reflect on innovation, positioning and customer benefits. You improve the processes in your company. And most important: You talk to and with your employees, you discuss, inform and inspire. All this is leadership.

If you are only managing

In recent years I’ve seen many managers who work hard – but they are unable to execute because they are trapped in their day to day work. These managers often feel frustrated and demotivated.

If you are in such a situation you start feeling like in a rat race. You work and work, but nothing important gets done. Your company is not growing, sales are stagnating and the mood of your workforce is low.

The reason for this is often, that most executives focus on management but not on leadership. They manage a lot but they don’t lead.

What is managing?

If you manage you focus on processes, you don’t work on the future and you don’t focus on people: You have no time for it. Managing is more about day-to-day business, administration, resource allocation, budgeting, costs and risk management, control, keeping deadlines. There is no time for other things. Numbers, data, facts! Pam!

Don’t get me wrong. Of course you have to do both: you can’t just lead. You have to lead and manage. But as a leader – above all – it is your job to keep track of the big picture. You have to deal with the future direction of your business and with taking care of your people.

If you don’t lead, who does?

I know many CEOs and managing directors who work around the clock and still feel they don’t really do their job. Many are trapped in the rat race of day-to-day operations.

They work a lot, but don’t take enough time for the real leadership tasks. Are you one of them?

The problem for most managers

The question is, why is that? Why do a lot of managers deal with so much operational stuff and administrative work instead of focusing on the most important tasks: leadership? I admit, that I also struggled myself with this problem for a long time.

This isn’t just a problem of CEO’s and managing directors. It doesn’t matter if you are a group leader, a team leader or if you were just promoted into your first managing role. Every manager seems to have more work to do than he has time for.

In my view, there are several reasons why managers think they don’t have time for leadership. The biggest challenge can be summarized in one sentence:

Leadership is important, but rarely urgent!

Developing a business strategy, talking to an employee, discussing the vision statement, thinking about customer benefits or improving processes – these leadership tasks are important, but they are not urgent.

If you develop the strategy today or only tomorrow, will not be a big difference. If you have this one-on-one meeting with your direct report today or only later next week, this doesn’t change the bottom profit line, does it?

In contrast, management tasks are usually urgent and have a deadline. But are they always that important? Not really.

Why is that so?

Management tasks are determined by others and they have normally a due date – a deadline. For example, the tax office needs documents at a given deadline, the participation in a trade fair must be decided until the end of the month. A customer urgently needs an offer by this evening. All these tasks have deadlines which were defined by someone else.

On the other hand, leadership tasks are generally self-determined and have no fixed date – at least, if you don’t define one.

Most people – and managers are no exception – have a tendency to focus on urgent tasks with a deadline and postpone tasks, which are really important, but not urgent.

Important or urgent? What is leadership?

As a result, many executives realize at the end of the day that they worked only on urgent tasks. This means that they didn’t find time to work on any leadership tasks. Too bad!

“But there are such a lot of urgent management tasks. They need to be done! They are all urgent and important.”

Really? Yes, a management task normally has a deadline. But keep in mind: Mostly this just means that someone else made it urgent. You may argue, that this management task is urgent and important, but very often it’s important for someone else – not necessarily for you.

If you’re a manager you should –  on a daily basis – question, if and what kind of management tasks you have to do. Ask yourself everytime: Is it really necessary to do it? If yes: Is it necessary that I do it? If you can delegate then do so. I know this can be difficult sometimes and we will talk about how to delegate successfully in one of the following episodes: “LME002 – How to delegate successfully”.

But for now: Keep in mind, that management tasks don’t need to be done by yourself. You need time for the important leadership tasks.

Is leadership really so important?

This question often comes up when managers are convinced that facts and figures are most important in business. I agree that facts and figures are important but you miss out if you only focus on them.

What about the vision and the purpose of your company or your department? Not important? Be careful. Some managers think that the purpose of any company is easy to define. It is clearly to make profit. What else?

In my opinion, these managers are wrong. They have never experienced how motivating a big vision can be, how important values are and that the ultimate purpose of a company is not to make a profit. No, the purpose of a company is to create customer benefit and then the profit will come.

We will talk about this in one of the next podcast episodes. If you want to be successful, it’s important that you have a clear answer to the question

“Why? – Why does your company exist?”

and your answer should not be just to earn money.

Only when managers have a clear vision and a bigger goal, they can communicate with their employees in a way that they carry their employees along. If they do, their employees work on the right things. Why? Because then your employees  know what is important. They understand what ‘s expected from them and only then will your employees be able to work independently. A true leader has a clear vision.

The problem is that managers often don’t believe this.

“Independently working employees? Forget it. Employees need to be told what to do in detail. Otherwise nothing gets done.”

The problem with micromanagement

That’s why this kind of managers are often at the mercy of “micromanagement“. Frustrated, they complain about the demotivation and inability of their employees. But they don’t understand: it’s their own fault.

If you don’t take the time to think and talk about vision, strategy and goals, how can your employees work towards these goals? How can they make decisions in your interest, if they don’t know your expectations?

That’s why you need to find the time for leadership.

3 tips how to find more time for leadership

You know by now, what is leadership. Here are three helpful tips to find more time for leadership.

Tip 1:    Track your time.

If you want more time for leadership in your daily work, you first need to be aware of how much time you are currently spending on it.

Most managers only have a very vague idea of ​​how much time they really spend on leadership. We all often underestimate the hours we spend with unproductive management instead of leading.

That’s why you should determine daily how many hours you have spent on leadership and how many on day-to-day management or on normal work.

You only have to log two numbers at the end of the day. Not more! Do this for 2 weeks and you have a good idea how much time you really spend on leadership.

Even if you managed all day long, if you write it down at the end of the day, you will at least realize that you did not spent any time on leadership that day. Realizing is the first step toward improving.

Just log your time. It costs you nothing but 2 min max at the end of the day. And it’s worth it. Just write it down on a piece of paper: How much time did you spend on leadership and how much time did you spend on management?

Tip 2:    Set yourself a goal.

Set yourself a measurable goal. What percentage of your working time do you want to spend on management tasks over the next 3 months? This motivates yourself. But don’t overdo it. If you have only spent 10% of your time for leadership, it will probably be difficult to reach 50% in the short term. However, an increase from 10 % to 20 % is quite realistic.

Experience shows that there is no point in planning significantly more time for leadership tasks as early as next week. Your schedule is so full, it’s hard for you to make it. Therefore, set yourself the target for a 3-month period. By the way: When you have reached your goal, reward yourself. You deserve it.

Tip 3:    Make important tasks urgent.

Since leadership is usually important but not urgent, we postpone it. Therefore, let’s outwit ourselves. Set fixed deadlines for leadership tasks in your planning and put them into your calender and your ToDo List. This automatically makes your leadership tasks urgent.

But sometimes you may find that this is not enough. After all, the appointment is self-determined and not determined by others.

In such cases it helps if you commit yourself to others. For example if you’ve always wanted to work on the important strategy for your company, you promise to present the results to your employees at the end of next month. Here’s the deal: a deadline for your important leadership task, which you just made urgent. It goes without saying that you must keep this promise. Stand up to your word. Through scheduling and commitment to others, you make an important leadership task urgent and the likelihood increases that you will actually complete this task on time.

 

This should help you to get started with leading more and managing less.

 

The inspiring quote

“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”

Peter F. Drucker

 

Best funny leadership videos! Enjoy and have a good laugh!

Funny LeadershipMaybe you think, that there is no funny leadership. But I believe your are wrong.

Laughter helps you to cope with stress, conflicts and pain. That’s why a leader should have a good sense of humour.

Nothing works faster to bring your mind and body back into balance than a good laugh. Laugh at yourself. That’s best.

Remember Monty Python’s song:
Always Look on the Bright Side of Life“?:

“…You’ll see it’s all a show.
Keep ’em laughing as you go.
Just remember that the last laugh is on you.”

Laughter promotes performance

Not only your own performance gets better, but also that of your entire team. Various studies have shown that people who have humour generally appear more likeable and are perceived as more competent.

Humour improves the working atmosphere, which leads to better functioning of work processes.

Better dealing with difficult situations

Managers who humorously defuse difficult situations enjoy great acceptance. Using humour as a means of communication in everyday work is a strategy for success. Because studies show wherever people laugh, employees feel comfortable and work is usually more and better.

Laughter, joy and happiness are terms that convey a positive and satisfied view of the world. People who surround themselves with a humorous aura are always perceived as positive by others.

Funny Leadership Videos

Below you’ll find the business videos on YouTube I find most funny. Enjoy and have a good laugh!

Sales are up

Truth is not really welcome in some companies.

Change Management

You can be certain: Your employees want to support your company.
But if you want an organizational change you have to explain correctly what you want.

Back Up Strategy

Can you really rely on your back up strategy?

Video Conferences

Leadership is not about technology, it’s about people.
Most managers have the employees they deserve.

Team Work I

Isn’t it amazing what you can do with a great team?

Team Work II

An example of bad team work:

Thinking outside of the box

Brainstorming solutions

How to avoid Death by Powerpoint

What makes a good business presentation? Should you use Powerpoint?  This video is for you, if you ask how to give a great business presentation.

Do you want to know how real leadership works?