Archive for October 2017

Appreciate The Value Of Personal Accountability

October 27, 2017

The one personal skill that continues to differentiate success from mediocrity is personal accountability.  Personal accountability is defined as the ability to be responsible for the consequences of one’s actions and decisions.  Personal accountability is a personal skill that can be observed and developed.

A person who has a strong sense of personal accountability has an internal responsibility to be accountable; a willingness to “own up” that will be exhibited in the person’s actions.  Someone who has personal accountability will perform well even when expectations are not clear, resources are hard to find, or competition is tough.

How do leaders know if the people they are looking to hire or their direct reports have personal accountability?  Ask these questions:

  • Tell me about a time when it was necessary to admit to others that you had made a mistake.  How did you handle it?
  • Give an example of a situation where others had made an error or mistake and you had to take the blame for their actions.  How did you react?
  • What is the worst business decision you ever made?  What made it the worst? Would knowing what you do now have helped you to avoid making that decision?
  • Give me an example of a lesson you have learned from making a mistake.  What did you do differently going forward?

Leaders who understand the personal accountability capacity of each direct report will be empowered and empower others for greater success.

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Impulse Control Creates Better Leaders

October 20, 2017

In 1972 at Stanford University, Walter Mischel studied a group of four-year old children and conducted the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment.  Each of the children was given one marshmallow, but were promised two if they waited twenty minutes before eating the first marshmallow. Some children were able to wait the twenty minutes, and some were not.  Mischel then studied the children into adolescence and found that those children able to delay gratification were psychologically better-adjusted, more dependable, and better students.  Bottom line: delaying gratification resulted in more success.

Good impulse control is considered a positive leadership characteristic and as psychologist Daniel Goleman indicates, an important component trait of emotional intelligence.  Leaders are under much pressure to deliver results faster and often forsake greater future success because they choose today’s immediate gratification.

We see this in leaders who hire questionable candidates who can immediately contribute over high-potential candidates needing some grooming.  We see this in leaders who choose to complete a task themselves today instead of delegating it to a developing direct report because it gets done faster.  We see this in leaders who fail to prepare a succession plan for their direct reports because it takes up too much time today and figure they’ll just deal with it later.

Empowered leaders control the impulse of today’s short cuts and experience greater success tomorrow.

Through Preparation, Then Through Trust

October 13, 2017

One sign of a controlling leader is they become ineffective when they or their cohorts are not around to use external controls.  It’s not uncommon to hear a leader say, “I can’t go on a two week vacation, the place will fall apart if I’m gone that long.”

Going away for two weeks is a perfect way to test for empowerment; however, leaders cannot just dump and run.  Here are some actions leaders can take to ensure they and their direct reports feel confident while they are gone:

  • Document the critical aspects of the leader’s position;
  • Identify direct reports who are capable of these aspects (they need not all be carried out by the same person);
  • Train and/or cross-train;
  • Have a direct report do the aspect of the work as a trial run before leaving;
  • Finally, enjoy the time away.

By empowering direct reports to perform aspects of the leader’s job while they’re gone and entrusting them to make decisions in their absence, direct reports will successfully increase trust, confidence, engagement, and productivity.  Leaders may even find that allowing the direct report to continue that work upon their return opens new options up for them.

Direct Reports Should Be Challenged To Continuously Develop

October 6, 2017

In his book “The Shallows: What The Internet Is Doing To Our Brains”, Nicholas Carr argues that our reliance on the Internet is changing how our brains operate.  As we become more reliant on the Internet, and electronics in general, our brains are required to do less memorization and deep reading.  With facts and data being just a few keystrokes away, why tax our brains with memorization?  Why read a complete article or book, when with a few clicks several summaries and reviews give us what we need to know?

The Internet has made things much easier for our brains.  But the brain is like any other muscle and needs to be exercised or will atrophy.  Leaders must ask themselves how they are challenging their direct reports to exercise their brains.

One leader asked each of his direct reports to read the first chapter of a popular personal development book and send him a brief review of what they read and how their executive team could be more effective.  The direct reports enjoyed the exercise, the leader enjoyed the improvements, and the team became stronger.

Leaders who empower their direct reports to develop their brains will enjoy success too.