Leaders Need To Reduce Their Say/Do GapAll employees intently listen and watch their leaders. Therefore, it is no surprise that employees have a well-honed sensitivity to leaders who declare or promise things and then either fail to, or take forever to, deliver on a promise. Leaders who exhibit this tendency are said to have a large say/do gap.

Why A Say/Do Gap Is Important

Heather Bartel, owner of the The Say Do Group, believes leaders with a narrow gap between saying and doing build credibility with their teams. A narrow say/do gap is a strong indicator of openness, honesty, and integrity. These elements compose trust, which is essential for effective leadership.

A Wide Say/Do Gap Example

When George Deeb worked at Red Rocket, his relationship with company leaders started out fine. They said they were committed to doing whatever was necessary to fix any number of problems the company faced.

But once recommendations to solve problems were put forth, leaders never followed through. What’s worse is they said they were working on it, but had no true intention to take action. 

When push came to shove, nothing happened. The entire team knew it and frustration took root. 

A Narrow Say/Do Gap Example

When Deeb worked at iExplore, an adventure tourism site, he was always honest with his team. He followed through on promises. If he said they were going to raise new capital, they did; a new partnership, they did. His narrow say/do gap between 1999-2001 enhanced team trust. This trust was needed when travel businesses imploded after September 11, 2001.

Deeb believes iExplore should have gone bankrupt.

He is convinced that the reason it stayed afloat is due to the trust created from a narrow say/do gap in the two years leading up to that day.

It’s What You Do

People ultimately remember you for what you do. People ultimately judge you for what you do. And people will only listen to you when there is little-to-no gap between declaration and action.

Close your say/do gap and people will sit upright in their chairs again when you speak.

The Case Against Employee Work HoursIn the 21st century, what’s more important for your employees—clocking work hours or achieving goals? Is the traditional nine to five, 40-hour work week still the best structure for your workforce or is it a woefully outmoded approach to employee productivity?

Everyone knows the nature of work is changing, but many companies cling to the traditional work week model, with diminishing results. According to Ilya Pozin, founder of Ciplex and a frequent contributor to Inc., Forbes and LinkedIn, adhering to this inflexible approach without understanding its effects on employees ensures an erosion of trust.

“Nothing kills productivity quite like an environment where employees feel forced to work,” Pozin contends.

Instead, employees should want to get work done, both to benefit the company and because they enjoy what they’re doing.

Give employees the opportunity to come and leave at will, and there’s a good chance you’ll see a spike in their productivity and output.

Pozin offers four reasons to put an end to structured work hours.

The Case Against Employee Work Hours

They kill productivity. Having established work hours means you measure productivity not by whether goals are met, but by how many hours employees sit at their desks. But their presence in the office or at a meeting does not, in and of itself, have anything to do with productivity.

Where’s the trust? “Employees should passionately want to meet their goals,” Pozin says. “Let them do it in the ways they see fit.” Show trust by freeing them from the traditional work week. They’ll likely take more pride and initiative in their work.

Set hours are distracting. In a traditional work week, employees end up thinking more about the hours they clock than meeting their assigned objectives. But when faced with a big project, Pozin says, “it’s important your employees don’t feel inclined to exit as soon as the clock strikes 5 p.m.” Let them determine how long they have to be on-site to get a job done. Create quotas based on work, rather than time.

Teamwork suffers. Teamwork can be incredibly effective in getting things done, but when individual team members are locked into set working hours, issues arise about everyone contributing their fair share. Try allowing employees to concentrate on meeting team goals, even if that means “a team effort in the office during the same hours or working individually in divided chunks of time.”

Dropping established work hours just might result in dramatically increased productivity. Consider allowing more flexibility and autonomy in your workforce, and see if these efforts translate into greater trust.

As Pozin notes, “Employee happiness and productivity are linked to trust—and enforcing hours shows exactly the opposite.”

Are you considering an alternative to the “punch-the-clock” approach?

Ordinary Actions Lead to Extraordinary RelationshipsOf all the things that contribute to success in life and business, one fact can’t be denied: Genuinely successful people achieve their goals because they have built extraordinary relationships.

“Real success is impossible unless you treat other people with kindness, regard, and respect,” says Jeff Haden, a contributor to Inc.

People who build great relationships exhibit certain traits which draw others to them and create a lasting bond of mutual trust and respect.

Here are eight such traits Haden describes:

Eight Traits Needed to Build Extraordinary Relationships

Take the Hit (Deserved or not)

When a problem arises, some people step up and take the hit (whether it’s their fault or not). They know they can handle the kind of criticism that could seriously damage another person’s self-esteem.

Help Others Without Being Asked

“Very few people offer help before they have been asked,” Haden says, “Even though most of the time that is when a little help will make the greatest impact.”

People intent on building great relationships are sensitive to situations where others are struggling. They look for specific ways to help (which gets past the other person’s typical response, “No, thanks, I’m fine.”).

Answer Questions Not Asked

Sometimes the questions people ask aren’t the ones they want answered. Haden offers these scenarios:

People who build extraordinary relationships listen for the larger, unasked questions. Those are the questions they seek to answer.

Know How to Adapt to the Situation

Some people with outsized personalities never know when to “dial it back,” Haden says.

Men and women looking to build great relationships, on the other hand, know “when to be over the top and when to be invisible, and when to take charge and when to follow.” They understand that multifaceted people adapt to different situations, enabling relationships to flourish and grow.

Say and Do Nice Things for Others

How often do you give unexpected praise to someone? Or take a moment to do something nice for another person, not because you have to, but because you want to? This is the stuff that makes great relationships.

Apologize Without Pushing Back

It’s one thing to apologize when you’ve done something wrong. It’s another thing, as Haden notes, to apologize before anyone thinks you should.

People who accept blame, who explain why they’re sorry and who don’t push blame back on others—“those are people everyone wants in their lives, because they instantly turn a mistake into a bump in the road rather than a permanent roadblock,” says Haden.

Give a Lot, Receive Occasionally

In business, each person goes in wanting something. But extraordinary relationships benefit both parties. People who seek to forge such a relationship think first about what they can give to the other party.

Value the Messenger, Not Just the Message

We all pay special attention to the words of someone in authority or a position of power. What about the guy who fixes a leaking faucet?

If you want to build a great relationship, look beyond the source and, as Haden puts it, “consider the information, advice, or idea based solely on its merits.” Know when you hear something of value, regardless of who’s saying it.

“Every relationship, however minor and possibly fleeting, has value,” says Haden. To build extraordinary relationships, recognize and celebrate this fact—whether you’re talking to a fellow business leader or the crossing guard at your daughter’s elementary school.

What do you do to build an extraordinary relationship?

How Leaders Can Get Out of Their Own WayBeing a leader is challenging in the best of times. Leaders are only as good as the information they receive (which is rarely complete or conveyed in a timely manner) and the resources they can marshal (usually, it seems, never enough). In the midst of execution, communications with the team can sometimes be misleading, imprecise, and just plain wrong.

Given all that, says Les McKeown, a contributor to Inc., why do so many leaders compound the difficulty “simply by getting in their own way?”

It happens when leaders add “self-imposed—albeit unconscious—constraints on their ability to lead well,” he adds.

According to McKeown, a bestselling author and CEO of Predictable Success, three scenarios in particular occur with such frequency we should look more closely at how we sabotage our own best efforts.

Victims of False Assumptions

Executives gather to address a pending key decision. Their discussion is candid and straightforward. People are engaged and forthcoming with ideas. So what’s the problem?

The problem is, as McKeown puts it, the discussion only covers “about 20 percent of the waterfront.” One or more of the leaders involved come to the discussion burdened with presuppositions that grow out of their personal experience and preferences, “some or all of which may or may not be relevant to the matter under discussion,” says McKeown. As a result, a range of potential solutions never get brought up at all.

Assumptions lurk in our subconscious, meaning we don’t usually hold them up for examination (even though we believe deeply in them).

McKeown suggests this corrective action: The next time you face an important decision, take a few minutes to think about all the presuppositions you might have concerning this issue. Write down your thoughts without editing or defending them. Share them with your colleagues at the meeting. A “much deeper, richer and effective discussion” will likely ensue he adds.

Make Your Plans Based on People, Not Roles

Rather than take actions based on the proper response to market demands, many leaders make key strategic decisions based on what they think their team can deliver. McKeown warns against lowering your standards and expectations because of your team’s limited range and abilities.

“If you have people in roles that aren’t capable of delivering what that role should be, your first priority is to upskill, coach, mentor, or hire that skill into your organization,” says McKeown.

If this sounds too intimidating to pull off, remember your competitors have no such hesitations. If they’re beating you in the marketplace, it’s because they’re tapping into their team’s best resources and they refuse to compromise on their strategic goals.

Delegate Only to Those You Trust

Trust is hard to come by, but when a team member has earned that trust, he or she falls into your mental “go-to” category. When an important task needs to be completed, leaders tend to assign it to that trusted colleague, regardless of the situation. This tendency “makes leaders lazy and teams weak.”

There’s nothing wrong with relying on a person you can trust, but this person can’t do everything. Others on the team will become resentful and demoralized, particularly if they don’t see a way to break into your trust-system.

When you fall back on one person to get things done, McKeown says, “You’re subconsciously abdicating one of the most important tasks of leadership: The hard work involved in building and spreading trust in your team as a whole.”

Leading isn’t always easy, and we often get in our own way. They key is to recognize when we make our already stressful job more complicated.

What assumptions are getting in your way as a leader?

Thanks to Ego Friendly for the image.

How to Empower Your Employees to Become LeadersIn the rush of day-to-day operations, it’s easy to lose sight of factors that encourage fresh thinking from the people who know the business best—your employees. Many employees have the potential to grow and become leaders, another plus for your business.

Heather R. Huhman, founder and president of Come Recommended, gathered insights on employee empowerment from a variety of business leaders and shared them in this article in Smart Blog on Leadership.

Seven Ways to Empower Your Employees to Become Leaders

1. Listen to what employees say. When employees raise an issue relating to business processes or customer service, management should listen and take action on these issues. When employees see those issues addressed, they’ll continue making useful suggestions.“Soon these employees will become leaders in the workplace because they know the organization values their contributions,” says Josh Tolan of Spark Hire.

2. Encourage thinking that takes risks. It’s vital to create a culture where employees feel confident it’s OK to ask questions, suggest out-of-the-box ideas, and even take actions that might fail. “Out of that failure will come knowledge and longer-term success,” says Lynne Dixon, Hourly.com.

3. Deploy clarity and trust. A company that seeks to empower its workforce must provide clarity to ensure employee actions are aligned with business goals. It must also work to establish trust with employees. “Clarity without trust produces inaction,” says Adam Robinson, CEO of Hireology. “Trust without clarity produces wasted effort.”

4. Establish and enforce strong workplace policies. When clear-cut, enforceable policies are in place, there’s no longer a need for micromanagement. “Workplace policies give employees the parameters they need to be creative, productive, successful, and happy at work,” says Clara Lippert Glenn, president and CEO of The Oxford Princeton Programme.

5. Create an inclusive workplace. Do you see leadership potential in your employees? If so, encourage them to offer their opinions and insights—and show you value their input. In a more inclusive environment, employees can grow as leaders. Such an environment “acts not only as a resource for management to help grow business, but also to promote employee growth as well,” says Shirley Engelmeier, CEO of Inclusion/INC. “Everyone wins!”

6. Make it OK to fail. In a more traditional workplace environment, employees believe if they take risks and fail, they’ll soon be out of a job. Empower employees so they know they have authority to fail. “Risk takers, by definition, gain followers—when successful—and having followers it's the definition of a leader,” says Bruce Hurwitz of Hurwitz Strategic Staffing.

7. Lead with a sense of balance. In an empowered work environment, success is a journey, not the destination. Management leads with a sense of balance—“giving challenges but offering support; accepting failure but holding individuals accountable for success; and trusting their people while expecting respect in return,” says Russell Schramm, vice president of talent acquisition for the Americas, Philips.

These CEOs and top executives agree: Empower your employees and your business will quickly overtake its competitors and gain a stronger foothold in the marketplace.

How do you empower your employees?

What Matters More: Hitting Goals or Employee Work Hours?In the 21st Century, what’s more important for your employees: Clocking work hours or hitting goals?

Is the traditional nine-to-five, 40-hour work week still the best structure for your workforce or is it a woefully outmoded approach to employee productivity?

Everyone knows the nature of work is changing, but many companies cling to the traditional work week model for all employees, often with diminishing results when it comes to hitting goals.

According to Ilya Pozin, founder of Ciplex and a frequent contributor to Inc., and Forbes, adhering to this inflexible approach without understanding its effects on employees ensures an erosion of trust.

“Nothing kills productivity quite like an environment where employees feel forced to work,” Pozin contends.

Instead, employees should want to get work done, both to benefit the company and because they enjoy what they’re doing.

While certainly there are tasks for which set work hours are required, they're not needed for every person in your workforce.

Give the employees who can the opportunity to come and leave at will, and there’s a good chance you’ll see a spike in their productivity and output.

Pozin offers four reasons to put an end to unnecessary structured work hours. (more…)

Good Leadership Skills: Six Tips on Trusting Your InstinctsGood leadership skills have evolved over time.

Before spreadsheets, financial charts, and technological advancements, the most important leadership skill was a finely honed instinct.

We knew how to depend on our inner ears and eyes to truly read a person or situation. We would find subtle clues that would influence our choices.

For real success, today's leaders, too, need to learn to use and trust their intuitive sense.

Nadia Goodman, contributor to Entrepreneur, says, “As a business leader, you constantly need to come up with new ideas. You're creating a vision for tomorrow—a world that doesn’t exist yet—and your greatest resource for getting it right is your instincts.”

She provides some tips on developing good leadership skills by trusting your instincts about building a successful business.


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