Mindset Is Not Just for Athletes, Academics, and Cave-Dwelling Mystics
FB = (FE + FC + ME)
A flourishing business (FB) comes from flourishing employees (FE), flourishing customers (FC), and memorable experiences (ME).
Flourishing employees are created by flourishing leaders who commit to cultivating flourishing customers and producing memorable experiences. And yet, there are employees who should never be placed in customer-facing roles but find themselves there on a regular basis. Some of these people are so uncomfortable, incompetent, or indifferent to the customer that they should never be put in roles that require customer interactions.
Are there examples inside your organization in which unhappy employees are creating negative experiences for customers? Are there times when employees see a customer as an interruption and something to be tolerated, as opposed to a precious asset that needs to be cultivated and treated with respect? Is it ever acceptable in your employees’ eyes to be rude and uncaring? If you answer yes, the problem doesn’t rest with the frontline employee. The bigger question is: Do leaders walk through your doors each morning with a keen desire to make a meaningful difference in your customers’ and employees’ lives?
The good news is there are seven principles that will help you master your leadership mindset and convert your human potential, as well as the potential in your team and organization, into accelerated performance.
The Purpose Principle
The jumping-off point for greatness both individually and organizationally is a clear and compelling purpose. People at work or in your personal life who have achieved something extraordinary or who live lives defined as “rewarding” and “uplifting” have a clear and compelling idea about what is important to them, why it is important, and what value they will achieve by working to accomplish it.
Are you clear about your leadership purpose? Do you feel passionate about what you want? Are you relentless in learning and growing your own skill set as a leader as well as your mindset, and creating value for others? Or does each day feel as though you are driving in fog?
When we lack a clear and compelling purpose for our leadership, as well as for our teams and organizations, we are driving in fog. There is tension and the enjoyment for our destination evaporates as quickly as the fog obscures our vision. With a clear and compelling purpose, we remove our foot from the brake and squarely hit the accelerator. We accelerate toward our destination with enthusiasm and excitement.
The three dimensions of purpose are: love, talent, and value.
Love is the unbridled enthusiasm you have for your work. When love is present there is a continual striving and leaning into whatever is required to learn, grow, and improve. Without love your talent and value leave you (and others) feeling empty and dissatisfied.
Talent is what you do in highly differentiated ways. Talent is rooted in the skill and expertise you bring to your customers and the relationships that matter most to you. Talent, in many regards, is the price of entry into the world of work today. Lacking talent is a career-limiting move.
Value is the benefit customers or employees derive from interacting with us. Value can be seen as making people’s lives easier and better in some meaningful way. Value is not the technical product or service you provide. It is the benefit people receive from using the product or service you provide. Keep in mind that you can have passion for what you do and do it exceptionally well, but if customers or employees see little or no value, your success is in jeopardy.
In order to clarify your purpose, you will want to gain a deeper understanding of how your unique talents, skills, and passions create value for yourself, your customer, and your organization.
The Promises Principle
Promises are voluntary and not ever forced. Promises must be voluntary. When promises are made solely to placate someone or to get a foot in the door only to turn the tables and renegotiate the outcome, the promises come across as hollow and manipulative.
Promises also require saying no.
Credibility and trust are the components of promises. Without exception, kept promises do more for a leader’s credibility and trustworthiness with employees and customers than any leadership development initiative. Actually, the one cardinal rule to be the type of leader people are willing to follow is incredibly simple: Do what you say you will do.
Why should you care about the promises you make? You should care because your employees and customers have heard leaders make promises before and not fulfill them. They are jaded, disengaged, and distrusting of leaders to the point that they are simply tolerating most leaders. When leaders tell people what they want to hear and then do something else they create a credibility gap that leaves employees disbelieving the message simply because they disbelieve the messenger.
The promises we make to ourselves can inspire trustworthiness; yet how easily are these promises broken? Sometimes it may seem that our work and home lives are weighed down by everything that appears to require our attention. Consequently, we struggle to keep our promises to others and ourselves. Because we have not planned to honor our promises, they have little chance of being fulfilled.
The Projects Principle
There are two ways we can think about the word projects: The first way is to think of the word as a noun and in a project management–type of way. Using the word this way pertains to planning and designing work so a positive result can be achieved. It refers to a research project, for example. Leaders tend to like projects in this sense as it implies that meaningful work is being pursued, and with the right project management skills, success can be achieved.
The second way to think about the word project is as a verb. Here the word is rooted in extending outward, beyond something else, as in a movie being projected onto a 50-foot-wide screen. Projects in this sense are synonymous with magnifying and extending beyond an originating source.
The third principle in transformational leadership is more concerned with how you as a leader project your purpose, promises, and priorities into the conversations, meetings, emails, and presentations that comprise your everyday life. It is an invitation to design and implement a leadership development project that rapidly, ruthlessly, and relentlessly projects who you are as a leader into the world of work.
Think about two light bulbs. The first is a 100-watt bulb used in any room of your house. Most people think of the bulb in terms of wattage, but what is equally, if not more important is the brightness of the bulb, or its lumens. The 100-watt bulb you have in close proximity to where you are sitting has, on average, 1,600 lumens.
Compare that to a drive-in movie theater light bulb. The light bulb used to project a movie onto a 50-foot-wide screen from 150 feet away requires a bulb with between 33,000 and 40,000 lumens. The greater the lumens the farther the image can be projected.
The same holds true for your leadership project. The more lumens, or love and passion for your project, the farther you can project it to a broader audience. But as with either a light bulb at home or a drive-in movie theater, preparations must be made before the light bulb can be turned on. In this section you will clear the decks of any outdated project-related thinking and replace it with the thinking necessary to be successful.
The Persuasion Principle
There are 1.7 million airline passengers on domestic flights in the United States every day. In order to board their flights, each passenger must proceed through a security screening process. This screening is done in the hopes of making traveling more safe and to verify that passengers are safe to proceed to their gate for departure.
For transformational leaders, they recognize that each of their stakeholders likewise has a screening process for listening to and following a leader’s lead. This process is less about sharp objects and the two-ounce requirement for toiletries, but rather, is the leader safe to follow to the destination he advocates? If a leader doesn’t pass the screening process he will not experience flashing lights or be asked to enter a small interrogation room, but will instead find himself at his departure gate perplexed as to why he is the only one on the flight to his desired future.
Persuasion in transformational leadership is not about eloquent and stirring speeches like Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address or Martin Luther King’s I Have A Dream speech. Persuasion in transformational leadership is about positive influence, not manipulation. In its purest form persuasion is the shaping with full integrity the thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and behaviors of another. But that begs the question: Why do people do what they do? To know why people do what they do, you’ll need to notice the order of the definition of persuasion, shaping the thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and behaviors of others.
The key point you’ll learn from the Persuasion Principle is that in order to have people behave in ways that are helpful to your purpose, promises, priorities, and projects, you must start by understanding and then shaping their thoughts, feelings, and beliefs about you and your initiatives so they will act in ways that are supportive of your requests. If you want to hear yes more often you have to know what happens in between people’s ears before yes comes out of their mouths. If you don’t understand what precedes yes you will continue to hear no.
The Praising Principle
Leaders who instill in their employees a supreme confidence in their abilities have a huge competitive business advantage. Doing so requires leaders to recognize that employees’ fears and uncertainties are normal—and that their primary job is to help convert employees’ fears into courageous next steps with praise and purification. Eliminating a leader’s negative mindset is an essential first step in the Praising Principle, as it precedes effectively addressing the reasons why employees don’t live up to their full potential
By learning how to praise and purify your leadership you will build the confidence employees have of themselves as well as of your leadership. You will encourage experimentation, risk-taking, and learning while also infusing hope and optimism into the workplace. You will, in no uncertain terms, bring out the best in others as well as yourself.
- Sincere Praise. Praise that is mechanical, obligatory, and/or delivered in a rote manner will degrade a leader’s credibility. It will be seen as artificial and contrived, and foster a relationship gap between the person giving the praise and the person receiving it.
- Timely Praise. The most potent form of praise is the type that is delivered in real time. Catching employees or coworkers doing something noteworthy and commenting on it immediately raises the well-being not only of the person receiving the praise, but creates a culture in which appreciation and continued growth become strategic assets.
- Specific Praise. Generalized praise such as, “Good job!” pales in comparison to specific praise such as, “Your project management work on the Carson project was incredibly helpful. You lived out our strategic goal of improving our customer experience and let the client feel confident and at ease with your performance. They said they loved working with us. That was really good work.”
Praise will act as a catalyst for even higher levels of success when the three praise aspects are present. Employees and coworkers know if a leader is paying attention to what they’re doing and sincere praise creates a positive feedback loop in which what gets noticed and rewarded gets magnified.
Praising is also not reserved solely for employees. Leaders benefit from reviewing their own personal leadership and identifying what they have done well and what they deserve to be praised for. This is akin to the “putting on your own oxygen mask first” theory.
The Perseverance Principle
Perseverance is prominently displayed in the world of politics, business, and sports. In politics, Abraham Lincoln failed to be elected or reelected 12 times before finally being elected President of the United States. Sir Eric Dyson experimented 5,127 times in five years to develop his cyclone vacuum cleaner and now has a net worth of five billion pounds. Dallas Mavericks basketball team owner and multi-billionaire Mark Cuban was known for working until 2 a.m. and not taking a vacation for seven years. And then there are the talented athletes who were not expected to become the mega stars they are because of talent or stature. Think of Michael Jordon, Serena Williams, Russell Wilson, and Wayne Gretzky. Are they talented? Absolutely. Were they or are they currently the hardest-working athlete in their sport? Absolutely.
Of all the principles we’ve covered so far the Perseverance Principle is where the rubber meets the road. It’s the principle that asks “How badly do I want my purpose? Will I overcome all the obstacles that will surely come? Will I not take no for an answer? Will I look through the fear of failure that will likely show up and be courageous anyway?”
Your job as a transformational leader is to recognize that talent, although essential, pales in comparison to perseverance. Yes, you want to have talented, smart, gifted employees on your team. You also want to look around the room and know that the talent you have will run through the teeth of battle if need be to accomplish strategic initiatives. You can help them do that first and foremost with a compelling purpose. You too will never achieve transformational results without deep reserves of grit and determination.
The Preparation Principle
The reality is that your transformational leadership journey will be filled with obstacles and barriers you anticipated as well as those you didn’t. You’ve likely looked at aspects of your leadership as well as your organization’s performance and realized much of the work you are doing needs to be transformed. You may have looked at your customer experiences and seen where they need to be transformed, or that your employee experiences need to be transformed in order for them to be able to bring their best selves to work. By now, you might be saying to yourself that your work needs to be converted from a long, slow slog in enemy territory with bullets flying over your head, into the highest expression of what you hope for as a leader.
There are times when it is the nature of the beast to go from meeting to meeting and to navigate a mountain of emails. But the risk in doing so for prolonged periods of time is that you end up convincing yourself that you’re doing your best work. That would be similar to thinking that you could run a marathon every week for 52 weeks and expect for the 13th marathon to be as strong and powerful as the first, or that the 52nd would hold the potential for a personal best. That’s twisted thinking.
Whatever transformation you want for your organization, it will always start with you preparing for and undergoing an individual transformation first. There is no way to get around that. And here in the Preparation Principle, prepare for the flourishing leadership transformation that’s possible, but more importantly, for the personal transformation that leaves you and those who are important to you successful as well as supremely satisfied.