Leadership and Discipline

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CHICAGO — It’s becoming more and more apparent to me that, in our industry, one person’s impact on another is very important.
Let me ask some important questions of you. Do you build people up or tear them down? Do you encourage or discourage others? Do you try to be the hero or make heroes out of those around you?
I’ve found, especially in all parts of our industry, that those who aspire to lead learn to build people up.
The No. 1 reason that people quit their jobs is a lack of appreciation and a lack of understanding by others as to what they actually do. A major problem with top management officials is that they don’t take the time to read the data that comes their way — they think they just “get” it. Usually, the importance of a program or section is based on revenue generated or saved. But, if a small team generates X revenue or X production, and a larger team generates a greater figure using much greater resources, which one actually does the better job? And what about other issues not related to revenue?
I can recall working for a person years ago who made it a point to send handwritten notes when he noticed someone was doing a great job or had done something that merited recognition. The note would say “GFU” at the top, which meant “Good For Us.” When he retired, my organization held a retirement party for him, and he was amazed at the number of co-workers who lined up clutching those pieces of paper with “GFU” written at the top.
This little act of recognition and appreciation meant a lot to his employees. This was a small, but significant, act with great results.
It’s even more important to let people know that there is someone out there who fully understands what they do. He heard the concerns of his employees, and when they were overwhelmed and needed assistance, he always got them help. He would go to the top to fight for his employees. He didn’t fall under any political pressure. (FYI: I still have notes that I took from this person.)
Now let’s talk about a major concern that most of us have: confronting problems and challenges. Few of us like confrontation, but in leading others, confrontation is an absolute necessity. If you avoid it, sooner or later your employees and co-workers won’t take you seriously. The solution is actually very simple, though: confront the challenge, not those associated with the challenge.
When you must confront others, you must first show concern for those involved as you address the issue. No matter who you are, be aware that because of your position, there will always be people who will agree with you because you’re the boss. They’ll wait to lash out once they’re among their peers. I believe we refer to these folks as “yes people.”
Remember that most problems and challenges require other folks to resolve them, so no matter what you think, listen to your employees. They really do make you who you are, if you let them.
Always be willing to examine your role, including behavior, actions and accomplishments. For example, if you’ve had to take some corporate actions to stay afloat in these troubled economic times, you should assert leadership and make sure that others don’t think it’s the new status quo or that it’s better at the top — i.e., “across the board” means across the board.
Remember, when you undersell what you need from your employees out of fear of rejection or disappointment, the ultimate result will usually be that you get little in return. Ask for an obligation of great magnitude and you will most likely receive a great effort in return.


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