Being a Leader in the Workplace

As a leader, defining organizational values and culture is part of your responsibility. How do you define values to your team? Do they understand the expectations of their work?

The controversy this week between the President and the NFL has captured many headlines. Reflecting on this issue, how do you feel leadership in the NFL has responded? As a leader, would you want your employees to publicly protest in their workplace? How steps would you take to resolve the issue?

I admit, I do not know enough to help negotiate through the NFL issue. But it is a great case study.

I believe that defining the culture and the values that you expect of your organization is the first step. The more difficult step is being a living example of the culture you define every single day.  Isn’t it true that your leadership is tested the most, when you least expect it. Are you ready?

3 Lessons I Learned About Keeping a Positive Attitude

President Thomas Jefferson said, “Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.” Keeping a positive attitude can be challenging in certain situations. Here are some lessons I have learned that help me.

1. Protect myself from negative attitudes that I encounter. If I am not careful, I find myself adjusting my attitude to those around me. Attitude is contagious after all. But when the surrounding attitude is negative, I must be strong enough to keep my positive attitude. I have two choices, allow my attitude to influence others, or leave the situation.

2. Focus on tomorrow’s possibilities rather than yesterday’s results. When I find my attitude slipping away from the positive, it is usually because I am too focused on what has happened rather than the opportunities of tomorrow. Walt Whitman said it best, “Keep your face always toward the sunshine – and shadows will fall behind you.”

3. Learn more about myself. Carl Jung said, “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” When I find myself getting irritated, it affects my attitude. The aggravation however is within me, not with the other person. If I spend time understanding myself, then I am better prepared to turn negative situations into positive situations.

Another thing to consider when faced with differing attitudes. My attitude is mine. The attitudes of others are owned by them. I am not better, just because my attitude may be more positive at the moment. As Ziad K. Abdelnour said, “Don’t judge someone’s attitude until you’ve felt their pain.”

Want to Be a Good Example?

John Maxwell has said, “It’s easier to teach what’s right than to do what’s right.” So if we want to be a good example for those around us, we need to be as good as we think we are. Intentions alone do not set the example.

Setting an example also requires being visible, and interacting with people. If you are the best you can be, but working alone, then who are you an example for?

Those two thoughts deserve some reflection time. We would all like to be good, and set a good example. Review your activity in the last week. Have you had opportunities to be visible, and be engaged, and yet you choose actions that isolated you? Have you chosen actions that were easier, and maybe not shown how good you can be?

Colin Powell said, “You can issue all the memos and give all the motivational speeches you want, but if the rest of the people in your organization don’t see you putting forth your very best effort every single day, they won’t either.”  People around you will only give their best if they see you giving your best.

What are you going to do the next week that reflects your best? What are you going to do to make those actions more visible to those around you?

You Can Be a World Class Mentor

Almost 25 years ago, I was assigned an employee to mentor for the very first time. I had no idea how to mentor someone, but proud and excited to be asked. I was also scared. Mentoring is not a skill that was taught in any class I took. I never received training. I was just expected to know how.

I scheduled the first meeting with my new mentee with no agenda. We were just going to meet each other and talk. My plan as a mentor was to share experiences and give advice. That is what a mentor does, right?

After the first meeting I became discouraged. I felt inadequate and worthless. I had no sense of the direction to lead my mentee. I was not sure how I could help this person.

We continued to meet, but the meetings were not productive. I struggled adding future meetings to my calendar because I had more important things to do. Activities in which I provided more value to the company than mentoring. After a few months we just stopped meeting. I had failed with my first mentee.

I am glad that over the next 25 years, I was able to develop world class mentoring skills. It would never have happened if I had not failed first. People that avoid failure, risk never experiencing the event that will positively change their life forever.

For some time, I avoided mentoring, but soon I was assigned another mentee. The second experience was better, but ultimately a failure. In fact, I continued to fail several more times. I learned from my mistakes. I sought out training. I learned more by doing than from books. I had to be willing to face my mistakes, and do the work required to improve.

Being a great mentor is not easy. There is not one single skill that automatically makes a good mentor. Good mentors have a long list of skills including listening, teaching, training, guiding, storytelling, coaching, and most importantly human personalities and motivations.

You can be a world class mentor. It requires life skills that grow through experience, failure, improvement, and practice. What lessons have you learned making you a better mentor? Have you learned more from a book, or by practice? What are you learning now, that will make you a better mentor?