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My Company's Leadership Sucks!

Today's company's are filled by people who are bored and unproductive.  If North American businesses are to compete effectively in the 21st century; business leadership needs to get it together.

Maybe it's the season or just a more buoyant job market; but lately I'm sure involved in a lot more discussions about leadership.  I'm receiving more requests for help defining the key characteristics which make a great leader; and I'm hearing a lot of negative stuff from clients about their bosses.   Most leaders die with their mouths open.

I recently read an article in Fast Company magazine which reflected on the issue of leadership. In it, they quote Ronald Heifetz, the founder of Harvard's Center for Public Leadership, who made the above comment back in 1999. He followed it up by saying that, "leaders must know how to listen - and the art of listening is more subtle than most people think it is. But first and just as important, leaders must want to listen."  You'd think this is simply basic stuff, right? Like what we learned in Management 101. I doubt there's any exec in business today who wouldn't say they 'know' this already. But in my experience, in many cases, leaders don't seem to think it applies to them.  And yet, I'm continually told by executives and professionals that they don't feel 'heard' enough by their superiors. And here's the really interesting thing about it - I hear this frustration cited by people at every level within organizations! < What this means that managers at every level, are busy looking 'up' the organization chart for someone to listen to them - but they're not giving their own managers and staff 'below' them the same benefits!   So we have the situation, in many companies, where the managers go around telling those who report to them what to do & how to do it but rarely ask those same people for their input. How dumb is that?

Our North American companies are pretty inefficient

OK - this is a random poll: Please raise your arm if you believe that your company is at least 90% efficient.  Based upon what I hear from clients, there aren't many arms raised out there, I'd guess. In fact, most executives tell me that their own organizations are actually inefficient. Many are concerned that their employer is getting less competitive on a global scale. Some worry about cutbacks or reduced investment spending which may result.  At the same time, they'll often tell me that they personally are bored, unchallenged, stale, and losing interest. So, let's review: Inefficient businesses - no one is listeing to those closer to the real action - and stale managers who are worried about global competitiveness. Is this a coincidence? Not likely.  We can fix this situation. And it's not that hard. Remind yourself once in a while about that lesson of Management 101 and become a better leader by becoming a better listener. Simply start asking - and here I mean showing that you really want to hear your team members' ideas about making your department or organization more efficient. Show clearly that you are on a new mission and want to make 'listening' a priority. When your direct reports start to believe that you are serious - watch out. I guarantee that you'll start to hear new ideas which will kick-start your organization's success. With that will come renewed enthusiasm for the job. And the cycle of success will build from there.  You don't need to die with your mouth open.

Today's Tips

1. Give your team credit for having the same basic needs  and expectations as you have yourself. 

2. Shut up once in a while. 

3. Ask your subordinates how they'd deal with a problem or  situation.

4. Get enthusiastic for the game again. There was a reason   you took this job.  

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John McKee is the visionary behind, the premier online coaching service for business people and professionals at all levels. During his over 25 years as a senior executive, he personally hired, promoted, and fired literally thousands of people. Now, as a business coach, McKee uses the phone to coach others to become more successful using field tested approaches.

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