Why you need FAT people to work for you and with you.

help wantedIn earlier posts I wrote about the three benefits of an effective strategic team; that they will 1) extend your reach, 2) multiply your effectiveness, and 3) divide your work.

Admittedly that is easier said than done. Hiring the right people is not a simple task. Of the many factors that must be considered – competence and confidence, skill and attitude, and experience and education, there are three critical criteria.

Members of an effective strategic team must be FAT – Faithful, Available, and Teachable.

FAITHFUL, although often seen in a religious sense, is referred to here to mean to be loyal and diligent. The loyalty I speak of has two dimensions. The first is obvious. Your associates must have the interests of your company or organization at heart. Yes, I know I have written often about the innate self-interest that captures us all and I am not contradicting that here. I am placing an emphasis now on channeling that self-interest so that is advances the objectives of your company or organization at the same time. The two are not mutually exclusive. But there is a subtle priority I think is critical. As important as institutional loyalty is, that is not the top level faithfulness that you need. You need associates who are PERSONALLY loyal. They are there to extend YOUR reach, multiply YOUR effectiveness, and divide YOUR work. Institutional loyalty can foster political ambition which seldom works out well for you. The appeal of power, prestige, and payola can become irresistible for some and they will find ways to work subversively. Read Machaiavelli’s The Prince and you’ll see what I mean.

The second side of Faithfulness is diligence. You have to have hard working people who handle their jobs responsibly. They cannot ever multiply your effectiveness and divide your work if you must constantly wonder whether they’ve shown up today and are exercising resourcefulness. Diligent people are careful to fulfill job requirements, handle tasks professionally, and here’s the kicker, report back to you. Faithful people are accountable people. You do not have to run them down to find out what they did or did not do, they report to you.

AVAILABLE means to two things as well. The most obvious is that they have the time to work for you. They are at hand, ready to serve, willing to participate, enthusiastic about working. Often availability is primarily considered in the passive sense. A car is available to drive – passive,but it won’t drive itself – active. In leadership you can afford very few passive participants. If you must be the starter, everything then focuses on you to get things going. Available people are active. They seek out responsibility. The look for ways to help. They volunteer. They offer ideas and methods

The second meaning hitchhikes on the first in that they are AVAIL –ABLE. Avail means efficacy, the effective use in the achievement of a goal or objective. They can grasp your objectives, marry them, and make them personal objectives. It is the efficacious side of this that you as a leader want to focus on. Remember, the context in which you work is focused on reaching objectives, making accomplishments, producing a visionary reality and AVAILABLE people help you make that happen.

TEACHABLE  means that they are not so insecure or so arrogant that they cannot take direction. Truly great people are truly great learners. There is a vast difference between confidence and conceit. Confident people know what they can do…and what they cannot. See my blog post where I reveal what Dirty Harry has to say about this here.

Teachable people are also ABLE To TEACH. They can bring others along, instruct and tutor others as well. To multiply your effectiveness and extend your reach you want to get beyond the first level. Those you influence must be able to influence another level of participants. You get more done when more things are being done by more people.

So, there it is. FAT people do you good. How have you found FAT people to work with you? What experience have you had with someone who was institutionally loyal (politically motivated) as opposed to personally loyal?

Who do you know that is struggling with working in isolation? Send this blog post on along to them.

NOTE: Today I am en route to Uganda, East Africa, where I will be working for the next six weeks. The internet works there (mostly) so I will be posting on my regular schedule although the time of day may vary. Stand by for leadership lessons from that side of the world.


7 reasons why “one and done” doesn’t work for leaders

one and doneThere is a good deal of satisfaction in finishing a job. I make lists of tasks then check them off as they are done. I’ve noticed, as I am certain you have, that many tasks are done repetitively.  It takes one skill set to start up a business but another skill set to keep it running and make it prosperous. The two are not always found in the same person or when they are, do not always rise to the surface at the right time.

Putting something in motion and expecting it to run itself is the snake oil sold by internet marketers. There simply is no such thing. Inventors have pursued the dream of a perpetual motion machine. None have been successful.

The same principles that prohibit the development of a perpetual motion machine apply to your work as a leader and manager. I know you are unbelievably busy and long for opportunities to turn over responsibilities to others and just walk away from them. But the hard reality is that cows never stay milked.

You can put everything in place perfectly, consider all the contingencies, and assure that the details are perfectly communicated and explained. But it won’t be long before the unseen and unforeseen will demand your attentionS.

Here are 7 reasons why one and done will not work for you.

  1. Friction between parts – Put two people together or put a person with a machine and somewhere sometime the very fact that two objects make contact either physically, psychologically, or mentally, friction will occur. And friction causes heat which is the product of energy loss. Friction causes wear and eventual failure somewhere. At the very least you will need to provide for regular maintenance. Like the oilers on old locomotives, you have to know where the wear points are and keep them lubed.
  2. Friction between parts and supporting structures – see number one. Even if a person works in isolation, they still must interact with paper and processes. Over time this can cause problems in some because of boredom, frustration over systems that work slowly or with sporadic interruptions, or the isolation itself. You’ve heard the expression “Things are running smoothly” so that’s what you have to do – keep things running smoothly.
  3. Wear and tear – nothing is new forever.  Stuff breaks and someone has to see that it gets fixed.
  4. Fuel depletion – motivation must be reinvigorated and you have a major role to play in that. Attention and interest from you, the boss, keeps energy levels higher.
  5. We live and work in a dynamic state not static. Our work settings involve change, movement, action, and therefore change. So what exists today will be different tomorrow. The cow needs to be milked twice a day.
  6. Because sharp becomes dull with time and use. Fresh and new devolves into stale and old. We all usually engage new jobs and new assignments with some excitement and energy. After a while the new is gone and drudgery sets in. Some routine and repetition can be reassuring, but the smartest and most creative among your associates will not be content for long.
  7. Except for birth and death, most life processes are cyclical and repetitive. Of note is the fact that processes change as we mature because the way we interact with the world around us changes as we understand it better. Letting people mature in their positions is important here. One manager objected when her superiors demanded that her department’s associates complete a number of forms. She reasoned that the forms were there to assure certain tasks were completed and that the forms were unnecessary because the associates in her department had proven over time that they responsibly carried out those tasks without being reminded or monitored. “I work with grown-ups,” she said, “so those forms are insulting to their intelligence and sense of responsibility.” She was correct. What was necessary, even reassuring, to a child can be insulting to an adult.

As tempting as it may be to assign responsibilities, you can never completely divorce yourself from them. You may be able to hand off large and heavy loads, but somewhere along the way smart managers and leaders take a measure of just how well things are going.

What experience have you had in this area? Did you hand something off and walk away from it? What happened? If it worked just fine, why? If not, what happened and why? If you know an overworked colleague who gets frustrated at the demands made on his time and attention, pass this article on to him.

9 tasks of leadership, Task #6 – Explaining

focusOne division of my consulting practice focuses on the unique challenges of non-profit organizations. One client was an inner city church in a mid-size northeastern city. The founding pastor had built his congregation around his vision of an activist congregation doing as much as it could to assist and address the needs of the varied population that lived in their past-its-prime neighborhood.

All went well for a few years but a peculiar thing happened. The congregation formed from the people of the neighborhood but because of their participation with the church, they soon became ex-addicts, ex-hookers, and ex-alcoholics. They turned their lives around, found steady jobs and held them, organized their finances and life, and began to prosper.

As they prospered, they could afford to live somewhere else so they moved a moderate distance away into up and coming neighborhoods, leaving their old haunts literally behind. The men and women who did so eventually rose to positions of responsibility and authority within the church and began to petition the pastor to move the congregation out of its home neighborhood to a more suburban location nearer their home. The drive, although it was but 15 minutes or so, had become a source of irritation to them and they wanted a church nearer home.

The pastor asked me what to do because the clamor was growing. Here was my advice:

At the next board meeting, do not permit anyone to take a seat around the table.  As soon as they are all assembled, herd them into the church’s van and take them for a slow drive. Drive up and down the streets in the church’s immediate neighborhood, narrating the tour along the way. Point out the hookers standing on street corners, the crack houses, the alcoholics panhandling, the obvious human suffering on plain and daily display in the streets the church called home.

Then, in no uncertain terms EXPLAIN to those board members that the reason the church exists is not to provide a convenient location for them to enjoy the social and spiritual benefits of a congregation but that the congregation continue to expand in the same way it was born and had grown thus far.

The longer a group exists, the less it remembers why it exists.

It is the leader’s job to EXPLAIN what the purpose is and do so in a manner that keeps the vision alive and well.  I don’t mean this in the “You’ve got some explaining to do, Lucy” sense. Explaining means more like illuminating, a term I could have used but it seemed somehow too saintly and just a bit pompous. So the word “explaining” will have to do. If you want another word or two, try illustrating, defining, applying, articulating, even incarnating in the sense of precipitating the lofty concepts that may have been written in some board room somewhere so that it rains real drops onto the people who compose your group, whether it be a small team or the entire company.

Remind them then, how that the everyday tasks they are called upon to perform play directly into the pursuit of that vision. (NOTE: If those everyday tasks do not readily contribute to the pursuit of vision you must soberly ask why you do them.)

So, tell me, how well do you explain your vision regularly? At what points can you identify have you been able to re-energize your group by reminding them of purpose? Send a comment below and let me and the others know.

I imagine you would like to know what happened to that church. Well, the pastor did as I advised and the result was as I predicted. The board members refocused their attention away from their own comfort and convenience and refocused on purpose. It worked!

9 tasks of leadership, Task #3 – Capitalizing on motivation


Adam36 - http://www.stockfreeimages.com/
Adam36 – http://www.stockfreeimages.com/

Motivation cannot be readily created by a single, isolated act. Motivation can be unlocked, channeled, and maintained, but you cannot create motivation that endures from a pep talk, a monthly award, or a company newsletter.

People are motivated or they are not. Wouldn’t it be helpful to have a motivational act you as a leader can perform that would work like an energy drink? It’s been tried but it takes much more than that to make motivation stick.

Most skilled leaders know that the secret is to capitalize on the motivation that intrinsically exists within their associates and keep the fire burning. It is far, far easier to perpetuate motivation than it is to initiate motivation.

Why? Because motivation is much more personal and individualized and requires far more effort than bromides of enthusiasm can ever hope to unleash or perpetuate.

Motivation is the result of successful encounters with the exigencies of life. Victory begets victory. Failure sets us up for another one. Few people rebound readily and quickly from failure if the preponderance of their experience has been failure. Few people tackle new assignments with vigor if their past ones were not successful. So, you have to grab enthusiasm where and when it exists then do what needs to be done to keep it going.

Here are 5 keys to capitalizing on intrinsic motivation:

  1. Do what you need to do to comprehend the hopes and fears of your associates. Some are universal, most are personal. Let me say again that motivation is very, very personal. There are general principles to be sure, but each person runs on their own blended fuel.
  2. Appreciate bread and butter needs. For some, the need for the next paycheck is paramount. For others, their energy comes from more intangible assets like job satisfaction, admiration for their boss, or helping people solve problems.
  3. Appreciate the need for security in a broad sense, i.e., confidence in the group they work for and with to solve problems. A major retail corporation recently announced a comprehensive modification of the way it does business. It was going to bring the company into the 21st century with a capital investment in technology. The news was met with cynicism (motivation’s negative counterbalance) by the company’s employees because the company had been promising an updated computer system for over five years and failed to produce even a minor advancement. To support their commitment to the future, the company spent multiple millions on I-phones for the sales floor. The problem was the I-phones worked worse than the old wireless phone system. Soon, employees were carrying both I-phones and the new phones. Then, the company installed credit card swipe machines at sales desks throughout the store in major departments. With great fanfare the machines were introduced, but they wouldn’t work. It seems the company could not work out the technological side of connecting the machines to the store’s computer system. They kept revising the date when the machines would become operational until they finally announced that they had no idea when they would get them to work. Every employee saw the non-functional machines setting on the desks every day, reminded that the company had yet again failed to follow through with its big promises. Confidence by the associates in the group’s ability to solve its problems plummeted and remains virtually non-existent.
  4. Comprehend your associates’ longing for a good future. They have hitched their hopes, ambitions, and dreams to you and your organization and have every right to expect that the future will be better than the present.
  5. Inspire confidence by being upfront about reality. One manager completely de-motivated his sales staff when he announced that the company was cutting sales commissions and retaining any earned vendor spiffs by saying “This is a positive move going forward.” The associates not only faced a reduced paycheck, but now considered their boss to be out of touch with reality.

When associates lose confidence, it provokes images of defeat and failure, helplessness, and self-contempt. Any and all of those emotions deflate motivation. The result is employees who go through the motions but bring little more to the job than their physical presence.

The direct result is incapacity to summon energy and creativity in the pursuit of purpose. Associates demonstrate an unwillingness to take risks which yields a fatal timidity to act when moments of opportunity break. They will move less meaning you will have to move more.

The most common response when negative attitudes arise is bureaucratic defensiveness with the result that the entire system rigidifies. A stand-off  brings the whole movement to a stop. Those who had been committed to their job and their company and more than enthusiastic about making the company a success (because the company’s success translated into personal success) now abandon that notion.

So, the most effective approach is to not go down that road at all. Remember that every person on the face of the earth is wired to WIIFM – What’s In It For Me? It is your job as leader to channel that righteous self-interest in such a way that BOTH their interests and yours are fed.

Helping your associates grow

I want a staff entirely populated by trusted associates. Everyone does but hardly anyone has a staff who function at that level all the time. Someone somewhere at some time is unaware, that is to say, they are unconsciously incompetent.

You’ve probably seen this chart but I’ve put it in for a visual reference. Louis, the intern mentioned in the two previous posts, functioned more at that level that at any other, but was blissfully unaware of his incompetence. The operative word here is “blissfully”. Louis was incompetent, did not know he was incompetent, but had never been put up against visible, measureable, cognitive standards of awareness and performance to the point that he could grasp his incompetence.

He didn’t know that he didn’t know and, in that happy state of foggy standards, had appraised himself to be above average.

Effective leaders cyclically expose followers to concepts, skills, ideas, and tasks they don’t already know. This is called growth.

Notice I said cyclically. I did not say continually or regularly. To do so regularly or continually will provoke frustration, anger, fatigue, dismay, and deflation. People need positive reinforcement and a sense of accomplishment if they are to remain motivated.

But, they also need to be challenged if they are to avoid arrogance and self-righteousness. So, don’t nag, it works against you.

If you have people in your staff at the lowest level – forced laborer, (See the chart here) you should consider either finding a place for them to function somewhere else, or hand them off to a subordinate who can manage them thus freeing you to lead the others.

At the other three levels you can by and large leave people alone to do their jobs unless and until your direct intervention is called for. You, as leader, are monitoring and measuring two critical components – competence and confidence.

What are you looking for? You are looking for the teachable moment, that point when the person you are leading becomes aware that either they are ignorant of a required skill, attitude, aptitude, or insight and need to be instructed or they know of it but need coaching to integrate the skill, attitude, or aptitude.

If you try to intervene when a person is confident and competent your intervention will be regarded as interference and provoke resentment. If you try to intervene when the person is unconsciously incompetent, you will confound them.

I am not suggesting that you simply leave people alone to flounder around until they get so frustrated they ask for help. I am suggesting that you lead, not ignore. Remember the three essential skills of effective leadership?

  1. Understand what’s going on all the time everywhere.
  2. Know what needs to be done.
  3. The ability to influence those you lead to follow your leadership.

So, your role is to:

  1. Know where you want to go with the person you’re working with.
  2. Know where you are.
  3. Know what steps to take to get from where you are to where you want to go.
  4. Do that over and over.

The function of development is cyclical. It should get easier along the way because you build confidence within the person(s) you are leading and you strengthen their confidence between you and them so they more comfortably respond to your leadership. They develop confidence in your competence while they deepen confidence in their own competence too.

How to multiply your effectiveness – the 4 levels of ability in your associates


NOTE: This post is a continuation of a topic I started last week. If you haven’t read it already, I suggest you begin with “How to multiply your effectiveness – 2 critical assessments you must make.”

4 levelsI ended the previous post with a promise to disclose how Louis rated himself. But before I do let me ask you?  What would a person with the experience and insight you possess predict would be Louis’ self-appraisal?

Where on the scale found in figure 2 do you think he would place himself?

Before I tell you where Louis placed himself, let me define and explain what those four descriptors mean.

 At the highest level is a trusted associate who can grasp the essence of your vision, your objectives, and your purposes and find ways to make them reality with as much vigor and dedication as if they were his or her own. We all hope we can find these rare individuals to work for us because they need almost no input from us. There is a fire within them that needs no kindling, no stoking, no ignition. They possess such insightinsight understanding and understanding they can perceive what is important to you, define a number of processes to complete your objectives, garner the resources towards those objectives, and voluntarily come to you with a full accounting of what they’ve done.

 If you’ve ever dined at a fine restaurant with exceptional service you know what I mean. The server anticipates your every need. Glasses are filled before you ask, the food is prepared as you like it because the server knows you and wants to make the meal an event – for you.

 As much as you may want those who work for you to be fulfilled and challenged, in the end it really is about you, your vision, your objectives, your profitability, and your circle of concern. Trusted associates know that, accept that, and do everything in their power to achieve that. This is not as true with the others on the scale.

 Next level down is a reliable assistant who is nearly as valuable and capable as a trusted associate with one major distinction. They are slightly less confident in their capacity to understand what needs to be done so they interact with you more. These are highly capable people who can garner resources and make things happen if and when they understand what to do. They will come to you for clarification, check with you for verification, and look to you for validation. It won’t take much to get a fire going under reliable assistants nor will it take much involvement on your part to keep the fire going.

 The next two down the scale are defined by one distinctive character trait that sets them apart from the first two. Neither hired hands nor forced laborers have you, your vision, your objectives, or your circle of concern as their primary concern. They are most consumed with themselves. They work for wages. They labor for what the job pays them and have little concern for what they contribute to the job beyond what is earns them. Their investment in your career extends only to the next paycheck. Some cannot think even that far ahead.

 Before you object that everyone, including trusted associates and reliable assistants works for pay, let me counter that while it is somewhat true, it is not the primary motivating force for trusted associates and reliable assistants but it is for hired hands and forced laborers. The vested interest of hired hands and forced laborers in their jobs is not the satisfaction of tasks well-performed, it is in the paycheck quickly cashed…and just as quickly spent.

 A hired hand will do what you tell him to do in the manner you tell him to do it, to the extent you supervise his performance. For him the adage is true – You don’t get what you expect, you get what you inspect. Most manager/leaders, who encounter the hired hand more than any other type of worker, soon realize the amount of time and energy they consume will be substantial, and give up. However, many hired hands have the potential to become more productive and can become even more valuable assets to your team. They can work hard and with some training, free you from routine tasks.

 Forced laborers are hired hands who have to be coerced into action. They consume vast amounts of energy both in the effort it takes to find them and make them work and in fixing the mistakes they make. These bottom feeders can say the right things and mask their consumer mentality. If you encounter one, you will soon discover you are expending way more resources than you are getting out. The best thing to do is cut them loose. They do not possess the potential to improve so they will not be potential producers.

 “You cannot multiply a positive factor (that’s you) by a negative factor (that’s a forced laborer) and expect a positive result.”

You know who said that?

I said that. How often have you tried to do just that? I am certain I could redeem a year or more of work time if I could get back all the hours I’ve wasted trying to motivate the inert. There are no magic methods to turn a black hole into an energy resource. You can multiply your effectiveness by passing off responsibility only to those with the potential to shoulder it.

 4 levels plusYou multiply your effectiveness by handing off responsibility to people who will fulfill it as if you were doing it yourself.

 The energy you expend to work through a trusted associate or reliable assistant pays big dividends. The energy expended working with hired hands can often be an equity trade – equal parts in to equal parts out. The effort spent on forced laborers is always misspent. Too much time is required on your part, too much effort, to much supervision, and too much management. They divide your effectiveness, not multiply it.

 I began this chapter with an account of the performance appraisal Jeff made of Louis. Louis was, at that point in his development, a hired hand. When asked where he would place his performance, he incredulously pointed to the top level – that of trusted associate. How should Jeff respond? How would you respond?

 The operation of multiplication requires two integers. In its simplest and most used form, one integer is made greater by the other. In our specific application here, you and I are made more effective by the participation of another person. In the aforementioned interview, Jeff had an opportunity to increase his effectiveness as a leader and manager by what he said and what he did with Louis.

 He could have played out the summer without doing anything. Louis would go back to school and nothing would happen. But that is in itself not the most expedient thing. Even if Louis made no changes, even if he did not grow as an employee and associate, Jeff could increase his skill as a leader/manager, thus becoming more effective.

 There is the possibility that Jeff’s actions could make a difference in Louis’ performance for the remainder of his term and become more productive. Then, Jeff would multiply his effectiveness.

 Here is the problem. Louis suffered from incompetence in certain areas. He was lacking in certain job skills and he was out of touch with his true value as an employee. He was incompetent but didn’t know it.

 On Thursday’s post I will address the critical place of the teachable moment. See you then.




How to Multiply Your Effectiveness – 2 critical assessments you must make

4 levelsJeff does not enjoy performance appraisals. His lack of enthusiasm for the task stems not from any reluctance on his part to scrutinize and identify strong and weak places in his staff’s performance nor does it arise from apprehension over the need to make corrections if needed. Indeed, Jeff’s lack of enjoyment comes from his opinion that most people suffer at least some delusion as regards their performance on the job. In the previous chapter I recounted Phil’s incapacity to see how others perceived him. Jeff considers that capacity for self-deceit, sometimes to the point of delusion, to be nearly universal. So do I.

Jeff set an appointment with a young man we’ll call Louis who was serving as an intern during his summer break from classes at college. He was and is a very pleasant young man. He’s gentle-spirited, easy-going, and willing to work hard, but he’s not the brightest bulb in the chandelier. Being young and inexperienced Jeff did not expect him to understand the scope of the organization or the many tasks that had to be performed. Jeff’s typical approach to performance appraisals is to ask the worker to first appraise his own performance because…

A person’s ability to discern and accept his own zones of competence and pockets of incompetence is key to successful personal growth and improvement.

Associates and workers with the capacity for accurate, unenhanced self-assessment are the safest and most reliable building blocks in your organization. When you ask someone, “Can you do this?” you have to be confident their answer is based on your powers of evaluation and their capacity for reliable self-assessment. Why? Because you are committed to extending your reach, multiplying your effectiveness, dividing your work, and quickening your pace and you must achieve those objectives through other people.

A responsible person is one who is response-able.

Response-able associates can both understand just what it is you are asking of them and know whether it is within their capacity to meet your expectations. A response-able worker has the capacity to return the assignment to you completed on time, brought in within budget, and finished at the level of refinement required by the job criteria. This means there are two factors that must be measured.

Competence – the expertise, skills, talent, and capacity necessary to fulfill the objectives of the assignment.

Confidence – the motivation, commitment, and capacity to work independently, even at a minimal skill level.

Jeff had experienced some challenges in work assignments given to Louis. Jeff had found Louis needed almost constant supervision and tasks assigned to him had to be broken down in small incremental actions if he was ever to get through them. As the performance appraisal interview progressed, Jeff asked Louis to rate himself on the scale found in figure 2. How did he rate himself?

Find out in the next post Monday. Thanks for dialing in.

Barrier #4 – We Lead By One Approach Most of the Time

man at chartOur particular, and in some cases peculiar, personality style gives rise and abets a favorite leadership style. In the 1960’s, Douglas McGregor’s study suggested two divergent leadership/management styles – Type X and Type Y. The Type X style, according to the researcher, is a top-down, task oriented style. Type X managers favor giving orders, making demands, setting standards, enforcing rules, and exercising discipline. Type Y managers favor participative, team-building management. Most of us usually mix the two with one approach dominating the other. Continued management and leadership style research now favors a gradient of approaches from very directive to very disengaged.

All of us have a favorite approach, even though most of us have not identified it nor do we consciously apply it. Like talents, our favored, most often used management/leadership style is a natural response, the one on which we most often rely. We can, with education and training, learn other styles and apply them with varying degrees of success. This is where a strategic association comes in. Strategic associates can both point out our favored style and provide additional approaches to management in our reach for the outer limits of our circle of concern.

This is not a series on management/leadership styles so I won’t explore them in depth just yet (coming though). However, a brief description should provoke you to begin the process of identification of the one(s) you most naturally apply. At the risk of over-simplifying a complex subject, there are four basic approaches to leading/managing others. Two relate to task effectiveness, that is, getting things done. Two favor relationships, that is, getting people involved.

The “hands-off” style supports task effectiveness although in a peculiar way. Hands off leaders are nearly disengaged from the work process. They lead by not leading, believing their absence or lack of participation will create a vacuum thus forcing others to get involved. This can be ineffective but there are times when it is the best thing to do. If you have an associate that is ready to take on more responsibility, your withdrawal will push them into action. The hands-off manager leader typically withdraws, postpones, and avoids responsibility. Only the most self-motivated, self-directing people will put up with it for long. Conversely, highly motivated, capable, and self-starting people actually like a hands-off manager. They tend to regard participation by a manager or supervisor as interference and welcome his or her distance.

The “hands-on” manager/leader is so focused on objectives to be reached and efficiency of operations that people are often considered to be objects. Task oriented manager and leaders regiment, judge, and reward or punish behavior. They are often considered control freaks, especially if they seldom or never manifest another style. This type of manager/leader will have a difficult time adding others to a strategic partnership for long, but when the chips are down and a drop-dead crisis is approaching this is exactly the type of style needed.

“Let’s talk” manager and leaders concern themselves with people more than projects. They are most dedicated to getting everyone involved. They tend to entertain, want to have lots of fun, avoid judgement (even when a little discernment and direction would be helpful), and they often seek approval. This style can be misinterpreted. Rather than assuming the partnership is capable and self-directing, person-oriented manager/leaders can assume the group is fragile and needs them to provide cohesion and support.

“All work” manager leaders seem to include all the above, but they typically are a bit more task-oriented than not. They are totally involved in the workplace and the work process. They typically initiate participation, involve others, assimilate ideas, reinforce behavior, and solidify conclusions and decisions. This style can be put offish to some who don’t want to be more than casually involved or those who are self-starting, self-directing, self-motivating.

At either end are two styles most ineffective and irritating, but they bear mentioning. There is the slave, a person who serves at the beck and call of everyone they work with. It can hardly be called a management/leadership style because it neither manages nor leads. It lets everyone else do so. Slaves cannot build a strategic partnership because they cannot find the time or energy to do what’s important to themselves. They are quite occupied doing what everyone else wants done.

Then there is the martyr. Similar to the slave, this person works very hard and does what others won’t, but they are quite vocal about it. The martyr uses their hard work and willingness to help as a lever to meddle in everyone else’s affairs and make them feel guilty for not doing what they, the martyr are quite willing to do. Gifted manipulators they, martyrs cannot build an effective strategic partnership because they won’t claim responsibility for their own desires and objectives. They have them, they just won’t or can’t let anyone think they would ever do anything so selfish and self-serving as pursue a personal goal. I’ll discuss this in depth in the chapter on motivation and manipulation.

Why Do You Need Others?

If you are ever going to engage the outer limits of your circle of concern, you will have to employ and deploy others. The talents with which you were born, the time granted to you, the personality developed within you, and the management/leadership style manifested by you have brought you to the point of success and the brink of exhaustion. You might have even tried to assimilate others into your partnership of assistants. You have probably done so with varying degrees of success. The first and most critical concern is selecting the right people, ones who will indeed facilitate your success. There are people who will extend your reach, multiply your effectiveness, and divide your work. If you’ve tried to light a fire under others before and gotten burned, then read on. There is an easy and simple method for determining who to recruit.

Here’s A Simple Task That Will Extend Your Reach Right Now!

Retrieve the lists you made at the conclusion of the post “2 choices & 3 tasks to change your life today”.

Review each name on the list of people you can immediately conscript. For each one answer the following questions:

  1. To what task or position on my “give away” list will this person be assigned?
  2. Is this person a good personality match to work with me in the task or position for which they are being considered?
  3. Will my natural leadership style provide the right kind of support in this capacity?
  4. How, exactly, will this person extend my reach?

Barrier #3 – We Have Preferences Because of Our Personality

relayraceEvery person is a blend of attitudes, opinions, gifts, and experiences. There are open people who will readily reveal things about themselves. Others who are more closed would not tell someone very near them. Some are quite direct and to the point. Others can be so indirect that some consider them devious, even scheming and conniving. If you are open and direct, indirect and closed people will find you forward and threatening. If you are indirect and open, others will wonder why you don’t get to the point and focus on the topic at hand. If you are indirect and closed, others might consider you to be devious. If you are direct and closed, others will likely consider you to be solitary and hard-driving.

In the grand setting of leadership and life, no personality style is superior to another nor is one more effective than another. They’re just different. People of every personality type achieve success and enjoy effectiveness, but the really successful and effective ones have done two things.

First, they have accurately identified their personal manner and style, understood what advantages they lend and what disadvantages they offer. They learn, hopefully sooner rather than later and easier rather than harder, that the personality they brought with them from birth through adolescence both propels them forward and holds them back.

Second, successful people add to themselves those who will supplement their strengths and compensate their weaknesses. Only secure, confident people can do this. They identify what they will need before they qualify whom they would add.

The upshot is that you will likely be able to relate well to only about 25% of those you work with.  (Check back to this post for a real-life example of how this syndrome manifested itself in a real-life setting.) The problem comes when we don’t recognize this as a fact of life and take action to compensate for it.

I do not think you can correct it. You are who you are by virtue of the personality your encoded genetically and by the training you received as your matured. With some knowledge of your personality type and management preferences, you can adapt…somewhat. In an earlier post I addressed the differences between Y and X style leadership, first identified and articulated by Douglas MacGregor. This calls for an adaptation of your APPROACH to managing tasks in any given set of circumstances. As an intelligent and self-aware person, you should have little challenge managing this.

But the large set of behaviors that make up your overall personality which manifests itself all day every day is another story. Those behaviors are written in the code and cannot be readily rewritten. So, accept that as a fact and do what must be done to compensate for it. This series is dealing with the four barriers to extending your reach so that you are able to find and address the limits of yourcircle of concern circile of concern which doubtless extends well beyond the circle of your abilities.

Knowing what those limits are is a start. Accepting those limits as you would accept any set of conditions is progress. Doing something intelligent and appropriate is great progress.

Here’s a common mistake. When leaders add people to their strategic staff, they often add people who are just like they are. Those staff additions are people with similar personalities and temperament. Why do we add people like ourselves?

Because we are comfortable with them. We understand them. We like them. But that will not readily extend your reach! Surely, they can do more things because they are another moving body. But they cannot do things necessarily differently and better than you can, just more of the same.

You will want to add people who possess skills and traits that complement yours but not simply duplicate yours. The idea is to get more done, yes. But it is also to get everything done. And that demands people with additional skill sets and personality traints. They can reach people that you cannot easily and comfortably reach. They can motivate and connect with others who might find your personality uncomfortable to be around (admit it now, there are those who just don’t like you and that’s not because your an unlikeable person).

We call personality and skill deficiencies SHORT-comings because they cause us to fall short of where we want to be. Longer reaches require others who can make up for those short-comings. So, identify yourself. Use plain and accurate terms to detail who you are, what you can readily do, and who you are not and cannot readily do.

List out the skills and traits that compensate your own generous set of skills and traits. Find those people and bring them on board. Hear’s a caution though. Find people who possess the maturity to COMPENSATE you not COMPETE with you. In no uncertain terms define what you are ddoing with them, why you have selected them to compensate, and what you expect.

Monday’s post will reveal the final barrier to extending your reach. See you then.

Barrier #2 – We Can Do Many Things, But Not Everything

busyIn the previous post I defined Barrier #1 – We Have Limited Time. Today I will define barrier #2 – We can do many things but we cannot do everything. (Hint – this is a longer article than I normally like to post but I am confident you will find it worthwhile.)

So then, what talents do you have? By this time in life, you probably know. But can you list them? Maybe not.

Many people just do certain things and avoid others without considering why. What do you do for a hobby? Of the many tasks that confront you every day, what tasks do you perform first? What bores you? What do you put off as long as you can? If the schedule gets tight, what falls through the cracks? What do you do when no one is paying you to do it? What do others consistently ask you to do?

We typically gravitate toward tasks and responsibilities that employ our innate gifts and away from those that don’t. While knowledge may be acquired and skills developed, talents are what come naturally and easily to you. Talents, when put into action, make us feel good about ourselves and what we have done. We employ them precisely because they are comfortable. Tasks and responsibilities outside our natural deposit of talents make us feel stressed, anxious, or unsatisfied.

Talents show up everywhere – at home, at work, in recreation. If we have a talent for planning, we plan everything. Even the routine of planning is planned. If we are visionaries, we see the future with excitement and anticipation. If we are organizers, we organize everything and everyone who will let us. But as much as talents are natural and show up everywhere, they are invisible.

When do others get annoyed with you? This question is so often the best clue of your talent. Our greatest strength is also our greatest weakness because we overuse our talents, especially when we don’t know what our talents are. Unrecognized talents are dangerous. We rely on our talent even when it’s not needed. For instance, a skillful planner ignores creative input because she’s too logical. A take-charge manager unwittingly discourages others from sharing his ideas. A research scientist continues to gather data long after it’s time for a decision. An entrepreneur takes unnecessary risks when it’s critical to play it safe. There’s an old saying: To someone with only a hammer everything looks like a nail. When we know our talents, we can optimize our strengths and minimize our weaknesses.

Want to find out what your talents are? Complete this sentence:

I am _____________________________________.

  • Don’t respond with a job title. This exercise is not about your career, it’s about you as a person. Respond with adjectives that describe the unique qualities you bring to any situation (innovative, creative, determined, easygoing…).
  • Respond with nouns that define the roles you most often, most comfortably play (leader, follower, number-two person, planner, organizer, motivator, problem-solver, etc.).
  • Insert the word “that” and complete the sentence with words describing the benefit others receive from your presence and participation ( resolves conflict, gets things going, builds coalitions, etc.).

When you’re finished it should look something like this: “I am a focused, creative visionary that gets things going.”

Below is a list of fifteen possible talents. Identify several talents that are easy for you. Remember, talents are natural, knowledge is acquired, skills are developed. Which of these possible talents jump out and attach themselves naturally to you?

I am a Creator – I love to innovate.

I take abstract ideas and turn them into concrete projects (or timelines, products or services) that others can use. However, once the idea or project is fleshed out, I lose interest.

Implementer – I am action-oriented.

I know how to get things done. I often don’t come up with the original idea, but I know how to make things happen. Just tell me what’s needed and turn me loose. Everything starts moving when I’m involved.

Facilitator – I keep the process moving.

I make sure that people are getting along and focusing on what needs to be done. I see the value of different views and help people appreciate other perspectives.

Visionary – I see what can be.

I see where we need to go in the future. My ideas are ahead of their time. I can imagine what does not yet exist. I see new possibilities. It takes others a while to see what I’m trying to describe.

Analyzer – I see the factors at work in situations.

I can take in large amounts of data and identify trends. When something goes wrong, I can sort through the facts and get to the bottom of it. I use a rational, logical approach to solving problems.

Planner – I put things in sequence.

I anticipate what’s needed. I can see where problems might arise and what we need to do to have everything work out well. I lay out what needs to be done and if people follow my plan, things go smoothly.

Coordinator – I join this to that.

I like to orchestrate events. I bring people together and coordinate a host of details in order to pull off a project or event. I can keep track of a million details and bring it all together in the end.

Mentor – people look to me for advice, direction, input.

I enjoy developing people. I am often a coach or a sponsor for individuals or initiatives. I like to teach or advise individuals and I take an interest in them.

Promoter – I talk things up, get people involved.

I get others interested in new ideas, products or services. I generate enthusiasm by talking to lots of people and bring attention to new ideas, projects and possibilities.

Integrator – I fit things and people in.

I bring people and ideas together. I see the interrelationships between ideas or tasks and connect them to achieve a common purpose.

Improver – I’m not critical, I simply see flaws easily.

I quickly see problems inherent in a new design or document or plan. I quickly find the mistakes and flaws. If you don’t like criticism, don’t run your ideas by me. I like to improve an idea and make it better.

Developer – I build something where there was nothing.

I like to develop new ideas, projects or businesses and make them successful. I can take a small project or idea and develop it into a large, successful project, prototype or business that has value and that others want.

Investigator – I sniff out information.

I like to research the facts. I gather data from many sources and synthesize what I find. I search out new information from diverse sources. I never have enough data. If it requires research, let me do it.

Broker – I network this person with that one.

I like to put people in touch with one another. I have a broad network of friends and associates that I connect with each other. Others come to me to find valuable resources they need for projects.

Communicator – I like being the one in the know and letting others in on what’s happening.

I like to communicate what’s going on. I am often in the know about things. People come to me to find out what’s happening.


Knowing what I’m good at is one-third the equation.

We also need to know what we’re not good at. If I do some things well, I do other things not so well and I do some things poorly. If I want to extend my reach, multiply my effectiveness, divide my work, and quicken my pace I can use help in those things I don’t do so well and absolutely must have help for those things I do badly. But there is a final element that threatens both of the first two.

Because you are effective as the result of your unique talents, you probably think that others should be like you. It is hard for planners to understand why others can’t, or won’t plan. If you broker people together, you might not have much patience with someone who prefers to work alone. Trying to make everyone like yourself, or even assuming they should be, is a fatal mistake.

Without doubt, you have discovered that your talents have yielded a certain degree of success, maybe even a great degree of it. And you probably consider your particular talents to be more valuable and worthy than those manifested by others. Most humans do even if they won’t or can’t admit it.

The reality is they aren’t.

There are reaches of your circle of concern that are out of reach for you as you are. And if you are out of touch with yourself, your strengths, and your weaknesses, they will remain elusive. Discover who you are, what you are good at, what you are not so good at, and what talents you need to fill the gap.

Further, it isn’t a good idea to add someone too much like yourself to the mix because of inevitable conflict.

Two planners will battle over whose plans will be used. Two promoters will vie for the loudest voice. Two visionaries, perhaps the most dangerous marriage, lead to the most threatening condition – two visions, which is division. So while you are likely most comfortable with someone of like mind and ability, and you will be stretched to make room for someone whose strengths do not match your own, it is a good tension. For example, if you’re an innovator, you might feel someone who is an analyzer is slowing you down. Just remember that you select the talent you need. You don’t need and shouldn’t try to add every other major talent to your strategic partnership of assistants. Pick people whose talents, knowledge, and skill further your own in the dimensions of concern that are uniquely and particularly yours.

Inasmuch as you are naturally gifted and talented, you are as uniquely developed as a personality. Your genes provided the basic mix of traits that make you, well, you. Your childhood molded and shaped them further. The sum of personal experiences, good and bad, produced the person living inside your skin at this moment. That personality causes you to relate to others, and consequently provokes them to respond to you, in a manner both beneficial and detrimental.

On Thursday, I will define barrier #3 – We have preferences because of our personality.