Monday, March 30, 2009

Ethics in Leadership

Today I start a new semester of class, ethics, to be specific. I've taken this course maybe 5 years ago but I think I'll be anything but bored. First I hear wonderful things about the instructor so I'm curious how he'll present the material. The other thing is it seems business and leaders have struggled with the topic of ethics. We have endless examples over the past decade where organizations and leaders have displayed poor judgement in ethical behavior, and I'm probably being kind in my description.

Whether you speak of WorldCom, Enron, KMart, the Bernie Madoff scandal, or the current AIG mess the topic of ethics comes crashing into our worlds. How many times have we heard of people losing their life's savings in the past decade? Too many times. Hopefully leaders and organizations start practicing with higher ethical standards.

My wife recently heard this saying that ethics can be defined as how people behave while others aren't watching. I don't know the original source of that saying but I like it! It is so true and I bet my semester is filled with examples of how leaders should act and how they haven't acted while other people weren't looking.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Adapt to Technology

Today I signed up at Twitter which is a big step for me. I thought there would be no way I would ever tweet at any time. I had a conversation with a co-worker this past week that changed my mind. I went to get advice about this blog and our conversation led into Twitter. My co-worker told me that he knew of somebody that started an account there, but that he would never do that. He went on to say he didn't want people to know what he was doing, he wasn't that interesting, and that he didn't want co-workers to think they could create a friendship. I asked why the person he knew did it and he said his employees and students wanted to get to know him as a person. So I signed up at Twitter.

I think that all employees just want to get to know their leaders. They want to know there is a real person beneath the manager. I think truly transformational leaders will give people around them a glimpse into their personal world. The Internet gives us some wonderful tools to do this.

Twitter, creating blogs, and LinkedIn are all examples of web sites that allows us to show who we are as professionals and in our personal lives. This kind of technology helps build social and professional networks and perhaps can help build rapport and cohesion at work. Too many times have I heard leaders talk down about My Space or reading blogs. Leaders need to accept that these kinds of communication channels aren't going away and that many of the people they work with use these sites daily. Try something new and use new technology and web sites on the Internet to evolve as a leader.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Can Laissez-Faire Approach Work?

The laissez-faire approach to leadership is a style where the leader is hands off with employees and lets things roll off of their backs. I often wonder if this style works for leaders? I have seen this approach in a work setting and I know other leaders resent this approach. I think it is seen as weak or non-committal. After giving it some thought I do believe this approach can work.

I believe the laissez-faire leader needs to be partnered with a leader that is more stern. I feel if the two leaders can find cohesion that together they can achieve a balance in leadership styles. I think employees will come to appreciate both styles because they aren't overwhelmed by one kind of leader constantly. The stern, authoritative leader and laissez-faire leader almost have a "good cop, bad cop" situation which can be good for employees.

The danger is employees can learn to resent this style, take advantage of this kind of leader, and can set up a toxic environment. This can lead to a decrease in employee satisfaction and an increase in attrition. So as leaders does the laissez-faire style work?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Motivate Team Members Differently

My first supervision job taught me a valuable lesson as a leader and that is to motivate each person on your team differently. I remember that one of the people reporting to me reached a production milestone in the department. I alerted my manager and the response was "fantastic go reward the behavior!" So I told her I would make an announcement in our team meeting, set up a luncheon, and present an award to the employee. I was met with a luke warm response. My manager proceeded to ask me if I ever asked that person how they would like to be recognized. When I told her I didn't she mentioned that if I continue with these plans only to find out all of this recognition embarrassed the employee my actions would have a negative impact on the individual.

So I spoke with the employee, gave that person a congratulatory card, and asked how she would like to be recognized the response I got was that the card and time I gave to her was sufficient. That individual liked a quiet, private acknowledgement of her accomplishments. Another employee may have enjoyed lunch, awards, and recognition of accomplishments at a team or company event.

As leaders we need to recognize that each person on a team has different personalities and likes to be recognized and rewarded for a job well done in differently. Leaders need to find that information out and creatively carry out the things each employee communicates.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Development Key as a Leader

There is one disturbing trend that I see as a leader and that is not enough time is spent in developing people. In my opinion an employee enters the organization and is trained, once that process is complete development is minimal or non existent. Development is pushed aside for production. It seems to me that the only way for development to occur is if an employee is started on a formal disciplinary process, and beginning a development program at this point is way too late.

Leaders need to develop their talented employees daily. Informally a brief discussion about their day or previous work day can provide much needed insight as to how the employee will perform during the current work day. Some other ideas to develop employees can include,
  • scheduling the employee in a continuing education class
  • side by side coaching
  • developing a career path program
  • establish specific goals around that career path program
  • schedule formal departmental training for the employee

Many times development is neglected for production. If employees aren't continuously developed won't production stagnate? Continuous development programs will help take production to another level. What do you think?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Don't Fear Failure

I started this blog as part of a class assignment this past winter. At the end of the semester we were asked if we would continue our blogs. The majority of the class, including myself, kind of stammered out an answer like "maybe, possibly if I continued the blog" you can finish the sentence with an assortment of answers. While my classmates didn't come out and say it I think all of our hesitancy came out of a fear of failing.

As leaders we have to be willing to try something new even if that means possibly failing. As leaders we have to be willing to step out of our comfort zones and try new things. Whether this means trying develop a new management style, trying to create incentives, improve production, or to find a new way to get through a Monday go ahead and try it.

I think we'll find that some of our best work may come from an experience where as a leader we have failed. So I will continue this blog, hopefully with more frequent posts, because this is a way that I can try something new as a leader which may benefit me.