How to Lead Former Peers

Have you ever received the good fortune of being promoted to the new leader of your team, only to find that life got complicated and edgy the moment you started? All of a sudden, your peers knew you as “boss” and not just their buddy. There’s a vast difference between the two.

What did you do in that situation? What should you do? Many leaders of former peers struggle at first. Some even go so far as to request a demotion in order to return to the way things were. There has to be a better way.

If you find yourself leading former peers, here are some steps you can take.

Developing a Servant Leadership Strategy

I first heard the term “servant leadership” in high school. Since then, I’ve seen and heard it referenced over and over again in books, presentations and casual business conversations. One of my initial aversions to the term was that while it sounded nice, the connection to results was soft or overlooked entirely. In other words, it felt like a “nice guys finish last” strategy. After all, leaders are expected to deliver results or they won’t last long.

The more I’ve studied business and leadership effectiveness, the more I’ve learned that servant leadership is a supportive, inclusive and empowering style of leading others. In short, it puts the needs of others above the needs of self, but without sacrificing the underlying needs of the organization.

Many leaders want to grow in servant leadership. I know, because they tell me so. But sentiment isn’t enough. What we all need is a strategy. These four items are a good place to start.

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.

Leading Older Employees with Confidence

When I think about what makes a great boss, one of my first items is someone who really knows what they are doing – a true expert. And when I think about what makes a true expert, in my mind it’s always an older person, someone with sage-like wisdom who has been where I am… but a long time ago.

If you’ve worked for any length of time, you know that’s just not realistic.

I’ve managed folks who were older than me in the past and recently finished an assignment with my first younger boss – a great experience for me. If you’re younger than the folks you lead, keep these best practices in mind.

Creating a Leadership Culture

This post comes courtesy of Mark Miller, a best-selling author of 6 books, an in-demand speaker and an executive at Chick-fil-A. His latest book, Leaders Made Here, describes how to nurture leaders throughout the organization, from the front lines to the executive ranks and outlines a clear and replicable approach to creating the leadership bench every organization needs.

More than 10 years ago, I had the privilege to co-author The Secret with Ken Blanchard, a book about Chick-fil-A’s point of view on leadership. It was a lot of fun doing the book with Ken and even more fun talking to groups all over the world about leadership. What I didn’t expect was the question that I received over and over again… “We’ve read The Secret, what’s next?”

14 Questions to Answer Before Signing Up a Vendor

I love the opportunity for new partnerships. Having been on both sides of the vendor & client agreement, I’ve enjoyed some partnerships so incredible that folks were often eager to work late – and then chum together afterward. Unfortunately, I’ve also been in situations where colleagues rued the day an agreement was signed.

In the end, high quality partnerships come down to trust. But if you rely on blind trust, you’re probably in for a rude awakening.

If you are responsible for signing up a new vendor, these 14 questions will significantly increase your likelihood of a great partnership experience and reduce the many business risks of a poor one. Some questions you can and should ask the vendor directly. For others, you will need to do your own homework. Here they are.

How to Perform a High Quality After Action Review

You just finished a project, event, engagement or training exercise. It’s time to get some feedback. What do you do next?

The After Action Review (AAR) was originally developed by the U.S. Army to analyze and report on training exercises. Today the military uses a range of formalities (as do countless industries and organizations), but the essence is to capture two elements: what went well and what can be improved in the future.

Socrates uttered the immortal phrase, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Examining professional events may seem less dramatic, but it’s a critical component if you wish to improve. Also, keep in mind that an AAR shouldn’t substitute for a comprehensive program evaluation. (In fact, an AAR only partially measures to Level 1 on the Kirkpatrick Learning Evaluation Model.)

Here are several simple tips for performing high quality after action reviews.

Becoming a Coaching Leader

We hear so much about coaching these days. Leaders need to coach more. Employees need more coaching. High performers need coaching. Low performers need coaching. As leaders, how can we know we’ve done enough? And what does a quality coaching conversation actually look like in action?

Over the years, I’ve adopted a simple definition of coaching: “To coach is to develop another person by listening and asking questions to clarify ideas and commit to action.”

If you look closely, you’ll notice five key characteristics. I’ve listed each of them out below:

Business Conversation

12 Best Practices for Leading Effective Meetings

“If you were a fruit, what kind would you want to be?” That was the ice-breaker that kicked off the worst meeting I’ve been a part of. It took 30 minutes for everyone to contribute. The meeting ran 25 minutes long. Not only was it a complete waste of time, by the end I felt like I owed the company stockholders an apology just for attending.

In general, I tend to enjoy work meetings, but many business professionals dislike them – and often with good reason. Some detest them. Others bemoan their lack of ability to get any “real work” done when meetings pile up. Even the late Peter Drucker considered meetings a necessary evil.

Poorly run meetings can be exasperating. But productive meetings are essential for collaboration, decision-making and team effectiveness. Meetings are also expensive and can waste considerable time due to disorganization, lack of discipline and ambiguity. These best practices can help your meeting stand out, whether you are an organizer, presenter or participant – both for in-person and multi-site.

meeting-silhouette

What You Need to Understand About Adult Learning Theory

Picture yourself attending two training sessions. In the first, you sit quietly in your row as the instructor lectures on the benefits, nuances and applications of the topic. In the second session, you sit at a table with a group of peers as a facilitator introduces the topic, elicits several responses about the group’s current challenges, has each individual complete a self-assessment, shares the key points, has everyone interact in small groups and then asks each person to record their personal goals relating the topic to their present work situation. Maybe there is also a resource (like a discussion guide) for participants to use with their teams once they return.

Which session did you learn more from?

Regardless of your function or industry, learning plays a key role in business effectiveness. No one was born knowing how to do any job – and even with all the preparatory training we’ve received over the years (e.g. college), the speed of change demands that we continually learn better ways. (I know I, for one, don’t want to receive the same surgery a “seasoned” surgeon was trained on three decades ago!) So whether you develop training as a profession or you request it as a professional, it’s worth understanding how adults learn best.

Business People Learning

How to Host a Productive Generational Conversation

A decade ago, American organizations were largely unaware of the predicament they faced. The initial wave of Baby Boomers (many of whom occupied senior leadership roles) was set to begin a mass retirement. Many organizations were completely unprepared. Then something curious happened. The recession hit and many would-be retirees stuck around. In one somewhat morbid sense, the recession turned out to be a blessing in disguise. By now, succession planning routinely takes generational demographics into close consideration. Generational-oriented training is mainstream.

So how does your organization or team address generational dynamics from an awareness perspective? Are you at least having the conversation? Given how many employees find themselves at odds with colleagues of different generations, it’s worth thinking ahead. Here are some ways to make the conversation a productive one.

Generational Headbutt

Get More Initiative From Your People

“I don’t know that I’ve ever had someone come to me with that level of initiative. If they did, I think I’d be blown away.”

I heard these words from an executive at a leadership event a couple weeks ago. His frustrations weren’t anything new. Why can’t employees take more initiative to solve organizational problems?

It’s a common question with a wide variety of possible answers. Unfortunately, we usually get the level of initiative we reinforce. Let’s take a closer look at what initiative really means – and how to inspire the initiative you need to be effective.