Milestone Blog

Lead Like a President (No Politics Necessary)

Posted by Milestone Leadership on Jul 3, 2019 11:08:38 AM

As we celebrate our nation’s independence, it brings to mind the kinds of leaders who helped to create and sustain the ideals of the United States of America. Political parties and individuals who rise in influence through the processes of our democracy can be extremely polarizing, yet it is important to remember that leadership of a place so vast, diverse and powerful as our nation is an unimaginably complex and Herculean task.

The tone of good leadership and consistent actions to reinforce it must come from the highest levels of any organization—but these qualities are relevant to all of us, regardless of our personal or professional roles. Here are six quotes from past United States Presidents that are as true now as the day they were spoken, and serve inspiration for qualities of leadership to which we should all aspire:

1) "It's amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit." - Harry S. Truman

The power of not taking credit is often underestimated. When leaders and peers openly take joy in the accomplishments of others and demonstrate the satisfaction of seeing team members achieve goals or spark innovation, the results can be highly motivating within an organization. People want to work harder when they know they are appreciated and the value of their contributions are celebrated.

2) "The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today." - Franklin D. Roosevelt

Constant self-doubt can quickly derail leadership. It’s important to recognize that while self-awareness and ongoing evaluation of how we’re doing is key to growth as leaders, it is equally important to remember that rising to a place of leadership comes about because of recognized capabilities and skills. Make informed decisions and take actions with confidence, look for peers to offer validation, and reflect occasionally on past successes that might have once seemed unattainable.

3) "If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader." - John Quincy Adams

When a leader gives others the chance to dream, they are offering team members the power to determine how tomorrow can be better. Aspirational thinking generates fresh solutions, new products, improved services and a healthier work environment. Encouraging others to learn more shows a belief in the value of knowledge and the impact of personal and professional growth—which in turn builds loyalty and confidence. Leaders who inspire others to do more are delegators who are ultimately communicating the belief that their teams are competent, productive and meet high standards. Team members who are guided to become more are able to grow in their abilities and talents, benefiting themselves and the organization as a whole.

4) “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” - Theodore Roosevelt

Successful leaders are able to assess and capitalize upon what they do have, rather than focus only on what they need. Regardless of resources, time and circumstances, there are always ways to make an impact at any stage of an organization’s lifecycle. The best leaders look for how to take the current state to the next level, ultimately growing in strength, improving the status quo and earning increased resources over time.

5) “There are men and women who make the world better just by being the kind of people they are. They have the gift of kindness or courage or loyalty or integrity. It really matters very little whether they are behind the wheel of a truck or running a business or bringing up a family. They teach the truth by living it.” - James Garfield 

Leaders exist in every role or capacity and have the potential to influence and inspire others. Living one’s values through steady, consistent actions and words is powerful. It is important to not only cultivate and exhibit our own gifts in ways that support others, but to also recognize the capabilities and contributions of others—no matter where they may be.

6) "Whenever you do a thing, act as if all the world were watching." - Thomas Jefferson

We never know who we may inspire and encourage, or who we may disappoint and disillusion. The strongest leaders understand that every action has consequences and we are solely responsible for the attitudes and actions we perpetuate. Leading with kindness and unwavering ethics will never fail a person, even in the face of difficulty or crisis.

Our team at Milestone Leadership has the honor of growing and guiding leaders worth following, and we are inspired every day by the actions and accomplishments of those we serve. We know it’s not necessary to be at the very top of an organization—or a nation—to make an impact.

What is at the heart of great leadership is just that: HEART.

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Topics: Professional Development, Productivity, Growth, Initiative, Living Your Values, Motivation, Employee Engagement, Leadership, Honesty, Candidness, Tone at the Top, Advice, Management, Empowerment, Effectiveness, Reflection, Values, Feedback, Boss, Organization, Company Culture, Tips, innovation, Emotional Leadership, Success, Organizational Change, Intentionality, Workplace, Teams, Change Management, Milestone, Sacrifice, Team Health, Heart, Vision, Change, Problem Solving, Legacy, High Performance, Bravery, Aspirations, High Performing Teams, Dreams, Courage, Challenge, Strategy, Learning, Powerful Influencers, Relationships, Values & Ethics, Practical Tips & Tricks, Employee Development, Personal Development, Creating Culture, Leader Worth Following, Communication, Affirmation, Service

Leaders in the Trenches: Unexpected Influencers

Posted by Milestone Leadership on Jun 27, 2019 10:15:00 AM

Sometimes the most influential leaders step up not because position demands it, but because it’s the right thing to do even when the path ahead is foggy and feelings of uncertainty about how to proceed are intense. On occasions when a person unexpectedly comes forward to do more than is required, it can reveal his or her true capabilities and worth. Leading during crisis or upheaval takes commitment, flexibility and heart—and the outcome can mean big wins for the organization, as well as individual team members.

“Not long ago, I was working as an associate on a team that was enormously impacted by a major organizational transition and realignment. Our group significantly decreased in size, we lost our manager and had no direction or strategy for how to move forward in the new reality. Needless to say, the situation was scary and very uncomfortable. We all well understood that the financial stakes were really high, but our group felt completely lost and disconnected.

“At a point when we were feeling especially insecure, one of our accounts receivable analysts, Wayne Johnson, stepped forward to say he would be willing to volunteer to assist the team. An individual contributor without a team of his own, Wayne said he would be happy to stand in temporarily as someone to report to if anything was needed. His ultimate actions and commitment to the team, however, resulted in a much greater impact than we initially expected.

“Wayne took it upon himself to deep dive into our processes and figure out what needed to be done within our new organizational climate. Recognizing our roles were evolving and had to adjust to meet the changing needs of the business, he tested and reshaped our processes multiple times according to what was required, as well as what felt correct for the wellbeing of the business and our customers. His influence ensured we were able to keep things moving correctly.

“Yet, as much as he helped keep our team on track during an uncertain time, Wayne’s influence actually had a much larger impact on me personally. He recognized I was determined to learn and trusted me to take ownership in my role and run with it, all the while pushing me to expand my abilities and improve where I could do – and be – better. His consistent actions, unwavering encouragement and gentle guidance allowed me to be successful and gain visibility. My resulting growth and development led to my receiving a promotion.

“Wayne’s own drive and determination, combined with his openness, honesty and servant leadership mindset is inspiring. He pushed me to participate in more activities, resulting my pursuit of a graduate degree and participation in a Milestone Leadership experience. Both endeavors opened my eyes to the possibilities of how I, too, can lead. Having recently completed my MBA, I have been reflecting back on what helped me achieve this monumental goal. Wayne’s leadership and dedication to helping others to grow to their desired potential is at the pit of the fire that fueled my success.

When I see Wayne, I always try to thank him for the opportunities and drive he gave me. He would say, ‘It’s all you…you did the work,” but I know his kind insistence that I could achieve more really made the difference. I know now that leadership is a mindset, not just a position. I’m actively looking for ways I can make a difference, offer solutions and be the kind of inspiration Wayne has been for me.”

Melanie Suber, MBA—Lead Business Analyst – Post Audit, Genpact

At Milestone Leadership, experience tells us that anyone can step up as a leader, whether they hold the title on an org chart or not. Here are some ways to be a leader worth following, even if you’re not the one “in charge:”

  1. Look for gaps in processes or procedures that, if resolved or improved, could make everyone’s jobs easier. Take the initiative to suggest changes and help communicate or clarify what comes next.
  2. Be observant of where coworkers are struggling or feeling overwhelmed, and offer assistance. Don’t wait until a situation is critical; offer a hand.
  3. Set the tone for how you want team members to feel and behave toward you and each other. Establish a personal reputation for being welcoming, responsive and encouraging—and work to reinforce that same behavior within your group.
  4. Look for tasks that may be overlooked or going undone because others say, “That’s not my job.” Step in to carry a bit of extra weight when appropriate, even if it’s not explicitly spelled out in your job description.
  5. Pull up out of the weeds and look into the future. Rather than focus every moment on the to-do list for today, regularly consider and talk about what is ahead and develop an attitude of optimism and vision.
  6. Think beyond yourself and only what concerns you. Envision what is best for everyone and work to implement it. What’s good for the group will ultimately benefit each individual.
  7. Teach others. If you know how to do something well, share the wealth and improve your team’s overall capabilities by expanding the knowledge of your peers.
  8. Give credit and offer praise where it’s due. Not only acknowledge to a peer that you’ve noticed their achievement or great work—also take the time to tell their manager.
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Topics: Women in Leadership, Determination, Professional Development, Productivity, Growth, Initiative, Candor, Living Your Values, Motivation, Employee Engagement, Leadership, Honesty, Candidness, Tone at the Top, Advice, Management, Empowerment, Effectiveness, Reflection, Values, Feedback, Boss, Organization, Company Culture, Tips, innovation, Emotional Leadership, Success, Organizational Change, Intentionality, Workplace, Teams, Change Management, Milestone, Sacrifice, Team Health, Heart, Vision, Change, Problem Solving, Legacy, High Performance, Bravery, Aspirations, High Performing Teams, Dreams, Courage, Challenge, Strategy, Criticism, Learning, Powerful Influencers, Relationships, Values & Ethics, Practical Tips & Tricks, Employee Development, Personal Development, Creating Culture, Leader Worth Following, Communication, Affirmation, Service

"Slowly...Step Away from the Desk..."

Posted by Milestone Leadership on Jun 1, 2019 8:45:00 AM

There’s a tendency you’ll notice with far too many people as they progress upwards in an organization: the higher a leader goes on the org chart, the less you see them. There’s always some rationale, most commonly that work load grows with greater responsibility, making it harder and harder to get away from the desk or computer. Yet, leaders are responsible for staying abreast of and positively influencing the workplace climate, and it is highly unlikely much meaningful inspiration and team connectiveness comes from someone rarely seen on an informal day-to-day basis.

For this installment of Leaders in the Trenches, we would like to highlight a story shared with us about a public school educator whose daily actions inspired generations of students and colleagues:

“After an eleven-year hiatus taking off from my teaching career moving around all over the United States with my husband’s career, having four kids, and volunteering a bit, I completed a graduate level degree and was finally certified to teach in the state where we lived. I’d had several interviews, but repeatedly found out I was the “second choice,” and someone else was hired. Finally, I had what seemed to be a successful interview at an elementary school. After we’d visited a bit, the principal, Jim Lewis, asked me if I’d like to take a walk around the school with him. As we left the office, we encountered an aide pushing a young student with special needs in a wheelchair. As Jim made eye contact with both of these people, asked about their day, and then touched the child and spoke further with him, I was impressed. There was a sincerity and evidence of purpose here that impacted me greatly.

“After working with Jim for a few years, I was telling my husband a story about something remarkable this principal had done, to which he said, “You’d eat glass for him, wouldn’t you?” I thought about it a second, chuckled, and then replied, “Yeah, pretty much.” Besides demonstrating a sincere interest in his employees and students, what else did Jim do to command such loyalty?

“He knew the value of learning about others and then using that information to aid in collaboration for future success. After the horrific school shooting in Jonesboro, Arkansas in 1998, he wondered what could be done to help better protect students. He visited with an involved parent, and the two came up with an idea to start a program to encourage fathers of students to volunteer a day to walk the school halls and make sure doors stayed locked, among other things. As parents would come in to volunteer, master collaborator Jim would visit with them and find out about their connections and interests. Many programs and the facility itself were improved over time because he knew who to call for help with common, shared goals. It’s important to note—that school safety volunteer program, WatchDog Dads, has gone national!

"One education consultant said, “If you want to impact change in your school, get out of the office, get out of the office, get out of the office.” While Jim probably had a stack of paperwork on his desk and a colorful pile of Post-It notes scrawled with names and numbers of parents to call, he made the time to walk the building to see what was going on. How else could he “brag” on the incredible work being done by teachers, students, and volunteers?! 

“Jim Lewis went on to be a superintendent then a retired grandpa who enjoys hanging out with his family and traveling. When many former students and colleagues hear his name, they inevitably sing, “See the sun, shining in the window, time to start a new day,” the way he often started morning school announcements.”

-Teresa Cornett, Retired Teacher

At a time when management of employees is increasingly done through email—or leaders rely on formally scheduled meetings rather than impromptu and casual check-in conversations, it’s no wonder many teams don’t really feel like teams. Add the challenge of workplaces that are a combination of physical office space and remote digital workstations, it’s more important than ever that leaders develop and practice effective methods of staying engaged with their teams.  

Here are a few ways a leader can make a real impact:

  • Get up and walk around the workplace on a daily basis—and not always at the same time. Talk to people where they are doing their work, ask questions, request feedback. Don’t leave anyone out. (If team members work remotely and walk-by visits are not an option, impromptu phone calls and video conferencing can achieve a similar effect.)
  • As casual conversations arise and team members feel more comfortable engaging, take the opportunity to use those discussions to reinforce values and vision. When a leader is able to illustrate the organization’s purpose in the context of real talk about real situations, it can have a positive, crystallizing effect for individuals and the overall team.
  • If a problem is identified in the course of visiting with team members, provide support right then. Not having all of the answers or the ability to remove barriers immediately is not what is important—but showing a sense of urgency to help problem solve and not default to “I’ll look into it” is key to helping team members believe leaders have their backs.

At Milestone Leadership, our work with leaders worth following over the years has shown us the enormous value of connection and the lasting impact of making a commitment to team engagement.

Step away from your desk. Go learn something new about someone you work with—and what is challenging them. Repeat. And repeat.

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Topics: Initiative, Employee Engagement, Leadership, Tone at the Top, Advice, Management, Values, Feedback, Boss, Company Culture, Tips, Emotional Leadership, Success, Intentionality, Workplace, Teams, Milestone, Team Health, Heart, Legacy, Stories, High Performance, High Performing Teams, Powerful Influencers, Relationships, Values & Ethics, Employee Development, Personal Development, Creating Culture, Leader Worth Following, Communication, Affirmation

Go Ahead and File That Under "Happy"

Posted by Milestone Leadership on May 23, 2019 11:45:00 AM

 

 

More years ago than I care to consider, I started my own quiet little office tradition. I can’t claim the idea as uniquely my own, but I do know the concept came to mind for me on a particularly challenging day that was made unexpectedly, 180-degrees better by a simple handwritten letter from someone I only fleetingly met once. I don’t remember what the work crisis du jour was that had me momentarily out of sorts, but I certainly do remember that note, who it was from and what it said.

The letter became the very first document to go into my Happy File. A couple of decades later, that file is pretty fat. And it has gone with me to every job since—increasingly a little rough around the edges but more loved and appreciated with the passing years.

My Happy File is filled with cards, emails, formal letters and a few sticky notes. Each of those tokens represents a person whose path crossed mine, some on a daily basis and some only once. Some of those people are no longer with us. Every message is filled with encouragement, appreciation, affirmation and thanks; every message reflects another person’s consideration towards me and an understanding that a personal sentiment or simple handwritten thanks is worth more than its weight in gold.

When self-doubt creeps in or I’m feeling a little overwhelmed, a quick look through my Happy File can be a pretty powerful thing. I believe when other people put down in words what a great job you did or how much your efforts benefited them, the intent is undeniable and indelible. Reading messages like these again after time has passed is an effective reminder of your capabilities and impact—and can help us regain a bit of lost mojo.

So, here’s the leadership lesson in all of this. YOUR words are so meaningful to others; share them. Take the time to recognize what your team members do well and put it down in writing. I would like to challenge you as a leader to kindle this tradition in your own workplace or where you volunteer—and actually give your direct reports or peers their own starter Happy File…with the first letter or card from you.

At Milestone Leadership, we know leaders worth following take the time to recognize and reinforce the positive things their team members do. Great leaders know that high functioning organizations result when people feel appreciated, acknowledged and confident. Don’t leave others to wonder if they’re making a difference—tell them.

 P.S. If you decide to take this challenge, would you please let us know how it goes?

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Topics: Growth, Initiative, Worth, Candor, Employee Engagement, Leadership, Honesty, Authenticity, Candidness, Tone at the Top, Advice, Management, Empowerment, Reflection, Values, Feedback, Boss, Company Culture, Tips, Emotional Leadership, Success, Intentionality, Workplace, Teams, Milestone, Ping Pong, Truth, Team Health, Heart, Legacy, Stories, High Performance, High Performing Teams, Challenge, Mentors, Learning, Powerful Influencers, Relationships, Values & Ethics, Employee Development, Personal Development, Creating Culture, Leader Worth Following, Communication, Affirmation, Gift

Minds are Like Parachutes: Best When Open

Posted by Milestone Leadership on May 9, 2019 8:57:27 AM

 

One irony of human nature is the tendency we have to believe everyone around us should be open-minded about our opinions and behaviors, yet so frequently we struggle with people who don’t think and behave the same way we do. On occasion, we encounter someone who demonstrates genuine openness to hearing new perspectives and is uninterested in qualifying everything as good or bad, black or white. Spending time around such a person can have an enormously positive impact, as it gives others tacit permission to express thoughts and capabilities without fear of being judged as right or wrong. 

This leadership story helps illustrate the value of having and encouraging an open mind:

“I was a 19-year old college freshman at a tiny liberal arts college, and I decided to take a public speaking course during a short winter term. The faculty was small, so some members covered a variety of subjects—and in this case we had a philosophy professor teaching us the topic.

“The class was made up of almost entirely traditional students, except for one single mom who seemed so much older than the rest of us (in reality, she was probably only in her thirties!) It was this woman’s turn to give her presentation, and part of the routine was for other class members to offer feedback at the conclusion of each speech. We took turns giving our suggestions, but as one member of the class was offering his not-so-constructive comments, the professor promptly interrupted him with this statement, “Be careful what you say. Have an open mind. If your mind is open, it leaves more room for the good stuff.”

“At the time, my professor’s remark didn’t seem all that profound. It was, though, and that guidance and management of the situation has literally stayed with me for decades. I realized her words were actually a kind, yet pointed, way of stopping unpleasantness in its tracks—and a simultaneous reminder that what we fill our heads with is a large determiner of what kind of person we will be. If we keep an open mind, we give ourselves the space to be positive and flexible to different ways of thinking. If we fill our minds with negativity, the likelihood is that we’ll behave in negative ways. I have been inspired by that simple statement and have called it to mind in countless situations over the years.”

-Laura Mabry, Manager of Corporate and Foundation Relations, University of Arkansas

A number of qualities are inherent to open-mindedness: continuous learner, curious spirit, knack for seeing things from fresh perspectives and respect for differing beliefs of others. People who authentically demonstrate these characteristics frequently have a special charisma and way of making those around them feel comfortable and confident.

At Milestone Leadership, we know open-mindedness is an important trait among leaders worth following. They inspire the best thinking, creativity and behavior in others. When followers are encouraged to be their genuine selves, the result is a greater degree of trust among team members, resulting in collective confidence and willingness to take calculated risks, communicate more effectively and bring their best efforts to the group.

Have you pulled the parachute ripcord for your team?

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Topics: Productivity, Growth, Candor, Motivation, Employee Engagement, Leadership, Honesty, Authenticity, Candidness, Tone at the Top, Advice, Management, Effectiveness, Reflection, Values, Feedback, Self Awareness, Boss, Company Culture, Tips, Emotional Leadership, Success, Workplace, Teams, Milestone, Truth, Team Health, High Performance, High Performing Teams, Dreams, Criticism, Powerful Influencers, Relationships, Values & Ethics, Personal Development, Creating Culture, Leader Worth Following, Communication

"You Think This Is All a Big Joke??"

Posted by Milestone Leadership on Apr 26, 2019 2:00:28 PM

 

Is there anything that feels better than a belly laugh? Experts tell us laughing is actually serious business when it comes to personal health benefits, yet so many workplaces seem to be pretty stoic places. There are plenty of reasons why people who typically have a good sense of humor tend to be more reserved in the office, with one of the most common factors being a concern that attempts at being funny or pointing out something silly may fail miserably and leave them feeling embarrassed or exposed.

Despite reservations by some around demonstrating a great sense of humor at work, there are many surveys which conclude employees believe it is a factor which can play heavily in a person’s potential for advancement—and an ability to laugh or keep things light at appropriate times is considered one of the very best traits a leader can have.

Here are six reasons why leaders should encourage and model a bit of laughter:

  1. Humor is a pathway to play. All work and no play do not offer a creative, open-minded, dynamic atmosphere. Laughing gives our brains a moment of healthy distraction and a chance to briefly reboot so we can focus better afterward, as well as even tap into fresh ideas.
  2. Laughter puts people at ease, breaks tension and builds cohesiveness in groups; cohesive, trusting groups work better together and members feel greater loyalty to each other.
  3. When people laugh with each other, they relax and are open to seeing more possibilities. Circumstances become less about maintaining constant control and more about looking at reality. (And even a tough reality can allow for glimmers of humor.)
  4. Humor is a major morale booster. When a workplace allows for an occasionally playful environment where not every single thing is taken seriously, people actually want to be there.
  5. Those who embrace humor are easier to approach and get to know, which ultimately leads to others feeling more comfortable to be honest and forthright when it really matters.
  6. Stress can make us sick, but laughter actually increases our beta-endorphins and strengthens our immune systems. Plus, laughing burns calories…so less time on the treadmill!

Our Milestone Leadership team really likes to laugh and we encourage humor in our every day activities. We believe leaders worth following are individuals whom others genuinely enjoy being around. Leaders who can recognize and occasionally defuse stressful situations using a bit of appropriate humor are very powerful in their ability to create healthy work environments, motivate team members and encourage personal connections.

According to Harvard Business Review, “Good comedy is a conspiracy. Create an in-group.” 

😄😂🤣

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Topics: Productivity, Growth, Employee Engagement, Leadership, Tone at the Top, Advice, Fun, Laughter, Management, Values, Boss, Company Culture, Tips, Emotional Leadership, Success, Workplace, Teams, Milestone, Team Health, High Performance, High Performing Teams, Relationships, Values & Ethics, Personal Development, Creating Culture, Leader Worth Following, Communication, Humor

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