Thursday, January 6, 2011

Welcome Chris and Tim!

Thanks for visiting. I hope that you enjoy reading about some of my own personal lessons as it pertains to leadership. My hope is that there may be nuggets of information that may be useful for you in your career as well. For ease and convenience if you want to leave a comment here rather than email me back that's OK. It's up to you. Hope this helps in some way. Thanks

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The day I learned how to properly supervise troops

I'll never forget the lessons I learned on the day that I was taught how to properly supervise troops. I was stationed at Fort Gordon GA. back in 1981. Being a Sargent in the US Army sometimes you find yourself responsible for after hours clean up "detail." Usually throughout the day several soldiers within your unit will either be reprimanded or fail inspections and their discipline for these infractions would be to work after quitting time. They would be assigned to a work detail that of course required supervision. So it wasn't uncommon for the Sargent's to rotate through as the supervisors of these "details."

Today, was my day to be the supervisor. Even though I wasn't the one doing the work, I still hated the duty because I wanted to go home. I'd rather be anywhere else than here following up on a list of work assignments for the next 3 hours. As the supervisor I was given a list of duties that must be completed prior to going home for the evening. I was instructed to turn in the list of tasks after all the duties had been completed. I was to drop off the completed list in a drop box in the headquarters office after we finished all the work and I was reminded that this list would then be followed up on the next day to see how well the work was done. So it was important for me as the supervisor that we did a good job.

I was assigned 5 men for the evening. My work list included the following tasks;

  • Mow the grass behind the barracks.

  • Weed eat along the front sidewalk and around the headquarters office building.

  • Paint the curb in front of our unit.

  • Paint the large rocks that outlined the flower beds in front of our unit.

I could tell that with 5 troops this was going to take about 3 hours to complete. I immediately called the troops together and explained the tasks for the evening. As I was assigning the task out to each soldier I told them that if we all worked together, myself included, then we could get done much faster and maybe get home at a descent hour this evening. Normally I didn't do the work, but with only five troops here and so much to do, I figured that if I worked as well, then we'd have 6 people working rather than 5 and we'd get done that much sooner. We all agreed to hit it hard and get it done. They were fired up that I was going to help and as I dismissed the troops to get to work we all went our separate ways.

Maybe a half hour into the work I was mowing behind the barracks and I noticed someone coming up behind me. As I turned to see who it was I was shocked to see a Sargent Major walking towards me. I had no idea where he came from, but suddenly he was here and because of his high rank I was a little nervous. He shouted at me, "Who's in charge of this detail?" I replied, "I am Sargent Major!" He said, "Get your troops together Sargent Phillips, I want to talk to them." I immediately ran around and got everyone together and we stood in front of the Sargent Major awaiting his instructions. He simply dismissed the troops from my work detail. He told me to stay where I was but everyone else was free to leave. I had no idea what the problem was... but I was about to find out! After everyone had left he explained to me that while I was mowing behind the barracks, the other soldiers were taking a smoke break on the side of the building. He figured these troops might be taking advantage of their supervisor so he went to find me so that I would be aware of what they were doing. But instead of finding me supervising, he found me working and then he realized why they were taking advantage of me. I can't supervise 5 soldiers while doing the work task myself. He decided that I needed to learn the proper way to supervise troops.

He asked me to give him my work list for the evening. He then said he was going to take over as the supervisor of the work detail and I was now the only soldier assigned to complete all the tasks on the list. He then carefully explained what the expectation was for the first task on the list and then asked me if I understood what I was to do. As I did the work he simply watched me. As I mowed behind the barracks he would correct me if I missed a spot and he'd have me go back and get it. When the task was done he then explained to me the next task on the list. Making sure that I understood what the task was he then sent me off to do the task. Again all he did was watch me work and if I didn't weed eat the grass along the sidewalk as he expected me to then he'd correct me and have me go back and do it better. Finally I finished the weed eating and he then explained the next task and I then began the task of painting the curb in front of our unit. Finally it was time to paint the rocks around the flower beds. The same routine... he explained the task, made sure I understood the task and then he watched me as I completed the task. When all the task were done he took the list and made note that all the tasks were complete and checked off and he told me he would drop off the list making sure it was in the drop box.

As I stood there exhausted and sweating, it was now almost 9:30PM. It had gotten dark a half hour ago. Before he dismissed me from his detail he shared with me some very important truths that I have never forgotten to this day. What I learned then applies to every supervisor anywhere and in any occupation. These are the lessons I learned from that evening with the Sargent Major:

  1. When you are charged with the responsibility to supervise troops, you must supervise troops. Often as leaders we think that if we jump in and do some of the work, then the work will get done faster. That's not always the case. If you supervise 5 people and only 2 or 3 are working productively, then it will always take longer to get the job done than you expected. You scratch your head wondering why with 5 people it took so long? You must ensure everyone is doing their part. We also think that our troops will appreciate our help. The truth is... if you really want to help the troops to get home early, then you'll manage the tasks to ensure that everyone on the team is working efficiently and you'll move people around to other task to ensure the job is getting done quickly.
  2. Supervisors keep their eye on their people to observe their performance to see that the expectations are being met. By taking on a task myself, I had no idea what the other troops were doing. Sure it's great when you can trust your people to do the job without supervision, but in most cases, that's not what you get. Some might see it as an opportunity to slack off knowing that the supervisor will never know. They think... why not make him or her work instead of me? Also if you are not following up regularly as the work is being done then you run the risk of the work not getting done correctly or as expected. You must follow up as the work is being done so you can change the direction if it's not being done as expected. Rarely do others fully understand exactly what you want from then the first time they hear it. It's only after they begin the work do you know they understand completely. If you are not there to correct them, then you waste time redoing the work properly.
  3. Supervisors stay to the end to ensure the task is complete. My Sargent Major stayed with me even into the night. What really impressed me about him was that he never insulted me, he never shouted at me, he never belittled me, he simply did his job as the supervisor and made sure I did mine as the worker. He corrected me as he saw things I did wrong or incomplete. When all was finished he signed off that the job was done. He double checked to ensure all tasks were complete and that they met the expectations required.

I think about this day often. That Sargent Major was just walking along and saw a problem. He could have walked past it and headed to the house himself, but instead, he went to see if he could help solve the problem. When he realized what the problem was he made a quick decision to teach and train the soldier (me) so that going forward I would no longer have this problem. He stayed with me till the end. He had worked the whole evening with me to prove a point and it stuck! This whole experience would not have been as impactful to me if he had just sent everyone home and then told me to finish the list all by myself to teach me a lesson. Instead he took the time to show me how to do my job while making sure I understood how to properly supervise troops from now on. I gained a lot of respect for him that night even though the whole experience was kind of embarrassing for me at the time. He never told my supervisor about this incident, he simply taught me what I needed to know and then put the completed checklist in the drop box as if I had done it. All anyone else would know is that the work got done to perfection as it was expected to be. As for me. I've applied that lesson during all of my years as a leader no matter where I've worked.

Think about your own situations of leadership. Think about times when you have jumped in and taken on some of the tasks yourself instead of assigning them out to everyone else. Sure that one task may have gotten done faster because of your help with the work but while you were doing that... what about all the other tasks that you are equally responsible for? How are they going? We tend to do this when were short handed or under staffed, but the truth is... when your short handed this is the time to step up on following up on every detail of the tasks and ensuring that those on the team are getting it done. The task of the supervisor carries with it the ability to know that you can't delegate yourself the work tasks and expect the team to run on it's own on the other tasks. The supervisor must see the big picture and guide everyone on the team to completing the tasks they are responsible for.

Quote: "You get what inspect, not what you expect."

Be the leader; delegate and follow up constantly throughout the work progress. See it all. Recognize and appreciate the ones that do it right and well, correct and adjust the ones that need to do it better so the work doesn't have to be re-done. Make sure you explain the task, show them the task, and then follow up throughout the task. "Check it off" as you complete tasks and then reassign and move people to other tasks. Your goal is to get all the work done properly through your team. Never forget your role or job. Your job is to get all the tasks done and done correctly. You must lead it, not work it. Whether you have 5 people to supervise or 50, everyone has a job to do, and yours is the most important of all. You have to see that everyone else does theirs. You do anything other than that... then you are not doing your job and the team suffers and the results are always poor.

These are the things I learned that day, "The Hard Way!"

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Appologies... Saying you're sorry

As a leader you will make mistakes, you will either say or do something that you regret as a leader, especially when it comes to the way you treat your associates. Everyone makes mistakes, but as a leader, the mistakes you make impact not only yourself but everyone one else around you.

I know in my career, I've made many mistakes. I've mistreated someone that I supervise by either not showing them respect, or through my impatience I've shared my frustration in ways I'm not proud of. If you'll look back at your career you'll see times when you've most likely done this as well. If you're having trouble remembering these times... just think back to the conflicts and issues that raised from your behavior and maybe that will jog your memory. When you show disrespect to those you supervise... it's easy to tell this is happening because those you supervise shut down around you. They avoid you, they won't volunteer any feedback because they fear you, or they fear what you will say. So they feel it's better to keep quiet. There's nothing worse than ignoring the disgruntled associate. There is never a good outcome if not addressed. Problems never just go away, they get resolved through the efforts of both hurt parties but the responsibility to resolve this is on the leader. The leader always has the authority and the power over the associate, so the resolution must always come from the leader if you want to have any hope of restoring this relationship between the two.

So how do you begin, how do you start the process of restoring this relationship? The answer is simple, but not always easy to do. So what is it?... You apologize for what you've done! You look them in the eye and with all sincerity of heart, you say... "I'm sorry." You allow yourself to be put in their shoes for a moment and you realize how you behaved and that it was wrong and you apologize and make a commitment to change. Why does this work, why is it important as the leader to say I'm sorry? Because the associate has no control over you, and their world is upside down until you say, I"m sorry and I see what I've done. Once you say that, then the associate feels safe around you again. They don't fear you any longer and they realize that they have a chance at a new beginning with you as their leader. It's times like this that you have the ability as the leader to develop a more meaningful and stronger relationship than you ever had before. You will be amazed at how these times of reconciliation can shape you and bond you with your folks.

I began this message with these words, "Everyone makes mistakes." Knowing this and acknowledging our mistakes is the key to being respected as a leader among your people. Those you supervise understand and know you are just human, so quit acting like you're not! Apologize when you mess up and then change your behavior so they know you mean it. Take a bad situation and turn it into something that can actually help your career. Do not miss this opportunity. Many do and they struggle throughout their career.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Confidence... Key to Success

"Confidence is Contagious; so is the lack of confidence."
~ Vince Lombardi

Strong leaders always have confidence. Without confidence in yourself and the ability you have within yourself to achieve your goal or vision, you will struggle and never grasp the desired result you are striving to reach. It just won't happen. Confidence gives us strength and perseverance when obstacles come out way. If we are confident that we will achieve our goal then nothing stops us from trying. But if we're not confident in ourselves and our ability's, then others won't be either. Confidence is contagious... just as Vince Lombardi says. But the opposite is also true. The lack of confidence is just as contagious.

I think it's safe to say that none of us as leaders can achieve our goals without followers, right? We can't do it alone. After all, what's a leader without followers? Definitely not a leader. But as we lead others they will catch our enthusiasm and excitement that we show towards the goal. They will also pick up very quickly if we are confident or not in our ability to be successful. There is nothing worse than a leader that has a plan but lacks the confidence to lead the team to make it happen. That team will never reach the goal because it's doomed from the very start through the lack of confidence in the leader. The plan will only be executed to the level of commitment and confidence of the leader.

If I know you can win, and I say I know you can win, then I show you how to win, then you will win because you have confidence in yourself to do what it takes to win. It all started however with the leader. Often people don't realize they can win. They don't know how to win. They lack confidence in themselves. They don't realize their capabilities. But the leader see all that. The leader sees the end result. The leader sees the future of where we can be, rather than where we are. The leader always has the vision to see the steps and it's our job as the leader to show the way and help others get there. Confidence is the key. I'm not talking about being arrogant. Leaders that are arrogant just promote themselves. Leaders that are confident in themselves as leaders know that the team has to win... not just the leader. Without the team the leader can't win, so the leader has to show not only confidence in him or herself, but must have confidence in the team as well. When this happens, confidence becomes contagious. As people see goals being achieved they become more and more confident in their leader and even more importantly in their own abilities to succeed. There is nothing a confident team can't do when being being lead with a confident leader.

The word confident means that we believe it to be true. When you look up the word in the dictionary you see this.
1. Full Trust
2. Assurance

As you can see... when you as a leader have confidence you emit trust and assurance to your people and your desired goal. The key to achieving any goal is to know that you can do it. If you don't believe you can achieve it... then no one else will either.
"With confidence, you can reach truly amazing heights; without confidence, even the simplest accomplishments are beyond your grasp."
~ Jim Loehr

How do you become confident in yourself and your abilities? Well I think it's important to understand why we lack confidence first. Why do we lack confidence?
1. We've failed in the past
2. We don't know what to do
3. We're told we can't do it
4. We can't see the end result

Bottom line is this... Everyone fails. You don't hit a home run everytime you step up to bat do you? Of course not. But with enough practice you get better and soon you begin to hit the ball once in a while. Eventually you get good enough to hit some home runs once in a while and if you really stay at it, you might even break some records. But remember... the whole process was full of failures (lot's of strike outs along the way) So confidence comes when we stay the course and make a commitment to do our best and know that we can get better and we can over come our failures.
If we don't know what to do then there is a course of action that can take to fix that. Study... learn how to perfrom the tasks neccessary to achieve your goal. Analyze what's going on and work up a plan to move the needle in the desired direction you want to go. Many leaders are not sure what to do, but through a good study of the problem, you can develop a plan to overcome it. Confidence comes when you've done your homework.

Everyone of us has been told told... "It can't be done." Or, "That's not possible." Or, "That's not a good idea." The secret is to believe in yourself and your team. Don't let others destroy your vision or your passion. They are simply saying how they believe. They belive it can't be done, they believe it's not possible. But they are not you. It really only matters what you believe is possible and what you believe you can lead your team to accomplish. Confidence comes when you truly believe in yourself. "I can do this!" "I know I can."

Finally... seeing the end result simply means that you can see where you can take this dream of yours. You can see how things can be rather than how they are. You might not see the total end result and that's ok. But you have to be able to see that it can be better than it is right now and you have to want it. How many times have you seen an interview on TV where someone is being asked, "Did you ever think you would be this successful." Most will say, "I always thought I could do it, but never dreamed it would be this big." In otherwords... they had the dream, they had the confidence, but the end result was bigger and greater than they ever dreamed it would be. The secret to their success, was that they had confidence in their ability to reach their dream. They went for it and it turned out far greater than imagined. Remember, we don't always sees the end result... that's ok. The goal is to see the next few steps to making it better and working the process to get there. The end result is what it is. Don't cap it off to your limited vision. Let it become more than you can imagine it can be and set goals and steps to reach as you head toward an ever changing vision as it develops and grows.
Confidence as seen by William Hazlitt ~ "As is our confidence, so is our capacity."

Your confidence begins with your right mental attitude. Start believing in yourself and do whatever it takes to instill passion into yourself and your people. Watch out! There is no limit to your success with Confidence.

Afraid of losing your job?

These days it seems we all are worried about the possibility of losing our jobs. Let's face it as leaders in the market, you are only able to keep your job if you perform and achieve results. Look at football coaches. To stay in place as the head coach you must have a winning season. Now if you have one bad season that's one thing, but repeat it the next season and your head goes on the chopping block. People expect results and our job as leaders is to get results. Especially if you are the HEAD Coach, or the CEO of a company. Those leadership positions require results. Always have and of course always will.

Now maybe you're not the head coach of an NFL football team or even the CEO of a Company, maybe you're the manager of a firm or a hotel or some other business where the responsibility still lies on you to perform and get results that impact the organization in a positive way. Store mgrs are responsible for their own smaller piece of the Company, but the pressure you feel is just as great as the CEO in most cases. You can still lose your position of leadership for the unit you are responsible for if you don't perform and get results. The point I'm making is this... If you are the head Leader in whatever occupation or organization you work in, if you are the Main leader at whatever level... you MUST get results or you run scared everyday that you might lose your job if things don't change quickly.

So I get to the question that I asked in the title of this post... Are you afraid of losing your job?
I think if you are worried about losing your job... you have to ask yourself... "Why am I worried?" I heard this quote one time and it made a lot off sense to me...

"If you're worried about losing your job, you might not be doing all you can to keep it."

There's a lot of truth to this statement. How many times have you felt like it's slipping away and you can't get your hands around it. The question has to be why?? What can I do differently to achieve or get different results. You can't keep doing the same thing can you? No.. so begin the change with the obvious question first. WHY is it not working?

Once you've figured out the why... then the battle is half over. Once we know what's preventing us from being successful we can create a plan to pull us out of our slump. As we work the plan we must track our results and adjust as needed as we work the plan.

I had a supervisor tell me years ago. "Make a plan, then work your plan." I'd add to that and say this... "then measure your progress, and adjust your plan to achieve your desired results."

Use these key points to be successful...
1. Know your market, know what it is you are working for. What's important to your business? Sales increases, Profits, People, know what the object of your business is. What's the mission?
2. Make a plan to achieve results. What are the results you want to see? Know where it is you want to go. You have to have a destination in mind, or your going nowhere on purpose! be sure everything you put in your plan positively impacts the mission... if it doesn't don't include it in the plan.
3. Work your plan. Assign it out, check it off, go through the process of getting done what you've put on paper. Follow up to ensure the plan is being executed.
4. Measure your progress. Are you moving the needle in the right direction? Are you improving? Are sales going up, are profits going up.
5. Adjust your plan if you see the needle is not moving in the right direction. Coaches are good at watching what's happening on the field and making calls to adjust to what they see. You must do this as well. What obstacles popped up on you that you didn't anticipate. Work around them.
6. FINALLY... as you see your goals being achieved.... make new goals that affect your mission and begin again the whole process... Steps 1-5.

To truly not be worried about losing your job only happens when you are taking charge of your destination and achievements and you know you are moving forward and it's because of what you are doing. It easier not to worry when your running the ship. We worry when we feel we have no control! So I say...

Take control. RUN your business, don't let it run you. Be flexible with your schedule, be flexible with your people, be flexible and open minded about any ideas or plan that helps to accomplish your mission. Commit to the plan. You must be sold out to it. You need others on your team and you need their support, but their interest in the plan is rarely greater than the head Coach. So saying this... if you're not giving it everything to succeed, neither will your people... your doomed from the beginning if you yourself are not committed. Now, aggressively act upon your plan. Execute it!

If you are afraid of losing your job, then do something about it. Act now before it's too late. This holds true with me, maybe it does with you as well, but if I feel I'm not performing and at risk of losing my job, then I've been given a chance to hurry up and correct the situation. Very rarely are we surprised by being let go. We know when were in danger, or at least you should if you're in charge. So the next time you have those worried feelings about losing your job, realize that it's still under your control to do something about the situation. You don't have to work in fear of losing your job. Everyone loves a winner! Make sure you are one! That's why you are in the position you are in... never forget this. Be careful not to make the mistake of thinking your in this leadership position because you did your time and you earned it. Your in this position because you get results. Stop getting results... you can't stay there.

written by Steve Phillips

Respect... Key to Success

Click on the following link to see my comments on RESPECT. These are great leadership principals that will help make you a success in your business.

Always give it your best

I learned a valuable lesson from my dad when I was about 13 years old. I had recently began working as a dishwasher for Mornings Restaurant and I was at home one day complaining about making only 75 cents and hour. I was trying to save up and buy myself a 10 speed bicycle to get me to and from work. I lived several miles from the restaurant and the bike I had my eye on was a beautiful bike that cost around $150.00 brand new. It was my dream bike! A Schwinn 10 speed, a top of the line bike. The only problem was that at the rate I was going it would take a year of saving to finally be able to afford it. I was working part time, maybe 12-15 hours a week at the most. and at .75 per hour... well you can see how long it would take me if I didn't even spend a dime of what I brought home each week.

Anyway, I'm sitting at home and for whatever reason that I don't remember right now, I began complaining to my Dad about how ridiculous it was that I only was getting paid 75 cents per hour. I guess I thought my Dad would have sympathy on me or something. Boy was I wrong. He immediately reminded me that it was only a few months ago that I was thrilled to have this job. He remembered me coming home so excited that I was going to be making 75 cents and hour and working about 15 hours a week and that now I would have some spending money in my pocket. He reminded me of the joy I had in going to work and the fun I was having doing this work when I first started this job. Now after only a few months time, I'm sitting here complaining about it! What he said to me next I've never forgotten. Dad said, "Steven you made a commitment, an agreement, to give it your best for 75 cents an hour. Now quit your complaining and live up to your end of the agreement. It's either that... or quit!

I was shocked. I wasn't expecting that! But at the same time I did feel guilty for the way I was acting. He was right. It wasn't until I realized that one of the other dishwashers made $1.00 an hour that I began to feel that I wasn't paid enough. Never mind that this other guy had been there longer and had earned his way up in pay. I was feeling like I was just as good if not better than the other guy, yet I wasn't making as much. It just didn't seem fair to me.

Over the years I've used that same phrase with others that I've worked with. When a co worker starts to complain about what they make an hour, or they complain about what they make compared to someone else. It's always good to think back to the day you landed the job. Remember how good it felt to be employed again after a long time of no income? Have you forgotten how tough those days were? Remember how excited you were that first day and you could even envision a career for the future if you worked hard and gave it 100%. What happened? Why the change of heart? Whenever I get to feeling this way I always think back to one of my first lessons about work from my Dad. Son... You made a commitment with Mr. Morning to give it 100% for 75 cents an hour, now quit complaining and you follow through on your end of the commitment... or quit! I chose to stop complaining and get back to honoring my commitment. It was amazing how much happier I was when I realized that this job was good. I was working when others weren't, I had money in my pocket when others didn't. I'm thankful for my Dad. I'm thankful that he didn't support me when I wanted to sulk, whine and complain about my job.

If I just described you... Stop your complaining and follow through on your commitment to your employer. You made an agreement to work for so much money an hour. You weren't mislead in any way. They're following through on their part of the deal by paying you what they owe you for the work you have given them. You owe them 100% effort on your part. If the job is not what you had hoped or dreamed it would be then get out of it or work hard to make it what you want it to be! You can always quit and go somewhere else, but until you do, give it your best.

Oh yes... I finally did save up enough money for my bike. I was right, it took me almost a year to earn enough money to buy that bike, but was it ever worth it! I ended up working with Mr. Bud Morning for almost two more years. I never complained again, instead I worked even harder to prove to him that I was worth more than the 75 cents he was paying me, and by the time I quit I was making $1.55 an hour! More than any other dishwasher ever working for Mr. Morning at that time. He also hired me to do other odds and end jobs around the resturant which allowed me to earn even more money. Mr. Bud Morning was a great man, he was a great business man, and because I stayed with him I learned so much from him about work ethics and commitment. I honestly believe that first job of dishwashing and how I reacted to it, set the foundation for my success in other jobs later on. Because of my follow through and commitment to endure and see other jobs through when it got tough sometimes, I was always able to acheive great results. Thanks Dad for the lesson you taught me that day, I've never forgotten it.

"Always, give it your best."