The Preface of My New Book: The Dimensional #Leader


This book discusses the qualities of the dimensional leader, which any person seeking a leadership role should seek to develop and master over time. As spatial dimensions contain three spheres of width, height and length, so the dimensional leader model exudes the three dimensional qualities of character, competence and communication. David was the consummate dimensional leader, who displayed these three qualities from his inaugural scene, at the time he fought and defeated Goliath, and throughout his entire life as the leader and commander of Israel’s army. David’s leadership legacy is summed up in an obscure passage in Psalm 78:72, where the dimensional leader’s paradigm is revealed:

And David shepherded them with integrity of heart [character]; with skillful hands [competence] he led [communication] them.

This passage of scripture has been written as David’s epitaph; a one sentence summation of his leadership legacy. Any thoughtful reader of this passage should pause for a moment to deliberate its substance and significance, to ponder its hidden treasures. It won’t take you very long before the hidden gems burst forth, revealing the transformative qualities effective leaders should cultivate and master over time.

The subtitle may have also left you asking, “What can a shepherd boy teach me about leadership?” The answer is obvious; a shepherd boy has already taught us principles about leadership, especially how a dimensional leader thinks and acts in times of great challenge. We just need to dive deeper into the story to exhume purpose for our lives today.

When we read about David’s great triumph over Goliath we simply bypass two previous encounters – Eliab, David’s eldest brother and King Saul, the flustered and reluctant leader of Israel. David had to navigate through these two individuals first to get to his ultimate goal – that of confronting and defeating the malicious behemoth, and thus, wiping away the reproach from Israel.

I am positive there have been times in our lives where you and I have had this thought, “I want to be like David.” However, we do not realize the price it took David to achieve a level of leadership mastery. Somehow we bypass those elements of personal sacrifice and testing in the shadows; the hidden places and events, which shaped David’s character. We have the tendency to look upon those who have succeeded as one of God’s favorite kids who were given a free pass to greatness, and somehow everything was handed over to them on a silver platter. This way of thinking is not realistic, nor fair for those who have achieved a level of greatness among us. Greatness comes with a price tag. In other words, anyone who has ever had some legacy worth talking about had to overcome personal challenges and overcome barriers, which catapulted them to a new and improved station in life. It may have been they were willing to confront their fears, which kept them limited and regulated to a mediocre and mundane life. These champions of life succeeded somehow, because they were able to cross what I call the lines of resistance.

A line of resistance is a force seen or unseen, which works against you to constrain you or impose a limitation by restricting you from achieving your dreams, your goals and ultimately your destiny. A line of resistance is also a roadblock or barrier to stop you from moving forward. A line of resistance can eventually create a limiting mindset, a negative attitude, even a habitual pattern, which hinders you from accessing and pursuing your goals, to the point of discouraging you from actualizing your true potential and purpose in life.

In the natural realm, a line of resistance can come from the people around you. In the spiritual realm, the lines of resistance arise from Satan and his hoard of demons. In a personal sense, many lines of resistance already exist in our fallen nature, producing destructive patterns in our life. At other times your lines of resistance can be produced when something dramatic occurs in your past where a negative history was created. This negative event in your life may have produced an insecurity, which is now rooted in fear and controls you. If this is true, you then begin to build an image about yourself, which is not based on reality.

David was confronted by three people, each one tried to restrict and limit him in some manner from succeeding on his mission. These three individuals attempted to create lines of resistance in David’s life.

1. Eliab – David’s brother represents the line of criticism.

2. King Saul – David’s leader represents the line of authority.

3. Goliath – David’s archenemy represents the line of fear and intimidation.

The lines of resistance can be self-imposed or they can come from well meaning people, like our close friends or family members. For instance, someone can give us erroneous counsel diverting us down the wrong road from our destiny for many years. This is why parents, mentors, clergy, and others play a pivotal role in developing and directing the lives of young people. If we “buy-into” these limitations we can end up living on the wrong side of the tracks, instead of what could be — a life of mastery, filled with abundant living.

Have you ever taken an inventory of your life to find out what can be possible? Have you ever challenged yourself to break out of the old mindsets that keep you where you are? This book will challenge you to identify, confront and traverse over those debilitating lines of resistance, which have kept you from experiencing a life above and beyond your true and rightful potential.

Be challenged and enjoy!

Joel

NOTE: You will be able to purchase The Dimensional Leader – The Leadership Strategies of a Shepherd Boy

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The Leader’s Alphabet


A = Attitude & Action
B = Bold & Benevolent
C = Character & Connector
D = Diligent & Dependable
E = Excellence & Empowerment
F = Fair & Firm
G = Gratuitous & Grateful
H = Humble & Helpful
I = Innovative & Initiative
J = Justice & Jovial
K = Knowledgeable & Kind
L = Loyal & Listener
M = Mentor & Motivator
N = Noble & Nice
O = Opportunist & Optimism
P = Provocative & Probing
Q = Qualified & Quintessential
R = Resilient & Righteous
S = Sensitive & Secure
T = Tested & Trustworthy
U = Unifier & Understanding
V = Vision & Values
W = Wise & Winsome
X = Xample & Xtra-ordinary
Y = Yearns & Yields
Z = Zany & Zealous

Business woman with a group

Can you add any other attributes?

To Succeed, Keep Your Organization Honest


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Honest organizations are more successful. At least that’s the conclusion reached by Halley Bock, CEO and President of Fierce, Inc. In a recent article, she cites a 2010 Corporate Executive study that found companies encouraging honest feedback among their staff delivered 270 percent more on 10-year total shareholder returns than other companies. An astonishing difference, but why would honest companies be more profitable?

Fierce conducted its own investigation into the issue, and uncovered some interesting findings. After surveying more than 1,400 executives and employees, Fierce found that an overwhelming 99 percent of professionals preferred a workplace where employees were able to discuss issues truthfully. But more surprising, the survey found that 70 percent of the respondents believed a lack of honesty negatively impacted their company’s ability to perform, supporting the Corporate Executive Board’s findings.

So how can companies become more truthful? Surely, all leaders want their staff to feel as if they can tell the truth, but open and honest workplaces don’t happen organically.

Keep a Running Dialogue

One way to encourage honesty, Bock says, is through social networks. While most organizations try to be transparent, they often get caught in the trap of “terminal niceness,” or attempting to be politically correct at all times so as not to offend employees. While this is a well-intentioned approach toward maintaining a civil work environment, it is actually counterproductive. Bock argues that employees desire communication that more closely resembles social networking. What employees want, it seems, is a candid, running dialogue between managers, employees and coworkers.

Don’t Sugarcoat Issues

Another method Bock suggests to increase openness in the workplace is direct communication. In other words, don’t sugarcoat the issue. Some employers may think that cushioning a difficult conversation with compliments or small talk will alleviate tension, when in fact, it can complicate a delicate situation.

For instance, rather than telling an employee “We’re concerned about your attendance rate. Please try to see what you can do to remedy it,” Bock recommends being more direct, saying something like, “Our records show that you’ve been absent five times in the last two months. This exceeds the allotted three personal days we allow our employees, and any additional days you take off will be docked from your salary. If you are absent in excess of eight days, we’ll have to let you go. Please inform us if there is a personal or medical issue and we can try to determine the best way to address the situation.

If organizations want to avoid the communication stalemate that often results from politically correct communications, they should develop mechanisms to support clear communication with employees. Set aside a time once a month where staff can discuss their questions and concerns with supervisors. Encourage open communication. Accept even negative commentary as a way to improve your organization. After all, no organization ever improved without some constructive criticism and an open mind.

This guest post was contributed by Erin Osterhaus of Software Advice, a website that presents buyer’s guides, product profiles and customer reviews of talent management systems. To read the original article and others on talent management strategies, visit The New Talent Times.

4 Dynamics of Strategic Enterprising


Strategic Enterprising is the practice of the entrepreneurial adventurer engaging in a new undertaking or enterprise. It is not a new concept by any means but the regular exercise of investing in big ideas by venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, and Fortune 500 corporations endeavoring to endow the latest ideas and emerging trends in the marketplace. The word “enterprise” simply means, “to undertake or take in hand.” The abstract meaning of the same word is the “readiness to undertake challenges, or the “spirit of daring.”[i] When a person is referred to as “an enterprising young man,” it conveys a person’s resourcefulness or initiative to undertake a grand project. For example, contemporary enterprisers are people like Mark Zuckerburg, the founder of Facebook, Jack Dorsey, the co-founder of Twitter or Andrew Mason, the creator of Groupon. However, you don’t’ have to be world renown to become an enterprising person. It starts by taking a simple idea and turning it into a tangible product or service used and enjoyed by many. Anyone can become an enterprising individual; you just need to have a unique idea or talent that can be advanced with an effective strategy.

Strategy, for instance, was originally branded in the year 1810 as the “Art of a General.” Some background of the word “strategy” would help at this point. Before a General engaged an enemy in battle he would take a position on high ground overlooking the theater of battle to observe the arrangement of the opposing side and to dictate his stratagem to his Lieutenants. From his vantage point the General could see the opposing army’s tactics and maneuvers in real time so he could counter their whit with his own ingenuity. Viewing the battlefield and sourcing it from the high ground was a way to gather data, better known today as ‘intelligence gathering’, which enhanced decision-making and outcomes. These tactics, along with one’s knowledge from previous engagements, and taking calculated risks were some of the critical elements of the “art of a General”.

In today’s world, in the realm of business and commerce, strategic enterprisers are like the Generals on the battlefield, which require different strategic objectives and tactics more conducive to the marketplace. I refer to them as The Four Dynamics of Strategic Enterprising:

1. Strategic Thinking – Optimizing acumen while assessing your assets
Acumen and assessing your assets are the first two priorities of Strategic Thinking. Let’s start with acumen. Acumen is the intelligence shaped by three elements, your:
a. Hindsight – the knowledge, understanding and wisdom acquired through your past experiences.
b. Insight – attending to your intuition (promptings, feeling, spirit-sense, sixth-sense, hunch, instincts, inner-voice, etc.) at the present moment.
c. And, fostering skills in strategic foresight, or what you perceive in your immediate environment, and how you interpret this incoming stimuli in your environment to gain certain advantages.

Cultivating personal acumen is fundamental during the initial phases of strategic thinking. A better way to gain acumen is to tap into the accumulative intelligence of many advisors, a concept better known as collaboration. King Solomon, the wisest of all men, once quipped, “Surely you need guidance to wage war, and victory is won through many advisers.”[ii] Acumen is improved through the collective intelligence of a team, for the purpose of defining, honing and solidifying a winning strategy. A masterful leader exerts influence for the purpose of transformation through collaborative effort.

A second aspect of strategic thinking is assessing your assets. Your assets will consist of your talent pool and the available resources or ‘tools’ to get the job done. First, a strategist must consider their collective team’s talent, which is essential in this initial phase. In this phase you must assess the strengths and weaknesses of your team, and rearrange your team members in a way to acquire optimum results; perhaps sifting or shifting staff from one department to another. Second, you should procure the necessary resources to make your plan a success. Just before entering the Promised Land, Joshua commanded his people, “Prepare provisions for yourselves, for within three days you will cross over this Jordan.” Honing acumen through collaborative effort, assessing your talent pool and resources are fundamental practices of Strategic Thinkers.

2. Strategic Planning – Arranging your assets and considering your approach
If Strategic Thinking is devising strategy through the combined acumen of a team and how a person uses that information and their talent pool, then the second phase is simply designing the blueprints of the plan. Strategic Strategic-PlanningPlanning is the ability to arrange one’s assets to strengthen the plan then designing a strategic approach for winning. First and foremost, a leader must consider the arrangement of their assets. Clinical Psychologist Dr. Henry Cloud notes, “It’s about leading the ‘right people’, empowering them to find and do the ‘right things’ in the ‘right way’ at the ‘right times.’ This is what will bring a real plan to measured results.”[iii] In the classic book Good to Great, Jim Collins says, “…to build a successful organization and team you must get the right people on the bus.” His research shows that great companies and organizations do this. They get the right people and arrange them strategically in the right seats.[iv]

Another core item in Strategic Planning is considering your approach. The method is just as important as the timing of your launch. Your approach is simply creating a dynamic marketing strategy that shifts public opinion, and acquires a new consumer base, which manifests to an upswing in profit. In other words, communicate your optics effectively, and gather tangible metrics early on. Here’s an sample of what I mean:

Samsung has dethroned its California-based rival to become the world’s top Smartphone maker… Recent Smartphone launches have lost something of the glamour and excitement that surrounded the early (Apple) iPhone releases, in part because they are seen as offering incremental technology upgrades rather than breaking new ground… The S4s features include a high-definition, five-inch – 12.7-centimeter screen, enhanced picture-taking capabilities and the capacity to translate to and from nine languages… Its release has been preceded by a massive promotional campaign (a lunch strategy or approach) — from the glitzy launch in New York to lighting up the sails of Sydney’s iconic opera house on Tuesday night with images shot by ordinary Australians (Optics). Samsung — the world’s largest technology firm by value and also the top handset maker — has boasted stellar sales growth, setting new records for operating profit in every single quarter of last year (Metrics).[v] [italics mine]

Did you notice the marketing genius (the vision or optics) with tangible results in the marketplace (the metrics of Samsung’s Smart iPhone). Your approach, methods and timing, are a critical part of your launch strategy.

3. Strategic Execution – Taking action and being fully aware of oncoming stimuli
Strategic Execution is the implementation phase after you have had your strategic meetings in the ‘war room’ with your staff. In basic form, this phase of your plan is the ‘boots on the ground’, where your team members execute the plan or take action. The original meaning of the word “execution” was “an action of carrying something out.”[vi] This ‘carrying out’ brings about initial outcomes; desired or undesired. If desired outcomes are achieved you continue affirming these actions. If undesired ones emerge, you must take correction action early on to avoid mediocre results and shift toward better ones. 

Being ‘aware’ of oncoming stimuli and responding appropriately to its meaning is an art in itself but critical for capturing early momentum and strategic advantages. Where there is an action there is a reaction. Allow me to explain: Let’s take an analogy from the initial kick off of the Super Bowl to start the game. The defense is lined up ready to kick off the ball, the fans stand to their feet in great anticipation. As the kick is initiated the audience holds its breath momentarily as the ball glides in the air. The football is then caught and the offensive team engages its defensive rivals on the field. Simultaneously, the fans jeer and cheer depending on the dynamics on the field, as they respond to the clashing forces on the Gridiron. If you were to close your eyes for a moment, you can gage who is having the advantage on the field by what side of the field is getting more cheers. Is it the offensive team running the ball through a defensive wall capturing a strategic advantage, or has the runner been snubbed on the 10-yard line energizing the defensive team? Let’s continue my analogy in the next and final phase called Strategic Operations.

4. Strategic Operations – Managing awareness and making crucial adjustments
During the transition of players on the field, the special teams return to the sidelines while the regular players march onto the field to take their positions. The coaches on the sidelines are in deep communication with the coaching staff in the sky-booths above. Together they are receiving and calculating the data from the previous events on the field and adjusting their tactics. What they are doing is taking into consideration the momentum dynamics created by the initial play on the field. Momentum is crucial to have on one’s side; once lost it takes time to regain. In this phase one must manage one’s awareness then make critical adjustments to the initial strategy, which requires real time observation, quick intelligence gathering, and recalculating the next move. The objective is to stay on offense, and put points on the scoreboard; the goal is to win and win big. Strategic Operations happen in real time, which is why managing awareness and adjusting your plan are two critical elements of this phase.

A Strategic Enterpriser understands the four dynamics of Strategic Enterprising. Each phase provides a crucial element for the overall strategy to take hold and achieve its desired results. The first two phases are about weaving your thoughts into a winning plan. The final two phases are about executing and moving operations forward in real time. A Strategic Enterpriser has each phase in mind all the time, and makes the necessary adjustments to the plan to achieve his or her intended outcome.


[i] Etymology Online Dictionary: Enterprise.  http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=enterprise&searchmode=none, accessed on 4-16-13.

[ii] Proverbs 24:6 (NIV)

[iii] Cloud, Dr. Henry (2013), Boundaries for Leaders. HarperCollins, New York, NY., pg. 3.

[iv] Get the Right People on the Bus by John Gordon; http://www.jongordon.com/article-gettherightpeople.html, accessed April 24, 2013.

[v] Samsungs Galaxy S4 to Bite Fresh Chunk from Apple Market Share. Mybroadband; Tech News. http://mybroadband.co.za/news/smartphones/76370-samsung-galaxy-s4-to-bite-fresh-chunk-from-apple-market-share.html , accessed on April 24, 2013.

[vi] Etymology Online Dictionary: Execution. http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=enterprise&searchmode=none, accessed on 4-24-13.

#Leading a Thriving #Organization


tree

Organizational executives, managers and leaders have good intentions to create thriving organizations that reflect their vision and mission for successful outcomes in the marketplace. Over the years, I have had the privilege to work for many organizations in various capacities; as an employee, a middle manager, a pastor, an executive, as a coach and marketing consultant. In other words, I have seen the internal dynamics of how organizations are managed and led; some thrive whiles others struggle to survive. To accomplish this monumental task of building a thriving organization it will take an organization to understand and embrace the four pillars of a thriving organization, which are simply strategy, synergy, structure and systems. Let’s start with the first critical layer of strategy.

1. Strategy

The original meaning of the world strategy reveals the “art of the General”, which implies the General’s broad grasp of the craft of warfare based upon years of acquired acumen and intuition from experiences on the battlefield. We can break down this art form into to three layers: hindsight, insight and foresight. Likewise, those in positions of mid to higher management in an organization have years of accumulated knowledge and wisdom derived through their education, exposure to people and events within an organization, and past experiences on the job. The accumulated wisdom of these employees is critical for tapping into new strategic methods for success.

Strategy is the sum of two parts: it’s your acumen and your approach. Strategy is melding what you already know and how you will go about executing what you know. Strategy, however, fails on many accounts. The most critical one is the lack of collaborative imagination that keeps many organizations operating in the dark at mediocre levels. King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, understood the power of collaborative imagination. His wisdom was and is today second to none; the biblical narrative notes a person like Solomon will never be matched again, so listen carefully! King Solomon provides our culture today with a great Tweet tucked away in Proverbs 24:6:

Surely you need guidance to wage war, and victory is won through many advisers.”

Can you imagine tapping into the combined acumen, intuition and experience of many advisors? So why don’t you take an assessment of the creative members on your team and begin to tap into their combined wisdom for strategic advantages and advances in the marketplace. The wisdom is all around you… are you listening?

2. Synergy

One lazy afternoon, on my day off, I went to the afternoon matinee to see the movie Pitch Perfect. It simply amazed me on many levels! It wasn’t the humor, although I had a load of laughs. It wasn’t the brilliant singing that caught my attention although it was American Idol on Steroids. The main message for me was how a singing team formed and fermented into greatness. Let me see if I can sum up the important snippets of the movie that helped me see how teams form to create dynamic energy and synergy:

1. Pride was present at first since the old guard did not want to give up their place or stature on the team. So they resist anyone trying to introduce new ideas, which will improve the team’s performance.

2. Then there is friction between the old guard and the newcomers since the new ideas being offered are better than the old ones. It’s takes some time for the old guard to realize their methods have become obsolete.

3. Thirdly, the old guard finally accepts reality and realizes it needs to adapt and change. They are now willing to make some accommodations to make the team better.

4. And finally, the team comes together to implement the new ideas. There’s a dynamic shift in team culture and performance.

Synergy is hard to create but when it is present it is dynamic and energizing. When a team creates synergy it begins to release that corporate magic many organizations long for. How do we know when synergy is present? It is evident when optimum energy is released and dynamic synergy is increased.

3. Structure

Every organization is structured in a unique way. Some structures are more rigid than others, such as the military and Law Enforcement agencies, while other organizations tend to adopt a more fluid and flexible approach. “By structure, we mean the framework around which the group is organized, the underpinnings which keep the coalition functioning. It’s the operating manual that tells members how the organization is put together and how it works. More specifically, structure describes how members are accepted, how leadership is chosen, and how decisions are made.”[i]

The structure solely depends on what your organization wants to accomplish. For instance, let’s take two examples from nature to make my point. An eagle and a duck are structured quite differently from one another since they have different purposes to perform. One is meant to fly in high altitudes, and to dive at fast speeds to catch unsuspecting prey by surprise. Eagles like to be alone most of the time; they are the kings of the air. While a duck is given webbed feet to navigate through the water, and tightly knit feathers to keep them warm in cold climates. Ducks like to fly in teams, and work together to fly long distances.

Each bird has a particular function to play and purpose to fulfill. These distinguishing features provide you and I insight into the roles they perform in their respected environments.

Let’s take another example from nature. What about a tree? An Oak tree has a firm base extending to the general body. It is immovable and strong. Then as the branches move out they thin out and become more flexible, bending by the wind, even with the subtle breeze. Structures in organizations should have a stabilizing structure but should also allow flexibility is some areas of the organization to accommodate quick changes.

4. Systems

Systems are like highways that connect motorists to interchanges, intersections and bridges, which provide a proper flow of traffic so that people can get to places in an efficient manner within a specified time frame. Let me provide you a personal example:

I remember a time when our church fed thousands of inner city people on a Saturday afternoon. At the time, our church had an extraordinary cook on staff that was once Donald Trump’s private Chef (and you know Mr. Trump is a pretty picky guy). Anyway, when it came time to feed the multitudes, I just happened to walk into the kitchen area where I overheard the Chef say, “This is how we are going to take the food out to feed the folks.” To shorten my story, he had adopted a system with six steps before the people could even receive their food on the table. I thought to myself, “This process or system is going to take forever. We can do better?” So immediately, I took the Chef aside and advised him of a more efficient way. After I made it sound like it was his idea, he adopted the new system. The result of this simple change in the flow of food delivery was that everyone was happy, from the volunteers who had to serve the food, to the Chef himself, and the multitudes receiving our compassionate services for the day. All it took was a simple change to the “system”, which provided more efficient outcomes.

Systems should be made simple, but most people make them more complicated than they should be. The Chef in this situation had extraordinary skills but he lacked the basic skills of how to deliver his product efficiently.

What area above is the weakest in your organization? Which one is the strength of your organization?


[i] An Organizational Structure: An Overview. http://ctb.ku.edu/en/tablecontents/sub_section_main_1092.aspx, accessed on 4/7/2013.

Default Leadership: The Presumptuous Leader


 presumption

The “presumptuous leader” sounds like an oxymoron. Well, it actually is one! Leaders who are presumptions think of themselves a little higher than they actually are and think they know more than others. Allow me a short illustration:

I was recently promoted to a new position and took hold of my new branch which had a lot of potential for growth and profit. However, after a quick appraisal of the store’s metrics I soon discovered the store also had some areas that required immediate attention and improvement – most noticeably its leadership presence. This particular branch had been on the decline for some months with the present management who was feeling the pressure from top brass concerning some alarming numbers. During my first few days in the office, my objective was to get to know my team members by simply interacting with them and observing how they worked with each other, but most importantly how they perceived me as their new leader. On the onset I detected some resistance from the store manager, the second in command. At first he was a little distant, cold and “short” with me. One time, during a brief interview, he must have presumed we were done with the conversation, so he got up and walked away. I sat on my seat stunned thinking, “Does this guy have any social skills?” Over a period of two weeks, I knew I had a lot more to work on than getting the store to operate at peak performance. I needed to groom my store manager with the right leadership skills for personal, team and corporate success. Throughout my interactions with the store manager I soon found three default characteristics of a presumptuous leader:

1. Previous work experience does not add up to competent leadership

After spending some time with my store manager, I noticed how he would keep bringing up his previous employment experience, “In my previous job I supervised fifty employees.” And the time I asked him to do the schedule he made a point to say, “It’s easy, doing a schedule for four people is nothing compared to what I used to do.” My first thought, “Wow, I have a great leader working with me. We are going to turn this store around quicker than I first anticipated.” Soon enough, within a matter of days, I noticed the incompetence surface. He lacked the basic skills of supervision, delegating responsibility and holding his direct reports accountable for their work performance. My initial thought was, “Now, how did this guy get to a position where he supervised fifty people?” It just didn’t add up.

2. Layered expectations is a form of controlling others not leading them

There’s nothing more I dislike than someone saying, “They are not allowed to do that!”, or something similar, “The previous boss would only let me do that.” After a few comments like these I had to put a stop to that kind of managerial thinking. In a learning environment managers must relinquish some control and trust others to learn and do the job. After all, we must advance not only the agenda of the organization but also employees to their next level of operation. So I asked myself, “Where did he get this learning?” After some brief dialogue, it was the previous General Manager who would not allow certain people to do some basic things, such as count the cash drawer upon opening or closing the store. My style of training is a “cross-trainer” approach where everyone gets to participate and learn a new aspect of the operation. This happens gradually when someone is willing and ready to learn the next new thing. A working environment must be empowering not controlling others based upon one’s position or title.

3. Leading from behind is not authentic leadership

After a week or so I noticed the store manager was not leading his direct reports properly. So I asked him, “How do you lead your team?” He responded, “Oh, they already know what to do. I just let them do it.” I then asked, “How do you know they are accomplishing tasks on time and being effective in their jobs?” He just stared at me. His style of leadership was laissez-faire, from a French term meaning laid-back leadership. When I questioned his style of leadership he simply replied, “I’ve always done it that way.” Presumption – yes or no? As a leader, you have to engage your direct reports with vision and responsibility, and responsibility with accountability, and timed tasks that are measured by effective performance and results.

What did I learn in the first two weeks of this encounter? First, I learned that the more someone is “experienced” the harder they are to train, because “they just seem to know so much” more than you. Employees who brag about their previous work experience must embrace new learning experiences. Second, bringing correction to a leader who seems to “know it all” is difficult to do but it’s a must. A leader must have the courage to have transparent and regular discussions. What kind of discussions? The one’s where you tell your direct report to “push the refresh button” and to start all over by learning how to lead effectively.

The Engaged Leader: A Surprise Visit by a Regional Vice President


Joined in business

“To win in the marketplace you must first win in the workplace.” –Doug Conant, CEO of Campbell’s Soup

Our morning at the office was akin to any normal day; staff members arrive, greet each other, clock in, make coffee, and do whatever it takes to get the operational apparatus moving for the day. After thirty minutes, we settled into our workstations and commenced small talk with each other before engaging in our daily routine. All the sudden, I observed through the front office window what seemed to be the Regional Vice President entering the office at a fast pace. Somewhat startled, I exclaimed, “It’s the V.P.!” before he entered the office. I was surprised to see the Regional Vice President was by himself, without the usual entourage of the Regional and District Managers with clipboards in hand ready to write down every detail of the meeting. Normally, these types of meetings from out of town brass tend to create a tense working environment, where our district leaders prepare store managers and staff, days ahead of time. During these scheduled visits every office in the region walks on “pins and needles”, hoping team members will say the right things, present the goal board properly (the current performance metrics), and ensure the office is up to corporate standards; clean, neat and organized. Not this time?

As the Regional V.P. walked in, we got up and greeted him one-by-one. We were so happy to see him without the usual hype. In other words, we did not have to conform to a false corporate mold to make a good impression.

For reasons I will go into in a few moments, my colleagues and I were not intimidated at all by his presence. Our meeting with the Regional V.P. lasted about fifteen minutes. After his departure, the office was energized by his presence, so I sat at my desk and wrote down a short list of what I saw and felt from the Regional Vice President. One thing is for certain, I witnessed first hand a masterful leader working the room, and making impressionable connections with each employee. The following observations were noted.

  1.  An engaged leader is personable

The Regional V.P. was uniquely personable. As he entered the office he shook our hands, and called us each one of us by name. I couldn’t help but think, “This guy must do his homework before he visits a store. He knows each one of us on a first name basis.” His demeanor was totally non-threatening and genuine, unlike the meetings of the past. He was very personable, which made us feel like real people, and not corporate robots doing and saying the right things.

  1. An engaged leader gives hope

As he continued his conversation with another employee and I, he said, “We are going to grow old together, right?” We said in unison, “Yes, we are!” Immediately, I understood the meaning of this phrase; it is one used by married couples that are recommitting to each other for long period of time. I felt like he was putting us as ease by this comment. I felt secure and confident about the future. Leaders, like him, offer hope and build confidence for the future in a single and sincere sentence. Without hope you get a sense that there is no future to look forward to; only the daily grind of complying with charts and targets. The Regional V.P. simply imparted hope in a single sentence.

  1.  An engaged leader offers coaching

He soon asked, “How is your store’s performance?” So we led him to the break room where our goal board was located with updated metrics showing our activity, performance and profit for the month. After a brief overview by my colleague, he offered some coaching tips of his own. The coaching moment was helpful and pleasantly welcomed and acknowledged. We have not received this type of coaching even from our direct supervisors.

  1.  An engaged leader knows your status

Just before his departure, he asked a few of us about our status for our next level promotion. He went around the room asking and listening to everyone’s response. When he approached me, he asked, “Have you taken the test for General Manager yet? Surprised that he knew my status, I answered in the affirmative. What I could not grasp was his knowledge of my promotion, which was already in the works. I thought, “He is the Regional V.P. – He has got more important things to worry about.” This made me and the team feel that he cared for our professional development and advancement.

  1.  An engaged leader creates synergy

When he left the office, synergy was obviously present. We were all thrilled about his visit. We could not stop talking about what he said and what he was going to do for each one of us. The atmosphere in our office was literally transformed by his presence and concern for our future. After his departure, we then put our hands to work with more enthusiasm.

  1. An engaged leader follows-through

Some of us had some concerns about certain issues that were not being addressed in a timely manner; like our monthly bonus extensions, and promotions. Within a half-hour, after his departure, we were getting calls and emails from our District Managers noting, “We are taking care of that email you sent two weeks ago.” I was simply amazed at the speed of their responses. I have not seen such follow-through in such a short time frame.

Learning from Others

I was so fortunate to witness a leader who was engaged in what he did, and how he did it. The root meaning of the word engage is “to get the attention of” or “to bind oneself” with another as in a pledge. Our Regional Vice President certainly got my attention and respect. I was now interested in committing myself further under his regional leadership. Leaders who engage their employees, like our Regional Vice President, create empowering win-win cultures by lifting the attitudes and morale of front-line workers.