What’s Your Story?: Your Individual Brand Promise

During the many years that I spent waiting in airport lines, I frequently found myself playing the game, “What’s Your Story?” You know the one: you try and guess a person’s profession or position based on how they look and act. Based on the reading and conversations I’ve had over the years, I know I’m not alone.

No matter how fair, unbiased or “woke” we are, we humans are wired to size others up, especially when it comes to leaders. The truth is we learn a lot about people just by glancing at their faces. We instantly spot who we prefer and who we don’t.

That’s why smart leaders create a unique, individual brand promise.

Your Trade Name

Your individual brand promise is what others can expect from you in every encounter. The more reliable you are to that promise, or expectation, the stronger your brand promise, and trade name.

A brand is a name, term, design, symbol or any other feature that identifies a product or service as distinct. If used for an organization as a whole, the preferred term is trade name. You are, with all your attributes, traits, skills—the way you think and behave—your trade name.

Leaders benefit by establishing a solid brand promise. This allows them to make the most of their skills and potential as they advance their career path. There are several key areas that formulate your brand promise and, when developed well, can take you to new heights. Read More »

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Check Your Mindset

I’m sure you’ve noticed that for some leaders, identity is defined from the outside-in, and requires external validation in one of three ways: relationship strength, intellect, or results. I think this is partly due to cultural messaging that occupation determines identity, and productivity indicates value. Technology often reinforces this mindset.

Leaders can be accessed virtually anywhere, whether they are on company property or not. As Peter Bergman rightly observes in Leading with Emotional Courage: How to Have Hard Conversations, Create Accountability, and Inspire Action on Your Most Important Work (Wiley, 2018), the workplace is now everywhere. Leaders battle a boundary invasion, and their debased sense of value bleeds over into home life.

Great leaders know what they care about most.  They understand that their role at work is important, but not all-defining. It is not the basis of their self-worth. Family, friends, activities and personal growth provide satisfaction and help them to engage in all that they do with optimism and effectiveness. The key is not necessarily dividing their lives into work and non-work time, but finding a way to balance them such that they complement each other.

Look at ways to open up more non-work time with time management techniques at work. For example, establish a routine that helps you cover more bases in less time using the resources and staff available to you. Think ahead, anticipate demands and plan for multiple situations. This can reduce your stress and let you be fresher for the office and at home.

Similarly, more joy at home allows you to be more positive and fruitful at work. The most well-rounded leaders have found ways to enrich their relationships and activities at home, bringing more pleasure to life. Your family deserves more from you than what’s left over from what your employer takes. Many leaders have found that a richer work life is built on a foundation of a richer personal life.

Save your sanity and energy and bring a fresh approach to each day. If you check your mindset and maintain balance, you’ll have a more fulfilling identity and a richer purpose. These are the best paths to becoming all you can be as a leader.

What do you think? I’d love to hear from you. You can call me at 704-827-4474; let’s talk. And as always, I can be reached here, or on LinkedIn.

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Mastering Leadership: Lead with Intention

Leaders are facing unprecedented levels of stress, dysfunction and disappointments, taxing their energy and productivity. Some leaders have even shared with me that keeping up with the chaos has become an acceptable achievement. But great leaders are strategic about their time and energy. They lead with intention.

You see, leaders can’t be busy just to be busy. Their time must count. In my work coaching executives, I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t have to guard their time, attention and fight off distractions.

What Matters Most

An intentional approach focuses on the most beneficial areas, and thinking can be one of them. You find what matters most by recognizing that the things bringing you the most joy are just as important as the things bringing the organization the most benefit. The intention is to pursue both. Read More »

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Hone Your Attention to Master Leadership

One of the problems people have in mastering leadership is the tyranny of the urgent—it’s difficult to think about the future and where you want to go when you’re focused on staying afloat. But when you hone your attention, you keep that from happening. It’s how great leaders focus on the things that matter most.

When this topic comes up with my coaching clients, we discuss how preparing for the future should be a thoughtful and optimistic matter.

For example, time must be dedicated to evaluating the possibilities and potential. This means that you’ll need to split your time between current tasks and potential or future tasks. This doesn’t necessarily mean an equal split, but some kind of proportionate division, dependent on the circumstances. It comes down to deciding what to let go of in order to focus on the future. Read More »

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Create a Framework to Master Leadership

As a leader, what does it take for you to be successful, and have the career and life you really want? From what I’ve seen, I believe we need to create a framework for clarity. I introduced this in my last post.

You see, clarity of mind stands as a basic framework to hang other usable skills, and great leaders learn how to find it. Clarity is the ability to see things as they are with an accurate perception and understanding. It’s a freedom from uncertainty or confusion. It’s the skill to grasp fundamental truths and distinguish false alternatives.

In Leading with Emotional Courage: How to Have Hard Conversations, Create Accountability, and Inspire Action on Your Most Important Work (Wiley, 2018), Peter Bregman writes that one of the most distinguishing character traits successful leaders possess is clarity. I agree. This encompasses not only reaching a state of clarity, but continuing to embody it. In other words, providing clarity to others is just as vital as establishing it within yourself. After all, what is the point of a leader being clear if no one else benefits from it? Read More »

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Mastering Leadership: From Effective Leader to Great Leader

Are you an effective leader, or a great leader?

Effective leaders have mastered leadership competencies like setting strategic direction, communicating a clear mission, monitoring resources and ensuring that processes, systems and people achieve results. In addition, the great leaders I have worked with assess what they do, why they do it, and how they can improve it. They periodically take a look at their beliefs, thinking, and motivations. This is not always an easy task.

With the rapidly changing competitive environment and new technologies, it’s hard to keep up. The time leaders can afford to spend on their leadership skills and personal growth seems to shrink every year. All the while, leaders are under increasing pressure to make their companies all they can be, with little time taken to making themselves all they can be. How they go about mastering leadership is key. Read More »

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Great Leaders Address Weakness

In the organizations where I consult, I remind leaders that even the strongest, most talented people have flaws and weaknesses. Since the most damaging leadership liabilities have to do with the inability to work well with their people, leaders benefit best by making effective relationships a priority.

You see, the greatest challenge in minimizing these kinds of liabilities is to find an optimal balance between a focus on tasks and relationships. Anderson and Adams point this out in Scaling Leadership: Building Organizational Capability and Capacity to Create Outcomes that Matter Most (Wiley, 2019). This is easier said than done.

Great leaders address weaknesses with self-awareness and an understanding of their character and liabilities. A trusted confidant can offer a different perspective and help you take a deeper look. This may be a close colleague or better yet, a qualified executive coach who has an impartial mindset. Read More »

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Emotional Deficiencies

Understanding the role of emotional deficiencies in leadership is critical in today’s corporate environment. Employees look to their leader to establish safety and trust; they expect emotionally healthy leadership. Leaders accomplish this in part with behavior that is rational, calm, logical and wise.

Leaders who portray a solid, steadfast source of guidance and direction earn the trust of their people. The opposite is true for leaders who can’t control their emotions when the pressure hits. Employees question their security when their leader doesn’t put the team first. Read More »

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Leaders Who Devalue Employees: 3 Signs

Even seasoned leaders can have a lack of self-awareness, unacknowledged weaknesses and leadership liabilities. I’ve been writing about this in recent posts. Why? A surprising number of workers claim that their supervisors don’t value them: that they are treated like subservient slaves. It is a significant reason why people quit their jobs. As a popular saying goes, people don’t leave companies, they leave their bosses.

Here are three signs of leaders who don’t value people:

  1. Leaders devalue employees when they don’t treat them well. Employees may be driven hard, given unrealistic expectations, buried in work that they have no way to accomplish, or go unforgiven for past mistakes. This is a signal that their needs are not considered important, that they have little value in the eyes of the leader.
  2. Leaders devalue employees when they micromanage. This often stems from the leader’s belief that no one can match their high standards, so they must be over-guided to get things right. People are not considered competent or trustworthy enough. Micromanaging is demoralizing, and creates a stinging liability.
  3. Leaders devalue others when they listen poorly. A leader who is lost in their own thoughts signals that only their thoughts are significant. They send the message that others have nothing important to say, that they can’t contribute. But as communicator and author Andy Stanley puts it, “Leaders who refuse to listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing significant to say.” That’s a serious liability.

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What Your People Skills Reveal

Leaders are the glue that holds a team together. They create an environment in which groups perform harmoniously for optimal results. However, I have encountered some leaders who simply don’t like people.

Although every leader needs others, some leaders behave in ways that indicate otherwise. This proves to be a significant liability and it’s generally not difficult to spot. Poor people skills are an indicator.

Leaders who don’t treat people well signal their dislike for them. Common signs include not acknowledging others by initiating or returning a greeting, and being non-responsive to questions or comments. Adding arrogance or disrespect is a more blatant clue. Read More »

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