Believe in Heroes

One of the self-discovery activities I use to help people develop their self-awareness includes this question: “When you were younger, who was your hero?”

When I’ve asked this question over the years, I have heard that certain teachers were heroes for their ability to help someone who never felt heard or valuable feel both heard and valuable.

I have heard that a parent can be a hero because of the way they live their life – always responding to and caring for others; being creative and authentic no matter what; believing deeply in the greatness in their kids; having a unrelenting faith or actually allowing others to determine their own beliefs.

I have heard that a boss or a colleague can be a hero for the way they create or support a workplace that is fair, focused on achievement and inclusive, and never gossips, demeans or belittles anyone.

I have heard that a friend can be a hero because of the way they stay with you through your ups and downs, without any judgment.

The purpose of this question is to help you identify the attributes you see in others that are important to you. We need heroes in our lives because they give us three important things:

  1. Heroes teach us. They do what they do so well that we take note. Maybe we see who we want to be, or how we want to connect with others, or how we want to live, or how to develop and live deep beliefs. Their commitment to who they are expands what we think about, see and consider. Heroes help us learn.
  2. Heroes help us define our values. As we watch and are impressed by others, we start to identify why we are impressed; we start to identify the things that are important to us. It may be that they treat people kindly and fairly; we see these are our values. It may be that they are resilient and tenacious; we see this and we want to be this. It may be that they are excellent negotiators and always seem to find a way to achieve their goals; it identifies that achievement is important to us. By watching others, we frequently get clear of our own values.
  3. Heroes encourage us to be our best selves. Heroes bring their A-game. The show up. They step up. They stand out. The don’t play small. They sit on the sidelines. We see their effort and focus and are encouraged and inspired to tap into ours. We see the impact they have and connect it to the effort they bring.

The thing I have found most amazing about heroes is that they never intend to be heroes. They are humble. They are authentic. They just do what they do because they believe it to be true for them.

My dad was one of my heroes. He defined his values in life and lived them boldly, openly and lovingly. He brought his best to others. He did it not to impress, but to make the world a better place. This was particularly difficult to do raising six kids.

Take Action
Watch for heroes. Believe in heroes. Believe that we can each live consciously, intentionally and boldly what really matters to us, to make things better for all of us.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading The Imagine Game

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You Know You’re a Great Leader When You Do These Things

In the industrial age, we prided our leaders on being direct, assertive and knowing all the answers. We needed them to be a strong central figure to help direct and orchestrate work, manage people and make things happen. When the workplace remained fairly static in what work was and how it was done, it was not only easier to accomplish, but also praised and, to an extent, appreciated.

But then the workplace changed. Much of the make-things economy moved offshore, leaving us with today’s provide-service workplace. Every employee has the opportunity to directly interact with customers. This, combined with the fact that few workplace situations are the same day-to-day, changes not only what we do for work, but also how we work and how we lead those who work.

As a result, today’s workplace needs a new type of leader, one who is a good listener but also able to take charge. One who earns respect and loyalty from their employees and still drives results. One who can admit to not knowing everything, or to admit when they’re wrong, and use the wisdom of others to make wise, sound decisions.

To be an effective leader in today’s workplace, four attributes are required:

1. Today’s best leaders are humble. They are aware that they don’t know everything and are firm believers in the mantra, “none of us is as smart as all of us.” They facilitate open discussions and dialog to gather information to be able to fully understand situations, aware that they are no longer expected to have all the answers. Instead, their role is to direct their employees in how to find, gather or create the information. They leave their ego at the door, allowing them to more confidently connect and interact with anyone in or out of the business. They are more interested in having things done well and done right than being the one to have the answer. They know their role is to facilitate the creation and implementation of the best ideas.

2. Today’s best leaders are curious. Great leaders are masters at asking questions. They are interested in knowing what others think, consider, do and want. They know that the responses provide meaningful information that will help them make wise and more successful decisions. They have trained themselves to stop telling and do more asking. This approach has a significant impact on those around them. Others feel engaged, encouraged and empowered to share, think and contribute.

3. Today’s best leaders care deeply about their people. They know that despite the critical role the performance numbers play, the way to achieve results is through their people. They build honest, authentic and caring relationships not just to get their people to do things, but because they truly care about everyone in their organization. It is obvious when a leader truly cares vs. cares to get a result. Caring leaders inspire employee loyalty.

4. Today’s best leaders commit to helping everyone grow, learn and improve. In a world that constantly changes, those with the best skills have the best ability to contribute and build sustainable careers. Today’s leaders have expectations of their people to constantly look at their work and lives and ask the question, “what could I do to make this better?” This focus on gradual and continual improvement helps their people discover, develop and live their potential, leading to more engaged and successful employees, and an improved organization.

Take Action
As the world and workplace changes, so do the attributes of effective leaders. Stay tuned in, focused and aware of the changes to modify your style to stay effective and relevant. Your people expect it. Your organization relies on it. Your customers depend on it.

Original article appeared on The Ladders, October 7, 2019.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading 3 Things Every Manager Can Do to Increase Employee Engagement

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Leaders – Seek out, Accept and Act on Feedback

By Jay Forte

Many of today’s leaders and managers still think they have all the answers, a way of thinking that remains from our industrial age. But in a world that constantly changes, it is important that all mangers and leaders be adaptive – that they be open to seeing things differently, be open to new ideas and realize being in charge doesn’t always mean they do things well.

Feedback, not constructive criticism, is critical for every manager and leader. The term “feedback” relates to commenting on both successful and unsuccessful performance. Providing supportive feedback can help any employee or manager do more of what’s working and address those things that are not working; it builds the employee-manager relationship. Avoiding or rejecting feedback creates strained manager-employee relationships, robs leaders and managers of the opportunity to see how their performance is affecting others and misses the opportunity for their development. All organizations should be able to provide meaningful feedback both up and down the chain of command.

In all of my mindfulness training with CEOs, I introduce a process to help them stop and notice what is effective and ineffective with their performance. If there are things about your management style, how you deal with challenging situations, your communication effectiveness or even your ability to share a clear and cohesive vision that are ineffective, you will benefit from the feedback. Solicit, accept and act on feedback. The goal is to constantly improve.

So, the question is, in your definition of manager or leader, are you open to feedback, not just applause?

If I were to ask your employees whether you are open to feedback, would they have the same response?

Here are three practical tips to seek out, accept and use feedback.

  1. Give your team permission to openly share their feedback. Go ask for feedback. Share how you best process their feedback so they can deliver it successfully. Let them know you are focused on constant improvement and that their input matters. This goes for both things done well and things that need improving.
  2. Accept, applaud and thank employees who deliver feedback successfully, wisely and professionally. This encourages them to continue to deliver the feedback. It also encourages a more successful manager-employee relationship as both parties have honest conversations that are results-based and committed to improvement.
  3. Act on feedback whenever possible. Participating in feedback and actually using the feedback are two different things. Employees will stop providing feedback if they feel it is ignored or not used. If the feedback is meaningful, work to implement it.

Take Action

Have a meeting with your team to discuss the value of feedback for all employees, including management, and how to do it successfully. Make a point of ensuring that feedback is for both successes as well as challenges to encourage better balance in your feedback. Acknowledge when it is done well to encourage its continual use. Its goal is to encourage behaviors to do more of what works and to improve what’s not working – at any level.

 

Consider reading Are Your Employees Sitting on the Sidelines?

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