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Servant Leadership

Servant Leadership

The Truth About “Servant Leadership”

May 8, 2017 by Dave Anderson

Servant leadership isn’t a new topic by any stretch, but was popularized in modern culture with the classic book on the subject by Robert Greenleaf four decades ago. After speaking in sixteen countries and writing thirteen books over the past two decades, I find there are still several misconceptions concerning what servant leadership is, and what it is not. Since it is fair to assume those reading this column are interested in improving their leadership ability—and elevating the positive impact they have on those they lead—I’ll endeavor to crystalize the essence of what servant leadership is really about, while dispelling a couple of myths that detract from its power and potential.

Myth #1: Servant leadership is about doing people’s work for them. 
I can recall teaching a private How to Run Your Business by THE BOOK seminar—based on my book of the same name—to a hotel group when an attendee said, “I like the idea of servant leadership, but I get tired of my people watching me do their work for them.” I replied that this wasn’t servant leadership at all; it was foolish martyrdom. I explained that servant leadership is not about doing people’s work for them, but instead, it is equipping people to do their own work better. Of course, there are times when the team is in a pinch and you may need to jump in to help someone complete a task; but, ultimately, servant leadership is about creating the conditions for your people to become less dependent on you, not more so.

 

“…SERVANT LEADERSHIP IS NOT ABOUT DOING PEOPLE’S WORK FOR THEM, BUT INSTEAD, IT IS EQUIPPING PEOPLE TO DO THEIR OWN WORK BETTER.”

 

Myth #2: Servant leadership is weak, or is for the weak. This misconception is brought about, in part, by the wrong understanding of what servant leadership is as discussed in the prior point. It is exacerbated by the very nature of the word “servant,” which when wrongly understood in the context of leadership can make you sound like a doormat or wimp. The fact is that it requires strength and humility to serve effectively—to set aside your own preferences or comfort in order to invest in the development of others.

To make the concept of servant leadership very real, I’ll give you five specific steps that you can take in any leadership position in order to serve your team members. You will see that following these these five steps addresses both myths well: you will equip others to do better work, and there is nothing warm or fuzzy about executing the tasks consistently and with excellence.

  1. You serve people by setting clear expectations for them.

In fact, it is a gross disservice to keep people guessing about what the following are:

  • Non-negotiable behavioral standards (core values).
  • Non-negotiable outcomes they are expected to create.
  • Non-negotiable daily activities they are to engage in, which are most predictive of creating the desired outcomes.
  • A bold vision that inspires the team member and allows them to clearly see their expected contribution.
  • A clear and compelling mission that unites the team behind a common purpose, and marginalizes competing agendas.

There is certainly nothing “soft” or “weak” about getting clear with what you expect from people, and creating benchmarks for accountability. In fact, the real leadership weaklings are those who are so reluctant to stand for anything or confront non-performance, that they create cultures with masses of gray areas where people must guess: what’s most important, where they are required to be, and by when—and then are eventually terminated because they guessed wrong.

  1. You serve people by giving fast, candid feedback on performance.

Once clarity is established, this point is far easier because you have created reference points for which you can give feedback on. It is a disservice to allow people to perform either well or poorly without either reinforcing or correcting their behavior. Servant leaders are fair in that if someone is great, they tell him or her; and, if they are failing, they let them know that as well.

  1. You serve people by holding them accountable for results.

What is “weak” is allowing someone to fail on your watch because you don’t have either the skills or guts to make both yourself and them uncomfortable with a tough-love conversation that involves consequences. If you care about people, you will confront them, you will stretch them, and you will punish them with consequences when they deserve it. Servant leaders expect a lot from people because they believe in them; they hold people accountable because they care, and they stretch them so the team member never has to look back and regret giving less than his or her best. If someone is either violating a core value or producing unacceptable performance, you will need to change the consequence for that behavior in order to change the behavior. It is a dereliction of duty to do otherwise and let the people you are responsible for self-destruct because you don’t do your job.

  1. You serve people by investing time and money: training, coaching, and mentoring them.

If you execute this task well, the unacceptable performances mentioned in the prior point will be less common. A servant leader endeavors to leave people better than they find them; to daily take the human capital they are entrusted with and make it more valuable through training, coaching, and mentoring.

  1. You serve people by empowering them with broadened latitude and discretion.

People grow when they are stretched, not when they are simply maintained. The servant leader’s job is to make his or her people less dependent on them. This is done by empowering the individual to make more independent decisions, giving them additional responsibilities that cause him or her to leave their comfort zones and thereby enable them to expand the value they add to the organization. However, it’s important that the training, coaching, and mentoring functions are working well before you empower people. To paraphrase the late, great, Jim Rohn, “If you motivate and empower idiots, all you’ll have are motivated and empowered idiots.”

While there are both additional myths and steps to take concerning servant leadership, this should give you a template to evaluate your own mindset and skill set as a servant leader. In fact, if your direct reports scored you A through F on the impact you have on them concerning the five steps provided, how would you do? Go ahead and ask them.

Author: Dave Anderson

Dave Anderson is President of LearnToLead which provides in-person and virtual training to many of the world’s best dealerships. Dave speaks to dealer groups over 125 times each year and has given seminars in 15 countries. He’s written the leadership column for Dealer Magazine for the past fifteen years. Dave’s 13th book, “It’s Not Rocket Science: 4 Simple Strategies for Mastering the Art of Execution” is now available worldwide.

The 7 C’s: How to Find and Hire Great Employees

The 7 C’s: How to Find and Hire Great Employees

Forbes Magazine – Written by Allan Hall.

A founder can’t grow a winning enterprise singlehandedly. Some may try, but it is nearly impossible to do so. Every famous entrepreneur has built a flourishing company with great employees by his or her side.

An entrepreneur can invent and even commercialize an idea as an enterprise of one. In time, however, the tasks of running a business become too great for the entrepreneur to manage alone.  At this point, a savvy leader must find and hire the best workers to help achieve the entrepreneurial dream.

In today’s economy, hiring the best people is more critical than ever. Entrepreneurs can’t afford to lose time, money and results from a bad hiring choice (a recent Forbes article by David K. Williams pegs the cost of a single bad hire at anywhere from $25-50,000). The cost of finding, interviewing, engaging and training new employees is high. Employees also require desks, computers, phones and related equipment, let alone the largest costs of being an employer—salaries, benefits and taxes.

Leaders view new employees as an investment and anticipate an excellent financial return over time.

Over the course of my career, I’ve hired hundreds of people. Some were exceptional employees who were major contributors to our success. Others didn’t work out. In most cases, when an employee left or was terminated, I was the problem. Those dismissed were good people. I just did not know how to properly hire new employees.

Historically, and sadly, the only criteria I had used were to find the candidate with the best skills, experiences and ability to match a job description.

I have since identified seven categories—I call them the “7 C’s”–that you should consider to find the best new employees, as follows:

  1. Competent: This is still the first factor to consider. Does the potential employee have the necessary skills, experiences and education to successfully complete the tasks you need performed?
  2. Capable: Will this person complete not only the easy tasks but will he or she also find ways to deliver on the functions that require more effort and creativity? For me, being capable means the employee has potential for growth and the ability and willingness to take on more responsibility.
  3. Compatible: Can this person get along with colleagues, and more importantly, can he or she get along with existing and potential clients and partners? A critical component to also remember is the person’s willingness and ability to be harmonious with you, his or her boss. If the new employee can’t, there will be problems.
  4. Commitment: Is the candidate serious about working for the long term? Or is he or she just passing through, always looking for something better? A history of past jobs and time spent at each provides clear insight on the matter.
  5. Character: Does the person have values that align with yours? Are they honest; do they tell the truth and keep promises? Are they above reproach? Are they selfless and a team player?
  6. Culture: Every business has a culture or a way that people behave and interact with each other. Culture is based on certain values, expectations, policies and procedures that influence the behavior of a leader and employees. Workers who don’t reflect a company’s culture tend to be disruptive and difficult.
  7. Compensation: As the employer, be sure the person hired agrees to a market-based compensation package and is satisfied with what is offered. If not, an employee may feel unappreciated and thereby under perform. Be careful about granting stock in the company; if not handled well, it will create future challenges.

Job applicants will give you their answers to the seven categories. They may be modestly presented or exaggerated. You are searching for the truth. To obtain a clearer picture of potential workers, I recommend you talk to former employment associates. The references a job candidate provides will nearly always provide a biased report. Instead, ask the candidate for the names of former bosses, peers and subordinates.

I’m here to tell you that good references will share the truth and not mince words. With these names in hand, call former co-workers and ask them if the job applicant fits my seven characteristics. This will give you a full and accurate view, good and bad, that will leave you much better equipped to select the best candidate.

Paying Attention to Punctuality

Paying Attention to Punctuality

I have a magic pill to sell you. It will help you make more money, be happier, look thinner, and have better relationships. It’s a revolutionary new pharmaceutical product called Late-No-More. Just one dose every day will allow you to show up on time, greatly enhancing your life and the lives of those around you.

All joking aside, being late is unacceptable. While that sounds harsh, it’s the truth and something that should be said more often. I don’t care if you’re attending a dinner party, a conference call, or a coffee meeting – your punctuality says a lot about you.
Being late bothers me so much that just thinking about it makes me queasy. My being late, which does occasionally happen, usually causes me to break out into a nervous sweat. The later I am, the more it looks like I’ve sprung a leak. Catch me more than 15 minutes late and it looks like I went swimming.

On this issue, I find myself a member of a tiny minority. It seems like most people consider a meeting time or deadline to be merely a mild advisory of something that might happen. I’ve been called uptight and unreasonable, or variations prefaced with expletives. In a world that feels perpetually late, raising the issue of punctuality isn’t a way to win popularity contests and I’m ok with that.
There’s a reason we set meeting times and deadlines. It allows for a coordination of efforts, minimizes time/effort waste, and helps set expectations. Think of how much would get done if everyone just “chilled out” and “went with the flow?” It would be the definition of inefficiency. It’s probably not that hard to imagine, considering just last week I had 13 (yes, I counted) different people blow meeting times, or miss deadlines. It feels like a raging epidemic, seemingly smoothed over by a barrage of “my bads,” “sorry, mans,” and “you know how it goes.” The desired response is “it’s all good,” but the reality is that it’s not okay. Here’s what it is.

• Disrespectful: Being on time is about respect. It signals that you value and appreciate the other person. If you don’t respect the meeting’s participants, why are you meeting with them in the first place?
• Inconsiderate: Unintentionally being late demonstrates an overall lack of consideration for the lives of others. You just don’t care.
• Big-Timing: Intentionally being late is about power. It’s showing the other person, or people that you’re a “big deal” and have the upper-hand in the relationship. It’s also called being a dick.
• Incredible: No, not in the good way. When you miss meeting times or deadlines, your credibility takes the trajectory of a lead balloon. If you can’t be counted on to be on time, how could you possibly have credibility around far tougher tasks?
• Unprofitable: Let’s consider a scenario where five people are holding a meeting at 2 p.m. Your sauntering in ten minutes late just wasted 40 minutes of other peoples’ time. Let’s say the organization bills $200/hour. Are you paying the $133 bill? Someone certainly is.
• Disorganized: If you can’t keep your calendar, what other parts of your life are teetering on the edge of complete disaster? Being late signals at best that you’re barely hanging on and probably not someone I want to associate with.
• Overly-Busy: Everyone likes to equate busyness with importance, but the truly successful know that’s BS. Having a perpetually hectic schedule just signals that you can’t prioritize, or say “no,” neither of which is an endearing trait.
• Flaky: Apparently some people just “flake out,” which seems to mean that they arbitrarily decided not to do the thing they committed to at the very last minute. Seriously? That’s ridiculous.
• Megalomaniacal: While most grow out of this by the age of eight, some genuinely believe they are the center of the universe. It’s not attractive. 

As I said earlier, I’m occasionally late. Sometimes a true emergency happens, or an outlier event transpires. When it happens, I try to give a very detailed account of why I was late, apologize profusely, make sure the other person knows that I take it very seriously, and assure them it won’t happen again.
Paying attention to punctuality is not about being “judgy,” or stressed. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It makes room for the caring, considerate, thoughtful people I want in my life, whether that’s friends or colleagues. Think of how relaxing your life would be if everyone just did what they said they’d do, when they said they’d do it? A good place to start is with yourself and a great motto is something I was taught as a child:

“5 minutes early is on time. On time is late. Late is unacceptable.” 

  • Brent Beshore is the founder and CEO of adventure.es

Forbes Magazine. 

Learning to Learn

Learning to Learn

Organizations today are in constant flux. Industries are consolidating, new business models are emerging, new technologies are being developed, and consumer behaviors are evolving. For executives, the ever-increasing pace of change can be especially demanding. It forces them to understand and quickly respond to big shifts in the way companies operate and how work must get done. In the words of Arie de Geus, a business theorist, “The ability to learn faster than your competitors may be the only sustainable competitive advantage.”

This isn’t relaxed armchair or even structured classroom learning. It’s about resisting the bias against doing new things, scanning the horizon for growth opportunities, and pushing yourself to acquire radically different capabilities—while still performing your job. That requires a willingness to experiment and become a novice again and again: an extremely discomforting notion for most of us. The people who succeed at this kind of learning have four attributes that they have in spades:

aspiration, self-awareness, curiosity and vulnerability.

They truly want to understand and master new skills; they see themselves very clearly;

they constantly think of and ask good questions and they tolerate their own mistakes as they move up the learning curve.

Of course, these things come more naturally to some people than to others. However, here some fairly simple mental tools anyone can develop to boost all four attributes—even those that are often considered fixed (aspiration, curiosity, and vulnerability).

Aspiration

 It’s easy to see aspiration as either there or not: You want to learn a

new skill or you don’t; you have ambition and motivation or you lack

them. But great learners can raise their aspiration level—and that’s key because everyone is guilty of sometimes resisting development that is critical to success.

Think about the last time your company adopted a new approach— overhauled a reporting system, replaced a CRM platform, revamped the supply chain. Were you eager to go along? I doubt it. Your initial response was probably to justify not learning. (It will take too long. The old way works just fine for me. I bet it’s just a flash in the pan.) When confronted with new learning, this is often our first roadblock: We focus on the negative and unconsciously reinforce our lack of aspiration.

When we do want to learn something, we focus on the positive— what we’ll gain from learning it— and envision a happy future in which we’re reaping those rewards. That

propels us into action. Researchers have found that shifting your focus from challenges to benefits is a good way to increase your aspiration to

do initially unappealing things.

For example, when Nicole Detling, a psychologist at the University

of Utah, encouraged aerialists and speed skaters to picture themselves benefiting from a particular skill, they were much more motivated to practice it.

Self-Awareness

Over the past decade or so, most leaders have grown familiar with

the concept of self-awareness. They understand that they need to solicit

feedback and recognize how others see them. But when it comes to the

need for learning, our assessments of ourselves—what we know and don’t know, skills we have and don’t have—can still be woefully inaccurate. In one study conducted by David Dunning, a Cornell University psychologist, 94% of college professors reported that they were doing “above average work.” Clearly, almost half were wrong— many extremely so—and their self-deception surely diminished any appetite for development. Only 6% of respondents saw themselves as having a lot to learn about being an effective teacher.

The people who evaluate themselves most accurately start the process inside their own heads: They accept that their perspective is often biased

or flawed and then strive for greater objectivity, which leaves them much

more open to hearing and acting on others’ opinions. The trick is to pay attention to how you talk to yourself about yourself and then question the validity of that “self-talk.”

Let’s say your boss has told you that your team isn’t strong enough and that you need to get better at assessing and developing talent. Your initial reaction might be something like “What? She’s wrong. My team is strong.” Most of us respond defensively to that sort of criticism. But as soon as you recognize what you’re thinking, ask yourself, Is that accurate? What facts do I have to support it? In the process of reflection, you may discover that you’re wrong and your boss is right, or that the truth lies somewhere in between— you cover for some of your reports by doing things yourself, and one of them is inconsistent in meeting deadlines; however, two others are stars. Your inner voice is most useful when it reports the facts of a situation in this balanced way. It should serve as a “fair witness” so that you’re open to seeing the areas in which you could improve and how to do so.

Curiosity

 Kids are relentless in their urge to learn and master. As John Medina writes in Brain Rules, “This need for explanation is so powerfully stitched into their experience that some scientists describe it as a drive, just as hunger and thirst are drives.” Curiosity is what makes us try something until we can do it, or think about something until we understand it. Great learners retain this childhood drive or regain it through another application of self-talk. Instead of focusing on and reinforcing initial disinterest in a new subject, they learn to ask themselves “curious questions” about it and follow those questions up with actions. Carol Sansone, a psychology researcher, has found, for example, that people can increase their willingness to tackle necessary tasks by thinking about how they could do the work differently to make it more interesting. In other words, they change their self-talk from This is boring to I wonder if I could…?

You can employ the same strategy in your working life by noticing the language you use in thinking about things that already interest you:

How…? Why…? I wonder…?

—and drawing on it when you need to become curious. Then take just one step to answer a question you’ve asked yourself: Read an article, query an expert, find a teacher, join a group—whatever feels easiest.

The next time you’re asked to learn something at the office, or sense

that you should because colleagues are doing so, encourage yourself to ask and answer a few curious questions about it—Why are others so excited about this? How might this make my job easier? —and then seek out the answers. You’ll need to find

just one thing about a “boring” topic that sparks your curiosity.

Vulnerability

Once we become good or even excellent at some things, we rarely

want to go back to being not good at other things. Yes, we’re now taught to embrace experimentation and “fast failure” at work. But we’re also taught to play to our strengths. So the idea of being bad at something for weeks or months; feeling awkward and slow; having to ask “dumb,” “I-don’t know- what-you’re-talking-about”

questions; and needing step-by-step guidance, again and again is extremely scary.

Great learners allow themselves to be vulnerable enough to accept that beginner state. In fact, they become reasonably comfortable in it—by managing their self-talk.

Generally, when we’re trying something new and doing badly at it, we think terrible thoughts: I hate this. I’m such an idiot. I’ll never get this right. This is so frustrating! That static in our brains leaves little bandwidth for learning. The ideal mindset for a beginner is both vulnerable and balanced: I’m going to be bad at this to start with  because I’ve never done it before. AND I know I can learn to do it over time. In fact, the researchers Robert Wood and Albert Bandura found in the late 1980s that when people are encouraged to expect mistakes and learn from them early in the process of

acquiring new skills, the result is “heightened interest, persistence, and better performance.”

THE ABILITY to acquire new skills and knowledge quickly and continually is crucial to success in a world of rapid change. If you don’t currently have the aspiration, self-awareness, curiosity, and vulnerability to be an effective learner, these simple tools can help you get there.

– Mental tools to help you master new skills by Erika Andersen

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Marcus Lemonis: Why vulnerability is important in business

Marcus Lemonis: Why vulnerability is important in business

Investor and entrepreneur Marcus Lemonis uses an unusual method to improve his business partnerships: he talks about his own weaknesses and mistakes.

In other words, he shows vulnerability.

“So often in business we think that a very proper and stern way of conducting ourselves as know it alls and macho men and women is the way to be,” Lemonis says. “But I actually believe that business is built on relationships.”

“Relationships are built on trust, and trust is built on vulnerability and transparency,” he says.

Lemonis is the CEO of Camping World, which recently went public. He is also a serial entrepreneur and investor who helps businesses dig themselves out of bad situations on CNBC’s “The Profit.”

Often in the show, he can be seen telling stories of his own business mistakes.

“The key for me in building these relationships with business owners is by starting by unveiling myself first and uncovering my mistakes and my frailties and my weaknesses, so that they can be comfortable uncovering theirs.” the CEO says.

 

For him, opening up has a very practical purpose.

“Look, the only reason that I talk about the rough patches in my life isn’t to have people feel sorry for me,” Lemonis says. “It’s to try to create relatability between people.”