Leading By Example by Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC

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Leaders often do a lot of talking. We speak at meetings, we train, we motivate and encourage our employees. We also spend time talking about what we expect from those employees. images

If you want to have those expectations met, however, you must, as the saying goes “walk the walk, not just talk the talk”. It’s not uncommon for people in positions of power to expect others to behave in a certain way, yet fail to behave that way themselves.

If you’re a business leader, there is simply no substitute for “walking the walk”.  When you behave the way you expect others to behave you immediately gain credibility with others, who will see you as being more authentic. You will gain the respect of your employees. You demonstrate that you are the “real deal”.

You’ll also find that when you model the behavior you’d like to see in your team, they are more likely to display those behaviors, too. Leading by example motivates your employees to be the best version of themselves. Employees become more of a team when everyone begins to model the appropriate behaviors, too.

When employees have a boss who leads by example and expects nothing of others that he or she would not do himself or herself, they become more open to taking on new challenges. They strive to do the best job that they can, because demonstrating their capability and loyalty becomes important.

Take a hard look at your own behavior at work, and list those things you expect others to do, but fail to follow through on yourself.  It’s not always easy to see our own shortfalls, but doing so is the only way to grow as a leader and a person. Whether it’s something as small as ensuring you get to work on time, or something bigger like structuring your calendar or devoting time to an outside charity, you will begin to become the best version of yourself when you consistently model this behavior. You’ll feel it, and others will see it.

We’ve all known a legendary leader at some time in our life. They were honest, hardworking and dedicated to their cause. These are the people we remember and respect. Do your best to become one of those leaders by making sure you always “walk the walk”.

 

Resilient Leadership by Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC

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Leading an organization can be tiring. It’s likely you have way more on your plate than you ever imagined when you began your journey. When the demands become tiring, and you believe you have more than you can manage, keep these tips in mind so that you can stay resilient in meeting your job’s demands. index

  1. Keep the end result in mind. It’s easy to get bogged down in details and lose sight of the overall goal of your business. When you feel this way, remember your goals and envision yourself reaching that final milestone. It will invigorate you to move forward, and prevent you from feeling like every task is a meaningless drudge.
  1. Don’t try to do it all at once. We sometimes impose unnecessarily aggressive schedules on ourselves. There’s nothing wrong with this, as long as you remember that the schedule is aggressive and that you don’t always have to work so furiously. Have a wish list timeline and a realistic timeline. Work toward the wish list timeline most of the time, but remember that the realistic timeline still gets the job done. Don’t try to pack too much into each day.
  1. Take time to recharge. It’s not unusual to find business leaders burning the midnight oil on a regular basis and failing to take breaks for vacations and holidays. In the long run, this is not a good way to operate your business, because it drains you of your energy and enthusiasm. Proper nutrition, exercise and a good night’s rest every night so that you can be productive during the day. Eight hours of true productivity is far more valuable than twelve hours of lackluster performance. Taking regular holidays and vacations to recharge your batteries will make you more resilient overall. After a break, you’ll come back to work in full focus and with renewed energy.

Staying in the race for the long haul requires stamina. Your business goals will required sustained work and focus to achieve. That’s why it’s so important to pace yourself, stay motivated and recharge when needed. There’s a long road ahead, and you need to ensure you will have plenty of energy for the finish line.

Making a Difference by Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC

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As business leaders, we solve problems every day. But, sometimes solving problems becomes a rote action – one we do without really considering what we could do with the opportunity before us. index2

In many business opportunities, we have the chance to not only solve a problem, but make a true difference for someone, whether it’s our own business, the life of a customer, an employee, or someone who simply needs our help. Taking a few extra minutes to look for the opportunity in each problem we encounter can make a big difference in our business or in someone else’s life.

For example, consider filling an open position in your office. When you look at applicants, do you ever consider who needs the job the most? Most of us do not. Instead, we consider who has the most experience, the best education. We look at who will fit in our office environment best, and whose salary requirement is lowest. These are all important considerations. However, if you add who needs the job most, or who will appreciate it most to the list of considerations, you might have an entirely different hiring decision.

Sometimes, when we take an extra moment to consider the impact of our decisions on others, we find ways to make a difference that we never imagined. And, this impact affects us, as well.

One of my colleagues recanted to me one of the best decisions she ever made. She took a job in a business that had just had a serious accident, resulting in the death of an employee. The owner, who had run a successful business for 26 years, without so much as person with a paper cut, had suddenly had a death and serious injury from a single accident. He was devastated and needed someone to come in and evaluate his processes, deal with regulatory authorities and help him make changes. The money wasn’t great, but the need was extraordinary. She made a lot of changes, she made a lot of friends and she kept a business from going under because of regulatory fines. She made a difference.

What can you do to make a difference in someone’s life or someone’s business?  Once you evaluate a few decisions based on the difference you can make, you’ll never look at situations the same way again.

Leadership from the Inside Out by Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC

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There are several different successful styles of leaders. But the one thing that every successful leadership style has in common is the fact that the leader is true to who he or she really is. The most successful leaders are not those that follow a pre-prescribed formula, but those who lead from the inside out. images

The first and most important trait of leadership is knowing yourself and being self aware. You will not be successful trying to lead in a style that is counterintuitive to who you really are on the inside.

So, relax, and if you’re trying to be someone you’re not because you believe it makes you look more like a leader; just stop. Be true to yourself and lead in a style that feels natural to you.

Get Advice, But Use It Wisely

None of this is meant to suggest that you shouldn’t get advice to help you develop as a leader. Books, seminars and mentors can all be valuable in helping you grow as a leader, and all of us can benefit from this growth.

Instead, understand that you should be growing into who you are meant to be, not some fake ideal of leadership out of a book.

If any leadership advice you read or hear advises you to act in a way that is counterintuitive to your authentic self, it simply won’t work. This advice might work for others who are suited to behaving in the described manner, but you will fail at it and feel badly for it.

So, take any and all advice with a grain of salt. Not every leadership book will work for you because not every leadership style will work for you. Read and take notice of what works for others, but incorporate only the proven advice that you can act on in a way that does not compromise your principles, or make you feel like you’re trying to be someone you’re not.

Each of us has a unique leadership style that can be developed to make us the best business person and leader that we can be. To get to this point, however, we should never be willing to sacrifice who we are as a person to fit into a particular leadership mold. It may not be easy at first, but as you work toward developing yourself, you will begin to see the leader that you were meant to be taking shape.

How Authenticity Improves Productivity by Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC

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images2As a rising business leader, it can be tempting to come into the workplace every day projecting yourself as the person you think you need to be to be successful. However, in the long run, you’ll find that you’re much more productive if you ditch the persona you think you need, and just come to work as your authentic self. Here are three ways being authentic makes you more productive.

  1.  You will avoid wasting time on doing tasks in a way that is counterintuitive. When we’re trying to be someone we’re not, we may try to be authoritative or conventionally organized in the way we handle our duties. That’s ok if it is your true personality, but if you’re working hard to do things the way you think they should be done, rather than the way that comes natural to you, you’re spinning your wheels. It is important to be organized, even if that doesn’t come naturally, but your methods for reaching productivity and organization can be your own.
  1. People will respect you. A lot of time is lost in people trying to figure you out, and, in the meantime, being a little wary of you when you aren’t your authentic self. Be you; some people may not like you, but everyone will at least feel comfortable that they know what to expect from you.
  1. You will be able to operate comfortably. When you aren’t being your authentic self, you often spend time second guessing everything you do. When you operate authentically, you can glide through the day. Sure, you’ll make some mistakes, but you would likely have made even more by not being true to yourself.

If you have trouble presenting your authentic self at work, it likely stems from insecurity. Take the time to examine why you feel that you must project an image that is different from who you really are. If you feel that you lack the skills needed to run your business, work on your skills so that you can be yourself while being confident in your ability to do your job. You might be amazed at how much a little skill improvement can increase your confidence.  Change your level of education and skill if needed, but don’t change who you truly are.

True Leadership=Empowering Others by Cindy Stradling CSP. CPC

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Many people who reach high levels within their organization tend to have a strong need for control. This generally stems from having learned that the best way to ensure things get done is by personally seeing to it that tasks are taken care of. While this mentality is very understandable, particularly for people who have worked very hard to build a business, it is not the best way to lead a team.empower2

The best leaders are those who empower others on their team to take over the work. This not only allows each team member to develop to his or her full potential, but also frees up the leader to take on the most important tasks of running the business. Most leaders know this in theory, but may have a difficult time putting it into practice. Here are some tips to help you feel confidence in empowering your employees.

1. Train, train, train. The best way to ensure your comfort with handing over tasks and decision making authority is to ensure that the employee is up to the challenge. When the employee is thoroughly trained, mistakes are less likely to happen, and you feel more secure.

2. Ask for regular updates. In the beginning, getting regular updates will help ensure you are comfortable with how decisions are being made and how tasks are being completed. These updates also allow the employee ample opportunity to ask questions.

3. Allow people to do things differently. Remember that doing things correctly does not necessarily mean doing things exactly the same way you would do them. Allowing for flexibility helps employees become empowered and helps them to develop to their full capability. And, you never know; you might learn something along the way

Remember that doing things correctly does not necessarily mean doing things exactly the same way you would do them. Allowing for flexibility helps employees become empowered and helps them to develop to their full capability. And, you never know; you might learn something along the way.

When you empower your employees, you create an atmosphere that allows for personal and professional development of your employees. You also create a work situation that allows you to focus on the tasks and responsibilities that should be yours alone.

When Outsourcing Training is Your Best Option by Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC

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Training is one of the most critical pieces to ensuring that new employees are properly prepared to do their jobs. It is also a critical piece of employee development, helping employees to grow in their careers, enabling them to take on more responsibility and handle greater challenges.  As important as training is, it can often fall by the wayside, particularly when times arecorporatetraining busy or budgets are tight. However, continuing with training even during these times is important to keeping your business on track.

In some cases, completing employee training with existing personnel as trainers is the best option. However, outsourcing the training is often the best option for your business. Consider the following times when outsourcing a training program might be the bet option.

  1. Time Constraints. When your business is going through a very busy time, outsourcing training to another company or individual keeps all of your employees on their regular jobs, rather than taking their time to train others. When you want to keep productivity high, it doesn’t make sense to have your own employees acting as trainers and students.
  2. Budget Constraints. Though outsourcing training can seem expensive, it can be less so than hiring full time permanent employee trainers. Employees are expensive, particularly when you consider the cost of benefits. In many cases, it is cheaper in the long run to use an outside company.
  3. Specialized Training. It is often more powerful to use outside trainers for specialized training. This is particularly true when you want employees trained on something that is outside your core knowledge base. Outsourced trainers are experts in the field in which they train, and they offer insight into the subject, as well as proven training techniques.
  4. Impact Training. When you need training to have a powerful impact on your employees, it may be wise to use an outside trainer. When you bring in trainers who are new to your employees, they may have more credibility in the field, simply because they are not part of your organization. Many companies use, for example, professional sales trainers to come in yearly to train sales people on new techniques as well as to motivate them for success. This sort of training would not likely be as effective coming from a regular member of the organization, even if that person possessed great training skills.

When you are budgeting and planning for employee training, it is wise to look at a variety of scenarios in order to meet training goals and needs. Successful companies find many ways to train employees, using both in house resources and those that can be outsourced to create an effective training plan.

Assessing a Great Training Agent by Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC

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Utraining optionssing an outside partner for training can be a valuable way to increase productivity, ensure employee development and keep your organization running with optimal efficiency. However, it’s extremely important to choose the right training partner so that your money is not wasted and so that employees find the time they spend training to be worthwhile.

Of course, there are many specific things you may look for in a training agent, depending upon your business and the exact skills the trainer will be working on with your employees. However, trainers of any sort need to possess three important skills. As you evaluate your options, keep these three things in mind.

1.   Knowledge. Any good trainer is knowledgeable in his or her field. Beware of trainers who only know the material at the “50,000 foot” level, as your most seasoned employees will spot it a mile away, and the trainer will lose credibility. Your employees must believe that this person can actually teach them something, or their time is wasted.

2      Creativity. Even in grade school, we all remember liking the teachers who taught us in creative ways. If you want to keep your employees engaged in training, choose a trainer who thinks and teaches “outside the box”. Activities and exercises, even if employees balk a little at first can create the most memorable training experiences.

3.   Willingness to change. The trainer who is doing things the same way he did them five years ago is not going to bring much value to your organization. Look for trainers who are consistently honing their own skills, both in the classroom and on the job. You may have to pay a little more for a trainer who spends time being trained himself, but it’s well worth it in the long run.

Outside training can be a large budget item, especially for a small business. However, it can be one of the most valuable tools you have in keeping your employees growing and keeping your business on the cutting edge. It’s important to not always go for the cheapest option, but it is also critical to ensure you get good value for your money. By choosing to work with an experienced training agent can simplify the process and reduce the risk of outsourcing.  A qualified training agent will first thoroughly understand your needs then connect you with the Perfect Fit training solution provider.

The Benefits of Working with a Training Agent by Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC

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Good employee training and development is a key to running a successful business. When employees are properly trained on key job functions and developed for more responsibility and knowledge as they grow, the organization thrives. In addition, employees thrive when training5they are continuously allowed to expand their horizons, making them less likely to leave you for another opportunity. Many leaders try to tackle all the training needs themselves within their own staff, but there are several benefits to using an external training agent for some of your training needs. Working with and experienced agent can help you identify needs and provide trainers that can deliver sustainable results.  There are many benefits to outsourcing training initiatives:

  1. External trainers have credibility. When you are training employees on a skill that isn’t one of the job’s primary tasks, such as negotiation skills or people skills, bringing in an outside trainer can have many benefits. These people have instant credibility as experts in their field. Even if you have a few full time trainers on staff, it can be beneficial to bring in an outside trainer for some programs.
  2. External trainers are creative.  Full time trainers spend their time learning new ways to develop the skills they train on. They are likely to have tricks up their sleeve that you wouldn’t think of. They are also masters at keeping the audience engaged. Their training often includes activities that bring home the important ideas in a fun and unique way.
  3. External trainers can be cost effective. On the surface, using an outside trainer can seem expensive. But, when you factor in the cost of your time as well as the number of people you may be able to train quickly using a trainer, it can be well worth the up front expense.
  4. External trainers free up your time. Your time is valuable and it is certain that other duties will fall by the wayside if you and your staff spend a lot of time training. Using an external trainer can help you keep business “as usual” going on, which drives sales and revenue generation for your business.

A good trainer can be one of your business’ most valuable assets. There are many different areas of training in which you can find agents with specialized credentials to help you make the most of your employees’ talent. Take the time to develop a good relationship with a trainer or trainers who can help you keep employee development moving forward without your business activities taking a back seat.

Blind Spots ~ Solving Hidden Business Problems (Excerpts Part Three)

Why is it that some leaders are successful, while others struggle?  In this guide in narrative form, Russell Baxter, a fictional character and outgoing CEO, shares his secrets of success with incoming CEO Amir Ahmed.  Baxter demonstrates that great leaders need tobookcoversmall be aware of their vulnerabilities or blind spots and take action to make necessary changes.Filled with practical advice, Blind Spots shows the value on drawing on experts to develop valuable skills that can take your business to the next level.  For the month of September our blog will highlight short excerpts from our book Blind Spots ~ Solving Hidden Business Problems.

Blind Spot Seven: Writing Without a Purpose

WHAT IS GOOD BUSINESS COMMUNICATION?

Good communication isn’t about using the newest buzzwords, squeezing words onto a page, or even using semicolons properly. Instead, good business communication seeks to influence others, whether it be taking a particular action in corporate strategy, or just reminding people to clean out the fridge.

THE THREE ELEMENTS OF INFLUENTIAL COMMUNICATION

Aristotle named three qualities of rhetoric: ethos, logos and pathos. In English, we can reconfigure that to mean trust, logic, and passion.Trust gives you the power to be heard. People will only listen to someone who they trust, professionally, and personally. After you gain people’s trust, sound logic shows them that your argument makes sense. Finally, passion, and the ability to ignite it in others, will get listeners to accept your ideas, and act on them.

 

Blind Spot Eight: Talking without listening

WHY WE NEED TO LISTEN

Listening is about uncovering assumptions that people have that will get in the way of them buying in to a decision. It uncovers barriers or obstacles that we hadn’t thought about before. It identifies better ideas than any one person can have. In fact, by taking the time to listen, we can go faster towards a goal than we would otherwise.

Listening is not merely a passive activity. It’s just your quiet contribution to a conversation. And when we forget to make that contribution, we can lose respect, lose valuable information, and otherwise lose business. On the other hand, if we can listen with intent, we are more likely to create the kinds of impacts we truly need to be effective and successful. For leaders, intentional listening leads to better results, greater respect, and stronger relationships. In the long term, listening plays a large part of making a leader effective.

HOW DO WE CHECK OURSELVES?

We often fall into patterns for listening. The tricky part about patterns is that you don’t know you’re in one—or if that pattern is keeping you from making an impact and getting results from other people.

Record yourself in a candid conversation. Observe yourself as a listener in the conversation. Do you look interested? Do you ask good questions? And do you have unconscious body language cues that prevent you from making your desired impact? By looking at yourself, you can often see these quirks right away and develop strategies to address them.

Ask a few trusted colleagues for feedback. There’s a difference between what you intended to communicate by how you listen, and what you actually communicated. Do you dominate the conversation? Do you impose your ideas rather than letting people voice their own?

 

Blind Spot Nine: Not Planning for Family Emergencies

BAD THINGS DO HAPPEN

That’s the simplest, rawest way to say it. Bad things can happen to good people. Unfortunately, it’s not a truth we’re comfortable with, and it’s not something we think about as much as we should. That can leave us unprepared when tragedy does occur.
That’s why we need education. Education in the whats, hows, wheres and whys of illness, death, and care can help us move through tragedy and protect us and our loved ones from further harm.

WHEN BAD THINGS HAPPEN, YOUR OTHER RESPONSIBILITIES DON’T EVAPORATE
One person can’t do the work of two—not for long. And in the event of illness or death, we can stretch ourselves to a breaking point handling the new responsibilities of tragedy with the responsibilities that don’t go away, like our work.

WHEN BAD THINGS HAPPEN, THERE’S PAPERWORK

In Canada, our government provides baseline care to ailing parents and spouses, and also manages the intricacies of inheritance and estate. There’s a law for everything, paperwork for everything, and so much red tape it might as well be Christmas.
But when we’re already dealing with a personal or family emergency, it isn’t easy to navigate the bureaucratic maze. Already knowing what to do, or having someone guide you through the steps, will get you out of that maze faster, and back to your friends, family, and job.