The Disconnected Leader

The Disconnected Leader

The Disconnected Leader

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

Even though few would dispute the value of being an engaged leader, many still do not practice what they preach. The harsh reality is great numbers of leaders continue to operate in a vacuum by sequestering themselves away in the corner office and attempting to lead from afar.  Trust me when I tell you that being out of touch is never a good position to find yourself in as the CEO. I rarely come across leaders who couldn’t benefit from being more meaningfully engaged on both a broader and deeper basis, and hope that today’s post will encourage you to do just that…ENGAGE.

I have consistently espoused the value of walking the floor (hat tip to Tom PetersMBWA), dropping in for meetings on an impromptu basis, proactively engaging key stakeholders, and any number of other items that focus on raising your awareness. Don’t think span of control – think span of awareness.

My advice to CEOs, regardless of whether you’re running a start-up or a Fortune 500 company, is to go see things for yourself. I think you’ll find your view of the world will change dramatically when you validate impressions based upon your own observations, as opposed to sole reliance on what you read in a management report, or what you hear third or fourth hand in a meeting. Think about it… when you’re sitting in front of the board, on an analyst call, providing testimony, talking to the media, or speaking at the annual shareholder meeting, wouldn’t it be great to actually know what your talking about as opposed to interpreting what someone else has told you?

So the real question is this – how does a CEO get to the point of being so disconnected from operations that he or she just doesn’t have a clue? The reality is that there are any number of reasons why this can happen, a few of which I’ve noted below:

  • The Optimistic CEO: I have met a number of CEOs that simply choose to view the world through rose colored glasses. They will believe what they want to believe regardless of what they hear or what they observe. Even in the worst of times they believe nothing to be insurmountable. While optimism is generally a great quality for a CEO to possess, there is a point at which unbridled optimism can disconnect a person from reality.
  • The Arrogant CEO: These CEOs believe they can will their view into reality in spite of circumstances, situations, or events. The arrogant CEO doesn’t value the input of line and staff management. These CEOs see management opinions as inconsequential, unless of course, they happen to be in alignment with their own beliefs and opinions.
  • The Unaware CEO: These CEO’s will take any report or piece of information at face value. These CEOs are overly trusting, and often politically naive. They fail to seek clarification, validation, or proof supporting the information they have been fed. This is a very unhealthy state of mind for a CEO hoping to survive over the long haul.
  • The Fearful CEO: These chief executives hide in fear of making a mistake, revealing shortcomings or inadequacies, or in an attempt at managing perceptions. CEOs guided by fear often suffer from indecision and analysis paralysis. The worst thing about a fearful CEO, is that executives who refuse to make decisions and take risks will transfer that thinking to others within the organization. Leadership is a contagion – good or bad. Oddly enough, the biggest sign of a fearful leader is when a leader fails to engage. Leaders who avoid personal interaction, or shy away from social media for all the wrong reasons are likely fearful leaders.
  • The Disconnected CEO: Unlike CEOs who understand how to leverage time and resources via delegation while remaining connected to management and staff, the disconnected CEO does just the opposite. They have reclusive tendencies which cause them to often completely abdicate responsibility and remain disconnected from management. Sticking one’s head in the sand will not make the circumstances of a particular situation go away, rather that type of thinking will likely on exacerbate the issue.

If you’re a CEO with clouded vision and desire to change the view from the top, it is critical that you maintain open lines of communication through a variety of channels and feedback loops. All good leaders maintain a connection and rapport with both line and staff. Furthermore, savvy CEOs are always working to refine their intuitive senses. A good CEO demands accountability and transparency. They challenge everything of consequence. They understand that acceptance of general statements and ambiguity, or blindness to hidden agendas will only contribute to limiting their vision.

If you’re a CEO and you haven’t personally spoken with your top customers, suppliers, vendors and partners, you’re doing yourself and your company a great injustice. If your CFO handles all communications with your banking relationships, and your Chief Investment Officer handles all of your investor relations, you’re flat out missing the boat. If your CMO is making all of your brand decisions there will be h*ll to pay down the road. Moreover, in today’s litigious and compliance oriented world where the CEO is no longer out of reach, it’s just plain smart to take a more hands on approach. Remember that there is a major difference between delegating and abdicating responsibility. I think President Reagan said it best: “trust but verify.”

Let me be very clear; I’m not suggesting that you become a micro manager or that you stop delegating, I’m simply suggesting you do the job the way it is supposed to be done. Great leaders champion from the front – they are not disengaged invisible executives. As the CEO you are the visionary, influencer, champion, defender, evangelist, and you must have a bias to action. You can be none of these things as a recluse.

Engaged leaders are very visible and very active leaders - they question, listen, assess and react. I can promise you one thing – leaders who don’t have a clear read on the pulse of the organization, won’t have a healty pulse for very long.

Thoughts?

Leadership About Leading_2

Leadership Is About Leading

Leadership About Leading_2

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

Leadership is about leading. Leadership is a 24-7-365 endeavor. In fact, I’d go so far as to say the best leaders view what they do as a calling and not just a job. If you’re a leader, what you do in public or private, in silence or in word, and in thought or in deed will be observed, evaluated and critiqued – count on it. There are simply no free passes for leaders. Don’t believe me? Just look around – the news is littered each day with examples of people in leadership positions who ignore or forget what I’ve just espoused. In today’s post I’ll examine the fallacy of leading by not leading.

There has been an interesting amount of chatter of late around the concept of “when to lead.” What puzzles me is this statement’s inference there must be a good time not to lead. I couldn’t disagree more – abdication is not a leadership quality, characteristic or trait. Leaders who view their role as a part-time activity will be replaced by those who realize the frivolity of such a belief. When you’re in a leadership role, everything you do is on the clock. Whether you realize it or not, everything you do as a leader is leading – the question is whether or not your action or inaction constitutes good or bad leadership.

Let me take a moment and dismiss the sophomoric leadership theorists who believe that sometimes a leader must not lead by stepping-back, stepping-aside or stepping-away and acquiescing leadership to others. This doesn’t represent an example of not leading, rather it is a great example of real leadership. Real leaders know that choosing to surrender the floor, to remain silent, to delegate, or to utilize any number of other subtle acts of leadership demonstrate astute examples of situational and contextual leadership.

Furthermore, real leaders don’t stop leading when they leave the workplace – they are the same person at work, in the home, or in social settings. They also understand effective leadership doesn’t always require a physical presence. They recognize good leadership is transferable, distributable and scalable, and therefore, should continue in their absence as well. Leadership that doesn’t exist in the absence of a leader really isn’t leadership at all.

Leadership isn’t about volume – it’s about vision. Leadership has little to do with personal glory, but everything to do with influencing the right outcomes. Smart leaders understand leadership influence is multi-directional and can come from many angles. While leadership is most easily recognized when appearing from the front, it is often times more effective being exerted from behind through service, or in collaborative engagement standing along side those you lead. Regardless of approach, great leaders understand leadership failure comes most often when leaders fail to lead.

Everything you do as a leader sets an example or sends a message – good or bad. Leaders are measured by how they conduct themselves online and offline, in business and social settings, and by how they value family and friends. Whether you accept a leadership position, or are thrust into a leadership role by circumstance, once you make the choice to be a leader you must ALWAYS lead. Dismiss or forget this advice at great cost and peril – remember it and you’ll be long admired for your service as a leader.

Thoughts?

Why Should Anyone Be Led By You?

Why Should Anyone Be Led By You

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

Why should anyone be led by you? This is the seminal question for all leaders. People arrive at a position of leadership in many different ways – some individuals openly and aggressively seek out positions of leadership, while leadership is thrust upon others. Whether leaders are elected, appointed, anointed, or self-proclaimed, and regardless of whether it is by design or default, once in a position of leadership they nonetheless carry the burden and responsibilities associated with being a leader. So back to the original question – Why should anyone be led by you?

Have you ever felt as if  the term “leadership” has a bulls-eye painted on it? Well, it’s because it does – the very mention of the word leadership seems to draw fire from increasingly large numbers these days. The term has been inappropriately hi-jacked by the politically correct who mock it, the avant-garde who belittle it, the naive who discount it, and the public at large seems to be growing tired of hearing about it. I’m befuddled by this dismissive attitude, and am left wondering how we could have arrived at such a place – how could something so valuable be trivialized by so many?

I’ve come to the conclusion that the reasons so many attempt to ridicule leadership are twofold: 1.) The masses of feigned leaders in the public eye make it easy to do so, and; 2.) Real leaders tend to practice their craft quietly, and with great humility, often going unnoticed in the public eye.

I was at a leadership workshop over the weekend and witnessed a leader self-assess himself as his own greatest risk. It’s true for all of us. Here’s a sobering thought for you to ponder – YOU are the single biggest threat to your role as a leader. Which means YOU are also the single biggest risk to your success in the workplace, with your spouse, to your children, and to your friends. If you are in a position of leadership, you will lead – you will either lead people toward the right things or lead them astray, but you will lead.

By my definition, leaders are not self-promoting, pseudo celebrities whose propensity for personal achievement and media attention far outweigh their true contributions. Rather than focus on the braggarts that litter the media with their personal triumphs, or the charlatans who provide constant reminders of failed leadership, we need to focus our attention on the true leaders who quietly walk among us each day…ethical business people, soldiers, firefighters, law enforcement officers, principled educators, pastors & theologians, medical practitioners, responsible parents, student achievers, volunteers, statesmen (notice I didn’t say politicians), good Samaritans, and the every day hard working American citizen. These are the real leaders who through their personal sacrifice, committed service, and selfless acts who deserve our respect and attention.

We’ve all witnessed the leader who tries to do too much, and conversely, most of us have also observed the leader in stealth mode. We’ve gladly followed the bright, affable and charismatic leaders and rebelled against the arrogant and self indulgent leaders who love to do little more than pontificate about their legendary prowess. The truth is no single label receives the unrelenting and often terse scrutiny (public and private) than that of leader. The pressure is intense, and the risks are high. The good news is the rewards can be tremendous for those who possess the requisite skills and character to not only hold the title of leader, but who are also capable of living up to the title.

When you closely examine the core characteristics of what really makes for great leadership, it’s not power, title, authority or even technical competency that distinguishes truly great leaders. Rather it’s the ability to both earn and keep the loyalty and trust of those whom they lead that sets them apart. Leadership is about trust, stewardship, care, concern, service, humility and understanding. If you build into those you lead, if you make them better, if you add value to their lives then you will have earned their trust and loyalty. This is the type of bond that will span positional and philosophical gaps, survive mistakes, challenges, downturns and other obstacles that will inevitably occur. Leadership is service. It’s not about you, but about the serving the needs of those whom you have responsibility for.

You don’t change mindsets by being right, you do it by showing you care. Logic and reason have their place, but they rarely will overcome a strong emotional or philosophical position. Trying to cram your positional logic down the throat of others will simply leave a very bad taste in their mouths. This is a very tough lesson for many to learn, but a critical one if you take your duties, obligations and responsibilities as a leader seriously.

The best leaders are capable of aligning and unifying opposing interests for a greater good. You won’t ever become a truly successful leader until you understand a person’s need to be heard and understood is much more important than satisfying your need to impart wisdom. I’m going to make this as simple as I can…leadership is all about the people – nothing more & nothing less. Are you worthy of being a leader? Why should anyone be led by you?

Thoughts?

Vision and Leadership

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Leadership and VisionVisioning for CEOs is a topic that I often address on this blog. I don’t do so in an attempt to torture you with redundant thought, but rather because I believe it is a message that is often taken far too lightly by chief executives. A CEO’s ability to perform effectively is so closely tied to their ability to form a clearly articulated vision, evangelize the vision and then to execute on their vision, that no real discussion on executive leadership should take place without an emphasis on vision. Put simply, I believe that leadership absent vision is a train-wreck waiting to happen. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that you simply cannot decouple the two without causing an organizational implosion. In today’s post I’m going to share a few brief thoughts on visioning for CEOs, as well as providing you with the thoughts of others on the importance of vision…

Examine any list of great leaders and you’ll find that to the one, they have a clarity and purpose of vision. The good news is that CEOs without vision will take care of themselves in short order, as they simply won’t survive for long. However worse than the CEO with no vision, is a CEO with the wrong vision. These CEOs can often go undiscovered for great lengths of time before their poorly constructed vision bubbles-up to the surface, by which time it is often too late to repair the damage. Many a good enterprise has been blown to pieces by a CEO with either no vision or the wrong vision.

It’s important to understand that vision statements are design oriented.  The vision is bigger picture and future oriented – it is the vision that defines the end game. Vision statements, as implied in the construction of the phraseology itself, put forth a statement of envisioned future. This vision, if successful, must be underpinned by core ideology (values) and then expressed with clarity and conviction. A non-existent, ambiguous, or ideologically weak corporate vision is nothing short of a recipe for disaster…It would be akin to the proverbial ship without a rudder adrift without any direction or control. A well articulated corporate vision should be capable of being easily understood and distributed throughout the value chain.

As magically vibrant and illustrative as a vision can be, a vision isn’t really about what can be imagined – it’s about what can be delivered. A leader’s vision must be distributed, adopted, and deeply embedded into the daily fabric of the organizational culture. A leader who doesn’t possess clarity of vision cannot expect those they lead to have clarity in thought or deed. A shared vision based on common values is the gold standard of corporate alignment.

It should be clear by now that I believe your vision or lack thereof will shape your destiny as a CEO. But hey…you hear that from me on a fairly consistent basis. So in today’s post I thought I’d share the thoughts of others on this topic so you can see that I’m not alone in placing great emphasis on the correlation between great vision and success as a leader…

“The empires of the future are empires of the mind.”
- Winston Churchill

“Destiny is not a matter of chance, but of choice. Not something to wish for, but to attain.”
- William Jennings Bryan

“To grasp and hold a vision, that is the very essence of successful leadership.”
- Ronald Reagan

“Dissatisfaction and discouragement are not caused by the absence of things but the absence of vision.”
- Anonymous

“The future belongs to those who see the possibilities before they become obvious.”
- John Scully

I can teach anybody how to get what they want out of life. The problem is that I can’t find anybody who can tell me what they want.”
Mark Twain

“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with success unexpected in common hours.”
- Henry David Thoreau

“After character, the ability to create, articulate, evangelize, and execute on your vision is what will make or break you as a leader.”
- Mike Myatt (couldn’t resist slipping one in)

“Create your future from your future, not your past.”
- Werner Erhard

“No matter how dark things seem to be or actually are, raise your sights and see the possibilities – always see them, or they’re always there.”
- Norman Vincent Peale

“Where there is no vision the people perish.”
- Proverbs 29:18

“The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it,but that it is too low and we reach it.”
- Michelangelo

I hope these thoughts will inspire you to take stock of your vision, and focus on its attainment as a top priority in the execution of your duties as a leader. I would love to hear your thoughts and observations in the comments section below. Don’t be shy – jump right in…

Leadership & Employee Engagement

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer,N2growth

Employee EngagementThe topic of “Employee Engagement” is something that many CEOs tend to struggle with. Long gone are the days where the executive leadership of a company can remain sequestered in their offices with an internal focus on hard metrics. Given the current economic climate, it takes far more than cost-cutting to survive. It is the CEO who understands the need for focus on the soft metrics of customer centricity and employee engagement that will create sustainable growth in revenue and brand equity. In today’s post I’ll examine the need to have a fully engaged work force…

Before you read any further, I want you to stop and ask yourself the following question: How many of your employees are truly passionate about your company, its values, its vision, its mission, and the role that they play within the organization? Don’t fool yourself…conduct a harsh, critical analysis and come up with a true head count of the passionate employees within your organization.

Your answer to the question above should be a very telling sign about the overall health of your business. Are people just showing-up and punching the clock to collect a paycheck, or are they personally consumed and committed to achieving the company vision? Are your employees corporate evangelists serving as a motivating force to be reckoned with, or do they gather in small groups to gripe and complain about all the things wrong with the company and its leadership?

The key to having an engaged workforce is to have a passionate workforce. And the simple truth of the matter is that no single person in the company can instill passion in the ranks like the CEO can. Despite the consensus recognition that employee engagement matters, the enormity of its impact on the company’s bottom line still appears to be misunderstood by most CEOs. I rarely talk to a CEO that doesn’t understand this principle in concept, but yet I rarely see chief executives who put theory into practice…

So it begs the question, why are CEOs listening but not taking action? The answer seems to be that CEOs continue to allocate considerable effort and resources toward engineering the corporate strategy, yet they seem to be unaware of what forces can prevent said strategy from being delivered successfully. Not surprisingly, employee engagement is often the critical missing factor.

As the CEO you must also become the chief engagement officer. Operating in a vacuum and being out of touch is never a good position to find yourself in as the CEO. I have consistently espoused the value of walking the floor, dropping in on meetings on an impromptu basis, taking employees of all ranks to lunch, and any number of other items that focus on raising your internal awareness and creating a passionate workforce.

It is your passionate employees who are the franchise talent (regardless of position) you should be building around. If you can’t get employees to see the light and become passionate about the company and their contribution, then seek to replace them as quickly as possible. Just as passion is a positive, contagious trait so are apathy and dissatisfaction. Passionate employees are productive, energized, committed and loyal assets. Apathetic employees quickly become disenfranchised liabilities that will hurt both productivity and morale. To drive home the point of how much I value passionate employees, I would take a moderately talented but passionate employee over a very talented but complacent employee eleven times out of ten…

Truly great companies are built around passionate employees. When you walk into a dynamic, thriving company you can sense the passion…you feel a certain buzz and fervor that pervades everything. Contrast this with a company that feels as if it has no pulse…If you’ve ever walked into an organization that feels like rigor-mortis has set in, you know what I’m referring to…In today’s economy, the old saying that “the only thing worse than an employee who quits and leaves is the employee who quits and stays” has never been more accurate.

As a leader you need to understand that your employees not only want to be led, but they want to be led by a passionate leader. Ultimately employees want to be passionate about what they do; in fact, they’ll go to the ends of earth and sacrifice tremendously if passionate about the endeavor. Think of the employees that started off with Gates and Allen at Microsoft, or those that worked with Phil Knight in his garage before Nike even had a name, or those employees that endured the early days with Larry Page and Sergey Brin at Google…it was their passion and commitment that helped change the landscape of business, not their starting salaries.

To build an extraordinary company, you must light the fire in the bellies of your workforce…You must get them to feel passion about your organization and to connect with your vision. You must get your employees to engage. As the CEO, your ability to transfer your passion to your employees is the essence of being a great leader…So much so that if you can’t accomplish this, you simply can’t be a great leader. Think of any great leader, and while you’ll find varying degrees of skill sets, intellect and ability, I challenge to name even one that did not have passion, as well as the ability to instill said passion in team members.

Thoughts?