6 things you should NOT do when a customer complains

roach letterIn my last article I recounted the story of Mike (you can read the entire story here). Assuming you are the general manager of the store in which Mike’s story unfolded, we need to discuss what you would and should do.

But first, let’s look at what you should NOT do.

  1. You should NOT attribute Mike’s complaint to the odd and unusual circumstance. It is all too easy to simply disregard his complaint as being the result of something out of the ordinary. If it hasn’t happened before it will almost certainly happen again. Instead, take Mike seriously and respond accordingly.
  2. You should NOT blame the complainer. We’ve been in business long enough to know that not every complaint is valid and not every customer can be satisfied. But reality begins with the perceptions of others hot you. In fact, the most ineffective leaders always demonstrate a debilitating flaw, the belief that everything would be just fine if they saw things as they see them. It simply is imperative that effective leaders never blame the complainer for his or her perceptions because it is those perceptions that have defined and framed the conversation.
  3. You should NOT ignore it. Every person involved – the sales staff in the department Mike visited, the assistant manager he spoke with, and you, all need to know a complaint has been registered and that you do not indent to simply ignore it. Something happened somewhere and it needs to be fixed. It will not get better by itself.
  4. You should NOT follow up with a roach letter. For those outside the US, a “roach letter” might seem a puzzling term, but it stems from a complaint letter that an airline passenger sent to the headquarters of the airline following a flight he made on one of their planes. It seems that a passenger awakened from a nap to find a cockroach crawling down his cheek. Incensed, the passenger wrote a letter of complaint and received a prompt response. Unfortunately, inside the envelope the passenger found a note from someone in the airline’s customer service department that read, “Send this jerk the roach letter.” Roach letters fix nothing, reveal a terrible attitude, and will always ring insincere.
  5. You should not assume your employees will respond badly. Most sales people really do not like to miss out on sales and the incidence with Mike might have been a simple oversight or the result of being too task-oriented rather than people-(customer) oriented. One manager in a big box store ordered one of her top salesmen to stop processing contracts and start putting away stock. This is not unusual when there are lots of things to do but it is a pathetic waste of talent and expertise to divert the completion of sales (profit) toward housekeeping (overhead). Use your talent where they produce the most profit. Indeed, experience shows us that sales people resent being taken away from duties on the floor like meeting customers, selling products, closing on sales to do mundane tasks. If you workplace is structured by paying commissions it gets more imperative to allow the power of incentive to work. Let your sales people sell.

In the next post, we’ll discuss what you should do.

The Attitudes of an Effective Delegator

delegating“He was a very hard worker but not a good delegator,” said the consultant. Sitting across the table from the president and vice-president of the company he was advising, that consultant had been hired every year for the past five years to update the business plan for the year. Under new leadership, the company was enjoying a remarkable turnaround seeing levels of activity and progress not evident for almost a decade.

As the numbers began to improve, the consultant made the observation that the previous president was a very hard worker (he was indeed) and a very nice man (also true), but that he had not been an effective delegator.

If you’ve been in leadership for very long you have undoubtedly had a class or two on the subject, read a book or two on it, and encountered effective delegators and ineffective ones.

I have as well.

Your experience might be different but most of the classes and books I read poorly served the subject of delegating because it focused on the act of delegating, the process of making assignments. So we are taught to find people we can give jobs to and then give them away.

But it doesn’t work quite that simply. The president mentioned above didn’t have much trouble giving jobs away, but failed miserably at it. The reasons why, and the observant remark of that consultant have provoked this new series at The Practical Leader.

So for the next several posts we will be exploring the attitudes and beliefs of an effective delegator.  Delegation is more than making assignments. Effective delegation is an assemblage of nuanced attitudes and actions for which ultimate success depends on the ability to employ the right actions for the right reasons at the right time.

So what are they?

Come back in on Monday, November 16th for the first installment.

5 things you should do to prepare yourself to lead a strategic planning session

indiana-jones imagin how boringEvery company and organization has them…or at least they should if they want to remain relevant and viable. Some conduct strategic planning sessions quarterly, others but once a year or so. There really is no “right” number. We hold them at least once a year, and for most companies that’s probably sufficient. You will need to decide when and how often would be optimal for your company or organization.

But they need to be done and they need to hold significant weight in the company culture. Don’t conduct them simply because they are on the calendar (like most employee performance appraisals – ugh). Conduct them because of their benefit to you, your associates, and to the company or organization’s culture. They keep us on track, point out what works and what doesn’t, and provoke ideas that might otherwise remain locked up in someone’s head.

There are plenty of places around the web that will offer advice about how to conduct a strategic planning session so I won’t belabor the obvious here. Instead, I want to focus on what you need to do to get yourself ready to conduct a successful strategic planning session.

First, decide how you want it to end. What outcome(s) should result that will assure you and the participants that the meeting has been worthwhile and successful? What will happen because you all took the time to meet and participate? If you don’t know that, then anything will do. All planning, all handouts, guides, supporting documents, and activities should be focused on and lead to the expected outcome. I am NOT suggesting that you decide ahead of time precisely what activities will result. The strategic planning session is not the place for you to get them to do what you want them to do. No, it is to discover what to start doing, what to stop doing, and what to continue doing…and to let others come to consensus.

Second, you are the visionary so it is your privilege to articulate, define, and celebrate the vision of your company or organization. Never neglect an opportunity to say it again. Strategic planning sessions should enable groups to avoid the trap of measuring progress by faithfulness to processes and systems. Instead, focus on product, those components that the systems are supposed to produce. I was in a meeting on Monday that provided the dynamics to discuss this critical principle. It is never enough to be busy or even fruitful. It is always important to do the right things that will produce the right results and everyone responsible needs to understand and appreciate the mandate.

Third, stand up, speak up, shut up. Prepare what you are going to say, say it, then get out of the way. A strategic planning session is not the platform for you to pontificate all day. It is the place for everyone else on the strategic team to participate and they can’t do that if you are in the way. Leaders are often in love with their own voices and gifted with immaculate perception (the belief that whatever the leader thinks of must be divine simply because he or she thought of it). This is not the day to do the talking. This is the day to guide discussion, inspire optimism and confidence, and frame the activities to engage everyone.

Fourth, ask questions but refrain from supplying answers. This is an extension of number three. Your role is to keep things on track, provide the parameters for analysis and discussion, and gather conclusions. The vision remains fixed. How your company or organization gets there is not all that precise. There is a context and a purpose for your existence. Once everyone understands the context and purpose, let them loose and leave them alone to come up with ways to realize them.

Finally, draw conclusions and enlist participation in the plan. We have all been involved in meetings where wonderful ideas were forwarded but nothing really happened. The real work of the strategic planning session happens after the session. Find participants, make specific plans, set schedules, and prepare to follow up. It is uniquely your job to equip and train, to give your people the information, equipment, and training they need to enact the plan.

Do not allow the ideas that emerged today to simply fade away. And do not take on the responsibility for developing and enacting them yourself. This is one of the most potentially productive days a leader can ever experience if they are committed to developing and releasing others.

What you see is what you get – measuring your response to others

What good is it?

Often the mantra of the obsessively practical or the hopelessly cynical, a “what good is it?” response typically indicates disgust, disappointment, or disdain, maybe all three. Obsessively practical leaders seem to become well, obsessed, with efficiency. Every act, every task, every intention, indeed every suggestion is qualified by its practical contribution to the efficient function of the organization.

But more prevalent are the hopelessly cynical. I worked for one such leader, the founder and director of a moderately-sized leadership training organization working mostly in Asia. He expected to be disappointed and usually found something to meet his expectations. Over time, only those with a fetish for being belittled and berated stayed in the company. There was always something somewhere done by someone that failed to come up to standard.

I worked with the company for nearly two years and I can attest that the real failure rate was no higher than just about anywhere else and a good deal better than many companies of that size. It was his attitude that made the difference.

Now, make no mistake, I am no raging and rabid fan of the positive thinking crowd. It seems to lead to a delusional approach to life and its challenges.

But I am a fan, proponent, and practitioner of the power of a positive attitude. The late Michael Vance, creative thinking consultant to Walt Disney and a good many others, often observed that positive thinking tends to avoid or mislabel problems to the point of failing to deal intelligently and creatively with them. He also observed that with a positive attitude problems are identified, intelligently and honestly appraised, then and only then can creative responses be implemented.

So, the “what good is it?” response can have a more fruitful use. How do I know?

  1. Because, with few exceptions, subordinates and associates want to please. Mister Cynic referred to above does not believe that. He believed that everyone was out to disabuse him of his generosity, neglect their responsibilities, and screw up regularly and that they did so with no remorse. He is categorically incorrect. His experience has not been my experience. People make mistakes. We live in an imperfect world and 100% efficiency is a myth. But nearly everyone wants to do well and meet the expectations of their job. We are hard-wired to do so. What good is it? All effort should be acknowledged for what it is – a good attempt to do the job. If and when it falls short, accept the reality and respond accordingly. That’s what superlative leaders do. They do not cynically respond with disdain in their voice, “What good is it?”
  2. In all labor there is benefit. We do not learn by learning only, we learn by doing. Trying, falling short, learning why, trying again are all part of the development process. We cannot order a fully functional subordinate or associate from Amazon. It will not arrive on the floor ready for work. Development is what you do because you are a leader. No prudent leader would ever trample on the good deeds and well-intentions of others deliberately. Developing capable people and successful companies is always a collaborative effort.
  3. In every effort, even the ones that are not quite up to par, there is good in them. They yield something beneficial. A teachable moment or a deeper understanding are not without value. Ask Thomas Edison about failed attempts at developing the electric light.

What good is it? Well, it turns out there is a lot. The weekend begins tonight. Most of you have two days off. It just might be a good time to take another look at how you respond to the efforts of others. There’s a tragic lesson in the life work of Mister Cynic mentioned above. He spent his entire career disappointed, always feeling like he had been cheated out of more success by the failures of others. He spent his days, indeed his life, wandering around the workplace looking for people doing something wrong, finding whatever he could that would validate his cynicism and negativity.

You know what? He found plenty of it. But he ended his career bitter, angry, cynical, and disappointed that he had been robbed.  He really did look back on his life and ask “What good is it?” distressed that it was not better.

Yet other leaders in exactly the same situation had an entirely different experience. Did they find disappointment? Yep. Did they find error and failure? Certainly! But they found good in it. Lots and lots of good in it.

It’s right there in front of you too.

If you’ve got a few minutes, take a look at the video below. It’s a compilation of clips from Michael Vance.

Why leadership training programs fall short

file0001625497945The American Society for Training and Development reports that U.S. businesses spend a whopping $170 billion on leadership training programs.  They largely fail or at the very least fall way short of the expectations set for them.


Because you do not train leaders; you develop them. Training does have its place. We can train workers to build things or connect widgets to whatzits. We can inform, the one thing formal education does reasonably well.

But leadership development is more than an informative process. Much more! It is a transformative process.

Back in the days before digital photography, the process of creating an image was far more hands-on. Someone had to compose a photograph and shoot the image with a camera which allowed light to affect film which had been coated to react to it. Then, the film had to be taken into a darkroom and “developed.” There chemicals were applied to the film which revealed the image on the film and produced a negative. The negative was exposed to light which affected paper which was then immersed in a chemical bath which caused the image to appear. The picture was then “developed”.

At the risk of oversimplifying the process, let me draw some parallels between that and the subject of this column today.

Training programs essentially assume that with exposure to the right information, anyone can be trained to lead. This is simply and practically untrue. Many notable business people advocate that leaders are made, not born. I disagree and disagree vigorously.

The exposure to chemicals and light reveal an image that is already there. They cannot create something that does not exist. Leadership development applies light (information and truth to use that word in a philosophical and academic sense) and the right outside forces to reveal what is already there. Leaders are born…then developed over time and experience.

Training focuses on the things being taught but development focuses on the person being developed. While training superimposes a curriculum on a time schedule through which a person must endure, development provides the right sort of components, including but not limited to information, within which a person may grow and mature in their experience.

Finally, training may be efficient and is constructed to be efficient, but development is far more effective. The secret is, of course, the image, as it were, unrevealed but already resident within. No training program can ever hope to impart the nuanced and profound understanding that development does. It takes time and exposure to do that.

Corporations, associations, the seminar industry, and the educational establishment try but fail. Indeed, I propose that these institutions actually work against the effective development of leaders…but not deliberately. And I am not implying anything duplicitous in either their methodology or their curriculum. I think they mean well but continue to churn out graduates who are not equipped to lead. At its worst it impresses a person that s/he is ready to lead when they are not. As evidence I point to a close friend who told me that he was the best husband he had ever met and he made that statement without a hint of sarcasm. He actually did believe he was. When I asked him how he knew that, he pointed to the fact that he had attended and graduated from a marriage training course which, by his assumption and implication, made him a stellar husband. He was legendary alright, but only in his own mind. The mere exposure to information had led him to believe in something that was untrue and to propose that he was something that he was not (I asked his wife).

Most people in the real world don’t believe training is adequate either, that’s why they seek candidates with experience. They know that information and personality must be tempered in the fires of life to sharpen and harden them into a useful instrument.

If your company or organization has training programs, I suggest you take another look at them. If they are intended to impart hard skills like attaching widgets to whazits, then fine. If they are intended to train leaders, well, maybe they deserve a more careful examination and challenge to their presumptions.

Stuck in 1st gear – is the impediment to progress you?

stuck in 1stIt happens easily enough and usually innocently enough. You start a business or organization then endure what is often a long and expensive learning curve. Along the way you learn…you learn a lot. You discover the competencies and incompetencies of those working with you. You learn how to manage cash flow challenges. You learn the ins and outs, the ups and downs of business in the real world.

In a few years the business or organization begins to prosper. By then your role should change from working in your business to having more time to work on your business.

But too often it doesn’t. The business (I use this term in a very broad sense. Even nonprofits are enterprises with a mission to accomplish and must function in just about every sense as a business. The only differences are that the excess revenues received are not distributable to anyone except in the form of salaries paid for work performed) begins to prosper and could expand to another level but something seems to be holding it back.

Could it be you?

How, you object? Because holding on to authority means letting go of responsibility. Notice I did not say shirking responsibility. I said letting go of responsibility. One of the hardest lessons I had to learn in my early developmental years in leadership is to discover what things, what jobs, what tasks, what responsibilities faced me that only I could do…and giving everything else away.


May I direct your eyes to the banner of this website for just a few seconds? You may have to scroll the page up, especially if you’re reading on a smartphone or tablet. What does it say just under “The Practical Leader?”

It says “Extend Your Reach – Multiply Your Effectiveness – Divide Your Work.”

But too many of us are stuck with limited reach, divided effectiveness and multiplied work…and we’ve done it to ourselves. Like a car stuck in first gear, your journey consumes way too much fuel, makes way too much noise, and takes way to long to get there.


Because one of the key responsibilities resting upon you is the need to empower and release others. To make more leaders. But you won’t be able to do that if you see them as inept and incapable or if you regard them as a threat.

Your role is not to monitor others but to mentor them. This assumes the following:

  1. That you are secure enough in your position as leader that you can share the work and the credit. Insecure leaders seem to be attention hogs.
  2. That you are attentive to who you hire. You have identified your limitations and hire others for their strength to compensate for your weakness.
  3. That you are willing to pass on what you’ve learned to others.
  4. That you will not allow paranoia to stifle the growth of your company or organization.

You can stop right where you are. In fact if you do you are not alone. Thousands of businesses are stymied simply because their owners/leaders cannot or will not shift gears.

Now, by this point I usually get some pushback from leaders who complain that they have no one they can trust, that if they didn’t monitor everything that goes on the whole company would fall into chaos, that every person they’ve ever tried to employ has disappointed them.

They are, of course, quite incorrect. They are either control freaks or they are unable to grow. Will others fail? Yes, but then so do you. Will others disappoint? Yes, but then so will you. Perfection and 100% economy and efficiency is a myth. You don’t meet that standard and no one else will either. It is no reason and cannot be legitimized to excuse oneself from mentoring.

Never forget what your role really is. It is not to make sure everyone does things right. It is to make sure that you… and everyone else… stays focused on the vision and does the right things.

You there, yes you, the leader of your company or organization. Do only those things that only you can do. Mentor others so you can give everything else away.

4 things to consider before dismissing that suggestion or idea

elephant tied with stringIf it didn’t work then, will it work now?

Elephant syndrome is what I call it, the tendency to never forget. But I am not referring to a good memory. I am talking about a faulty forgetter. Like the elephant in the photo, we remain tied with string to obstacles we could readily overcome. That elephant was tied to an object when it was little but does not now understand what happened and what it could do to break out.

Consider this. You are the leader of a company on its way to fulfilling its purpose. One of your associates suggests an idea which you’ve already tried. You’ve tried it before and it did not work.

What would you do?

Most of us would reject it outright. We tend to have elephant syndrome. We remember those things that stymied us before, those tactics that failed, those efforts that fell short. And there well could be a good reason not to pursue them again.

On the other hand, it might be more effective to take another look at it.


  1. Because that was then and this is now. The circumstances, components, and dynamics that stopped you back then may not exist anymore. When the economy crashed here in the US in 2009, it was virtually impossible to get a business loan. Many simply gave up trying. But that was then. The economy has changed and lenders are loaning again. Just because it didn’t work then does not mean one should not try now when things are different. You could be tied with string. What you remember as being insurmountable then is well within your power to do now.
  2. It’s impossible to steer a ship when it is not moving. In organizations beset by inertia and stagnation, the principle effect you want is movement. You want people to think, to project, to create, to propose, to experiment, to act. When the ship moves it can be steered. Your role as a leader is not to stand at the helm looking splendid in your captain’s uniform. No, your role is to guide and steer the ship. Everyone else gets to make it move. Let them do your job while you do yours.
  3. Never stomp on someone’s idea outright. It may indeed be a bad idea but don’t take the mere suggestion of it personal. Those who work for you and with you can either be associates or lackeys. How you respond to their suggestions says a lot about what you think about them, about yourself, and about your authority. People who have an inflated opinion of themselves and their position tend to dismiss others. But remember what I’ve written earlier, that a leader’s circle of concern is greater than their circle of ability. They need, indeed you need others to extend your reach, multiply your effectiveness, and divide your work.
  4. If it is indeed an unworkable idea, the mere suggestion of it suggests a teachable moment. So teach already. Define your objections, analyze and verify their validity, explain your reasons, invite participation and feedback in the discussion and, this is important here, come to the same conclusion together. There’s more to getting things done than just doing things. You are also in the process of developing capable people as well.

There are, of course, some things that will never work. But you need to be fair about discerning what they are. There’s more at stake here than just exercising your authority.

The one lesson learned in 2014 and what to do about it in 2015

CalendarIn little more than a few hours we’ll turn the calendar on another year. We look back on the year past with a little sadness at its passing and a little more gladness that it’s over. As we launch into a new year, we are forced by calendars and convention to turn the page, as it were, leave what was, and face what will be.

Having done this very thing for a good many decades, there is one lesson that stands out. It that we must leave what was behind if we are ever to partake of what is ahead. There are three cardinal rules that govern my actions. I have written of them before but it has been quite some time ago so they bear highlighting once more. They are:

  1. Build your life only on islands of health and strength. The “health and strength” part applies personally and corporately. Personally it means that by now you should know what you are good at and accept what you are not so good at. Although the opportunities may be many, the options need to be limited. Don’t even consider spending much time on projects or tasks that demand that you leave or neglect what you are good at to pursue things for which you are not well-equipped. Saying no in this case is as imperative as saying yes. The same applies to recruiting and delegating to others. Unless you do run a rehabilitation clinic, your job is to develop capable people not to spend hours in therapy trying to fix broken ones. I know it may sound callous, but time is passing and a new year highlights that more than just about anything else. Focus on producers and producing.
  2. Work only on things that will make a great deal of difference when you succeed. There just isn’t time to waste on the pursuit of the trivial and insignificant. Life offers lots of choices. Learn to evaluate them and select only pursuits that will result in significant changes. Some nice things do not promise enough reward. With limited time and energy, make you minutes and days count.
  3. Work only with those who are receptive to what you are trying to do. Your powers of persuasion and enthusiasm for your job will inspire and motivate many, but some are just not going to go along. Do not even try to convince someone against their will. I simply refuse to fight with someone. If I cannot persuade them, then there are those who are receptive. Oddly, the person you replaced will likely be the least receptive to you, even if s/he picked you as their successor. Your job is to move on which implies leaving what lies behind. The pace of your work is NOT determined by the most reluctant and resistant member. Find those who will buy in to your vision and take ownership of its many components.

If you were to measure 2014 by those three items, how did you do? What will you do differently for 2015? Got it figured out? Okay, do it.


Lessons in leadership and excellence from the managers of Parrot Key


parrot_key_grill_fortmyersbeach-0106Christmas in southwest Florida is the beginning of tourist season. While much of the rest of the country shovels snow, we enjoy moderate temperatures and sunny skies. On Friday evening, my wife and I decided to try out Parrot Key, an upper scale seafood eatery in a tropical Caribbean theme down at the beach..

At our table by the window we overlooked the marina and made our selection. Since we’d not been there before, and since we were not in any hurry, we took our time. The server came back to our table a few times, answered whatever questions we had, and made us feel like were her only customers.

The food was marvelous, the service attentive and proactive, and the setting lovely. Parrot Key is not a short drive from our house, but we will go back. As we finished the meal, we asked to see the manager. When the manager arrived a few minutes later, we congratulated her on a finely run restaurant and on the skill and competence of the server.

Since then I’ve thought about the experience and identified these lessons in leadership that I believe you will find enlightening, reassuring, and helpful.

  1. Experiences that turn out well for our customers is not accidental. It is the result of hiring the right people, careful training, detail-oriented management, and follow-through. It is obvious at Parrot Key that they do all four and do them well. I’ve been in a lot of beach joints in my life, love seafood and love the sea, but so many beach joints trade on their locale and on the fast turnover of a steady stream of tourists. Not many treat their customers like they needed them to come back. Parrot Key does.
  2. Exceptional service comes from people who can anticipate what is going to be needed and then make sure they supply it. In this case, Parrot key’s managers have done two things well. They have selected the right personnel who possess that oh-so-rare quality of foresight made manifest by a respect for the people they work for. I taught my children a secret when they began to enter the workforce. That secret is that they need to be able to intuit the anxiety index of their boss and make sure they never provoke it. Leaders need to do the same for those who work for them – anticipate what their employees will need, discern what makes them anxious, and do what we must to keep things calm. This means that the people who work with us look to us for certain things. We can do a great deal to even out the highs and lows of the job by thinking ahead. The Parrot Key people have obviously done that.
  3. Developing capable people means we as trainers, leaders, and managers know what those we train are going to need to know and when they are going to need to know it. We would like to hire people who already know that but hardly anyone does nor will they. Indeed, the essence of effective leadership is in the success e have in developing capable people under us. When we spoke with Parrot Key’s manager and complimented her on the service given us the manager said that they had made a good choice. Indeed, they had. I don’t know what method they use to select people but it works well. Hiring people is always a risk but it need not be a shot in the dark. Effective leaders develop methods of hiring, hone their people-picking skills over time, and learn to make good choices. Then, we make sure that the essentials are covered based on the requirements of the job and the values of the company. Effective restaurant managers understand that they are doing more than selling food. They understand that they are providing a certain dining experience that must meet the expectations of customers and satisfy the implied and expressed specifications of the company. Fast-food people must take and fulfill orders quickly. Dining establishments like Parrot Key have a different nature.
  4. It’s trite, but you only get one chance to make a first impression. Too many times we tend to look at averages. We tend to measure our business over a series of experiences. I’ll go back to Parrot Key, I’ve not been back to the others and don’t intend to. I visited a new car dealership nearby during one of the sales campaigns and was accosted, indeed almost assaulted by a sales person who came on so strongly that I had to fight him off. I have never been back, and were he the only car dealer in Florida, I would walk to Georgia to buy a car. We need to be committed to providing a stellar experience the very first time. Parrot Key made a good one.
  5. It is never enough to do one thing very well. We need to do many things better than our competitors. Success and excellence is the result of little touches, small steps that outpace others. That sets us apart and, more importantly, keeps us ahead.

Self-examination is sometimes difficult. So, why not consider an unrelated setting, like a Parrot Key? The principles that make for exceptional business are universal. You can make the application to your peculiar setting.


Developing Capable People – Fatal Flaw #3 – Carbon Copies


carboncopyThe line just under the title in the banner at the top of this page reads “Extend Your Reach, Multiply Your Effectiveness, Divide Your Work.” The objective of developing capable people is to expand your influence, get more done, and do less of the grunt work yourself.

It would seem to logically follow that the way to do this would be to raise up a cadre of others who are clones of yourself. After all, the logic would propose, if I can get this much done, lots more people like me can get lots more done.

But that is not the best use of your time and certainly not the best use of your effort nor in the end will it work very well. The reason you need to extend your reach is because there are people and opportunities that you cannot reach. And you cannot reach them because of who you are and how you do things.

Now, before you start to object, let me explain. We all have a set of unique gifts and an individual personality. Time and its experiences have honed the gifts and shaped the personality. We are therefore capable of doing some things very well and not doing others very well at all. We are amiable to some people and not so much to others. We attract some and repel others. Therefore, we need other people to complement us, to get where we cannot.

We are limited not only by time and energy. We are limited by gifts and personality even though our personal gifts may be many. Others can do for us what, in essence, we really cannot do for ourselves. That same principle, when we understand it and do something about it, will enable us to expand our effectiveness because we present a more complete set of gifts and capabilities.

But many leaders are uncomfortable working for very long or very loosely with people who are different than themselves.  We like to associate with others who are similar. We gravitate toward people who have the same type of interests, the same preferences, and the same temperament.

This proves my point. To try to multiply yourself through others who are just like you will only multiply the inefficiencies and the inadequacies. It will not compensate for them.

But there is another point. All leaders are terminal. No one will outlive themselves. Your tenure in your position (indeed, in life, too) is finite. You have a unique capability at this point in time that can serve your company or organization well.  But change is needed.

As gifted and capable as you are, there will come a time when someone with a different take on things will be needed to move the company or organization to the next level. Admittedly, leaders (especially politicians) have a hard time with this. Once we arrive at a place of power we tend to stay there, even when our effectiveness begins to wane. In the last post I wrote about this.

Those leaders who are most effective at developing capable people never limit themselves to candidates who are essentially clones of themselves…and they never try to make their followers into replicas. Why?

Because carbon copies are always weaker and carbon copies of carbon copies are weaker yet. If you’re in a location where copies are made by machines instead of carbon paper, the same principle applies. Even a photocopy is not quite as good as the original.

Thankfully, in leadership this should not be the intent because we are developing people who can go and do what we cannot (and need not). We are dividing our work because we are handing off responsibilities to others whose gifts and talents can better handle them, thus freeing us to do those things we can uniquely do.