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Are You Self-Aware Enough To “Lead By Example?”
Our guest blogger is Lonnie Martin, Vistage Chair. For more information about Vistage, please visit http://www.vistage.com.
I wonder how many times I’ve been asked what leadership is all about?…many, many times. My answer always includes that oft spoken yet vague cliché “leading by example” that I picked up along the way of my life and made my own. I decided to think the other day what that phrase means beyond the obvious.
I played on a lot of sport teams in my life, and probably the first time I heard “lead by example” was from one of my coaches. You could guess how a coach uses the phrase to mold behavior, e.g. come to practice on time, run hard to 1st base on infield hits, wear my uniform right, etc. But the phrase stuck with me…and that’s because my leadership style has been to not ask something of an employee that wasn’t both important (in my view) and that I wasn’t willing to do myself.
Plus, when I used that phrase I also hoped my employees would embody all those attributes of myself that I considered to be my “good qualities.”
It was only much later when I realized I might also be unthinkingly setting the example of my less good traits.
In fact, we do lead by example. People pay attention to what leaders do in ways large, small, and even very small. The examples and patterns we purposely, or inadvertently or unconsciously, set in their eyes might be good, or less good, or even bad with respect to what’s required to operate a company, to serve customers, to interact with each other, to accomplish individual and team goals, etc.
I do indeed believe leadership is leading by example, and actually, maybe it’s only about that—what part of running a business, or department isn’t encompassed by “leading by example?”
But are you self-aware enough about how you go about your business and personal life so everybody has a chance to observe and mimic what’s important to you? The list of things we do to set examples, and that people observe about us is endless. Are you on time? Do you listen well? Are you organized or disorganized? Are you detail oriented? Do you follow up promptly? Do your meetings have agendas? How do you treat customers? How do you deal with stress? Etc., etc., etc. ad infinitum.
There are no right answers about the very many best practices in running a business, and different businesses may need or want practices others don’t want. But as the leader you do need to think deeply about all those practices you believe serve the business the best, and then live all of them all the time to the best of your ability so your employees understand the basis of your expectations. And you need to always be on the search for “better best practices” than you even know (which is one thing a Vistage CEO peer group is great at uncovering).
There’s been a long running “nature-or-nurture” debate as to whether leaders are born or can be molded/made. My conclusion is that the best leaders are the most self-aware and think the deepest about all those individual traits (we often call that culture) and practices that a business needs to consistently practice. And in my view, both can be learned and/or decided…we need not count on Mother Nature to randomly anoint good leaders.
If you’re not a good leader then either you haven’t thought too deeply about what cultural traits/behaviors the business needs to be successful, or your own behavior is not consistent with that culture leading to confusion among the troops. One of the most important examples for a leader to set is to not let the organization deviate from that culture through benign neglect or compromise.
A Period of Reengineering Your Company
We have all been touched in some way by the economic downturn in our region, professionally and personally. Many have felt the cold hand of fate grabbing at our dreams and plans for our future/ business and personal goals. Companies that stayed open dealt with the uncertain business landscape in a variety of ways. Some CEO’s laid off long term employees to avoid the negative spiraling bottom line results. Other CEO’s modified positions, changed responsibilities and tried to right size the operation the best they knew how. And, there were those CEO’s who closed their doors completely; the burden was just too large to manage. Those days were very dark, doubtful and relentless. I am sure many leaders sat at their desks alone and wondered, “Did I make the right decision? Could I have done something different? Would the business outcome be different? What if…., Where do I turn? Who can I talk to?”
Today, hope for our business future is taking shape again. We are seeing a resurgence of focused energy and innovation from our leaders. It finally feels like a spring day—the sun is out and the birds are singing. People are smiling again. However, the economic downturn has left a deep scar that may never fully become invisible. I like to call this period of new growth a Period of Reengineering.
CEO’s have a fresh start, a new look at their organization and workforce. They can once again begin to build a thriving and prosperous business and create a positive and engaging employee culture. Vistage International can become that voice, that resource for executives and business owners who supports and guides them through extremely uncertain business decisions. The time is now to reach out, seek guidance and support from a confidential, peer advisory group of CEO’s.
Vistage International brings together successful CEO’s, executives and business owners into private advisory groups. Each group is purpose-built to help members help each other improve the performance and outcomes of their business and personal lives. Vistage International works with each CEO to be a better leader who can make better decisions and get better results. In fact, they have helped over 75,000 members since 1957 when they began. And the support does not look at one dimension of a CEO’s life; the business. Discussions also center on a person’s health and personal life—it is strongly believed that the “whole person” adds to the strategic direction of a company. If issues are present in any of the three categories listed above, they are freely discussed inside the confidence of a member meeting.
Although peer advisory groups are a great help towards success, leadership and management trainings and assessments should not be ignored. These tools allow those in management to be aware of their strengths and weaknesses, ultimately allowing them to build upon their skills.
For more information regarding Vistage International and e-VentExe, please call Amelya Stevenson, M.A., SPHR-CA Vistage Chair and owner of e-VentExe, a full service Human Resource Consulting Firm at 916.458.5820.
Founded in 2000 by Amelya and Craig Stevenson, e-VentExe provides businesses with strategic and compliance human resources tips and techniques, organizational effectiveness (or ineffectiveness) and overall strategic and healthy cultural influences in the workplace. We also make HR administration easy for small businesses with our eBasicHR and Compliance package. At e-VentExe, we keep the “Human” in Human Resources. Let us show our dedication to you! For more information, please visit us at www.e-ventexe.com,“LIKE” us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter!
Spring Clean Your Leadership Skills
Spring has sprung! Spring is a time for renewal and rebirth of life and energy—plants and flowers begin to sprout and bloom, the annual “spring cleaning” spree ensues to remove unnecessary materials collected during the winter hibernation months, cleansing of the mind and body are encouraged. As such, spring is an essential time for leaders in organizations to review, rethink, and rejuvenate their overall culture by reevaluating their own skills.
Those holding leadership positions should ask themselves, “What can I do to make my organization better?” This “spring cleaning” may include tactics, ideas, strengths and weaknesses.
- Tactics: As a leader, making strategies and planning (whether long-term or short-term) are typical functions. Tactics on how to perform these strategies must be considered—what’s working now? What worked in the past? What have I done that seems to be working? Sure, every situation is different and plans need to be adjusted, but you, as a leader, must decide and eliminate strategies that may not be working (e.g. plans that are outdated and cannot reach the same caliber as current trends). In cases when sudden incidences rise without any warning, leaders must be quick and think on their feet without breaking a sweat.
- Ideas: Has your organization hit a plateau where innovation is nonexistent? Think outside of the box! Be inspired by creativity and if your ideas fail, at least you were brave enough to throw out suggestions that may seem out of the norm to others. After all, every accomplishment starts with the decision to try. With leaders making innovative and creative decisions, they can set a precedent for their employees to do the same; ignite the spark for creative thinking and see the results in action!
- Strengths and weaknesses: To be the best leader you can be, strengths and weaknesses must be acknowledged and carried out. Self reflect on what you need to work on and try tackling them a little bit everyday. If you want a more in-depth tool for seeking out your weaknesses (and strengths), consider conducting, or ask HR to conduct, a 360-degree feedback to see what your peers think of you and your effectiveness as a leader.
Keep a fresh open mind and see what you can accomplish for your organization. Now that spring has sprung, how are you planning to “renew” your leadership skills?
*e-VentExe is a full service human resource consulting firm specializing in leadership training and development. If you’re interested in conducting a 360-degree feedback, we can assist you in the process. Follow us on Facebook and/or LinkedIn to learn more about our company and see what interests us!
Powerhouse Women Who Are a Force to be Reckoned With: “Super-Career” Woman Series
For the next several months, e-VentExe will be spotlighting one “Super-Career” woman every month, allowing her to tell her story about how she entered the corporate work world. Read about the struggles, sacrifices, highlights, and rewards these women faced while climbing the ladder towards success. We continue our series with “Super-Career” woman, Georgene Waterman, who is currently the Chief Operations Officer (COO) at Life Med ID, an Information Technology company specializing in medical software.
25 years ago, a successful career woman had to figure out how to compete in a male-dominated world. Women could not show any signs of weakness; they were constantly putting on their “game face” to show men they could do anything as good, if not better. They dressed the part to be at the boardroom (i.e., suits and ties).
The “Super-Career” woman had to balance her personal life with her work life—at the workplace, dresses were replaced with slacks, femininity replaced with sternness all in order to strive to the top. The strenuous struggle to move up the corporate ladder may have seemed daunting, but to these “Super-Career” women, who lived double lives, it was the norm. Now, as young females are entering the workplace, what advice can these “Super-Career” women give to the younger generation? The world for women today is different; however mistakes can still be made as a woman advances in a competitive workplace.
Georgene has always been the type of individual that can multitask and work in a proficient manner. She recalls being in charge of fundraisers in high school and stated that if anything needed to be done, she would be the first point of contact in completing the project or task. Georgene’s go-getter attitude started at a young age and continued into her adult life: she was the mother of a disabled child as well as a professional working her way up in her career.
Following in her Mother’s footsteps, Georgene became a registered nurse by receiving a nursing diploma. She later pursued her bachelors, masters, and PhD after she already had her first child. Busy as she was being a great mother and career woman, Georgene did not recall any major struggles or challenges as she climbed up the ladder of success, only wishing she would have asked for help in terms of childcare. She found a way to balance both her family and career by simply making it work; devoting time to each. She was 40 years old when she received the coveted title of CEO at a hospital and had been working professionally since she was 21 years old. Georgene began her career path as a registered nurse, switched into hospital administration, and then made her greatest leap of all by becoming a CEO. In the midst of all this, Georgene also started her own side business where she trained nurses to help orient new nurses.
Georgene has always been an outspoken individual in a professional way allowing her to stand out from the rest of the crowd: she always voiced her opinion and was a part of the solution, not the problem. She believes a large reason as to how she moved up the ladder was by allowing others to hear what she thought and the implementations she would put forth.
Georgene felt she never reached a glass ceiling because of the way she perceived herself. She never thought of herself as a woman, which benefited her career goals. Georgene believes women who see themselves as women, rather than professional individuals do reach a glass ceiling, which may be due to the stigma behind women in senior positions.
Based on Georgene’s past experiences, she has some advice for females who are about to, or recently entered the workforce. She stresses to ask and receive help in terms of childcare for mothers. In a business standpoint, Georgene encourages newcomers to speak up, bring solutions, do not complain, and to ask for help to implement ideas. She believes finding out where one fits in is important stating that people cannot find their true calling unless they try many different things and stay in a job for more than a couple of months.
Although Georgene has taken a step back from the top position, she has had many accomplishments in her life and feels she does not have to prove herself to anyone anymore. She states it can be challenging having to report to someone, but she does not care, especially since she still works in a medical-related industry and that is where her heart belongs.
Georgene thinks of her life as a spiritual journey recalling the hardships and joyous times, but overall believes everything she has encountered has either been a learning experience or a giving experience.
To learn more about Georgene’s career path, read below for a detailed Q and A:
1) Upon entering the workforce what was your initial career choice? Did that career path change? If so, why did you decide to pursue a different path?
In my day, you could become a nurse by living in a hospital and studying right there at the hospital and becoming a diploma nurse but it didn’t give you a college education. Or you could get a college education. We [diploma nurses] were the nurses that everyone wanted because we knew what we were doing—we lived and worked at the hospital for three solid years, summers included…so about the same amount as going to a four-year college, but we didn’t have a college degree, we got a diploma. I did that of course because my mother did it. Two months out of nursing training they needed an Assistant Head Nurse and I got the Ella Sweep Award, which was the person out of 69 girls who was the most excellent nurse. And then they asked me to be the Assistant Head Nurse. So I’ve never been in anything other than management. I’ve been working for 45 years and I’ve always been in management because of that [Assistant Head Nurse position].
2) Did you find it difficult to compete for jobs in a male-dominated world?
I was lucky because nursing is female dominated, so I started with that and then made my switch from nursing into hospital administration; I was just part of a group. After, I made the biggest leap of all in my time [by becoming a CEO]. I became a CEO of a network of hospitals that included 28 hospitals and there were 27 men and then me. I was never in that traditional business where women have to compete because all nurses were women in my day.
3) Why did you pursue the hospital CEO position?
It pursued me: I went from nursing and then I worked 7,8,9 years and then I had a baby. I thought “I’m not missing Christmas morning.” My family was very traditional. Christmas morning was important so I needed a job that gave me weekends off. After I had my first baby, (I was almost 30) I went to the Director of Nurses and I said “I want to come back. I really only want to work part-time and no weekends,” and she said, “Well, let’s see what you can do.” She asked me what I liked to do and I said “I really enjoy the teaching part of nursing.” She made a job for me—they needed something done, and they needed someone to take care of all of the orientation of the new nurses. They oriented about 250 new nurses a year, so she gave me that project and I took it and went with it; I made it my own! I did that while my children were very young and then I was asked by another hospital to run their education department.
4) If you could do it all over again, would you do the same thing?
I ask myself that and I ask my children that—“Did you suffer because I was on my own journey?” and they said they didn’t in terms of working. I think it was good for my daughter to see that I was more than a Mother.
5) What were some of your mistakes along the way to your ideal career goal?
Not asking for help soon enough, taking jobs along the way that I probably didn’t strategically think about. I had to work with some big corporations along the way that I didn’t agree with, like I had one corporation that wanted me to do some illegal things and when I refused to do them, they fired me, so I had to file a whistleblower lawsuit against them. You can’t work that many years and not have things happen. I’ve always worked long-term, but I took a job once in between jobs to run a 350-bed assisted living facility that was in the middle of new ownership. I kept coming in earlier and earlier and started coming in at 3:00am and left at 8:00pm and my husband said, “What are you doing?” Obviously it wasn’t for me—I couldn’t get my arms around it, they didn’t have any professional people there; it was a disaster. It was just a different model than I was used to working with, so I’ve had many experiences. I took the job because I wasn’t working and I felt I could do anything—I ran a hospital so I figured I could run an assisted living place, but it was very different. We all take jobs that we don’t think through.