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Culture is a powerful concept in business, identifying the way people actually work together to get stuff done. It’s connected with other larger cultures, of course, including the community, society and country we live in.

Individuals also bring their own micro-culture — how they interact, communicate, make decisions, and so on.

But here I’m focusing on the culture we all share in our organizations. Our key processes interleave with the way we work together as people. We’d like to think that they’re in sync. When they’re not, everyone gets frustrated and the processes don’t work well.

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We all have excuses. My alarm didn’t go off. Someone forgot to tell me. I’ve been busy.

Yeah, there’s always a reason for messing up someone else’s life. It couldn’t possibly be … me!

This is deadly to your reputation as a leader. Leaders are all about getting stuff done – as an individual, and as a team. So when you make an excuse, that’s laying the groundwork for everyone to blame others, and not accomplish very much.

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I’ve been noticing that a lot of people seem to be rethinking their lives now that the pandemic is getting more under control. We’re not out of danger yet by any means, but we’re thinking about whether we should truly go back to life as we knew it a couple of years ago.

I ponder that myself when I think about what 2021 and 2022 should look like for me. I’m of the mind to make some changes.

This raises a couple of questions for you. First, what do you want to increase and what do you want to decrease as you figure out your future?

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We learn very early in life to conform, to fit in, to copy.

Unfortunately this doesn’t usually lead to success in business. And it doesn’t make you a leader.

Instead, you have to figure out how you’re going to be different, to stick out and be memorable. But this takes courage.

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The future will be different than the past. That’s basic, right? Yet we love to make projections based on an expectation that only 2% will change.

Well, the pandemic upended all that. It felt like EVERYTHING changed.

As we achieve a high rate of vaccinations, we’d like to think that we will “return to normal” — namely, 2019. But it’s not happening. We’re moving into something new.

We expect our business leaders to have a clearer view of the future, or at least to act like they do. But we’re in a state where NOBODY really knows what the future holds.

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When inspiration lights you up, the impact can be unstoppable.

I had the chance recently to speak with Gary Nickell, founder of Scott’s Roofing in Colorado. They do commercial and residential roofing work, so not exactly what you might consider a leading edge, fancy industry.

And I have to admit it’s an industry without a great reputation. We can have some severe hailstorms around here, so every year we have numerous people contact us about assessing hail damage – even when there hasn’t been a storm. Many of those people aren’t based here, and may just disappear with your deposit.

Unfortunately, many home maintenance services have this kind of reputation.

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We all know that the boat which wins the race will be the one where each person is contributing their most to all go in the same direction. If one person is disengaged, or worse yet, out of sync, progress will be slow.

Or no progress at all. Or even backwards.

Yet this happens all the time in organizations. People are minimally “doing their job,” yes, but not really that engaged.

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Leadership is about telling people where to go and what to do. Right?

Well, no.

The truth is that, as Marshall Goldsmith proclaims, leadership is 80% listening. How do we resolve this disconnect?

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After a big event or a holiday, it can be tough to get your energy focused back on what you need to get done. Actually, that’s the way you know a holiday was valuable: you were able to shift to other things for a while, and it’s kinda tough getting back in the groove.

I took a good long holiday break this Christmas, so I’m experiencing that now. It’s actually a good feeling.

But now I have to get focused again.

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Nothing seems to be clearly black and white anymore. Everything mushes into a vague shade of gray.

It doesn’t have to be that way, though. You can make things more clear – especially for the team you work with.

It’s about building on what IS clear.

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