When I was going through Officer Candidate School (OCS), we were pushed to the brink (or so I thought) pretty regularly. Early mornings, late nights, long days, lots of sweat, and constant learning. One of the mantras we were taught really stuck with me, well, a lot stuck with me.
When in charge, take charge; when in a leadership position, lead; when in a follower position, follow.
It made sense. If you are in charge or report to someone, then do it. Well, the OCS cadre pushed candidates, placing them under pressure, to see how they respond. If they responded poorly, then additional training (in some form) was required. The purpose of this was to place these leaders into positions where decisions were to be made while under stress, to teach them how to manage stressful situations and lead others – prepare them to lead Soldiers into battle if needed. It made sense, if you are in charge then you better take charge and lead your Soldiers.
So, why was this so valuable? This also holds true in a business or non-profit environment as well. Let’s break this down.
When in charge, take charge.
You are responsible for the situation and you must take control and get the job done. Delegate as needed, provide task and purpose, and see it to completion. Sounds easy, right? How many times have you seen or been in a meeting or office where it was difficult to tell who was in charge – who’s the boss? If this happens, then whoever is in charge, is not taking charge. If this is you, then insert your authority and take charge of the situation. This does not have to be done in an “I’M THE BOSS” way, but make sure that what is supposed to be happening, actually is happening. Whoever is in charge, may not even be the boss. He or she may just be the person responsible for that task, project, or meeting. Still, if you are in charge, take charge.
When in a leadership position, lead.
Similar to when in charge, take charge, this is focused on leading others. If you are in charge, you may have a responsibility to see a task or project through to completion. If you are the leader, you have an obligation to mentor, direct, inspire, motivate, and so on. Leading is more than seeing a task through, it is about building others – building leaders. What happens quite often, is people in leadership positions really are or become managers. Managers are task or product focused – did enough product get delivered on time, is the office running efficiently, and so on. A leader needs to shift some of their efforts from task completion (which is important) to building others. If you are a leader, then lead.
When in a follower position, follow.
From a leadership perspective, following well is just as important as leading well. In fact, following well may actually lead others. Here’s how. Back to OCS… since everyone took their turn leading the class and being a follower, each candidate knew what it was like to lead a group, sometimes it was like herding kittens and others like a symphony in motion. So, the best way to help your peer leader succeed, was to be an exceptional follower. What does that mean? Well, if given a task from the leader, do it to the best of your ability. That’s it. Sure, sometimes our best is not that great, but all you can do is learn and do better.
So, by following well, you show your peers that you care enough to help them succeed, and in turn, they will do the same for you. Additionally, if others see you doing your best, they are more likely to do their best as well, or know that you care for others which inspires and motivates. Think of it this way. How many times have you seen or heard of the subordinate surpassing a superior, and becoming their boss? If that boss struggled to get their former subordinate to cooperate and do their share, what do you think they are most likely to do in return?
When in charge, take charge.
When in a leadership position, lead.
When in a follower position, follow.
To the best of your ability.
I received a phone call a few days ago, and it was clearly a sales call. At first the guy on the other end “just wanted to confirm some information” with me, then proceeded to ask for my credit card information to “confirm” my (past) purchase. I declined and asked him to take me off of his list. His response? That’s not my job. Well, actually, he added a “Sir” at the end of it, but at this point I was a bit annoyed. I thanked him for my time, asked him not to call me again, told him to have a good night, and hung up.
That was the end of that, and I have not heard from him since.
I was still a bit annoyed. Not by the call itself (albeit, it was not wanted), but the not my job part.
Have you ever had anyone tell you that it isn’t their job, whatever “it” is? Have you ever told anyone that? Well, if you have ever heard it, you know how annoying it is. If you have ever said it, you should know something… it is really bad! Okay, not the end of the world bad, but the kind of bad that just rubs people the wrong way and makes them not want to come back.
So why do people say it?
Well, most say it because they either don’t want to do more than they have to, were told not to work outside of their job description, don’t know the answer to your question, or maybe they just don’t get it.
Why is it bad?
It tells the other person that you don’t care enough about them to stop or slow down enough to help. It tells others that you are only willing to do what is your job and nothing more – no over-achiever here! It implies you are not experienced enough or may lack interpersonal or professional skills.
The good news!
You can still say that’s not my job using different words and produce positive results. You can easily transition from cannot/will not help (for whatever reason) to shining star. When someone asks for help, help them, no matter what. But, that doesn’t mean you necessarily have to do more work to be helpful – or work outside of your job description.
Instead of saying that’s not my job, try saying/doing one of the following:
Say: I don’t have the answer right now, but let me get back to you.
Do: Find the answer or find the right person with the answer and follow up as promised.
Say: I am not the right person for that but let me take/transfer you to the one who is.
Do: Actually take or transfer them to the right person. If you want to go the extra mile, follow up with them to make sure they received a response.
Say: Actually, we have a self-help tool designed to do just what you are looking for.
Do: Show them where the tool is and how to use it, even if it is for just a few minutes.
Let me tell you from experience, it goes a long way and is easy to do, it just takes a few extra minutes of your time and could be the difference from disgruntled customer to ecstatic client.
Do you have any other tips and tricks you would like to share? Let us know here.
P.S. This technique works with employees, team members, colleagues, and even your boss! Give it a shot!
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.
Effective communication is essential to leading a team successfully. From a business perspective, effective communication may very well be the difference between obtaining or retaining clients and customers – or not. What about non-profits? Yup, communication is key here as well. Communication is important everywhere – business, non-profits, family, grocery store – everywhere. Communicating effectively to your team is just as important (more important?) as communicating with your clients, customers, and volunteers.
What is effective communication?
Effective communication is different from person to person and team to team, and really depends on the stage the team of people are in. Tuckman’s stages of group development of forming, storming, norming, and performing, increase the ease of effective communication over time. Teams in the forming stage need to communicate clearly, more frequently, and perhaps in more detail to ensure the message is understood. As the team grows together closer to the performing stage, each member learns how the other communicates, including body language, written, and oral communication, making communication easier and quicker.
At some point, teams may not even need to communicate as they are so in tune with each other that they know what the other is thinking or will do before it even happens. Military special operations units such as the Army Special Forces or Navy SEALS are a great example of this. A simple look, hand gesture, or mutual understanding of what to do in certain situations increases the ease of communication (of course these guys have trained for years together to get to this point).
But you don’t need to be a Navy SEAL to communicate effectively.
How do we communicate effectively?
Communicating effectively requires an understanding of what is being said. To ensure understanding, the communicator needs to confirm that what was said was actually heard. This can be done by validating what was said. There are many ways to do so, but these 3 are quite effective:
Next week I will discuss how this can help your team, grow your clients, and delight them with effective communication.
The recent Presidential election posed this thought for me, are we to follow our leaders unconditionally? Or, is there some statute of limitations that allows us to ethically no longer follow our leaders? If you read my post last week, you realize that I am not questioning my loyalty to our President. However, many in our wonderful country are.
Many leaders are faced with the challenge of leading people who just do not want to be led. It happens to every leader. There is someone on your teams, that just does not want to hear what you have to say, be motivated by your words and action, or follow guidance – regardless of how beneficial it may be for them. Some are just naysayers and others have a deeper issue that needs to be addressed. Did the person who refuses to follow your lead, apply for the job you now hold? Were they burned by the last person who held your current position? Or perhaps, they simply need more in-depth support and one-on-one training/time with you.
As the leader of your team – business, organization, division, etc. – chances are good you have someone you report to as well - your leader. Look back at the reasons why your own team members did not follow you – initially, because you were able to turn them around, right! What were their reasons? Were they valid?
As you address your leadership, do you agree with everything they say and require? Is there anything that strikes you as odd? Do you then, follow your leaders unconditionally, or are they certain things you are just not willing to do?
OK, let’s frame this question a little bit. I am not talking about clear ethics violations such as embezzling or fraud. What about differences in leadership styles or interpersonal skills?
What happens when you are directed to perform some action that you disagree with, like terminating a long-term employee, changing processes (for no apparent reason), implementing new policy that has an adverse effect on your team, and so on. The presumption here is none of these decisions are due to changes in the law – here, you likely do not have a choice. Do you follow your directions, simply because your leadership directed you to do so?
Hopefully, your leadership serves you well, and explains certain decisions in enough detail for you to understand their stance and why you are being directed to make certain decisions. Just as important – if not more so – your leaders should delegate certain freedoms and responsibilities to you to make decisions and lead your team in your own way.
Back to the question, do you follow your leadership unconditionally? I say no, but with limitations. I do not follow my leadership blindly, I establish rapport and build faith in them, and them with me.
1. Leaders should be given some level of autonomy to lead their own team in a manner they find conducive to meeting their team’s and organization’s needs. Realistically, your leadership and you should be working towards the same goal, so this should (should) not be a huge issue.
2. As the leader of your team, you should be consulted regarding decisions that affect your team. If this is not happening, then address it with your leader immediately.
3. Discuss issues and ideas with your leadership to come up with a mutually beneficial idea whenever possible.
Some decisions, you and I just won’t have a say in. It then comes down to, can you get behind your leader and support their decision? Remember, you too will place your subordinate leaders in these positions, and they will be faced with the question, can they get support you unconditionally? Keep this in mind as you choose to follow your leader – conditionally or unconditionally.