Engagement

How to Become a Leader Others Will Want to Follow

May 6, 2021

Imagine she’s sitting across the desk from you with her forehead furrowed and her eyes narrowing. The pause becomes uncomfortable, even awkward. She’s agitated, but you can tell she wants to say something. Again, you softly ask, “Ally, you had so much potential. Why are you leaving?” 

Breaking the silence, she blurts out, “I didn’t feel valued.”

You drop your chin in disbelief. 

Something must have gone wrong over the past year. Ally was a promising new associate in your company. She was a marketing major with stellar grades, glowing enthusiasm, a strong work ethic, and raving references. You thought she could quickly move up the ranks and make a positive impact on your business. The cream rose to the top, and she became your top performer. 

But slowly Ally became distant, and her work quality deteriorated. She began making incorrect inventory replenishment orders, losing patience with customers, and even verging on rudeness. She started missing shifts. The passion and energy you observed in her early days was gone. She was just punching the clock, and her teammates knew it.

As the business owner, you need to get to the bottom of it. 

You look Ally in the eye and ask, “Why didn’t you feel valued?”

“Where do I begin?” she sarcastically replies, then replays several circumstances that led to her decision to leave. 

“My relationship with Karen, the store manager, was great the first few months but rapidly turned for the worse. It all started one day as we were closing for the night. Counting the cash register, I came up $159 short—an honest mistake. But Karen blamed me and deducted the money from my paycheck. I felt demoralized.”

“I offered ideas on how to merchandise books differently, but Karen discounted my suggestions and said, ‘We’ve always done it this way.’ She never listened to me.”

“Once, a customer became belligerent with me as I was trying to help. Karen interfered, took the customer’s side, and blamed me in front of all the other customers standing in line.”

“When I did a good job, like when I was the number-one salesperson of the month, Karen never recognized my accomplishment. I’d ask her for performance feedback, but none was given. When I made a mistake with a book inventory order, Karen asked, ‘How could you be so stupid?”

“All this, and you wonder why I’m leaving? All I wanted was to be valued—treated with dignity and respect.”

To make a long story short, Ally leaves your organization, and you are faced with a challenge. Ally’s not the first employee over the past few years to leave. The common thread is Karen. How do you help Karen, one of your best-performing managers, improve her leadership skills? And even more importantly, how do you build a culture where highly talented individuals want to work with your company and become loyal, productive, results-oriented teammates?


The answer lies in engagement. When you think of engagement, perhaps you think of a state of premarriage, being in gear, or a hostile military encounter. But from a business perspective, engagement means the emotional connection someone has to their work and the level of discretionary effort they put forth based on their relationship with their direct manager. Engaged associates are highly involved, enthusiastic, and committed to their work. An engaged culture results in lower absenteeism, turnover, and shrinkage, and higher customer ratings, productivity, sales, and profits. The opposite is true for unengaged or actively disengaged associates—those who don’t care about their work or are resentful that their needs aren’t being met will intentionally undermine the organization. Hence, the greater the engagement, the greater the business results, and vice versa. Bottom line is, engagement matters.

But how do you develop engaging leaders and build an engaged culture? It starts with you. Decide to become a leader that others want to follow. Lead by example and instill leadership qualities in others.

Here are five ways to do just that:

  1. Build trust. Be real with people. Be who you say you are. Do what you say you’ll do. Let them know your values and what you stand for. Risk vulnerability with others, and they will reciprocate. When you build trust by example, you create an environment where people feel safe, failure and learnings are valued, opinions and ideas are openly shared, and team members must rely on one another.
  2. Cast a vision. Frequently point to how people’s work ties into what the organization is accomplishing. Enable them to see how their role positively contributes to the greater good to help them find meaning in their work.
  3. Cultivate empathy. Ask questions, actively listen, reserve judgment when others are speaking, and validate their emotions. People will care how much you know when they know how much you care.
  4. Express appreciation. Inspire confidence in others by encouraging them and frequently celebrating their contribution to the team. Make recognition part of your regular agenda.
  5. Amplify others. Give people big projects or problems to solve. Help them build on their strengths and eliminate blind spots. Teach them how to overcome the fear of failure. Help them reach their potential through coaching and mentoring. Provide daily feedback framed with the intent to develop. Regarding feedback, celebrate in public but always correct in private.

From a biblical perspective, building trust, casting vision, cultivating empathy, expressing appreciation, and amplifying others are all about the Golden Rule. As Jesus taught his disciples, “Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them. Add up God’s Law and Prophets and this is what you get” (Matthew 7:12 MSG). To become a leader others want to follow and build an engaged culture, you must take the initiative. It begins with you. If you apply these five steps, you will create a thriving organization and avoid circumstances like those Ally experienced.

Want to learn more? Visit https://prestonpoore.com.

Thanks for reading and take care!

Pres

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Three Ways to Grow Your Influence

July 6, 2018

Ever get one of those meeting invites, and something seemed a little fishy? I did.

The meeting invitation subject line read, “Summer Promotion Planning Session.” The purpose of the meeting was for directors, like me, to present our Summer promotion plans to the Marketing Vice President, Edward. No other description or direction was provided.

While Edward was a brilliant and accomplished marketer, he had a reputation for being volatile and flying off the handle at any given moment. He’d been known to verbally abuse his team when someone didn’t know the answer to one of his questions or work didn’t meet his expectations.

I had a number of my peers ask me why we were summoned to the planning session. I told them I had no idea but encouraged them to have their facts together; the meeting could be rough.

Because of a scheduling conflict, I attended the meeting virtually. I logged onto the meeting website, and I could see my peers sitting in the quiet room, looking a little apprehensive. Edward stormed into the room, sat down, and asked who wanted to go first. One poor soul raised his hand to volunteer.

Before the first presenter could get a word out, Edward began peppering the individual with questions. Edward’s tone was condescending and became more intense as the dialogue progressed. The first volunteer didn’t have some of the answers to Edward’s questions.

Edward stopped the individual in mid-sentence and said, “Either you are incompetent, or you don’t care. Which is it?”

I felt like I was watching a shark that smelled blood and began circling its prey.

After a long, uncomfortable pause, Edward said, “You obviously don’t know your business. What are you worth? I ask again whether you are incompetent or don’t care. Which is it?”

The first volunteer’s face was bright red, and steam came out of his ears. However, out of fear, he didn’t respond.

Edward turned to the next person and demanded, “How about you? What are your Summer promotion plans?”

As the next person bravely began presenting, Edward pounced on the individual with pressing questions. The person became flustered and couldn’t spit her words out.

Edward sarcastically asked, “You too? Either you are incompetent, or you don’t care about our business. Which is it?”

Edward then proceeded to ask everyone around the table the same question. When he finished, Edward stood up and said, “I think I made my point. Everyone had better know their facts next time!” He stormed out of the room just as quickly as he entered.

I was spared the berating because I attended virtually, and Edward didn’t call on me. I couldn’t believe what I just saw. It wasn’t right. No one should be marginalized like Edward did to the team; it was utterly demoralizing.

The next day, I told my manager what had happened. He told me that he’d already heard the negative feedback and assured me that Edward’s behavior would be addressed.

Then, I got a wild idea that I could positively influence the situation. I thought to myself, “Meetings don’t have to be like the one Edward just held. They can be productive, effective, and constructive all at the same time while treating people with respect and dignity. Why don’t I volunteer to lead the next plan presentation meeting and show there’s a better way?”

I mentioned the idea to my manager. He paused and asked, “What will you do differently?”

“I’ll let people know upfront what’s expected of them, create a positive environment where ideas can be exchanged, and feedback can be given,” I replied.

My manager smiled and said, “I like it. Let’s give it a try on our next go around.”

To make a long story short, my approach was successful. I reached out to different VPs to align with my proposed format. I developed and provided a plan report template outlining information expectations. Lastly, I facilitated a planning meeting with all of our cross-functional partners in a very positive environment.

I received great feedback, including a note from someone that worked for Edward, “the plans shared today were excellent, and definitely instilled the confidence for success against this critical initiative. Thank you for all of the collaboration with your customers in building out the details.”

Because I influenced the situation, which led to a positive outcome, I was asked to lead other innovation launch and program plan presentation meetings. I proved that there was a better way to do things by treating people with dignity and respect.

As Christians, we are called to be salt and light (i.e., to influence). The Bible says,

“Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth… Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:13-16 The Message)

It’s our job to shine and influence the world around us. So, what does it mean to be salt and light, to influence? Vocabulary.com defines influence as “the power to have an important effect on someone or something. If someone influences someone else, they are changing a person or thing in an indirect but important way.” To be influential means having the ability to shape and mold people, events, or the environment around you. Influence is leadership.

How do you grow your influence?

  1. Build Trust. Walk with integrity and establish people’s confidence in you – Do what you say you’ll do. Trust others and be trustworthy.
  2. Care About Others. People won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Treat people with dignity and respect. Take time to listen to people genuinely. Also, determine what interests others and motivates them, and help them get it.
  3. Lead by Example. Remember, actions speak louder than words.

In the above story, I influenced the situation and the people around me by building trust with the team, creating a positive work environment, treating folks with dignity and respect, and leading by example.

How about you? When you see something that isn’t right, do you have the influence necessary to make a change? If not, what will you do to become influential and make a positive difference in your world (e.g., business, community, school, or church)? If you build trust, care about others and lead by example, you’ll become an influential leader.

Do you want to discover more about becoming an inspirational leader? Please visit my website, prestonpoore.com, today!

Cheers,

Preston

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Preston Poore

I’m a disciple of Christ and an executive at a Fortune 500 Company. In my blog, The Discipled Leader, I draw on my diverse business experience to help Christians connect their secular and spiritual lives at work.

As a certified coach, speaker, and trainer with the John Maxwell Team, I help others grow their relationship with Christ, develop their leadership skills, and understand how they can make a positive difference in today’s chaotic world.

Let me help you reach your potential.

I draw on my diverse business experience to help Christians connect their secular and spiritual lives at work. I invite you to subscribe to my blog and learn how to develop Christlike character, influence your culture and change your world.

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