Reflect a Positive Attitude

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"Mirror, mirror on the wall, will I be ready
when they ask me to be the leader?"

A positive attitude towards yourself and others around you will make a great difference in the outcome of your efforts to build a better leadership brand. No one wants to help a person with a negative attitude or support their efforts. Do you want to be known for having a “positive” outlook on life or known for always talking about the “negative” things in life?

As a leader, people look up to you for your wisdom and guidance. Projecting a “positive” attitude and seeing the opportunities that come from problems will give you a brand that others will want to follow.

When you look into the mirror, do you see a person with a positive attitude and confidence in their personal leadership brand? If not, the people at work will not see it either when you walk through the door to lead them.

5 Basic Principles of Successful Leadership

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Asking for help is a sign of STRENGTH, not weakness.

When it may seem like things are going south at several points and you feel no one wants to help you solve your problem, you need to maintain your clarity and resolve tough circumstances. Thanks to understanding who you are, what you are capable of, and continuing to ask for help you will persevere. People who are not confident of themselves are afraid of looking foolish by asking for help. But, for those that are confident and persist in challenging the circumstances, they will find help available and they will succeed. The good leader is smart enough to know what he or she does not know and willing to ask for help.

Never ask someone to do something you are not willing to do yourself.

The successful leader leads by example. If changes at work are needed, the leader should change first and then set the example for others to follow. If new training program or new work culture are to be implemented at work, the leader should be the first to attend the training. If work performance habits are to be changed, the work leader needs to ensure he or she has corrected or changed those habits before asking other workers to change. Lead by example. 

Continuously ask “Good” questions and know how to listen.

Asking good questions is a 2-step process and is followed with 4 good listening techniques. If you are curious about the processes within your organization and want to ask questions about them… get prepared first.

1. Think about who you will ask, when you will ask them, where you will ask them, and don’t presume you already know the answer.
2. Write a date and time in your journal, when you will ask the question and write it down before reading it back to yourself. You don’t want to ask questions that can be answered with a “yes” or “no”. You want to worker to use their brain and think about an answer that makes sense, not just a quick yes or no answer. 

1. After you ask the question, close your mouth and keep it closed. Give the person a few moments to think about your question and develop an answer for you. 2. When they speak, maintain good eye contact with them and do not be looking at your cell phone or computer or anywhere else than directly at them.
3. Take a few notes about what they say. You don’t need every word, but you need the ideas they have so you can review them later.
4. Be sure to tell them “thank you” and show that you sincerely care about what they had to say. They will stop avoiding you and be waiting for your next question.

Insist on having current data before helping someone solve a problem.

Too often people use “fuzzy words” such as always, frequently, too many, not enough, etc. to tell their supervisor about a problem. There is no way a leader can make a good decision on the actions needed to correct a problem if there are not hard facts. The percentages we assign to those fuzzy words are different for each person and they multiply the confusion when groups try to brainstorm a solution. Asking good questions and getting quantitative answers with data will help everyone to clearly understand the severity of the problem and help to focus on possible solutions. With data you can set the goals for the problem-solving group and be able to measure possible solutions against the current problem data to choose the best actions to take.

Look for opportunities to recognize and reward people for good performance.

When most leaders go to the shop floor or the production area they are usually looking for problems. If you always look for problems, you will find problems… but you will walk right past someone doing something great. Take time to schedule a visit to the work areas in your journal with a specific time and date. Then go there looking to catch someone doing something above the normal standard of performance. Most companies have people doing good work, but frequently the leaders fail to take time to recognize and reward these outstanding employees. When workers are given a difficult task they often devise improvements in the process and do not tell anyone about it. Catch these “continuously improving” employees in the act and let them know that you appreciate their contributions to the company and to improving the processes. If this is not you regular habit now, do not be surprised by the reactions of the workers that are recognized for doing things better without being told. This is something new for them and for you that will provide positive results.  

The Future is Looking Up!

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The future is as bright as you want it to be. Is your life looking up and is your career headed in the right direction? There was a time in my life when things did not look so good. I had a good job, I was married and had two wonderful daughters, but my life was headed in the wrong direction. I turned it around and it took a lot of work. But most of all it took planning and initiative. This blog is the first of three that will lead you in the right direction towards individual success as a leader of yourself and others. 

PLAN FOR ACTION

You have decided to take steps to improve your leadership skills to get that new job, or to start your own company, or venture into a new career in a different industry. You are ready to work on your new idea and take action. But the question is, do you have a plan for these actions?

An idea without action is dreaming,
action without a targeted goal is wasted effort,
an idea passionately executed can lead to success!

Making a plan and writing it down gives you a map to follow when you wander away from the path of your targeted goal. It helps to explain it to others who can help you reach your goals. 

When you are planning to sail uncharted waters that you have not traveled before, you need a map or plan that you understand to guide your way. We humans have tremendous capacity to shape and change our own destiny, but it takes thinking, planning and execution. I agree with Albert Einstein who said this about creating a plan, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” Keep it simple!


1. Plan to be different! 

Plan to separate yourself from other potential leaders. Go out and buy a new coloring book and many different colored markers. Color the picture as it has never been colored before; pink skies, blue grass, yellow trees. This simple exercise will help you to escape from the boundaries put on you by your parents, teachers, and supervisors without disturbing anyone.

When was the last time you planned to do something wacky or crazy… just for the fun of it?

Plan to read a book about something you have never read before. Plan to take time to talk to a new employee that you have never spoken to before. Plan to have lunch with the "smartest" person in your organization. Write these things down in your journal, plan a day and time to do them, set a reminder for yourself in your cell phone and don't just plan it… Just Do It!!!


2. Every successful leader keeps some type of journal

Electronically or on paper, make a plan and write it down. Review it every day and use it to prioritize your daily, weekly and monthly tasks. We all forget things from time-to-time. We do not ever know which opportunity or contact will be the best one, so write down all of them. Have a source you can refer to and to use as a guide to stay on track when you are over-tasked! It does not have to be a rigid schedule, and it can be changed as needs arise. But It needs to be like a personal secretary for you.

3. Plan on results!

We are often told to make a list of things we need to do this week or this month to check them off as we complete them. But when the time period is ending, and we have not finished everything, we are pressured to meet our own self-imposed deadline. This is because we put things on our list that we should have given to others to do. 

If you want to get more things done, pass some of them on to your subordinates. Give them a chance to grow professionally by completing some of the tasks you usually do yourself. In order not to fall back into the habit of doing these things, that someone else can do, make yourself a Don't-Do-List. 

This is highly recommended by Tom Peters in his brilliant book Essentials Series: Leadership, The Brand You 50. Post it up where you usually sit to make your To-Do-List. They waste your precious time, and you put them on the bottom of your list because you didn't want to do them anyway! Right?

"Excellence is a gradual result of always striving to do better!” — Pat Riley

Make a plan to take responsibility for your own results. Start holding yourself accountable and stop blaming the people and conditions around you for your lack of success. Make a schedule of activities you know you need to do to improve and follow through to make sure you do them. Set lofty goals for yourself, plan to operate with speed and intensity, and don't focus on effort… focus on results.

Find something that you are good at and plan to do it better than anyone else. Know which technologies you need to master and which ones to pass on to other people to do. The best life can get is when people pay you to do something that you love to do. Plan to do more of it. 

"Some people WANT it to happen, some people WISH it would happen, others MAKE it happen!" — Michael Jordan

Your success starts with YOU. You have to decide what you want to do and make a plan to achieve it. Every day every week, hold yourself accountable! It will inevitably lead you to improvement!

For more Actions and Quotes about becoming a successful leader read the first book in my Leadership Series, Looking Up!

Michael Wader

Leading Creative Teams

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Your organization has given your department the job of solving a complicated, long-standing problem, and as the manager of this department you need to lead this effort. You have decided to put together a team of your workers to try and come up with a workable solution. So, as you make a list of requirements needed for the team, the very first item, people, has you stumped.

Who do you have that can be on this team? Who will want to be on this team? Who will be the “best” people to be on the team? Who can you afford to give up to be on the team? When will they meet and where? How are you going to explain the problem in detail to them? How long should you give them to give you a solution? How will you measure their solution to see if it will work or not? So many things to think about and so little time to get started. Where is a manager supposed to start? Here are 5 critical steps that I suggest you follow.



Some of Your Best People Having Fun

You will want to pick some of your “best” people if you want good results. But also, you should consider those employees that are always questioning your directives, and keep asking “why, why, why...” You will want four different groups represented on your team: men, women, someone who has been there for 10 years or more, and someone who has been there less than 1 year. Also, if you have a culturally mixed group of employees, try to get different cultures into the four groups mentioned before. As their leader you need to think about how you can make this a fun and productive experience for everyone.

 

The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.
— Theodore Roosevelt



Challenge the Team with a Declaration for Innovation

Provide a clear vision to the team as to what the solution should solve. DO NOT impart your ideas of what the solution should be, onto the team. Explain the importance of this effort and how it will help the individuals and the company grow and be better. Set a high goal or expectation for an exceptionally good result that can be implemented. DON’T ask for a little, ASK for a lot!


Some people see things as they are and ask, ‘Why?’

I see things as they have never been and ask, ‘Why not?’
— John F. Kennedy and George Bernard Shaw

 

Give Them Freedom to Think Outside the Box

As their leader, you need to remove barriers that keep the team within boundaries for the solutions. Old paradigms of how things should be solved need to be thrown away. Seek ideas and solutions that were not in their minds before they gathered, and solutions that do not include compromises or cause other problems. Make sure they have adequate time, materials, and place to work undisturbed. Allow them to select their own internal team leader and recorder. Ask them what other resources are needed that will help foster creativity and fun for them team.

NOTE: Surprise them, by having a trainer, or co-worker not on the team, play a game or exercise that makes them laugh; is fun, and causes them to use their brains to solve a puzzle… (warm them up) before they start working on the real problem.

 




Ask this question that was first posed by the futurist Joel Barker:

 

What can we not do today, but if we could, it would change the future?
— Joel Barker




Give Them the Factual Data That Is Available

The team may need to have some facts about the current situation to know how bad it is or how far they want to take the solution. Be sure these are the facts and not just someone’s opinion, or old historic data. They will need fresh factual data. Make a computer available to them that they can use to retrieve data from across the organization that may provide direction or details to answer their many questions. Inform other managers about the importance of answering their questions as soon as possible with factual data and giving them the support needed.





Never Forget to Celebrate

When the results are in and the team has a solution, make sure you celebrate. No matter how large or small the victory is, be sure to celebrate. Acknowledge the team’s efforts, give them appropriate rewards if that is your company’s culture and give all team members recognition. Failure to celebrate or recognize their hard work will make it harder next time to get people to volunteer to be on your next team. 





Remember that Your Attitude Determines Your Altitude and almost any problem can be solved with a positive attitude and the mixing of minds that are motivated and have a clear goal.

Jump-Start Your Leadership Skills

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Young leaders, or those who are preparing to move up into a leadership position, usually face a common problem. The future looks exciting to you! You are excited and ready to become the leader your company needs. For others, you are already in a new leadership position and facing the same problem.

Companies all over the world make the same mistake. When a leadership position becomes vacant and they need to fill it, they look around and find their best technician or best administrator and push them up into the position.

They promote their best technician into a Manager’s leadership position, and when he or she becomes the best manager, they move them up into a Senior Manager's leadership position. Then, when they become the best Senior Manager, they move them up to a Director’s leadership position… and then they fail. Companies frequently promote competent people until they become incompetent. Yes... they promote you until you fail. The company assumes: because you were successful at the last level, you will be successful at the next higher level. 

When did this company take the time to “groom” or train you for the next leadership level? Without giving you the tools needed for the increased level of responsibility and new leadership skills, they thrust you into the position… and hope for the best. How will you build the trust of the Senior Leaders and Directors already in lateral positions to your new position? How will you motivate your new subordinates where others have failed… Or replace a leader that was loved by the workers? What new tasks will you keep and which ones will you pass on to others? After all, you can’t do everything by yourself.

What you need is a Personal Professional Strategic Plan. You cannot afford to move into a new leadership position without a good plan! 

“Self-reflection is the first key to becoming a leader!”

So you need to ask yourself:

•  What are your strengths and weaknesses?

•  What are your opportunities and what are the threats to your advancement?

•  Who can help you reach your leadership goals?

•  What problems do you need to avoid?

Without a good plan, the likelihood of moving up and being successful in your new position is doubtful. The Russian writer Leo Tolstoy said: “Everyone wants to change the world, but no one wants to change himself!”

Don’t wait for the future to come to you—learn how you can start to create it today!

Asking for help is s sign of strength, not a sign of weakness!

For more information about "Jump-Starting" your successful leadership career, contact me at mike@michaelwader.com.