Have You Put the Cart Before the Horse?

Since horses are built to pull carts, not push them, it makes no sense to put the cart before the horse. Of course, this illustration is so obvious that not many make that mistake, in this physical scenario. Besides the horse may not approve.

Balking Horse

In the world of modern life, however, it is not so obvious, and more people than you would believe do put their “carts before their horses” That is a critical mistake. Here is what I mean.

Let’s be honest. People start businesses to make money. That’s a good and necessary element of the plan, but if that is THE plan, the main focus of it, success is likely to be limited and problematic. There are many, very many frustrated internet entrepreneurs who are working themselves to a frazzle while making little progress simply because of their flawed approach.

Rather than trying to outright convince people that you and your product or service is worth their time and money, show them. Contribute, rather than convince. Through contribution, you will convince them.

This simple change of focus makes good sense because it represents the concept that Contribution Creates Compensation. Let’s think about that for a moment. When the weather is cold and you want a fire in the fireplace, do you tell the fireplace to give you heat, while promising to feed it wood after the fire is burning? Of course not. Do you expect your car to take you places on the promise that you’ll feed it some gasoline after you get there? Of course not. In both these simple examples, you know that you must provide the fuel in order to get the results you want.

It’s the same in dealing with people. They will not reward you with profits until after you have delivered some value to them. Therefore Contribution Creates Compensation.

The Proof is in the Pudding

We need to take a closer look at contribution and compensation. For our purposes today, contribution is value that you freely give to your audience.   One of the most valuable contributions you can give to your audience is information. Information is knowledge or expertise you already have. It is valuable because it gives your audience knowledge that they don’t already have. They can then turn that knowledge into understanding and apply it as wisdom.

The information you offer can be in many forms, such as a report, an ebook, or a free consultation with you. This usually starts with a blog or podcast, or on social media, for instance.

Now, compensation is not always money, but it is also something of value. In the beginning, compensation is usually a potential customer’s email address, as in when they subscribe to your blog, or a follow you on social media, or it may be merely giving your information a fair hearing. These are the beginning steps that must be taken before significant monetary compensation follows, as it naturally will, from those who find value in your contribution and who can pay for it.

When a wise person wants heat from the fireplace on a cold winter day, he or she knows that an investment is required. That wise person may be cold and shivering and desperate for heat, but they know they can’t just demand heat, or even put a large log in the cold fireplace. They MUST follow the necessary steps of placing something that will burn quickly and easily in first (tinder); something like wadded up newspaper. They know that the tinder won’t burn long enough or hot enough to catch the big log on fire, so they add kindling, small twigs and sticks starting with very small ones just on top of the paper, while gradually increasing the size and quantity of the kindling. After the proper preparation, they can light the fire and when the kindling is burning hot and fast, they can keep increasing the size of the logs in the fire until they get that big one burning that will give heat for a long time.

In our case of internet business, leading people to follow you, to work with you and to buy from you, you must nurture them, just as you would nurture that fire. Your initial presentation to your audience is your tinder, which is then followed by a small but valuable information product that you offer in return for their email address (permission to email them your offers). That small but valuable offer is the kindling that gets their fire burning, then you can offer them products of gradually increasing value and price, until you have a good, mutually rewarding relationship with them. Until they are your loyal and dedicated customer.

This does take time, but it is necessary, if you are to have enduring success. Enduring success will be built upon your relationship with the people you serve. If you are just peddling something for quick profit, you may find some quick profit, but it won’t endure and that will create a poor reputation for you that may take a long, long time to overcome.

If starting a blog or other platform seems like a daunting task, remember all you have to do is to identify the necessary steps, then take one or two of those steps every day, and pretty soon you’ll have a platform from which to launch your contribution, which, if valuable and needed, will produce compensation. (For a tutorial on starting a blog, see the link to Michael Hyatt’s site below).

Whoever you are, you have some knowledge, skill or information that is valuable to others. You are just as good, valuable and worthy as any of us, and with a little study and practice (trial and error) you can do anything that any of us have done.

Go on, get started and light that fire!

A very popular blog on the internet is Michael Hyatt’s blog. Michael’s specialty is building a platform. He contributes tutorials on how to build a blog as well as shares most valuable and interesting content. I suggest you check him out. (I have no business connection with Michael). He’s just doing a bang up good job and is a great teacher. I follow him and recommend him.

This blog is for you, so please share your questions or comments with me below, or use the contact form for inquiries of a private nature….and don’t forget to subscribe to this blog in the lower righthand sidebar to be notified when new posts are available.

Get started, build that fire and light it…and keep your horse in front of the cart.

 

Workplace Safety May Not Be What You Think

computer on desk w booksWhile workplace safety involves”Safety First” signs, rules (that are frequently broken) requiring the use of safety equipment and cleanliness, there is another side of the safety issue.

A safe work environment includes mental and emotional safety, as well as physical safety.

A long time ago, I heard the famous motivational speaker Zig Ziglar ask the audience of several thousand people what characteristics they wanted in an employee, and if they were an employee, what characteristics they would look for in a boss. Zig asked the audience to shout out their answers, and as they did, he wrote those answers on the overhead projector. Their answers may surprise you. Here are the qualities the random people in the audience said they wanted in others:

  • Integrity
  • Dependability
  • Honesty
  • Enthusiasm
  • Motivated
  • Compassionate
  • Humility
  • Sincerity
  • Competence
  • Creativity
  • Open mindedness
  • Loyalty
  • Positive Mental Attitude
  • Self Directed
  • Goal Setter
  • Admirable
  • Positive Self Image
  • Loves people
  • Prompt
  • Communicator
  • Has a calling
  • Long suffering

Wow! That’s quite a list, and I wasn’t able to write fast enough to get them all down. It is enlightening that the answers are always very similar with every group.

Here’s what I’d like you to do; study that list and imagine a person who meets most of the listed attributes, then answer this: How many of those qualities can you honestly say you demonstrate daily, or almost daily?

Consider this: those are the qualities that a group of random individuals said they want in a boss or employee. That’s important, so let’s look at these people for a moment and ask why they want these qualities. After all, they could have said they wanted people who are self-centered, belligerent, callous, careless, and many other negative things. Let’s examine why they want so many “positive” qualities in their associates.

If you would count yourself among the group who selected the qualities on Zig’s list, think why you appreciate those qualities in others. You probably said something like “that type of person makes life easier, or more enjoyable.” If that was your answer, you hit the nail on the head!

Why People Want These Things

People want the kind of characteristics in Zig’s list because, as modern science has shown, their brains want to keep them safe and in familiar surroundings. Sticking with a known situation is intuitively regarded as keeping safe. That is an emotional response that relieves the person of the need for taking a perceived dangerous step, such as searching for a new job, or ending an abusive relationship.

Almost all the qualities on Zig’s list are qualities of attitude, not skill. As one employer said, “If I can have an applicant who has those attitudes, I can teach him the skill.”

Most employees will tell you that if they had a boss with those attitudes, they would be able to produce more and better.

Both the employer and the employees are exactly right because those attitudes will greatly contribute to, if not produce a safe working environment.

A safe working environment is devoid of fear of embarrassment, abusive talk, physical abuse, pettiness, gossip, etc. When workers are subjected to an environment that contains those elements, even if they are not directed towards an individual, they naturally fear that “they may be next.” A mean or ignorant leader may respond that in fact, they may be, unless they produce.

A wise leader, on the other hand, understands that people who are nurtured by an environment of respect, honesty, integrity and most of the other things on Zig’s list will produce better, come forward with suggestions, respond with respect and courtesy which comes together to make their job, and yours, better in every way.

The reason for this is due to the involuntary internal adrenal response that occurs in people when they are fearful, therefore they are on “alert” for perceived danger, compared to them being comfortable and relaxed.

When a person perceives danger of say, embarrassment, their body releases cortisol into the bloodstream and their priority changes from the job at hand to self protection against a perceived threat. This is known as the fight or flight syndrome. Doesn’t it make sense that a person whose primary goal is to protect themselves will be less productive than one who is comfortable and feels free to create? And that a person who feels safe will also feel free to create and produce?

On the flip side, when a person feels safe and secure, his or her body will produce the neurological transmitting hormones, dopamine and endorphins, that cause him or her to be contented, happy and maybe even a little euphoric. That is a condition that wise leaders will encourage because it leads to better creativity and production.

The culture, you, as a leader, create and the attitude you express towards your people is all that is needed to create a safe work environment. The chemicals at work in your workers’ bodies will produce the expected result, for better or worse. Personnel problems are usually symptoms of leadership problems. If you remove the symptom, you still have the root problem. That’s a leadership treadmill. These facts hold true in the workplace, and even more so in the home, among your family.

The “icing on this cake” is that your expressions towards your people have an increased effect on you. When you help your workers feel good, you will feel more good than they do. How I wish I had known and applied this when I was in my twenties!

If you are an inexperienced or sloppy leader, who resorts to yelling, embarrassing your people or use other negative tactics to gain compliance, implementing the change in your attitude that I am suggesting will probably not get instant results. Your people will be suspicious of your changed attitude. You will get results over time, and the time it takes depends upon how long it takes for your workers to believe you have truly changed. But change you must, for your benefit, and most important, for the benefit of your followers, upon whom you depend to get the job done.

If you want to see faster improvement and want to have your people recognize you as a good or great leader, you can get together with them and tell them that you have been studying leadership and realize that your skills have been lacking and that you are working hard to change the way you do things, for their benefit. Your honesty and forthrightness will impress them and give them hope. Their “learning curve” for developing confidence in you and their freedom from real or imagined fear will come about much more quickly.

Leadership is influence. Most people are comfortable being influenced, but leaders step out of the crowd and begin to influence the crowd.

For more information on the effects of a leader’s methods of relating to people, see my recent post,  Some Helpful Leadership Science.

An ancient Chinese proverb says “A gentle wind calms a stormy sea.” Let me add that a calm wind also keeps a sea from becoming stormy.

What experiences have you had with these approaches to leadership? Other readers may be helped by your comment below. Let’s not let the good you can do for others die with you. Step up, speak up and let your valuable insights benefit us all. Thank you.

If you have a question or comment that you would rather keep private, please use the contact form below to contact me.

 

 

Setting the Example: The Price and the Payoff

In my last post, What is the Basis of All LeadershipI mentioned that there was a price we instructors at the Montana Military Academy had to pay in order to set the example we wanted our students to follow. There was also a big payoff – a reward. The question becomes “Is the payoff more valuable than the price?” In other words, is the effort of setting the example a good investment?

Woman giving guidance

The Price:

What did it cost us instructors to set an example that convinced a group of disheveled, unruly soldiers to change their ways and conform to the rules?

It took a lot of effort and two weeks time. We instructors set the example through our impeccable appearances, our speech (which revealed our attitudes), by demonstrating our professional knowledge of the subjects we taught, and last, but far from least, we demonstrated our understanding of and care for the underperforming soldiers under our care. How did we do it?

We worked on our personal time, after working hours, to starch and iron our uniforms, spit polish our boots, which was not required, study the lessons we were scheduled to teach the next day, and we discussed ideas for handling students who were unusually challenging. We did this in private in the instructors’ quarters. The students didn’t see the effort we put in, but they saw the results. They understood by the results of our appearance and professional expertise that we did much more than was required.

While this sounds like drudgery, it was really a joyful time for us instructors. It was a time of camaraderie which enabled us to become a close knit group, both professionally and personally. At times we had to cut our sleeping time to 3-5 hours. These were times of rewarding personal sacrifice for all of us.

Although I am relating this information by way of a military story, remember that civilian leadership is exactly the same. The same principles apply to leadership in business, family, church and clubs or informal groups. People will instinctively follow the person who sets the example of knowing what needs to be done, has a solid plan for doing it and who communicates via attitude and body language that he or she can encourage and lead the group to success in whatever endeavor is being considered.

Communication of your skills via attitude, demonstrated aptitude and confidence will inspire people to want to follow you. Words are cheap and should be used sparingly.

The Payoff:

Although, through each pay period, we instructors received the same pay as we would have for just doing an average job in another field, we were rewarded with compensation much more valuable than money.

Every new day during the course, when we came together with our students, we were rewarded  with a boost to our individual confidence, as we saw the progress our students were making. You see, we knew what we were doing because we had studied and had been taught by more accomplished leaders than ourselves.

We knew when our student’s appearance improved that it was because of the example we set. This increased our confidence motivated us to continue the boring task of spit shining our combat boots in the evenings because we wanted the satisfaction of seeing our students perform even better the next day.

Our evenings of studying and discussing the subjects we taught (subjects we already understood) increased our confidence in our ability to teach. The satisfaction from the improvement our students experienced and demonstrated in the classroom and during field training was indescribable!

The most valuable part of the payoff for us was when the students started holding their heads high, signifying their increased confidence that they gained through the knowledge and discipline we taught them.

To have made a life changing, career changing improvement in their lives was a privilege that few people ever experience.

For us instructors, it was a very deep emotional experience that ended with tears welling in our eyes, after the students’ graduation and we had to say “good-bye” to them, as they scattered across the state to return to their home units, to be strong leaders. These soldiers had become our team, albeit only for a short time. It was like a family separation.

The payoff continued for years. At various events, such as our two week summer training with our units, we would occasionally meet one or two of our former students. They would be using the skills we taught them with the confidence we inspired in them. They would seek us out to visit with us and thank us again. Often their rank would indicate that they had been promoted to a higher pay grade.

A lesser payoff for all the effort and heart we put into our jobs came when we received our evaluation reports, which became a permanent part of our service records. We were rewarded with kind words from our superiors, which are strongly considered for a soldier’s career advancement (increased responsibility) and promotion.

Since I haven’t clearly stated this fact, please be aware that our ability to be accurate in the effort we put in to transforming our students was also partly the result of self evaluation and mutual critique. Critique is constructive criticism. In order to make yourself better, you must understand and correct your deficiencies. We all have them.

Don’t let your special knowledge, ability and your unique method of presentation go to waste. Share it with the rest of us. Yes, I am an instructor, but I also learn from my students.

You have abilities that are unique to you, and valuable to the world, so please make your contribution, or ask your question in the comments. If you have a matter of private concern that I can help you with, send it to me via the contact form below. I am here to serve you; to help you become a better leader.

You have greatness in you. Don’t deprive the world of your special abilities.

 

 

 

 

What is the Basis of All Leadership?

cropped bow-tie-fashion-man-person

A widespread leadership problem is that leaders tend to see the the problem as the problem. The truth is that the problem is seldom the problem. The problem is like a fever; it is a symptom of a problem. Just as a fever is a signal that something is wrong in your body, a problem with your team’s production can usually be traced to a problem with leadership. I know that hurts, but what we are looking for is truthful answers that will solve problems. Answers that really work; that enable accomplishment.

Perhaps, by the standards that you have set for yourself, you think that you’re doing a great job of leading. Perhaps you’ve made the common innocent mistake of setting standards that are good, but area little off target. Probably, your methods, or specific policies don’t resonate with your people. There is the problem, my friend. You have every good motive, you treat your people pretty well, you don’t ask too much and they are decently paid. Even so, if your ways don’t resonate with your people you will probably get mediocre results. How can you fix this seemingly complex situation?

The answer is simple, although I can’t categorically say it is easy. Remember that people do not value things that come cheaply or easily, and you are probably not an exception to that rule. Very few are.

Before I give the answer, let’s think for a moment about what you, as a leader are trying to accomplish. Isn’t it that you are trying to influence your followers to cooperate with you? That’s leadership in a nutshell.

The Answer Is:

Example. Your example. You must model the attitude and behavior that you want from your people, and you must do it well. Let me give you an example (pun intended).

Albert Zweitzer, a famous influencer of people who lived from 1875-Sweitzer1965 said:

Example is not the main thing in influence, it is the only thing.

That is what Sweitzer said. Now the question becomes “What did he do?” He made a lot of money through plenty of hard work. He won the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize for his book Reverence for All Life. He then went on to found a hospital, with his own money, in Lambaréné in Gabon (Central Africa). The hospital was a massive endeavor, sufficient to care for 500 patients at one time. Not only did he found the hospital, but he served as a doctor and surgeon, groundskeeper, guide for visitors and numerous other roles in the administration of the hospital.

Do you see the example this prominent man set? Not only was he a renowned musician, author, medical doctor and philosopher; he was also a leader of people. As groundskeeper for his hospital, he demonstrated that he was not just a boss who lived in the safety of an ivory tower. He presented himself as a fellow human being, living in common with all other humans and life forms on the earth. Pretty strong example, huh?

You and I may not set the extreme example of Albert Sweitzer, but we must set the example that we want others to follow; in our homes, in our businesses, on our jobs, in social settings. Anytime we want to influence others to cooperate with us, we must set the example.

When I was a leadership instructor at the Montana Military Academy, it was typical for our fellow non-commissioned officers and students for the next two weeks to arrive looking and acting more like 1960’s hippies than soldiers. Now, to look like a hippie when you ARE a hippie is fine, but it just doesn’t work for the good of military. This needed to be corrected.

This is a long story that I need to make short: The other instructors and I solved the problem, not by barking orders and growling at these soldiers. We simply conducted a personnel inspection and clearly explained to each man what he needed to correct in order to receive the rewards he wanted; social acceptance and graduation from the course. But, before the inspection, we modeled the appearance we wanted.

At the end of the course, many of the students were as sharp as we instructors. They wrote anonymous  critiques of the course. Overall their critiques stated clearly that they were impressed with our appearances when they arrived, some said they were shocked and scared that they couldn’t be successful. Almost every one of them said that the example of the instructors motivated them to take this course seriously, and to meet the standard demonstrated by the instructors. One of our classes was so fully transformed that we instructors pooled some of our money and hired a team of Scottish bag-pipers to play and lead their graduation parade at the awards ceremony. It was a very rewarding and touching moment.

How did we set that example and what was the cost to us? That’s a story for another post. I’ve taken up enough of your time and given you enough to work on for now.

In general summary, leaders are the first ones to sacrifice themselves for the accomplishment of the mission or task. Leaders are the folks who use their energy to “prime the pump” to get the team out of its collective comfort zone and on task. This is why good leaders are the first ones to arrive, usually the last to leave, the last to partake of the reward; however, unbeknownst to his or her followers, the leader is actually the first to partake of the reward of the satisfaction of the successful accomplishment of the team. The leader receives that reward of satisfaction, then has the privilege of “officially” announcing the success of the win to the team.

Then, when the success is announced, the team members are happy and say “We did all ourselves.” The leader smiles, then uses the momentum of that success to help them “do it all themselves” on the next project.

I cannot say that I agree with Sweitzer on every point, but on the point  of setting the example you want others to follow, I definitely agree with him. For leaders, his is an example worth following.

Have you got a story to share about either setting or following an example that produced either good or bad results?

Do you have something to add that I may have overlooked, or didn’t have space to include?

How about a question about your leadership challenges?

Please use the comments section freely; don’t deprive the world of the good scoop you have to offer.

For private questions, please use the contact form below:

 

 

Some Helpful Leadership Science

 

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In  my previous post titled Why It’s Best if Leaders Don’t Know Everything I promised to share with you the scientific reasons that a strong but humble approach to leadership is proven to bring the desired result, namely to convince others to cooperate with you in accomplishing a mission or task.

Let’s begin by clarifying my use of two words; strong and tough. I know they are different because they are spelled differently, so what other difference is there?

Tough is rough. It is unrefined, it is inconsiderate and demanding. It is often rooted in pride and is exemplified by the person who is determined to push or force compliance with his wishes. Tough says “You’ll do it because I’m in charge and I say you’ll do it.” The toughness of the tough leader is very often a mask that covers his or her insecurities or lack of confidence. Modern science teaches us that the tough approach inhibits success because of this approach’s unavoidable intimidation factor.

Since the tough leader asserts the power of his rank or position, his or her authority to demand compliance, most followers will only appear to take him or her seriously. That means that there will be unfavorable consequences for an inability to perform, which elevates stress as the result of the worker’s body producing the hormone, cortisol.

Cortisol is a stress hormone, produced by the adrenal gland which signals danger and induces the fight or flight response. Once cortisol is released into the bloodstream it remains for hours after the danger has passed. Any continued sight or sound related to the cause of the adrenal danger signal, reinforces the adrenal response and compounds the problem. This physiological response in your workers’ bodies compels them to be tuned in to danger, in order to protect/defend themselves. The person who is in “survival mode” has relegated the task at hand to a secondary priority. His production will be impaired, the tough leader will not be happy, and tough will get tougher, the workers’ success rate will decline further and it won’t stop declining until a long time after the threat/danger has passed. This is why tough leaders can fire people, hire new workers and still get the same result in the end. Followers who are in fear of danger cannot produce as well as they can when they are relaxed. Through this lasting adrenal response, it is even possible that the tough leader has a negative impact on a worker’s family and their lives. Leadership carries a sobering responsibility.

Now let’s look at strong. Strong is “cool, calm and collected.” The strong leader is exemplified by his or her confidence and ability and willingness, to encourage workers/followers. The strong leader understands that people are human, and that the paycheck is not the prime motivating factor for most people. A strong leader is confident in his people’s willingness to follow because most are motivated to be successful in their jobs. Successful performance makes them feel good. For most the paycheck is a by-product. The strong leader has confidence in his ability to lead because he or she has put in the personal time to study his craft, leadership and people. Strong leaders get along with their people, without compromising the quality and quantity of their team’s output, or unduly fraternizing with followers. He or she is adept at being accessible, compassionate and respectful without becoming just “one of the gang.”

What modern science teaches us about the strong approach to leadership is that when a person does not perceive danger, but perceives, respect, acceptance and confidence in him or her emanating towards them from their leader, their bodies release the endorphins and activates the neurotransmitter dopamine.

Endorphins are what give runners that euphoric sensation when they have pushed their bodies out of their comfort zones and get into the rhythm of running.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that causes the release of other substances in the body, including oxytocin, which is known as the love hormone. For our professional purposes here, love is not synonymous with intimacy. I am talking about the “love your neighbor as yourself” kind of love, even though oxytocin is also involved in intimacy.

You can probably see where this is going. When a person feels safe, is emotionally comfortable, even in uncomfortable physical circumstances, when he or she feels respected and valuable, they are relaxed and able to perform at their peak because they don’t feel a need to protect themselves against a threat. When they perform at their peak, they are primed to stretch a little farther. They are ready to go beyond average or acceptable. This is good for everyone’s “bottom line.”

Most of the time, problem workers are a symptom of problem leaders. There are exceptions to almost every rule, but the wise leader will examine him or herself before determining that the problem with his or her people is those people, or “that person.”

If you have a leadership problem you would like some help with, leave a comment below, or if privacy is a concern, use my contact form below to send me an email. I am here to help, strengthen and encourage you. (“I love it when a plan comes together” – George Peppard in the A Team).