“If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads.”~Ralph Waldo Emerson~
Damion’s goal was to become a great leader. He’d been under some mediocre leaders and wanted to do a better job than that. He looked at other leaders in the company and got some ideas of leadership skills from them.
But he felt there was more than what he was seeing. He wanted both the “why” and the “how” to become an outstanding leader. So he started reading. If you want to help yourself become a better leader, books are an excellent resource.
Damion’s created a list of leadership books that had the greatest impact on his career success. Damion offered to share them with you so you, too, could become a stand-out leader.
- On Becoming a Leader by Warren Bennis. Forbes magazine called Warren Bennis “the dean of leadership gurus.” This thought leader book resonated with Damion because Bennis affirms that leaders aren’t born, they are made. He lays out how to release the leader within us. He offers a valuable list of leadership attributes.
- The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You by John Maxwell. Damion said, “This legacy leader book left me inspired. His examples of great leaders helped me grasp the intangibles of leadership and helped me see behind the scenes of outstanding leadership in action.” Then he distills these traits into his laws of leadership.
- The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make A Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell. Damion wanted to see some changes in his company culture. Gladwell’s book gave him great insight into how to use the connectors, mavens, and salesmen within the company to make those changes. It also showed how important it is to stop a problem early on before it gets to the tipping point.
- First, Break All the Rules (1999), by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman. This book cuts through the theories and tells what leaders actually DO. Do successful leaders live by the rules? No. Gallup polls helped Damion understand the value of management along with leadership.
- Getting Ahead by Joel Garfinkle. Damion started out as a “do-great-work-and-it-speaks-for-itself” kind of guy. Garfinkle’s book helped him see that his work would never speak loud enough. Advancement involves getting others to see you and your work in a positive light. What’s more, we can control how others think of us, how we are viewed, and how we influence. Powerful stuff.
- How to be a Great Boss by Joel Garfinkle. Promotion doesn’t automatically confer leadership ability. This e-book talks about 7 key qualities of a good boss— from an employee’s point of view. What makes you the kind of leader employees want to work with? Garfinkle helped Damion see places to improve.
Damion found that reading books on and about leadership improved his confidence and the quality of his work. It gave him access to the brightest minds and a broad world of ideas and techniques. Then he pulled out the ones that best fit with his situation, his abilities and his personality and added them to his set of skills. There are many tools to help you grow as a leader. Books are one of the easiest and least expensive leadership development tools.
If you’re ready to step up your leadership skills to the next level and see major results, contact executive coach Joel. He can help move you forward faster.
What books have you read that have had an impact on your job and your leadership skills?
Guest Post by Deborah Shames
I confess. To this day, I experience anxiety before delivering a keynote or leading my business group. I have trouble quieting my mind and sleeping the night before. I imagine everything that could go wrong, and question whether I’ve prepared enough.
This may not sound like a surprising admission, since 74 percent of the US population surveyed in 2013 shares a fear of public speaking. What’s unusual is that I speak regularly to large audiences around the country—despite having this fear. I even formed a company called Eloqui, with my partner, David Booth, to train and coach professionals to be effective presenters and communicators.
Over time, I’ve learned to manage my anxiety and turn it into an engine that propels me forward. As I tell my clients, some anxiety is a good thing. It says your presentation is important. Your brain is firing on all cylinders. And you’re in the moment, focused on the task at hand. The trick is never to let your doubts stop you from speaking out.
Naturally, because of my fear of public speaking, I used to avoid most speaking opportunities. If, in a moment of weakness, I’d agreed to give a talk, sheer terror would set in immediately. I’d wake up every morning agonizing over the upcoming presentation and obsess about creative ways to cancel. This mental tug of war went on for weeks before the actual engagement.
By the time I stood up to address the audience, my fear of failure had become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The ability to think on my feet vanished. My quavering voice rose an octave, and I felt like I was having an out-of-body experience. Afraid of making a fool of myself by leaving something out, I read my neatly typed, double-spaced copy word for word. If I could make it through the ordeal without passing out, I’d consider the experience a success.
I apologize to anyone who sat through my generic speeches back in the pre-Eloqui days. Like most audiences, you were polite and encouraging. You undoubtedly attended my talk because you hoped you would come away with a new insight or fresh perspective. But because I followed a standard template, most likely you were bored and could predict what I’d say next.
It finally occurred to me that the solution was right in front of me. I’d spent fifteen years directing performers to reach inside for emotional realism and sincerity. I needed to take my own advice.
Becoming an engaging speaker requires skill, courage, and an unwavering commitment to connect with an audience. This means incorporating your own perspective and personality into presentations.
As a former director, I know the value of practical techniques. It’s nearly impossible to follow the advice to “be confident,” or “be yourself.” That’s why Out Front is balanced between identifying women’s challenges in communicating, and providing an operating manual on how to overcome them.
But technique is only part of the equation. Learning to identify and express your core differences, strengths, and authenticity isn’t easy. George Burns said it best: “Acting is all about honesty. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.” The same goes for speaking in public, or communicating with others.
In Out Front I share the performance techniques that David and I have translated for business professionals. I focus on the strengths and challenges facing women speakers because that’s what I know best. However, the techniques presented here are practical, field-tested, and proven. When these are put into practice, women and men can become engaging, memorable, and fearless speakers.
Order the book by Deborah Shames Out Front: How Women Can Become Engaging, Memorable, and Fearless Speakers
“I am not a teacher, but an awakener.”
~ Robert Frost ~
Dana’s staff is constantly asking her what they need to do to get promoted. Her four direct reports are especially anxious to move ahead in the company. Neither the company nor Dana herself has a definitive mentoring program. She realizes that she needs to make some drastic changes in mentoring her staff in order to help them grow and be offered the opportunities they deserve.
In the absence of a formal corporate mentoring program, Dana takes steps to develop a mentoring program of her own. She meets with her direct reports and together they develop a simple two-part strategy. First, Dana will make new, high profile projects available to all who want them and encourage them to volunteer. Second, she will raise awareness of staff members’ accomplishments by proactively messaging not only her boss and peers but those C-level employees above them.
The four staff members left the meeting with their own personal action steps, and they also knew exactly what Dana planned to do to help them. She coached them on self-promotion techniques, such as copying the boss’s boss on project-related emails and planning appropriate times to speak up in meetings when projects they worked on were being discussed.
The group agreed on a one-month, three-month, and six-month review of the program. By the end of the first month, new projects were put on the table and Dana’s direct reports enthusiastically volunteered for their own projects. In addition, they took on some related lower level projects so they could begin to coach and mentor their own subordinates.
Dana scheduled regular one-on-ones with each of her direct reports and also put together a schedule of informal communications with her boss and other C-level managers to keep them informed about what her staff was doing.
At the three-month milestone, Dana noticed that a high level of enthusiasm had developed among her entire staff. Not only was the day-to-day work being accomplished more efficiently, they were excited about the opportunity to work on new initiatives, and some had even volunteered for cross-training in other departments.
After six months, Dana made a list of the tangible benefits that had resulted from the mentoring program, not only for her staff, but also for herself and the company as a whole. This is what she told her boss:
Benefits to the mentees:
- Opportunity to take control of their own learning and career advancement.
- A chance to develop valuable contacts in other parts of the company.
- Significant improvement in their productivity and enthusiasm.
Benefits to herself as the mentor:
- She had greatly enhanced her coaching and listening skills by working more closely with her direct reports.
- She had gained notice and respect of higher-ups in the organization.
- She felt validated and rewarded by passing on the value of her experience to those coming along behind her.
Benefits to the company:
- Productivity had greatly improved across the entire work group.
- Employees who were previously perceived as being “stuck” at their current level were re-energized.
- Cross-functional teams were developed as Dana’s people spent time in other departments.
Many companies have formal mentoring programs that are of great benefit to their employees. In the absence of such a program, a single individual such as Dana can develop their own, providing significant benefits to the employees involved, the manager, and the company.
Do your people need a mentor? This week list five different ways you could start a mentoring program in your own department.
Talkback: Have you been a successful mentor? Or have you been mentored by someone who made a difference in your career? Share your story here.
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“The real art of communication is not only to say the right thing at the right time, but also to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.”
~ Unknown ~
Josh is a sales executive at a medium-size software company. He’s always made his numbers and hit his quotas. As he advanced in the organization, his responsibility and the number of people he manages have increased. Josh’s career goal is to become VP of sales within the next year.
He’s always known how to get results, but his fatal flaw is that he has no idea how to manage his people. The bigger his team grew, the more his abrasive and combative style got in his way. Word got back to HR that he was a bully, a hard-ass, blunt, and intimidating. Ultimately, this information was documented and he was laid off.
However, his boss’s boss saw potential in Josh. He liked the work he did and could see he really wanted to learn and grow, to get past his weakness in managing people. The boss knew that, if given the right tools and support, Josh could be extremely valuable to the organization.
When a position opened up, Josh was hired back. This time he was provided with employee training in the form of an executive coach, management training, mentoring and sponsorship. Here are the initial actions his coach took as he helped Josh design a game plan for success.
- He appealed to Josh’s self-interest. The coach asked Josh one critical question: “Given how your co-workers perceive you, what do think will happen to your goal of becoming sales VP if you don’t do anything?’ Following Josh’s answer the coach replied, “So persuade me that there are advantages for you to make some changes in your attitude and behavior, if sales VP is what you really want?”
- He helped Josh see reality. Using his last 360 before he was terminated, his coach painted a clear picture of how he was perceived by others during his employee training. Abrasive people are prone to blame others for their bad behavior, since they often see themselves as superior and all-knowing. Josh soon understood that, in order for the situation to change, he must change. He started by planning his communication in meetings and one-on-ones in advance, which helped him avoid the sarcastic, off-the-cuff remarks that had alienated his co-workers in the past.
- He played to Josh’s competitive nature. The final question was, “So do you really think you can do this? Can you really change to the point where others perceive you differently?” Josh took that as a challenge. “Of course I can,” he replied.
It’s now been over seven years since Josh was hired back and he’s received performance reviews and thorough 360s. This sales executive is now a VP with a highly motivated and loyal team and he’s never been accused of being abrasive or combative during the whole seven years.
Do you need to change the way people perceive you at work? Write down three relationship issues that you think might be getting in the way of your career goals and start developing your plan to change.
Talkback: Have you turned around a difficult situation or relationship at work? How did you do it? Share your story here.
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“Promotion means finding new ways of being successful- and walking away from the old ways that defined success. A leader who tries to be the same leader across all levels is not going to be successful at all.”
~ Matt Pease, DDI Vice President ~
Client Jamie Asks: There are many people in my organization that could benefit from increased executive presence. What should I look for in a business leadership training program? What skills can I expect my people to gain from such a program?
Coach Joel Answers: This is an important step. Your executives and those you are grooming for leadership need to have a whole company perspective. To be successful they must move from a tactical day-to-day approach to a more strategic overview. Here are six skill sets you’ll want your business leaders to develop.
- Step away from the day-to-day. There’s a saying: When you’re up to your ankles in alligators, it’s hard to remember you’re here to drain the swamp. Executives face many compelling day-to-day problems that can eat up all their time. Help your executives learn how to set aside a specific part of their day to reflect on ways they and their team can contribute to the company’s bottom line.
- Look at the big picture. It’s no longer enough to excel in your area. You need a clear view of how your work contributes to the overall success of the company. Get your program to help your leaders elevate their sights.
- Gain self-confidence. This is a mind game, but it’s based on past performance. People need to know they are doing a good job. A key training program will help your leaders assess their past ideas and work. This builds self-assurance which will give then that executive presence that makes people want to follow them.
- Do the work. Find a program that focuses on teaching skills that give real, measurable results. People need to deliver on the high profile jobs they are given. When they manage every project so their work shines, they demonstrate their abilities to co-workers and supervisors. And it gives your people confidence they have the necessary skills to perform at that high level.
- Recognize and seize opportunities. Part of situational awareness is looking beyond current tasks. What else needs to be done? Is there a gap that someone is not filling? Can you take the initiative? Successful executive training courses help with the mind shift necessary to look beyond the average and take those opportunities.
- Focus on solutions. Far too many people spend lots of time discussing the problems. They may lament the shortcomings or complain about the problem. Good leadership seminars will show people how to find solutions.
Jamie, you are wise to look at training your leaders from within. You already know their work ethic and they know the company culture. But leaders don’t just grow on their own.
They need extra and different skill sets. They need a professional to coach and train them to perform at their optimum level. The abilities that have grown them to this point are not sufficient to get them to the top. Unless you train them in those new ways of thinking and acting, you will not help them acquire that executive presence.
Of course you and I both know it can’t be a façade. It can’t be for looks. That leadership, that executive presence has to be backed by a history of success and by skills and vision.
If you need one or two people to gain these skills, I recommend individual coaching. If you want a group of people to grow, a business leadership course can be brought to your executives and tailored to their challenges and the needs of your company.
For more information on how Joel can help your leaders gain that executive presence, contact him.
Talkback: Have you found programs that were successful in developing your leaders?
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