Archive for Career Development

BOSS or LEADER?

Today’s TEAMTRI Guest Blog is from Dr. Jim Lemoine. Dr. Lemoine is on the research faculty at the State University of New York (SUNY) in Buffalo as part of their Center for Leadership and Organizational Effectiveness. He is an Assistant Professor of Organizations and Human Resources; a Trustee of the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership; a past local, state, and national Career Technical Student Organization officer for FFA, FBLA, and PBL; and a TEAMTRI Alumnus. His research on organizational management has been published in several outlets including the Harvard Business Review. As a researcher, Dr. Lemoine is always looking for organizational partners to study leadership behavior and determine effective approaches to improve outcomes. His email address is jlemoine@buffalo.edu.

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We all know that leadership is important. It’s the primary topic of countless books, speeches, and classes. It’s the focal concern of thousands, maybe millions, of organizational managers. It’s a development area for most every employee in the world, and the one thing we believe can make or break a business, a sports team, or a country. We talk about the need for better leaders, we hear how great leadership can make great differences, and we lament that so many of our institutional leaders do a poor job of leading us.

We know that leadership is important. But something I often wonder is whether we could ever agree on what it actually is.

Imagine you were working with an exchange student from a deeply solitary culture, where people work alone for most of their lives as hermits, without any managers or hierarchy or even teams. He is confused by this word, “leadership,” and asks you what it means. How would you describe it?

A government official once answered that question by saying that leadership is power. I noted that this was a pleasingly simple and easy-to-understand definition, and he nodded agreement. Then I brought up the possibility that a robber might hold him at gunpoint, forcing him to hand over his wallet.

The robber would certainly have power over him, but it would be difficult to argue that the robber was actually ‘leading’ anyone. In the end, we agreed that there was likely more to leadership than just power.

A manager I worked with answered that question by saying that leadership is exhibited when your employees respect you, so they get things done. I told her that I liked the sound of it, but wondered whether this was really leadership itself, or the outcome of leadership? Was it possible that respect and effectiveness were the things that resulted from good leadership, rather than the leadership itself? What, then, are the actual leadership behaviors that would result in these good outcomes?

A senior corporate executive in a training seminar answered that question by saying that leadership is just treating people well. Everyone in attendance liked this definition, but I had to wonder: was that really all leadership was? Surely you could argue that treating people well is part of leadership, but is treating people well really enough to lead them? What about holding them accountable? What about getting things done, as the manager had suggested? The last time I ate at Wendy’s, the salesperson behind the counter treated me very well. Was he leading me?

A janitor at a company I used to work at answered that question by saying that leaders are servants. This was a very different answer than I was used to hearing, so I asked him to tell me more. He told me that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., once said that serving others is the most important definition of greatness, and that by serving others, we teach them to care about us, each other, and the world around them. Through that care, they would be motivated to go forth and accomplish great things.

Personally, I like the janitor’s answer the best. He taught me something that day.

Former U.S. President and World War II General Dwight D. Eisenhower (the first American general to eat meals with his enlisted men, rather than in the officer’s tent) once said that leadership was the art of getting people to do what you want them to do, because they want to do it. And how do you make them want to do, what you want them to do? You don’t coerce, you don’t order, and you don’t merely treat them well: you ask questions, you listen, you help, and you persuade. You learn what their goals are, and you find alignment in how working toward the organization’s goals, or the community’s goals, or even society’s goals, can help you both. You provide them with the training and resources to succeed in your new mutual goals. You push them to ever-higher levels, believing in them and ensuring they have all of the skills and knowledge they need to reach their potentials. You learn from them by listening, and try to teach them what you can in turn. You build their self-confidence, and motivate them to help others just the way you, hopefully, are helping them.

Many have said that there is a leadership crisis in the world. It is difficult to argue with this statement, although this crisis is not a new problem. It is possible that the reason we can’t seem to find good leaders, is that we have not yet agreed on what a good leader is. We are drawn to charismatic and sometimes narcissistic individuals, assuming that their smooth speeches and visionary talking points are the marks of a leader, without thinking through what it is we really want from a leader. We are conditioned to see leadership as a position of power, a title to be held or an honor to be bestowed, rather than something that any of us could do, at any time, from any job. We unfortunately view leadership as something on a pedestal, something distant, rather than something that could be practiced by anyone – like a janitor.

Leadership is about putting the people around you first – being a servant – such that they collectively are able to accomplish goals that they previously could never have attempted. Leaders point the way to those ambitious goals, and help their colleagues find ways to reach them together.

The mark of a great leader is not accolades and awards, but rather that the people around her have grown and succeeded. The great leader is not necessarily the person who is elected to a political post, or the manager who skyrockets up a company’s chain of command: it’s the team member who constantly has to replace his team, because they keep growing and getting promoted.

The boss asks, “What are you going to do today? How are you going to hit your goals? How is the company going to be better, because you were a part of it?” The leader asks, “How can I help you accomplish our goals today?”

Being a boss is as simple as giving orders, promising raises and promotions, and threatening punishments. Being a leader is much more difficult, as you have to be humble, you have to listen, and you have to put your team first.

You have to learn about them, develop them, and show them how they can be even more than what they are.

Would you rather work for a boss or a leader? Would you rather be a boss or a leader?

Incredible Life Lessons from Working In A Kitchen

Throughout high school and college, I worked in a restaurant kitchen. I worked in a variety of different places from a fast-paced breakfast restaurant to a high-class hotel restaurant. There are so many different benefits to working in a kitchen – from learning to cook different dishes, to being able to eat all kinds of food.

Although, being able to eat what I cooked was great, I learned a few other important life lessons along the way:

1. Preparation, preparation, preparation!

In the kitchen, we spend anywhere from 25% – 35% of our time preparing for our shift ahead. We must have all our ingredients for every dish ready. This means that every steak must be cut, every bottle of oil must be full, and every vegetable must be chopped and ready. This early preparation will prevent you from needing to complete these tasks when you face a restaurant full of hungry people!

Learning to prepare has one of the best lessons to learn. Preparing for events or activities before they happen will help you avoid getting frantic while at an event or activity. Preparation will set you free to enjoy your event or activity.

2. Listen to the needs of the person you are serving.

While cooking, I had to learn that I must listen to the person that I was serving. Whether they asked for a steak to be medium-rare, asked for no salt on their fries, or they asked for gluten-free bread, I had to pay close attention to their needs. You never know when someone might have a food allergy or what they might not like. Serving someone a dish that they might not like or could hurt them can make for a terrible experience for everyone.

As a leader, you must listen to the needs of the people you are leading. They might be saying that they need help with a task or they might be telling you that they would prefer to do something differently than planned. As a leader, you should be able to listen and react to their needs.

3. Teamwork makes everything easier.

This one might sound obvious – yes, you want to work well with other cooks in the kitchen so no one gets hurt around the kitchen equipment. However, there  are plenty of other people you must work well with to succeed in the kitchen. There are the servers that take the customer’s order, the dishwashers that wensure that you have clean pots and pans, and of course the other cooks in the kitchen.

When you can rely on others to help you with needed and others can depend on you, it can make the job a whole lot easier. There will be times when you get overwhelmingly busy, but great teams can rely on each other to push through these tough moments.

Bon appetit!

 

 

 

I Love Deadlines! (And So Can You)

I am a little crazy about dates. Not dating like going somewhere and doing something fun (although I enjoy that too), but deadline dates. I have to admit that I am totally, 100% date–driven. It is shaped into my personality. I’m the type of person who makes lists of other lists just so I don’t miss anything. Without a due date for things, I feel paralyzed. I’m the type of person that doesn’t do anything, unless it has a deadline. Sad to say, but yes, I’m that person who schedules in time for “spontaneous fun”.

When I got married, I married a man that isn’t 100% into deadlines. Not to be mean, but I don’t even feel that 90% of him is driven by deadlines. My husband, a great man, doesn’t schedule time for spontaneous fun. He tells me that spontaneous fun is supposed to be that…spontaneous. However, even when I was a little girl, I hated surprises and liked (and still love) when everything is planned. However, when I got married, I told myself I would change. I would learn to be that spontaneous person. Little did I know how date-crazy I really was.

I’m writing this article for two reasons:

1) To show my husband that being a deadline lover, in my case at least, is a good thing.

And 2) To teach all the readers out there that setting deadlines and being a date lover can help you!

I have been wanting to post this blog forever. I wrote this two years ago. I just never told myself a due date to get this in. Ironic, right? I felt that there was always a way to tighten it up a paragraph. I felt that there was always a word that could be tweaked or a sentence I could re-write to make it sound better. I found myself living a life (well, with this one blog) that I was not loving. I didn’t set a deadline for it, therefore, it was never going to be posted.

Having deadlines focuses your energy. You feel as if you HAVE to get something in by that date. It will drive you mad, but at the time, it drives your creativity. Let me explain in four steps:

  • Expectations: When a deadline is set, everyone, whether it’s one person, or two hundred people, understands when the work is to be completed. In a fancy word, it’s like a contract. Because deadlines set us up for expectations, it means that people are working together and in sync. It really is amazing how just a deadline can change the whole process of a task!
  • The Value of Time: We all have 24 hours in a day. Everyone is busy. Everyone has projects. When we choose to set deadlines, we are committing to the value of the time of the project. Let’s use an example. If you are in school now, this should be easy for you, however, if you are out of school, go back in time and remember all the papers and projects that were assigned the same week as all the tests. Are you thinking of this time? You had to push. You had to push yourself to get everything done. Sometimes, you even stayed awake all night just to finish that very important paper that was due the next day. Deadlines give us the value of time. I am the type of person that would rather not stay up all night to write a paper. Call me an old grandma, but I like my sleep. For me, I am the type of person that tries to get things in days before the deadline is there. However, if we didn’t have deadlines, we never would push ourselves.
  • Prioritize: Deadlines help us with our workflow. Let’s say you have a report to turn into your boss on Friday, and the next week you have a school paper due on Wednesday. Knowing our deadlines helps us know that we should do first things first. Meaning, you should work on the report due Friday, before working on the paper due Wednesday.
  • Self – Imposed: This is your own deadline. Give yourself deadlines. Hold yourself accountable to your own deadlines. At work, I have deadlines for projects. Being told that something needs to be emailed by Friday, or sent it to my boss on a Monday. I found that what worked best for me, was setting a personal deadline the day before the “real” deadline. This means that I was finding myself a day always ahead. I even did this in college. Making it so I was weeks ahead in classes, enjoying college life way more than the person that was up till 2:00am still writing their paper and not even being able to go to the school dance. When we self-impose and set personal deadlines, we are forcing an effort throughout the process.

Bonus Step: Consequences and Rewards: When I was in school, there was a consequence for missing a deadline. There was also a reward for getting things in on time…higher grades, ice cream runs with mom, etc. When we create deadlines for ourselves it makes us think through the steps that we need to achieve it. Each step does in fact require time. Finishing all the steps helps motivate you to start tackling more and more deadlines. Learn to celebrate deadlines. Learn to let deadlines become a reward. I did this, and I found that everything I do that is fun, I see as a reward for getting my stuff done early.

And that’s why I love deadlines!

VIDEO: 5 Amazing Professional Email Tips

What does it take to write an awesome professional email? TEAMTRI’S Ashley Brinton breaks it down in this short video. Check it out!

What I Learned When I Started To Serve Others

It’s very easy in this selfie obsessed world to focus on what you do not have instead of what you do.

Last year, I found myself doing just that. I was worried that I wasn’t making as much money as I should be, and that I didn’t own the type of car or clothes that other people in their 40s do. That thinking started to rot my brain and make me very bitter.

So, I decided to shift my thinking. I wasn’t going to be able to change my material possessions any time soon, and I really didn’t even know that I wanted to. I just wanted to “look” successful.

I am a veteran and you don’t have to look hard to find information on the number of veterans who are homeless and not getting the care they deserve. Everyday, 22 veterans commit suicide and many of those deaths are preventable. So, I started focusing my attention on those important issues through a nonprofit I started called Valiant Seed. (valiantseed.org, @valiantseed, facebook.com/valiantseed)

SkillsUSA Oregon is one of our partners and we are working on raising funds and awareness for our veterans in Oregon who need us. Shifting my focus to doing good works has made my whole outlook better.

Find a project or cause that you are passionate about and log some hours working for it. It looks great on college applications and scholarships, but it will also make you feel better and help shift your thinking to a most positive light.  I promise.

Image Credit: Repsly.com