Don’t Be a Jerk. Lead with Confidence

“Something can be done and there is something I can do.”  —  Unknown

Your attitude toward life is the most important choice you make.  It will reflect your past, describe your present and predict your future. The great news is that your attitude is something you can always control.   You are the conductor of your attitude – no one else can compose your thoughts for you.

Successful leaders choose not to inflict the poison of negative attitudes on themselves. People who are positive and confident attract others like a magnet. They add energy to those around them, whereas negative and cynical people zap that same energy, draining the room of confidence.

Your attitude is powerful.  It can convince or discourage others who are watching you.  A positive attitude can mean the difference between a survivor and a victim because it impacts every part of your life.  It is the linchpin for successes and failures.

I cannot name one successful person who I would describe as negative and cynical. Not one. Can you? Do you think it is coincidental? I don’t think so. Optimism and confidence are two traits that you will find in great leaders, regardless of industry, profession, or age.

A confident, enthusiastic attitude is more important to your success than how you dress, how you look, how much skill you have, how much education you’ve accumulated, and how gifted you think you are. The good news is that you have an opportunity to choose the attitude you have for each situation every day.

If you want to achieve extraordinary results with class, read and apply The First Two Rules of Leadership: Don’t be Stupid. Don’t Be a Jerk.  It will help improve morale, decrease turnover, increase everyone’s job satisfaction, and you will have a whole lot more fun leading.

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Don’t Be a Jerk. Attack Complacency

“Hey, we are doing pretty good. Why would we want to make any changes?”

“Don’t you think we could do a little better?”
  —  Employee questioning his leader

Many people would rather do anything than change . . . even when things may not be going well.

Do you remember reading a book in high school titled The Road Less Traveled? Three words were on the first page of the book: “Life is difficult.” The reason the road was less traveled was because it was difficult. People would pass it by looking for the road without difficulties—Easy Street. Responding to change is like going down the road less traveled. It’s not Easy Street but it gets you where you need to be.

Mediocrity is success’s worst enemy—a greater enemy than failure. If viewed with the right perspective, failure leads to success because it forces you to move in another direction. Mediocrity, on the other hand, hinders success because it keeps you in your comfort zone and prevents your team from moving forward. Nothing big is won in the comfort zone. The risk is small, but so is the reward.

Learning and growth happen when you are uncomfortable. Think of your most defining moments in your life. Were you hanging out in your comfort zone? Probably not—I bet you were hanging over the edge.

If you feel your team settling into a comfortable routine, ask yourself, “Are we getting complacent? Are we too comfortable?” When you are complacent, you have to let go to grow. You have to be willing to purposely seek learning opportunities at the edge of your comfort zone. It’s not natural to choose to be a little uncomfortable, but the best leaders do it anyway.

Don’t be a jerk.  Attack complacency.

If you want to achieve extraordinary results with class, read and apply The First Two Rules of Leadership: Don’t be Stupid. Don’t Be a Jerk.  It will help improve morale, decrease turnover, increase everyone’s job satisfaction, and you will have a whole lot more fun leading.

Subscribe to David’s blog here: https://davidcottrellblog.wordpress.com/

Don’t Be a Jerk. Encourage

“My manager never returns my calls. She only calls me when it fits her agenda. That drives me crazy.”

“I don’t think she really cares.”  
—  Conversation overheard at airport terminal

Oftentimes leaders get so focused on the “big things” that they forget to take care of the basics, like showing the people on their team that their leader actually cares about them. As the poet Robert W. Service said, “It isn’t the mountain ahead that wears you out; it’s the grain of sand in your shoe.” Many times the “grain of sand” that keeps someone disengaged at work is lack of attention and encouragement from their leader.

William James, recognized as the father of American psychology, stated that the most fundamental psychological need is to be appreciated.. Everyone has the need to be appreciated. The unspoken question from your team is: do you care about them as a person—as more than just another cog in the company wheel?

When people are in the midst of uncertainty, are overworked, feel they are carrying a disproportionate share of the load, or believe they are being mistreated, they immediately assume you do not care. That isn’t fair, but that’s just the way it is.

The main reason that great people leave good organizations is simply because their need for respect and appreciation is not being met. Their perception is that they work hard and do the right things, yet nobody pays attention. People leave people long before they leave organizations. They give up hope that their leader will ever meet their needs. They conclude that a leader they know nothing about will be better than the one they know.

One of your top priorities as a leader is to be available for your team. If you are always busy in “management land,” you send the signal that everything else is more important than your team. That is a bad signal to send to the people you need to perform in order for you to be successful.

Everyone needs to know that they are okay.  Don’t be a jerk and leave them guessing if they are okay or not.  Encourage.

If you want to achieve extraordinary results with class, read and apply The First Two Rules of Leadership: Don’t be Stupid. Don’t Be a Jerk.  It will help improve morale, decrease turnover, increase everyone’s job satisfaction, and you will have a whole lot more fun leading.

Subscribe to David’s blog here: https://davidcottrellblog.wordpress.com/

Don’t Be a Jerk. Make a Decision.

“Why don’t they do something about this? Everyone knows it is a problem. Why do they stick their heads in the sand?”

“Because that is what they do.”   —  Two frustrated employees.

One of the most important attributes great leaders develop is the ability to confidently make decisions and move forward. Thinking before doing is always, of course, the right thing to do. However, thinking without ever doing leads nowhere. Don’t get stuck in an endless thinking loop without transitioning to action: “Ready, aim…aim…aim…” will get you shot and frustrate everyone on your team.

What about when adversity strikes?  How can you move forward even through the toughest adversity you can imagine?

A few months ago I was at a meeting of highly successful leaders and the topic of adversity was discussed. Within that group, people had faced cancer, suicide, divorce, loss of children, drug abuse, loss of spouse, significant health issues, loss of jobs, bankruptcy, and other major areas of disappointments. Each person had faced a major crisis.

Remarkably, every single person agreed that overcoming personal or professional adversity was a critical turning point in their success. Think about that. Adversity turned them toward success. Regardless of how the adversity arrived, those successful people took action, faced, attacked, and conquered the adversity that struck them. Adversity polished them up to become more successful.

When confronted with adversity, you can choose to see the positive alternatives and become even better than you were before—or you can choose to sit and dwell on your circumstances for the rest of your life. Spending your energy complaining, justifying, and blaming others for the problem changes nothing and will drain the energy needed to begin working your way through your adversity.

One of the greatest dangers while facing adversity is to panic, freeze, and stop moving forward because you perceive the situation as insurmountable. Regardless of how bleak the situation appears, there are alternatives that will help you move forward if you choose to see them. Make a decision to keep moving.

If you want to achieve extraordinary results with class, read and apply The First Two Rules of Leadership: Don’t be Stupid. Don’t Be a Jerk.  It will help improve morale, decrease turnover, increase everyone’s job satisfaction, and you will have a whole lot more fun leading.

Subscribe to David’s blog here: https://davidcottrellblog.wordpress.com/

Don’t Be a Jerk. Listen up!

“Why do we keep shooting ourselves in the foot? If you would only ask us before you make decisions affecting our team, we could then save ourselves a lot of rework, mistakes, conflicts, and money.”   —Anonymous feedback to upper management

When I go out to eat, I enjoy great food and great service. It is hard to enjoy great food without great service or great service without great food. They go hand in hand, but I think the most important ingredient of a great meal is a great waiter. A great waiter is present, patient, active, and interested in the people sitting at our table.

Have you ever observed the flurry of activity that a waiter has to manage? Every table they serve has different needs. Some tables comprise senior citizens, others are full of teenagers or young families. And, every table of people are at different stages of their meal: some haven’t ordered yet, some are in the middle of their meal, some are eating dessert. Regardless of who is at the table, they all have the same need—to know that the waiter cares about them and their situation right now.

The best resources that a waiter possesses are a friendly smile and the ability to ask and answer great questions:

How are you doing today? What can I get you?
Do you have any questions? How do you want your meal prepared? How is your meal?
Is there anything else I can get you? Are you ready for your check?

Think about each of those questions from a leadership perspective. In your environment, the words may be different but the questions that good leaders ask their team are basically the same:
How are you today?
Is there anything you need from me?
Do you have any questions?
What can we do to make your work environment even better?

Great waiters do not assume that they know the needs of each person. They pay attention, take notes, confirm the order, and follow up after the meal. When your meal is complete, you know your waiter cared about your dining experience. Great waiters teach great leadership. Watch them in action the next time you order at your favorite restaurant.

Don’t be a jerk.  Listen up.

If you want to achieve extraordinary results with class, read and apply The First Two Rules of Leadership: Don’t be Stupid. Don’t Be a Jerk.  It will help improve morale, decrease turnover, increase everyone’s job satisfaction, and you will have a whole lot more fun leading.

Subscribe to David’s blog here: https://davidcottrellblog.wordpress.com/

Don’t Be Stupid. Integrity Counts.

“I heard what they said. I’ll believe it when I see it.”

“You can say that again.”    —Conversation between two employees after a communication meeting

If you believe that people will judge you based on your intentions, that is pretty stupid. How do they know what your intentions are? It simply makes no difference how great your intentions are.

You have to earn your team’s trust and constantly re-earn it. The harsh reality is that it may take years to develop trust, yet it can be lost in minutes because of one mistake. You must guard your integrity as your most precious possession . . . because it is.

When I was a young adult, my father was my mentor and role model. When I had a business or personal issue, I would go to him for advice. After explaining the situation, he would ask me a simple question: “Son, what do you think is the right thing to do?” I hated that question. But, I have learned from experience that almost all of the time, I know deep down what is the right thing to do even before asking the question.

How do you know what the right thing to do is? Test yourself by answering these questions:

  1. Is it legal, moral, and ethical?
  2. Are my actions in sync with my values?
  3. How would I feel if this decision were shared in the news?
  4. Would it be perfectly okay if someone else made the same decision and it affected me?
  5. Am I hiding something? If so, why?

Answering those questions will help ensure that what you are doing is the right thing to do.

If you want to achieve extraordinary results with class, read and apply The First Two Rules of Leadership: Don’t be Stupid. Don’t Be a Jerk.  It will help improve morale, decrease turnover, increase everyone’s job satisfaction, and you will have a whole lot more fun leading.

Subscribe to David’s blog here: https://davidcottrellblog.wordpress.com/

Don’t Be Stupid. Concentrate.

“I’m confident that my people know what they’re supposed to be doing, but we seem to get less and less accomplished.” —The Leader

“What the heck? Here we go again. We haven’t even implemented the last grand plan. I am going to wait this one out; it will soon change back.” —Your Team

Prioritizing is a full-time job and can be overwhelming at times. Separating the important from the trivial is difficult. It is like playing a never-ending game of whack-a-mole. As soon as you knock one “crisis” down, another pops up.

One common denominator of successful people is that they are extremely organized. They are decluttering experts. They concentrate better because they are really good at four things: identifying priorities, knowing when to say no, attacking procrastination, and making every meeting productive.

No one can save hours but everyone can accomplish more by eliminating distractions and improving concentration. Here are my five favorite concentration tips:

  1. Ask yourself: What is the best use of my concentration right now?
  2. Don’t be afraid to say no.  If you say yes, you are saying no to something anyway.  Chose your yes’s carefully.
  3. Own your day. Granted, some minutes and hours may already be absorbed by meetings, phone calls, commuting, and so on. However, you still have control over most of the hours in the day. Take ownership of the time you control. Don’t make excuses about time.
  4. Master specificity. Make it a top priority to eliminate rework. Be specific about what you are asking from someone and what someone is asking from you. Most rework is the result of not answering the basics: who, what, when, and where. That is stupid.
  5. Most meetings can be accomplished in half the time they are currently taking. Author Robert Orben said it best, “Sometimes I get the feeling that the two biggest problems in America today are making ends meet and making meetings end.” Touché.

I have seen many executives burn out because they try to accomplish an impossible task—pleasing everyone. You cannot please everyone, make sure you are concentrating on pleasing the right people for the right reasons.

Also, take care of yourself. Get to bed early, work hard, but take at least one complete day off work every week . . . and, commit to taking that vacation you’ve been putting off. Everyone needs rebooting once in a while.

Leave your whack-a-mole reactions at Chucky Cheese.  Take control and concentrate on what is really important.

If you want to achieve extraordinary results with class, read and apply The First Two Rules of Leadership: Don’t be Stupid. Don’t Be a Jerk.  It will help improve morale, decrease turnover, increase everyone’s job satisfaction, and you will have a whole lot more fun leading.

Subscribe to David’s blog here: https://davidcottrellblog.wordpress.com/

Don’t Be Stupid. Simplify.

“We know that communication is a problem, but we are not going to discuss it with our employees.”  —Overheard at a leadership conference

Simplicity liberates your team. Simple does not have to mean short, but it helps. Great wisdom can be stated in a few words: This too shall pass. In God we trust. Let sleeping dogs lie. Those complex messages were delivered through a few simple, memorable words.

TwoRuleOfLeadershipLiberate your team.  Is your mission simple and crystal clear—so clear that every member of your team knows exactly what you are trying to accomplish?  Check yourself:

  1. Does it take you more than 30 seconds to state what is really important?
  2. Can you explain what is really important by writing it on a sticky note?

If you answered no or not sure to either or both of these, your mission is probably not clear or simple.

To help simplify what is really important, answer three basic questions:

  1. Why are we on the payroll—what specific, measurable results have we been hired to achieve?
  2. What value do we add to our organization?
  3. What are the most important activities we must complete in order to provide that value?

Don’t be stupid.  Simplify.

If you want to achieve extraordinary results with class, read and apply The First Two Rules of Leadership: Don’t be Stupid. Don’t Be a Jerk.  It will help improve morale, decrease turnover, increase everyone’s job satisfaction, and you will have a whole lot more fun leading.

Subscribe to David’s blog here: https://davidcottrellblog.wordpress.com/

Don’t Be Stupid. Deal with your sleepers.

“I am sick and tired of redoing and covering up what he messed up. Why doesn’t she see that he is killing us?”   —Conversation between two team members

TwoRuleOfLeadershipMany times a person is in the wrong job for them and they can’t help it. If that is the case, you have to make a decision about how much time, energy, and effort you are going to invest in their turnaround. If you have done everything you can do and there is no improvement, there may be a greater reason for their lack of performance: They may not be the right person for your particular job.

The single greatest demotivator of a team is to have people around who are sapping energy and not carrying their share of the load. Keeping them on your team is like having four batteries in a remote control and one of them is dead. Before long, the bad battery will zap all of the energy from the good batteries and the remote will not work at all. At that point, it is difficult to even know which battery began as the bad one. That is what people who are in the wrong job do—they drag down those around them and eventually your team’s progress will come to a screeching halt.

Before you begin the process of “changing some batteries” on your team, check yourself. Here are seven questions to answer:

  1. Have I made my expectations crystal clear? Specifically, where is the gap in my expectations and his results?
  2. Are my expectations reasonable and fair?
  3. Have they received adequate training to do the job properly?
  4. Do they understand why it’s important to do the job correctly?
  5. Am I holding them accountable for their performance? 
Are there appropriate and consistent consequences for nonperformance?
  6. Have I given them the freedom to be successful?
  7. Have all performance obstacles been removed?

Be honest in your evaluation. If you have given responsibility without resources, the person you hire as a replacement will probably generate the same results. It is stupid to demand responsibility without providing resources.

If you can truthfully answer yes to all seven of those questions, you have done your job. The issue lies with the employee. Don’t allow yourself to be seduced by “potential” or your pride. Tell the truth: The job is just not right for them and begin the process of allowing them the freedom to move to a job that is right for them.

If you want to achieve extraordinary results with class, read and apply The First Two Rules of Leadership: Don’t be Stupid. Don’t Be a Jerk.  It will help improve morale, decrease turnover, increase everyone’s job satisfaction, and you will have a whole lot more fun leading.

Subscribe to David’s blog here: https://davidcottrellblog.wordpress.com/

Don’t Be Stupid. Coach.

“My superstars don’t need to be coached. I just need to stay out of their way.” —The leader

“I never received any encouragement. It was like I was being ignored.” —A ex-superstar

Cornell University psychology professors David Dunning and Justin Kruger conducted a groundbreaking study in 1999 evaluating how people viewed their own performance. The study, now known as the Dunning–Kruger Effect, concluded that people base their perceptions of performance, in part, on their preconceived notions about their skills. Often those judgments about their performance have little to do with their actual accomplishment. Most people see their performance the way they want to see it. Lower-level performers viewed their performance as much greater than their actual performance. Top performers were typically more critical of their performance and underestimated the impact they had on their success and those around them. In both cases, the study concluded that people see themselves differently than reality and neither group is great at improving what they don’t know.

Everybody needs a coach! No one on your team can be objective when it comes to their own performance. Even your superstars need someone who has a different perspective and can suggest minor adjustments that yield better results. You can give better advice than the person can come up with on their own.

Your team may not want or need you telling them exactly what to do and how to do it. After all, they were hired and trained to do their job. But they also do not want to be unnoticed. The fact is that many great people are starving —starving for encouragement and recognition from their leader. You may think that silence on your part sends a signal that your team is doing just fine (as in, if they weren’t doing well, you’d be sure to let them know). Don’t count on it. Your silence is loud and it communicates to people, but it may not be sending the message you intend to send.

TwoRuleOfLeadershipDon’t be stupid. Spend time with your best performers, too. They will build you up and let you clearly see how things can be better.

If you want to achieve extraordinary results with class, read and apply The First Two Rules of Leadership: Don’t be Stupid. Don’t Be a Jerk.  It will help improve morale, decrease turnover, increase everyone’s job satisfaction, and you will have a whole lot more fun leading.

Subscribe to David’s blog here: https://davidcottrellblog.wordpress.com/