“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.

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?

Where is Your Focus?

The picture above was taken for a contest with BarkBox for our monthly subscription.  As you can see, Maximus is laser-focused on anything he deems to be resembling food or a squeaky toy.  Food/toys give Maximus instant gratification.  There is no obstacle that he won’t try to tackle if there is food or a toy on the other side.  As a 10 lb, short-legged pup, that’s not always easy, but he makes it happen.

So, I ask you:

Where is Your Focus?

Your focus determines your efforts and your attitude.  Are you focusing on the things you can’t control or impact?

We all have the same 24 hours in a day.  Those that are productive, positive, and are intentional in their focus will make the most of that time.  Those that choose to be bystanders in their life will not.

Spending time worrying about things we can’t control is a complete waste of time.  If you are doing that as an employee, you are wasting your employer’s resources – YOU.  No one wants to waste the company’s resources, right?  Right.

Mistakes Distract Us:

If you made a mistake at work, focus on making amends, and move forward.  Do not dwell on something you can’t change.  Put that effort into restoring trust, repairing relationships, improving processes, etc.

Changes Distract Us:

I was speaking with someone earlier this week about changes going on at work.  She has been through some ownership changes, and her role has changed as a result.

“I can’t believe how much things have changed in such a short period of time.  I don’t see a future there anymore, and I thought I was going to retire from there.”

My friend allowed herself to grieve the disappointment, and then she moved forward, focusing on her time on where she could make an impact with her team and her internal customers while looking for another job.  I have no doubt whatsoever that she will land on her feet, and she is being smart while she deals with her emotions surrounding her disappointment.

Drama Distracts Us:

Don’t allow your focus to be altered by drama.  If you find yourself getting sucked in, start asking yourself questions to access the other part of your brain and make sure you have your story straight.  Remember that you are not a victim of your emotions.  The only person that can control you is you.  Don’t get emotionally highjacked.

Focus.

 

 

It’s Okay to Ask for Help

Being in HR for nearly 15 years, I can tell you that I know my strengths and my weaknesses.

Patience is not one of my virtues.  However, it is vitally important when you are unemployed.  In my prior role, I had a rule with my team that when we had an applicant, we responded to them within 24 hours – even if all we were saying was “I don’t have an answer, yet.  I will get back to you.”  When someone is unemployed or currently employed and contemplating making a change, every hour counts to them.  We didn’t always meet 24 hours – sometimes it was 48 hours or the next business day, and we took advantage of every automation possible to help us be more efficient.  A good ATS should help you communicate more effectively with your candidates – not hinder it.  That’s a post for another day, though.

Asking for help is another struggle for me.  When you have a servant leader mentality, you want to help others – not yourself.  My blog is HR Without Ego because I don’t ask for praise or thanks.  I take satisfaction from helping others and knowing I made an impact.  In the current state of the job market, however, I have learned that it’s okay to not only ask for help but to accept it.  I have always built my network based on a pay it forward mentality, and I was very uncomfortable asking anyone to reciprocate.  However, that changed thanks to coffee one morning with John Rhoads who I met at the HR Roundtable moderated by the fantastic Steve Browne.

John is a life coach, and trust me, when you think you’re going to retire from your current company, the harsh reality that you’re not is hard to take.  He was the first person that I had spoken the words “my last day is next Friday” to at the Roundtable that morning, and I nearly cried saying it.  I’m sure I looked like it because he looked at me and said:

“It’s going to be okay.  You’re going to be okay.”

I was nervous to meet him for coffee that morning for a multitude of reasons.  First, I was embarrassed that I had lost my job.  Second, I didn’t want to ask anyone for help.  I was in HR, after all, I do this for a living.  Shouldn’t I know how this works?  Third, I was facing unemployment, so if he was selling something, I wasn’t buying.

I survived the meeting, nerves and all, and I was so glad that I had not talked myself out of going.  John had just posted this video that morning, the importance of owning our story.  He reminded me that it’s okay to ask for help, and that I’m most valuable helping my next organization, so I need to focus my efforts, own my story, and in the meantime, I will blog about the journey of being “in search” (where did that name come from?) and hopefully help others that are in a similar circumstance.

Thank You. It has been my privilege.

Today, I sent a message that I wasn’t ready to send.  I’m still not ready.  I haven’t helped enough.  I’m not in a place where I can say “I’ve done all I can do, and now it’s time to help someone else.”  I just got started with my amazing team, and I’m not ready to go.

It’s not about my timing, though.  This is the best decision for the organization, and so I am saying goodbye to the company I love with all my heart and the people I have grown with and learned from for the last 5 years.  It has been my esteemed honor and privilege to serve them.  I want to thank them, no matter the position or title, for teaching me about compassion, selflessness, and for the amazing work that they do every day to care for our patients and their families.  They truly live their passion, and it has been my esteemed honor and privilege to serve them and watch them grow.  I have put my heart and soul into this, and I will be forever grateful to have had the opportunity.

If you have a job that you love, supporting amazing people, doing valuable work, appreciate it a little more today.  It is your privilege to support them.

 

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.