The Nature of Growth

How do you tend to react when a highly valued employee decides to leave your organization?  Depending on the circumstances, you may be surprised or frustrated.  Unfortunately, it’s easy to let a sense of loss become warped into bitter, unproductive feelings.  Many leaders make the mistake of viewing a team member’s exit as an issue of wasted resources.  Rather than using forward thinking, they focus backward on the time and effort spent in developing this team member. 

One question I typically ask is, “Did you know this time would come?”  As leader, the way you view your personal role in the development of your team’s talents is critical.  Many managers consider training and skills acquisition only in organizational terms.  They fail to embrace the natural consequences that as individuals grow in ability, their horizons expand.  The reality is there will be times when excellent employees must leave your organization in order to continue their personal and professional growth. 

It’s important to understand that the concepts of choice and freedom are inextricably linked.  People naturally and universally long for freedom, and exercising choice is the very expression of freedom.  Loyalty is most naturally given to those who help us become free.  Properly understanding loyalty will be critical to fostering your organization’s growth.

As leaders, we need to be mindful of the fact that we always have limits.  If your team cannot offer a needed opportunity for someone desiring growth, you should never take an anti-growth tactic.  Convincing people to stay against their better judgment only leads to frustration and delays the inevitable.  If good employees leave with a sense of regret, what are the chances they will ever come back when you truly have a good opportunity for them?  What sort of positive force will they have among their contacts regarding your team’s reputation?  Wouldn’t the opposite of this scenario be much more preferred?  True loyalty can be expressed quite valuably by team members who leave feeling that their good work was acknowledged and their personal growth was encouraged.

As leader, do you need to broaden your perspective to understand that all growth among your team members is positive?  Remain open to the potential of renewal and refreshment that so often accompanies change.  Embrace the innate flow of growth, and learn to use it to your advantage.  After all, your most productive people will tend to be growth oriented.   A good leader can inspire team members to be confident in the leader, but a great leader encourages progress, celebrates achievement and naturally inspires others to grow into positions of leadership.

This is Jason Walker sharing an Elite Team INSIGHT.

Leaders Understand Their Own Capabilities

Whether you feel at the top of your game or you’re feeling in a slump, now is a good time to reflect for your own personal growth.

Warren Bennis shared that, “Leaders know who they are, what their strengths and weaknesses are and how to fully deploy their strengths and compensate for their weaknesses.”

How well do you understand your own capabilities?  How did you identify what your strengths and blindsides are?  Primarily, this information is gained through our experiences, many of which are very costly, as we live from one situation to another. 

Usually after some painful event, we stop and reflect on what caused the pain and why, taking note how we will handle those circumstances again in the future if we cannot avoid them.  We watch as others around us go through similar experiences yet are impacted differently, and sometimes even thrive where we struggled. 

There are other scenarios where we excel and have the time of our life, yet for some reason, we do not always stop and reflect on these pleasant experiences to identify why.

As we mature, we begin to realize that just because we are very good at something does not mean we get energized by it as well.  However, we do find ourselves constantly working harder and improving at those activities that do energize us. 

Ideally, you had a great role model, or were wise beyond your years, and you recorded in your journal all these priceless insights as to what energizes and de-energizes you.  When was the last time you evaluated these valuable lessons learned so you could apply them to improve your effectiveness?

Knowing what truly energizes and de-energizes you will enable you to more effectively lead as you are able to better align your team to complement your strengths and blindsides. 

This is Jason Walker sharing an Elite Team INSIGHT.

Why Your Best People Leave!

Have you ever wondered, “Why do our best people leave?”  Let me kindly remind you that people leave managers, not companies.  Look to the individuals you have selected to lead others in your organization.  Are they held accountable to excellence or is mediocrity being accepted?

You cannot afford to allow mediocre performance to persist, especially in your leaders and managers.  The cost is greater than you may realize.  There is, of course, the lack of Return on Investment (ROI) when you continue to expend resources toward mediocre performing individuals, departments, or initiatives that should be terminated.  If this was the only cost, it really would not be a major problem.  The real costs are the intangibles and long-term effects.

The major problem with allowing, or even worse rewarding, mediocrity is what it does to your top performers!  Your top performers contribute the greatest to your success.  When they work hard, produce the excellent results you desire, and then see their peers’ mediocre performance go unaddressed, what do you think happens to their attitude?  How did you feel when it happened to you?  It may be the very reason why you left previous organizations or departments.

When you accept mediocrity in your managers, your top performers will at first step up and take on more of the load, but sooner or later, will become discouraged and their attitude will change.  You will condition them to believe that mediocrity is acceptable in your culture.  Top performers will either stop producing to their best ability, or just leave to find another opportunity to do what they love best.  Either way, your team loses as you are left with mediocrity, falling significantly short of the Elite Team you need to carry out your team’s mission! 

This is Jason Walker sharing an Elite Team INSIGHT.

Hire Excellence! You Cannot Afford Mediocrity!

In order to Transform your workforce into an Elite Team, you must recruit and hire excellence.  Do not confuse this with perfection.  Hiring excellence means attracting and recruiting talent that is already wired to contribute to your culture.  They will bring a mindset of constantly improving themselves and the organization they serve.  Their skills, although very important, are secondary to their mindset.

A friend and fellow professional, Kathleen Rich-New, shared this, “I hire you for what you know and fire you for who you are.”

Hiring mediocre mindsets on the other hand introduces mediocre attitudes, which turn into “do enough to get by just to collect a paycheck.”  When you have these mediocre attitudes, you spend most of your time trying to train proper behavior, draining valuable time and energy that should be used towards your purpose and mission.

Think of the last time you became frustrated with someone because of a skill set they did not have.  I would venture to guess it wasn’t their inexperience, but rather their lack of initiative to learn and grow that frustrated you the most.  You likely hold the character trait of having initiative in high regard and it is an expectation of your culture; the expectation to strive for excellence.

How long has it been since you evaluated your recruiting and hiring processes, pipeline, & interviewing procedures to ensure they are all aligned to filter out mediocre attitudes while allowing the mindset of excellence to surface to the top?

This is Jason Walker sharing an Elite Team INSIGHT.

Team Strength Building

I find it amazing how practical and applicable principles from one area of life can be applied to others.  For instance, we can apply the principles of strengthening our muscles to building our teams.

When we desire to increase our muscle strength, we typically will begin a regimen of lifting weights, abdominal exercises, pull-ups, push-ups, squats, and a host of many other possibilities.  Of course, the specific muscles we are focusing on improving will dictate which exercises to include and when.  This is where a professional physical trainer is quite valuable to help us accomplish our desired results in an accelerated manner by providing guidance, wisdom, and motivation throughout the process.

If we do not understand our bodies and how the muscles increase strength, we can possibly do some damage that will hinder our success.  For instance, if we are just getting started in our regimen and begin our first day of training lifting weights and pushing our muscles way beyond their capacity, then we will likely end up with an injury that will prevent any further training for a long period of time as the muscle heals.

On the other hand, if we schedule our training in a disciplined manner that allows our muscles to stretch and recover sufficiently, we will see incremental and continuous improvement in our strength and more likely reach our established goals.  As our muscles are conditioned and strengthened properly, they can better handle longer periods of strain and greater levels of stress.

This same principle applies to teams.  When a newly formed team without proper conditioning is faced with extreme levels of stress and strain, like our current economic and political situation, it is likely the team will break and be unable to successfully deliver great results.

On the other hand, when a team forms and its leadership is deliberate in directing them through experiences of increasing levels of pressure, the team bonds become stronger and more conditioned to handle even greater forces.  Instead of breaking the team apart, the storms can help Transform your workforce into an Elite Team.

Are you being intentional to properly strengthen your team or are you experiencing the demise of too much pressure on an unconditioned team?

This is Jason Walker sharing an Elite Team INSIGHT.

An Investment with Tremendous Returns

Do you seek to make improvements to all aspects of your organization?  When resources are limited, you will likely be very selective on where you invest your time, energy, and monies to ensure you get the greatest return.

To make the greatest impact, to which area should you now focus?  Is identifying a different marketing strategy needed?  Should your organization’s industry or technical knowledge be enhanced?  Would better technology help you significantly increase the needed revenues and profits?  Do you need to invest into your team’s ability to perform more cohesively to deliver results?

The answer is as unique as your team and situation.  What is not unique is your need to be an effective leader.  “Everything rises and falls on leadership!”  Your performance as a leader will have the most significant impact on those you are responsible to lead.

As leader you are responsible for leading yourself and others through the changing landscape we face today.  What have you done in the last twelve months to improve your leadership effectiveness?  Have you improved your ability to communicate your team’s purpose, vision, and direction?  Have you set and communicated clear goals that will successfully accomplish this year’s mission?  Do you understand what motivates your team and have you created the environment necessary for them to put forth the extra effort needed for your organization to break out of survival mode?

If you have acted to improve in these areas, I encourage you to carry on!  It is a continuous journey.  If you have not been consistent in your approach to improving your personal leadership ability, let me invite you to seek help from a trusted resource.  Apply the same principle you use when you engage an accountant, financial advisor, attorney, or personal trainer, and engage an executive coach that is credible and trustworthy and will help achieve your goals more confidently and quickly than on your own.  This investment in you will reap tremendous returns.

This is Jason Walker sharing an Elite Team INSIGHT.