Building Community Through Better Relationships

Who’s Driving This Car?

Concept 26

Organizations without real leaders are like a car with no one driving. Ordinary cars perform every function that they were built to do; yet they lack the ability to navigate challenges directly in front of them. Newer models are beginning to acquire that functionality. Likewise, successful leaders are developing the functionality to perform in more dynamic environments. And, with each success they develop people to accomplish more. These leaders intentionally develop others to help accomplish what is in everyone’s best interest. Better people contributing more effectively create more productive and satisfying environments. These leaders are who need to drive the car.

Lead As You Learn
Individuals who lead the same they were taught typically create more problems than they solve. Old paradigms helped organizations, but marginalized people. Eventually, that approach resulted in marginalized organizations. Realize that an organization is a group working toward a specific goal. Groups can be missionaries, sports teams, or corporate executives. To facilitate progress, leaders must get teams to move forward their joint interests. As team members grow and evolve, the leaders must meet their changing needs and priorities. Promising a gold watch after 40 years is no longer enough.

Leadership is dynamic. Old teachings no longer apply to modern workplaces. The solution is to lead as you learn. Conversely, success is realized when you learn as you lead. So, when the question arises whether learning or leading comes first, the answer is yes! By actively serving people under their watch, leaders can keep their needs as the focal point. Because everyone’s needs evolve quicker than ever before, effective leadership demands hitting multiple moving targets. Simultaneously, leading and learning offers the only fighting chance to compete and win.

Lead For Results
Because organizations’ objectives include winning, scoring systems must be established. Scoreboards make it easy for a sports team to identify winning. Publicly held corporations have stock markets as intrinsic metrics to identify winners. But what about individuals in the bowels of these organization? Or, what about professionals like educators or research teams? Scorecards are effective management tools to facilitate measurement over specific time horizons. SMART (Specific Measurable Achievable Relevant Time-based) goals work well where quantifying outcomes gets tricky. Nevertheless, always measure results.

Leaders must tell their teams explicitly how they perform. These performance targets pave the road in front of the organization. They reveal where the organization is heading. Consequently, direction provides what followers require to determine their individual objectives. Then, the leader can channel their desire to deliver the team’s needs for mutual success. The team can now identify their desired results.

All of this sounds great, but it only works when the group knows who is driving. Where is the authority? That knowledge is necessary for the team to position itself to respond to ongoing directions. As teams gain alignment, productivity improves. Next, results improve. Then, all contributors benefit. Such awareness only occurs with clear direction and progressive leadership. “Because I said so”, may meet the quarterly numbers. But, it ultimately leads to short tenures for leaders. The leader who drives the car such that others understand how and why has a significant advantage. That leader and the team now both enjoy power. That power promotes encouragement, motivation, preparation and results which then leads teams to their rewards.

By Glenn W Hunter
Principal of Hunter And Beyond


August 16, 2017 Posted by | Better Business, Better World | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Naughty Manager

Old School Manager

Bad managers aren’t born. They are made. Unfortunately, they are often made very early in life. Unlike genuine leaders who continuously evolve and grow, immature managers get some authority and park. It is not really the managers’ fault that they were made that way. It is totally their fault that they refused to acquire skills and evolve to the point they develop team members. Consequently, they fail to deliver sustainable results. Their small mindedness is evident in their behavior, motivation and lackluster productivity. Leaders take responsibility for their teams’ results. Mangers should aspire to assume responsibility for others, as opposed to barking about their authority and whining about their lack of respect.

Old School Guy
“I’m just an old school guy. That is how I came up in the business.” is a common statement by stagnant managers. What that really means is that they are old and lazy. You don’t want to work to improve. You don’t want to be held accountable for progress. Progress requires learning skills. It also requires accepting responsibility for better communications. Old School Guy complains that no one listens. He is oblivious to demonstrating respect or earning it with people skills.

When results become a problem, discipline is the default. Teams do not produce for Old School Guy because they do not like him! While this manager quickly points to his 20 years experience in the business, his more mature superiors regretfully recognize that he really had one year’s experience 20 times! But like any naughty child, opportunities to learn to improve happen. If only he grasped the opportunities to learn. If only….

New School Results
Communication, inclusion, dialogue are not fads. Results emerge by getting colleagues to buy into both vision and goals, then working hard toward metrics. Being the boss is not most important. Delivering results is. Communication requires listening first. As a leader, authority means having the last word. Is the first one necessary, too? For leaders who listen poorly, practice using phrases like: why do you think that?; what have you seen work in this situation?; how would your idea impact your direct reports? The magic happens when the leader embraces the silence after the question and listens!

Better questions yield better answers. Honest dialogue cultivates better solutions. Ask any child, the threat of pain promotes additional lying. Remove the pain through open, pre-emptive dialogue and more honesty results. Subordinates tend to respond better when they are genuinely heard. As a leader, make the decision. Also, consider other perspectives. Disregard the team’s input long enough and leaders will have no followers. And, a parade leader without a marching band is just someone with a stick taking a walk.

Ironically, the beauty of team success is that when it happens, enough credit is available to share. This by no means suggests rewards are distributed equally. It means the team wins. Nevertheless, mistakes happen. All knowledge does not reside in the masses. Bad decisions occur. Naughty managers start blaming everyone else in those times. However, according to leadership expert, John Maxwell, “Leadership is taking responsibility while others are making excuses.” Leaders stand tall with integrity in tough times when that attribute is most valuable. No excuses. No threats. Just clear direction and accountability. Seize opportunity to lead. Or, just pout alone with no other toys to abuse!

By Glenn W Hunter
Principal of Hunter And Beyond

August 2, 2017 Posted by | Better Business, Better Communication, Better Person | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

At the End of the Day, Is Night

A mentor earlier in my career was very fond of making fun of business sayings by slightly changing them to make them more absurd. Because she was bright, successful and funny, I started doing it too. One of her favorites was “At the end of the day… is night”. Some clichés are used by people who like to hear themselves talk. For professionals who focus on productivity, they do not have time to waste on someone like that. Don’t misinterpret her witticism for silliness. Her revised saying was a clear indicator that we were not going to waste time repeating obvious conclusions. Consequently, she emphasized “Add value now, or be the butt of the next joke!” Effective business communication was where adding value started.

• Don’t Hide Behind Clichés
Too often, professionals hide behind clichés because they are incapable of original thought. By definition, effective leaders refuse to live in a world of clichés because clear communication is a characteristic of an effective leader. A popular cliché’, “It is what it is”, is simply a declaration of futility. For a business team, this phrase translates to “I’m too lazy to do any better”. An equally ridiculous, yet popular cliché is “Let’s not reinvent the wheel”. The sheer lunacy screams risk aversion and ineptitude. Taken literally it says, “we should all travel rolling on sawed logs.” The simple response is “No, let’s innovate!”

• Beware of the Deep
At another point in my career, I worked in an organization with a manager who was in awe of his own alleged brilliance. Additionally, the mental midgets that he hired as supervisors were carefully selected to pose no threat to his reign of ignorance. As a lowly associate, I deliberately let my silence be misunderstood for reverence. On one particular rant, he was inspiring us to overtake our completion by exhorting “There is only one number one!” After silently feeling relieved to learn he could actually count, I watched his direct reports begin their chorus of worship at his superior intellect. Clearly this dysfunctional organization’s failure started with leadership. The leader’s influence was based entirely on his position indicating that the organization was broken. When a leader needs subordinates to be dumb, in order to appear smart, beware. Furthermore when the leader starts piling it deep, the smart contributor starts heading for higher ground.

• You Know What I’m Saying?
No, I don’t. Either say it clearly or don’t say it at all! If a leader is genuinely checking for understanding, then by all means respond respectfully. If a colleague, manager, or ineffective executive is seeking confirmation for their ineptness, or worse yet, trying to sound much younger than they really are, then tactfully have them re-explain their meaning. But who among us have heard this phrase to honestly check for understanding from the listener? Typically, the speaker is not deep, nor are they cool. Too often, they lack an adequate vocabulary. Sincerely challenge them to be clearer, so that everyone will know what was said.

Metaphors are a great way to communicate ideas with vivid and recognizable images. Mindless clichés should be left out of intelligent conversation. Speakers who use wasted words or clever sayings for their own benefit and not for the listener abuse whatever authority they have. To be effective, wisely use words and time with predetermined purpose. At the end of the day, it is in fact, night. So communicate better and get to work, or prepare to wander in the dark!

By Glenn W Hunter
Principal of Hunter and Beyond


September 10, 2014 Posted by | Better Business, Better Communication | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Smoking Organization

Organizations have human characteristics. They have a sense of humor. Sometimes, they have bad days. They can come down with illnesses. In fact, some organizations experience illnesses identical to people who smoke. Just like a cigarette ignites the brain’s pleasure centers and simultaneously destroys the heart. Organizations can have contributing members that also bring toxicity into the environment and cripple performance.

Smoking organizations are not seeking to be destructive. Often, they want to fit in. Their bad habits are not as bad as other organizational habits. It is not like someone is embezzling. However, a smoking organization can infect its members in multiple ways. One member may become infected by always being near another member. No harm was intended. Simply, a healthy employee acquired a toxic attitude after being near another employees who has always been toxic. And the sickness spreads. Or a simple cough in corporate behavior is the first symptom of too much toxicity in the environment. Regardless of the reason, the organizational illness spreads and no cure is in sight. Fortunately, an ounce of prevention can be worth a pound of cure.

Breathe the Fresh Air
Remember that an organization is a congregation of individuals. Just like a sickness can invade the organization and weaken it, a breath of fresh air can rescue the group. All members need to exercise their ability to breathe intentionally. If a sick member is positioned to spread their disease in a certain area, then everyone else needs to go breathe elsewhere. Essentially, isolate the toxicity, let it die alone and let the healthy members continue their healthy ways.

Be the Fragrance
Likewise, each individual has the authority, if not the obligation, to contribute their own fragrance against the stench of illness. Deny negative influences in the environment. At some point, denying negative influences require purposefully positive actions. Bring a pleasant aroma of behavior, teamwork, camaraderie, and productivity so that it permeates the area where the work is done. Pleasant aromas are contagious. And, they are much more conducive to organizational health.

Choices Have Consequences
Just because a bouquet emerges in the environment, the smoke does not necessarily retreat. Members who choose to contribute to a healthier environment need to prioritize maintaining a healthier environment. The organization’s health is paramount, so removing the stench is best for all. Reinforcing this decision is the consequence that complacency leads to decay and death. Organizations die all the time; sometimes it is strategic problems, or competitive forces. But upon closer inspection these management shortfalls begin with cultural decay. Good organizations make healthy choices.

Once an organization chooses death and toxicity, its path is established and its fate is sealed. It’s just a matter of time. Without corrective action the organization will perish. Give the organization the chance to choose life by exercising the option to change and improve. Insert employees that lead by culture in addition to leading by skill in key assignments. Identify the decaying pockets of the organization and take action now to be the fragrance that improves its health and establishes a fresh, vibrant environment. To fix a smoking environment, put out the butts and focus on improving the air.

By Glenn W Hunter
Principal of Hunter and Beyond

May 10, 2014 Posted by | Better Business, Better Community | , , , , | Leave a comment