The Employers' Association

The Employers’ Association (TEA) is a not-for-profit employers’ association, formed in 1939, with offices in Grand Rapids serving the West Michigan employer community. We help more than 600 member companies maximize employee productivity and minimize employer liability through human resources and management advice, training, survey data, and consulting services.

TEA is in the business of helping people. This blog is intended to address human issues, concerns and the things that impact people - be they self-perpetuated or externally imposed. Feel free to respond to the thoughts presented here, for without each other, we are nothing!

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

The Not So Dirty Secrets Effective Leaders Tend to Keep

If you listen to the radio, search the internet or read a newspaper, every politician, local or civic leader, sports celebrity (and even many church leaders) seem to have expressed an unpopular opinion, have made a “politically incorrect” comment, behaved in an inappropriate manner or has kept some “dirty little secret” from the public (which, either accidentally or purposefully has “leaked” or become exposed to the public).  We are left with tarnished heroes, questionable leaders, shaky relationships and a plethora of “conspiracy theories” from which we must filter the accusations, investigate the claims and make our own value judgments.  

It seems we rarely are able to “judge a book by its cover” or “take someone at face value” anymore as “what we see is no longer what we get” from many individuals we once trusted.  Rather than “building others up” we seem to have an increasing number of individuals being given leadership roles who would prefer to bring others down (so they can look better or at least rationalize that they are not “so” bad).  It is an exception that individuals lift others up (rising to the top upon their accomplishments) – that they manage others using the same standards they might apply to themselves – rather than the “rule” it once was.  Though business does not typically examine its leaders with the same level of scrutiny we do our political candidates (nor do we apply the same standard to our personal relationships as we seek comfort in the current rather than challenging ourselves to change), many individual “secrets” kept will affect our effectiveness when given the opportunity to take action or make decisions in ANY leadership role we may assume.

To manage others (or effectively navigate through situations) we typically develop and communicate well-defined expectations identifying what must be done (sometimes HOW it must be done), when it must be accomplished, what rewards will be given (if success is achieved) and what might be the negative impact if “good intentions” and “supreme efforts” fail to produce acceptable results.  Effective leaders initiate processes (after ensuring that individuals expected to perform are qualified, trained and capable) by clearly stating what must be accomplished THEN getting out of the way so that work can be accomplished (while monitoring progress, helping to guide efforts and maintaining control of the time-frame, not the specific actions or activities).  Linking rewards to the level of performance demonstrated are invaluable components in the management of people. An effective leader allows others to exhibit their strengths, learn from their mistakes and grow by realizing their own capabilities.  While controlling and overbearing managers MAY accomplish what is expected in the time allotted, the “dirty little secret” that is often ignored is that they rarely build loyalty, create independent thinkers or help others grow.

Effective Leaders often operate more in the world of what could be possible rather than what is probable.  They tend to identify their successes and measure their accomplishments against a “fluid and flexible” set of values, standards and expectations.  A list of “secrets” managers should consider to ensure their success (AND that could be applied liberally to any personal situation or relationship to make it successful) would include:
  • It is OK and natural not to like everything you must do to accomplish your job (or be successful within a personal relationship).  It is NOT OK to avoid, refuse to do, or ignore the parts you dislike (or to remain “painfully silent” within a martyrs role to keep from talking about an issue or concern).
  •  It is OK to make a mistake AND to make a wrong decision as long as you learn from the error, can correct its negative ramifications and grow in the future.  It is NOT OK to keep making the same mistake or to expect to grow by taking the path of least resistance – the road well-traveled upon which everyone else goes – if you hope to achieve different results than everyone else experiences.
  • One must ACT on the things that can be controlled while IDENTIFYING obstacles outside of your sphere of influence that might prevent you from achieving your objectives.  Once identified, either act to eliminate the hurdles OR actively seek the help of someone who DOES have the ability to overcome the inevitable so that you can move on to accomplish the improbable.
  • Lying, cheating, or stealing is intolerable.  Great performers whose high results come through dishonesty or at someone else’s expense will be discredited and lose the respect of others.  Respect is a value that is sometimes difficult to earn and hard to define or assign but easily lost and almost impossible to restore.
  • Effective leaders truly believe that there is nothing that “cannot be done.”  While some solutions MAY be cost-prohibitive, impractical, or beyond our ability to implement, “I can’t,” “It’s not possible,” or “don’t try it” are attitudes that are not part of successful conversations. 
  • Well thought-out solutions that resolve issues encountered while doing your job are not reasons for celebration – rather they are expectations of the way you should continually exhibit and apply your abilities.  Achieving a milestone within a relationship should not be “the end” but rather simply a “new beginning.”  Effective leaders tend to be eternally optimistic – believing that while “Rome may not have been built in a day” it was definitely constructed through the work and efforts of many committed to accomplishing a seemingly impossible dream.
In order to be successful we must say what we mean, mean what we say, live as we would want
others to live, wear our values on our sleeves and BE all that we proclaim (or profess) to be.  When we live transparently (not perfectly) our secrets become revealed as the values we choose to live by and the standards we expect others to apply as they reach for their own stars (with a little help from their leadership friend).