Tag Archives: leadership

History is Alive

Books

I am frequently asked why I love history so much.  History is alive. It’s full of people and how they lived their lives.  Since we learn by observing other people, historical persons are the ultimate role models.

For example, George Washington was brilliant at projecting confidence.  The worse things got, the more he appeared calm and confident. His attitude inspired his troops to continue fighting for eight years in the Revolutionary War. Any business owner understands the importance of projecting confidence to employees, clients, and competitors. Confidence breeds success.

Another guy I’m partial to is General George Thomas, nicknamed the Rock of Chickamauga.  Why? When the entire Union line broke and scampered back to Chattanooga, Tennessee, he refused to retreat and ordered his men to stop the Confederates. He turned a potential disaster into merely an embarrassing day for the Union Army.

Every business owner has experienced a version of Chickamauga when a key client cancelled a contract leaving a giant hole in the company’s bottom line or a project went hideously wrong. Successful business owners hold their nerve, trust their team and battle on to retrieve something from the mess.

History also gives us perspective. Without historical comparisons, we have a tendency to believe the challenges we face are brand new. But there truly is nothing new under the sun because human nature doesn’t change.

Take a look back at the first “world war” known as the Peloponnesian War which lasted from 431 – 404 B.C. Athens and Sparta fought across Greece, then on to North Africa, Sicily, Spain, and all Mediterranean points in between. They trashed the known world fighting for economic and political control. The war created an opportunity for the competing Persian Empire to try to conquer Europe.  It all seems a bit like Microsoft and Apple who were so busy fighting each other they failed to recognize the threat posed by Google.

The Peloponnesian War is described in wonderful detail by Thucydides. He had time to write because he was unemployed after disagreeing with his superiors about the Athenian strategy to defeat Sparta. He’s an early example of making a career transition, in his case from soldier to historian.

Thucydides tells of heroic battles and the suffering of civilians, of spies and traitors. His most memorable character is Alcibiades who sold out his home town of Athens to the Spartans, then switched sides, before pulling yet another switcheroo. Alcibiades eventually sold out all the Greeks to the Persians.

Alcibiades must have been charming because it took years for the Athenians and Spartans to stop trusting him. Today, Alcibiades would be labeled as anti-social or sociopathic. I’ll bet you’ve met an Alcibiades at some point in your career.

These few examples illustrate why I love history.  I have role models for every possible event in my life.  I can see how current challenges are the same or different than historical events and that guides my strategy on how to react.  No how-to book will ever match what I can learn from history.

About Norma Shirk

Norma started her company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, to help employers create human resources policies for their employees and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to have structure without bureaucracy. Visit Norma’s website: www.complianceriskadvisor.com/.

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Lessons in Leadership: Learning to Listen

Listening

I have recently been elected President of our synagogue’s Board of Trustees, a position for which I had been preparing for several years.  The last couple of years leading up to my presidency, I began paying special attention to the current president, observing her leadership style and comparing it to other past presidents.  And now that I have been in the role for a few months, I’m figuring out my own style and learning some valuable lessons.

First and foremost for me is learning to listen.  My profession as a news reporter requires me to both ask questions and listen for answers.  The goal is to seek out information relevant to the story I am pursuing, digest it and present it in a clear, balanced, fair manner.  It is up to the consumer to draw her own conclusion about the information.

As a leader, I am required to listen first to my constituents’ thoughts, problems, suggestions, complaints, etc.  Often what people want most is to be heard.  For example, there is one older woman, recently widowed, who calls me regularly and will also pull me aside in synagogue to chat.  At first I tried to avoid her, fearing criticism or complaining.  But after thinking about it, I decided to dive in head on when she calls or asks to talk.  What I found is that she is lonely, cares deeply about the congregation and really trusts my leadership.  Now when she wants to talk I gladly spend time with her.  The key for me is to just listen, ask minimal questions and when she is done, I thank her for her thoughtfulness, concern and dedication.

This practice of listening also applies to other leaders in the community.  There is one particular Board member who calls often to voice his opinion, usually on a topic recently covered in a meeting.  With this person, I often screen his calls because he leaves long voice messages, covering much of what he wants to discuss.  He is a really nice, caring guy, but also long winded.  Again, what he wants most is to be heard, so by waiting until I have sufficient time, he can get that need met.  I’ve learned he is insecure about speaking up at meetings and sometimes needs a little more time to formulate his thoughts and opinions.  The meetings are often fast paced, with the same few folks doing most of the talking, and he just isn’t comfortable.  But I value his opinions and I am trying to encourage him to speak up more.

Just before I took office I met with my friend who was the outgoing President.  She said that she thinks of congregants like her kids.  Sometimes they just want comfort and to know someone is listening.  She encouraged me to find my own leadership style and advised me to never forget that I am always being evaluated and observed by others.  It was good advice.

What are your leadership lessons?  Let us know and be watching for more of mine.

About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is the creator of The Peretz Project: Stories from the Shoah: Next Generation.  The Peretz Project, named for her late father-in-law who was a Holocaust survivor, is collecting testimony from children of survivors.  Check it out at http://www.theperetzproject.com.  If you are, or someone you know is, the child of survivors of the Shoah, The Holocaust, and you would like to tell your story please leave a comment and Barbara will contact you.

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3 Mistakes of Networking

NetworkingNetworking is a skill that must be developed, as I learned the hard way when I started my own business. Based on my experiences, I’ve developed a hit list of networking mistakes. Here are my top 3:

Mistake #1: No preparation. A mistake I made early on was not thinking about what I wanted out of the meeting.  Was I expecting to walk away with a new client?  Could the person I was meeting connect me to someone I wanted to meet?  Who did I want to meet? Was there someone in my network that I could connect to the person I was meeting?  In other words, I didn’t prepare properly. I learned my lesson.  Now when the other person says “so how can I help you,” I whip out my list of 3 – 5 names to which I’d like to be connected.  It all starts with preparation.

By now, everyone knows that LinkedIn and Facebook are great resources for gathering information about people. I want to know if we have any common interests or experiences. I also look at company websites to see who they target as customers to see if there are ways we can help our mutual businesses.

Mistake #2: No show.  It can be a challenge to schedule a meeting because anyone you really want to meet already has multiple obligations making it difficult to find an open date.  But if we’re agreeing to meet it means we both expect to get something of value from the meeting.  So not showing up is bad. I’ve waited at coffee shops for people who never showed and never called to let me know they couldn’t make the meeting.  It’s hard not to take it personally.  To limit the no show problem, I confirm via email a day or two before the scheduled date.  When I’ve screwed up and missed a meeting, I’ve emailed or called the other person as soon as possible to apologize.  I want to limit the damage done to my reputation.

Mistake #3: No referrals.  I’ve lost count of the coffee meetings I’ve had where the other person offered nothing. What was the point of meeting if you’re not prepared to make connections? One of the most effective networkers I know goes into each meeting expecting to connect the other person with at least one person in his network.  Even if he doesn’t get any referrals, he’s helped the other person achieve a goal.  My networking improved when began using the same approach. If I can help others achieve their goals, I will eventually be rewarded.

As I continue to hone my networking skills, I’m sure my list of networking mistakes will also be refined. Meanwhile, I continue striving to avoid committing my top 3 mistakes of networking.

About Norma Shirk

Norma started her company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, to help employers create human resources policies for their employees and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to have structure without bureaucracy. Visit Norma’s website: www.complianceriskadvisor.com/.

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Erratic Bosses

General Custer

Erratic bosses are a disaster in the workplace. Occasionally they are deadly as some cavalry troopers learned in the summer of 1876.

In the summer of 1876, three cavalry columns chased Lakota, Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians across the northern Plains into modern-day Montana. The goal was to confront the Indians, beat them in battle, and force the survivors back to their reservations.

One of the columns was led by “General” George A. Custer whose actual rank was lieutenant colonel. Custer had been temporarily promoted to general during the American Civil War and was a bona fide hero of that war. But by 1876 his antics had severely dented his career prospects.

He was a shameless self-promoter which irritated his military bosses. His troops were disenchanted with his habit of ignoring the rules personally while enforcing them against his subordinates. Then he annoyed President Grant by testifying to Congress about corruption in the Grant administration. (Publicizing dirty linen never wins favor with the boss, especially when it’s true.) Grant fired Custer as commander of the 7th Cavalry and Custer had to beg friends to help him get reinstated.

So when Custer went on patrol a few months later he was trying to restore his career prospects. Custer arrived at the Little Bighorn River (a/k/a the Greasy Grass) near the Indian encampment and immediately disobeyed his orders to wait for the other two cavalry columns. He also ignored the reports from his Indian scouts about the size of the Indian camp. Indian warriors numbered between 1000 and 5000, depending on which source you read.

On June 25, 1876, Custer ordered an attack on the Indian encampment and rode into history. Cavalry forces totaled 500 men and 208 died with Custer. News of the defeat ruined the July 4th centennial celebrations back east.

Custer is a hero today because his widow lived until the 1930’s. She spent every waking moment blaming others for the defeat and insisting that Custer was the greatest hero of all times. She ensured that Hollywood’s version of the tale would show Custer as the hero.

What’s the moral of the story? Erratic bosses are bad for employee health, although, fortunately, it doesn’t usually get them killed these days. Erratic bosses damage a company’s bottom line by destroying employee morale and lowering productivity. They also thin the ranks as top performers vote with their feet, leaving only demoralized or unmarketable employees.

About Norma Shirk

Norma started her company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, to help employers create human resources policies for their employees and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to have structure without bureaucracy. Visit Norma’s website: www.complianceriskadvisor.com/.

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Considering George Washington

George Washington

At Presidents Day for 2015, radio host Barbara Dab interviewed attorney and historian Norma Shirk.  Enjoy!

About Barbara Dab:

Barbara Dab is a journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant. She currently hosts two radio shows locally in Nashville, TN. Check out her website at http://www.zoneabouttown.com.

Barbara is also creator of The Peretz Project: Stories from the Shoah: Next Generation. Check it out at http://www.theperetzproject.com If you, or someone you know, is the child of survivors of the Shoah, The Holocaust, and would like to tell your story please leave a comment and Barbara will contact you.

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Build a Team of Leaders

Building A Team

One of the most effective team leadership outcomes you can facilitate is for everyone on the team to end up thinking and acting like a leader. It may seem counterintuitive, especially if you’re focused on making your mark by asserting your own unique version of leadership. Therein lies the paradox that alludes many leaders: Your ultimate success will be based on the success of those on the team you lead, not on your solo contribution.

But why should you have to foster a leadership spirit in your team? What keeps people from exercising leadership on their own? I once heard John Lachs, a Vanderbilt University philosophy professor, explain it by describing how passivity creeps into organizations, sapping them of leadership, energy, and ultimately, performance.

Dr. Lachs told the all-too-familiar story of trying to return an item to a retail store, only to be stymied by a passive clerk who cited the rules and regulations restricting her ability to help him. She missed a great opportunity to be exceptional at her job by making a positive difference to a customer. She could have solved another person’s problem, represented her organization well, and made a good impression on her supervisors. Still, accomplishing all of that would have required more effort and responsibility on her part. It would have required she act like a leader by taking ownership of finding a solution. She would have had to take the customer’s request to a higher level and lobbied on his behalf. Instead, she took the easy way out by telling Dr. Lachs she could not accept his return.

If you’re not vigilant, that passivity may show up on your team. Despite what we might like to think, we’re all vulnerable to the temptation to operate more as a dispassionate role or title than as an engaged human. That’s because professional roles are circumscribed, neat, and we can often hide behind them, just as Dr. Lach’s clerk did. Interacting as our real selves requires more from us. It demands we invest ourselves emotionally and take responsibility for outcomes, without any clear indication that we will benefit from doing so. No wonder, “that’s not in my job description,” slips out so easily when one is grousing about having to do too much.

Obviously, you want your team to resist the siren’s call of passivity. These are the behaviors and attitudes you want to foster:

  • Take responsibility.
  • Take obligations seriously.
  • Try to outperform your colleagues.
  • Reach beyond your role.
  • Embody this statement: “I’m ready to serve and will do the absolute best I can.”

Just how do you foster these behaviors and attitudes? Here are some ideas:

  • Make your expectations known.
  • Model these same behaviors and attitudes.
  • Recognize and call them out when you see them in others.

Make it clear that you value leadership and expect it from your team. If they are up to the challenge, you will see the effects in their overall performance, and, instead of your raising the bar for them, they may just start raising the bar for you!

 

About Dr. Debra Fish

Dr. Fish is a consulting psychologist whose writing and work focus exclusively on helping individuals and teams lead more effectively. Her firm, Fish Executive Leadership Group, LLC, counts among its clients everything from Fortune 50 corporations to small, privately-held professional service firms.

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Photo credit: iStock_team meeting_rawpixel.jpeg

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How Can I Run My Business With All These Distractions?

?????

Sondra’s business grew rapidly in the past 18 months as she expanded product lines. Then she added three new employees last quarter when she opened a second store.

With two retail locations and a constantly expanding line of products, Sondra can’t keep up with all the details. She is constantly bombarded with employee requests for time off from work and yesterday several employees came to work with ripped jeans and t-shirts which is not the image Sondra wants to present to her customers. The employees say they thought the dress code was casual.  This morning she spent an hour sorting out a dispute between two employees.

Now it seems one of the new employees at the new store is not working out and should probably be fired, but  Sondra needs time to read the store manager’s notes to verify the grounds for terminating employment. Then she needs to hire a replacement.

Sondra’s been delaying taking action because she hates these administrative tasks. But she also knows her business is getting stuck because she’s stuck making up the rules as she goes.  She knows she can’t procrastinate any longer. She considers hiring an HR consultant to fix all these HR issues. Then she realizes that hiring a consultant would be a waste of money if she doesn’t first decide what she wants, so she wades into the details that will fix her employee problems:

  • Step one is to revise the job description for her store employees to ensure the next employee has the qualifications she needs.
  • Step two is to create a list of what constitutes proper attire in the work place.
  • Step three is to create a time table for each work day so that employees know when each work shift begins and ends and the consequences of showing up late (or not at all).

Then Sondra asks her store managers to review the new rules. Based on their suggestions, she decides to add a dispute resolution process to make sure future employee disputes don’t escalate. Now that all the basic details have been hashed out over several weeks, Sondra can hire an HR consultant to actually create an employee handbook for her business.

Every small business begins as Sondra’s did, with informal employee and HR policies. As the business grows and adds employees, it is necessary to create administrative structure to ensure the whole business runs smoothly. Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor assists business owners in creating HR policies appropriate to their company size so that business owners like Sondra are free to actually run their businesses.

About Norma Shirk

Norma started her company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, to help employers create human resources policies for their employees and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to have structure without bureaucracy. Visit Norma’s website: www.complianceriskadvisor.com/.

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Volunteer Service: What Makes Sense?

Volunteer

For many of us volunteer service, whether it’s for a nonprofit or a professional or civic association, is a natural evolution of our professional career and personal passions.  If you’re good at what you do (and I suspect you are!) you may have many opportunities to serve.  How do you choose?  Here’s the process I use, in this order.

Is it in your company’s best interest?  If this opportunity furthers your company’s visibility and credibility and fits the corporate culture, then this is probably a yes.  The benefit doesn’t have to be direct (lead to business) so don’t focus solely on that.  Start first with company fit as there is very little volunteer service that doesn’t impact job hours.  Unless you’re the CEO, you’ll usually want to get a higher-up’s buy in.

Does it speak to you personally?  Ideally, the closer it aligns with your passions the more rewarding, and successful, your experience will be.  Service, of any kind, must be genuine.  A few years ago, I joined a small non-profit board because a trusted colleague asked and because I thought I could help, not because of any passion for the work.  My service lasted one year, with little reward and not much effective service.  Don’t waste their time or yours unless you have great interest.

Can I commit the time and effort for what they need?  First, get a clear picture of what this is.  There’s a great article that my colleague Jeff Jowdy wrote that outlines some solid questions.  Ask these and any that help define your obligations.  And, this is important, if you can’t commit, DON’T DO IT.  Recently I was given an incredible opportunity to serve my profession on their state licensing board.  It passed the first two questions with flying colors yet it was clear to me I did not have the time.  I made the tough decision to resign from another commitment (finding a replacement first so as not to leave a hole).  This was truly a tough choice but doing otherwise would have been a misstep.

This is my process.  Do you have any other questions you ask yourself when called on to serve?  Let HerSavvy know!

About Laura Reinbold, PE

Ms. Reinbold explores ways shecan help build our communities, from the geoprofessional side of the engineering profession.

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Are You A Leader Or A Boss?

Leader or Boss

It’s an important distinction. Just because you’re a boss doesn’t mean you’re an effective leader. And, just because you’re not a boss does not mean you’re not a leader.  Bosses get things done, but they sometimes focus too much on the tactical. Effective leaders get important things done and done well. Their accomplishments continue to reap benefits in the long term and for a greater number of people.

Here are 5 questions you can use to gauge where you fall in the leader vs. boss balance:

  • Do you focus more on whether individuals are hitting performance goals or on what big adjustment you can make next to unleash their full potential?
  • Do you spend more time thinking about how to turn around employee-related problems, or on creating ways for your employees to take pride of ownership in what they produce?
  • Do you spend more time critiquing what your employees are doing, or critiquing how you’re helping them?
  • Do you pay attention to your employees’ aspirations only during their annual reviews, or do you attend to them throughout the year?
  • Do you tell your employees what initiatives they should undertake or do you enlist their help in fleshing out what their roles should be considering your department’s strategic objectives?

Obviously, if you’re in a leadership position, you probably do a little of all of the above.  But if most of your time and energy are spent on activities in the first half of each of those questions, then you are missing tremendous opportunities to make a difference with effective leadership. By seeing broad possibilities and appreciating the talent around you, you can help your organization

About Dr. Debra Fish

Dr. Fish is a consulting psychologist whose writing and work focus exclusively on helping individuals and teams lead more effectively. Her firm, Fish Executive Leadership Group, LLC, counts among its clients everything from Fortune 50 corporations to small, privately-held professional service firms.

Like what you’ve read? Feel free to share, but please… Give HerSavvy credit. Thanks!

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Eleanor of Aquitaine

Eleanor of Acquitaine

Eleanor of Aquitaine was the most powerful woman in medieval Europe, due to her inheritance and her marriages.  She “leaned in” long before modern women were urged to do so.

Eleanor was born in 1122 as heir to the Aquitaine, which was roughly a third of modern France.  At the age of 15 she married Louis VII, King of France. Eleanor’s life as Queen of France is notable for three things. First, she invited herself along on the Second Crusade which outraged the political and religious leaders of the day.  Second, she had only daughters with Louis. Third, at the age of 25, Eleanor fell madly in love with a younger man, Henry Plantagenet. He was 18 years old when they met and he had prospects that far exceeded what Louis could offer.

Eleanor convinced the pope to grant her an annulment so that she could marry Henry.  After Henry became King of England, they controlled territory stretching from Scotland to the Pyrenees. Louis was left with little more than Paris and its surrounding counties. To compound Louis’ humiliation, Eleanor’s new marriage produced sons including, Richard the Lion-Hearted and John (of Magna Carta fame).

Eleanor ran their vast kingdom while Henry II was off fighting wars with the Scots, Welsh, Irish, and French.  But their marriage eventually soured and Eleanor conspired with her sons against Henry and almost won a civil war against him. In retaliation, Henry imprisoned Eleanor in one of his more inaccessible castles.  She was not freed until Henry died.

Eleanor lived for 82 years and remained feisty to the end. At the age of 80, she crossed the Alps on a trip to the Norman kingdom in Sicily to find a husband for one of her granddaughters.

For a fictionalized account of Eleanor and Henry watch the movie, “The Lion in Winter”, starring Kathryn Hepburn and Peter O’Toole (and a young Anthony Hopkins as Richard).  The movie captures the soap opera behavior of the Plantagenet’s although it compresses actual historical events.  For a biographical study, read “Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Four Kings”, by Amy Kelly.

About Norma Shirk

Norma started her company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, to help employers create human resources policies for their employees and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to have structure without bureaucracy.

Like what you’ve read? Feel free to share, but please… Give HerSavvy credit. Thanks!

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