The Best Investment You Can Make is in Yourself

 
I’m taking a break today from the Gary Vaynerchuk interview to…to what? I don’t want to complain but I’m afraid that is how it will sound. I don’t want to sound like an old man who thinks this generation is lacking what previous generations had but after reading this, you might think that’s what I’m doing. I don’t want to put my leadership skills (or lack of skills) out there for everyone to see but I have to be honest with myself and I’m choosing to do so publicly.

leader-mdI choose kindness over harshness. I choose conversation over orders. I choose second and third chances over rash decisions. I give the benefit of doubt rather than expecting the worst. All of these seem to be backfiring.

I understand the feeling that a job is just a job. I understand having a job you don’t love, I have one now that I don’t even like. I get wanting to do the bare minimum when there is no motivation or incentive to do more. I get all that, but I’m at the end of my career (yes I’m young but I’m at the end of one career, not my working life).

When I was at the beginning of my career the concept of work hours was foreign to me. I stayed and worked and improved my skills because I wanted to, because I was curious, because I knew that some day I’d advance and grow to higher levels. I did this without overtime pay and when overtime was available, I often wouldn’t put in for it because I wasn’t working, I was learning.

What I see of my staff is that, so early in their working lives, they’ve already checked out. I don’t see the curiosity and interest in honing their skills, learning new things, going beyond (or even living up to) their job description. The sales associates want to be managers, and the manager wants to be the general manager but none are excelling (or are even adequate) at their current position.

My pep talks haven’t worked. My pep talks with a dose of reality haven’t worked. My honest assessments with consequences behind them haven’t worked. I know business people have to fire staff and I’ve had to as well, but when you see potential in a person in spite of their lack of effort it makes the process that much harder.

I can’t help but think that a young Gary Vaynerchuk did well because he is someone who is invested in himself. I am someone who invests in myself. I don’t see my staff investing in themselves – they’re just picking up a paycheck.

Do you see the same of your staff, of the employees you deal with at a store or on the phone? What do you do to get them to see that investing in themselves pays the best dividends?


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Lead, Follow AND Get Out of the Way

 
What does it mean to be a leader? Does it mean you have all the answers? Does it mean that you give the orders and others do the work? Does it mean that you answer to no one? While there might be some (very little) truth in those statements, a leader must be versatile, adapt to each situation, and handle the circumstances differently when needed.

When things need to get done it is often said that you need to lead, follow or get out of the way. That sounds good but what a real leader does is all of those things – they lead, yes they follow, and they know when to get out of the way.

LeadDucks

Sometimes your entire team will look to you for the answer, the one decision that only you can make. At those times you, as the leader, must take responsibility, steel yourself, and make the difficult decision. This is the reason you’ve worked hard, honed your skills, listened to your team, weighed the options, and are ready to decide. This is what most people think of when they think of a leader but it is only one aspect of what a real leader does.

Follow

As the leader you are ultimately responsible but you’ve also assembled a team of experts and there’s a reason you picked them. Not only should you give them room but you also need to follow their lead, listen to and learn from their interactions, their brainstorming, their good ideas. A leader who is willing to be led by their team is respecting their talents and their contributions. That respect will boost morale, show your confidence in the team and make for a better working environment. A true leader is able to put their own interests aside for the benefit of the project and the team. The leader is now just a member of the team, elevating one or more people to the role they usually hold.

Get Out of the Way

This one is hard. It may be difficult to see how it differs from following. This is a time when the leader, recognizing that their mere presence is a hindrance, must step away and put trust in their team that the work will be done. This is a real test of how you perceive your own leadership. If you have confidence in yourself you will also have confidence in your team.

Leaders don’t have all the answers, aren’t dictators, recognize when they are a help and when they are not. Are you a leader? Am I on to something here? What can you add to this post? Leave your comments and suggestions below. I look forward to your perspective.


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Be the Trail Guide

 

Whether you are beginning your working life or are looking for a change, you have more choices than you realize. Choice is not an either-or proposition, however. You can decide to go to work for an established company, a big corporation, or you could set your own path, be your own boss. You could also do both if you want to.

Not too long ago I went to an event at a bar in NY organized by Andrew Warner of Mixergy.com. The event was a mixer (of course) where entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs got a chance to talk and share ideas. I met a guy who just recently (six months ago) joined the workforce after graduating college. The thing that was interesting, though, is that he was already anxious for more. He was looking for his what next. The experience he was getting was valuable but he wanted to create something. There is no reason he can’t do both, continue getting great experience while creating something new.

Being at the event was a step in the right direction but to be an entrepreneur, he also needs to be a leader. He needs to be able to get others to follow him, to believe in his mission as much or more than he does himself.

He is like a hiker setting off on a trail others have been down before. Anyone can be a hiker but a leader is a trail guide who knows their way. In this case, only the entrepreneur with the idea, the sense of direction, can lead their team of hikers.

Entering a palm oasis

Leading the way.

Is it enough to simply declare yourself a leader, the trail guide? No. You have to demonstrate why you should lead, you have to give as much as you get. The authority is not yours to claim but is earned as your enthusiasm and belief in the project lights the fire of those you want to lead to success.

Now get out there and explore the trail so you can be an effective guide.

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