20 April 2011

What's Missing?

"Missing pieces do more than complete the puzzle. They fill in an empty space."

--Luanne Rice

Is it possible that organizations of all types have fewer of the right kind of leaders today than nearly 20 years ago? I'm referring to those individuals who exhibit a good balance of experience, personal depth, emotional strength, and administrative discipline.

If this is true, why?

To begin, is there too much attention paid to the latest fads and not enough to the discipline of leadership itself? Being a leader is meaningful but hard work no matter the situation.

Another possible answer to our original question lies in the failure of leaders to learn from their experiences. Someone once said that those who are not open to counsel can’t be helped. Often development programs are offset when individual responsibility to keep learning disappears.

The person most responsible for development is the leader, not the educator or trainer.

What’s missing that often undermines well-intended people?

The first absent piece tends to be …


It’s difficult if not impossible for people to follow someone whom they don’t trust.

You have to offer reasonable grounds for belief. This is true in your first assignment or as a seasoned executive. Relationships are built on trust. Call it authenticity or transparency if you like. But substance is a must.

Are people sometimes misled by leadership?


To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, “You can’t fool all of the people all of the time.” Weakness in character is revealed at some point, often in a crisis. Sometimes the damage is not repairable.

Maybe a coach is what you need. Timely interventions by trusted individuals may be more important than formal reviews separated by long intervals. Few, however, change their behavior with coaching alone. It takes self-discipline and practice to reverse course. Even then it's an uphill climb. 

One way to understand credibility or trust is to think about what impresses you. 

Those with measured words and consistent behavior are impressive. Why? Because the combination of these two qualities is rare.

Another missing piece is …


Here we are referring to interpersonal or social communication, not necessarily oratory or elocution. Most of a leader’s communication is one-on-one or in small groups. Businesses are social systems. An overlooked tool is conversation.

The writer, Alan Barker, put it this way:

“Conversation is your primary management tool. It’s how you build relationships with colleagues and others. It's how you come to understand what people think and how they feel. The conversation is the way you influence others and are influenced by them. It’s how you solve problems, cooperate with others, and create new opportunities.”

That's good advice.

Two-thirds of any conversation is listening and listening is hard work.


While someone else is talking we often keep our brain in gear waiting for just the right time to speak again. By this posture, we hear little of what the other person has to say. Many gain leadership positions despite being poor listeners. How this happens is a mystery. 

When is the last time you really paid attention to colleagues, staff, customers, or board members?

Is two-way communication a missing piece? Then consider asking good questions to find out what interests others. It’s one thing to know about your people. It’s another to know your people. Understanding that difference improves and strengthens relationships.

There there's …


The buzzword is "collaboration" but associates value someone who is cooperative. 

If you're trying to build a great enterprise it’s going to take the right people laboring together to achieve common goals. Are you comfortable with strong and gifted associates?

While the task determines the form of cooperation here's a practical way to begin. 
Start by asking people what you can do to help them. Learn to cooperate with others, first. Then see if there's a difference when asking for their help in getting something done on your list.

And finally ...


Author, Jordan Mitchell, sums it up this way: "Good behavior, etiquette, and simply being polite positively impact everyone around you, and the advantages of that are countless.

It takes self-awareness, but just one missing piece can fill an empty space and make a significant difference in your life.


(C) Bredholt & Co.