There is a saying that says to “do less better”. The premise is to simply do less of something, but do it very well. Why is that? No matter what we do, we only have 24 hours in a day (1,440 minutes or 86,400 seconds if you were wondering). Limiting our efforts to a few things focuses our time and energy into fewer things, becoming better at them as a result.
This is similar to Malcom Gladwell’s 10,000 hours of “deliberate practice” rule. Of course, it really depends on the domain and the individual – some require less time while others require more. While it may not take 10,000 hours to become a master at certain subjects, the premise of investing deliberate time holds true. For example, if I wanted to learn to play the piano, I would learn faster (fewer days) by practicing for 3 hours each day than for 30 minutes each day. I will still need to practice about the same number of hours in total, but over a condensed period of time. Being deliberate requires focused attention on the endeavor, whatever it is.
In a business context, this means limiting the number or variety of products or service offerings, and focus on a few key elements that will make the business stand out. By doing so, the business is able (or more likely) to become a market force in a particular niche. By offering fewer products or services, businesses are able to focus their energy on market research, improving the product or service, or engaging with their customer.
This doesn’t mean businesses cannot diversify their offerings. Take Amazon for example. If it is for sale (legally), you can pretty much buy it on Amazon. What does Amazon sell though – logistics. Amazon offers millions of products online, but sells its logistics genius – arguably one significant service applied to millions of products. Most people can order a product and have it delivered in just a few days. Depending on where you live, some major metropolitan cities deliver within an hour – an hour! – after purchasing the product online. Amazon focused its efforts on delivering superiority.
It really takes leadership support to operate in this way. Too often leaders see “doing less” as a weakness. The reality is, doing less allows the organization (or individual) to become an expert –the best – and provide superior products and service. I have seen and been on both sides of the spectrum – some organizations embrace this concept and others say they do but really do not. The only way to truly experience the benefits of the “do less better” mentality, is to spend time and energy on less, but do them very well.
What about the rest of your life? Do you have kids, are you in school, do you have a hobby you just have to participate in? Where you spend your time, dictates where your priorities are. Make sure you intentionally spend your time right.
How will you implement this moving forward? Let us know by sending us an email or contacting us here.
What do you do when your supervisor insists on doing more (better) but does not give you enough time or resources (money, people, etc.) to accomplish the task? Selective disobedience is the answer and will be discussed next week.
Last week I discussed effective communication and how to communicate effectively. This week, I will go into a bit more detail on communication, and discuss how to delight your clients, customers, and team through effective communication.
Effective communication is communicating in a way that enables the recipient of the message (listener) to clearly understand what is being stated.
Sounds easy, right? Well, it isn’t, but it can be! Communicating can be done effectively following a few steps.
1. Understand how the listener communicates
Effective communication is based on the recipient understanding the message, so the first step would be to figure out how the recipient (client, customer, team member, etc.) communicates best, or how they prefer to communicate. Some prefer email while others prefer text, phone, or face-to-face communication. Some prefer charts, graphs, or pictures while other prefer videos and others prefer simple text.
This is important to recognize. For example, if you are trying to communicate to someone by email but they are rarely on email, you may never actually get the message through! If you are calling and leaving voicemails with no response, maybe that person does not like to talk on the phone. Provide a text document to someone who prefers pictures, and your document will likely not be read.
2. Establish a common language
Each industry has their own acronyms, jargon, methods, and so on. If you are communicating to others in the same industry, you likely have a common language to some degree. However, even the different departments within a given organization will have different language that may not be easily understood by another department. Better yet, try speaking to another department in a different organization from another industry – good luck!
But we can make this easier. Spend some time to learn some of the common jargon and acronyms used. If something is said or written that you do not understand, then ask for clarification. Conversely, if you are going to use jargon, then explain what it means the first time you use it so the recipient has something to reference. Over time, both sides will gain a better understanding of each other and establish a more common language.
3. Establish frequency and response time
Some people love to text all day long, others email several times a day, while others live on their phone. Establish an expectation of how frequent and fast communication needs to occur.
Why is this important?
Say you and I are working together, and I expect a response in a few hours and daily responses at a minimum, but you are ok with 24-48 responses. If I email you at 9:00 am, I would expect a response by 11:00 or 12:00. If I don’t see anything, then I may begin to feel ignored and then follow up with another email, phone call, text, and so on. If that happens, you are going to begin thinking I am hounding you since you don’t expect to respond for another day or so. Now, we are both frustrated.
4. Determine length
Have you ever received an email response back with a simple response of “TLDNR”?
What does that mean, you ask? Too long did not read! Ha!
Determine the optimal length of the message (verbal or written) and do not go past it unless you must. Emails that could easily be published as books generally do not get read. A 6 minute voicemail will be deleted without being heard. Also, if someone expects a detailed response, and they receive succinct bullet points with little explanation, you are likely going to receive more questions than you would like to answer – especially if it is from your boss!
5. Consistency and flow
Communicating consistently helps the recipient anticipate how or what will be said. Establish a style that fits your personality and meets the need of the recipient. This helps reduce the follow-up questions as the format and style are expected and are easily followed.
Similarly, develop a fluid way of communicating. Don’t bounce around from topic to topic confusing the subject. Make it easy to follow what is being said, written, or displayed.
So, the steps are:
How do you delight your client, customer, or team?
I’m glad you asked!
Once you figure out how they communicate, using a shared language, as frequent as expected, with enough detail, consistently, do just that. Just know that it takes time. Most people do not take the time or pay enough attention to learn these steps. Don’t let that be you!
Too easy you think! I told you effective communication is easy (well, it sounds easy). The challenging part is figuring it all out and actually use it! You married couples out there know what I’m talking about here! But once you figure it out, and use it, you will surely delight all whom you communicate with – your clients, customers, and team.
Until next time.
Situational leadership is my favorite leadership model. Why? Because it essentially embraces and leverages all leadership models! Realistically, Kenneth Blanchard and Paul Hersey developed a model that considers the type of leadership style of the leader, the maturity level of the individual or group being led (more associated with skill and desire), and the development of people and self-motivation. Let’s break it down a bit.
There is a litany of leadership styles that leaders rely on. Many stick with one style that suites their own personality, but is not conducive to individual, team, or organizational success. Generally, there are four (4) methods of communicating the leaders’ intent or they style of – Blanchard and Hersey call these telling, selling, participating, and delegating. I like directing, convincing, partnering (although participating works well) and delegating. The leadership style is dependent upon the competency of the team, individual, and task. The leader must be able to identify which style is appropriate to the situation.
Directing occurs when the leader merely directs exactly what is to be done. This is a one-way conversation with little to no feedback from the follower. This is generally for the newly formed team or the individual that thrives best on clear task and purpose with close boundaries.
Convincing occurs when the leader opens up from the directing approach and allows for two-way conversation, intended to get the follower(s) on board with the plan. This will be found in a forming team or when the team needs more convincing to “buy into” the plan. Sometimes the leader just has to make the less popular decision and needs to get the rest of the team on board.
Partnering occurs when the leader works closely with the team and shares the decision making responsibility, placing more ownership with the team. Developing leaders is a key function of the leader. By partnering with the team, the leader is able to lead by example and share in the decision making process.
Delegating occurs when the leader gives the authority to the team or a subordinate follower to make certain decisions. This may not include the responsibility of the decision (sometimes responsibility just cannot or should not be delegated). When the individual or team is trusted to make the right decision, delegation should be leveraged. This enables the team to make quicker decisions and empowers the team, building confidence and self-motivation.
The maturity level focuses on the level of skill and/or responsibility of the follower. The maturity level ranges from unable to take responsibility but willing to work to fully proficient at the task and responsible. An individual or team may be “immature” – less experience – at a given task, but highly mature at another task. The maturity level is task, individual, and group dependent.
Development and Self-motivation
One of the leader’s key responsibilities is to develop and motivate others. Development involves motivating, educating, mentoring, and providing opportunities for the individual members and team to grow. This is generally a slow process, even for the highly competent member or team – so take the time to do it right – get to know each other, learn what motivates each other, find out what each other likes and dislikes – this helps to build team cohesion and an understanding of how each member “ticks”.
Developing others also involves helping others become self-sufficient. Becoming self-sufficient requires a certain level of competency – that level is, again, dependent on the situation, the individual and team, as well as the amount of risk the leader, team, and organization can tolerate. Along with becoming self-sufficient, is self-motivation, the innate desire to achieve more. Inspiring others to achieve more for themselves, their team, and the organization is essential to individual and team success. Most people are willing to work when someone is watching them, but about when they are left alone to accomplish a task? Inspire and motivate others to be or become self-sufficient and self-motivated, and you are on the right path to developing the next generation of leaders.
Applying Situational Leadership
With these three (3) aspects in mind, situational leadership is all about understanding the situation – including the task and members of the team, their skill, and motivation – and leading the individual members of the team in a way that motivates and inspires them to achieve, resulting in group and team success. Each situation is different, and requires the art and finesse of leadership to be applied in order to successfully leverage the skills and abilities of the team to achieve their desired result. An experienced team with great skill needs less directing and more delegation, whereas the newly formed team needs greater development and convincing or partnering to become cohesive and succeed.
As you strive to identify where your team currently resides, consider the knowledge, skills, and abilities of the individual team members, the collective skills of the team, and the level of cohesion and motivation. Your leadership style should be driven by these traits. Lead with confidence in your skills and abilities and that of your team.
Jared W. Snow
Servant leaders emphasize others before themselves – to include the organization. The servant leader places the needs, motivations, aspirations, and desires of others before meeting their own needs. For example, say an organization is offering a bonus or training opportunity. The servant leader would have their employee (or peer) receive the bonus or training prior to receiving it themselves.
The leader to organization relationship occurs when the servant leader places the organization before their own personal agenda. The servant leader could demand a raise or leave, placing the organization in a position to lose revenue (assuming here that this would place the organization into a negative position) or lose an employee. The servant leader sacrifices personal gain for the betterment of the organization.
These examples seem simple and straightforward, yet they often lead to resentment on that of the leader attempting a posture of servanthood. Continuous self-sacrifice tends to make some resent their good intentions when left unaddressed over a long period of time. How does one correct this?
Well, it takes a leader that is aware of their surroundings and team, to be cognizant of their peer or subordinate leaders, and ensure that all team members (and the organization) have their needs met. Not only does the servant leader need to ensure the needs of others are met, they need to ensure their needs are met as well. If left unattended, it may take outside influence from other leaders to ensure all needs are met. Still, some thrive on a life of servanthood – Mother Theresa for instance. Most of us cannot sacrifice so much for too long, yet there are times where it is essential for the development and growth of others, including our organization.
Who do you serve first? Yourself, your organization, others?
Jared W. Snow
Transactional leaders focus on achievement through the use of rewards as motivation, such as the “carrot or the stick” approach. Complete a task correctly and on time and you are rewarded with time off, a bonus, or perhaps recognition. Miss a deadline or produce an unacceptable product and you may come face to face with a reprimand (verbal or written), and if bad enough (or too frequent), termination.
The challenge here is, not all leaders offer both carrot and stick. Sometimes, it is just one or the other, or overly emphasized on one or the other. Here are a few transactional leaders that you may have experienced.
This is the leader who is averse to confrontation and less likely to provide any punitive action – even a short conversation telling the employee to improve next time. This results in the Pushover becoming a pushover (the name explains it all) and being taken advantage of. What also happens here is, those individuals who do the right thing, become less motivated to continue and either become the next bad apple (remember that it only takes one?!) or become fed up and leave. Either situation is never fun to correct.
Let’s face it, we love The Softy. This is the leader that is just so calm and gentle, and everything seems to be going well, but you just never can tell what is going on or what is expected. You look for constructive criticism and you get mixed signals – “you did well, but I don’t like this, but it’s ok”, and so on. Is it acceptable or not? Just tell me! If nothing is clearly stated, you go on doing… whatever… resulting in little improvement.
This is the leader that likely never comments (positively) on the accomplishments, but as soon as a mistake is made, they go nuclear – no matter how small the mistake. Everyone has a bad day and loses their cool, but Mr. or Mrs. Rage seem to have a bad day every day and take it out on others. If they stay around too long, nobody else will.
Mr./Mrs. Nice Guy/Gal
No matter what you do – good or bad – they find the positive. While this seems nice at first, it is difficult to improve as it is challenging to identify where to improve if the shortfall always seems to lead to a positive. I am not talking about learning here. Learning is a result of trying something new, which often leads to making a mistake (and this is ok). Mr./Mrs. Nice Guy/Gal finds it ok that the report was late (all of the time) because you were able to produce a nicer cover or clearer results (even though you ignored it for a couple of days). See the difference?
The reality is, none of these styles are going to work for long. It takes a balanced leadership approach to being an effective leader, and knowing when and how to employ the transactional leadership style. Motivate others to achieve through the use of a reward and punish appropriately when necessary. Another piece to consider is that not everyone is motivated by money. Check out last week’s post discussing Transformational Leadership, there is a comment about motivation that makes this a bit clearer.
Transactional leadership has its place, often in situations of less stress (Bass, Avolio, Jung, & Berson, 2003) and where rewards for achieving certain goals are an effective means of motivating others. Additionally, transactional leaders tend to be more focused on rules, standard operating procedures (SOPs), and policies (Bryant, 2003). If you find yourself in an organization that seems to motivate others through bonuses or time off and emphasize adherence to SOPs and policies, you may be following a transactional leader.
Jared W. Snow
Bass, B. M., Avolio, B. J., Jung, D. I., & Berson, Y. (2003). Predicting unit performance by assessing transformational and transactional leadership. Journal of Applied Psychology, 88(2), 207-218. doi:10.1037/0021-9010.88.2.207
Bryant, S. E. (2003). The role of transformational and transactional leadership in creating, sharing and exploiting organizational knowledge. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 9(4), 32.