The Problem with Mandates

There have been more than 15,000 books written on the subject of leadership but, when you boil it down, leadership is about inspiring people to get things done.

Leadership author and speaker Kevin Kruse says that “leadership is a process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others, towards the achievement of a goal.”

As Kruse points out, there are three basic elements to leadership – influence, people, and a goal.

Great leaders know this.

Throughout history, their words have inspired movements.

Think about Martin Luther King, Jr. On August 28, 1963, in front of a gathered crowd of more than 200,000 people, he inspired a nation by his words.

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal.”

His words and actions motivated millions of people to act which ultimately led to The Civil Rights Act of 1964.  King understood the power of influence. He knew that to inspire people to action, he needed to paint a picture of the future.

A future where his “children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

He knew that when people understand the “why” behind a movement, they would be motivated to act.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery, the French writer, poet, and pioneering aviator, said, “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”

Great leaders inspire actionthey don’t force it.

Great leaders inspire action - they don’t force it. Click To Tweet

Many managers, on the other hand, rely on micromanagement to try and get things done. Instead of creating a vision, they “drum up people to collect wood and assign them tasks.”

And if people don’t comply, these bosses rely on threats, intimidation, and mandates to try and force people to act.

The problem with mandates is that they don’t work – they don’t inspire action.

They are the last resort for a manager who has failed to make a compelling case.

The problem with mandates is that they don’t work - they don’t inspire action. They are the last resort for a manager who has failed to make a compelling case. Click To Tweet

It’s like a frustrated parent who says, “I’m your father that’s why” or “If you don’t eat your dinner, you can’t go out and play.”

Instead of compliance, mandates create defiance.

When a boss fails to establish a vision of the future or properly explain the “why” behind their new rules, people are not moved to action. Most will push back.

It’s human nature not to follow someone if you don’t where they are headed.

It’s human nature not to follow someone if you don’t where they are headed. Click To Tweet

This week has been filled with news of mandates and consequences for non-compliance. I’m not an expert in politics or infectious diseases, but I know people. I know they don’t like being told what to do especially when they don’t see a clear vision of the future.

Will there be some compliance with these mandates? Sure. But I think there will be a lot more defiance.

This is not a political post, this is about leadership and you need to consider it as it relates to your own leadership story.

Are you inspiring people to action? Or, are you mandating compliance?

If you want to create a movement, you need to inspire people with a vision of the future that they all want to be in.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was probably the greatest example of a leader who embraced this idea. We could all learn a lot from his example.

If you are interested in learning more about how to inspire a workforce, check out my new book, All in the Same Boat: Lead Your Organization Like a Nuclear Submariner. 

[Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images]

What Does Success Really Mean to You?

I was a guest on a recent podcast and the host asked me an interesting question:

What’s my definition of success?

I actually had to step back and think about it.

For me, success has never been about money or fame – which are the obvious answers – but I’ve never actually ever thought about my own personal definition.

It’s actually a hard question.

To better understand what success is, I had to change the question around.

Instead, I asked myself this – When have I felt the most successful?

That was an easier question to answer and I could picture the exact moment.

It was the summer of 1992. It was 3 AM in the morning and I was standing watch on the bridge of a nuclear submarine in the middle of the Caribbean Sea. I was the Officer of the Deck in charge of one of the most powerful warships in the world.

There are two things I remember from that night.

First, there’s nothing like seeing the star-filled night sky at sea.

Second, there’s nothing like the feeling of achieving a dream.

There's nothing like the feeling of achieving a dream. Click To Tweet

That was the moment I felt the most successful. I had achieved something I worked hard for almost eleven years to achieve.

Let me explain.

When I first realized I wanted to be on submarines. I was in 8th grade. I was fascinated with the stories of the WWII submariners and how nuclear submarines played a critical role in the Cold War.

I knew this was something I wanted to do. It was my dream to one day serve on these boats.

The problem was, I also knew I had to become technically strong if I wanted to achieve this dream.

I had to do well in High School and excel in Math and Science. I also had to get into a good Engineering School and do well enough to get accepted into the highly competitive Navy Nuclear Power Program.

Fortunately for me, perseverance and eight years of hard work were enough to get me a commission as a Naval Officer and get accepted into the Navy Nuclear Power Program. But that was just the beginning.

The year-long Nuclear Power Program was brutal. Many of my good friends were cut from the program because they couldn’t keep up with the pace. I was in over my head as well.

But I made it through.

And I persevered through submarine school and three more months of trying to get a medical waiver for an episode of kidney stones I once had in college.

But I made it through. And finally – I made it to the fleet.

Then I discovered this was just the beginning of another process. I needed to get qualified as a submarine officer before I could stand watch and achieve my dream. A process that would take almost another year.

But I made it through.

In April of 1992, I became a qualified submariner. I had the gold dolphins pinned on my chest. I had achieved my lifelong dream of becoming a submariner.

And that summer, at 3 AM in the morning, in the middle of the Caribbean Sea, doing the job I had dreamed of since I was a child – I felt the most successful.

So, what’s my definition of success?

I think it’s simple.

It’s about doing the hard work to chase a dream and then, one day, actually achieving that dream.

Success is about doing the hard work to chase a dream and then, one day, actually achieving that dream. Click To Tweet

What do you think? How would you define success?

Is it fortune and fame or is it more than that?

Reach out to me on Twitter and let me know.

The Power of Personal Connection

I have a pet peeve.

I can’t stand seeing managers who stay isolated. It bothers me when I hear about bosses who stay locked up in their office or spent their days in meetings.

They never get out to see their employees. They are disconnected!

Look – I know what it’s like to be busy.

As the co-founder and CEO of a start-up manufacturing business, I’m swamped. I’m the head of sales, HR manager, CFO, and Operations Manager.

I wear many hats and work long hours. I’m as busy as the next guy,

But I also know the importance of getting out of my office. I know the importance of connecting with my team.

I also do something very specific each day to make sure our entire company stays connected and everyone is on the same page. It only takes 15 minutes a day and you can do it too.

It’s a morning stand-up meeting.

Now, before you tune me out and tell me how much a waste of time meetings are, let me tell you that I hate meetings as well. In fact, what I’ve found is that our daily stand-up meeting actually prevents us from needing other meetings throughout the day.

But, if you’re still skeptical, hold on. Because I think you will become a believer once I’ve made my case.

So what is a stand-up meeting?

For us, we all meet on the factory floor at 8:30 AM in front of a giant whiteboard. Written on the whiteboard are all of the current orders.

The meeting starts with a briefing from the production manager on what jobs we are going to build that day. We discuss what major shipments will arrive and depart the factory. Then we go around the room and everyone has the chance to add anything that is important to the whole team – Part shortages, quality updates, customer questions, product changes, field issues, and people issues – who’s absent, who’s traveling, who’s leaving early, who has vacation later in the week.

We allow enough time for questions, clarification, and to resolve any conflicting priorities.

I give a quick update on what’s coming up in the future – big orders anticipated, visitors coming in, status on landing new customers, my travel schedule. And I wrap up the meeting by telling everyone to be safe.

That’s it. The whole meeting takes about 15 minutes.

And yes, we stand the whole time.

So, you might be thinking – How does this meeting help with human connection? How does a 15-minute meeting each day make us a more connected team?

Well. I’ll tell you. There are 5 things:

1. There is a personal connection. Like a family gathering around the breakfast table, we learn how everyone is doing. These meetings help us to continue to build relationships with each other.

2. We get everyone on the same page. At the end of the meeting, we all know what needs to be done and our role in it. We’ve resolved any conflicts and we understand the priorities. We have focus and clarity. We have a plan for the day.

We get everyone on the same page. Click To Tweet

3. We have a better view of the future. We know who is taking a vacation, who’s sick. We know when customers are visiting. We know when to expect the next big order. We can better set out daily priorities knowing what’s more likely to happen in the coming weeks

4. We reinforce our mission and values. For me, every discussion helps me reinforce our mission daily as we discuss various topics.

5. These stand-up meetings set the tone, the pace, and the routine in our business. I look forward to each meeting because I know I will come away with all the answers I need for the day. I also know everyone will be there, so I know I don’t have to have any other meetings throughout the day.

These meetings regularly set the cadence for our business.

There is a personal connection every morning, we get on the same page, and we reinforce our mission.

I like this quote from Hilton Barbour. He says, “Small rituals make a culture”

“Small rituals make a culture” Hilton Barbour Click To Tweet

And that’s what our morning stand-up meetings are for us. They are small rituals that help us set and maintain our culture.

So what about you? Do you have a regular way to connect with employees and ensure everyone is on the same page?

Do you have a daily method to reinforce your mission and values?

If not, you may want to try a daily stand-up meeting.

If you hate meetings as much as I do, you’ll love this 15 minute morning ritual.

 

P.S.

If you like this idea, get a copy of my latest book – “I Have the Watch: Becoming a Leader Worth Following”  It is filled with 23 practical ideas like this on how you can become a more effective leader.

And, If you want to get more out of your daily commute, listen to my podcast, Deep Leadership.  It’s available on all podcast apps.

I Have the Watch is also available on Audible for your commuting pleasure.