“Because I Said So” Management is Weak Leadership

I put a lot of thought into my decisions.  I hope you do as well.  I want to make sure if someone, seeking to understand, inquires as to my decision-making process, I can point to how I got there.

I care about people and how my actions may affect them.  I truly care.  This is not a weakness.  I don’t care too much.  In my opinion, you can’t care too much.  You can certainly care too little – but not too much.

In the same token, if I make a suggestion, it’s simply that – a suggestion.  Getting emotionally attached to your big idea clouds the process.  Is it really a great idea, or do you feel that way because you came up with it, and you are not open to the input of others?

While I put considerable thought into my decisions, they are very rarely absolute.  My work is in a state of continuous improvement.  Who doesn’t want to be better?  Sign me up!  I’m constantly reading, listening to podcasts, and seeking feedback to be a better leader, professional, boss, friend, and mother.  I want to make good decisions and do the right thing.

My litmus test:  What’s my reason?  Why do I care about this particular request or guideline?  If the possibility of “because I said so” would even begin to enter my brain, that tells me that I am making a decision to make my life or job easier, and not for others.  I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, but that’s weak.  Being a leader isn’t about making our jobs easier.  Leadership is selfless.  Leadership is finding creative ways to say yes instead of always saying no.

I once had a person on my team who was dedicated, passionate about her work, and also happened to have a life outside of work.  Telling people to leave their personal life at home is ridiculous and quite frankly impossible, and I’m proud of us as leaders that we are realizing that.  People have stuff.  Giving them a hard time about their stuff doesn’t make it any easier and certainly doesn’t allow them to focus on their work.  This rockstar on my team had stuff, and you know what?  I let her go handle her stuff and still do her job.  I certainly could have told her that her personal stuff had nothing to do with her job and made a “because I said so, and I’m your boss” decision.  No one wins in that scenario.  She appreciated being treated like a human – with compassion.  She worked hard and was loyal and cared about doing a good job.  My hope is that if she is put in that situation in the future with someone on her team, she remembers to offer compassion instead of judgment or criticism.

Check your ego.  Do the right thing.  Be kind to one another.

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How to Make Decisions in Business

How do you make decisions?  Are there charts, graphs, spreadsheets, pages of data?  Yes, data is important, but so are the humans in our care.  Do you include input from those affected, if possible, in your decision-making process?  Perhaps you could glean insight from another perspective that would completely change how to approach a situation.

We learned the difference between right and wrong long ago, and it would appear that we have forgotten how simple that litmus test can be.  The bottom line in any decision first and foremost should be “what is the right thing to do?”  If you can’t do the right thing, go back to the drawing board and work harder.  It’s not always easy to do the right thing.  There can be considerable pushback – it’s not always the easiest, most cost-effective, etc.  However, doing right by our people is priceless in terms of trust, transparency, and confidence in leadership.

As leaders, we have a responsibility to do the right thing by our people.  This is why we are in positions where we have been entrusted to serve others.  It is our great privilege to serve our people, and they are trusting us to keep their best interest at heart when we are making decisions that often have a ripple effect in our organizations.

We must have the courage to make the right decisions – to do that right thing.  We also must work hard to ensure that we are making our workplaces a safe environment with a strong culture of integrity.  We must empower other leaders in our organizations and support them in their courageous efforts.

I’m not naive.  I know this isn’t easy.  I also know that there are times when tough calls have to be made, jobs have to be cut, locations have to be closed, layoffs have to occur, pay has to be frozen.  In times like this, it is in the best interest of the business overall to make these decisions.  We are preserving the business and the ability to continue to operate by making these moves.  This is for the greater good.  I’ve been there.  I’ve done that.  I once had to lay off 20% of the workforce in the morning and co-star in a commercial for the business in the afternoon.  Yes, it was brutal.

While it’s sometimes inevitable to do these things, you always have a choice in how you conduct yourself in the process and how you treat others.

Always behave with integrity in your actions.

Always treat those affected with the utmost care, compassion, and respect.

Always provide as much information behind decisions as possible.  Letting someone know just how difficult the decision was can help them feel a little less like their hard work was in vain.

Always take responsibility for your actions.  Do not blame “corporate” or “your boss” when delivering the news.  Make sure that you understand the why behind what happened so that you can speak to it.  People lose respect for you when you are reduced to a headpiece for “the establishment.”

Do the right thing.  Ask questions when something doesn’t seem right.   Teach your teams to do the same.

What is a Servant Leader?

I was invited by my pastor to participate in a Bible.com Study last week on Servant Leadership called “Kingdom Leadership in Your Workplace,” and I LOVED seeing this perspective.  Whatever your particular faith or beliefs, I believe we can all agree if we are focusing on being better leaders, and in my case, being a servant leader, the quote below will resonate.

In the study, this quote stood out to me:

“Servant leaders value the development of people around them; they build their communities, act authentically, and share power.” [Oxford comma added by me because that’s the right thing to do.]

When we think about our behavior in our organizations, are we showing up in this way?

Value the development of people around you:  Are you focusing your resources and efforts for professional development on yourself, or are you sharing with your team?  Do you support professional growth and development, or are you secretly intimidated by the growth of one or more of your team members?  Examine yourself and share the wealth.

Build your community:  Are you building your team?  How are you supporting your organization?  Do you give back?  Are you a member of your state or local chapter?  Twitter chats?  LinkedIn posts?  There are tons of volunteer leadership positions available through online, local, state, and national professional association chapters – SHRM and otherwise.  I’m in HR, so I became a volunteer leader on the board of my local SHRM chapter, GCHRA.  I’m also now a co-moderator of #JobHuntChat where I help facilitate the conversation between those “in search” and those helping those “in search.”

Act authentically:  Are you being your true authentic self?  If not, what is holding you back?  Is it safe to be authentic in your workplace?  Do you make it safe for others?  If not, what is holding you back?  Are you behaving as the leader you always wanted?  What can you do tomorrow that will bring you closer to bringing your authentic self to situations?

Share power:  We are entrusted with our teams for a reason.  It is our esteemed privilege to serve our teams and our people.  We do them a great disservice by not empowering them to one day lead their own teams.  Empower your people.  Share information.  Communicate often.  Do not be an information miser.  Foster a culture of accountability within your team to empower them.

Are you a servant leader?

Why Are You Saying No?

This will be very short and sweet, but I feel it is vitally important lately…

Why are you say No?

Is it life or death?  Illegal?  Unethical?

Maybe.  Maybe not.

Maybe you are afraid of letting go of control.  FYI – if this is you, you already have a reputation for this, and your goal this year should be to change that reputation.  You can do it.  I have faith.

Having a reputation for having to control everything in your purview shows two things about you:

You don’t trust others.

If you do not share the knowledge, teach others, and share or give control, you are showing people in your actions that you don’t trust them.  Why do these people work here if you don’t trust them in their role?  If they truly want to grow and learn, and you are the miser of control as well as their manager, they will leave you, I promise you.

You don’t trust yourself.

If you don’t share, cross-train, etc., you are showing others that you don’t trust your own value in the organization that you could possibly do more than simply being the SME on this particular system or department.  You know what happens in that case?  You are not promotable because there is no one else to do it.

Was that your plan?  Probably not.

As a recovering control freak, I can tell you it’s possible.  As a leader, you must relinquish control, share, help others learn, and support them.

The next time you receive a request, give it a try.  Say yes.

How to be Patient at Work

In your career, you are not going to agree with every decision is made.  If you have already experienced this, you’re thinking “Duh” in your head, if not, wait for it, it is inevitable.  It’s not always negative, either.  There have been plenty of times, especially early in my career, when I may not have understood or agreed with a decision at first, but it turned out to be the best thing for the company.

We are in a service-oriented career, and we want to help people.  I care about the people I serve and support, and if you are in Human Resources (or any iteration of it), I’m sure that you do, too.  As my good buddy Steve Browne says in his book HR on Purpose, “If employees are a pain point or source of frustration for you professionally, then get out of human resources.  It isn’t the career for you.”  If you haven’t read his book, download it or pick it up today.

This is not to say that those making the decisions do not care about people.  I feel that is a common misconception.  Having been the one making unpopular decisions at times, I can promise you, I cared.

Full disclosure:  Patience is not one of my virtues.  My team is giggling at this right now, and my husband is sighing, I’m sure.  It’s a work in progress.  I do, however, have an appreciation for having patience in the workplace, and I greatly admire those that exercise patience.

To be a great leader, and to serve people, you must exercise at least a modicum of patience.

Being patient at work does not mean that you are blindly following orders, without question, without a second thought.  It does, however, mean that if a decision is made, and you don’t understand the rationale, respectfully request more information, asking your questions, etc.  Focus on the issue or the situation – not the decision maker(s).  Assume positive intent that those that made this decision have done so with all the information available to them at the time – some of which you may not be privy to, and that the decision was made in the best interest of the business overall.

If you are the person that will inevitably deliver this news, it is imperative that you make sure that you are clear on the rationale and underlying understanding of the decision.  YOU WILL BE ASKED.  Be prepared for the questions.

Choose your moments to challenge wisely.  You don’t want to get a reputation for being the person that continuously pushes back or challenges decisions.  Do not behave in a way or create a reputation for yourself that you are difficult to do business with.  If and when you do pose a question or respectfully challenge a decision, you will have greater impact if you have typically demonstrated support from your position.

That being said, even if you believe that you have a valid business case for why this decision is either not living the company values, is not the right thing to do for the employees, etc., your belief is exactly that – a belief.  If your feedback is taken under advisement (or not) and there is no traction, do not take it personally, focus on understanding the rationale, and move forward.  Becoming emotionally attached to decisions will emotionally highjack you.

At the end of the day, our role is to support our people.  Whether we agree with what has happened or not, we must trust our senior leadership to make the best decision for the business overall, and we must do our best to support our people as the decision impacts them.  They will take their cue on how to react and handle things from us.

Demonstrate patience.

 

How to Apologize in Business

We all make mistakes.  We are human.  We are not expected to be perfect.  If you are expecting perfection, your focus is misguided.

Knowing that it’s not a matter of if or when a mistake will happen, how you handle a mistake is a true testament to your character.  If you are a leader, and your team makes a mistake, they will look to you for how to respond.

Acknowledge.  You must first acknowledge the mistake happened.  AS SOON AS YOU ARE AWARE IT HAPPENED.  There is no partial credit here.  If you wait until someone calls you out on it, you do have to own it at that time, but the first question will be “when did this happen?”  Stay in front of it.

Apologize in your Words.  You may not be at fault for the mistake.  Fault does not equal responsibility.  However, you must express your most sincere apology and express empathy for those affected.  If you get defensive, you will lose all trust and respect.

Trust is the currency of leadership.  Guard it.  Own your mistakes.  Admit when you mess up and encourage your team to do the same.  It makes you human.  We need more humans in business.

Apologize in your Actions.  You must not only communicate the error, but you must communicate what steps you (you, your team, the organization) is making to ensure the error does not happen again as well as what you are doing to make it right.  Then you have to hold yourself and others accountable that those things are done.

Do the Right Thing.  I don’t have to tell you what that is.  You already know.  Trust your gut.

 

 

Confessions of a Recovering Control Freak

I’ve mentioned before I’m very Type-A.  I’ve also spent over half of my career being an HR Department of One.  This allowed me to hone my problem-solving skills, but it also honed my nature of being a complete control freak.

Now, when you are an HR Department of One, and everything is resting on your shoulders, there is a certain amount of control freak(ness) that is required, right?  How else are you going to ensure that everyone was paid, all benefits are accurate, candidates have all been communicated with, etc, etc, etc.?

Beware the drug that is control.

Following changes in my organization, my responsibilities began to change, and I had to begin to loosen my grip on the day to day, focusing more on supporting those that got things done – whether they did it in the same manner I used to or not.  I mean, it worked for me, just do it the way I used to do it.  Right?  I couldn’t be more wrong.

At first, my training was primarily “here you go, this is how I have always done it.”  If something was missed, I was convinced it was because it hadn’t been done the way I had explained, demonstrated, created a step-by-step guide with screenshots and video (yes, I did).  I’m sure you’re cringing reading this right now, and looking back at it, I am, too.

I would love to say that I made a complete 180, and that I had a new outlook on empowering my team rather than controlling them and checking on everything they did.  I do have that outlook.  I didn’t change overnight.  It’s a struggle, but I can tell you that I know that to be a better leader, I have to let them figure things out for themselves, try new ways of doing things, and even fail.  After all, failure is feedback, right?

I want to be a better leader.  In order to do that, I have to make changes in my behavior to be better for them.  I want to inspire others to be better leaders and develop my team into the kind of leaders that will have book acknowledgements dedicated to them.  I’ve been very fortunate in my career thus far to have worked with some of the most inspiring, engaging, supportive, motivating people.  It’s my hope to be that for someone else.  I just have to remember that the only thing or person I can control is me.