Darkness Without Vision

As leaders we need to establish the direction we are headed, the land we are headed toward, or the environment we are moving into.  All of these are forward-looking into the unknown for most of the folks following our leadership.  So it stands to reason that the future is void of any picture unless it is painted with the leader’s vision.  Without vision we have total darkness.

How many of us are working today with leaders that are leading us into a tunnel that is pitch black?  They are so busy describing the activities that we are going to do along the way that they are failing to paint a picture of what it will look like when we get there.

Stephen Covey coined a phrase he calls a habit of successful people, and it is “Begin With The End In Mind.”  In other words know where you are headed, be clear about your vision and paint a picture with as much detail as possible of the world you want to lead others to.

I think we have all experienced the leader that can illustrate a deeply focused vision and describe what winning the goal will look and feel like.  If you are in agreement with the vision, there is nothing more exciting than to find that journey worth the effort.

We have also experienced the leader that either fails to describe the vision or has no clue where they are headed in the first place.  Sadly this has not stopped them from moving forward into what equates to a black hole.  To make matters worse, they land up taking a lot of employees with them into the darkness.

I have a very simple solution for our leaders.  Never move forward without a clear vision of where you are headed and make sure everyone understands the land they are moving to.

I also have a very simple solution for when we are the followers.  Never follow anyone that has not established a vision you can see and agree to.  And if you simply can’t control this urge, at least bring a flashlight with you!

Looking For New Opportunities

Have you noticed how often people are trying to work around their unemployment status?  They are not “out of work” or “unemployed”  they are “Looking for New Opportunities!”  Why is everyone beating around the bush?

There are probably as many theories as there are real reasons for the creativity in the current titles you read in online profiles, and I have no problem with that because this is marketing, the same as a resume used to proclaim in paper form.  I get irritated when people leave up a 2-year old title and company that no longer exists, or just sounds better than their current job, but I chalk it up to marketing again.

However, when they try to disguise the fact they are seeking a job because they don’t have one right now, I find that misleading at best.  Yet I’ve heard that too many employers are screening applicants based on if they are currently employed and giving preferential treatment to those with a job to leave.  Why?

If I am out to hire someone, I’m looking for someone who needs and wants a job period.  Not someone who wants a better job then the one they have today.  I see the former as being more motivated and let’s be honest, loyal to me since I gave them an opportunity.  I’m not looking for the greener pasture person who is always out to find something better.

The games are even played in the self-employed areas of work.  Somehow being self-employed means top of the food chain, and the last person who needs work.  Which flies in the face of most self-employed people, myself included.  I prefer to choose the term “under-employed” as I wish I was a heck of a lot busier.

My heart goes out to recruiters who are trying so hard to find the right person to fill an opening they have to source.  Jeez, they have to wade through so much to find the right person and they are overloaded with people who are not at all qualified.

Yet on the flip side, have you read a job posting for anything recently?  The list is a mile long, and even if you are perfect for the job, there will be several things you have never witnessed before let alone are proficient in doing.  Now what?  Pass on the job, or dance around with more misleading statements.

Here is my odd idea for resolving some of this ramping up.  Simplify the need to have requirements for competency in the job.  Leave out all the nice to have items and make this list short.

If you are applying for a job, be realistic about your employment status and your potential for success in the job you are seeking.  Pull back the marketing and spell out for the recruiter why you are their best telephone call for an interview.

Clean up your online profiles so they capture the real you and your experience.  Change phrases like “looking for new opportunities” to something bold like “Awesome Out-Of-Work Training Manager.” 

Maybe, just maybe, honesty will prevail!

Ding! “You Are Now Empowered!”

I used to work for a manager that was so benevolent, that he used to empower people like a King would Knight someone with a sword.  If it hadn’t been so sad to watch it would have been almost funny.  His favorite thing to say when someone asked a question or sought guidance was, “you are now empowered to solve that problem yourself.”

It is my belief that empowerment is not something you grant people the permission to do, but rather create an environment where people feel free to make decisions, have success and learn from failures.  When you grant someone empowerment, you are deferring the responsibility if things go wrong.

My manager was famous as I’ve said for granting people empowerment.  Although this might sound great, it was only a positive experience if you landed up preceding the same way the boss wanted you to go.  If you went the wrong way, he would swoop in and scream like a crow that you had screwed up.  If you were successful you never heard from him again.

On more than one occasion I would hear him take credit for something I had done (while being empowered) as if I was nothing more than the errand boy following his orders.  So how does this all equal empowerment?  It does not!

True empowerment allows a person to grow and experience the full results of their work.  When I was a Chief Learning Officer, I frequently would get accolades over the volume of work and creativity of our training organization.  I could have taken credit, but that would have been so far from the truth it wouldn’t have been funny.  I had a team of very empowered people taking risks, and stretching themselves to solve problems.  We met the needs of the organization, but none of us did it alone.

In our organization it was just as easy to succeed as it was to fail, which allowed us to be the former more often than the latter.  To date, this was the finest group of people I’ve had the privilege to work alongside.  I might have been the Chief Learning Officer, but we all took turns being empowered.  Ding!

A Leader Can Drive In Reverse

It seems that most leadership philosophy, and the focus of most skill development for leaders is centered around setting a compelling vision that is so strong that people follow you.  And while I cannot deny that focus is still vital to a leader’s success, I witnessed this week how important it is for a leader to pause, and backup when they find themselves going in the wrong direction.  I think it is important that all leaders are able to drive in reverse when necessary.

Just like when we drive a car to a destination, we begin by clearly knowing where we are going and then we put the car in Drive which is the forward motion.  As long as we continue in the right direction making the right turns, we will end up at our chosen destination.

But what happens if you miss a turn, or totally have the wrong directions?  You usually seek advise, and get back on track.  Sometimes you have to turn around, or drive in reverse until you get back on track.

Some leaders are so hell-bent on doing things their own way that when they miss the signals, they will either take everyone that is following them in the wrong direction and miss their goal or come to the finish line after the race is over.

Some leaders when they are open to their team’s input realize that the team is trying to forge a better path then was set by the leader.  And although the team has traveled with the leader for a few miles, it is time to stop, and drive in reverse until a new road is taken.  These leaders are more concerned about doing the right thing then getting their way.

I admire leaders that can drive in reverse as well as full throttle fast forward.  How about you?