Friday, April 20, 2018

The Real Thing

I am often asked by young(er) colleagues and folks I mentor, “how do you lead?” My short two-word answer is “like me.” I don’t mean to be glib. What I’m saying is that I practice authentic leadership. I lead as I live. Who I am as a leader is who I am on the golf course, spending time with friends or at home with my family.

I think there are a lot of executives out there who “act” their way through leadership. By this, I mean, they develop a leadership persona that is different from their authentic selves. This doesn’t work for me. I don’t have time to be anyone other than who I am. Over the course of my career, I’ve found that leading authentically has allowed me to be the most effective, satisfied and passionate leader I can be.

You have to first be willing to be yourself in all aspects of your life, including your professional one. Your desire to lead with authenticity is directly tied to your willingness to take the risk to be yourself. The most significant ingredient to success is your ability to share your whole self with others—not just your “office” persona.

Being an authentic leader is also about feeling comfortable in your own skin, owning your leadership style and playing to your strengths. It is also about more than just showing up and being professional. It is about creating lasting relationships and connections with your team and colleagues that are built on trust, honesty and communication. This kind of true synergy enables you to collaborate, achieve your collective goal and face the challenges ahead.

I believe that authentic leadership begins with:
  • Enabling trust and inspiring others by being real and transparent
  • Owning my mistakes and recasting them as learning opportunities
  • Committing to my own self-learning and growth
  • Putting my ego aside and working to empower and develop my team

The transformation into an authentic leader does not happen overnight. It’s a process of growth and experience. I would argue, and I hope my colleagues would agree, that I am a better, stronger and more effective leader today than I was 10 years ago.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Can't We Just Be Friends?

If you are like me, you spend a majority of your waking hours each week with your colleagues. Also - if you are like me - you truly enjoy the people you work with, including those who directly report to you. And maybe you consider these folks friends, both inside and outside of the work place. While your relationships with colleagues can be some of the most meaningful in your life, being friends with those you manage can also be tricky waters to maneuver.

The “should you or shouldn’t you be friends with those who report to you?” is an often-debated topic, with each side making a passionate case for their point of view. In fact, there are mentors of mine whom I admire and respect greatly, who are on opposite sides of this conundrum.

There are those who believe that friendships build community in the workplace and that it’s critical to stay connected with your people. They will passionately explain that some of their best friends, whose relationships they value above most others, are people who have worked for them. They feel that these friendships make the work smoother and less complicated as you develop a short-hand that comes from really knowing someone. Finally, because for these folks, being liked is equated with being respected—you can’t have one without the other.

Then there are those leaders who take the opposing view and believe that becoming friends with your direct reports only complicates the work environment. For one, they feel that developing friendships with some of those in your office, will lead to the creation of cliques. There will be people in your office with whom you aren’t as close. They will perceive that “your friends” are getting special treatment and become disgruntled or negative. In turn, there are those with whom you might be good friends, who can become “too comfortable” and might begin to feel less accountable for their work. Finally, those who advocate against direct report friendships perceive it to be detrimental to your effectiveness as a leader. As a friend and a manager, it could be easy to lose your objectivity.

While I agree that the work friendships can be complicated, I don’t think it has to be “either/or” kind of thing. For me, it is more “both/and.” I think there are a couple of ground rules that you can set, that will allow you to develop lasting, joyous and meaningful friendships with those who report to you.

First, and most importantly you need to remain transparent and set clear boundaries. If you communicate effectively and let your colleagues understand your boundaries as a friend and manager, the likelihood of the appearance of a “grey” area will dramatically diminish.

Second, show up as both a friend and as manager. I encourage you to listen and practice empathy and patience. These are critical skills for both roles and so don’t hesitate to deploy them.

Next, own your opinions and emotions. You have a vision for your business and you should not compromise that, even for friendship. It’s ok for friends to get mad at each other. Strong friendships can withstand conflict from time to time. 

Finally, you have to be able to change course if it is not working. Sometimes, certain friendships can’t handle the pressure of the work place or conflict. And, that is ok. Like any relationship, sometimes things aren’t working and moving away from friend and back to colleague is sometimes what is best.

Friendships inherently bring us joy and are incredibly fulfilling. Yet, there are times when they need to be thoughtfully constructed, especially when they are born out of the work place.
And while, they say it’s “lonely at the top,” but I don’t think it has to be.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Balancing Act

It is an exciting time in my trajectory here at Tampa General Hospital. We are in the process of finalizing our new five-year organizational strategic plan (more about that in a future post). After six months on the ground here at TGH and working with my team through the planning process, although I am still learning, I have gotten a good understanding of the organization—its strengths, its areas of opportunity and the places in which we can grow and do better.

My team and I have worked hard to set a vision for the future and define our organizational priorities moving forward. There is a lot of great work ahead—much of it exciting, all of it critical. But let’s face it, change is difficult and it can take a little time for people to get on board. As a result, I have been thinking a great deal about how to balance organizational priorities with winning the hearts and minds of team members. How do you find balance and acceptance with your team while still moving these important initiatives ahead?

I’ve thought about this question a lot throughout my current role, and believe there are three key elements critical to success in this arena:

Be transparent. At every opportunity, reiterate to fellow team members where you are going, what decisions are on the table and the potential impact of those decisions on them and the organization.  Team members want to feel like they have a clear picture on what is happening within the organization. It makes them feel more comfortable and confident in their own performance and willing to accept change and embrace new opportunities.

Communicate with clarity and consistency. It is important to let folks know the why and how of key decisions. When you walk them through your thought process you will show them that your decision wasn’t made in a vacuum and is absent of “political influence.”  You will also help to promote “buy in” and continue to build a trust that is critical in your ongoing relationship.

Encourage thoughts, feedback and diverse perspectives. Team members want and need to be heard. It’s important to find space to allow them to voice their thoughts and opinions. I’m not advocating holding a session where they can simply complain—that is completely unproductive. Instead, during each interaction, ask them to offer their perspective. Not only will this create buy in, it enables them to raise a concern or new idea.  And while it is important that they know the decision ultimately stops with you, allowing them to voice their thoughts and concerns and know that you are listening, will go a long way.

Organizational growth and change is both exciting and critical. But it can also be challenging and uncertain. For those in leadership positions, the best way to navigate and implement new ideas and realign priorities is with a clear and inclusive voice that generates excitement and buy in, while mitigating fear and negativity. It is a balancing act for sure. But when you can strike the right balance, you and your team can move forward with the good work ahead.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Can’t We All Just Get Along

It seems that everywhere we look lately, an unwillingness to compromise is bringing progress to a halt. I think that’s because so many folks view an individual or organization’s willingness to seek common ground as a sign of weakness or failure. I would argue, however, that the decision to seek compromise is actually the hallmark of strong leadership.

Think about it. Whether you are negotiating with a team member or competitor, your decision to come to the table and work things out signifies that you are willing to put personal feelings aside and do what is best for your organization and your customers. Compromise offers additional benefits as well, including building trust, gaining greater insight into employees or competitors, the opportunity to lead by example and obtaining a deeper understanding of the challenges you face.

And so, I encourage you to look at compromising as an opportunity instead of a threat. Here are a couple of tips to keep in mind while you are working to find common ground:
  • Listen not to answer, but to really hear: openly listen to the other side and you will learn something invaluable
  • Know your limits and those of others: come to the table knowing what you are willing to agree to and where you will draw your line in the sand
  • Think of new solutions: maybe it is not either or; perhaps the answer lies in a new opportunity or solution
  • Understand the consequences: make sure you have a handle on the repercussions of walking away without reaching a deal 
  • Keep it positive and professional: regardless of the outcome, at the end of the day your reputation and how others view you matters 

The bottom line is that compromising has its advantages and is critical to leadership success. And who knows, you might just gain more than you give.