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Here’s Your Sign!

As Leaders, one of our duties is to be “someone who strives to ensure the people around them are as comfortable as possible” to those we encounter. There is perhaps no person that this pertains to more – and to a higher degree – than your partner. We should strive to find a leader who demonstrates what Elegant Leadership is all about. All of us look to find and to be led by a person of high character.

Most people would agree that good men and women encompass certain behavioral traits throughout the duration of a professional business o even a personal relationship.  This leads to a question: what character traits make up an Elegant Leader? There are indeed many of them. We’ve managed to narrow the “signs” of an Elegant Leader to 8:

They Make You Feel Important

An Elegant Leader is not content with just saying the words that you matter, but is successful in manifesting feelings of safety and of importance by their actions. This includes in the way they interact with you through their communications and their engagement.

They Inspire You. 

An Elegant Leader possesses a strong and unshakable character. As such, they are inspirational in their words and deeds. They never cease to evoke feelings of inspiration, and will inspire you to be the best version of yourself.

They Are Supportive.

An Elegant Leader understands the importance of remaining supportive and accommodating to your needs. This doesn’t entail being a “Yes Man,” but being someone who offers support and accommodation when the situation calls for it.

They Seek Self-Improvement. 

An Elegant Leader ararel accepts much credit. Though they may be intelligent, they seek to always self-improve; whether this is through learning something new, taking on added responsibilities, or getting into better shape – they pride themsleves on becoming better.

They Are Honest and Forthcoming. 

An Elegant Leader will not lie, cheat, or steal. They do not feel any hesitation in telling it like it is, whether what they have to say is good or bad.

They Are Never Abusive Towards Anyone

An Elegant Leader will never be physically, mentally, or emotionally abusive to anyone. Ever! Also,  they will not instigate an abusive episode with anyone else under any circumstance. Instead, they will use their strength of character and intellect to resolve conflicts.

They Work to Earn and Keep Your Trust. 

An Elegant Leader understands that trust cannot be forced; it must be earned. After earning your trust, they will never take such a blessing for granted. Furthermore, they never leave their trust in-doubt.

They Put Their People First. 

This doesn’t mean they keel over and appease to every whim. It does mean, in most cases, that they will be selfless with their words and deeds. It is an Elegant Leaders responsibility to put their people first, and they do it much more often than not.

Do you want to know more about Elegant Leadership with Voltage? Would you like to Become an Elegant Leader with Voltage? Click here for more information to equip and empower your leadership.

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What’s More Important – Accountability, Self-Confidence or Courage?

Part 3 of our 4-part series on the pillars of leadership – the characteristics of the Elegant Leader that drive Voltage. We’re now on the Responsibility side of the scale where accountability, self-confidence and courage reside. Today, we’re discussing accountability, because as social animals, we’re not accountable to ourselves. Elegant Leaders understand we must have rhythm between our egos, our relationships and our organization’s results. The success required to have impact and influence within the organization is largely based upon our behaviors, habits and the perceptions of others towards us as the leader. Picture if you will a scale with respect on one side and responibility on the other underpinned with the foundation of integrity. Empathy, humility, mastery and transparency define the respect side of the  scale of leadership character. These are black-and-white elements and the Elegant Leader’s own character development and these behaviors allow us to demonstrate these three key steps:

  1. We are comfortable in the grey,
     
  2. We are clear concise and compelling in their messaging, and
     
  3. We understand the value of high influence relationships to deliver high impact results

Why is accountability so difficult for us as individuals and as leaders? We’re responsible for and with each other. Yet, when it comes to our own accountability, we find it the less resistant path to find an excuse “not to.” Sometimes we’re good at accountability and sometimes we’re not. Take going to the gym for instance. It’s far easier to leave work and go home when it’s raining. It’s far easier to go the local piano bar for a cocktail, because it’s on the way home than to go to the gym. However, when you have a gym buddy who checks in on you, you don’t want to let them down so you meet up at the gym. If you’re at the gym and not feeling your best, you’ll do some or most of your routine, but you’ll come up with some rationalization – that makes perfect sense to you at the moment – for not doing something.

Read Part I on Transparency here

It’s much easier to be accountable to each other, because we both have “skin in the game.” We’re both fully invested in each other’s success that we won’t let the other one down. Who’s your accountability partner?Who’s your best accountability partner? For some of us, it’s those people who believe in us wholeheartedly. They want to see you succeed. They leave you alone and let you go, but they won’t let you go too far off the path before they step in and check up on you. You don’t want to let them down and you don’t want to violate the trust that’s established between you too, either. The people who believe in you, who take a risk on you, you feel a sense of duty, a sense of responsibility to ensure you hold up your end of the relationship.

Read Part 2 on Empathy here

We’ve mentioned many times, the formula for successful Elegant Leadership is, the rhythm between egos, results and relationships. It’s all about the people in your life, both professionally and personally. They don’t believe in what you do initially. They believe in why you do what you do – that’s what draws them to you as the leader. It’s not your magnanimous, charismatic personality – sure that energy may draw them – it’s your belief and actions that keep them there. You, yourself, believe what you believe and you model it everyday.

The quality of an organization’s leadership has a dramatic impact on company performance. Relationships ARE the most important thing. Without them we cannot create environment’s for leadership success. There’s a new definition of leadership, an Elegant Leader, one who leads with Voltage; who demonstrates what intentionally influencing people one-at-a-time means. As the leader, you must first be accountable to them before they can be accountable to you.

What’s one action you can comfortably hold yourself accountable for today? What will you commit to today you can be held accountable for? If you’re not held accountable, what do you think your outcome will be?

Let’s take technology as a simple example. Do you carry your phone into meetings? Do you check it regulaly during the meeting? How about at the dinner table with family? with other business people? Do you leave your phone at your bed stand at night? You’re always on! At some point, you’re going to have to own up to the fact you’re addicted to that lil’ black box. Deny it all you want and say, “I have to be connected 24/7 because of this or that global market.” Sure you do, and what can you do about it at 3am?

What else can you do to show you’re accountabile to your team? Setting the tone for the environment and the culture is critical if you want to move your organziation forward towards its goals and plans. One insight to share is to show how much you truly care for your people – trust, respect, listening and learning – are all simple easily accountable steps you can make for their success and yours. Supporting their goals and plans in their functional role, in their career and so on is another accountable step you can make as the Elegant Leader.

What is it costing you?

By not being accountable to yourself, to your team, your organization or even your family can cost you far more than hard costs and significant investment. It’s all about relationships, because we’re “doing things” through other people – don’t let the cost of human capital be the undermining failure when it’s the easiest investment you can make. If you want people to follow your lead, then you need to first be accountable to them.

Acquiring the behaviors and thought patterns of successful Elegant Leadership is what gives your life and leadership Voltage. Whatever endeavor your’re trying to acomplish, the human condition has tremendous potency and usablity provided you take one step forward on this journey of Leadership as a lifelong listener and learner. I’ve been systematically studying what leadership is and what leadership means for nearly three decades, and my mission is to evangelize a movement for global change in creating Elegant Leaders with Voltage who serve and lead and who are accountable to each other.

I help you inspire your people and your organizations to sustainable results by guiding you through the proces of being the best leader you can be – simply, powerfully and Elegantly.  Let’s talk and see if we’re a good match to help you build an organization of people who believe what you believe. Call me 205-582-4100 or Click here to access my private calendar for a no obligation test drive.

Next week Part 4 in our series – Courage
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What’s the Face Value of The Elegant Leader?

Success as an Elegant Leadership with Voltage is the rhythm among ego, results and relationships. Leading Elegantly stretches from the Board Room, through the hallways and into the personal realm. Understanding why your currency is important as an Elegant Leader will help you strengthen the subjective nature of your relationships and the objective nature of your results.  There are two types of currency in any leadership environment – relationship currency and performance currency. Leadership Currency is the objective and subjective viewpoint others have of you based upon your behaviors, habits, perceptions and outcomes.

“What you don’t see can hurt you.” – Ray Charles

A leader’s currency ebbs and flows in the professional realm as much as it does in the personal realm. For many of us, we think of ourselves as successful parents, also. To be a successful parent, one who praises and disciplines their children consistently, understands their child’s currency. From their iPhone, the car, hanging out with friends, to gaming online and going the latest party, your children understand the value of currency probably more than you do. The peer pressures they face today is not too dissimilar from the peer pressures we all face at work on a daily basis. They days of grinding away in your office or cubicle will lead you nowhere. You have to establish, build, nurture and repair relationships daily. 

If you don’t understand people, you don’t understand business. Relationships are vital if you are to lead or to Lead Elegantly. The reality is, regardless how great a relationship builder you are, relationships alone will not elevate your career to the vertical heights you dream of or aspire to. There are many ways relationships work for us rather than against us. Don’t be afraid to discover and embrace your currency. The minimum standard in building your community or your relationship currency is for every function your role touches their needs to be a high-value relationship.

Relationship currency involves modeling effective leadership attitudes, behaviors and habits. Because of the subjective nature of these behaviors and habits, perceptions are formed.  This subjective judgment about whether you blend well with others, whether people follow you, or whether you’ll be successful or not is largely based upon your relationship currency. The influences and influencers can have favorable or unfavorable feedfback based upon the strength of each relationship.

Here are a few simple steps in optimizing your relationship currency. Think of 3-5 high value people in your organization your desk touches and grade yourself:

Assess Your Relationship Currency. Ask yourself these questions and grade yourself if you strongly agree, you’re neutral or strongly disagree:   I am in contact with this person regularly? I ask how I can help them achieve their commitments? I go out of my way to acknowledge their contributions? This individual will go out of their way to support me, even if it’s at personal risk?

Understand Each Person. What are their business goals and aspirations?  How would you describe their communication style?  What critieria do they focus on when making decisions?  Who influences this person? What is their currency?

Improve the Relationship. What would you like the relationship to look like in 3-6 months? What can you do to adapt to their leadership style and comunication style? How can you improve how you acknowledge their contributions? What else can you do to better this relationship?

Develop an Action Plan to Strengthen the Relationship. What do you want to achieve by month 6 in this relationship? How will you measure this achievement?  What 3 things will you do immediately to improve the relationship? What behaviors will you start, stop, do more or do less of to strengthen this relationship? What else will you do?

It’s a huge mistake to ignore, hold back or wait until you’re in desperate need to build your relationship currency. These veiled attempts are viewed as manipulative and do more harm than good. Very similar to avoiding building your community while work is going well. When you become unemployed, you’re trying to get help from those very ones you ignored or just forgot. How can you expect someone to help you “when, not if” things go sour if you’ve done nothing to nurture or even maintain the relationship? The other equally important dimension is generated by delivering what was asked of you in performance currency.

Performance currency is the outcome, the deliverables you’ve been charged with. These outcomes create a reputation in the market for your skill, the opportunity for increased monetary and career rewards, and attract potential mentor or sponsor relationships across your organization. Here’s the kicker, much as relationship currency tends to be driven subjectively by perceptions, habits and behaviors, performance currency can set the bar of diminishing returns. You set a standard by which you’re going to be measured forevermore. In some environments, unfortunately, this perception equates to the moving goalpost, because you’ve delivered great performance after great performance. It becomes assumed you will replicate your Midas touch.

They way you exercise this demon is to expand your community of relationships and learn how to do more by doing less. Yes, it sounds contradictory. However, the larger your circle of influence, the great the opportunity you have to build more relationships in terms of quality and quantity. You’ll need the quantity in order to handle larger initiatives, whether you’re working on mergers and acquisitions, expanding the distribution footprint or leading the strategic planning team.

Performance alone will not enable you to grow vertically in your career. As you see, performance and relationship currecny go hand-in-hand. It’s a rhythm. By keeping your ego in check, the rhythm of the Elegant Leader drives great performance and high-value relationships that move organizations forward. Do you want to know how to establish, build and nurture your community? Not sure. How would you like to see what it’s worth to you from an ROI standpoint? Click here to download a FREE copy of Your Community ROI Calculator.

Today there is only one currency that matters, and it sets the successful apart from the mediocre. It doesn’t matter if you are a social media genius or not, or whether you are an introvert or extrovert.

The currency that matters….

The currency is the difference between getting career opportunities before they are posted publicly, or having to compete against hundreds of people for the same opportunity.

If you are a manager or executive in a company, the currency is the difference between getting the best assignments or the second best, the difference between being on the best teams and the less visible teams, and ultimately the difference between getting the promotion or losing out.

The currency is your Community of professional relationships. This determines your informal power and influence – inside a company, in your industry, and in the world.

Some have it and some don’t.

Are you getting a constant stream of opportunities coming your way?

If you have it, you know it. You get a constant stream of opportunities. People contact you every day with new job offers, the best new assignments, and introductions to the people you need to know and who need to know you.

I’m J. Scott Spector, and I am the Founder and Managing Partner of Brookestone Associates, a firm that specializes in building up your power and influence.

Most people don’t even think about this, and yet it makes all the difference to your success.

Most people don’t even think about the type of work that I do, and yet it makes all the difference. While most people are thinking about doing a good job at work and getting high marks on their next performance review, I help you with the unseen part of performance. I make sure that you are visible.

Working together, you will have the right people in your network to assure your success so:

  • The powerful people in your organization contact you with the best assignments.
  • The right opportunities come to you first, before they are posted publicly.
  • You get priority consideration for promotions.

If you are doing everything you need to do to perform on your job, I can work with you to make sure that your bank account is brimming over with the currency that matters: key relationships, and a powerful community that puts you at the top of your field.

How powerful is your Community? Take the FREE assessment to see if we should work together.

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The Year is 10% Over

Are you on target with your plans and goals? Let’s commit our resolve to be our best selves this year. Simple. No resolutions. No bullshit. Look in the mirror and love what you see. If you don’t or you’re not sure, then step back take a fresh look and uncover that one view you can be happy with. As you step into 2018, let me ask you:

  • Who’s voice are you listening to? 
  • What are you doing to shape your heart and mind to that of a genuine leader? 
  • How are you operating – out of obligation or celebration? 
  • What would you be willing to do if you knew you couldn’t fail? 

A leader is to lead obediently because you will be held accountable. Leadership means embracing every situation sent your way – even the uncomfortable ones. You cannot wish your issues, problems, challenges and crises away; you must “suit up” and participate by becoming the leader you’re called to be.

What problem or issue do you know you need to deal with, but you keep putting off?

Often our biggest obstacle is ourselves. At the end of the day, your behavior emphasizes what your character truly is. Quit worrying about your reputation taking a hit. Here are 5 Simple, Practical and Elegant Steps of Leadership.

Be Prepared. In sports, we call it the separation is in the preparation. You cannot control the outcome so quit trying. What you can control is how well you’re prepared for the opportunity to realize an outcome.

Be Consistent. We don’t have to be perfect. We do need to be consistent, to work hard and to be dedicated to increasing our leadership capacity. What steps are you taking to increase your leadership capacity?

What would one of your colleagues say about you sincerely giving your best today? Everyday?

The “L” in leadership has a two-fold purpose – to Listen and to be a lifelong Learner. Back in the older days, Jethro, the first management consultant, and Moses was the first client.

Be Accessible. Leadership is people work and leading is loving. What is love? Not the intimate variety some of you just ran towards. It’s the authentic, genuine persona of gratitude where you truly care about your people and not merely lip service – your behaviors demonstrate your authenticity or not.

Be Humble. Humility is at the core of servant leadership. How are you modeling servant leadership? The right leader cares more about how to get the best out of the potential of the team, the group, the division, the organization than their own success.

Be Honest. Integrity and character are who we are as leaders. That’s a leader you can trust and follow with great enthusiasm. Your behaviors drive your character and your reputation is merely what others think of you and frankly that’s irrelevant.

You may be a “resolutionist” every January 1st or not. It may be easier to your well-being if you tackle one single view from your mirror. What’s one step forward you could comfortably make until you’re ready to step out and be uncomfortable? It’s easier to have someone by your side – someone you trust and respect who can be your accountability partner. If you’re not able to find someone, then let me know you need a sounding board, and I’ll gladly be that stake-in-the-ground for you as you begin your journey.

Becoming an Elegant Leader is hard! It’s hard work and easier to quit than to finish. Are you having trouble in a particular leadership situation? Tell me in the comments section below and feel free to ask questions.

If you’d like a blueprint on how to become an Elegant Leader, email me here and I’ll send you a FREE copy.

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What’s more important  – Empathy, Transparency, Humility or Mastery?

Today is our second in a 4-part series on the pillars of leadership – the characteristics of the Elegant Leader that drive Voltage. Empathy begin deinfed as the capacity to have an awareness and understanding of vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experiences of another without having them fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.  Elegant Leaders understand and demonstrate this trait to have rhythm between their ego, their relationships and the organization’s results. There’s no balance. It ebbs and flows constantly in the seas of our ever changing envrionment and culture. There is no single more important characteristc, one over another. You have to master yourself first to have people follow you, and empathy is but one trait you must be striving to develop and elevate elegantly.

Read Part I on Transparency here

The success required to have impact and influence within your organization is largely based upon the behaviors, habits and the perceptions of others towards how you model your values and beliefs personally and professionally. By the way, there’s should be no difference in those two realities. Picture if you will, a scale with Respect on one side and Responibility on the other underpinned with the Foundation of Integrity. Empathy, humility, mastery and transparency define the respect side of the  scale of leadership character. These are black-and-white elements and the Elegant Leader’s own character development and behaviors allow them to demonstrate these three key steps:

  1. They are comfortable in the grey,
     
  2. They are clear concise and compelling in their messaging, and
     
  3. They understand the value of high influence relationships to deliver high impact results

As the leader you no longer are responsible for “the job.” You are responsible for the people who are doing the job. One reason you became a manager was you were good, better or best at, “The Job.” With those days now over, you now must lead your people to be better and best at their job. To borrow a phrase from the 1950’s, train up your people to be able to wear their own hat effectively and efficiently. Otherwise, you were having to do or to help do their work for them. It is rare in today’s economic climate to find companies who teach how to be a leader anymore. Leadership is a practical learnable skill and one that must be practiced and learned daily if you want to master it.

Many of us are parents, and successful parenting goes hand-in-hand with successful leadership. Everyone has the capacity to be a parent, but that doesn’t mean everyone wants to be a parent or should be a parent, or will even be good at it. Elegant Leadership is the same. We all have the capacity to be a leader, doesn’t mean everybody should be a leader, nor does it mean everyone wants to be a leader. It certainly doesn’t guarantee we’re going to be any good at it either. Why? Because all leadership comes at great personal sacrifice.

“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” – Jack Welch

Why do you go to the gym – to feel better, to improve your health, to look good? Why don’t you workout 6, 8 or even 10 hours a day? I know, ridiculous right? Listen ridiculous, that’s precisely the point. Learn the skill, then replicate, practice and improve the skill.  I enjoy traveling around the country to work with leaders and to speak to many of you. On a recent trip to San Francisco, I was fortunate to stay at the Ritz-Carlton and had a great experience with David a concierege there.

One morning, I struck up a conversation with David asking him how long he’d worked there, and how much he liked his job. He glowingly talked about how every manager checks on him and asks if he needs anything or how his day is going; just great communication and a feeling of fulfillment. He said, “I feel like everyone truly cares about me here, and I absolutely love what I do.” He went on to say he also works in the Embarcadero and how much he dislikes the work there. Managers there check on him and try to catch him doing something wrong. David said, ” I hate it there.”

When we create the right environment, as an Elegant Leader, we will get David at the Ritz-Carlton. When we create the wrong environment, we will get David at the Embarcardero. It’s not the people. It’s the leader. If your kid comes home from school with a C, you don’t put them up for adoption do you? Yet, at work, that’s what we do! You’re having performance issues at work and guess what, you’re on a PIP or worse, you need to go. How many times have we heard and even said, “we can’t find good people anymore,” or, “we have to get the right people on the bus,” or some similar crazy nonsense? It’s not the people. It’s the leader! If we create and replicate the right environment, we’ll get the right people!

“The heart of Leadership is putting others ahead of yourself. The cost of Elegant Leadership is sacrificing yourself  to grow your people beyond what they see in themselves.”

When performance isn’t going so well, he Elegant Leader is going to have a conversation and ask what’s going on, what can we do to help. Everyone has performance issues. It could be something at home, or with a family member or even with ourselves. Empathy is caring for the person and not their output.  Success in business is not about maximizing shareholder value anymore. That’s a decades old model that has little to do with how business operates and succeeds in this digital age of globalization. How can you build a sustainable winning team through an old, broken, outdated, ineffecient and ineffective shareholder model?

Wake up! It’s no longer the 80’s and 90’s with booming economy and a relatively stable foreign policy. We’re learning how to lead and to operate in highly-pressurized crisis world cultures. Here’s another broken and outdated model – using mass layoffs to balance the books. Since when is it an acceptable business practice to spew mission statements of trust and loyalty and at the end of the quarter announce a round of layoffs? Well there’s a brilliant idea to reinforce trust and cooperation! “Whew, I survived that round.” Ah, now how do you think you’re going to feel next month? Next quarter? Fear runs rampant in a climate you created as the Disingenuous Leader.

How do we, as leaders, expect anyone to admit they don’t know something when we perpetuate an environment of fear? How are you going to respond to an employee who says, “I made a mistake, I don’t know what I’m doing, I’ve been hired to perform a job that’s different now since Rick was laid off,” and on and on. Questions are never asked for fear of painting a target on their backs. Everyone keeps it to themselves for fear of losing out “in the next round.” Because of this duplicity, these leaders perpetuate a toxic environment where people lie, hide and fake it.

“It’s the continuous repetitions that get results. Practice and get results. Don’t practice and get results.”

You’ve heard me say the Elegant Leader succeeds in the rhythm of ego, relationships and results. When I look at every failed relationship I’ve had in my life there’s one common denominator – me. Stop looking at your millenials in the workplace and blaming them. It’s not them.  We have to own our failures, learn from them and lead.  Often, I have successful business leaders come to me and ask, “how do I get the best out of my people?” They’re not towels to be wrung dry! You, as the Elegant Leader, understand how to inform, educate, motivate, coach, mentor and guide everyone to be at their natural best every day with Empathy. It’s not about winning or losing, being in charge, or always being the one! Change your perspective and change your results and your relationships.

Read Part I on Transparency here

Get started on your journey to leading elegantly. Elegant Leaders do these 5 things!

Some advice on the right foundation of your Elegant Leadership? Here’s some FREE advice for the New Leader.

Want to impact our organization today? Here’s how to Influence Your Culture and Climate with Impact.

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How Would You Define Leadership?

Is it leading with respect and responsibility? Is it empathy, humility, transparency and mastery? What about leading with courage, accountability, motivation and influence? You could grab hold of any, a combination of these traits or all of them and you would not be wrong. It’s not a right or wrong question either, but my belief over the decades of being led and leading is they’re incomplete. Leadership defined is a process of intentional influence resulting with a favorable impact in the context of a relationship.

An Elegant Leader, one who leadw with Voltage, demonstrates a number of characteristics listed above to intentionally influence people one-at-a-time in order to move a family, a company and a global organization forward. The key word in this definition is intentional.

What comes to mind when you see the word intentional?

A parent encourages and implores their children with the intent to live a life of abundance, of confidence, humility, generosity and gratitude. Just as a parent guides his children, the leader appeals to the people they lead to grow and develop into the potential he or she sees in them. It’s not only with words, but through their behaviors teaching everyone, imparting his or her wisdom so we may be the best version of ourselves personally and professionally. There is no hidden agenda in this manner of Leadership. It’s Elegant – simple, powerful and practical – it’s graceful. Their purpose is clear and authentic. Think about the circle of influence entrusted to you – your work, your family, your community.

What is your over-riding purpose guiding your influence in each of those areas? What makes your influence intentional?

In leading intentionally, there’s one critical point many people miss entirely. Leadership is not a singular implementation of a common set of values and beliefs that moves an organization forward. Elegant Leaders with Voltage understand leading and leadership is a shared process and there is a constant emphasis on the leadership team. Additionally, there’s a second key point often overlooked; simply stated it’s the word “among.” Among to the Elegant Leader means in the midst or surrounded by those they’re leading. Elegant Leaders lead through what we describe as a “low power-distance.” They do not allow their position or title to create a barrier between them and their employees, their people, or their followers.  Authorities lead by rank and title establishing a ceiling, a barrier between them and everyone else.

“When we toss a baseball-size rock into a lake, what happens?”

I recall in B-school and in my early career, my seniors would absolutely emphasize not getting too close to the people I was leading. What horrible advice! By choosing to be among the team, a leader is known by their followers. Call it intimacy. This natural model of building a relationship allows the team to individualize according to the needs of each one. We discussed the importance of empathy and perspective as key leadership modes. How else, as the leader, are you going to encourage and implor each one of your people if you’re not “in it” with them. Elegant Leaders don’t utilize a OSFA (one size fits all) approach of leadership. Voltage comes from personalizing their leadership style and communication to fit each individual team member in the same way you celebrate the uniqueness in each child in your family. You’re intentional about drawing close to the people you lead.

How much more value is there in leading a team than leading as a Lone Ranger? Are you leading up close and personal or do you maintain a distance with those you lead? How do you personalize your leadership for each member of your team?

As we examine a new approach to leadership, some Elegant Leaders we work with have been characterized as Legacy Leaders. A Legacy is not just something we leave behind when we die or when a company dissolves or when another acquires it. Rather, it’s what we’re living and working with now. We, as Elegant Leaders, are charged with leading in such a way other generations see the positive impact made now and for generations to come by our example.

We have a proven track record of delivering High-Performance Leadership Academies for companies all over the US and Canada and these groups tend to incorporate Legacy Leaders along with Emerging Leaders. In several situations, we’re delivering these groups separately and in some the two groups of leaders are integrated. In both iterations, the profound impact on these generational leaders has been consistent. Let me give you an image to help unpack the idea of influence with impact. When we toss a baseball-size rock into a lake, what happens?

Initially, there’s a big splash followed by a continuous ripple out from that initial point of impact. Much in the same manner, an Elegant Leader makes an initial, big splash – the immediate impact the leader has. And, that initial splash continues to radiate or ripple out representing the ongoing impact that Elegant Leader has. Many who follow these leaders are energized deeply and become imitators or reflections of the leader in their own style. However, the impact doesn’t end here.

The imitations become examples over time for others who believe what they believe. That’s what a successful company is – a group of people who believe what you believe. That’s what a culture is –  a group of people who believe what you believe. That’s what a country is – a group of people who believe what you believe. Without saying anything, the ripple effect demonstrates the main idea of Elegant Leadership. These Elegant Leaders with Voltage are intentionally influencing others and understand by doing so, they are developing additional leaders now and in the future who will then emulate them.

The initial wave of followers then become examples for others who they are intentionally influencing. Through this ongoing process, Elegant Leaders have an impact now – an initial splash that ripples out and continues to have impact for workforce generations to come. Our Leadership methodology is a process of intentional influence – leading with a purpose that has Voltage. As an Elegant Leader, you have the power to change people’s lives for the better and to lead them to walk with high-value worth with exponential returns. Elegant Leaders lead wiht this clear purpose in mind. It is the guiding framework for all they do and the criteria for measuring effectivness of their leadership. The true measure of an Elegant Leader’s effectivness is the changed lives of their followers.

How will you shape the spheres of influence that have been entrusted to you? How has your leadership grown in the area of intentional influence? Who will you intentionally invest in? How’s your ripple?

Why become an Elegant Leader? Because you’re better than the results you’re getting today. Because you know your relationships are lacking something. Because, at the end of the day, your ego is not what it used to be. Whether, it’s too large for what you’re delivering, or it’s not as confident as it once was. Maybe it’s easier for you, for one of your team or several emerging leaders to attend one of our High Performance Leadership Academies and learn what Elegant Leadership is all about. Click here.

Perhaps you’d like more information about Elegant Leadership with Voltage or what Elegant Leadership can do for you, your team and your organization, feel free to contact me with your feedback, thoughts or to discuss your ideas scott@brookestoneassociates.com or contact me directly 205-582-4100. Thank you for your willingness to Become an Elegant Leader. If you’d like a FREE copy of the eBook on the 7-Steps to Become an Elegant Leader with Voltage, click here, and you can download a FREE copy.
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What’s more important  – Empathy, Transparency, Humility or Mastery?

Today, begins a 4-part series on the pillars of leadership – the characteristics of the Elegant Leader that drive Voltage. We’re unpacking transparency today, not becuase of its buzz-worthy nature. Elegant Leaders understand and demonstrate this trait to have rhythm between their ego, their relationships and the organization’s results. The success required to have impact and influence within the organization is largely based upon their behaviors, their habits and the perceptions of others towards their model. Picture if you will a scale with respect on one side and responibility on the other underpinned with the foundation of integrity. Empathy, humility, mastery and transparency define the respect side of the  scale of leadership character. These are black-and-white elements and the Elegant Leader’s own character development and behaviors allow them to demonstrate these three key steps:

  1. They are comfortable in the grey
  2. They are clear concise and compelling in their messaging, and 
  3. They understand the value of high influence relationships to deliver high impact results 

We’re unpacking transparency for the leader, the employee and for the company – why it matters, what it means to have a culture of transparency and how you can be better at transparency. People are drawn to transparent companies. From Fortune 500 companies and brick-and-mortar to online businesses, being ethically sound goes a long way in being a successful company. Companies function at a higher level when they operate transparently.

“I know of nothing more valuable, when it comes to the all-important virtue of authenticity, than simply being who you are.” –Charles R. Swindoll

The reason why transparency is so appealing is largely due to the cultural trends and in human behavior. We are drawn to transparent people. It makes sense we like companies who are transparent, too. It’s not about a new “hack” or manipulative “technique.” It’s about being a real person, a real leader, and a real company.

The expectation for transparency has extended beyond personal interactions and is a reality in business. Across all industries, transparency has never been more important to a successful business model. Withholding or cleverly reshaping information is no longer a viable option for the new era of consumers who are savvier than any demographic before them with skepticism as their default setting. To build brand loyalty, companies and their leader need to first build trust.

“Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.” –Thomas Jefferson

There’s a common misconception  about transparency. Far too often, companies see it only as a tool to be used when admitting a mistake. This shortsighted approach is dismissed as being ashamed for being caught, not for the actually act itself. Customers are far more forgiving of mistakes if a company has a history of being forthright with all interactions. Just as employees are more forgiving of their leader who dives on the sword for their own shortcomings. The pattern of behavior is what we as human beings look for in people and in companies.

A recent study from Harvard Business School took a look at the concept of transparency in a restaurant setting where cooks and customers could literally see each other during the food prep and dining experience. The results showed a striking improvement of 17 percent in customer satisfaction and 13 percent faster service when they are visible. This fascinating look at the power of transparency, indicates customers are happier when they feel they’ve been made part of the process. If we all knew our customers were able to see our every move, we’d be more thoughtful and precise in the decisions we make.

Those benefits aren’t limited to just external transparency, either. Internal transparency — the practice of maintaining open lines of communication with employees, and remaining honest about company operations — is positively correlated with higher employee morale (and therefore, productivity). Transparency in this internal context also builds trust, and makes employees feel that they’re working for a company with higher ethical standards.

“The keys to brand success are self-definition, transparency, authenticity and accountability.” –Simon Mainwaring

In another study by Label Insight, up to 94 percent of consumers surveyed indicated that they were more likely to be loyal to a brand that offers transparency, while 73 percent said they were willing to pay more for a product that offers complete transparency. What can you do as an Elegant Leader that gives Voltage to your leadership, for your employees and for your company or organization? Here’s 5 ideas you can implement once you’ve demonstrated your value as a leader, and how the team can adopt a more transparent culture:

  • They Aren’t Mushrooms. Being disingenuous or duplicitous as the leader will undermine any and all of your efforts. If your people know you care, they will care to know whaat you know. Instead of keeping them in the dark or the “need to know,” share what you can with them and expand that as they demonstrate their own accountability towards the communication efforts. If they know, then they will care. 
  • Honesty Really Is The Best Policy. Avoid filters various other forms of Management Weaselspeak – you know the crap that’s spewed from some book knucklehead read while he was on his yacht in the Gulf. Curate instead of manipulate. 
  • Do It Now. The best time to respond to an issue or a concern and to increase transparency is yesterday. The worst part of life is waiting – waiting for a response, an answer or a decision. Waiting demonstrates one of two things, if not both – you can’t or won’t make a decision and you don’t give a shit. 
  • Did You Hear? Open dialogue minimizes gossip and gets the tensions out in open. Additionally, as the Elegant Leader you must commit to an environment of no recrimination.  Having a dialog and a clear, concise and compelling message reinforcing the importance of transparency throughout the organization, demonstrates your commitment and the quality of your leadership. In theater, we called it wiping your feet at the door. There’s no time for egos. 
  • Start Small, But Start. One easy path to begin on is with your immediate people in showing random acts of kindness. When you have a conversation outside of your office, put your @#$% phone in your pocket. Demonstrate you really give a crap about that person, look them in the eye and listen. Remember, the “L” in leader is to listen and to be a lifelong learner, and you have some learning to do. You may be the Master of the Universe, but you’ve not mastered transparency or you wouldn’t have read this far. 
“Everything one does is a message: activity or inactivity, words or silence — all are messages communicating something.”

Building a culture of change requires a cadence, not just one-of’s. Take your monthly meetings for example. Are they more like a monologue at the beginning.? Do you have to purposefully motivate people to participate? The questions they don’t ask, the tensions not discussed will keep coming back again and again. How are you going to get better traction? From unfulfilled promises to frustrations or disagreements, anything can happen when you open the floor in a transparent culture. As a leader, you have to address every tension, especially those you don’t have an answer for and admit it. It’s okay. I’ve looked over thousands of CEO job desciptions and positions and NO where does it say you have to be the smartest one in the building and you don’t have to have all the answers. You’re only accountable for it all!

Being where the buck stops isn’t easy. Trust helps a team cope with adversity and, instead of blaming each other, find a solution together. Building trust requires transparency, not just in how you communicate but, most importantly, in how you behave especially when unfavorable news is delivered and received. Transparent behaviors provide clarity about your intentions and clearly communicate you are not hiding anything.

This very volatile asset, trust, takes a long time to show favorable gains, and it can be lost with one simple act intentionally or not. Take Tiger Woods for instance.  Once it became public, whether it was one transgression or twenty-five, we lost trust in him, not because of adultery, but because he lied. He lost millions in a few weeks, which would amount to hundreds of millions today. If you have to choose, it’s better to be human than to be caught lying pretending you are perfect.

Transparency, like change, requires a strong commitment – it returns exponentially. When participation and curiosity increase among your team, including challenging you as the leader, it’s a sign that transparency is turning into a virtuous cycle. Keeping it going is up to all of us. Your success as an Elegant Leader with Voltage requires you to have impact and influence within the organization, and it’s largely based upon your behaviors and habits and the perceptions of others towards you as the leader.

The conversation continues with part 2…

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Questions that Have Voltage

The best teachers all have at least one thing in common: they ask great questions. They ask questions that force students to move beyond simple answers, answers that test their reasoning, that spark curiosity, and generate new insights. They ask questions that inspire students to think, and to think deeply.

Business leaders, those with years of experience and the confidence of an organization behind them, are tempted to think their job is to always have the right answers. It’s not, AND no one said you have to have ALL the answers. You do NOT have to be the smartest one in the room either! Great leaders are to inspire the same curiosity, creativity, and deeper thinking in their employees great teachers inspire in their students. It starts with asking the right TYPE of questions. Any answer is only as good as the question asked.

I find it useful to remember the statement often attributed to Albert Einstein that if he had an hour to solve a problem, and his life depended on it, he would spend the first fifty-five minutes determining the proper question to ask.

Asking deep, thought-provoking, introspective questions is not a simple task. It requires us to look beyond simple solutions and to encourage colleagues to do the same. It requires courage and tact, to generate hard questions without sparking defensiveness, as well as being open to new ideas and to questioning untested assumptions. It requires being willing to listen and follow up.

I believe there are some essential questions that are useful across a variety of contexts, including, and perhaps especially, the workplace. Some may think I’m “off-my-rocker,” but I believe there are only five essential questions in life, and these questions are equally valuable for anyone in a position to lead or influence others.

“Wait, What?”

Too often, we jump to conclusions without having enough information. We listen just long enough to form a quick opinion, and then we either endorse or oppose what has been said. This puts us at risk of making faulty judgments, false beliefs leaving key assumptions untested, and missing out on potential opportunities. Leaders, as well as their employees, need to be able to ask colleagues and direct reports to slow down and explain in more detail what is being proposed, especially if something doesn’t quite sound right or seems too easy to be a lasting solution. Asking “Wait, what?” is an exercise in understanding, which is critical to making informed judgments and decisions—whether in the office or the boardroom.

“I wonder if …?”

Children are far better than adults at questioning the world around them – nothing is beyond interrogation. When children wonder why the sky is blue, they prompt others to think, reason, and explain things anew. Similarly, leaders have to remain curious about their organizations in order to bring new ideas to bear on longstanding challenges. Wondering why something is the way it is will sometimes lead to an unsatisfactory answer—as in, we do it this way because it’s easier and that’s the way we have always done it. Asking “I wonder if…” is the first step in overcoming the inertia that can stifle growth and opportunity for leaders and employees alike. That’s because it inevitably leads to the perfect follow up:. “I wonder if or how can things be done differently?” This question begins the process of creating change by sparking the interest and curiosity of those with whom you work.

“What will it take…?”

Most of us have had the experience of sitting through a contentious meeting, where stakeholders are polarized, progress is stalled, and consensus feels like a pipe dream. Asking “what will it take?” is the question that can help you and your colleagues get unstuck on an issue. It can get you started on a first step, even if you are not entirely sure where you will end. Perhaps you might first find some common ground by asking: “Couldn’t we at least agree on some basic principles?” or “Couldn’t we at least begin, and re-evaluate at a later time?” Common ground in contentious environments is uncommon and THAT’S what we must have in order to get the results we MUST have to succeed, thrive or even exist!

“How can I help?”

The instinct to lend a hand to someone in need is one of our most admirable traits as human beings, but we often don’t stop to think about the best way to help. Instead, we swoop in and try to save the day. This frequently does more harm than good: it can unintentionally disempower, or even insult, those who need to take charge. So when a colleague or direct report is complaining about an issue or expressing frustration, rather than jumping to offer solutions, try asking, “How can I help?” This forces your colleague to think clearly about the problem to be solved, and whether and how you can actually help. It helps your colleagues define the problem, which is the first step toward owning and solving it.

“What truly matters?”

This question might seem obvious, but I don’t think any of us ask it often enough. “What truly matters?” is not a question that you should wait to ask when you are on vacation or are retired. It should be a regular conversation, externally and internally. For example, it’s a useful way to simplify complicated situations, like sensitive personnel issues. It can also help you stay grounded and gain clarity when you have grand ambitions, like an organizational restructuring. And it can make even your weekly meetings more efficient and productive, by keeping people focused on the right priorities. Asking this often will not only make your work life smoother, but also help you find rhythm in the broader context of your life.

Leaders should ask these questions both on a daily basis and during critical moments. Of course, these aren’t the only questions to ask; context certainly matters. I have found these five to be a very practical and useful way to ensure understanding, generate new ideas, inspire progress, encourage responsibility, and remain focused on what is genuinely important. These are also very help in building and maintaining healthy personal relationships.

BONUS:

Lately I’ve been replacing “I’m sorry” with “thank you.” For instance, instead of apologizing for being late with an answer on a task, project or deadline, I’m saying “thank you for waiting on me.” It not only shifts the way I think and feel about myself, and it has improved my relationships with others who now receive my gratitude instead of my negativity. Instead of “sorry, I’m such a disaster” to “thank you for loving and caring about me unconditionally.” Those are just a couple somewhat obvious ideas to jog others’ memory. Thank you Marji Sherman for your invaluable insight!

I hope our final article of 2017 will enlighten and encourage you to make the habit of being better in 2018. If you’d like to know more about The Culture Whisperer and what we do to deliver significant results for businesses and the people leading them, feel free to get in touch 205-582-4100 or scott@brookestoneassociates.com

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