INSIGHTS (on leadership/self-leadership)
I’m fortunate enough to have achieved success in my post-corporate life as a writer, speaker, and trainer. I often get approached by people seeking to understand “how I did it.” How did I make such a big risk work out? Would you believe it has much to do with the advice of comedian, writer, world-class banjo-player, actor, and jack-of-all trades, Steve Martin? Martin’s secret to success, which he has shared publicly, is simply:
“Be so good they can’t ignore you.”
Seven words. So straightforward. So difficult to employ. So powerful when you do. First and foremost, this sentiment addresses a painful truth. We go through much of our lives on autopilot. But autopilot efforts, while ingrained in our everyday, are invisible on the radar to others. The world defaults to ignoring us. Unless you make a “blip.” Unless you rise above the everyday, the mediocrity, the cost of entry. You register when you resonate. You resonate when you up your game in a quest to achieve personal excellence–in whatever you do. Case in point—many wishing to become professional speakers ask me for the tricks of the trade for getting booked. “What should my social media strategy be to get more gigs?”, “What podcasts should I get on?”, “How do I find conferences that will hire me?” So go the inquiries. But the truth is, there’s no marketing tool like word-of-mouth – like people seeing you perform and telling others, “You gotta hire this guy.” That only happens when you’re so good they can’t ignore you. So, my primary focus is spending countless hours on my craft in pursuit of this standard, trying to make every keynote a little better, every article a little more insightful, every course a little more engaging. I focus on putting…in…the…work. There are no shortcuts. Craft first, craftiness in promoting, a very distant second. How might you apply Martin’s advice to help you achieve your success?
IMPERFECTIONS (a mistake often made)
One of the most common mistakes new leaders make is believing they have to make every decision themselves, often in a vacuum, while missing the importance of delegating some decisions or enrolling employees in the decision-making process. Research consistently shows that work is meaningful when individuals see themselves as capable of substantively influencing decisions and outcomes. It’s meaningful because it tells them they’re not powerless and that they have the ability to make a real difference. And correcting this mistake isn’t just for new managers; Towers Watson research shows that 61% of employees believe they aren’t involved in decisions that directly affect them. At a minimum, use an employee-centered decision-making process that starts with you developing a habit of sharing information (an important investment of your time, one that too many leaders see as a painful versus pivotal part of their job). Hold decision stakeholder meetings where everyone involved in a decision gets clear on decision criteria and their role in determining the outcome. Ask for recommendations with pros and cons outlined for each option. Then ask everyone to debate, decide, commit. It sounds simple, but don’t underestimate the power of asking, “Is the decision-making process we use around here geared towards involving employees in the right way, or not?”
IMPLEMENTATION (one research-backed strategy, tip, or tool)
The most important tone you can set as a leader, or a human being, is one of trust. Trust is built on a foundation of transparency. You can be more transparent by regularly engaging in the Transparency Self-Assessment (TSA). Every now and then, check-in with yourself to ask the five questions that follow.
Am I showing transparency:
– in the information I share and how I share it?
– about why I made a decision that I did?
– by being honest with people about where they stand?
– in being honest with myself and others about my shortfalls?
– in being open about my agenda (knowing that hidden agendas rarely remain as such)