“We have to move away from the belief that people are born with “IT”, and recognize that we all possess unique abilities and gifts to create our own brand of executive presence.”
Are you receiving feedback that you need executive presence? Are you being told what “IT” is, and how “IT” should look?
If you are like most, it is unlikely that you are getting specific direction as to the changes you need to make. Or you may believe executive presence is unattainable as you are not an executive.
In a world that is constantly trying to conform you to somebody else’s ideal image, often times it is far too easy to fall into the trap of being dissatisfied with who you are and your own unique and inherent abilities.
This is why, as an executive coach, I have focused my energy on making “IT” or Executive Presence, accessible to everyone, without their having to become someone they are not. In other words, I have successfully worked with people to empower them to find their executive presence within the framework of their authentic self.
With this month’s eNewsletter, I will help you to lay the foundation for building your executive presence, so that you will shine in your own right.
In Your Own Right . . . The Right Way
“If your brand truly reflects your personal values and aligns with your goals (not someone else’s vision of who and what you should be), you will have created a magical harmony from within and will present a unified and sustaining image that will neither disappoint nor surprise but instead endure.”
The above is an excerpt from my book The Future Of You: Creating Your Enduring Brand.
At its core, executive presence is the ability to know yourself. It is the ability to understand what drives you and the things for which you are willing to work. This is not about smoke and mirrors but honing in on the ability to be your own best PR manager.
Action Item 1: Recognize What Executive Presence Actually Is
“Executive presence is a special quality that captivates others to follow you and inspires allegiance and devotion. It paves the way to personal leadership and is earned rather than appointed.”
Some have suggested that the definition of executive presence is mysterious and subject to personal interpretation. After all, what is this “special quality” that some seem to have, while others don’t? It is as if it is left to chance, as opposed to being the result of a tangible effort.
However, the fact is that you don’t start off with executive presence, you earn it.
In other words, executive presence is not something you are born with; it is the result of making a conscious decision to invest in the management of your reputation and having the courage to step-up and stand out.
Like the person who regularly works out at the gym and is in great physical shape, creating your own executive presence requires your time, energy and full commitment. There are no shortcuts, but the returns or rewards are significant IF you are willing to put in the required effort.
Ready to make the commitment? Here are a few things you must do to get the ball rolling:
- Identify your passion. Be brutally honest with yourself. Do you believe in what you are doing and do you have a passion for being the best at it? You need to follow your heart and invest time in doing what you love.
- Set yourself apart. Determine what it is that makes you unique and different from someone else. This could relate to your style of clothing, your emotional intelligence, your expertise, your interpersonal skills or your readiness to initiate change.
- Build greater self-awareness of how others perceive your executive presence. Conduct market research and seek feedback from trusted advisors/confidantes/sponsors who will tell you the truth.
- Choose those behaviors that support your “best” self and identify success pillars along the way.
Action Item 2: Look The Part
In today’s fast paced business world, we are being forced to form quick first impressions. Whether fair or not, we tend to stereotype people. You need to ensure that you are not giving off mixed messages.
I know that the term dress for success has been used to the point of becoming almost superfluous, even irrelevant. But do not underestimate its importance.
I absolutely believe that executive presence begins with the cover – as in the cover of a book. It is an outside-in proposition, in which the way you present yourself in both your dress and body language is critical.
If the book cover is shabby, bland, generic, it will present an ineffectual image that will, regardless of the power of the message within its pages, make it invisible and dispensable.
However, if the cover is compelling, attractive, unique and current, then people will be moved to pick it up and to open it. This means that you have to manage perceptions. Above all, do not allow titles or positions to intimidate or distract you. Regardless of whether someone is a CEO or VP, you deserve to be seen and heard.
The following tips will enable you to not only gauge how people see you, but also what you need to do to put the right face to your executive presence.
- Be aware of the subliminal messages your body language is sending. Are you open and inviting, or withdrawn and closed? When you fold your arms in front of your body, you form a barrier between you and the other person. This can be perceived as defensive or scared. In contrast, leaving your arms unfolded and maintaining steady eye contact will make others feel welcome.
- When entering a room, walk with purpose and smile, raising your chin slightly to project confidence and approachability.
- Strike a pose. Stand tall with your feet slightly apart when you are engaging others or presenting at a meeting. This pose makes you look bigger and stops you from looking timid. Even if you don’t feel confident, you will feel and look more powerful.
- Don’t wait for someone to come up to you before introducing yourself. Instead, be the first one to reach your hand out to meet someone new. Always shake hands for the length of time it takes to know the color of the person’s eyes and repeat their name.
- Dress for the job you want. If you don’t look the part of a leader, you’re not likely to be given the role.
- While you do not have to wear the latest fashions from Paris, or look like you just stepped out from the cover of GQ, your professional dress should reflect a crisp and clean look and feel.
- Your style should be both current and aligned with your environment. Do not make a statement by dressing or looking radically different from everyone else. The boardroom is no place for purple hair or unconventional clothing.
- Grooming counts as much as clothing. Invest in a good stylist who understands how you want to be perceived. Beards should be trimmed appropriately.
Action Item 3: GET VISIBILITY
“Decide what you want. Believe that you’ll get it. Live as if you already have it
Like the muscles in your body that may be hidden, only to emerge after you begin to really exercise, you already have within you executive presence.
It may be hidden beneath years of uncertainty and career compromises, but it is there within you as it is within a Richard Branson, or a Michelle Obama. In short, rebrand yourself by creating your own publicity campaign, without needing to stand on a soapbox or copy these examples.
This is not to suggest that you need to be aggressively self-promoting, but you do have to be noticed. You may not crave recognition, however, working hard outside of the spotlight often results in being taken for granted or not being given credit for your ideas. If you’re not in people’s thoughts, then you’ll be passed up for new projects, additional responsibilities or promotions.
Let’s look at some strategies that you can use to get noticed in the workplace.
- Move from being a generalist to a strategist. Think strategically about what types of skills your organization needs. Expand these skills, as the more knowledgeable and skillful you become in a particular area, the more likely you are to be appreciated for your work.
- Speak up in the first ten minutes at a meeting. If you are not a subject matter expert, come prepared with a thought provoking question to show that you are present.
- Create a networking navigation plan that will give you the visibility to decision makers and influencers.
- Build a network of “allies” who can help you get assigned to interesting, significant, or eye-catching projects.
- Ask your boss to assign you to a project where you can “rock” and bring in the results that will set you up for success and recognition from leadership.
- Get involved in your company’s charities where you can expand your relationships to include the senior leaders with whom you may not normally have access.
Many Paths To The Same Destination
While the action items listed above are by no means the complete list of steps for creating your own unique brand of executive presence, it is a good place to start.
That said, there is one final point that I would like to make . . . there is no “one way” to achieve presence unless you have a game plan.
However, a solid game plan must recognize the fact that everyone is at a different place or stage, and therefore will need to focus on the development of different traits. Or to put it another way, one size does not fit all.
In the end, there are many varied and diverse paths to achieving executive presence. It is reflected in how you navigate your career to make a difference, your willingness to challenge the status quo, as well as your ability to inspire others to follow you.
As such, and in the words of Greg Anderson who wrote the book 22 Non-Negotiable Laws of Wellness “Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.”
Wishing you success at projecting your “IT”,
Marshall Goldsmith, leadership coach
As the boss, you are in charge.
Your word and direction carry the weight and influence to ensure that what you need done, gets done!
If only the world were that straight forward and neatly packaged. But it isn’t.
Simply being the boss isn’t going to be enough with regard to getting the most from your employees – especially those who consistently present a challenge. Or to quote Marshall Goldsmith, “people become invested in defending their dysfunctions rather than changing them.” Expanding upon these words of wisdom, I believe that you cannot get someone to fix a problem they don’t believe they have!
You can probably recall how, on maybe more than one occasion, you were put in the difficult position of having to deal with a problem employee.
What did you do? How did you handle the situation? Is the employee still with you?
If you could do it all over again what, if anything, would you have done differently?
Regret Or Relief
One thing is certain, if you look back on the experience with regret or, are still trying to get a handle on what happened, it will ultimately have a negative impact in terms of how you will deal with a problem employee in the future.
Ironically, the same may also apply if you were relieved when a problem employee left.
In either of the above instances, there wasn’t a satisfactory resolution, just an ending.
So how do you turn a difficult or underperforming employee into a productive contributor on your team?
In this month’s eNewsletter, I will provide you with the 3 essential tips on how to become a coach, as opposed to a critic of a problem employee. Before we get to my tips, take the following quiz.
Coach Or Critic Quiz
Answer the following seven “YES” or “NO” questions to determine if you are a coach or a critic:
- Did you take the opportunity to learn the employee’s goals and challenges and what steps you could take to help them to achieve them?
- Did you wait until the crisis stage to finally deal with the problem employee?
- Did the employee acknowledge that there was a problem in their performance?
- Did you deal with the problem employee on your own? (i.e. You did not talk about the situation with other members of your team.)
- Did you take the opportunity to share tough feedback with the employee and give real-time examples to validate your observations?
- Did you sit down and have a courageous conversation of possible repercussions if improvements were not made?
- Did you develop a plan of action with realistic timeframes to address the issue(s) with the problem employee?
- If you answered NO to all seven questions, you are a critic.
- If you answered YES to 3 to 4 of the seven questions, you are a critical coach.
- If you answered YES to all seven questions, you are a coach.
So, what is the difference between a coach and a critic?
If you are a coach, you are proactively involved with each member of your team in terms of understanding their personal goals and challenges. You are focused on getting the job done not by edict, but by effectively managing both individual as well as collective expectations. Even though you are likely to encounter challenges in coaching some of your employees – everyone does at some point, the mere existence of said challenges are not viewed as a negative, but as a learning experience. In the end, you take a more holistic, long-term view for developing members of your team.
If you are a critic, you are managing your team from a position of authority. You are singularly focused on your objectives. This means that problems are not likely to be viewed in the context of a bigger picture, but from the standpoint of an immediate disappointment or obstacle to success. You believe that employees should be self-motivated and take full ownership for their performance. If they miss the mark, you are there to tell them they did, as opposed to guiding them to improvement.
What does your score tell you?
How Do You Become A Better Coach?
Now that you know the answer to the question “Are you a coach or a critic,” the following 3 tips will be incredibly useful to you, even if you answered yes to some or all of the questions.
Tip 1: Lay The Foundation For Your Employee’s Success
“Every battle is won before it’s ever fought.” – Sun Tzu
Many bosses do not realize until it is too late, that they have likely played a role in creating a problem employee.
Let’s start off with the premise that every new employee wants to do the best job they can, and be seen as a valuable member of the team.
This is a great starting point.
So why does an employee go off the tracks from hopeful contributor to an unproductive detractor?
Somewhere along the way, their experiences have not aligned with their expectations. This is often due to the fact that outside of their “duties” being outlined in their job description, there is little if any meaningful interaction with you. In short, there has been no relationship building along the way.
Without having a strong and open relationship, how can you be a good coach? And if you can’t be a good coach, how can you be an effective boss?
Here are a few tips that will help you to be the best coach you can be:
- Clearly outline to new employees the goals or objectives of the collective team, including defining what success means to you and the organization as a whole.
- Regularly communicate expectations with your team, both individually and collectively.
- Recognize that managing does not mean looking over an employee’s shoulder to make sure that they are doing the job. Instead, monitor their work and provide guidance when needed.
- Avoid using coaching as a disciplinary function but rather as an opportunity for development.
- If an employee is not performing to expectations, first seek to understand before you judge.
- Use positive reinforcement when you see your employee taking small steps to improve.
Tip 2: Take Positive Corrective Action
“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” – Stephen Covey
In the previous tip, I had made reference to the importance of regular communication.
Being able to take positive corrective action with an employee who is struggling or has lost their way, requires a different technique.
Merely talking at an employee who has gone off track, is not a guarantee that they will embrace your message.
Here are a few tips to make certain that you’re talking with, instead of at, your employee:
- Be certain that you fully understand the situation from all perspectives – including the employee’s.
- When an employee makes a mistake, guide as opposed to chastising them. Help them to understand where they made a mistake and that you are there to get them back on track.
- Make the employee a partner in terms of coming up with a mutually agreed upon action plan or solution. This includes seeking their feedback relative to why they think that they went off course.
- Reinforce how important they are to the success of the team.
- Follow-up with the employee on a regular basis to make certain that all is going according to plan.
- Reinforce confidence in your employee. Something that is far greater than your actual words is your attitude.
Tip 3: Recognize When It’s Hopeless
“Defeat may serve as well as victory to shake the soul and let the glory out.” – Edwin Markham
You are probably familiar with the old saying about leading a horse to water, but not being able to make it drink.
Sometimes, and despite your best efforts, you will be unable to turn things around with a particular employee. Keeping an employee who is no longer reachable will do a great deal of harm to team morale.
How you respond in situations such as these will have far reaching consequences for all concerned – including the employees that remain.
After all, it is in our most challenging circumstances, that our true character reveals itself, not only to others but to ourselves.
The way in which you handle the departure of a problem employee will leave its imprint on your team long after said employee is gone.
As a result, here are a number of important tips:
- Regardless of how the employee responds, never, ever lose your cool. Be courteous but firm, and always be professional. This is not only important for the employees that are still with you, but also for your own self-respect and peace of mind.
- Provide the employee with a clearly structured breakdown of why it is best for he/she to part ways.
- Never stop coaching! If the employee is open to it, share with them productive advice on possible areas of improvement in their next position.
- Finally, schedule a meeting with your team to ask them if they have any questions or comments regarding the departed employee. Far too often, we want to quickly move past a difficult or unpleasant situation. However, you need to recognize the fact that others on your team could have been affected by what happened. Talking about it in a non-judgemental manner will help to clear the air and reaffirm the team’s shared mission.
“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” – Henry Ford
One final piece of advice . . . don’t dwell on the past. Find opportunities to celebrate your team’s performance. Last, adopt the mindset of a servant leader, dedicated to enriching the lives of your employees and creating a caring culture.
“Those who know do not speak. Those who speak do not know.” – Lao Tzu
Do you remember when you were growing up ever hearing the words “you were given two ears and one mouth for a reason.”
You probably have more than a passing recollection of similar anecdotes regarding the power of silence. For me, Mark Twain’s words “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open ones mouth and remove all doubt” immediately comes to mind.
Given the suggestion that silence is somewhat of a virtue, and is reflective of a thoughtful and considerate mind, it is no wonder that you, like most people, have been conditioned to remain silent.
Do not get me wrong, there is a place for silence – and I will touch on that in a moment.
However, silence is not always golden. In fact remaining silent can actually hurt you and those with whom you work.
It is therefore not a question of verbal abstinence, but instead of knowing not only when you should speak, but how you should speak.
A Time For Silence?
In Bill Murphy Jr.’s June 5th, 2014 Mashable post “10 Times When Staying Quiet At Work Is Your Best Option,” he talks about how great leaders know when to stay silent.
Amongst the examples given, is remaining quiet (and listening) after you have asked a question. This makes sense anywhere, and not just at work.
He also writes about not speaking when you do not have all the facts or, do not actually know what you are talking about. Also good advice, that seems obvious.
There are of course other scenarios for remaining silent. What stands out is that regardless of the reason, the basis for not speaking comes down to a simple matter of common sense.
In other words, you probably have no problems in terms of knowing when to keep a lid on it. The real challenge is in knowing when you should actually step up to the mic and let yourself be heard.
“A time to keep silence, And a time to speak.” – Eccl. 3:7b
In this month’s eNewsletter, I will provide you with 3 essential tips on not only knowing when to speak up, but also on how you can deliver the message you want while ensuring that your words will be received in the spirit in which they are being offered.
1. When You Aren’t Sure That People Really Know Who Are You?
“Well, who are you? (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?) – The Who Lyrics
Your voice defines the value that you bring to your organization and to those with whom you work.
Think about the above statement for just a moment, and then ask yourself, have you ever thought I will let my work do my talking? Surely if I do a good job, people will notice me?
If you answered yes, you are not alone. For many people – especially those who are shy or a little reserved, it is far easier to bear down and focus on the tasks associated with your job. The thought of having to raise your hand and your voice to say hello everyone,my name is John or Becky and this is what I do, and how can I make a difference in your life? is a daunting proposition.
The trouble is that if you fail to speak up, rarely if ever will someone actually notice you. In fact they may even form an inaccurate picture of who you really are.
So how do you know when you are the office’s quiet enigma – and every office has at least one?
Do you feel like an outsider? Does your boss rarely if ever assign you tasks beyond the confines of your job description? Do others ever seek your opinion – and on those rare occasions that they have, were you able to offer anything meaningful in the way of new insights? Outside of obligatory staff functions, do any of your co-workers ask you to join them for a cup of coffee or to grab a bite at lunch?
Remember to know you is to like you.
If your answer is yes in any of the above referenced scenarios, then no one knows you and it is time to speak up.
Steps to become (better) known . . .
- The next time people are having a coffee in the lunchroom or shooting the breeze around the old water cooler, casually introduce yourself into the conversation by at first listening and then getting involved in the discussion. Trust me, you will know what to say when the time comes. Of course use tact in that you want to make certain that you are not interrupting a private or sensitive conversation.
- During a meeting or a brainstorming session go in prepared. When I say prepared I am not talking about writing a script, but instead know the topic or subject being discussed, and jot down a few key points relative to what you think is important regarding the area being covered. Keeping in mind that there is no right or wrong position, sharing your thoughts will give people an idea as to who you are and what you value.
- Given the choice between telling or asking, always go with asking questions. Asking shifts the focus from you to the other person or persons. This takes pressure off of you, while also giving you the opportunity to learn about others. This information can then help you to progressively build a stronger rapport with people to the point that they will want to get to know you.
2. When You Are Being Asked To Compromise Your Values
“If your brand value truly reflects your personal values that align with who you really are, you will have created a magical harmony from within. This in turn will present a unified and sustaining image that will neither disappoint nor surprise, but instead endure.“
The above is an excerpt from my book The Future of You: Creating Your Enduring Brand.
While there are many words to consider, and upon which to ponder, it is the last word in the statement that should resonate the most . . . the word endure.
Why did I choose to end the thought with that word?
Quite simply, when you are facing a trial of conscience, in which your very job may be on the line, your definition of endurance might be to compromise so that you can perhaps live to fight another day. Unfortunately, you will lose far more when you go against yourself and your values and beliefs. You lose your own sense of identity and who you really are.
From that moment on, keeping your job is who you are and what you are about. Instead of security, you will begin to experience an ever increasing level of insecurity, as you will look to outside sources rather than looking within yourself, to determine what you will do or say. In essence, someone else is at the controls of your life.
There is however a way out . . . a way to avoid turning over control to someone else’s agenda.
- Know for what you stand, and always stand firm when doing so means that you will be true to yourself. Don’t be afraid to say so in a firm but polite manner.
- Accept the fact that staying true to your values may come with a cost. Say to the other individual in a non-judgmental tone, “look I understand why you are asking me to do this, but I just can’t as I do not believe that it is the right path to take. If this means that you have to let me go or that I lose you as a client, then so be it. But I hope that you see this has an act of conscience as opposed to convenience.”
- Regardless of how it turns out, never criticize the other person publicly. If they accept your position, do not brag or assume an “I won” demeanor. Conversely, if you end up losing your job because you took a stand, when asked, tell people in a calm manner, “I could not do what was being asked of me, and that is a personal decision with which I am prepared to live.”
3. When The Game Is On The Line
I remember reading on so many occasions the bedtime story to my son about the Emperor who had no clothes on.
The premise was quite simple.
Having been presented with imaginary fabric by two swindlers telling him that only a fool could not see it’s beautiful colors, the Emperor – not wanting to look the fool – said yes he could see it even though he couldn’t. He then ordered that clothing be made from this beautiful, non-existent fabric.
Of course everyone else who was in the Emperor’s court that day were also afraid to admit that they could not see any fabric – especially since the Emperor said that he had.
In the end, the entire court left the castle in a great precession so that that Emperor could show all the land his most magnificent clothing – clothing which was never there. No one stopped him. No one said a word. Even the throngs of people lining the streets cheered, complimenting the Emperor on his new clothes. No one wanted to look the fool.
But then a little girl stepped out from the crowd and yelled . . . “but the Emperor has no clothes on!”
At that moment, everyone – including the Emperor himself had to acknowledge that he had been taken, and that indeed he had no clothes on.
If only others had the courage of that one little girl to state what everyone already knew but were so afraid to say. Think of the embarrassment that could have been avoided, and the feelings of shame for having been so vain and foolish.
The moral of the story is very clear . . . don’t worry about being right, focus on getting it right.
- When you see that something is clearly amiss, don’t let your team go out into the world without their clothes on. With a sincere desire to get it right, step forward and say “I don’t believe that this is a good idea and here is why.”
- Don’t make other’s feel bad because they didn’t catch it or didn’t themselves come forward. Be gracious in your manner and your words.
- When a misstep is averted or success is attained don’t boast or make it about you. Instead view it as a victory for everyone.
Speak Now Or Forever . . .
Are the above scenarios the only times that you should ever consider speaking-up?
I would have to say no, as I am sure that you might think of a couple of instances when you would have a word or two to say.
That said, the one defining rule of thumb you should always follow without fail is simply this . . . if looking back at a moment in time where you should have spoken but didn’t, will you regret it?
You are the only one who can answer that question and, you are the only one who can determine what that answer will ultimately mean to you.
TO REGISTER, You can register online at http://usheroff.com/the-art-of-wow-registration-form/
“When opportunity knocks, will you be ready to answer?”
2016 is the year for women to have their own definition of success and to clear the path for achieving their dreams. But it requires intentional action and the ability to differentiate yourself.
The Art of WOW Conference opens your eyes, eliminates self-limiting beliefs and unleashes your personal power. Learn how smart, ambitious and savvy women navigate career opportunities and play the business game.
Join us on Tuesday, March 1st and Wednesday, March 2nd, in the warmth of Palm Beach, Florida to build your roadmap for igniting your career path and getting what you need to showcase your value. To enhance your experience, you’ll receive personalized coaching and vocal training from top experts. You’ll leave with winning strategies for learning best practices for showcasing your executive presence.
You have no doubt read countless articles and books on how to motivate others, be it your employees, team or for that matter your school aged son or daughter to do their homework.
Conversely, and while perhaps not as plentiful as the “how to” motivate texts, there are also plenty of articles on what “not to do”, to ensure that those around you can perform at their peak capability.
Things along the lines of don’t yell at your employees, don’t forget to compliment someone on a job well done or, ensure that your words and actions are consistent with one another.
It is pretty basic (and logical) advice. In fact, I would be surprised if everyone did not know this.
However, and like an American Idol hopeful who hasn’t yet realized or accepted the fact that they cannot sing, common knowledge is not always well . . . common. Even when we already know what to do – or not to do, we can sometimes lose our way.
For example, consider the story about Randy, to whom I referred in my book The Future Of You.
Randy was scheduled for a major promotion when he was asked to launch a new division for his company. This project, which had to be completed within twelve months, represented a critical opportunity for Randy on many levels. To start, he would be able to demonstrate why he had earned upper management’s confidence. In addition, he would then be responsible for a huge number of diverse reports, opening the door for expanding both his creditability and respect for those who would ultimately report to him once he assumed his new position. It seemed like an ideal scenario.
However – and this is where he came to the fork in the road that differentiates a selfless leader from a self-serving leader – Randy forgot an essential leadership quality. Specifically, he just needed to be inclusive and recognize the contributions of others as absolute “must haves” in order to rally the team and reinforce management’s decision to promote him.
I think that it is important to point out here that Randy was not by nature, selfish or egotistical. He was however driven to succeed and to advance the interests of his company. In other words, his intentions were selfless, but his actions demonstrated something quite different.
Even though the project was successfully completed in eight months as opposed to the estimated twelve months – with an overall savings of $350,000.00 – Randy’s promotion was nixed. When the CEO delivered the bad news, Randy was told that “no one ever wants to work with you again.”
In sharing Randy’s story I could not help but wonder what might have been different in terms of outcomes given the following scenarios.
For example, what if his company had not been in touch with the feelings of the employees who had a problem with Randy’s management style, or worse yet, didn’t care. He did after all get the job done early and significantly under budget. What if this was their only criteria for his promotion?
As I had indicated previously, while in his enthusiasm to meet the project’s goals he lost sight of the big picture, Randy was not a mean spirited, selfish individual. However, if the company had an ends justify the means or just do it mindset, he would have likely been been promoted despite the negative employee feedback. If this had been the case, what would have the consequences been down the road?
Conversely, and again taking into account Randy’s true personality, what if an employee had taken the initiative to talk with him to let him know how his actions were negatively affecting the other members of his team? Might he had called a meeting to clear the air, and then made the required adjustments in his management style going forward?
The real question in this instance is whether or not an employee would actually approach their boss under similar circumstances? Would you?
My point is simply this, Randy’s sole focus on achieving the best results for his company unintentionally alienated his fellow workers. While he has to take ownership for his actions, and the resulting consequences, everyone ultimately lost out in the end.
Randy of course lost the promotion, and the confidence of his bosses. Once lost, it is difficult if not impossible to regain that trust. With limited possibilities, Randy would eventually have to move on to a new company.
Ironically, the company demotivated a top performing employee and potential future leader, by not mentoring Randy. After all, in the time he had been with the company leading up to the fateful project, senior management knew who he was and saw enough in him to want to promote him. If his behavior during the project had dramatically changed, why didn’t they step in?
As for the employees, while not direct, the loss of a valuable contributor to the company’s success if multiplied, could spell trouble down the road. If we have learned anything from books such as Jim Collins’ Good To Great or Built To Last, success today does not guarantee survival tomorrow. Companies – even the ones that are doing well today – will not be around if they lose quality people.
In what other ways can you see a boss unintentionally demotivate or alienate their employees?
Regardless of the situation, awareness, coupled with timely open and honest communication is critical.
If you are a manager, take the time to talk with the members of your team who report to you. Get their feedback on your management style, and their overall feeling regarding the company’s direction.
If you are an employee, don’t assume that your boss’ actions are intentional. Like Randy, maybe he or she has lost touch amid the demands of an important project or assignment.
For companies, and specifically senior leadership, it is important to be plugged inrelative to having an accurate read regarding employee morale. If you see that there is a problem brewing between a manager and members of their team, be prepared to step in and provide both leadership and mentorship where and when it is needed.
“You just summed up your entire sorry career here in one sentence! If you had a tenth of the heart of Ruettiger, you’d have made All-American by now! As it is, you just went from third team to the prep team! Get out of here!”
Even though I am not what you would consider to be a football fan, there are nonetheless many powerful moments in the movie Rudy from which the above quote has been taken.
Moments that I believe transcend the sports world, and apply to both business and life in general.
The reason I thought about this movie, and in particular this scene, is that I was recently asked the question does desire and commitment trump talent alone?
The individual, who is a senior executive with a large corporation, posed the question because he was having difficulty in deciding which one of two people on his management team would be promoted to a new, more demanding position.
On one hand, the candidate who he had initially favored was – at least on paper, capable of doing a great job based on a long list of degrees and academic accomplishment. In other words, he possessed the prerequisite skill sets that appeared to perfectly align with the requirements of the job. However, he had never demonstrated a desire to do more than what was necessary to get by in terms of fulfilling his past assignments.
In considering this individual, the executive’s hope was that when faced with a new and bigger challenge, he would find his passion and rise to the occasion. In essence finally deliver on the potential the company saw in him when he was first hired.
The other candidate, who was now being seriously considered, at first wasn’t even on the radar screen for the new position. After all, the executive explained to me, she did not have the same level of education as the “preferred” candidate, nor did she have the same level of seniority. What she did have however, was a desire to excel in everything that she did.
If she did not know the answer to a particular question, she would without fail do the research that was necessary to get the right information.
If there was a need for overtime or to double check her work to make certain that it was the best it could be, she did so without fail. She was even available to help fellow employees with their assignments when called upon.
In short, and while she wasn’t as qualified as the preferred candidate, she did possess what I call an inner Rudy. She had heart and a burning desire to succeed.
The difficulty according to my executive friend was determining which candidate was more likely to excel in the new position. Which one would be the best hire?
Would the candidate who was clearly more qualified for the position finally live up to his potential?
Alternatively, and even though he had no doubt that the less qualified candidate would give it her very best, would that best be good enough? Would she be up to the task?
Rather than simply giving him an answer in favor of one or the other, I asked him a question.
When you first started out, and eventually rose to the position you are in today, what made you successful?
At first he looked confused, but then paused for a moment to think about my words.
He then said that despite his level of education, he had throughout his career, encountered many challenges that required him to look outside of what he knew to seek the answer. In doing so, he relied heavily on the support of others – his fellow employees, managers and mentors.
However, the one thing he learned is that their level of support, and his ability to find an answer, originated with his desire to do the best job he could.
I then reminded him of a quote regarding Henry Ford from Napoleon Hill’s book Think And Grow Rich. Specifically Hill’s assertion of Ford’s belief that “Any man is educated who knows where to get knowledge when he needs it, and how to organize that knowledge into definite plans of action.”
In the end, I told him that I think this definition of education still holds true today, because it reflects a true desire to excel, and a real heart for achievement.
Given the above, if you were in this executive’s shoes, who would you hire?
The one thing I will tell you, is that the executive ultimately made the right decision.
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We are all probably familiar with the chicken or the egg scenario when it comes to landing our first job. You know the the one where they will only hire someone with experience to which the candidate replies “how can I get the experience if you won’t hire me?!”
Funny thing is that when it comes to leadership, and in particular creating what I call an Executive Presence, the above principle equally applies.
So what is Executive Presence?
“Well” let’s look first at what it isn’t.
Executive Presence is not based on your present position within your organization. Nor is it based on a title.
Quite simply Executive Presence is a special quality that inspires others to follow and fosters allegiance and devotion.
In a poll that was taken during one of my recent Webinars attendees were asked the question; What defines someone who has Executive Presence?
They were provided with 4 options including; Competence; do you know the right thing to do?, Character; are you willing to do the right thing?, Capability; can you get it done? and, Role Model; do you attract followers?
More than 59% of those who responded selected Role Model.
What is even more telling, is that this was an audience that was made up of people from all parts of the world. In other words, there is to a large degree a universiality in what people value in terms of what makes a great leader!
Looking back over your lifetime think about who you considered to be your role model. Someone that you as well as others would follow. What made them a role model? Was it position or financial wealth? Or was it something more significant . . . something about the way in which they carried themselves, and the values by which they lived their life?
This of course is my point. You do not have to wait to be given a position of leadership to be a leader. You can lead from within the pack by simply being the best that you can be and helping others to be the best that they can be.
You would probably have to be on another planet – maybe even in another galaxy – to not have heard of the recent call to arms of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg to eradicate the word “bossy” from our everyday vernacular.
According to a Forbes article by Micheline Maynard titled “Dear Sheryl Sandberg: There Are Far Worse Things Than Being Called Bossy,” the writer recounts a slight suffered by Sandberg when she was a junior high school student. Apparently, a teacher told Sandberg’s best friend, “Nobody likes a bossy girl. You should find a new friend who will be a better influence on you.”
While there are certainly no shortages of women jumping on the ban bossy bandwagon, including notables such as Beyonce and Condoleezza Rice, I found Maynard’s position to be most interesting. Specifically her Tweet which proclaimed “I’ve got news for Sheryl Sandberg: there are far worse things for women than being called bossy.”
Maynard then goes on to say “bossy isn’t only a word that applies to women. It’s gender neutral. There are plenty of bossy men out there, too. Bossy is bossy — dictatorial, unyielding, telling people what to do and expecting them to do it without any input.”
I tend to agree with this last point, as men too get called bad words for being pushy. However, in my many years of coaching both genders, I have never heard a man being referred to as bossy, but rather “aggressive”. There are two questions to consider. If a man is referred to as “aggressive”, is that perceived as positive or negative? The second question is more related to how women and men react to a negative and even unwarranted comment.
Maynard ended her article by saying that the word bossy “reflects more about the person who said it than it does about you,” and that one should not “take it personally.”
Once again, there is truth in Maynard’s position that is worth considering beyond gender.
For example, I met with a female several weeks ago who has a very senior position. However, her boss doesn’t seem to believe her collaborative style warrants a higher position in leading people. She has led groups, transformed organizations outside of this company yet her credentials don’t seem to matter. Her boss’ perception is that she is is not strong enough to manage challenging people, yet her results demonstrates the contrary.
On the other hand, I also know a guy who everyone loves. He’s hoping for an EVP role and to sit on the leadership team. His boss says that he isn’t demonstrating leadership qualities like his peers. He’s seen as too nice a guy. Go figure! He brings in the results.
What’s interesting with the above two scenarios is how each responds to what appears to be a harsh and somewhat unfair assessment by their respective bosses. Or to put it another way, what would be the best and most productive way to deal with these situations.
Does it make sense to stand up on a soapbox and proclaim that being called “weak” or being “too nice” should be banned from our language? Alternatively, does it make more sense to receive the feedback, understand the basis for why you are being seen this way and, figure out a way to deal with it so as to remove the obstacle?
Perhaps the answer is found in Sandberg’s own success in that as Maynard put it, she didn’t let the teacher’s comment “stop her, since she’s a billionaire and a best-selling author.”
I can’t help but wonder if Sandberg would have achieved the same level of success if she had chosen to launch her ban campaign when she was starting out, as opposed to using the teacher’s slight as motivation to ascend the corporate ladder to the lofty position she now holds.
In other words, by placing an emphasis on a word or words as opposed to rolling up your sleeves and focusing on getting the job done, is Sandberg hurting or helping the next generation of women leaders?
Last, if by chance you do receive feedback that suggests you are either “bossy” or “aggressive”, I would encourage you to ask the person to explain what that looks like. At best, you can decide if his/her perspective is valid.