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Inspired People PRODUCE RESULTS
How Great Leaders Use Passion, Purpose and Principles to Unlock Incredible Growth
By JEREMY KINGSLEY
The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.Copyright © 2013 Jeremy Kingsley
All rights reserved.
What Do Leaders Do? INSPIRE
If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.
John Quincy Adams
Who has inspired you? Maybe your parents, a friend, a president? What did they do that had such an impact on you? I bet if you think back to your school days, you'll remember a teacher who inspired you. When I think back to one of my favorite decades, the eighties, one teacher sticks out in my mind: David First.
Some of the greatest leaders are teachers. I met a new group of them when I started my sophomore year of high school in the suburbs of Washington, DC. I had just transferred from a rival school. Needless to say, I faced a tough transition. Fortunately, starting at point guard on the varsity basketball team helped me gain some quick respect. For my junior year, I set some personal goals. I wanted to become class president, more popular, and have more friends among the "in crowd."
When the first day arrived, I was ready. I had on my Bugle Boy pants, the coolest T.J. Maxx shirt around (my wife might say that's debatable), and my untied high-top Filas. I watched for the people who would help make me the man of the moment. What I didn't know was that I was about to encounter a guy who would inspire me and help shape not only my year but my future. As classes began, there was a good deal of excitement. The talk was that a new teacher named Mr. First had joined the school faculty. People said he was a good-looking guy who might be a "cool teacher." Of course, we students would be the judge of that. When third period rolled around, I walked into his class wondering if he would live up to the hype.
He started with the typical formalities and then began to tell the story of how he ended up at this school in DC. Co-incidentally, he made some big decisions during his junior year in high school. Following his high school graduation, he turned down a few offers to play lacrosse at well-known universities to compete in club lacrosse at a small college in Ohio. During his time there, he fought to figure out his purpose in life. At the end of this struggle, his pursuit led him to Columbia International University (CIU) in South Carolina. At CIU, he earned an undergraduate teaching degree and then landed his first job at our school.
From the day I met him, Mr. First captured my attention. Something was different about him. It was obvious that he meant everything he said; he wasn't fake. He was passionate about teaching. You could tell from a mile away that this guy cared about his students and believed that their lives could be changed for the better in the classroom.
More than 20 years later, I still remember the day Mr. First told us about his ski slope incident. He had stopped near the bottom of a run when a man in a blue jacket powered down the slope and literally ran him over, leaving Mr. First a crumpled mess. Mr. Blue Jacket didn't stop to say he was sorry or even check on the damage. He just continued skiing down the hill.
Just watching him retell the story in our classroom, you could see Mr. First's anger flare again. His eyebrows arched. He gritted his teeth. He told us that in that moment on the slope, he made it his mission to find Mr. Blue Jacket and show him what a real wipeout looked like. From my desk on the far right side of the room, I silently cheered him on: Yeah! Go get him! Revenge!
Mr. First went on. Later that day on the slope, from a distance, Mr. First saw Mr. Blue Jacket start a new run. Mr. First dug in his poles and chased after him. He didn't care about anything but catching this guy and teaching him a lesson. He was too far away until finally, at the bottom, Mr. Blue Jacket stopped and Mr. First had his chance. He plowed into him at full speed! He landed a powerful blow and sent the man flying facedown into the snow.
The satisfaction Mr. First felt vaporized, however, as soon as the man rose to his knees and turned around, "Oh no," he thought. "It's the wrong guy!"
As he told the story, Mr. First's voice got very quiet. You could see on his face that he still felt ashamed and embarrassed.
"I blew it," he told us. "When somebody does something bad to you, I don't want you guys to respond like that. Revenge is not the way to handle a conflict."
It was great wisdom. I still try to apply that principle today when a struggle comes up with certain people in my life who have hurt me in some way. The main reason why I remember that story and that moment, however, is that it showed that Mr. First cared about us. He was willing to look foolish and to be humble enough to share one of his mistakes with his students if it would help guide us to a better future. He was committed to helping us learn not just academic information, but also lessons on life.
Some people say that the best things you can share with a person are the things you are most passionate about. Mr. First did this every day.
That class was life changing. As the semester progressed, I had opportunities to speak with Mr. First one on one. He became my mentor. I asked him a ton of questions about life, relationships, and future jobs he could see me doing. Since my high school graduation was not far off, he mentioned his alma mater down south and encouraged me to check it out. One day I went home and said, "Dad, I'm going to South Carolina." After we talked and discussed the implications of the decision, he agreed, and several months later I enrolled at CIU. I earned my bachelor's and master's degrees there.
I have now lived in South Carolina for almost 20 years. Though much time has passed, my encounter with David First is one I will never forget. He was a leader who inspired me.
Thinking Like a Leader
If you are reading this book, you're probably a leader or ready to become one. You may have held your job for a while, been promoted recently, or are thinking ahead to an opportunity. Whatever your situation, you have a desire to excel, to hone your skills, and to be effective in your position.
You may want to ask yourself: Do the employees know I care about them and their success? Does my team see me putting in the extra hours and effort needed to ensure excellence and results? Do team members sense that this is so important to me that I'm willing when needed to go over a project or product a second time, third time, or fourth time to make sure everything is exactly right? Can they hear in my voice the enthusiasm I have for who they are, what they're doing, and where we're going as a team and company? Your answers will show if you are a passionate leader or if you have work to do in this area.
We've talked about how some modern employees want to know the reasoning behind their duties. Blind, faithful obedience doesn't come naturally to them. They need to be motivated. They need to be inspired.
Have you ever received an e-mail from the boss saying something like, "Janice, Ralph is running out of time to complete that Kramden report. I'm going to assign him to something else. Please clear your schedule to work on it and make sure that it gets finished by the end of the week"! I have to admit, it's hard to get excited about such an assignment. The e-mail doesn't suggest why it's important in any way—certainly not important enough for Ralph to waste any more time on it. It doesn't sound like the boss will value the work. It feels more like a check-off-the-list task than an effort that will contribute to the company's success.
If you're ever the boss in this situation, why not take the extra time to say why it's important for Janice to finish Ralph's report? Maybe Ralph is needed on another emergency situation. Maybe the report deadline has been moved up and Janice is known for efficiency and speed. If there's an opportunity to stress the value of and your appreciation for Janice's effort, put it in the e-mail. Even better, when possible, express it in person. You may be surprised to find Janice working twice as hard as she would have otherwise.
Wouldn't all of us like to leave the people around us with the ingrained desire to excel and be the best they can be? Of course we would, and we can. We can learn to be a source of inspiration. In our home and in our workplace, we can instill in others the conviction that work is a gift, that the task at hand is of primary importance, that the ability to carry it out is present, and that the job is worth doing supremely well.
We are human, however, and we cannot give what we do not have. In order to impart inspiration, we must possess it. Acquiring it is our first task.
Inspiration permeates our history and enriches our lives. It kept one man cramped and on his back, in the damp and the cold, for years while he painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. It labored beside Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay as they conquered the peak of Mount Everest for the first time. It sustained the passengers of a plane on that fateful day in September, strengthening them as they plotted their own deaths in a Pennsylvania field in exchange for the lives of others.
Inspiration! It is contagious. Yet only a fortunate few are born inspired. For most of us, this quality must be instilled in us before we can feel its spark. For managers, supervisors, or team leaders, the ability to inspire a group may be the most important attribute they can have.
A working division is composed of unique and disparate human beings who must, somehow, be combined into a smoothly functioning unit. For the division to perform at its best, each part has to operate at its optimum level in cooperation with the rest. It's like the human body. Eyes, ears, mouth, and brain all have unique characteristics and roles, yet their ability to work well and together is vital to the health and success of the body as a whole. If one part breaks down, the entire body suffers. It's the same for your team. Each employee must have a purpose, a willingness to achieve his or her best, and a commitment to helping the rest of the team do the same. Your task is to infuse into each employee the desire to fulfill that purpose to its utmost and to experience joy while doing it.
It comes from inspiration.
The poet Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, "Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be." You can't buy inspiration like this at the supermarket. You won't find it on eBay. You must feel it before you can communicate it, and once you do, you can make it as infectious as an outbreak of the flu.
I heard a story about a group of great leaders, including industry giants, politicians, and top-ranking officers in the armed forces, that helped compile a list of qualities people needed to be considered effective leaders. They gave an interesting profile of the type of person these leaders look for when they have a management or team leader situation in mind. Let's take a look at the first few issues this group mentioned:
* Do you connect with your company or corporation? Do you absolutely believe in what your organization does and stands for? Are you proud of your product? Are you completely sure that, in your industry, your business is the best there is or is striving to become the best it can be?
Unless you believe these things, you will be unable to generate enthusiasm in your team. Football coaches lead their team in practice each week and then talk to their players in the locker room to get their players fired up on game day. You also spend your week preparing your team members to win on the field. On "game day," if you don't believe they have a chance for success, how will they believe it?
Research your company. Know it inside out. Be aware of professional accomplishments and discuss them, reminding your team that they can climb to even greater heights. Remember that younger employees tend to concentrate on the service side of business. What charities does your corporation support? Are you part of its fund-raising efforts? Do you encourage your team to participate? Giving back to the community can be a source of great satisfaction.
Generate and capitalize on that company spirit. You can use it to inspire others.
* Do you have a plan for tomorrow? Where do you see yourself in the corporate structure five or ten years from now? Have you built an effective team? Has your team risen with you? What have you accomplished along the way?
Part of plotting a clear path for your team is setting goals. And each goal should be a step toward the summit you aim to reach. You must keep it in sight at all times. Only you can decide how high or low this peak should be. Only you can establish the base camps you will need as you climb toward the summit. Think of your work as a journey toward your peak, and be aware that only a strong, united, inspired team can pitch those tents for you and secure them against inclement weather.
Give your team hope by choosing SMART goals: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. Struggling for goals is fine, but attaining them invigorates your team and engenders new energy.
Keep your vision bright, and your team will follow its light.
* Do you enjoy planning your strategy? You should. It sharpens your skills and capabilities and stretches them to the maximum. Be fluid and able to change direction if necessary, but keep your goal in sight at all times. If you can see where you're going, it's much more likely your team will too.
Feeling inspired yet? Hang on. There's more.
* Do you see the big picture? It's easy to get bogged down in details, but someone has to see the whole picture, and that someone is you. Your vision is part of the long-range scenario, and so are your goals. You are the one with the map on which those goals are marked. You are your team's guide.
Keep your feet on the path, and those of your team members will follow.
* Are you optimistic? We've all heard the old question about whether the glass is half full or half empty. We've all heard it because it says a lot about us as human beings. Your glass should always be half full—you are doing the pouring. If your glass is emptying, your team's glass is doing the same. Tackle setbacks head on. See them as lessons, learn from them and use them positively. If you can avoid it, do not assign blame. Your staff members need to be held accountable, but use their mistakes as an opportunity to teach rather than punish. If you must discipline, do it right away in the teachable moment and do it in private.
An optimistic team has an optimistic leader.
* Do you motivate others easily? This is a key question. Motivate is a synonym for inspire. If you have dedication and loyalty, a vision and a plan for attaining them, a grasp of the entire concept of your plan or vision, and the positive confidence to implement it, then you are inspired, and you are ready to invigorate and unite your team.
Each of these traits is especially important. You can't assume that team members will follow you without question. They expect to be filled in on the purpose of each step and how it fits into your plan for success. Work is more than a job to them. They want to find meaning in their activities.
You are the person to give it to them. All it takes is a little inspiration.
Fred the Postman
Mark Sanborn had just moved into an old house on a tree-lined street in a Denver neighborhood. When he heard a knock at his front door, he opened it and found a mailman standing there. "Good morning, Mr. Sanborn!" he said. "My name is Fred, and I'm your postal carrier. I just stopped by to introduce myself—to welcome you to the neighborhood and find out a little bit about you and what you do for a living."
Mark was surprised but impressed. He'd never received a personal visit from his postman before. He soon learned that a welcoming visit was only the beginning of the personal service that Fred provided. Fred always neatly bundled the mail in Mark's box. He made sure that no mail piled up when Mark was out of town—he held it for him without being asked. When a UPS package addressed to Mark was delivered to the wrong house, Fred carried it to its proper destination. One day, when Mark was mowing his front lawn, a familiar voice called to him, "Hello, Mr. Sanborn! How was your trip?" It was Fred, in his off hours, checking up on his "clients."
Mark, a professional speaker, began talking about his encounters with Fred to audiences across the country. They loved hearing about the postal worker who went out of his way each day to provide superior customer service. One discouraged worker who'd received no recognition from her employers wrote to Mark saying that Fred's example had inspired her to "keep on keeping on" and to continue doing what she knew was the right thing to do, even if no one noticed. A manager confided to Mark after a speech that he suddenly realized what his career goal was—to be a "Fred." Companies began establishing Fred awards to present to employees who mirrored the spirit of service and commitment displayed by the increasingly famous postal worker. One fan even sent Mark a box of cookies to give to Fred.
Fred's influence didn't stop there. Because of the enthusiastic response that Mark received whenever he talked about Fred, he decided to write a book about him and the principles he lived by. The Fred Factor, published in 2004, became a national bestseller.
By simply trying to do a little extra and treating his customers as friends, a mailman named Fred inspired thousands across the country to do the same. If the example of a humble postal worker can have this kind of impact on people he didn't even know, your example as the leader of your team has the potential to provide even more inspiration.
Excerpted from Inspired People PRODUCE RESULTS by JEREMY KINGSLEY. Copyright © 2013 by Jeremy Kingsley. Excerpted by permission of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc..
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