Leading Edge – 10 Habits of Exceptional Leaders: Make Others Important

10 Habits of Exceptional Leaders:  Make Others Important

For more on this subject and other great articles in this issue:

Leading Edge – 10 Habits of Exceptional Leaders: Learning and Reading

10 Habits of Exceptional Leaders:  Learning and Reading

For more on this subject and other great articles in this issue:

Leading Edge – 10 Habits of Exceptional Leaders: Expectations

10 Habits of Exceptional Leaders:  Expectations

For more on this subject and other great articles in this issue:

Voices in My Head

Aegis Learning Leadership Development

By Kelley Reynolds

So, you know how we are supposed to practice Listening Skills?  Focus on the other person.  Provide validation.  Correctly seek clarification.  Well, sometimes, I become distracted.  My mind wanders.  For example, a few months ago, a friend and I were discussing the 7 Wonders of the World.  We talked about the Great Wall of China.  We spoke about Colosseum in Rome.  As she proceeded to the Taj Mahal in India, I remained in Italy.  I thought about delicious, tender pillow pastas; cool, creamy Nutella gelato and thin crusted, double cheese pizza. Yum! My culinary revere was interrupted by my friend.  I noticed her smiling face as she asked, “What do you think?  Good idea?” 

This was my opportunity to ask for details or clarification because I had no idea what she had just proposed.  But did I ask?  Nope.  My response was…. “Yeah, good idea”, hoping to learn details of her thoughts during the remainder of the conversation.  She then received a phone call and left abruptly.  Oh, well, I could return to my Italian gourmet daydreams!

While it is important to practice Listening Skills, distractions do occur.  We can normally pick up the topic as the conversation continues.  If action is required of us, we will usually learn the expectation soon enough.

And a couple of weeks later, I learned.

My same friend contacted me to share the details of the reservation she made for OUR three-day trek through Peruvian villages to Machu Pichu. 

Oh, boy! 

See, I am not a hiker.  Not an outdoorsy kinda gal by any stretch.  Nor would anyone ever mistake me for an athlete either.  But, strolling through Peruvian villages…, how bad could that be?

Fast forward several weeks.

Now, I am walking through a rainforest with the same friend and a Peruvian guide named Carlos, a.k.a. El Diablo, who appeared to be a direct descendant from the Incans.  He was short, muscular and moved like a mountain goat.  I peered in the direction we were heading.  There were no villages in sight.  Not a soul nearby.  However, there was the largest mountain I had ever laid eyes on in our way.  We were going to have to go around it.

The guide smiled as we trekked.  I asked which way we were heading.  He pointed in the direction of the Giant Mountain.  I chuckled.  El Diablo was funny.  I responded, “I am NOT climbing THAT mountain!”  He laughed at me, then effortlessly leapt over an 8-foot boulder.

The trek became challenging quickly. The mountain peaked at 14,100 feet; was steep and covered in tall slick grass. The thin air was depleted of oxygen. I labored to breathe.  My heart beat rapidly to push oxygen into my lungs and straining muscles. The trek worsened with each step.  There was an inverse relationship between the altitude and my attitude.  The higher I ascended, the lower my thoughts sank.

“This is hard.”  “I am not a hiker.”  “What am I doing here?”  “I should stop and go back.” 

Soon these were the only thoughts traversing my brain.  “This sucks.”

At some point, I realized the sabotage occurring in my head.  I attempted to slow my breathing and calm my brain.  The negative thoughts were NOT helping me.  I had to change the refrain.

If I was going to succeed, ascend any higher, go any farther, I knew had to alter my thinking. However, I was sucking wind, literally and figuratively.  I felt puny and needed help. 

Suddenly, there was a chorus of voices in my head. No, I was not hallucinating from altitude sickness, for these were words of support.  The voices were from friends, family and colleagues.  People, who during previous challenging times had cheered and inspired me.  They offered encouragement and love. 

“Keep going.”  “You’ve got this.”  “One step at a time; one in front of the other.”  “You are doing this!”

The voices continued until I finally said, out loud, “Forget this! Before today, I might not have been a hiker.  But after the last 90 minutes, you bet your boots, I AM NOW!”  From somewhere above me, I heard El Diablo chuckle.

I trudged onward and upward; scrambling over boulders, occasionally on my hands and knees. 

The view from the top was spectacular.  Reaching the goal energized me.  I would complete the day’s 12-mile trek!

During my ascent, finding encouragement within myself was elusive, I knew positive thoughts were my only choice.  The negative thoughts did not serve me; they depleted me.  However, once I replaced the negative ones, I physically felt stronger, powerful and hopeful. 

I did not run up the mountain, but I didn’t need to run.  I just needed to keep taking small steps, one at a time, in the direction of my goal until I reached the top.

I drew upon previous encouragements I had received; other successful experiences to help me attain this goal.  This adventure will be added to my treasure chest of accomplishments; to be used as a reminder when needed!

So, keeping taking those steps towards your goal.  You’ve got this!

Now, I really must work on my Listening Skills!!

Kelley Reynolds from Aegis Learning

Kelley’s optimistic outlook on life guides her belief that change is possible!

Her easy going instruction style mixed with a dry wit make her an entertaining educator. She has instructed professionals throughout the nation as well as internationally. Kelley has earned a Master of Business Administration and possesses a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice, both from University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Leading Edge – 10 Habits of Exceptional Leaders: Staying Calm

10 Habits of Exceptional Leaders:  Staying Calm

For more on this subject and other great articles in this issue:

Leading Edge – 10 Habits of Exceptional Leaders: Question Everything

10 Habits of Exceptional Leaders:  Question Everything

For more on this subject and other great articles in this issue:

Transparency is the Golden Egg to Engagement

Tim Schneider
Leadership Development from Aegis Learning

By Tim Schneider

We hire smart people.  We trust people with lots of stuff, in some cases, millions of dollars of transactions.  We love to throw out words like empowerment and transparency and genuineness.

But when it comes to information, some organizations fail to trust that people can disseminate or handle the truth.  Veils of secrecy cover the comings and goings of team members, plans for growth, new systems and critical organizational changes.  Politely worded press releases take the place of honest and genuine communication with team members and the public.  Legal advice that is designed to eliminate any risk trumps real transparency.  The human resource function tells us we can’t say why someone is mysteriously gone.  A bevy of people in many companies like to play Hungry Hungry Hippo with the real story.

Transparency is the golden egg of organizational trust and team member engagement.  Conversely, lack of transparency is an extreme morale killer and gossip starter.  Some symptoms to look for in an unhealthy environment include:

  1. Lots of closed-door meetings.
  1. Way too much whispered conversations and huddling of leaders with no explanation.
  1. Silly explanations for people leaving (i.e. “Bob is pursuing new interests”)
  1. Unexpected and unannounced hiring and new jobs just popping up.
  1. Press coverage of events that surprise team members.
  1. Branding and marketing shifts that are unannounced.
  1. Total lack of any organizational or senior leader communication or visibility.
  1. Communication that is only weighted to highlight the good and never a discussion of issues or challenges.
  1. Over-reliance on legal advice to avoid any risk.
  1. Creation of insiders that tend to know things that the rest of a team does not know or is not privy to.
  1. Rampant gossip and rumors about people and the organization.
  1. Answering direct questions with avoidance and obfuscation. 

The correlation between organizational (and leadership) transparency and team member engagement and overall performance is undeniable, heavily documented and irrefutable.  Quite simply, the best organizations are transparent.  The best leaders are transparent within set boundaries and they often challenge those boundaries.  Transparent organizations perform better, have less gossip and rumors, have more engaged team members and trust their senior leaders on matters of strategic direction.

To build greater degrees of organizational and leadership transparency, work on the following:

  1. Challenge why a piece of information supposedly can’t be shared. Trust your team members with information and hold them accountable for improper disclosure.
  1. Communicate openly and with high frequency. Regular updates and newsletters are a good start.
  1. Seek input from team members during challenges and when issues arise.
  1. Share plans and planning processes with team members. Include them on strategic discussions and solicit their input on directional changes.
  1. Share all press releases with team members concurrently or before it hits the news.
  1. Share all current marketing and branding efforts before it becomes public.
  1. Avoid closed door meetings and discussions (unless laughter and fun are too loud).
  1. Eliminate creating insider information and sharing with a select few. If you can share with one, you can share with all.
  1. Kill gossip in its tracks.  Create a bright line about rumors about the company or people and rebuff attempts to share it with you.  Participation equates to endorsement, especially in a leadership position.
  1. Don’t tell part of a story or create a tease point.  If you can’t relay all of the information, don’t share any of it.
Tim Schneider

Tim Schneider is the founder, CEO and lead facilitator for Aegis Learning.  

The Intersection of Dreams and Comfort

Tim Schneider
Leadership Development from Aegis Learning

By Tim Schneider

The difference between dreamers and doers can best be summarized in a set of characteristics:  tolerance for risk and comfort with uncomfortable.

Everyone has dreams.  Everyone wants to be something a little different or better.  Everyone wants to contribute to a common good.  Many people even take it a step farther and label their dreams as a life passion, calling or purpose.  They create vision boards for where they want to be and even journal about a better life for them and their families.

“I really want to get a new job”

“I really want to go back to school”

“I really want to devote my life to something bigger and better”

“I really don’t want to be stuck in an eight-to-five grind”

Where these dreams come to a crashing halt for many is at the blinking-light intersection of risk and comfort.

“But I don’t want to give up my daily Starbucks”

“I’m can’t tell my wife I’m quitting my job to open my own business”

“The classes and studying will put a burden on my family time”

“I’m not about to start at a position lower than my last one”

Risk aversion can certainly become an evil little voice that continually reminds you of the potential for failure and all the negative “what ifs”.  Sadly, this voice rarely speaks to the potential positive outcomes associated with a leap towards your dreams or reminds you of the great satisfaction of doing what you were placed on this rock to do.  Highly successful people use self-talk to silence or reduce the impact of the voice of doom and actively replace it with the positive outcomes of risk taking.  Not that anyone should blindly leap into the unknown but the reminder that all unknowns have an equal or greater chance of being successful as becoming a failure.  The risk aversion voice also tends to overstate the failure outcomes as being horrible when in fact, they are nothing more than learning opportunities and everything is recoverable.

Comfort aversion is as damaging as risk aversion to living a purposeful and fulfilling life.  Now there is nothing wrong with being comfortable but over-emphasis on comfort will keep you in a complacent, non-growing, non-achieving spot.  The comfort lie tells us that some of our creature comforts and vanity desires have become needs.  The BMW instead of a Camry, Starbucks instead of Folgers, gated community instead of two-bedroom apartment, Ivy League instead of community college, designer purse over the JC Penny’s version.  Again, successful people will truly understand the difference between a core need and those items that simply create comfort.  Interestingly, those people in life that have failed and restarted several times have a clearer view of what is really needed versus those comforts that sometimes serve as obstacles to achieving our dreams.

Below are a couple of tactics to help improve risk and comfort tolerance:

  1. Identify What is Really a Need Versus a Want

Look at basics.  Return to an earlier time in your life and describe how you survived and with what.

  1. Take Small Risks

Develop risk tolerance by beginning with smaller risks prior to a big leap.  Note or journal the lessons from failures and the ease in overcoming and recovery.

  1. Commit

If you want to achieve a dream or purpose, commit to a course of action complete with timelines and measurable milestones. 

  1. Partner

Don’t be afraid to share your dreams with others.  Seek the support needed to reduce risk and get buy-in on changes to comfort.  Quite simply, ask the kids if they are okay with no cable TV or moving to a smaller house.

  1. Track Progress

Monitor, track and report your progress towards your dream.  Vision posters are nice but a formal system to track progress is where achievement rests.

Tim Schneider

Tim Schneider is the founder, CEO and lead facilitator for Aegis Learning.  

Leading Edge – 10 Habits of Exceptional Leaders: 1 on 1 Meetings

10 Habits of Exceptional Leaders:  1 on 1 Meetings

For more on this subject and other great articles in this issue:

The Pilot

Kelley Reynolds from Aegis Learning
Aegis Learning Leadership Development

By Kelley Reynolds

I recently shared my observations of certain passengers while on a flight home from Spring break.

While on this flight, there was another opportunity to observe leadership in action.  I would be remiss if I failed to share with you the leadership skills demonstrated by another leader on this flight.  The Pilot

Those of you familiar with air travel are accustomed to the perfunctory pre-flight commentary offered by the cabin crew.  Included in this are the usual details offered by the pilot.  We’ll be cruising at 30,000 feet.  Our flight time, from gate to gate is 2 hours and 18 minutes, etc.  Rarely do I pay much attention to this.  However, when the pilot began the litany, I noticed the first comments were to thank us.  That was a nice touch.

Shortly after take-off, the pilot announced that we might encounter some turbulence.  For about the first hour, the flight was uneventful.  The beverage cart slowly made its way up the aisle as I noshed on a palm-sized bag of pretzels.  And then, we dipped and bounced a little.  The familiar ‘bing’ was heard overhead, indicating that the pilot was communicating with the crew. 

The pilot announced over the p.a. system that we were encountering the turbulence.  He instructed the flight attendants to take their seats.  He further informed us that they would attempt to find smoother air.

For the next 20 minutes or so, we shimmied and dipped.  Then the bumps stopped.  The pilot, true to his word, found smoother air for us.  He then communicated with us that while we were out of the turbulence and the flight attendants would resume beverage service.

The remainder of the flight was unremarkable.  Thankfully.

The pilot had done a wonderful job flying the plane; we landed as expected, wheels first.  He also displayed a few critical leadership skills in the process. 

He communicated with us.  He provided honest and accurate information; using easy to understand language, no jargon.  The pilot managed our expectations and advised us of anticipated turbulence.  When the turbulence hit, he calmly provided instructions to keep us safe while addressing the swirling currents of air. The pilot shared with us his plan to solve the problem and followed up by notifying us when he believed we had navigated through the difficulties.

At this point, you might be thinking; “I never really thought about my flights this way, but is this really article worthy?”

While this analysis is interesting to note, it was the pilot’s next actions which inspired the article. It was what he did on the ground.

As we deplaned, our pilot who calmly guided us to smoother air, stood on the jetway waiting for us.  He spoke to the passengers.  He apologized to each of us for turbulence.  He thanked us for flying with them and let us know that he hoped we would choose the Friendly Skies for our next flight. 

Isn’t this remarkable?!  Not only did he display Battlefield Cool, as he maintained control of the bouncing plane, he exemplified high caliber leadership on the ground, too.

After landing, pilots will often remain in the cockpit, hidden from the view of passengers.  Not this guy.  He faced each of us.  Any of you who work with the public, know the unhappy customer wants to speak with the manager!  By making himself available, he provided any dissatisfied passengers the opportunity to share their displeasure.  This action may have created satisfied customers as well as diffusing any complaints going further up the chain.

He apologized for a situation that he did not create.  Turbulence.  He did not attempt to make excuses for the weather or blame air traffic control.  He took responsibility.  His plane. Period.

Then he expressed appreciation for our business. The pilot realizes that customer service is not some task to be only be performed by other members of his team.  By personally thanking us, he role modeled excellent customer service.

Finally, he made a gesture for his team and the organization.  He asked us for our future business. 

Throughout this flight, our pilot put people first.  Whether be it the passengers or flight crew or the main office, his leadership actions demonstrated dedication to the customer, to his team and to his organization.  What a great example of proactive effective leadership in action!

Kelley Reynolds from Aegis Learning

Kelley’s optimistic outlook on life guides her belief that change is possible!

Her easy going instruction style mixed with a dry wit make her an entertaining educator. She has instructed professionals throughout the nation as well as internationally. Kelley has earned a Master of Business Administration and possesses a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice, both from University of Nevada, Las Vegas.