A New Year’s resolution to help your team to flourish
The ripple of empathetic leadership that spread across organizations last year needs to become a tidal wave in 2021.
Our mantra for the New Year—whether we lead a team of 5, 5,000 or 50,000—should be the relentless pursuit of providing opportunity, mentoring and sponsoring others. Opportunity is the gateway for each of us to discover our potential.
Leadership is all about inspiring others to believe and enabling that belief to become reality. However, this requires a shift in mindset because, unfortunately, it’s simply not human nature for most people to focus first on developing others. Yet, indeed, that’s exactly what we need to do.
Ken Blanchard, the leadership guru with whom I’ve had great discussions, often tells a story about his early days as a college professor. His approach was radical. On the first day of class, he gave his students the answers to the final exam. Ken often found himself in trouble with other faculty members, but he defended his decision by explaining his main job was to teach students the content they needed to learn—not to evaluate them along some distribution curve. It’s a concept Ken calls “Helping People Get an A.”
Now contrast that with an experience in my son’s class, a few years ago. On the first day, the professor proudly announced, “Nobody gets an A in my class.” In his first year College Engineering, a different professor shared, “Look to your right and then look to your left, those students will have left the Engineering program, by the Senior year.” Having high standards is one thing, but to say that no one can excel is completely demotivating!
We need a radically human approach to leadership and a set of leadership resolutions for 2021. Let’s commit to them heart, mind, and soul. Here are some thoughts:
• It starts with you. Awareness awakens. Before we do anything else, we resolve to take a look in the mirror at our values, motivations, strengths, and blind spots. By knowing ourselves we can manage ourselves first, so we can positively impact others.
• But it’s not about you. We’re not sculptors working alone in a studio, chipping marble or molding clay. We aren’t solo performers. We work with and through others. Quite simply, our success is measured in what others achieve.
• Purpose. At some point, we need to stop trying to make sense of 2020. Instead, we need to create a sense of purpose for 2021—an overarching “why” that will take us out of the wilderness and into a new light—and a new beginning. Purpose always precedes the first step.
• Empathy. Given all that people have gone through, empathy rules the day. It’s all about meeting others where they are, to understand their experience. We used to say, “How are you?”; now it’s “how are you feeling?” But that’s not all. The more empathetic we are, the more we broaden our view. We see beyond our own perspective—through the lens of others.
• Empower. 2020 tripped the circuit breakers; 2021 is the big reset. Change must bubble up from within the organization, not merely cascade down—because the next two years we’ll see more change than we’ve seen in the last 10. To paint tomorrow, people throughout the organization must be empowered to think. I’ll never forget the advice I received from a board member many years ago, when I was a new CEO: “As the leader, don’t tell people what to do—instead, tell them what to think about.”
• Collective genius. It’s been said that the strength of a team is each individual member—and the strength of each individual member is the team. When teams are inclusive, and differences are not just tolerated but celebrated, they become more creative and innovative—and collective genius is born. Let’s create an ethos of inclusiveness in the New Year.
• Shepherd. I’ve met a number of military leaders who led during periods of conflict, and many confided in me, “I’ve never lost a soldier”—revealing a deep mindset of humility and accountability. While most of us won’t face such life-or-death scenarios, we also need to make sure we don’t lose anyone. Think shepherd: occasionally in front, sometimes beside, but mostly behind.
• Own the moment. When most people think about accountability, they immediately think about how accountable others are to them. But first, we need to examine how accountable we are to ourselves—for who we are and how we act. If we want to know how we’re doing, we only need to count the number of times we say, “I’m sorry”—in all its forms, including “That’s on me,” “That was the wrong call,” and “You were right.” That’s how we truly own the moment.
• Be the message. Throughout 2020, we just tried to help people get through—one day to the next—by seeing the blue sky through a tiny opening in the clouds. Now it’s time for the clouds to part—and for people to believe they can punch right through the sky. That comes from inspiration—and it’s best done with stories. As Peter Guber, the Academy Award–winning producer and co-owner of four professional sports teams, once told me, “Leadership is storytelling in a way that becomes memorable and actionable.” And the leader IS the message.
In this New Year, may we stay resolute—to our resolutions. As positive trusted leaders, we enable others to exceed their potential and, in doing so, we all will collectively rise. I wish you and your family a Happy and Healthy New Year!
Cliff Locks is a trusted confidant to CEOs, C-Level Exec, and high-potential employees to help them clarify goals, unlock their potential, and create actionable strategic plans.
Certified Master Professional Board of Director and Advisor.
I am a trusted confidant and advisor available by Zoom and by phone to be your right-hand man, who will make a significant contribution and impact on your way to success.
As a Trusted Confidant Advisor, I support you, along with your company’s strategic and annual operating plan. This plan may include marketing, sales, product development, supply chain, hiring policies, compensation, benefits, performance management, and succession planning.
Most successful leaders enjoy talking to someone about their experiences, which is why most develop a close relationship with a Trusted Confidant—a person with whom they feel free to share their thoughts, concerns, and ideas without fear of sharing too much or being judged by the people they lead, or their colleagues and superiors. I am a sounding board who will help you to better develop and see your ideas through to fruition.
The most effective Executive find confidants who complement their strengths and sharpen their effectiveness. Bill Gates uses Steve Ballmer in this way; Warren Buffett turns to vice chairman Charlie Munger. In the end, both the Executive and their organizations benefit from these relationships.
As your trusted confidant, I am always by your side, holding your deepest secrets and never judging. Everything discussed is held in complete confidence.
What many executives feel is missing from their busy life is a trusted business person who understands the holistic complexity of both their business and personal life.
I strive to provide solid financial, business, and family expertise and serve as a dispassionate sounding board, a role I like to call “Executive Confidant.”
By holding a safe place for the Executive to work on life path issues as well as direction, I repeatedly see remarkable benefits as personal values become integrated with wealth and family decisions, enhancing a more meaningful life.
As an Executive Confidant, I welcome a confidential conversation about the most important issues facing the business leader, including:
• Strategic planning toward your visions of success and goal setting • Operations, planning, and execution • Career transition • Retirement • Legacy • Kids and money • Marriage and divorce • Health concerns • Values and life purpose • Vacations • Mentoring & depth of the executive bench • Succession planning
When I do my job well, I facilitate positive action in both your professional and personal life. This consistently has a positive benefit on impacting people within the sphere of your influence.
The job of an Executive can be lonely. For various reasons, confiding in colleagues, company associates, family members, or friends presents complications. Powerful, successful, and wealthy individuals often isolate themselves as a protective reaction because of their inability to find people they can trust and confide in.
Successful people are often surrounded by many people, yet they insulate and isolate themselves to varying levels of degree. This isolation factor is not often discussed in the same context because the assumption is that success and wealth only solve problems. The false belief is that it does not create more problems, when, in fact, sometimes it creates a unique set of new challenges. Success and wealth do not insulate you from the same pitfalls that the everyday person faces. It may give you access to better solutions perhaps, and that is what I can help you achieve. Financial business success can create unique vulnerabilities, often overlooked as most people feel that the “problems” of the wealthy are not real-life problems.
The Executive Confidant can be particularly helpful when:
• Aligning life priorities with the responsibilities of wealth. • Wanting more meaning and purpose in life. • Desiring a candid and experienced perspective. • The answers often come from within, and we cannot arrive at them easily. • Clarity often comes into focus, with skilled questions and guided discovery. The right questions can be the first step in achieving ideal outcomes.
Who can you turn to when you need to find clarity? Who is your “Executive Confidant”?
Referrals to a team members or family members are always welcome.
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