Positive Leadership Involves Building Positive Relationships

Most often when men and women are struggling in their role as leader their problems are a function of their relationships with the people with whom they interact. Rarely does it matter whether the relationship issues are with the leader’s employees, fellow supervisors, the people to whom they report, or members of their supply chain, both internal and external. The dynamics are pretty much the same in all human relationships, with the exception of romances and friendships. What distinguishes love/partnerships and friendships is that these relationships exist in the context of choice.

All other relationships typically happen as a result of us coming into frequent contact with others through work, team play, neighborhoods, or other serendipitous event. When our daily lives bring us into close contact with another human being, the extent to which we get along and are able to interact on a positive basis goes a long way in determining our happiness and success. If we like the people with whom we must spend time, then life is so much easier, less stressful, more productive, and happier. Sometimes these relationships blossom into friendships or partnership but rarely are we able to make this happen.

For people who are having relationship issues, in the work place or other non-intimate situations, there are two simple rules at play. The first, is if you are unhappy with the way other people are treating you, start by taking a critical look at how you treat them. Inevitably, how others treat you is a reaction to your behavior toward them.

The second rule at play is one of the core principles of positive leadership. It is only when we accept responsibility for relationships/problems that we begin to acquire the power to change/solve them. In this case, we have no direct power over the way people are treating us or responding to us. We do, however, have control over how we choose to interact with them and respond to the negative nuances.

Never be afraid to ask people for their help in improving your relationship with them but asking for that assistance in the right way is imperative. If they interpret your request as “I don’t like the way you are treating me and we need to change it!” you can be sure they will view your request as self-serving.

Simply approach the person(s) with sincerity and acknowledge that the relationship seems strained. Ask what you can do to improve it. Once that subject is broached it becomes easier to arrive at a point where you each accept responsibility for the friction that exists between you. Very few people welcome friction in their relationships but that friction persists because few are willing to take the initiative to do something about it. Most people will respond to an olive branch, however, if they sense sincerity.

Accepting responsibility and reaching out to others is the essence of positive leadership and it can change your life and the lives of the people around you. My book, The Difference is You, Power Through Positive Leadership will show you how much power you have to make a difference.

Donald Trump: The Antithesis of Positive Leadership

As an American who has spent his entire career as a student, advocate, and practitioner of the principles of positive leadership, it is staggering to think that not only is a presidential candidate spreading a message of prejudice and hatred but also that he is garnering the support of a significant percentage of Republican voters. The man behaves like a bully and a name-caller of the same ilk as a rising political leader in Germany, eighty-five years ago. If you do not agree with someone, call them names, threaten to do harm to them, persecute an entire religious group, or deport millions of others.

Over the last couple of decades we have seen the emergence of bitter enmity on the part of Americans who are so full of hatred and prejudice that they will believe even the most outrageous accusations against President Obama, a man whom they despise. No doubt, someone recently spouted that “Obama probably paid protesters at a recent political rally for Trump” and now those accusations are sweeping across the internet, taken as gospel. Equally ridiculous are the accusations that “Obama arranged and paid for the assassination” of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

How can people be so full of hate that they are willing to believe such unsubstantiated nonsense about the President of the United States?

The sad thing about Donald Trump is that the man is correct about some of the things that need to happen to keep our nation healthy and “return it to greatness.” Support of Trump on these few issues becomes impossible, however, when the man preys on the ignorance and prejudices of millions of Americans and when his political strategy poses the biggest threat to democracy in my lifetime.

We do need to put the restoration of the U.S. infrastructure at the top of our nation’s priority list. We do need to take control of immigration. We do need to put people back to work. We do need to replace politicians who have become little more than puppets of some of our nation’s richest and most powerful political action committees. We do need leadership that is beholden to no one other than the American people.

We desperately need positive leaders who recognize that the issues with which we struggle, today, did not just happen rather that they are the consequence of 65-years-worth of ineffectual policies, whether liberal or conservative, republican or democrat.

What we need most of all is a positive leader with a vision for the future. A leader who recognizes that poverty is a consequence of an obsolete educational process that has set generations of American children up for failure and that makes it almost impossible for even our best teachers to do what they dreamt of doing when they chose their profession. It is an educational process that can only be further damaged by reforms focused on privatization and standardized testing.

We yearn for a positive leader who understands that the strongest economy during the latter third of the 21st Century will be the one that has ended its reliance on fossil fuels and has mastered the production of renewable sources of clean energy. It will also be an economy that is committed to responsible stewardship of the environment.

We hunger for a positive leader who believes that all Americans are entitled to comprehensive healthcare and prescription drugs as a right of citizenship and who understands that we can provide such healthcare without socialized medicine if only we open are hearts and minds to a new way of thinking.

And, finally, we need a positive leader who can help us renew our faith in democracy and in each other; a leader who can show the American people that our greatest strength as a nation is, has always been, and will always be our diversity. We seek a leader who can rebuild a nation in which the American dream is an achievable reality for all of its citizens; not just a privileged few.

My novel, Light and Transient Causes, is about one way things could go horribly wrong if a man like Donald Trump was elected President. https://melhawkinsandassociates.com/light-and-transient-causes-a-novel/ The reader is invited to take a look.

Pope Francis – A Remarkable Man, Visit, and Message

By eschewing many of the trappings of his office and reaching out to all people, Pope Francis has positioned himself to speak with unprecedented moral authority. If one were to boil down the essence of Pope Francis’ ministry it is a message of hope, of respect for the sanctity of life, of the dignity of human beings, and a call to action to leaders everywhere to accept responsibility for finding solutions to the problems of mankind.

His charge to leadership, whatever their venue, is to build bridges that bring people together in search of shared interests. He challenges leaders to set aside personal agendas and to develop a process whereby people can work together toward the common good.

This message is of particular importance to the leadership of democratic governments because democracy demands cooperation among those with opposing points of view. Pope Francis’ support of the negotiations with Cuba and the controversial Iran agreement regarding the use of nuclear power are examples of this process. The Iran agreement is far from perfect but it is the outcome of a commitment of the parties to find common ground and to begin the process of replacing suspicion and mistrust with cooperation and goodwill.

Maybe this is why Pope Francis was chosen at this particular point in history; a time when so much is at stake for humanity. We live in a world that is in desperate need of solutions that benefit all people and not just a select and privileged few. It is almost as if the Pope senses that democratic governments are teetering on the precipice of collapse. This is most certainly true in the U.S.

We have become a people divided at almost every turn, filled with bitterness and resentment for people who are different than us whether rich or poor; white or black; Muslim, Jew, or Christian; citizens or immigrants, legal or illegal; conservative and liberal. The inability of our elected representatives to put the interests of the whole before the interests of the few places our democracy at risk.

When some leaders seem compelled to impose their points of view on others, the very premise of democracy is threatened. The more difficult it becomes to find common ground the more imperative it is that we do find it.

The U.S. population is more diverse than it has ever been in almost every conceivable way and never again will it be less diverse than it is today. As a result, certain segments of our population are at odds with other segments and the differences threaten our society at its core.

Whether issues of race, poverty, government spending, immigration, healthcare, public education, aging, social welfare, or the environment the issues that divide us are cavernous in their extreme. The irony is that each of these problem sets have solutions that will not only serve the interests of all parties but can also transform American society to a new level of prosperity and world leadership. They are solutions, however, that can only be found beyond the boundaries of conventional wisdom.

Not one of us has the right to put our own selfish interests ahead of the interests of others whether we are elected representatives of a legislative body, a president or governor, or even a county clerk in Kentucky. Neither do we have the right to play God and sit in judgment of others. Perhaps sharing this message is one of the things Pope Francis has been chosen to do.

We all have a responsibility to give the best of ourselves to our brethren and to our communities. We have a duty to accept responsibility to do what is right and just, knowing that if any judgment is passed it is we who will be held accountable.

View Part 1 of my interview “The Verbal Edge” to talk my book The Difference Is You: Power Through Positive Leaders

View the following excerpt from part 1 of the two-part segment of my interview with Elizabeth Nulf MacDonald on her show The Verbal Edge, to talk about my book The Difference Is You: Power Through Positive Leadership.

The Verbal Edge, The Difference is You: Power Through Positive Leadership, Part 1

Even our System of Public Education is Within Our Power to Change

One of the most important things people in organizations must learn is that there are always opportunities to bring about positive change. That ability always begins with a sense of awareness about the system of events, objectives, and activities that swirl about us, immersing us in the flurry of our individual lives and moments.

We can teach ourselves how to take a few steps back to a point from which we can view all that takes place around us as if we were standing apart. It takes effort to acquire this skill but it is still just that, a skill that men and women can learn to master and utilize like any other tool.

Once we are able to gain that perspective, it is a matter of evaluating all of the activities of the organization, system, or process within the context of our essential mission and purpose. What we learn, rather quickly, is that distractions, secondary agendas, and the ongoing friction of human beings working together is that it is easy to be diverted from one’s mission or purpose. Over time, the consequences of these ancillary activities begin to accumulate like weeds in an unkempt garden and they literally eat away at the productive output of the entity.

Periodic maintenance of your organization will bring things back in line, if not permitted to go unnoticed. When too much time has elapsed, it becomes necessary to reconstruct the organization, system, or process to make sure that it is not only focused on mission and purpose but also to assess whether the ramifications of the changes in the world around us have been factored in.  Very often changes in the reality of the world in which the entity operates have not been incorporated and the process has become antiquated; sometimes obsolete.

In business, the process of addressing these systemic dysfunctions on a comprehensive basis is often referred to as “turnaround management” or “transformational leadership.” It is all constructed on the premise of one of the basic laws of systems and one of the principles of positive leadership:

“The only point at which a product, service, process, organization, or system can no longer be improved is the precise point in time that it has become obsolete.”

This transformational process is, itself, a complex tool that can be applied to systems of all sizes, shapes, and purposes by positive leaders skilled in the application of “systems thinking.” It is a powerful tool that can transform even something as complicated as our systems of public education.

It does require, however, 1) a willingness to believe that such change is possible and within our power to create, and 2) a willingness on the part of people to come together as a unified and committed force behind a set of shared principles and common purpose.

From Terry Heick and the Bad Ass Teachers Association: “10 Things I Wish I Knew My First Year of Teaching!” also Applies to Positive Leadership!

Terry Heick’s insightful comments entitled “10 Things I Wish I Knew My First Year of Teaching,” posted on the Facebook page of the Bad Ass Teachers’ Association, could have just as easily been written for a course in “Positive Leadership,” which, not coincidentally, could be offered to principals and other administrators.  

Prioritize—and then prioritize again. Positive Leaders relentlessly remind their people and themselves of the essential purpose of the organization and each individual’s job. It is so easy, in the heat of the challenges we face, to be diverted by secondary agenda’s and objectives.

 It’s not your classroom.   Organizations belong to the people and the customers they exist to serve and one of the biggest mistakes managers and supervisors make is to forget that their primary purpose, their over-riding priority, is to help their people and organizations succeed by doing the best job of which they are capable. Teachers and leaders need to remind themselves, often, that it is not about “me.”  

Students won’t always remember the content, but many will never forget how you made them feel. The most important component of human motivation is to make people feel important and it is amazing how forgiving employees can be when they know that the mistakes their leaders make were made within the context of helping them learn how to be successful. It is equally amazing how the level of trust that we earn is based almost totally by the way we interact with people rather than the things we say. It is also amazing how much the people of an organization are willing to give of themselves, when they know their welfare and best interests are always at the top of their leader’s list of priorities.

Get Cozy with the school custodians, secretary, librarian. One of the core principles of positive leadership is that every job well done adds value to the organization and its customers and also adds beauty to the world. Paying positive attention to people who support production and sales staff always pays dividends at crunch time when you need people to step up with their best efforts.

Longer hours isn’t sustainable. Quality always trumps quantity when it comes to how leaders and teachers allocate their time if for no other reason than it allows us to refresh ourselves and to “sharpen our saw” as Stephen Covey would say.

Student behavior is a product. In organizations as well as classrooms, how people conduct themselves, whether they have positive or negative attitudes, how much they are willing to give of themselves, and their commitment to their purpose is all a product of the kind of organization and environment the leader or teacher creates and sustains. It is also a product of how well they understand the process of success and whether they think of themselves as winners, as being a part of something special. Remember how you felt when in the classroom of one of your favorite teachers.  

Don’t get sucked in to doing too much outside of your class.  Activities that are separate and apart from our purpose can provide enrichment that refreshes and re-enthuses us or it can be an irritant that creates friction, and saps our energy. The process of getting sucked into something that is counterproductive is just one example of being distracted from one’s purpose and being drawn to secondary agendas. Pick and choose, carefully, the extra activities in which to become involved.

 Help other teachers. Everyone in an organization knows and respects the people to whom they can turn for help and support. It’s central to the adage that the more we give of ourselves the more we receive in return and this is powerful where ever people come together including classrooms and organizations.  

Reaching students emotionally matters. A lot. Ultimately our joy in life is a function of the quality of our relationship with other people. The more we understand that people are more important than things and that connecting with another person on an emotional level is the key to our sense of self and theirs, the more control each of us will have over the outcomes in our lives.

Literacy is everything for academic performance. Whether in business, in school, or in our personal lives it is our ability to read and understand and also our ability to communicate what we observe, think, and feel effectively that determine our power to create joy and meaning in our lives, and to seize the opportunities that present themselves to us.

 

The only thing I would change in this list of things we might wish we knew at the outset of any endeavor, whether as a leader, as a teacher, or as a friend is to:

“beware of the naysayers who are so immersed in bitterness and resentment that they find it necessary to drag us down to their level rather than elevate themselves up to ours”

The common theme through all of these items has to do with the quality of the relationships we are able to create and sustain. Ultimately, the value of our lives is measured against the quality of our relationships with other people.  So important is this central theme “that relationships are central to what we do” that I advocate that the entire educational process be re-structured in such a way that it supports a teacher’s ability to build and sustain close, personal relationships with their students, with the parents of their students, and with the other members of their teaching teams.

Part 2 of the Action component of our Strategic Action Plan to Reinvent Public Education – Engaging Parents and the Community

 

As we shift our focus to the community we must call on our political leaders for leadership, resell the American dream, and to educate all Americans on the paramount role of parents in improving the motivation to learn.

 

It would be so easy to stop at this point, thinking that our job is finished but, in reality, it has just begun. Education is simply a tool to help us prepare each new generation for the challenges our nation will face in an ever-more competitive world marketplace. It is a marketplace in which it will be impossible for us to compete, effectively, if we do not have the full participation of our entire citizenry. We simply must bring them on board.

 

As challenging and overwhelming as this may seem it is nothing more than an enormous marketing and advertising campaign to repackage and resell the American Dream. For all of the progress other economies have made with respect to their ability to compete with the U.S. we are still the unparalleled leader in marketing and advertising and we need to capitalize on this strength to re-engage every American to join their fellow citizens in rising to the challenges facing our nation. It is a perfect opportunity for African-Americans and other minorities to assume their rightful place as full partners in the American enterprise and in American society. We simply need to sell them on the idea that the time and the opportunities are prime.

 

The beauty of education is that nothing we do as a nation reaches into as many homes and as many families as our systems of education and it provides the perfect opportunity to not only transform public education but also to transform American society. It is an initiative in which the leaders of our school districts throughout the nation will be the point persons carrying the message of our political leadership. It is an initiative where our school superintendents and principals will be supported by leaders from government, professional athletics, entertainment, and the full spectrum of businesses. It is an initiative in which every single American man and woman will have a meaningful role to play.

 

What follows is the blueprint for action in the form of our final fourteen (14) action items.

 

 Action Item #20 – Our Presidents, present and future, must initiate and sustain a movement to re-sanctify the American dream, calling on leaders at every level of governments and business, and men and women in every community to believe in the American dream with their words and deeds and to ask American parents to accept responsibility for the education of their children. Further, that every American mother and father work hand-in-hand with their children’s teachers as full partners in the educational process. This is the categorical imperative of our time.

 

 Action Item #21 – Leaders at every level are challenged to ask parents everywhere, irrespective of race or economic circumstances: “Is your son or daughter a future President of the United States?  Is he or she a future CEO, physician, attorney, teacher, engineer, school superintendent, or other professional?” And then, those parents must be challenged to help their children achieve the best success of which they are capable.

 

  Action Item #22 – Educators accept that the over-riding objective must be to improve the motivation of students and that this requires the active partnership of the parents of those children. Toward this end, school boards need to re-establish expectations for their superintendents and principals to work toward this objective and determine how performance against those expectations will be evaluated.

 

  Action Item #23 – School Corporations must first target those segments of their community that are the lowest performing but no segment is to be overlooked.

 

  Action Item #24 – Educators must hit the streets using all available means to draw parents into their children’s schools and to engage those parents in the educational process. They must also work to enlist the assistance of community leaders toward that end and must hold themselves and their staffs accountable for the outcomes.

 

  Action Item #25 – Educational leaders must engage the creative energies of the entire community, including charitable foundations, for the purpose of developing and evaluating programs to help pull parents in as partners and to help them learn how to be effective in supporting the academic efforts of their children.

 

  In order to accomplish these objectives our school corporations must re-establish the expectations and priorities of principals and administrators.

 

 

  Action Item #26 – Superintendents must remove the administrative burdens from the shoulders of their principals, freeing them to devote their time and energy to their primary objective, even if it means employing more administrative support. Districts must create the expectations that principals and administrators spend 75 percent of their time in direct contact with parents, students, teachers, and staff.

 

  Action Item #27 – School Corporations must place a premium on positive leadership: Relying on positive leadership skills as the criteria for selection of principals and administrators and making real investments in ongoing leadership development for those principals and administrators.

 

  Finally, we must identify the communities with the greatest needs and we must use every tool and resource at our disposal to engage those communities and their leaders and to enlist their commitment to make education of our children the over-riding priority of every citizen. We must then replicate that process in each and every community in the nation.

 

 

 Action Item #28 – We need to call upon our presidents, present and future, to challenge celebrities from every venue, large and small, to make a commitment to public education by reaching out to their fan bases, asking them to accept responsibility for the education of their children. This challenge must be extended to every adult American, asking them to do whatever is within their power in order to make a difference.

 

  Action Item #29 – Initiate a cultural transformation using the African-America community as a model, on both a national and local front, in which black Americans, as a community:

  • Accept responsibility for their futures with no reliance on “The Man” to solve their problems for them;
  • Stop blaming the white people for the plight of blacks, whatever one’s opinion about the culpability of white society, simply because blaming others is a debilitating strategy;
  • Place a premium on education;
  • Raise expectations of black children in the classroom and relentlessly encourage our children to exceed those expectations;
  • Work as partners with our local school systems, both public and private, to support the teachers of our children.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Action Item #30 – Local superintendents should encourage head start and other preschool programs in their school districts to redouble their efforts to pull parents into the process so that our children can continue at home the important work they do at their school.

 

 

 

 Action Item #31 – Superintendents of each district should establish a community advisory organization with representation from key members of each high school’s community: parents, churches, social and community organizations, neighborhood associations, and businesses. As noted earlier, these specific examples are specifically targeted at the African-American community because this is where the most glaring deficiencies can be found but they can easily be modified and local advisory organizations will tailor their activities to the unique requirements of their community. Examples of activities for which this organization will be responsible include:

 

 

 

  •          Reaching out to the community to solicit broad-based participation and support of the community;
  •          Asking all leaders of the African-American community to carry President Obama’s challenge into the homes of their community and to engage the community in the process of creating a new culture; one that challenges black children to assume their rightful place as players in the business and professional playing fields much as they have done in the world of professional athletics and entertainment;
  •          Brainstorming with people from across the spectrum of the community for innovative programs that will create the support systems necessary to facilitate this objective;
  •          Recruiting volunteers from among the ranks of professionals, business executives, craftsmen, tradesmen, athletes, and artists to reach out into the communities with which they have a connection and to connect with parents and students;
  •          Invite each school’s population of parents to a free lunch with their children, once per month;
  •          Using the same creative marketing techniques we use in promoting fundraising ventures, we can invite parents to workshops in the evenings or on Saturdays, to teach them how to help their children with homework;
  •          We can solicit parents to volunteer at their son or daughter’s school and, where necessary, we can enlist some of them to provide babysitting for those who have young children still at home;
  •         We can ask churches, neighborhood library branches, Boys and Girls Clubs, Big Brothers-Big Sisters, scout troops, and many other community programs to provide organized study, reading, and writing groups and to recruit tutors from among their ranks;
  •          We can find more creative ways to develop mentoring programs to bring young people into direct contact with men and women who demonstrate each and every day of their lives that success and achievement are within our power; and,
  • ·         We can ask families and neighbors of parents with school age children to support these parents in this process in every conceivable way.

 

 

 

 Action Item #32 – Successful men and women of each community should be challenged to reach back to their communities: to support the efforts of educators to pull parents in as partners in the educational process and/or to mentor to a child in need until there are not enough children to go around.

 

 

 

 Action Item #33 – Urge all Americans to give support and encouragement to the children in their lives: grandchildren, nieces and nephews, our children’s friends, kids from our neighborhood, even our own children. Let them know how important it is that they do their best and that we are rooting for them.

 

 

 

Conclusion

 

Fixing public education must be the categorical imperative of our time and the process will require the participation of the entire community. It is essential that parents be full partners in the educational process because these are the men and women who have the best chance of bringing a child to their first day of school, motivated to learn even in the face of the obstacles with which they will surely be confronted. If the child has wandered off the path, teachers and parents working together offer the best hope that these children can be redirected.

 

Improving the motivation to learn on the part of students and increasing their level of preparedness when they arrive for their first day of school must be the ultimate objective of every single thing we do and we must evaluate the efficacy of every program and investment on the basis of how well it services this purpose. We cannot afford to waste a single moment or dollar on things that do

 

We must also step back as educators, at all levels, to view our system of public education as an integral whole. We must apply a systems-thinking approach that will allow educators and policymakers to challenge their fundamental assumptions about public education; to understand how what we do contributes to the problem; and, ultimately, to re-engineer the system to do what we need it to do to optimize the power of a child’s motivation to learn. It must be a system focused on success that will help each child progress along their unique path at the best speed of which he or she is capable.

 

The entire educational community must reach out also to the current and future Presidents of the United States, urging them to fire the starter’s gun and lay down the challenge to every mother and father to accept responsibility for the education of their children and for partnering with their teachers and principals.

 

These things must be accomplished with an unprecedented urgency because the very future of our way of life is in jeopardy. If we fail to seize up this opportunity then the outcomes we will experience in the coming years will be decidedly unpleasant and we will have no one to blame but ourselves.

 

 

 

 

 

Things Positive Leaders Can Do, Part 6 – When you are the boss!

Accept that your people are your most important resource. However Imperfect they may seem and however many problems they may have caused they have more than enough potential to help your department succeed.

They are your people. You either select them or accepted them because they were thought to have the ability to do the job. Now they are your people and you are responsible for developing their potential. Remember that unless they are incompetent and/or unwilling, it is less expensive to remediate the problems they cause than to replace them. Place your faith and trust in them; elevate your expectations. If you are forced to conclude that your people do not have the potential your department requires, it is your responsibility to do something about it.

Let your people know what your company’s objectives are and let them know when it succeeds or fails and how you and they have contributed to that success or failure. Do not withhold data about your company’s performance. Remember that knowledge is power. Most employees have an intuitive understanding of what it takes to be profitable and, with a little help from you to teach them how to understand the numbers, you will likely be surprised at the manner of their response.

One of the best ways to do this is to give them specific information relating to the expectations of your customers.
Let you people know what your department’s job is and how it contributes to the success of the business. Also let them know how your department interacts with other departments and how these departments mutually support one another. Make certain you people understand how their jobs fit in the program and how they contribute to the success of the department and to the business as a whole. Identify the internal supply chains that exist for each department. Make sure they understand who exists to serve whom. Who are their internal customers and what are the expectations of these customers.

Whenever possible, help your people set specific goals and objectives. This does not mean setting those expectations for them. Expectations should be as high as possible as long as they are achievable and the more your employees participated in setting those expectations the more powerful they will be. Then, measure performance and publish the results. Find something to count. Celebrate all victories.

Let your people know that your job, as their supervisor, is to help them succeed and, then, do your job.
Become a strong advocate. Fight for your people and stand up for them. See that they get the credit they deserve.
Take advantage of every opportunity to give positive feedback and recognition. Feedback is not something that should occur on a schedule or on special occasions. Positive feedback should comprise a significant part of what we do, each and every day.

Establish an atmosphere that concerns itself with solving problems not fixing the blame. Allow for mistakes and for failure. Give recognition for a good try. The only people who never make mistakes are those that never accept a challenge and never extend themselves. Recall the adage that says that “unless you fall down once in a while, you are not really skiing.” Remember that mistakes are nothing more than wonderful learning opportunities.

Make a commitment to listen. Seek out the ideas and suggestions of your people and act on them. Establish a pattern of incentives that will encourage more ideas and suggestions. Let people know the outcome of their ideas and suggestions.
Manage on the move, out amongst your employees. Never underestimate the power of your physical presence and the number of opportunities your presence creates. Avoid the ivory tower image.

Operate with an open-door policy. Contrary to popular belief, an open-door policy does not weaken the chain of command. The rule of thumb is that “you can and should listen to anyone, anytime, but avoid taking action until you have heard all sides, gathered the facts, and involve all of the appropriate participants.” Schedule time when you will be available—otherwise your time will be devoured by circumstances beyond your control and the open-door policy will be a myth. Your people know how busy you are and that there are many demands for your time. When you guarantee time for them it will help them appreciate how precious your time is and how important they are that your are willing to share it with them. Remember that the best open-door policy is one in which the boss is going out among the people as well as allowing the people to come to the boss.

You will not be able to solve all of their problems but you will establish a positive atmosphere that will be a fertile ground for productivity and excellence.

Handle problems, don’t create them. Take action to resolve problem situations and to respond to problem behavior by people, face-to-face, eyeball-to-eyeball. Rather than criticize or punish people, deal with the natural consequences of behavior. Leave personalities out of it as much as possible. Solve problems at the lowest possible level.

Avoid the temptation to legislate solutions to problems. This gets the supervisor off the hook, temporarily, of having to deal with a problem. But it punishes the whole unit or department and it does not address the underlying problem. After all, behaviors are nothing more than symptoms of underlying issues. More often than not, it is the employee’s lack of commitment to the mission that is driving undesirable behavior. Do not make the majority suffer for the misdeeds of the few. In these situations, the innocent taste the bitterness of injustice and nothing destroys trust in leadership more than perceived injustice. Use the “few rules theory of leadership.”

Rules are the studs, joists, and rafters of bureaucracies. When the behavior of an individual compromises the mission or purpose of an organization, positive leaders go to the source. Positive leaders begin with the assumption that the individual wants to do a good job but has, somehow, been diverted from their purpose. Positive leaders view these events as opportunities to teach and also opportunities to build trust. They begin by reminding themselves of their purpose as a positive leader, which is to help individual men and women be successful.

“Hold on a minute!” you might say. “That is not the outcome we are seeking.”

A leader’s focus on outcomes, whether desirable or not, shifts the focus away from the individual. Imagine how differently you feel when someone accuses you of doing something wrong, compared to a simple response of surprise that the outcome of the effort was not what we wanted or expected. It changes the entire dynamics of the conversation. Positive leaders have the highest possible expectations of their people and they avoid searching for evil intent.
Inevitably, even in the career of the most positive leader, there will be men and women with the intent to work in the disinterest of their organization. Exemplary leaders are always shocked to discover people of bad character because they expect the best of everyone. When an individual to whom every consideration has been given proves him or herself to be untrustworthy, positive respond with the gavel of certain justice. These leaders respond unhesitatingly and unequivocally. At the moment when the positive leader becomes convinced that an individual can no longer be trusted, the leader’s efforts shift, immediately, from the focus on remediation to one of acting in the best interests of the organization. Rarely are the interests of an organization served by hesitation or vacillation. Positive leaders waste no time and immediately get the individual out of the organization.

Learn as many names as possible and smile at the people you encounter. Acknowledge your people as valuable human beings. Treat them with dignity and respect. People do not normally respond to embarrassment or humiliation. “KAP!” Kick Ass Privately when it is necessary to kick ass at all. Make people feel important. Have a training session for your entire management team to teach them how to make people feel important.

Your integrity and your character are your most important assets. You do not have to be right all the time nor do you need to win all of the battles.

Vent your frustrations and express your doubts only to your peers or to your boss. Even the penultimate leader feels doubt and frustration—after all they are human beings. It is okay to be human. What distinguishes positive leaders from their less effective counterparts is the recognition of their responsibility to put the interests of their organization and its people ahead of their personal interests. They vent their frustrations appropriately. Require the same of your staff. Encourage them to vent their frustrations to you. Once a policy is made by management, do not burden your staff with your disagreement or disenchantment with that policy. Carry out the policy with the same positive enthusiasm you would display if it were your pet project or idea. If you are a strong advocate, as well you should be, you will have given testimony of your opinion in the policy formation process. In dealing with your staff, encourage them to express their honest opinion about every topic until such time as the decision is made. Once the decision is made, expect them to support it enthusiastically.

Let your people know that you trust them to do their job, to produce results, to meet deadlines, to achieve objectives. Then, let them do their jobs. Don’t look over their shoulder until they have missed their deadlines. Give them honest feedback about their results. Remember that trust is one of the most important characteristics of a successful organization. Work hard to earn their trust in you.

You are the leader—so lead! Be Proactive! Be decisive! Accept responsibility! Keep an eye on the future!

Build Teamwork! Talk to your people about the role you want them to play and about its importance to the organization. See that they get recognition for their contribution and that they get to share in victories as a full member of the team. Intermix individual performance goals with team goals. If the individual’s performance holds the team back, involve the team in the resolution.

Insist on the facts! Know your department inside and out! Know what it produces and how much it costs to produce it. Don’t be afraid of the facts. They can be a powerful tool to get things done and the more you and your people know about your operation the better your outcomes.

Teach your people to accept responsibility for their jobs! When they come to you with problems or questions, use it as an opportunity to teach them how to think for themselves. Good leaders resist the temptation, when the employee is stuck on a problem, to take over and solve it. The goal is not to solve the problem and show how smart you are; the goal is to help them employee learn how to solve the problem and teach them how smart he or she can be. Ask them what they think. They may be extremely reluctant to share their ideas with you for fear of looking stupid, but ninety percent of the time they will have an idea that may lead to a solution.

Give a man a fish and you feed him for the day. Teach him how to fish and your feed him for a lifetime.
Teach your people how to be strong and independent rather than weak and dependent! Many supervisors think it necessary to keep their staff dependent on them when, in fact, this only weakens the organization. Effective supervisors are constantly working to help their staff become independent within the scope of their jobs.

Expect your people to be the best and expect your department to be the best. Make certain that your expectations are communicated to everyone. There is substantial evidence to support that most people will strive to live up to or down to the expectations of their leaders. There are very few people in the world who want to be a loser. People will follow a leader with a winning attitude. Leaders who believe their people are winners and who expect them to win, consistently produce winning teams.

When confronted with problems, take action to solve them. When you have no authority to act, prepare a plan of action and present it to someone who does have the authority. Give them enough information and sufficient options that they need only answer yes or no! There is never an excuse for inaction unless the problem is found not to be a real problem.

Deal with people in terms of their and your intelligent self-interest. Make decisions and take risks! Be patient and tolerant, set standards for others that represent their capabilities, not yours. Keep communication channels clear and rise above emotional barriers. Above all, accept responsibility for everything that happens in your department or organization. But, remember that responsibility and blame are not synonymous. In fact, forget about blame. Blame is a negative activity that contributes nothing to progress.

Set productivity goals that can be met by the majority of people in the workforce. Better yet, let your people establish their own productivity goals. The object is to set them high enough to generate pride in achievement but low enough that the majority begin to feel like winners. Publish those objectives for the world to see and post the results just as prominently. Let the results speak for themselves. With each victory, raise the level of expectations.
Begin the process of dismantling the bureaucracy. Try to find one rule per month that can be abolished. The more freedom you give to your people the more responsibility you have a right to expect. The more responsibility people have the greater their sense of ownership. Establish the ritual of inviting your people to nominate one rule per month for the scrap pile. You will also find this is an effective way to reduce your costs as each rule places and enforcement burden on the enterprise.

The list can go on and on. Build on this list! Use it as a springboard. We’ve tried to leave room with each of these strategies for your to flesh them out with greater specificity. Personalize them; tailor them to your individual tastes and preferences but, whatever, do something. Act!

Remember that anything human beings can imagine, human beings can do. Positive leaders believe in the possibilities and they believe in their people. Positive leaders communicate mission, vision, and values relentlessly.
Positive leaders strive to become totally dispensable to their organizations. They do this by empowering their people and in the process they become invaluable.

The world needs you and you can do it! You can make a difference!

Things Positive Leaders Can Do, Part 5 – As an Employee

This is the fifth in our series of articles about things positive leaders can do to make a difference in the world around them.

Give your best effort each and every day, all day long. Take pride in the work you do regardless of how menial or sophisticated. Focus your mind and your energies at all times on the end-customer who will derive benefit from that which you do whether that is someone outside of your organization or within. Accept as your mission the responsibility for giving that customer the best product or service possible given the resources with which you are provided.

Value your job as an opportunity to contribute something of value to society. Each and every job is part of the fabric that is our socio-economic system. As complicated and remote as it may seem, each job done well, contributes value to the system. In J. D. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey, Zooey Glass reminds his younger sister Franny of something their eldest brother Seymour said, “do it for the fat lady.”

Seymour’s “fat lady” was a symbolic representation of Jesus Christ. The point Seymour wished to make for his younger siblings was that they should always do and look their best for Christ. Doing so adds an element of beauty to the world. The universe, which is the Creator’s gift to mankind, may be vast and complicated but the contribution of individual men and women is still the primary determinant of the overall quality of life for all creatures.

Think in terms of primitive man’s early days when society was the extended family or tribe. No matter how primitive the community, a clear division of labor existed in which all participants were expected to contribute according their talents and abilities. The whole tribe derived benefit from a job well done and the whole tribe suffered if it was done poorly. Although modern society is complex, things have not changed all that much. What you do is still important to the welfare of the community and it is your responsibility to do it to the best of your ability.

Do not ask “what’s in it for me?” Do not take the attitude that I will do it only when I’m certain of the reward. Do it for the customer who will benefit, whether internal or external. Do it for the community that depends on everyone to do his or her best; do it for your own pride and self esteem. Positive leadership is both life-affirming and self-affirming.

Put your trust in your employer. Yes, there is risk that an employer may take advantage of you, that you may be exploited. There is risk in all of life. Someone has to break the cycle of mistrust, however, so why not let it be you? And, do not be afraid to ask management to put its trust in you.

Do not complain about things you don’t like or that make it more difficult to do your job. Instead, propose a positive alternative. Think through the issue and talk to other people who view the problem from a range of perspectives. Then prepare a brief but simple action proposal and submit it to the appropriate authorities. Do not worry about whether or not it will be approved. Many of your suggestions will be ignored; some, however, will be accepted. Some will be filed away for future reference and will re-surface when the time is ripe. Other proposals will be scorned; and, some will spark a germ of an idea in the mind of someone else and will be a catalyst for change.
Something else will happen, as well, as you develop a pattern of preparing action proposals. If your ideas are positive and practical you will acquire a reputation as a problem-solver, as a positive leader, and as an employee to be listened to and respected. Most important of all, the customer whom you serve will derive real benefit. As this happens you will also earn the respect of your peers who will view you as an individual who can get management to take notice. As a result, people will begin to recognize your leadership. Never under-estimate the power of committed men and women or the power of positive leadership. They can and do change the world! It happens every day, everywhere. You can too!

Talk to people and listen to them. Listen empathically. Smile at them and be friendly. Help people to learn how to do their jobs. Reach out to them. Set a good example. Don’t feel compelled to knuckle under to peer-pressure but instead, stand up for your values and principles.

Be a hero. When we were children we pretended to be heroes who would display our courage under even the most trying and dangerous circumstances. The workforce daily presents opportunities for heroism and the world needs you every bit as desperately today as in wartime. And, the benefit to be derived from your leadership is vital to our society. So go ahead! Be a hero! The worst thing that can happen to you as a result of your courage is that a few individuals with little minds and weak spines may make snide remarks. They are inconsequential. It is heroes that the world needs so earnestly.

Work hard, be honest, stay late, volunteer for the tough assignments, innovate, streamline, establish a new standard, communicate with management, demonstrate your loyalty, say what needs to be said even in the face of danger. Have strength and courage. Dedicate yourself to doing the best job you can and expect – even demand – the same from those around you. Our entire society, our way of life, is threatened by a lack of commitment and heroism; by the unwillingness of men and women to stand up for what is right and to give unselfishly of their talents and skills. You can make a difference! It is your duty to yourself, to your children, and to your children’s children. It is also your duty to your sense of honor. It is this kind of effort and courage that made America the beacon of hope for the world and it is this type of courage and effort that will revitalize and re-energize our nation, today and in the future.

Things Positive Leaders Can Do, Part 4 – Be Active in Your Community

How much time and energy one devotes to one’s community will vary greatly according to the time of one’s life. What is important is that each of us acknowledges a responsibility to our community, to society, and to the world as a whole.

Remember to think about things in the context of our most basic values:

1. That every human being on the face of the Earth is a child of Creation and deserves our respect and concern,
2. That the Universe is the Creator’s gift to us, and
3. That every job well done, great or small, adds an element of beauty to the world.

We have an unyielding obligation to cherish life and the Universe. Everything we do must be judged in this context:
“Does it or does it not affirm life.”

We must:

• Respect all life and each and every human being,
• Reject racism,
• Conserve and protect the Earth’s resources:
• Participate in our government at the local, state, and federal level by:
• Help our neighbors
• Take care of our property
• Support the less fortunate with our energy, compassion, time and money
• Support our economy by doing our job to the best of our ability
• Give something back to our community

None of us can afford to live in isolation or to abdicate responsibility for the world and its challenges. Whether we accept it or not, the problems of the world will have an impact on our lives and on the lives of our loved ones. None of the world’s problems can be effectively resolved without the help of each of us. None of us are insignificant and each effort on the part of every individual makes a difference.

Remember the thoughts of Jane Goodall,

“The most important thing people can do for the future of the world is to realize that what they do matters.”

Every child that grows up hungry, angry, ignorant, illiterate, and estranged from the mainstream of our society threatens the safety and quality of life of the entire community. These children are our responsibility and the sooner we acknowledge that responsibility the better our chances of making a positive impact. If every gainfully employed man or woman would reach back to help one disadvantaged child, there would not be enough disadvantaged children to go around.

Most of us look out at the immense problems in the world and feel overwhelmed and powerless. This is a normal human feeling but it is just that—a feeling. We are not powerless and we need not feel overwhelmed. We have the power to make a difference if only we will do whatever is in our power to do; if only we will take the lead as a positive leader.
Give of yourself fully and practice the principles of positive leadership.

Former President George H. W. Bush’s 1988 campaign strategy of promoting “a thousand points of light” was an important acknowledgement that our government cannot solve all of our problems. In fact, just the opposite is true. More often than not our government tends to create more problems than it solves. When government attempts to solve our problems for us it tends to create dependencies rather than foster both independence and interdependence. The best solutions to our problems rest in the hands of individual men and women, acting in concert with their friends and neighbors, and acting on principle.

You can make a difference. More importantly, you must make a difference. The whole world is counting on you. Be a positive leader!