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

"Keep the Door Open, Please"

Posted by Milestone Leadership on Jun 13, 2019 11:05:00 AM

Are people actually walking through your open door? As leaders we have a tendency to say our doors are always open—and our organizations may even go so far as to officially tout an open door policy that theoretically reaches all the way to the top. But how many frontline employees in your workplace feel truly empowered to approach leaders at various levels with challenges or input?

The truth is, team members have a lot of opinions. They’re the ones charged with actually implementing an organization’s strategies, keeping abreast of competitors, and producing, implementing or promoting products and services. They have distinct thoughts about the culture of the workplace and how they and their peers feel about showing up to work each day. They know how customers feel about their company and they can tell you where the gaps in service lie. Team members can pinpoint the strengths of the organization and are no strangers to the not-so-pretty aspects that may be negatively impacting productivity or even losing clients.

When an organization describes itself as having an open door policy, it’s issuing a blanket statement about its culture that may—or more often may not—reflect the reality of how team dynamics and sharing of information actually functions. Leaders who say their offices are always open are really only meeting their team members a fraction of the way, and they are likely missing out on some enormously valuable input and innovative ideas.

At Milestone Leadership, we know leaders worth following take a proactive approach. Here are three ways to actually make good on an open door assertion and start hearing more from your team:

  • Walk straight through your own door, out of your office and meet your team members where they are. Make a commitment to regularly approach employees about what they’re experiencing, where they’re struggling and what they’re proud of. Initial conversations may not result in people feeling comfortable with sharing much information, but with consistency and a clearly demonstrated open mind that builds trust, feedback and ideas will start to flow both ways. Come prepared with questions that help to get people talking, and ask about specific topics you’re challenged by.
  • Don’t assume the information actually shared with you paints the entire picture. Human nature dictates that people tend to be more vocal with complaints or problems—a good example is online reviews where people feel the need to get negative experiences off of their chests, but may never take the time to leave praise or offer constructive suggestions. Similarly, leaders may hear about what people are upset about but they don’t have employees coming to them with fresh ideas or possible innovations. By reinforcing a culture of ongoing communication that encourages sharing all types of information, the likelihood of getting a broader view increases exponentially.
  • Think and interact with strategy in mind. As a leader, you have responsibility for the definition, communication and execution of your organization’s strategy. Many employees have roles that are more narrowly defined and they don’t necessarily think about big-picture views or overarching objectives every day. When talking with team members, reinforce the company’s strategy and how their work supports that. As they better see where their work fits into the grand scheme of things, they will become more proactive about suggesting ways to improve processes or even positively disrupt status quo.

Make sure your door really IS open—and make the sure the path goes both ways!

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Topics: Professional Development, Productivity, Initiative, Candor, Living Your Values, Employee Engagement, Leadership, Honesty, Candidness, Tone at the Top, Advice, Management, Empowerment, Effectiveness, Values, Feedback, Boss, Organization, Company Culture, Tips, innovation, Success, Intentionality, Workplace, Idea Generation, Teams, Milestone, Team Health, Problem Solving, High Performance, High Performing Teams, Transparency, Challenge, Strategy, Criticism, Learning, Powerful Influencers, Relationships, Values & Ethics, Employee Development, Personal Development, Creating Culture, Leader Worth Following, Communication

"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

Transforming Pollyanna into a Warrior Princess

Posted by Milestone Leadership on May 2, 2019 10:05:00 AM

 

When I began my second year of graduate school for counseling, I didn’t think I was going to make it.  To be honest, I was turning out to be a terrible therapist.  I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who was concerned about my situation.  I just didn’t know how to translate the book knowledge that I had learned in the first year into actually helping people. 

My program allowed me the opportunity to do live counseling behind a one way mirror, where a supervisor sat and observed me and my work.  One such supervisor was a woman named Sharon Shepherd. 

Sharon was an amazing therapist I had the privilege of observing as a student.  I was so excited to have her work with me, but was also terrified because I knew my counseling skills weren’t “clicking” between the two of us.  A few days after my first session, I received an email from Sharon.  In the email, she said many helpful things, but she used an image that helped me understand what she meant and what I needed to change.  She called me Pollyanna (like the Disney character).  I was having a difficult time giving honest feedback to clients.  I only wanted to talk about the good things that I saw.  Beyond this great image that helped me understand the work I needed to do, she also modeled the behavior she wanted to see.  She gave me honest feedback.  The feedback didn’t hurt.  It wasn’t harsh and it wasn’t personal.  It was true and I knew it.

I learned many things during my time in supervision for becoming a counselor.  One of the most important things was this idea of giving honest feedback.  How often do we hold back as coaches, leaders, supervisors, etc. because we are afraid of hurting someone’s feelings?  How often do we only point out the things that we are comfortable talking about?  When we are in a position to give feedback to someone, the only way to do so in a way that is respectful to that person and their growth is to give them the truth – positive and negative.

Over the next several months after receiving that email from Sharon, my technique improved and I wasn’t as terrible as I had been previously, thanks to many great supervisors.  After one of my last sessions, I received another email from Sharon.  In it, she let me know that Pollyanna had morphed into Xena Warrior Princess and that she was proud of me.  Because Sharon had given me honest feedback, the compliment I received from her was much stronger and more important than it had been had she ignored the truth.  I’m often described as someone who “tells is like it is.”  While I attempt to come at hard truths with compassion and kindness, Sharon truly taught me that telling the truth is a kindness in and of itself.

 As a leader, your job is to help people grow, and the only way to do that is to tell them the truth.  Help them find their inner Xena Warrior Princess.

Reposted from previously published blog.

Author:
Lori Chalmers

  

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Topics: Growth, Candor, Leadership, Honesty, Authenticity, Candidness, Tone at the Top, Advice, Humility, Management, Empowerment, Values, Company Culture, Tips, Success, Intentionality, Workplace, Milestone, Truth, Real, High Performance, Bravery, Courage, Challenge, Criticism, Mentors, Learning, Relationships, Values & Ethics, Personal Development, Creating Culture, Leader Worth Following, Communication

The Leadership Chronicles: “If They Don’t Get It, Maybe It’s You?”

Posted by Milestone Leadership on Apr 18, 2019 9:29:21 AM

 

We’ve heard it so many times – employees don’t leave bad companies, they leave bad managers. Leaders have an enormous influence on employee engagement and morale, but they also have a critical responsibility to make certain team members understand their jobs and how to be successful in their roles. For many companies, training and onboarding is largely conducted by a professional training staff, so often managers feel they can take a back seat for encouraging and overseeing learning and skill development. In this edition of Leadership Chronicles, we offer a real-life example relating to this topic:

“One of my first jobs out of college was in retail management for a major chain clothing store in Princeton, New Jersey. Merchandising and operations were dictated to us at the store level in great detail, and it was our job as managers to hold the staff accountable for meeting the strict standards. The job and the hours were brutal, but what I learned in my two years there has continued to serve me better than almost any professional experience I've had since.

“Our district manager was a no-nonsense man named Lon who had grown up and lived most of his life in Brooklyn, New York. While Lon didn't have much in the way of soft skills, he DID understand retail. Ultimately, his no-nonsense approach taught me a valuable leadership lesson.   

“Most of the staff in our store were high school and college students whose concern for how denim was folded took a back seat to the rest of their lives. One day I groaned to Lon on his monthly visit to our store that I thought we were going to have to fire several people because they struggled to meet our standards. The conversation that followed went something like this:

Lon:     “Have you trained them?”

Me:      “Well, they all went through our orientation.” 

Lon:     “But nothing since then?”

Me:      “I guess not. We shouldn't have to show people more than once how to do                                something.” 

Long pause. 

Lon:     “If you don't think people are meeting the expectations, you first have to make                      sure they know what the expectations are. It's your job to develop them to meet                    the expectations. If you don't like the way the staff is performing, then as the                          manager, it's your fault.” 

“He then went on to explain why it's more costly to hire new people than to develop current staff. Of course, he was right

“This lesson has come back to me in every role I've ever had. As a leader it's my job to train, develop, and work alongside my staff so they can meet the expectations of their roles, and beyond that, so they can grow into other roles outside of the organization or company. If I'm frustrated with someone, then the first questions to ask myself are, ‘What is MY role in this person's performance? Where have I faltered in my leadership?’

-Angie Albright, Executive Director, Clinton House Museum

Research tells us that information gained from training on its own without direct application and reinforcement in reality is quickly lost. What team members learn in a classroom setting or through online training is a mere starting point. When leaders identify ways to take ownership in actively reinforcing training on the job, skills begin to really take hold.

At Milestone Leadership, we understand that managers possess great deal of influence over how team members feel about their ability to perform well. Leaders worth following take the time to develop a strategy for each employee that involves regular one-on-one conversations, coaching, opportunities to apply new skills, and a plan for future learning and development.  The message to direct reports is clear: they have a leader partner who is vested in their success–and they see firsthand that their skills, knowledge and capabilities both present and future are important to the organization.

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Topics: Professional Development, Storytelling, Productivity, Growth, Candor, Employee Engagement, Leadership, Honesty, Tone at the Top, Advice, Management, Empowerment, Effectiveness, Values, Feedback, Coaching, Boss, Organization, Company Culture, Tips, Success, Intentionality, Experience, Workplace, Teams, Milestone, Team Health, Top Down Leadership, Stories, High Performance, High Performing Teams, Criticism, Learning, Powerful Influencers, Relationships, Values & Ethics, Employee Development, Personal Development, Creating Culture, clarity, Leader Worth Following, Communication

Teachers in the Trenches: A Brief Look at Receiving the Gift of Feedback

Posted by Milestone Leadership on Apr 15, 2019 2:08:03 PM

 

For this installment of “Teachers in the Trenches: A Brief Look at Real Leadership Stories,” we share with you a quote about the power of hearing and accepting input from others and the way one leader has been able to both teach and inspire his followers through a consistent, positive message.

“A number of years ago I was a newbie at P&G, and my leader at the time was Mike Graen, director of Information Technology. He had a huge impact on my career for a number of reasons, not the least of which was that he demonstrated what it is to be a true servant leader—always willing and ready to get in the trenches with his team. He had a wonderful way of empowering us to find solutions to complex issues. Mike taught me to push beyond the obvious, and his encouraging way of doing that, and his confidence in my abilities to do so, has given me lasting confidence.

“Mike had an impactful phrase he used, which has become somewhat of a mantra for me, ‘Feedback is a gift.’ Those words I’ve repeated many times, and the meaning is something I’ve taken to heart. That simple phrase taught me that hearing feedback can be incredibly valuable and critical to success. We have to own what we hear from others about the work we do—and we have an obligation to ask questions to gain clarity about that feedback. We must listen without defensiveness and learn to take action based upon what others share with us. Receiving feedback in the right spirit helps us build our toolkits and improve our work.”

-Suzanne Herzog Owens, Chief Product Officer, WhyteSpyder

Leaders worth following know how to provide constructive feedback that is actually motivating and beneficial to their team members—and they have to be open to receiving feedback, as well. Some of the best lessons that leaders can hope to receive come from their followers and peers. It is critical to internalize and act upon this feedback in the spirit it is intended.

Whether you’re leading or following (or both), here are some ways to graciously accept and use feedback as the gift it is meant to be:

  • As you’re hearing feedback, take a second to remind yourself that you’re gaining insight for ways you can improve your effectiveness or make something you’re working on better.
  • Listen fully and try not to let your brain race to the point that you’re not hearing what is being said. Once the person has shared their thoughts, restate what you believe you were told to make sure you’re on the same page.
  • Don’t go on the defensive. Don’t argue. Stop, listen and acknowledge what you’ve been told.
  • Ask clarifying questions and inquire about possible solutions for addressing any issues.
  • Thank the person who has taken the time to share feedback with you. It might not have been easy for them, but by acknowledging politely and sincerely, you are showing your respect for their assessment—even if you may not fully agree.
  • Afterwards, consciously look for examples of your behavior or activities that relate to the criticism and actively address them. If you find ways to improve and take specific action to do so, it’s great to follow up with the person who provided feedback to demonstrate your progress.  

 

At Milestone Leadership, we recognize feedback is a necessity, and like all communication, it’s best when it flows both directions. Building a culture that embraces and cultivates feedback invites trust and meaningful interaction among team members—which leads to innovation, productivity and loyalty.

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Topics: Productivity, Growth, Candor, Living Your Values, Employee Engagement, Leadership, Honesty, Authenticity, Candidness, Tone at the Top, Advice, Humility, Management, Empowerment, Effectiveness, Reflection, Values, Feedback, Passion, Organization, Company Culture, Tips, Success, Intentionality, Experience, Workplace, Teams, Milestone, Truth, Team Health, Top Down Leadership, High Performance, Purpose, High Performing Teams, Recognition, Learning, Relationships, Values & Ethics, Personal Development, Creating Culture, Leader Worth Following, Communication

Teachers in the Trenches: A Brief Look at Real Leadership Stories

Posted by Milestone Leadership on Apr 4, 2019 9:09:42 AM

 

No matter where we are in life or how we arrived at that point, from start to finish there are always people along our path who teach or influence us—especially when we are open to learning and embracing a bit of healthy introspection. Sometimes lessons are conveyed very intentionally, and at other times we learn by simply observing someone’s behavior, demeanor or direct actions. This article is the first in a series of blogs where we will share a quote from someone who describes a real-life instance of something their current or past leader said or did that has impacted their own leadership journey.

“My first full time boss was an old Army Sergeant who has served in Vietnam. Warm and cuddly he was not, but he knew how to GSD (get stuff done.) He sat me down when I became a leader for him (dispatcher) and told me that the company we worked for ran long before I got there and will run long after I leave...so don't think that I can't be replaced if I screw up or didn't work as much as it took to get the job done.

“That was shocking to a 19-year old, but really stuck. Though it was meant to be a threat (veiled or otherwise) and I'm no longer with that company...which is no longer in business...I've taken that nugget and made it my own. I now encourage my people to take care of themselves and use that same phrase to show them that though they feel like what they are working on is the most important thing right now, it will all still be here when they get back and are rested.” 

-Zac McCool, Senior Manager of Engineering and Technology, J.B. Hunt

The leadership lesson gained from this originally negative comment took on a valuable meaning as the person’s career progressed. Encouraging team members to take time to occasionally refuel both mind and body has enormous benefits for overall long-term productivity. It’s true—the work and the organization will still be there when someone returns from vacation or takes time to recover from an illness—but the reward is increased creativity, enhanced focus, more energy and greater loyalty to the team. Encouraging team members to balance their time and work load to take care of themselves and their families is a small price to pay for attracting and retaining top talent in a tight labor market. 

If you have a leadership example you would like us to consider featuring, we would sincerely love to hear it! Please respond in the comments of this post, and we’ll reach out to hear your story. At Milestone Leadership, we understand that teachers and mentors come to us in all sorts of ways, both formally and informally. We also know leadership lessons are best shared so we can all grow together—and the most effective way for us to become better leaders is to clearly understand and embrace what influences and inspires our followers. Who inspired you? What is your leader worth following story?

 

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Topics: Productivity, Growth, Living Your Values, Employee Engagement, Leadership, Tone at the Top, Advice, Management, Empowerment, Effectiveness, Reflection, Values, Passion, Organization, Company Culture, Success, Intentionality, Experience, Workplace, Teams, Milestone, Truth, Team Health, Top Down Leadership, High Performance, Purpose, High Performing Teams, Recognition, Learning, Relationships, Values & Ethics, Personal Development, Creating Culture, Leader Worth Following, Communication

Tell Me a Story

Posted by Milestone Leadership on Mar 29, 2019 9:55:59 AM

 

Ask any group of leaders what robs them of sleep, and you’ll likely eventually hear something about challenges related to connecting with their team or peers—and struggles with how to more gracefully guide others through the stresses of change that are inevitable and inherent to any organization. Successfully managing through these issues requires finesse and acknowledgement of the importance of possessing some of the more intangible soft skills. One of those capabilities may seem insignificant on its face, but when appropriately used can actually wield enormous influence: Storytelling.

For many of us, our long-ago childhood bedtime rituals frequently included a story to coax us into our dreams. We revelled in the cozy simplicity of the voice of a parent or loved one reading aloud, making up a tall tale or sharing a treasured vignette about when they were once small themselves. Everything else would become still, and we listened intently—our minds filling with images and ideas that would usually last well beyond the telling.

Fast-forward to now, and it’s likely you still love a great story. We get pulled into them in spite of ourselves—on social media, television, movies or perhaps just overhearing someone while waiting in line at the DMV. National Public Radio even names their best, most captivating stories Driveway Moments because they’re so interesting we stay in our cars to listen to the end after we’ve already arrived at our destinations.

Work environments are no different, and leaders who are good storytellers have a real edge when striving to be relatable to team members and peers. The right story at the right time can be extraordinarily powerful. It has the potential to generate emotion, energy and establish a personal connection. Well-executed stories can frame up what needs to be learned or achieved by allowing listeners to create a relevant vision in their own minds that is memorable and relatable to a broader subject.

“Good stories surprise us. They make us think and feel. They stick in our minds and help us remember ideas and concepts in a way that a PowerPoint crammed with bar graphs never can.”      - Joe Lazauskas and Shane Snow, The Storytelling Edge: How to Transform Your Business, Stop Screaming into the Void, and Make People Love You

Not everyone is a natural storyteller, but leaders worth following know a great story has the potential to jog memories well into the future and can influence behavior and actions in a positive way—or even reinforce the organization’s vision and values. With practice and intention, there are several techniques that can help almost anyone craft good stories:

  1. Every story needs an identifiable beginning, middle and end—and the best stories bring it all home by tying the end back to the beginning in some form of resolution or connection. Open the story with a bit of context so people understand why it’s being told.
  2. Make sure the subject of the story is identifiable to the audience—and it shouldn’t always be about you. If you do talk about yourself, a bit of self-effacing humor can help curb what might otherwise been seen as egotistical or self-promoting.
  3. Stories about failures overcome are highly relatable. We’ve all felt the crush of defeat or embarrassment and it’s commonly accepted that people learn more from mistakes than successes.
  4. Appeal to emotion when appropriate. Not only does this connect the storyteller to the audience, people tend to remember how someone or something made them feel.
  5. When done telling a story, allow a moment for it to sink in. (Just like brief silence in a negotiation is a powerful tool, so is a moment of reflection after a story.)

At Milestone Leadership, we know people never outgrow a great story, whether it be around a campfire or on a long road trip—a sermon or a podcast—or simply in the breakroom over coffee. We hope you’ll tell yours.

“A well-told Story is a gift to the reader/listener/viewer because it teaches them how to confront their own discomforts.”  - Shawn Coyne, The Story Grid

 

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Topics: Productivity, Growth, Living Your Values, Employee Engagement, Leadership, Tone at the Top, Advice, Management, Empowerment, Effectiveness, Reflection, Values, Passion, Organization, Company Culture, Success, Intentionality, Experience, Workplace, Teams, Milestone, Truth, Team Health, Top Down Leadership, High Performance, Purpose, High Performing Teams, Recognition, Learning, Relationships, Values & Ethics, Personal Development, Creating Culture, Leader Worth Following, Communication

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