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Alicia Blain

Entries tagged with “Darren Hardy”.

Isn’t that a great question?  Well I didn’t think of it myself.  I heard it from one of today’s leadership gurus – Mr. John C. Maxwell.  I was in my car Saturday morning heading off to attend a workshop & as I do when I’m in my car, I slipped in an educational CD.  Driving is a great time for me  to absorb information because I am ususally by myself & can give the person talking on the CD my full attention.  It also helps me focus on something other than the horrific traffic that seems to plague South Florida 24/7.

This particular CD was from one of my favorite monthly series. It was the December edition of Success Magazine’s wonderful complimentary ( yes, it’s free!) CD hosted by its publisher, Darren Hardy.  I’ve raved about Success Magazine & their CDs before so I’ll refrain from gushing again.  In every one of their CDs, there’s a segment with John C. Maxwell where he shares his leadership insights. In December’s CD, Mr. Maxwell was talking about how important it was for people to start or initiate something in order to be successful. He then went on to explain all the reasons why it was important to get going on something. The first place he recommended we start was with ourselves. According to him, starting with yourself gives you experience, confidence, integrity and influence.

It was when he was describing how starting helps you gain experience that he caught my attention with the analogy of leaders being either travel agents or tour guides.  What a great analogy.  I perked up right away.  Basically, Mr. Maxwell explained that travel agents typically send you places they’ve never been themselves.  They arm you with brochures and maps and other information to get you ready for your trip. But tour guides do something else.  They take you by the hand & show you where they’ve been.  That enriches your experience because they have the inside track & can share little known secrets about the location you are visiting that makes it special.

The concept of being a travel agent vs. a tour guide leader resonated with me because of what I see happening in corporate America these days as it relates to our newest entrants, the Millennials.  I think many leaders would say that they are trying to be the tour guide for this new generation of workers but that Millennials are refusing to listen to the advice they, as leaders, have garnered from years of corporate experience.  It is true that the many years of working for a corporation is certainly valuable and leaders should be tour guides by all means.  But what happens if, as a tour guide, you haven’t visited a particular destination in years?

Although you may still know your way around & are still familiar with the old landmarks, etc., there may be new things that have sprung up in that location that you don’t know or aren’t familiar with – new restaurants, new neighborhoods, etc.   For tour guides to be effective & relevant to their customers, they need to stay current with what’s going on in the destinations they are experts in.  If not , they run the risk of becoming more like travel agents as time passes.  So it would appear that a pre-requisite for someone to continue being a relevant tour guide would be for them to keep up to date with the destinations & the clients they serve, to be frequent travelers themselves so they don’t lose touch with the latest trends & happenings in the destinations for which they provide tour services.

The same applies to leadership.  Although those of us with years of corporate management experience can be great tour guides, we can only be so if we stay relevant to the employees we are leading today and not just those that we led yesterday.  Many things have taken place in the young lives of Millennials that make them very unfamiliar to us as employees & as people.  They grew up very differently than most of us did & that impacts how they perceive work, the world & those around them.  If we don’t understand & accept this unfamilarity, we won’t be very good tour guides because just like the destination tour guides,  our skills & knowledge will become outdated. That puts us at a disadvantage and could make us irrelevant to our ”customer base”, the Millennials.

On the other hand, if we let them,  Millennials can be our  tour guides into the world of work in the 21st Century.  I’ve said many times that the future will look more like what Millennials are used to than what we are used to as current corporate leaders. That means we need to get to know them better, figure them out, live in their world & harness the goldmine that is waiting to be found.  If we are  not careful, our status as tour guides can quickly downgrade to that of a travel agent.  That would not be a good thing at this critical juncture.  Millennials need our guidance & direction.  We just need to provide it in ways that are meaningful to them and not just to us.

In my C.A.R.E. Sytem of Leadership,  I show leaders how to maintain their tour guide status in these changing times so that they are not downgraded to travel agent.  I show them how to shadow Millennials to see how they think & work, how to break down silos by bringing Millennials from different teams to collaborate together, how to leverage Millennials’ social media & tech savviness for strategic advantage.   I show leaders how to get comfortable being uncomfortable and experimenting with new techniques & practices.  As leaders, it is imperative that we make adjustments to our way of leading & thinking to stay relevant to the workforce of the 21st Century.

So what about you?  What are you doing today to maintain your tour guide status?  Are you at risk of becoming a travel agent?

Last week I was at a client site for a meeting.  My client was running a bit late and her assistant asked me to wait in one of several conference rooms on the floor.  As I was busy getting ready for the meeting, taking out my laptop, connecting it to the projector, etc,  I became aware of a booming voice.  At first, I didn’t pay much attention to it but after a while, I couldn’t help but listen to what it was saying.  Now in most corporate conference rooms I’ve been in, you can sometimes hear what’s going on in the next room especially if people are laughing or applauding or like in this case, when someone has a particular voice pitch that carries through the walls.  As I focused on the voice, I could see through the glass mirror of the conference room that there was a meeting being held in the conference room adjacent to mine & that the door had been left opened.  That explained why I could clearly hear the booming voice.

With nothing to do but wait for my client, I began to pay attention to what the booming voice was saying.  Within 5 minutes, I was appalled at what I heard.  The booming voice was on a tirade.  He was clearly disappointed with the 10 people who were in the conference room and was letting them know it. But it was how he was doing it that disturbed me.  He was using inappropriate language, was banging his fist on the table & using such words to describe the team as “morons”, “useless”, “unreliable”, “lazy”!  All in one paragraph.  You could tell that he was working himself into a full blown rage and as he was doing that I had a front row seat to watch what the reaction of his team was. It wasn’t pretty.

You could see disgust written on all their faces. Most of them had their heads bowed & were looking down at their hands, or at the table. They were so uncomfortable that it was palpable.  Finally, one of the meeting attendees looked up & saw me across the hall & rolled his eyes.  I smiled at him in support.  I took the opportunity that I had his attention & gestured to him that perhaps he should close the door.  I didn’t feel it was appropriate for that man to display that type of behavior to his team for the whole world to hear. Interestingly, the young man looked back at me and shook his head no. His face was almost defiant. I realized by his reaction that he wanted people to hear the tirade.  My guess is that he wanted someone in a position of authority to hear & see this man’s behavior & hopefully do something about it. Before I knew it, the booming voice was dismissing the team & saying ” Get outta here. I’m disgusted with all of you”.  That’s an exact quote.

As people shuffled out in silence, the young man who had caught my attention made an “L” shape with his forefinger & thumb & put it on his forehead signifying that he felt the booming voice was a loser. A couple of his teammates nearby saw him do it & started giggling as they passed by & I could see one of them mouthing the words “What a jerk” as the others continued to giggle.  The booming voice stayed in the conference room answering his cell phone & I could hear him berating whoever was on the other line. This man clearly was a jerk.

Just then my client walks in & closes the door.  As she is closing it, she can hear the booming voice talking loud & using offensive language.  With the door closed, she rolls her eyes & says ” there goes Steve again ranting & raving about something. He’s such a brilliant man but he’s not a real people person & he can’t seem to get good people to stay in his team”.  “I wonder why??” I said to myself.  I learned from my client that Steve, the booming voice, was the Vice President of Marketing & had close ties to the CEO & had been with the company almost 20 years.

That explained a lot.  Unfortunately, as far as I was concerned, his team was doomed.  Being buddies with the CEO was job security – it was one of the 4 poor leadership trends I’ve blogged about that is so prevalent in corporate. My client explained that the booming voice was constantly badgering the Human Resources group about the lack of good talent they were getting.  Instead of recognizing that he was the problem, it was easier for the booming voice to blame it on HR & the talent pool.  Very sad.

As I witnessed this horrible but not uncommon example of leadership, I remember an interview I heard in my January edition of Success Magazine’s complimentary CD.  In the CD, Darren Hardy, the publisher of Success Magazine was interviewing Shawn Achor, author of the book titled “The Happiness Advantage“ .  In the interview, Shawn explained to Darren how important it was for people & especially leaders to have & disseminate a positive outlook on their teams.  He went over 7 practical and what I think are actionable steps that we can all take at work and at home to reap the benefits of happiness.  You see, Shawn’s extensive research has shown that happiness fuels success, not the other way around.  Most of us think that when we succeed at something, we’ll be happy.  Well, that’s not what the research shows & I know that my own hands-on experience leading teams backs up what Shawn’s research shows.

In over 25 years of leading teams, I have seen a direct correlation between people’s happiness  & effectiveness & how I’ve treated them as a leader.  To be totally honest & transparent, there have been times in my career where I have exhibited behavior similar to the booming voice although never quite that bad.  The result of that negative & inappropriate behavior was more of the same – more of what I didn’t want.  As I changed my behavior & realized that staying positive in a bad situation produced ideas & solutions rather than resentment & disengagement, I was able to get the results I wanted & more importantly, I was able to quantify that success against the failure that had been displayed with my less than positive reaction. Even more importantly than all of that, I realized that my team was more upbeat, more engaged & creative. They also stayed with me for years & my retention rate was pretty high compared to my fellow peers.

As leaders, it is critical for us to know how our actions & behaviors affect our team.  Negativity & bullying only get you high turnover, a very unhappy team & subpar solutions. In my C.A.R.E. System of Leadership, one of the key components I stress is the R for Reshape.  We need to constantly be reshaping & re-evaluating our leadership style & principles to ensure we don’t fall into bad habits that are hard to break.  Even though no team member likes being approached from a negative perspective, it is particularly difficult & offensive to our younger workers who have come from a very supportive network of teachers & parents.  While other generations might tolerate it, Gen Yers find it difficult to do so.  As you saw from the reaction of the young man who caught my attention, he wanted the inappropriate behavior of his boss to be on display.  I’m sure his hope was that it would not be tolerated.

As this new year begins to unfold, let us all keep in mind that there is an advantage to be positive and happy.  Although the day to day may sometimes challenge that philosophy, it is up to us as leaders to embrace it & share it with our team.  Igniting happiness & positivity in your team will get you to reap the rewards & success you are looking for. The opposite just labels you a loser & a jerk.

So what about you? Have you used happiness to your advantage lately?

By now you all know that I am a huge fan of Success Magazine.  It’s one of the few magazines that I continue to get as a hardcopy.  One of the reasons I do that is because I love the free Success CD that accompanies every edition.  I take the CD and listen to it when I’m driving.

I’ve been a little busy these last few months and sort of fell behind on my Success CDs.  Yesterday, I just finished listening to September’s CD.  Like I said… I’m a little behind.  I was totally captivated by an interview that Darren Hardy, the Publisher of Success Magazine had with 3 amazing Millennials.  I was so captivated that I had to stop the car & listen to the interview.  It was very moving.  Darren was interviewing the founders of a non-profit organization called “The Invisible Children“.  The founders were 3 Millennials.  Their names: Jason Russell, the mastermind that started the whole project, Laren Poole and Bobby Bailey.  These 3 young men in 2003 were barely in their early 20′s with Laren Poole being the youngest at 19.  They decided to take a “road trip” to Africa that started them on a journey that would change their lives and so many others in a positive way.

You see, they got stranded in Northern Uganda and came across an unsettling reality:  children were being kidnapped every night from their homes and forced to be child soldiers by a rebel army in the area.  To avoid this fate,  children would walk barefoot every night, night after night to the centers of the cities to avoid being kidnapped by these rebels.  These 3 young American Millennials were shocked by this and felt compelled to document it on video.  That started their journey to not only raise awareness but raise money and enact legislation to help these young children in Northern Uganda.

I wish you could listen to this captivating CD.  I wasn’t able to find it on the Success Magazine website but I found the next best things. One was an article written by Sally Deneen in January of 2009 titled: “Making a Difference – Invisible Children“  .  There’s also a great video in Success Magazine’s Video Library called “Invisible Children“.  It’s a great short video and well worth the time to watch.

As you will see by reading & watching the video, these 3 young men started a movement.  They reached out to young Millennials just like them and showed them what was happening in Northern Uganda and what they wanted to do to change it.  These 3 young men wanted to rebuild the schools in war torn Uganda to give the children a fighting chance.  And their Millennial peers across the US heard the call and put their collective support behind them.  Since 2003, these 3 Millennials have gone from embarking on a youthful adventure on another continent  to starting a non-profit organization that has raised millions for their cause AND just this past May, they were influential in passing a bill in the House of Representatives called the LRA Disarmament & Uganda Recovery Act.

Not too shabby, wouldn’t you say?  In the video that’s on the Success Magazine site, I love what Jolly Okot,  Country Director in Uganda says about who is raising the money for this effort.  She says ” It’s young people like you who are raising the money… not the big people”.  I love that quote.  It’s the young, not the big people.

As I listened to the CD in my car, I felt such pride for this generation.  They have such a powerful way of using their collective strength for good.  I couldn’t help but wonder how much more innovative and productive corporations could be today if they just tapped a small piece of the talent that their Millennial employees have and are dying to deploy.  I also worried that so many corporations would ultimately lose out on the best talent because they are failing to see it, to tap it, to inspire it and grow it NOW.  Millennials are not afraid to go elsewhere & usually it’s to start their own companies or in this case, their own non-profits.

Darren asked these 3 amazing Millennials to give organizations advice on how to tap the Millennials that worked for them.  They gave some wonderful advice that I want to share with you because it goes to the heart of what leaders need to do to engage & retain the Millennials.  I don’t remember which of the 3 Millennials said it but he mentioned the Triple Bottom Line. To engage Millennials,   corporations need to focus on Profits, People & the Planet.  Too often, corporations just focus on the first and almost to the detriment of the last two.

Other advice:  

  1. For leaders to swallow the fear.  Let the Millennials go where they think they should go.  I couldn’t agree more.  At first, I was afraid to trust the Millennials because their approach was different than mine.  But I slowly discovered that by blending their unique insights with my experience created a win-win situation and sparked creativity and innovation in ways that would have never been discovered if I had not chosen to let go of the fear & just experiment.
  2. Show  Millennials how they affect the Mission statement.  Connect the dots for them.  This is so true.  Most leaders never spend time with their staff showing them directly how they affect the business.  That’s why most employees have no clue of the strategic direction their company is taking & how they contribute to it or not.  Every year, after we completed the IT Strategic Plan, I would convene my team & share the plan with them & how it fit within the bigger corporate plan.  Then I would individually show them how each one of their projects contributed to the IT plan & the bigger plan.  This was illuminating not only for the Millennials but for all the generations that made up my team.  There’s nothing more rewarding than to see how you affect the bigger picture.
  3. Value the impossible.  I love that.  I think that is sorely missing from most corporations today.  We just play the safe bet. We stay only in the realm of what we think is possible.  That’s a recipe for mediocrity.  These 3 Millennials at such an early age understand that there is value in trying what has not been done.  Experiment & try the impossible.
  4. Take on a cause.  Millennials are hard wired for it and they look to their leaders to be part of a cause.  Pick one and get them involved.  You will see amazing results & your “cool factor” will go up as well.

So if you are spending a lot of time complaining about the Millennials in your team and how lazy & ineffective they are,  maybe it’s just because they are not inspired to do anything better.  Because when they are inspired, look out!  The sky’s the limit.  Just look at what these young men have accomplished in a short time. 

So what you?  What are you doing to inspire engagement & involvement & innovation in the Millennials in your team?