The One Job Nobody Wants (And Why You Should Take It)


Photo Credit – Rich McBride

Everybody wants to be the boss. They want to be in charge. They want the corner office, the assistant, the parking spot, the title, the salary and all the trappings that go along with being in charge. That is, of course, if everything is going well.

Nobody wants to be the leader when things are going wrong. Nobody wants to oversee a business that is failing with major problems in customer satisfaction, delivery, quality, profits, employee retention, or morale. Nobody want to be the leader in times of crisis.

While people will line up to lead organizations that are performing well, almost no one wants the jobs that require an extraordinary leadership effort. Except me. I want the hard leadership jobs. I want to lead the turnaround. I want to motivate a team to do the impossible. I want the helm in times of crisis. In fact, you should want it as well. Let me explain.

“Never throughout history has a man who lived a life of ease left a name worth remembering.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt

Leading during tough times is difficult, but, the rewards are incredible.

“I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning how to sail my ship.” ~ Louisa May Alcott

Tough times require you to operate at your highest level. When the seas are calm and the weather is nice, you don’t have to be on the top of your game. But tough times require an intense, 24/7 focus on the problem. As a leader, everyone in the organization is watching you and depending on you to make the right decisions to lead them out of the situation. It requires focus, determination, decisiveness, courage, intensity, and perseverance. It will take your absolute best.

You learn a lot about yourself during tough times. The challenge of leading during difficult times is learning to deal with those voices of self-doubt, fear, and worry while your team is depending on you for confidence and strength. Tough times are the ultimate test of a leader’s character and resolve. There is nothing that will boost confidence more than facing the toughest challenge in your career and coming out on top.

You build strong bonds with your team during tough times. When you stand shoulder to shoulder with your team through a crisis, you build a bond that can last a lifetime. When a leader and a team step up and work together through a tough situation, it builds a powerful new level of trust and respect. The overall capability of the organization is forever enhanced through this experience.

Tough times give you a new perspective. Your perspective forever changes from having withstood a difficult period. You have a much greater appreciation for when times are good. You also are less likely to let people, politics, and minor issues get you down. Tough times help build your maturity as a leader.

Tough times become an anchor point for the rest of your career. Great leaders can almost always point to a time in their career when they became great. In most cases, it was leading an organization through a tough situation and coming out on top. The most difficult situation you face may be the defining moment in your career.

Most of us don’t want to go through difficult times. It’s human nature to want things to be easy. The problem is that, when things are easy and you aren’t challenged, you don’t grow. Confidence and maturity as a leader come from dealing with your self-doubt and fears while overcoming adversity.

Tough times require your best. You learn what you are capable of, you learn what your team is capable of, you build strong bonds, you gain a new perspective, and your performance will define your career. Why not take the tough leadership jobs? It may be the best thing that ever happened to you.

What do you think? Can you grow as a leader without experiencing difficult times? Does your learning accelerate when facing a crisis? Should we seek out leaders that have proven themselves in tough trials? Should we seek out the tough leadership assignments?

The Secret to Building an Unstoppable Team

14056231 - fotball team during penaltyHave you ever noticed that there are some teams who just know how to win? Companies that outpace their rivals, sports teams that dominate their competition, or military units that seem to do the impossible. There is something special about these teams that make them unstoppable.

“Do your job” – Bill Belichick

Consider the New England Patriots in Superbowl LI. Midway through the third quarter, they were losing 28-3. No other team in Superbowl history had ever come back from this level of deficit. Despite that, quarterback Tom Brady was sure they would win. Later, when asked why he was so confident, he said, “We’re in the locker room with each other every day and we know what we’re all about. That’s what it comes down to. We believe in one another, every one doing their job.”

“The great teams find a way to win.” – Allan Ray

As leaders, our job is to build and lead our teams. I’ve written a lot about the leadership aspect but what about building the team? How do you build an unstoppable team? What makes a team special? How do you build a team that will be resilient, persistent, and consistently effective?

Let me suggest that there are 4 important things to consider when building an unstoppable team.

Select individuals who have complementary skill sets. This is especially important in small teams. Everyone should have a specific expertise that is required to accomplish the team’s objective. Take, for example, Navy Seals. In each team, there are specialists like medics, snipers, breechers, jump masters, dive masters, or language experts. Even though there are some overlapping skills, the experts are relied on by the team for success in specific areas of the mission. Look at the team you are assembling. Do they have complementary skill sets? Do they have the combined skills to complete the objective?

Select individuals who have achieved a high level of competency. As a former Naval Officer on nuclear submarines, I appreciate the brilliance of the Navy’s qualification program. To be promoted or to assume certain duties, you had to go through a rigorous qualification process. This meant everyone you served with had achieved a high level of competency. This established mutual respect across the team and built a high level of trust. You knew your teammate had your back. While more difficult to do in business, you should carefully consider the competency of each team member.

Select individuals who have proved themselves under adversity. As I wrote in a recent article, The One Trait your CEO Wants You to Have, persistent people are extremely valuable to the success of any team. Look for those special employees who can step up and deliver results regardless of the adverse circumstances. Look for people who don’t quit and have a proven history of perseverance. Look for the engineer who worked two jobs and went to night school for six years to graduate, the veteran who served two combat tours, or the plant manager who worked their way up from the shop floor. These are the people who are going to make a difference when things get tough.

Select individuals who are unselfish and have a “mission first” mindset. The success of unstoppable teams resides in the singular focus on the mission. “Mission first” employees understand the objective takes priority over individual goals and career aspirations. In the example of Tom Brady, he took a pay cut to allow his team to have the budget to bring in other top talent. This mindset creates a culture where individuals hold each other mutually accountable to the team’s goal. There’s little room for office politics and egos when the priority is winning.

The objective of leadership is to direct a group of individuals to achieve a common goal.  The most important part of that objective is choosing the right people who will make up the team. Selecting employees with the right characteristics, experience, and mindset can make the job of winning easier. Unstoppable teams are uncommon because building the team isn’t easy. You need to find the right people with complementary skills sets, a high level of competency, who have proven themselves under adversity, and have a “mission first” mindset.

What do you think? Are these 4 attributes the most important? Are there others that are more significant? What makes unstoppable teams so good? Are there other ways to build an unstoppable team? How can you create an unstoppable team when you don’t get to hand-pick your team members? Let me know your thoughts below.

Over-engaged Leaders Produce Disengaged Teams

Take a look at this great article from Dan Rockwell.

Dan shows that some leaders have a tendency to get too involved in every business decision.  These “over-engaged” leaders can’t resist jumping on every problem like a squirrel on a nut. Employees in these companies get used to the leader being the center of authority. Dan argues this can create disengaged teams.

In my experience, this seems to be a problem for start-up companies where the founder has a hard time letting go of the day-to-day decisions.  This is likely why so many companies have a hard time getting beyond the small company status.

What do you think?  How can leaders step back and let others make decisions without making it seem like they don’t care?

Over-engaged leaders work way too hard. Over-engaged leaders produce disengaged teams. Work to make space for others, if you’re an over-engaged leader. Over-engaged leaders: Love check lists. Don’t dive into problem-solving without exploring why it matters. Over-engaged leaders can’t resist quickly solving problems like squirrels can’t resist nuts. Lack curiosity. Curiosity dies when quick minded […]

via Over-engaged Leaders Produce Disengaged Teams — Leadership Freak

The One Trait Your CEO Wants You to Have

47451492 - climber on the snowy mountainsI’ve received many compliments over the years in my work life, but the one I have the hardest time accepting is when someone says I’m smart. People look at my credentials, like the fact that I’m a nuclear engineer, I’ve led nine different manufacturing businesses, or that I studied at Cambridge University, and assume that it takes intelligence to do these things. I completely disagree. The one quality I have and that I want to see most from my employees is persistence.

“Energy and persistence conquer all things.” ― Benjamin Franklin

Persistent people exhibit fierce resolve. Acclaimed business writer, Jim Collins, uncovered this important characteristic of the best leaders and wrote about it in his landmark HBR article Level 5 Leadership: The Triumph of Humility and Fierce Resolve. He found these people had an internal drive, a mantra, a mission that drove them to continue to pursue their goals regardless of circumstances.   As I have written in an earlier article, persistent people demonstrate an unwavering resolve to do whatever must be done to produce the best long-term results, no matter how difficult.

Of all the traits an employee can have, I believe persistence is, by far, the most important. Here’s why I love working with persistent people.

Persistent people are resilient. Failures and setbacks seem to only fuel their efforts. They power through adversity, working through obstacles step-by-step without losing enthusiasm. They bounce back quickly from bad news and rejection by refusing to let negative emotions derail their efforts.

Persistent people adapt and learn. They believe every outcome, positive or negative, is a chance to learn and get better. They understand “failing fast” is important because it provides instant feedback to make course corrections. They view problems as opportunities not obstacles.

Persistent people have perspective. They see adversity as only temporary. They know that, with hard work, success is just around the corner. They also see the big picture. However tough their situation is, they know it could be a lot worse.

Persistent people are patient. While most people are surprised by failures, persistent people see it as part of the process. They expect some setbacks will occur and are not frustrated by them. They keep moving forward despite the circumstances.

Persistent people find ways to recharge. They surround themselves with co-workers, friends and family who support them through their journey. This gives them outlets to work out their concerns and frustrations to strengthen themselves for the long fight.  They can push harder knowing they have a support system backing them up.

Persistent people are naturally optimistic. They persist for long periods of time because they believe a positive outcome will come from their hard work. They remain confident in their ability to overcome obstacles and challenges.

Persistent people are hard to beat.  When faced with difficulties, they don’t sulk or get depressed, they act. When they get hit, they punch back twice as hard and they don’t quit. They are difficult to compete against. As Babe Ruth famously said, “You just can’t beat the person who never gives up.”

Persistent people are reliable and dependable. They are people of action. They get things done. Even when overwhelmed, they find ways to power through. You can rely on them to deliver.

Persistent people are stable. They understand mental, physical, and spiritual toughness are essential for long term success. They take care of themselves so they can lean into their problems and not get blown away by every challenge they face.

Having persistent employees, who never quit, is a huge asset for any company. CEOs are looking for those special people who can step up and deliver results regardless of the adverse circumstances. They are looking for optimistic leaders who don’t let problems or setbacks derail their efforts, people who power through adversity with an optimistic mindset.

As a CEO, I look for people with a history of persistence. I look for the engineer who worked two jobs and went to night school for six years to graduate, the veteran who served two combat tours, or the plant manager who worked their way up from the shop floor. They are the people who are going to make a difference in my company.

What do you think? Is persistence the most important employee attribute? Are there others that are more significant? What makes persistent people so valuable? Can you build a resilient company culture by hiring and promoting persistent employees? Let me know your thoughts below.