Thursday, 21 March 2013

'It Was Like Running Around Naked' - The Fear of Leadership

“Daddy, can you draw me a picture of Sponge Bob and all of his friends – smiling?”

I was greeted with this request having just climbed out of my bed on Saturday morning.  “Can you?” “Pleeeease?”

“I can’t do that!” I said.  “You see, Daddy’s not very good at drawing…”

I looked for my wife.  She was sitting on the couch talking on the telephone to her brother.  “She can’t help me here”, I thought.  “C’mon Dad” he said, now pleading; standing in front of me with an A4 sheet of paper in one hand and a marker pen he’d taken from my office in the other.

I’m no artist.  And his request, levelled at me so soon after I had woken up had shaken a hidden insecurity from deep within me.

I can’t draw!

I knew that whatever I attempt I made would look ridiculous and nothing like the yellow sponge character and his underwater friends.  My immediate response was to look for a way out.  I wanted to refer the job to someone else; in this case, my wife.  She’s good at art – and through her repeated efforts has become adept at drawing Nickelodeon sea folk. But she was still on the ‘phone, embroiled in conversation. And he was, still standing in front of me, in his pyjamas, with greater expectations of me than I had for myself.

Have you ever seen the movie Terminator 2?  If so, you will probably remember the scene where Arnie is teleported to modern earth and arrives in his birthday suite?
He then struts about for a while without a care in the world.  He eventually goes to a nearby bar, still naked, and walks up to a local henchman and says quite matter-of-factly, “I need your clothes, your boots and your motorcycle".

Have you ever had a reoccurring dream? 

I used to have a dream – some may call it a nightmare; about suddenly finding myself in a public place - usually it was at my old school, and I’m trying to hide from everybody because I’m as naked as Arnie was in T2.  Unfortunately however, in my dream, I lack the nonchalant confidence that Arnie possessed.

At the start of my dream, no one knows I’m there.  I’d be hiding amongst the coats and bags that used to hang near the lockers and restrooms.  So my objective was to escape the premises without being seen.  In my dream, I always failed.  I’d be spotted and then ridiculed with the entire school population chasing after me whilst laughing hysterically.  I have no idea about the meaning – or why it occurred with so much frequency in my adolescent life.  All I remember about waking up was the stark contrast between the fear and the relief I’d feel when I realised it was just a dream. 

In Susan Jeffers’ acclaimed book, ‘Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway - How to Turn Your Fear and Indecision into Confidence and Action’, Susan provides plentiful advice on how to overcome fear of issues like public speaking; making decisions and asserting oneself amongst others.  What we all need to appreciate is that fear isn’t a sign of weakness – it merely serves as a reminder that the scary situations we find ourselves in may have repercussions. 

Leadership roles are places filled with fear potential.  Perhaps that’s why so many people avoid such responsibility.  To some, being put in the position of 'Leader' is akin to being stripped naked and thrown into a public place.  Yet, despite this, history is peppered with ‘fearless leaders’.  Great men and women prepared to stand and fight for what they thought was right; despite being undoubtedly scared inside.  People like Rosa Parks, Gandhi and others overcame their fears and as Jeffers’ puts it, ‘did it anyway’.

Fear is normal.  Fear is okay.  It's perfectly normal for a leader to feel scared at times.  After all, leadership can be a very lonely place.

So, I decided to tackle my fear, took the paper and pen from my little boy and drew him a Sponge Bob.

“That’s good Daddy” he said.  “What is it?”

Wishing you every success and the power to overcome all of your fears,

PS... I'll be back!  (sorry, couldn't resist!)
With acknowledgement to Tristar Pictures





Friday, 15 March 2013

'I See Dead People' - How to Stop Your Employees from Leaving YOU!

In my job, I see a lot of unhappy people.  Their long-term ambitions in their current roles are dead. 

In short...

Job satisfaction, or rather a lack of job satisfaction appears to be the main reason for their unhappiness. 

It’s a wonder that many people stay in jobs they dislike.  No, wait, I’ll rephrase that.  It’s a wonder that so many people stay in jobs with people they dislike.

Good people leave their jobs every day.  You knew that already.  The fact that you do may tell you that it’s a common occurrence.  Question is, why?

Some leave to pursue other interests and others may wish to further their careers in larger organisations.  Many - and by many I mean the majority, will leave because of someone or something that they can no longer tolerate.  And if it’s something, you can bet that whatever that ‘thing’ is has been created by a certain someone. 

If you are responsible for three people or more in your line of management, then allow me to just park this thought into your head; it’s highly likely that at least one of those three employees is considering leaving their job because of YOU or because of something you’ve done or are not doing.

You probably don’t even know it. 

So, when they’re spending longer and longer time away from their desks or wherever it is that they would normally perform their work, it could be that they are researching for their next move.  Maybe they’re in the restrooms using their smart phones to search for new vacancies or taking calls from recruitment agents or prospective new employers.  Maybe, they’re sitting in their cars right outside your building negotiating new contracts.  Perhaps that mid-week sick day that one of them has just taken could really have been an interview elsewhere.  Their later than usual completions of fairly routine tasks could mean that they’ve stopped caring because all they’re waiting for is a new contract to sign and then they’re ‘outta here.

Stop me if I’m making you paranoid?

It’s always sad when the relationship turns sour.  Because it means that someone somewhere has not kept to their side of the deal.  Expectations have not been met, promises were broken; trust is lost.  All that remains in the absence of trust is an isolated and unstable structure that will inevitably topple. Trust is the foundation of every relationship and no structure can withstand pressure or serve its purpose without at least possessing partially-solid foundations or roots in the ground.
Question:  How long does it take to fully disenfranchise an employee? 

Answer:  As long as it takes them to start looking for something else.
A 2012 survey conducted by Harvard Business Review showed that high achievers, 30 years old on average with great school and work credentials, are leaving their employers after an average of 28 months. Furthermore, three-quarters of them admit to sending out resumes, contacting search firms and interviewing for jobs at least once a year during their first employment. And 95 percent said they regularly watch for potential employers. 

You don’t believe me?  ‘Google it' my friend!

Your search engine research will state the common reasons why people quit their jobs but to save you the bother – take it from me, the common cause is because of other people.

What managers tend to forget is the cost incurred when someone leaves.  It’s seen more as an inconvenience to most when in reality; departures have a direct effect on the bottom line.  This is not necessarily about being an ‘employer of choice’ or the creation of providing a great place to work.  It literally could mean the survival of your business.

And think about this, when the news about an impending departure breaks, you can also bet that it stimulates reminders of those
New Year’s resolutions that others may have not yet have put into action.

Question: How do you stop your employees from leaving you? 

Answer: Communicate with them and ask them what they really want to do.  Then, find out where you can accommodate them in your plans.  If they’re worth hanging on to then you’ll find a way of keeping them. But don’t just concentrate on keeping them.  Concentrate on keeping your promises.

Most people leave without ever having such a conversation.  Many employees will be too uncomfortable to address the situation through direct communication with their boss. 

As a manager, you should initiate these discussions and do so with frequency.  Otherwise, your star performer may be about to sign a contract with somebody else and become committed to leaving you.

It’s really not that difficult.

With best wishes in all that you do - especially when it concerns looking after your people.


Acknowledgement to BUENA VISTA for the embedded picture