Sometimes it is not simply fatigue but symptom of something deeper. You feel that you are lacking in creativity and, as a result, you are not challenging yourself or your team to achieve their best. You need help!
So find a partner — someone you can trust to give you good advice. Here’s how you can make it work. Every leader owes it to him or herself to keep challenged, focused, and energized. A good partner can help.
“Courage, innovation and discipline help drive company performance especially in tough economic times. Effective internal communications can keep employees engaged in the business and help companies retain key talent, provide consistent value to customers, and deliver superior financial performance to shareholders.”
Watson Wyatt 2009
According to Watson Wyatt’s newest communication survey for 2009/2010, companies that are effective communicators “have the courage to talk about what employees want to hear,” “redefine the employment deal based on changing business conditions,” and have “the discipline to plan effectively and measure their progress effectively.”
Does this really matter? Yes. The study shows that companies that communicate effectively had a 47% higher return to shareholders over a five-year period (mid-2004 to mid-2009).
The link between communication and these three levers of performance — courage, innovation, and discipline — is a welcome one. These are themes that I have written about, taught and coached for years. Here is how you can utilize them in the workplace.
Courage. Watson Wyatt defines it as “telling it like it is.” This is especially true when it comes to delivering straight talk. Shielding employees from bad news is akin to treating them like children; it says they are not “grown up” enough to handle tough stuff. So why do companies do it? One reason is because they feel employees will lose heart and then underperform. The Watson Wyatt study shows just the opposite. Tell people what they need to know and they will reward you with solid performance.
Management — a client once told me — is your day job; leadership is your career.
Managers by nature are pragmatists; leaders are dreamers. Organizations need both types to survive. Managers are required to lead and leaders are expected to manage. It is a challenge to do both well. The higher one rises in an organization, the greater are the responsibilities.
Therefore, managers learn to delegate and in doing so free themselves to be more strategic and in the process develop the talents of others and grow the capacity of the organization to meet rising challenges.
All leaders have a brand. Whether that term is used or not, leaders have an identifiable persona that is a reflection of what they do and how others perceive them. I call this the leadership brand.
When it comes to cultivating a leadership brand, look no further than Oprah Winfrey, who recently announced that she would be ending her popular talk show in 2011. In a perceptive analysis, New York Times media columnist David Carr suggests that Winfrey’s brand and the key to her longevity is a combination of things she didn’t do as well as things that she did do.
On the “don’t do side,” she did not over-merchandize nor take her company public; she kept control of her products and thereby her image, unlike Martha Stewart. On the “do side,” she always stayed true to herself. As she told her business partner Gayle King years ago, “I don’t know what the future holds but I know who holds it.”
The lessons of Oprah’s brand are relevant to any leader. First and foremost, understand that brand is what you develop as well as what others perceive. The balance between reality and perception can be shaky if you are not careful, but as we have seen from Oprah, not impossible.
I’ve heard executives say that they have never seen things as bad as they are now. Even as the economy shows signs of recovery, it is by no means certain that recovery will be a linear process.
In these troubled times, it is useful to recall examples of leaders who have survived adversity. One of my favorites, and one whom I have written about extensively, is Winston Churchill. For our times the Churchill most apt is not the Prime Minister of 1940 who rallied Britain as the sole force against the Nazis. Rather it is the Churchill of 1915, tossed from the cabinet after the debacle of Dardanelles, an ill-fated plan to knock Turkey out of the Great War.
As we learn in Paul Johnson’s splendid new biography, Churchill at age 40 found himself very much alone and reviled. So what did he do? He “brooded” for a bit; his wife Clementine said “I thought he would die of grief.” But then to his great delight, Churchill found a new hobby — painting. And through his art, for which he exhibited great talent, he reconnected himself. Rejuvenated, he enlisted in the Army and served on the Front in France for six months of 1915-16. Later Churchill re-entered politics, and from there continued his public life.
“It’s okay if other people think you’re God, but you’re in trouble if you start believing it.”
David Cornwell, a sports attorney, recalled that quote as one uttered by his father, a surgeon. While Cornwell was speaking onLarry King Liveabout Tiger Woods’ foibles, the quote has relevance to anyone in a leadership position, not just doctors and big name athletes.
Sure, leaders have to believe in themselves — otherwise no one else will. Their conviction in their own abilities has to be strong as well as resilient, but such self-assurance cannot be allowed to become arrogance. So often when we see business leaders making poor decisions it seems as if their ego is speaking louder than their voice of reason.
And yet we need to remember that, while it’s easy to throw stones at people and power, and lampoon their outsized egos when they stumble, so often that outsize ego is the result of the relentless fawning of others. You do not rise to power without followers, but if that followership is more sycophantic than supportive, the leader can lose his bearings.
Keeping your ego in check is an exercise in humility, with the emphasis on the word exercise, so here are a few tips:
For many of us, speaking in public is our No. 1 fear.
Fear of speaking in public stems from many things such as uncertainty about what to say, the perception that you might embarrass yourself, or even self-consciousness about how you will sound. These feelings stem from one thing: lack of self-confidence.
Find out how can you gain more confidence as a speaker.
“We do have a conscious say in selecting the narrative we will use to make sense of the world,” writesNew York Times columnist David Brooks. “Individual responsibility is contained in the act of selecting and constantly revising the master narrative we tell about ourselves.”
Brooks’ explanation about choice of narrative can apply to leaders seeking ways to navigate our recession. The relentless tide of bad news may tempt those in charge to adopt a pessimistic view point, but leaders owe it to their followers to spread optimism. Without excluding reality, leaders need to inspire not simply hope, but also resilience. Storytelling can help in this effort. Here are some suggestions for crafting your own story to make sense of adversity.
Start at the beginning. Focus on what is happening. Be straight about the challenges your organization is facing regarding external factors like the economy and competition as well as global influences. Talk about what your company did right as well as what it might have done better to prepare for the downturn.
Develop characters. An organization is a collection of individuals. Discuss how you need the skills as well as the will of your team to survive. Make it clear you don’t want to go through the motions, you want new ways of doing things. Highlight the good things that people are doing despite the tough times.