The Applause of a Single Human Being

This post is an excerpt from my new book Ignite Your 
Leadership Expertise, which is available on Amazon.com.

Recently I had an idea for one of my corporate leadership programs that has over 6,000 leaders enrolled. In an attempt to make the program communications more personal, I included an insightful reflection one of the participants “Mark” had shared at the bottom of the email message. I didn’t have to wait long for a response, but I was surprised who it came from. Within minutes an email reply appeared from our company president. He had cc’d me in a reply directly to Mark and included Mark’s entire executive chain of command. Our president began by thanking him for his engagement in the program and leadership in his function and ended with a “proud to have you on the team!”

I don’t know anyone busier than our company president, but he still found time to give a personal kudos. I don’t know Mark personally, but I bet he went home walking on air with a story to share with his family over dinner. “That was really fun to be a part of,” I thought. “I want to do this again.”

One of my favorite quotes of all-time comes from the 18th century English writer Samuel Johnson, who observed, “The applause of a single human being is of great consequence.”

Each of us are “single human beings.” We qualify. Your applause is of great consequence, and so is mine.

Celebrating the success of others is definitely a “nice” thing to do, but if we think a little deeper, it has some real benefits for us as well.

5 Ways to Take the Pain Out of Giving Feedback

One of the most distasteful activities leaders face is giving negative feedback. The reason? When done well, it can still ruffle feathers. When done poorly, it’s a disaster. No one likes engaging in activities that often aren’t appreciated.

Giving great feedback isn’t easy. It’s tricky, it’s not much fun and to top it off, none of us were born knowing how to give great feedback. We have to learn how over time – often the hard way.

If you’ve struggled with giving feedback before, here are some tricks to get you pointed in the right direction quickly.

Simplify or Petrify

I had a chance to work with a couple new vendors recently. The contrasts couldn’t be more stark. One is a time-tested and respected brand and product. Another is a semi-recent start-up with an innovative concept. But the differences didn’t end there. Right from the get-go, one required some initial planning and then essentially ran itself. The other became a second job to actively manage. One required a few decisions that could be made quickly. The other required many complicated and lengthy decision points. One had a simple system with self-service reporting. The other had a complicated system that required customized reporting.

In many ways the products were comparable, but it wasn’t long before I started caring less about results and more about my own self-preservation.

The main issue wasn’t quality or customer service. It was simplicity. From top to bottom, one was simple, the other was complex.

In today’s marketplace, simplicity is currency.

As you look to increase your leadership effectiveness, make sure simplicity is part of your equation. Here are a few tips to get you started.

12 Crucial Questions to Better Decision-Making

Decisions fascinate me. Occasionally they come easily. Sometimes they are difficult. Oftentimes they’re stressful. Some have huge implications. Most have a variety of influencing factors. Some decisions turn out perfectly. Some blow up entirely.

Leaders are responsible for making important decisions that by nature aren’t easy. In fact, in a certain sense the essence of one’s leadership is the sum of the decisions he or she has made over time. Unfortunately, many leaders struggle with the decision-making process. I’ve written before about the need for leaders to have the courage to step up and make the tough calls. I’ve also shared an insightful decision-making process I’ve found.

Fortunately, decision-making skills are a lot like public speaking skills. The more you step up when others shy away, the greater your influence will become.

Below, I’d like to include a variety of factors I consider when making decisions that will have significant organizational impact. These are factors I often use – and encourage those I’m responsible for to use as well.

Dealing in Hope

Napoleon Bonaparte claimed, “A leader is a dealer in hope.”

Hope is a strangely human enigma. It can’t be handled but it can be shared. It can’t create anything on its own but it can pave the way for new accomplishments.

Whether you’re celebrating a new beginning (like the start of a new year), caught up in new adventure or struggling to maintain the status quo, hope plays a key role. Not only must leaders be positive (no one wants to follow a pessimist!), they must deal in hope that can be felt and transferred.

Here are several ways to grow and share your hope.

Expertise Matters!

Years ago I served as a consultant to two non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that worked closely together. At one, the head accountant was a friendly woman who very much enjoyed her job. But on several occasions, there were questions regarding the way the numbers added up and we had to work together to find and fix the errors. One day the president of the other NGO expressed a need for a new accountant and I casually suggested he consider the accountant from the first NGO. He rolled his eyes and commented that her lack of expertise would be a liability on his team.

I’ve thought about that scenario quite a few times since then. There have been occasions where I was clearly out of my league at work. As a young consultant, I struggled so much with the ambiguity of my role that I was frequently unable to sleep at night. I didn’t know what I didn’t know – and worse, I didn’t know who I could ask for help since I was expected to perform anyway. I didn’t want to be like the woman in the first NGO: a friendly and enthusiastic person who couldn’t be taken seriously as a professional.

Expertise isn’t the only critical factor in getting a job done, but it certainly is one of them. In its absence, ideas can’t “tip,” planning gets skewed and results suffer.

Not all of us are required to be the ultimate expert on any given day, but some of us are. Regardless, any expertise you can acquire will go a long way. Here are six ways to build your expertise – regardless of your field.

expert-definition

Be Known Positively

Recently I shared 9 Leadership themes for the new year, including this one: be known positively. I’m realizing this particular theme is harder that it seems. But that doesn’t change the fact that you and I are largely responsible for our public perception.

So how can we build positive interactions and relationships with others? Here are nine distinct strategies I’ve picked to focus on.

Shaking Hands

12 Ways to Make Your Teammates Look Good

In the past, I’ve shared the value of being a “Kamerman teammate” – that is, going the extra mile to make your teammate look good. It’s a mindset shift for most of us, and a complete game-changer at that. I’d like to take this concept a step further and share some practical ways to get started. Over the course of my career thus far, I’ve found that these twelve strategies for extraordinary teamwork not only make your team stronger, they have the power to significantly influence the culture of your organization if others begin to follow your example.

Business Colleagues

Be a Millenial Who Shines at Work

2015 was a big year for Millenials. According to Pew Research Center, Millenials became the largest generation in the U.S. workforce in 2015. I recently shared my thoughts on Eric Jacobson’s leadership website about how managers can engage their Millenial employees. What I’d like to do next is share how Millenials themselves can thrive in the workplace.

Here’s a start.

Millennials at Work

How to Influence When You’re Not in Charge

How do you lead when you’re not the boss? It’s hard enough to lead when you are in charge. What are the other options?

If you’ve wondered this, I’ve got good news for you. It’s a lot easier than it sounds. And you can get started today. Here’s a game plan for you.

Lighting Matches

Whose “Guy” Are You?

“I’ve got a guy.”

That was one of the key messages of a sales training event I visited recently. The new sales consultants were supposed to realize they didn’t need to know everything about the services they were providing – they had plenty of other “experts” to support various parts of the deal. It’s a lot easier to sell when you don’t have to know everything yourself.

Which leads me to ask the question: whose “guy” (or gal) are you? And do they know it?

Here’s why it matters:

Business Guy

Getting the Most from the Human Element

If you’ve been responsible for delivering business results for any length of time, you’ve probably hit a wall once or twice with people. Someone’s feelings got hurt, another manager is difficult to work with, company politics create unseen landmines, some colleagues disagrees with you and a couple may be out to get you. As often as not, we may be the problem. Additionally, we humans are the ones causing the accidents, forgetting key dates or deliverables, creating ambiguity, making mistakes and communicating poorly. Getting results are tough enough as it is, before we introduce people into the mix!

Automation has added enormous business efficiency over the years and will continue. But it’s important to keep in mind that whatever business we’re in, we’re ultimately in the people business. Since we can’t eliminate the human element (besides, would we really want to?), we’ll have to figure out how to capitalize on it.

The Creation of Man by Michelangelo Sistine Chapel