Being Well Rounded – The Wrongest Thing

LeaderSHIP 028BOS The Wrongest Thing

“Just about everything you learned in school about life is wrong, but the wrongest thing might very well be this: Being well rounded is the secret to success.” Seth Godin

First of all, “wrongest” is, indeed, a word, though my spell-checker says it isn’t. We shouldn’t expect anything but excellent grammar from Seth Godin, as we shouldn’t expect anything but interesting and even startling turns of phrase. So, with that settled, let me add that “being well rounded” is the wrongest thing for several interrelated reasons.


Succession Planning 101

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In our early study of Serving Leaders, I often swapped stories with my co-author, Ken Jennings, on a finding that we both encountered again and again in our various workplace engagements. The finding was simply this: the first evidence we usually collected that there was a great leader at work was a company or organization full of great leaders.


Not Rocket Surgery

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Try this out: the next time you’ve got twenty people in a room (or 2 or 2,000), ask this question: Recalling the leader in your life (parent, teacher, coach, boss, pastor, mentor) who had the biggest and most positive impact on you, what did they “do” the made such a difference?”

I have asked this question of groups many dozens of times, perhaps even a hundred times. Before I tell you what the answers always are, please allow me a small digression.


Why Bring Your A-Game?

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The fervor of our daily work bears an outsized impact on our productivity. At first blush, this statement seems too obvious for comment. But what is not obvious is where “fervor” comes from, or how to get some.

We all know what it’s like to spend a day hitting on all cylinders, the time flying by, as we move several small to medium-sized mountains. Likewise, we all know what it’s like to spend a workday in a wheelbarrow of molasses. There are evenings when I remark to my wife that I should have just gone to the movies.

Why do some people bring their A-Game to work? Another way to sate our question is: How do some people bring their A-Game to work? Literally, how do they do it?


Are Some Jobs Just Too Menial?

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A key responsibility of great leadership is to lift up the purposefulness that the company serves so that everybody who works there understands why their work matters. We call this responsibility, “Raise High the Vision!”

While teaching a graduate leadership course in “leadership and motivation,” a student raised her hand and protested a point I had just made. “I manage a [roast beef express] restaurant!” Yes, I’ve deleted the restaurant’s identity to protect its mediocrity. This woman was steaming, and her first sentence was thrown at me with vehemence, as though she needed to say no more! “It’s minimum wage, fast food, and high school graduates! I can threaten them with losing their job, or I can promise them little prizes for better performance, but come off it! I can’t motivate them in this industry!”


Behavior 14: Align Strengths With Team Responsibilities

LeaderSHIP 015 Align Strengths with Team ResponsibilitiesBack in the small company days of 15-20 employees, Bob was responsible for the software developers, and on a daily and weekly basis, they would need to check in their code, get feedback on what they were developing, how it worked with the system, and so on.” The President and CEO of a leading provider of clinical information systems in the healthcare field is talking about a company catastrophe that never came to pass.

“This was all a real drag on Bob, and initially we thought that he just wasn’t management-level material. But, going through this strengths process, and rethinking the alignment of people onto teams, we found that Bob has a brilliant mind for software architecture, and an understanding of the macro market in terms of where the software should go and where the market is going.

Freeing Bob up from one role on the team in order to better position him to serve the company resulted in what the company now refers to as the “5.0 Release” of their new software platform, a breakthrough that positions the company for a 10X growth in institutional customers.


Behavior 11: Teach and Coach for Success

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“Great leaders are great teachers!”

Noel Tichy, the management guru from University of Michigan, said this. Tichy pioneered the “leader as teacher” research, promoting the principle that all great leaders need clarity on what they are teaching —he called this their “teachable point of view.” And, of course, if you are going to have a “teachable point of view,” you need the exact thing discussed in the previous blog, namely, clarity about your business’s success factors.


Behavior 7: Identify and Define Core Values

LeaderSHIP 008 Identify and Define Core Values copyValues are the foundation of an organization’s culture. Where Great Purpose provides the source of energy and the answer to why we work, values guide how we work and make decisions. This guidance will be intentional, or it will be unintentional, because every organization has values.

The question is: “Will we choose the values that will guide us, or will we allow ourselves to be pushed around by the riptides of opportunity and crisis?”


Behavior 6: Connect the Vision to Each Person’s Job

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Work often feels meaningless, but this needn’t be the case. All work matters, whether that work is accomplished in boardrooms or boiler rooms. Many people come home every day from fast food restaurants and cleaning jobs feeling that their day counted. Conversely, many people come home each day from corporate offices and community service agencies feeling their day was a waste.

And, of course, we all know that these last two sentences are equally true in the reverse.


Behavior 5: Create and Sustain Urgency For Your Vision

LeaderSHIP-005-Create-and-Sustain-Urgency-for-Your-Vision-620x250Too often a vision statement is just some words hung on a plaque in the lobby. A Great Purpose, to have power, must create and sustain urgency for all the daily chores that serve that Great Purpose. Everyday frustrations demotivate people who don’t understand the value of the work they do. But those who see the urgency of their work apply creativity and collaboration to overcome problems and to continuously improve.

In The Serving Leader, Admiral Rock Butler said it this way: Serving Leaders are in pursuit of something great. Not something puny, but something really important… Important enough to live for… Important enough to die for.