7 Abilities Of The Indispensable Leader

indispensable leaderAs some of you know, I’ve been reading a lot more than usual. I believe this to be a transformational period for me, one that I’m embracing more and more each and every day. For the past six months or so, I find myself reading 5 or 6 books at a time while listening to one audiobook each week while walking/running to and from the gym. After a long break, I’ve come to appreciate the views of many great authors. Some in which a lot of us have heard of and deserve all the credit they receive… if not more. And then there are the authors that many never hear about for one reason or another.

This takes me to the old saying that “You become the person you will be in five years from the books you read and the people you surround yourself with.” I find it more and more amazing each day how we can grow as servant leaders by seeing the world through other’s eyes. When a worldview is presented in front of us by somebody else, I often feel like it’s a paradigm shift. Of course, reputation and creditability have a huge impact on this, but what if they didn’t? What if we take what we’ve learned up to today and use our own judgment and choose to move forward by what we read and create something remarkable?

Ironically, I’ve recently finished reading Seth Godin’s latest, Linchpin along with re-reading Daniel Pink’s A Whole New Mind… back to back.

This has been very good for me, as for I’ve needed to step further into my creative (or lack thereof) side of life and out of my over-analytical logic based left brain. In addition to rewriting my first book and finishing up the outline for my second book, I’ve been racking my brain (or brains so-to-speak) to create something meaningful, something that will help others based on what I’ve learned and allow for it to be absolutely remarkable…even if it’s small.

Seth Godin has expressed 7 attributes which he feels are what indispensable leaders need to possess. I have taken some notes and highlighted them here:

1. The ability to provide a unique interface between the members of the organization.

Your organization is a network. What holds it together and why? Making sure that everybody is there for the right reasons. A mission…the tribe knows where they are going and racking up accomplishments along the way. An indispensable leader help lead while he or she connects with the organization. The organization also needs to include the customers and prospects…providing the bridge from the outside world to the company.

2. Being able to deliver unique creativity.

Creativity is personal, original, unexpected, and useful. It requires domain knowledge and trust. Being able to deliver unique creativity is the most challenging part…not only to help the organization grow as a team but to also allow for us to continue being indispensable.

3. The courage to manage a situation or organization of great complexity.

When situations get complex, there is no manual, or some say “no map.” Indispensable leaders make their own maps and find the way as they continue to focus on the tribes objective(s).

4. Demonstrating the ability to lead customers.

We are living in times where markets are shifting and audiences are spreading out. Consumers are seeking engagement. They are looking for people to follow. The traditional (or 20th century if you will) model of commerce defined a brand and a team of people goes sell it to those who are willing to buy. It’s a very static approach and definitely a one-way transaction. “Here is the latest widget… take it or leave it” and at the end of the day, it’s still a widget. The 21st-century model is very fluid, interactive and decentralized. Meaning, organizations need more than what they’ve been used to. It means that every person that interacts with a consumer, or a business, or even other team members who work from within needs to be focused on marketing as leadership. There is no script, no manual, no map… just the ability to lead.

5. Inspiring staff

A friend and I were having a conversation the other day and some of Newton’s Laws came up. This got me to somehow relate the laws to teams and their efforts. A team at rest tends to stay at rest and forward motion is not the default state of any group of people, especially large groups of people. When there are many levels of management, politics and such all become a factor and then before you know it…everything seems to slow down due to excessive process. If the work environment is that of an industrial platform, a factory or manufacturing facility, then this isn’t much of a problem, as for the owner or foreman controls the department heads, and the department heads oversee his or her shift leaders and so on.

6. Providing domain knowledge.

Combining knowledge with smart decisions and generous contributions can change the way things are done. Strategy and motivation, combined with emotion and confidence allow for the map makers of our society be able to contribute to our organizations in ways that allow for everyone to understand the meaning, the common goal so deeply.

7. Possessing a unique talent.

Leaders need to be able to see things that the follower doesn’t already. Possessing a unique talent/skill allows for a team to collaborate creatively and effectively. When seeds are planted, beautiful things begin to grow. It is up to us to decide how we are going to nurture and manicure it.

I am very interested in your to share your voice on this matter. How do you see these abilities playing a role in your life?

Three Items About Social Technologies

charlene li wbf2010Co-founder of Altimeter Group, Charlene Li, spoke on the first day at the World Business Forum. She passionately expressed the value of social technologies.

“Social technologies are all about the relationships you can form.”

Here are a few items of interest and advice from Charlene Li:

1. What social technologies does better than anything else is create, foster, and build relationships. They enable authentic and transparent relationships.

2. You can’t control personal relationships, so don’t think you can control business relationships. In fact, you have to give up control in the social space, but you have to still be in command. To do this you have to inspire and lead your customers.

3. You simply cannot put a Return On Investment on a tweet. Make sure you’re asking the right questions when thinking about what to measure regarding the value of social technologies.

The one thing that stood out about Charlene was the connection she made with the audience. Her sincerity and passion poured out effortlessly. She focused on the importance of emotional intelligence within communities, both personally and professionally.

How do you use social technologies to enhance your relationships?

Jim Collins’ List Of 10 To-Dos For Successful Leadership

jim collins successful leadershipThis morning at HSM’s World Business Forum, Jim Collins, leadership expert and author of Built to Last and Good to Great shared a list of 10 to-dos for successful leadership:

1. Do your diagnostics. (There are free tools at www.jimcollins.com). Self-assess how you’re doing. Find weaknesses to improve upon.

2. Don’t focus on your career; focus on building pockets of greatness throughout your career.

3. Fill key seats with the right people. Ask yourself whether that’s the case in your organization. If not, start to make changes.

4. Adjust your questions to statements ration; focus on being interested more than on being interesting.

5. Ask yourself, How is the world changing and what are the brutal facts? Do a brutal facts inventory.

6. Turn off your gadgets and create white space. One day for every two weeks. No email, cell, etc., instead spend time engaged in hard disciplined thinking.

7. Time is truly the great equalizer. The question is not what we do, it’s what we have the discipline to stop doing. Rank order priorities and remove the bottom of the list.

8. Get insight into your passion; consider how you and your organizations can be useful in a way that society values.

9. Stop doing titles! The right people for key seats realize they don’t have a job, they have responsibilities.

10. Set big hairy audacious goals (for 15-20 years out) so you’re creating your own future. Spend more time asking how can be useful instead of show you can be successful.

“Never give in,” he said. “Never, never, never, never.”

Big Dogs That Listen, Get Treats

listen treats“There are times when even the best manager is like the little boy with the big dog waiting to see where the dog wants to go so he can take him there.” – Lee Iacocca.

The man who fathered the Ford Mustang and resurrected Chrysler from financial oblivion wasn’t born knowing how to pull off those magic acts, he learned them. While at Ford, he initiated careful research about how American demographics and the financial wherewithal of consumers would change during the 1960s. He listened to smart people tell him what the country needed and delivered a classic automobile.

Repeat proven results and continue to build on them.

Years later at Chrysler, Iacocca landed at a corporation in turmoil. Careful analysis showed that the company was in such dire straits that extreme measures would have to be taken to save it. Iacocca ended up needing loans from the government to keep Chrysler afloat. But once he got the money, he revived the company.

When we really listen to others, we learn more about ourselves and our abilities to help others achieve their goals.

In each case, the “big dogs” for Iacocca were the demands of the business: the need for new thinking at Ford and the absolute need for a survival plan at Chrysler. These dogs forced Iacocca to listen to them follow them, and ultimately steer him in directions that would benefit both companies.

We gather facts by listening, both with our ears and our eyes. Once the facts are in place, we can then make decisions that help everybody around us.

Managers who wag the dog make decisions without letting the facts tell them what’s right. Managers who take the opposite approach usually get the treats.

How important is it to you for other to listen while you are discussing an important topic? If you sense that you don’t have the listener’s full attention, how do you handle it?

What Can You Do To Impact Employee Engagement?

employee engagement geoff snyderThere’s a lot being written these days about employee engagement and retention. It seems employee engagement levels are pretty low right now, and many experts think we’ll see a significant number of workers looking for new opportunities once the economy improves.

That could spell trouble for a lot of companies. A big exodus of staff means significant recruiting and onboarding costs. But it also means a significant drain on your “brain trust” or intellectual capital. And that more than anything can impact your organization’s competitive position and ability to succeed.

So what can you do to drive up engagement?

From a talent management perspective, there are a few basic things every manager and leader can and should do. They include:

Be clear about goals and expectations, and help employees see how their work matters to the organization.
Reward, recognize and appreciate your employees in a fair and consistent way.
Give employees opportunities for growth and development.
These four things actually cover off a lot of the employee needs commonly recognized as contributing to employee engagement. Let’s look at each one in a bit more detail.

Give Employees Meaningful Feedback on a Regular Basis

For me, the two key words here are “meaningful” and “regular”. It’s about giving each of your employees the feedback they need to succeed. Tell them what you think they’re doing right and what they’re doing wrong. Be specific. Talk about the “what” and also the “how” – this should map to their assigned goals and competencies.

Don’t just give them feedback during their annual performance review. Tell them every day, or at least once a week. This helps them know what’s expected of them, demonstrates that you care about them and their performance, and opens up opportunities for dialogue that can help you both understand the factors that underlie their performance so you can support their success.

Be Clear About Goals and Expectations and Help Employees See How Their Work Matters to the Organization

I think one of the best ways to do this is to clearly link employee goals to higher level organizational goals. Do the mapping for them, so they can be like that famous janitor at NASA who told a visitor that by sweeping the floor he was helping put a man on the moon. This kind of context helps employees know that their work matters.

Make sure their goals are SMART and they can actually be achieved. Employees have to have the knowledge, skills and tools to do their work, but also the control and responsibility to achieve their goals. Often, we assign people goals they can’t actually achieve, then penalize them for it later.

The other thing we need to do is identify the competencies that are important for an employee’s role, as well as for the organization overall. This again helps to set clear expectations.

Finally, keep employees informed about organizational progress. Let them know, on a regular basis, how the organization is progressing in achieving its goals. This too will give them a sense of contribution and help them better understand what’s expected of them and why.

Reward, Recognize and Appreciate Your Employees in a Fair and Consistent Way

This doesn’t just mean money. There are lots of ways to reward and recognize employees. The experts tell us one of the most effective ways is with verbal praise. This is part of the feedback thing too. Find out what your employees value in terms of rewards, then cater to their preferences. And make sure your rewards and recognition are rooted in performance. That’s the only way they work as motivators.

Give Employees Opportunities for Groth and Development

Discuss your employees’ short and long-term career goals with them, and put development plans in place that give them opportunities to improve their current role and prepare for future advancement. Keep them learning. This is another great way to demonstrate that you and the organization care about the individual, but also that you’re committed to them over the long term.


While some of the things that contribute to employee engagement are outside of our direct control as managers and leaders, most of them can be fairly easily addressed with good talent management practices.

Are You A Selfish And Judgmental Manager?

business manager employee“So much of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to work.” – Peter Drucker

It’s often tempting to judge employees at every turn. Managers often feel they are not doing their jobs if they are not judging. But good judgments require foundations. In a changing economy where knowledgeable workers now play the most important roles, Drucker believed that employees should be treated as well as you would treat volunteers because they can take their knowledge and go elsewhere anytime they want.

If you remember that your employees are the ones who came to you because they believed in what your business does for others, you’ll learn to appreciate why they are there every day.

But too often, employees are treated like possessions that can be stockpiled or discarded at management’s whim. To keep them and help them thrive, Drucker said, management needs to appeal to their interests. They will stay — and produce — when they have a clear understanding of what the organization is trying to accomplish when they have responsibility for results, and when they feel they’re gaining more of the one thing no one can take away: knowledge. Anytime management makes it difficult for an employee to understand the mission (by not sharing it), to be accountable (by failing to give consistent feedback), an organization suffers. The employees might be blamed in these circumstances, but Drucker would say that management needs to look in the mirror and judge itself first.

A great manager lets his or her employees know what the organization’s game plan is. By doing this, it allows for ideas to be expressed and shared with other employees. How are you allowing this to happen within your organization?

Verbal And Non-Verbal Communication

verbal nonverbal communicationBelieve it or not, all of us speak to the world without having to say a word through non-verbal communication. Almost every facet of our personality is revealed through our appearance, our body language, our gestures, our facials expressions, our overall demeanor, and our posture and movements.

In our professional and personal lives, we’d like to think we could make friends and influence people if we verbally articulate our message with optimism, enthusiasm, charisma, poise, and charm. However, did you know that the verbal impact of communication only accounts for 7% of your overall message? The bulk of our communication comes across in our appearance and body language, comprising 55%. Tone, speed, and inflection of our voice make up the remaining 38%.

Since non-verbal communication encompasses 93% of our overall message, here is a closer look at what that entails.

It can include your attire, tone of voice, clearing your throat, rubbing your eyes, crossing your arms, tapping your toes, scratching your nose. Eye contact, or lack thereof, gestures, crossed legs, open arms, and the scent we transmit are all forms of non-verbal communication. Through your choice of clothing, hairstyle, glasses, accessories, and makeup if applicable, your appearance also communicates a strong message. The way you dress plays a vital part in how listeners receive you and how others respond to you.

According to author John T. Molloy, who is responsible for Dress for Success, clothes are used as a tool to control how others react to you and treat you.

In an interview situation or during a business meeting, it is very important that you send out the right signals. Always look attentive and interested in the opportunity or conversation – do not slouch in your chair. If you fib, your body language, the tone of voice or choice of words will probably give you away. Classic body language giveaways include looking everywhere other than the person you are speaking to and concealing your mouth behind your hands while speaking.

Not only is it important for us to be aware of our own body language, but it is as important to understand what body language means so we can effectively assess and react to others. For example, we may pass a negative judgment on someone because they slouch, fidget, or pout. If we are aware of why we made the judgment, we can filter out our biases and understand what their body language means and what it is telling us about that individual.

The most significant fact you should remember is that non-verbal signals have five times the impact of verbal signals. When the verbal and the non-verbal parts of the message are congruent, the listener believes your message. If they are not congruent, usually your words are saying yes, but your body language is saying no.

Always remember, actions speak louder than words.

What kind of experiences have you had with comparing verbal and non-verbal communication?

A Recent Feedback Lesson

feedback lessonAs part of a work experiment, I asked 16 people who I work with regularly were asked to give an assessment of how I was doing. After receiving both quantitative data and some comments on my strengths and areas for improvement, this is what I found:

It is hard to get good feedback!

It appears that the default position in our cultures is fear. Fear of honest feedback. Even more fear of giving it. Fear of nemesis. Fear of upsetting somebody or hurting someone’s feelings.

Face it — authorities didn’t use to ask for feedback. Parents didn’t want to hear it. Siblings sure as heck didn’t. Teachers hardly did. There just wasn’t a lot of people who modeled both seeking and giving constructive feedback. So, in our normal lives at work, people who could be helping us understand how to help them be more effective, and how to lead in ways that work, just don’t tell us.

Do you regularly check in with your team to seek feedback on your strengths and weaknesses?