You Can’t Win From The Sidelines


As stated in earlier posts, leading others is a very tough and rewarding job.  Being a leader in 2017 requires stamina, courage, and determination to lead multiple generations of employees in the workplace.  Today’s leaders are required to inspire millennials (typically born from 1981 – 1997) who are just entering the work force, generation x (typically born from 1970 – 1981), and baby boomers (born between 1950 and 1970).  These 3 generations of employees have vastly different views on work, life, culture, community and technology, to name a few.  One of the best books I have read in understanding how to communicate and lead various generations is “The 2020 Workplace” by Jeanne Meister and Karie Willyerd.  This great read provides many tips and tools on how to leverage the strengths of all employees and especially the new generation of millennials entering the workplace.

One common trait that binds all successful employees (regardless of age) is the willingness to take a risk, be active and passionate, and understand that perfection is very rarely attainable.  Michael Jordan, the GOAT (Greatest of All Time – a term recently learned from my 14 year old son) finished with a career field goal % of 49.7%….meaning he missed more than half the shots he took.  In addition, a very famous commercial in 1997 featuring Jordan revealed that he was trusted with a last second shot to win a game 42 times, and only made 16, a 38% success rate.  I had the opportunity to meet Jordan in the early nineties while working at a golf course, and I remember him saying to a co-worker that he always wanted to be in control of the outcome of any game he was competing in, and that we wanted the ball in his hands. He was one of the most competitive athletes of all time who was not afraid to miss but knew his team had the best chance of winning when the responsibility for victory was when he had the ball.   After hearing this, I realized that one cannot win a game from the sidelines.  Winners need to be engaged, active, and open to try new things to be successful.

Leading From The Field – 3 Tips To Try

  1. Understand your internal customer’s needs and goals. As a leader, our most important customer is our team. We often discuss individual goals at the beginning of the year or at a mid-year review.  When conducting meetings with employees throughout the year, make sure to have them review their objectives again with you, discuss specific action items they are taking to achieve these goals, and their progress made so far.  One tactic I have used is to have an employee write an acceptance speech now for the accomplishments they will achieve at the end of the year (similar to post-dating a letter or email).  Getting your employees to think positively about achievement can help them get through the challenges they may face in reaching their goals.
  2. Listen to understand versus listening to respond. I recently witnessed a conversation between a supervisor and a member of their team.  The supervisor asked what challenges the employee was currently facing in achieving their goals for the year.  After the employee shared several obstacles they were experiencing, the supervisor immediately diminished these thoughts and told the employee that these were just potential excuses.  I doubt the employee will ever honestly share their ideas again with that supervisor.  One of the worst things a leader can do is ask for an opinion, then immediately downplay the individual’s thoughts which are different from theirs.  Listening and communication are the most important aspects of leading others as these two skills create a trusting and collaborative culture.  A poor work environment is established when employees feel that they cannot share ideas on how to improve situations.  The next time you ask a question of an employee, just listen to their response, thank them for sharing (does not matter if you agree or disagree), and ask their permission to follow up with them on that topic at your next meeting.
  3. Establish your criteria for hiring top talent. Think about the people you have led in the past 5 years.  Write their names down and separate them into 3 lists…place 33% of the names into the “Top 1/3 List”, 33% into the “Middle 1/3 List” and 33% into the “Bottom 1/3 List”.  Next, list common traits  for the people in the Top and Bottom lists.  More than likely, you will see a vast difference in the quality of these lists and the people who compose them.  Make sure you are hiring the right people who meet your criteria as a top employee…and never put a time limit on filling a position.  I would rather keep a position open for a year versus hiring someone in a month who is not going to be a standout employee.  We all make hiring mistakes, but minimizing those mistakes by only hiring top talent will make your life as a leader so much easier.

We have a chalk board in our home that my wife updates on a regular basis with quotes to inspire our family and most importantly our kids.  Currently, the chalk board quote is “You Did Not Wake Up Today To Be Average”.  I think many of us want to be excellent at anything we do…the difference between success and failure many times is just getting off the sideline and getting on the “field of play”.  Regardless of your individual field, aspire to make a positive difference in the lives of others and realize the rewards that come with the responsibility of leading people.