“Get ready to hand out the visas,” the Executive directed.
The company plane and its C-suite passengers were en route to Bogotá, Colombia, for a brief market visit and boondoggle.
To enter Colombia, each passenger needed a visa along with their passport. The Executive delegated the visa application process to an assistant and asked that the permits be available to distribute just before arriving in Bogotá.
The five-hour flight began with a festive atmosphere. Cocktails were flowing, and conversations quickly moved from professional to personal.
Upon the final approach, the Executive directed the Assistant, “get ready to hand out the visas.”
The Assistant proudly produced an envelope from his portfolio and began distributing the visas. But something was wrong.
Guess what? I’ll bet you’re already there.
The Assistant secured Visa gift cards instead of the required travel visas.
No travel visas meant no entry into Colombia. No entry into Colombia meant no market visit or boondoggle.
The Executive began yelling at the Assistant and shouted, “How could you possibly screw this up?”
“I thought this was a pleasure trip, and you wanted Visa gift cards to cover discretionary expenses,” the Assistant replied. “You said nothing about travel visas. Oh, I’m so sorry…”
That’s right, none of the executives had travel visas to enter Colombia. The plane had to turn around and go back home.
Can you imagine the embarrassment? And the frustration? So much wasted time. After some berating by the Executive, the Assistant ducked his tail and sat down in the back of the plane. The rest of the flight was quiet, oozing with disappointment.
Communication at its finest. But who’s to blame?
The Executive? Yes. She assumed that the directive was clear and understood.
The Assistant? Yes. He assumed what was meant by the directive and acted erroneously.
It made me laugh when I heard the story and thought, “what we have here is a problem to communicate.”
But then I realized, I’ve been on both sides of the coin.
Being in a leadership position can test your communication skills. You must be able to connect with others to work together to reach your shared goals.
You have plenty of company if you think you need some help in this area. According to HR Technologist, almost 57% of employees report being given inadequate directions, and 69% of managers say they’re uncomfortable communicating with employees in general.
With practice and effort, you can turn this situation around. Study this quick guide to essential communication skills that leaders need.
- Plan. Before you speak, take time to reflect. Know your purpose, so you can develop strategies and systems that match your values. Be sure to choose appropriate times and channels for what you have to say.
- Simplify your message. Your employees may feel inundated with too much information. Format your emails and memos with bullets and headlines to make them easier to read. Consider using quick graphics to replace a long speech.
- Stay in touch. Provide frequent opportunities for updates and discussions. Schedule staff meetings and one-on-ones. Publish a staff newsletter. Make yourself visible and approachable.
- Tell stories. A compelling anecdote can inspire your team and unite them around a common mission. Focus on concrete examples and emotional appeal. Build a plot around one or two main points.
- Pay attention. How observant are you? Knowing your surroundings will help you keep up with informal conversations and nonverbal cues.
- Ask questions. If you want to know what your team is thinking, go straight to the source. Ask open-ended questions that give others the chance to elaborate on their responses. Avoid biased wording that could influence their answers.
- Welcome feedback. Encourage your team to let you know how they think you’re doing. Thank them for their honest and constructive input and use it to enhance your performance. Hold meetings to invite their input before making decisions and collaborate on action plans when possible.
- Let go of judgments. What’s the difference between hearing and listening? As a leader, it’s essential to use your mind as well as your ears. Let others finish what they’re saying without interrupting or thinking about your response. Try to put yourself in their position.
- Be inclusive. Diverse organizations need leaders who can relate to various audiences and create an atmosphere where each team member is valued and respected. That means building genuine relationships and recognizing individual and group contributions.
- Show empathy. Authentic connections depend on caring about the needs of others and being able to understand their thoughts and feelings. Developing a culture of empathy also promotes helpful behaviors and cooperation.
- Follow through. Actions do speak louder than words. To earn trust, it’s essential to lead by example. Deliver on your promises and ensure that your actions are consistent with what you say.
- Resolve conflicts. Effective communication can promote harmony, but some disagreements are to be expected. Stay calm and search for mutually beneficial solutions.
- Master technology. Keep your computer skills up to date so you can communicate online and off. Video calls and other tools are likely to remain popular in a climate of remote and hybrid work.
Successful leaders use communication skills to build trust and motivate others. Expressing yourself with clarity and compassion can help you to develop strong work relationships and guide your team to success.
Don’t be like the Executive and Assistant in the opening story. Be curious. Ask questions. Gain clarity. And above all else, seek first to understand, then to be understood. If you do, you’ll be a leader others will want to follow.
Want to uplevel your leadership and communication skills? Visit, http://www.prestonpoore.com, to learn more.
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I am writing this on a plane to somewhere, thinking about retiring from The Coca-Cola Company after 21.5 years. That’s almost 8,000 days, 192,000 hours, 40% of my life working for one employer. I resolved to stay at Coke after job-hopping across different companies (e.g., AmSouth Bank, Ralston Purina, Dale Carnegie Training, and Hershey Chocolate).
A friend told me that once folks become part of the beverage industry, they typically stay. But staying long-term with TCCC was always uncertain. I’ve often compared working at TCCC to being a member of Congress. You’re up for re-election every two years, and once elected, your campaign starts all over again. I’ve experienced 11 re-organizations averaging about one every two years. I’ve been mapped into roles, involuntarily relocated, and displaced. Some positions were an absolute joy and others not so much. Often, the work experience came down to the relationship with my manager, the work environment, and the job I was assigned. I’ve worked with and for some terrific leaders. I’ve also worked for some tyrants. Maybe like you, I modeled what I saw in the great ones and learned what not to do from the deficient ones. Leadership is better caught than taught.
My career never defined who I was or am. Honestly, my veins don’t run Coke red. My priorities were different than most. I put my faith and family above all others.
I always wanted to perform well and deliver results. For about half of my time at TCCC, I was focused on myself, my reputation, and my ambitions. It wasn’t until mid-stream that God got ahold of me, and I began understanding that people matter more than performance. Sure, results are significant, and winning makes everything better; I don’t take results and winning for granted. But a personal and public transformation took place in the second half of my Coke tenure. I realized that focusing on people, helping them become the best version of themselves, and creating a positive work environment meant more than a maniacal focus on results. Said another way, the How trumps the What. I learned how I operated mattered, and putting others first typically led to solid results. Much of my transformation is captured in my book, Discipled Leader.
If I’m being transparent, I never ascended to a once desired role, vice president. Sometimes, I look back and sometimes wonder why. But at the end of my career, that’s neither here nor there. But I do have a key takeaway. It may seem cliché. Here it is, position doesn’t equal influence. The higher you go in an organization doesn’t necessarily equate to the level of impact you achieve. I didn’t need to be a VP or lead an organization to be influential. Many of my leaders empowered me to make sound decisions, solve challenging problems, make positive changes, and deliver results as I worked with and through my teams or cross-functional partners.
As Coke and I part ways, allow me to indulge in remembering a few of my favorite things…
Favorite People: Rick Kehr, Ron Renner, Bobby Lyemance, Michael Mathews, Fran Mulholland, Dawn Kirk, Paula Weeks, Ken Mied, Jim Marvel, John Egan, John Lynch, Emma Budzisz, John Rutledge, Jerry Graves, Bill Harris, Mike Griggs, Kurt Ritter, Red Ashby, Eric Blumenthal, Holly Cunningham (Mattingly), Vic Ragland, Rudd Cummings, Andy Alabiso, Lindsay Adleman, Lori Bates, Bob DeBorde, Tim Leveridge, Joe Gentry, Stephen Gibson, Edwin Gotay
Favorite Places: Istanbul, Moscow (pre-conflict), Toronto, Boston, Chicago, New York City, Martha’s Vineyard, Key West, Disneyworld, Universal Studios, Knoxville, Duck Key, San Francisco, Seattle
Favorite Events: Swan Lake Ballet at Moscow’s Bolshoi Theater (pre-Ukraine war), NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four, NCAA Football National Championship, dancing with the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall, countless University of Alabama, Auburn University, and Tennessee University athletic events, LA Dodgers game and seeing Tommy Lasorda in the dugout, and attending the Colorado State University Coke conversion celebration
Favorite Celebrity Connections: Ryan Seacrest, Nick Saban, Tommy Tuberville (only one who remembered my name!), Dennis Franchione, Mike Shula, Mal Moore, Phil Fulmer, Lane Kiffin, Bruce Pearl, Pat Summitt, Derek Wittenburg, 3 Doors Down
Favorite Role: Hands down, Franchise Leadership. I loved working with our Bottling Partners and making things happen at ground level.
Least Favorite Role: I had to throw this one in… Strategic Merchandising Solutions. UGH! A peer once asked, “why would anyone on God’s green earth ever want that role?” I attribute turning gray and losing my hair to the intense stress, political posturing, and micro-management I experienced.
Favorite Initiatives: Leading two Employee Engagement Teams (improving leadership, teamwork, and work environment), Change the Landscape (Tuscaloosa low share market turnaround), Fridge Pack Pilot (Alabama was a pre-launch test market), Coke Zero (by far my favorite brand as well), Vault (fighter brand targeting Mt. Dew drinkers), glaceau acquisition (vitaminwater and smartwater), Partnering for Growth (globally scaled team effectiveness workshop), college marketing plans, Brand Partners Summit (brought internal competing brands representatives together), countless sales rallies, Bottling Partner leadership workshops (Reyes and Consolidated), and Design Thinking sessions.
Thanks to my bride and best friend, Carla, and our children, Caroline and Benton. Your sacrifices enabled an enduring and rewarding career. I am so grateful for you all.
Lastly, thanks to Mark Rajewski and the Sales & Franchise Capabilities Team for helping me finish well.
I walk away with my head held high, thankful for my tenure at The Coca-Cola Company, looking to the future, moving out in faith, not knowing where I’m going but trusting God—wanting to follow the call to help people become the best version of themselves and equipping others to become redemptive workplace influencers. Or, in Coke speak, refreshing the world and making a positive difference. I hope our paths cross again someday.
In closing, I leave you with some lyrics from MercyMe’s Say I Won’t (https://music.apple.com/us/album/say-i-wont/1541075065?i=1541075066)… The song inspired me, and I hope it does you as well.
Today It all begins I'm seeing my life for the very first time Through a different lens Yesterday I didn't understand Driving 35 with the rocket inside Didn't know what I had While I've been waiting to live My life's been waiting on me I'm gonna run No, I'm gonna fly I'm gonna know what it means to live And not just be alive The world's gonna hear 'Cause I'm gonna shout And I will be dancing when circumstances drown the music out Say I won't Not enough Is what I've been told But it must be a lie 'Cause the Spirit inside says I'm so much more So let them say what they want Oh, I dare them to try I can do all things Through Christ who gives me strength So keep on saying I won't And I'll keep proving you wrong Say I won't
Time to fly! All my best and take care.
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My team and I were invited to a strategic business partner’s corporate headquarters to think about what’s possible and innovate. I viewed the trip as an excellent opportunity to retreat, bond as a team, and shape our future.
I approached my manager, Kevin, about the opportunity. He hesitated and then said, “Most trips like these are boondoggles. Do you think you’re going to accomplish anything?”
“Yes, I do. I’m confident that we’ll come back with fresh ideas and take our business to the next level,” I replied.
Kevin said, “I have my doubts. I’ll tell you what, put together a plan with specific objectives, and I’ll take a look. If I agree with your proposal, I’ll okay the trip.”
“Great, and thanks. I’ll come back to you shortly,” I said.
Over the next few days, I collaborated with my team and business partner to develop a specific plan and desired outcome. Then, I shared it with Kevin. A chronic micromanager, he asked us to make multiple changes to the plan. Once the topics were aligned with Kevin’s feedback, he begrudgingly agreed to let us go.
My team jumped into action and made the necessary coverage arrangements to ensure we could break away with limited distractions. We activated our email out-of-office messages notifying internal customers that we were out for a short time, and provided backup contact information.
The next day, we loaded the van and headed to our destination. My team was beaming with excitement and anticipation. They’d been on trips like this before and understood our retreat’s potential. As we drove, we connected on both personal and professional levels. We talked optimistically about how we could advance our vision of being industry leaders and indispensable partners.
When we arrived, we were escorted into our business partner’s innovation lab, where all of the futuristic designs inspired us. Next, we moved into a creative thinking lab to begin formulating ideas and developing plans.
Then, the first email hit… And another… And another. A series of 10 or more emails from Kevin appeared on our iPhones within 30 minutes. He was following up on projects, providing feedback, and checking in… Just to let us know, he was there.
His last email’s subject line read, “TURN OFF YOUR OUT-OF-OFFICE MESSAGE.”
In the body of the email, Kevin wrote that having our out-of-office message turned on sent the wrong message to leadership and internal customers. It was our job to be accessible regardless of what we were doing or who was covering for us.
I thought to myself, “Ugh. Really? If that isn’t micromanagement, I don’t know what is!”
I looked around the room and saw discouragement, frustration, and anger on my team’s faces. Some became distracted and anxious. Everyone began to mentally disengage from the creative thinking discussion.
During a break, I gathered my team to ask their thoughts about the emails. They told me they went to great lengths to ensure our time away would be productive and distraction-free. Kevin’s micromanagement tendencies surfaced, and the team felt disenfranchised. They wondered if it was a mistake to take the trip.
I understood their concerns. I asked the team to return to the meeting and told them I’d gently respond to Kevin’s emails. I asked them not to make a mountain out of a molehill and turn off the out-of-office messages. Lastly, I asked them to stay focused on the purpose of our meeting and ignore distractions.
The good news is that the team returned to the meeting and developed a visionary plan. Also, I ran interference by answering Kevin’s emails and asking the team to turn off the out-of-office messages. By engaging Kevin on behalf of the team, I was able to assuage his need to feel in control. We didn’t hear from him again during our trip.
Working Successfully with a Boss who Micro-Manages
Controlling bosses can slow you down and undermine your confidence. Maybe your supervisor second-guesses your decisions and expects you to be available 24/7.
Overbearing management styles are all too common and counterproductive. Most employees say they’ve been micro-managed at some point in their career, and studies show that workers perform worse when they feel like they’re being watched.
If your boss is hovering over your shoulder, encourage them to give you more space. Try these steps to gain more freedom and still get along with your boss.
Steps to Take by Yourself
- Evaluate your performance. Start by investigating whether you could be contributing to the situation. Do you show up on time and follow through on your responsibilities? Close supervision could be a rational response when an employee tends to be less than reliable.
- Be proactive. Once you’ve assured yourself that you’re on top of your work, you can focus on how to cope with your boss’s management style. Identify their anxiety triggers and figure out your plan of action in advance.
- Coordinate with colleagues. Chances are, your co-workers experience the same issues you do. Coordinate your efforts to show your boss that they can trust you to pull together to overcome challenges even while they’re traveling or focusing on strategy.
- Document your activities. Logging your accomplishments creates a paper trail. Having facts straight helps you prove your worth and maintain your peace of mind.
- Seek intervention. When appropriate, you may be able to consult others without alienating your boss. If senior management asks for feedback, let them know your supervisor’s good qualities in addition to changes that could help you do a better job. Your HR department or employee assistance program may also offer relevant advice.
Steps to Take with Your Boss
- Provide updates. Frequent status reports keep your boss informed without their having to ask. Assure them that things are running smoothly.
- Create more opportunities. Is your boss interfering with your work because they don’t have a full plate of their own? Add value by presenting them with public speaking opportunities and sales leads. Helping your boss shine is a smart way to advance your career.
- Clarify your role. Listen closely to your boss and observe their behavior. That way, you can understand their preferences and anticipate their needs. Maybe they like booking their travel arrangements. Perhaps they care more about employees following instructions than taking the initiative.
- Ask for feedback. Find out what your boss is thinking. Ask questions about what results they’re looking for and how you’re measuring up. Pinpoint strengths you can build on and changes that they would like to see.
- Communicate tactfully. Speak about finding solutions rather than criticizing their personality or work habits. If there are conflicts that you want to confront, be direct and gentle.
- Give praise for progress. Congratulations if you’re making headway. Reinforce positive interactions by letting your boss know how much you appreciate their efforts when you’re allowed to take charge of a project or take your approach. Tell them that you enjoy working with them and that they’re helping you contribute more.
- Create a personal connection. Respect and compassion enhance any working relationship. Remind yourself of what you like about your boss. Make time for small talk and sharing common interests. A strong foundation will make any disagreement easier to handle.
If you’re working to live out your faith in the workplace, here are some other principles I recommend:
- Remember Who You’re Working For. If you keep your eyes on God and embrace that you’re ultimately working for him, you’ll maintain a positive attitude regardless of the circumstance. The Bible says, “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” (Colossians 3:23, NLT)
- Submission Is Key. It’s easy to work for a great boss. The hard part is working for and submitting to a bad one… But when you do, God is pleased. The Bible says, “You who are servants, be good servants to your masters—not just to good masters, but also to bad ones. What counts is that you put up with it for God’s sake when you’re maltreated for no good reason. There’s no virtue in accepting punishment that you well deserve. But if you’re maltreated for good behavior and continue despite it to be a good servant, that is what counts with God.” (1 Peter 2:18–20, The Message)
- Bite Your Tongue. I disciplined myself to communicate positively and not show irritation if I became frustrated. The Bible says, “A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.” (Proverbs 15:1, NLT)
Despite desperate circumstances, I grew leaps and bounds during the three years I worked with Kevin. I learned to cope with his management style in the short term. Eventually, I realized that Kevin’s style and mine weren’t compatible, the intense micro-management I experienced wasn’t sustainable, and I decided to move into another role.
I challenge you to apply the above principles; if you do, you’ll be able to manage being micromanaged.
Want to learn more about becoming the best version of yourself? Visit my website, prestonpoore.com, today!
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Everyone that hasn’t suffered a brain injury or mental illness is capable of empathy. Some of us are in touch with this ability, while others could use a little practice.
What is empathy?
Empathy is a concern for the welfare of others. It’s the ability to detect or predict the emotions and thoughts of others.
It’s easy to see why this would be a handy skill to master. Empathy has an impact on your relationships. This is true for both your personal and professional relationships. Empathy can make your life easier and more fulfilling at home and at work!
Try these tips to increase your empathy for those around you:
- Avoid making assumptions. Your view of the world is limited. Your experiences are just your own. Others have lived a different reality. If you’re from a well-off and intact family from the United States, you don’t have a clue what it’s like to deal with the weight of growing up in an orphanage in Ukraine. If you’ve never lost a job, avoid assuming that you know exactly what that experience feels like. Making assumptions only gets in the way of developing empathy. When you catch yourself making assumptions, question them. Prove your assumptions to be true or false before making any decisions.
- Ask questions. One way to understand others is to ask questions. Develop a genuine interest in them. Enhancing your communication skills assists your ability to connect with, and to understand, other people. Ask open-ended questions.
- Listen. Listening intently is related to asking questions and avoiding assumptions. Seek to understand the emotions that the other person is feeling. Asking questions and then listening to the answers is a pivotal part of creating empathy within yourself.
- Try to understand a group of people outside of your experience. Suppose you’re a young, Christian male. You might decide to learn about Hasidic Jews. Or if you’ve never been poor, you might learn about the homeless. Read books and talk to people. Strive to understand what it would be like to be born a part of a particular group.
- Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. One way to relate better to others is to imagine yourself in the same situation. This can be painful. It’s not enjoyable to imagine that your spouse has died or that you’re entirely out of money. Ask yourself, “What would I be thinking and feeling if I were in this situation?” Just asking yourself this question is the most significant step you can take toward being empathetic.
- Be present. Give your undivided attention to others. You can’t be empathetic if you’re thinking about something else while someone is speaking to you. You’re not as good at hiding your disinterest as you think! You miss most of the information, verbal and non-verbal, communicated to you if you’re not paying attention.
- Practice having more meaningful conversations. Talking about sports is fine, but it’s not a deep and personal topic. One way to get the ball rolling is to talk about something important to you. The more you share, the more you’re going to receive in return. Be open, and others will be more open with you.
Empathy is an important skill. It can greatly increase your ability to communicate and connect with others. Being able to understand their feelings and thoughts will boost your rapport with them. Enhance your personal and work relationships with empathy, and you’ll benefit in many ways.
If you want to learn more about becoming a leader others will gladly follow, visit my website, prestonpoore.com, today!
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During a recent staff meeting, we shared what we had for lunch. Someone had yogurt, and another had a candy bar. I volunteered that I went to Burger King and had an Impossible Whopper for lunch. My manager asked, “Do you have gas?”
I paused then we all laughed.
I said, “I feel okay, I think. . .”
Atlanta was in the middle of a gasoline shortage, and my manager wondered if I had enough gasoline to drive to Burger King. . . Not about my digestive tract status. . . Although . . .
Everyone had a good belly laugh.
Did you know that laughter is the shortest distance between two people? It can break down walls and repair broken relationships. Having a good sense of humor can take the edge off intense conversations or smooth awkward situations. Do you remember the last time you laughed so hard you cried? When’s the last time you used a good sense of humor to connect with someone?
Research shows that humor has many benefits in the workplace, including drawing team members closer together, reducing stress, and increasing productivity.
The truth is most employees need a little cheering up. While the average four-year-old laughs about 300 times a day, they’re down to three chuckles by the time they turn 40.
On the other hand, there are limits. You know you’ve gone too far if you make someone cry or choose Michael Scott as your role model.
What qualities do you look for in a leader? You’d probably expect them to be powerful, charismatic, and decisive. However, you might overlook the value of being funny or playful. Influential leaders know how to use humor to their advantage. Join their ranks by studying these tips for remaining professional while tapping into your humorous side.
- Enhance job performance. Laughter can be profitable because it triggers brain chemicals that help you concentrate and think creatively. A study by the University of Warwick found that introducing humor into the workday increased productivity by 12%.
- Boost your reputation. Other research has found that leaders who use humor are viewed as more competent and credible, and they receive higher ratings from their subordinates. Lightening up could help you stand out.
- Reduce stress. Heavy workloads are one of the significant reasons job stress has increased steadily in recent decades. Having opportunities to relax makes it easier to accomplish more.
- Strengthen relationships. Humor is often a social activity. You learn things about your coworkers that may not be listed on their resumes, and you create happy memories that deepen your bonds.
- Protect your health. There are also many benefits for your physical and mental wellbeing. For example, humor can help relieve pain, boost your immune system, and lessen depression and anxiety.
- Diffuse conflict or tense situations. Mark Twain is credited with saying, “Humor is the great thing, the saving thing after all. The minute it crops up, all our hardnesses yield, all our irritations and resentments flit away, and a sunny spirit takes their place.” When you find yourself in a challenging circumstance, respond with humor, not hostility. Humor will break down walls and positively change the atmosphere.
- Stay safe. Many standup comedians try to be controversial or mean, but you need to watch out for your job security. Be diplomatic, empathetic, and steer clear of sensitive topics like politics, religion, and stereotypes. Don’t make others the butt of your joke.
- Pace yourself. Surprise your colleagues with a witty remark now and then. If you joke around from sunrise to quitting time, it will be difficult for them to take you seriously when they need to.
- Consider your audience. Different industries and companies have their own cultures. Please pay attention to how others react to gauge whether you’re amusing or offending them.
- Liven-up meetings. Zoom fatigue is a real thing. Make your presentations memorable by setting them to music or throwing in a few pop culture references.
- Share content. You can send your team entertaining video clips and news stories, even on busy days. It only takes a few minutes to search for penguins and cheese rolling content.
- Tell stories. Humor can be especially meaningful when you tie it into an appropriate narrative. Strengthen your connection by revealing something about your personal life. Find a case study that backs up your point.
- Play games. Make office tasks more like your favorite video game by awarding points and rewards for submitting your timesheets when they’re due. Keep a jigsaw puzzle in the break room for anyone to work on when they’re passing through for a cup of coffee.
A good belly laugh is good for the soul. And possessing a good sense of humor is a wonderful leadership tool. It will help you connect with others. As a leader, you can make your team laugh without getting into trouble with the HR department. You’ll be making your employees happier and your organization more successful. It’s just good business. Who can you make laugh today and spread a little cheer?
Want to discover more about becoming a leader others will gladly follow? Visit my website, prestonpoore.com, today!
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Last year, I was preparing to launch my new book, Discipled Leader, and build my leadership development platform. While it was an exciting time and a dream coming true, I felt overwhelmed and lacked direction. I was in unfamiliar territory. It was my first rodeo. I’d never published a book before, let alone start a business. It seemed to be a daunting task.
Poet John Donne wrote that “no man is an island.” Meaning I couldn’t accomplish something extraordinary on my own. Success would require the help of others. I knew that I’d only reach my potential with wise counsel and support. And if I reached my potential, others could reach theirs as well.
“No man is an island”John Donne
That’s when I got the idea to develop a Personal Advisory Board (PAB). I discovered the concept in the Wall Street Journal about how successful business executives surround themselves with trusted advisors to help the business executive develop and accomplish their goals.
The Latin phrase is correct, vident oculi quam oculus – many eyes see more than one. I set out to create an inner circle that would assist in navigating unchartered waters and help me reach my potential. But I wasn’t looking for “yes” people, those only patting me on the back and telling me what I wanted to hear. I sought guidance, not validation. I wanted to surround myself with people who would push me, ask probing questions, give feedback even if it’s hard to hear, provide creative input, offer a business perspective, and signal watchouts. I needed folks who could help me solve challenging problems and make complex decisions. Lastly, I desired individuals that had experience with my chosen path; they’d gone before me. I wanted them to share their successes, failures, and learnings. Ultimately, tap into their wisdom.
There’s one other reason I wanted to develop a PAB. I crave positive affirmation. But when I receive it, I can easily get big-headed and begin to think I’m all that. Pride creeps in, I get puffed up, and I tend to take credit for things that go well or blame others when they don’t. I know my weakness, and I can become arrogant without an external party pointing it out to me. My egotistical and self-absorption bent made personal and professional accountability a must. I had to stay grounded and remain humble.
So, I began recruiting PAB members. In the initial communication, I shared with them why I was starting a PAB, what I was trying to accomplish, and then invited them to participate in something bigger than themselves. If they’d joined me on the journey, they’d be able to shape the outcome.
I recruited six original members that agreed to serve for 12 months, two women and four men, including a former NFL player and corporate executive, a head pastor, an internationally renowned composer, a healthcare consultant and seminary student, and two best-selling authors that own speaking/training small businesses.
I began monthly, ten-minute, one-on-one meetings with the PAB members. Our initial meetings were clunky, but we slowly got the hang of it. Before the sessions, I sent an executive summary, including activity updates and areas where I needed feedback.
They’ve helped me make many sound decisions, provided creative input, offered penetrating feedback, and encouraged me when I was down. I couldn’t have done it without them. Ultimately, my book launch was successful, and my platform continues to evolve.
The other good news is that each PAB member renewed for another 12 months. We’ve even added another member, a former beverage industry executive, and leadership coach.
So, do you want to start a PAB? Here’s what I recommend…
- Define your why. What are your business or initiative’s purpose, contribution, and impact? I recommend using the following Why Statement: To (contribution), so that (impact). For example, “To engage and inspire people, so that people are motivated to do something creative every day.” Writing a Why Statement will help you distill your thoughts and articulate them to others.
- Design your ideal board member profile. Imagine what your perfect board member would bring to the table. What complementary characteristics, skills, or experiences will an individual contribute to your journey? Do they have a thinking style different than yours (e.g., strategic, creative, analytical, critical)? Do you trust and respect the individual? Will the potential board member openly share feedback, ask hard questions, encourage you, give advice, pray with you, support your effort? Is the person influential and well-connected? Do you share similar values and faith? What will you have gained from and given to the participant a year from now? Answering these questions will help you think through the ideal board member.
- Identify candidates and recruit. Based on your ideal board member profile, begin thinking about your circle of influence and connections. Look across your friends, colleagues, mentors, and broader network for potential candidates. I identified a list of people I believed would want to partner with me for my initial PAB. Then, I sent an invitation email to the candidates with my Why Statement, what I hoped to accomplish, why I identified them as potential candidates, and how they’d make a difference. I invited them into something bigger than themselves. If the individual was interested and wanted to learn more, I’d set up a follow-up Zoom call to share more details.
- Manage time expectations. How you view time is a mindset. Are you asking the advisors to spend time with you or invest time with you? If you invest in something, you’ll experience a return, directly or indirectly. If you approach the requested time as an investment, people will be more open to supporting you. And be upfront about the time investment you’re requesting. I asked folks for a 12-month commitment. It takes time to develop an effective process and productive sessions. I found that almost everyone is willing to invest a 10-minute, one-on-one, monthly appointment to help. Lastly, I highly recommend that you honor the time commitment. Be concise and be done. Do your best to stay within the scheduled time allotment. If you are in deep conversation, ask permission to extend the appointment or schedule additional time. Time is the most precious resource we have. Respect others’ time, and they will appreciate it.
- Send a pre-meeting executive summary. Before every round of PAB meetings, I send an executive summary of what I’ve accomplished since the last meeting, plans, feedback requested, decisions I’m considering, or problems I’m trying to solve. I’ve found that the executive summaries prime the discussion pump and give the members something to respond to. I advise the PAB members that I’ll reach out individually to set up the next one-on-ones. Then, I move to text and converse with the PAB members to schedule time.
- Conducting the session. This is the fun and value-creating time. I always ask if the PAB member received the executive summary and if they have any specific questions. This is where the conversation can go in many different directions. Caution! Sometimes a PAB member doesn’t have immediate questions or feedback. If this is the case, I’m prepared to give a brief update or ask a question related to PAB members’ skills, experience, or interests. Be sure to summarize the key takeaway to the advisor and discuss potential next steps. I always recap the key takeaway during the next session and provide a progress update. Listening and acting will demonstrate to the PAB member that you value their insight. Lastly, always ask how you can help the PAB member. You want to create a reciprocal, mutually beneficial relationship. Not only receive value but return value.
- Rinse, refine, repeat, recruit. Like I said earlier, the process may feel a little clunky as you start out. Evaluated experience is the best teacher. Reflect on each round of one-on-ones. What worked, didn’t work, and what can you improve? Apply your learnings to refine the overall process and PAB member experience. Lastly, keep scanning your network for potential PAB members and cultivating relationships. Anticipate that people will eventually rotate off your PAB, and you’ll want to have a pipeline of people to fill open slots.
One of the best things I’ve done is create a PAB. The members shaped my mission, influenced my thinking, and molded my approach. They’ve helped me navigate unchartered territory, solve perplexing problems, and make sound decisions. Even better, they feel they’re engaged in something bigger than themselves, something extraordinary.
I agree with John Donne; we aren’t islands. We can’t do it alone. We need others on this journey we call life. How about you? Do you have a dream, vision, idea, or a burning passion, but you’re unsure where to start? Surround yourself with a PAB, meet your goals, and watch your dreams come true.
Want to learn more about becoming a leader others will gladly follow? Visit my website, prestonpoore.com, today!
Preston> Read More
“Dammit! I don’t get this guy”, I said as I slammed the door. I wondered out loud to my wife if I’d made a wrong career decision.
I’d changed companies and took a new opportunity to get us closer to home, relocating from Hershey, PA, to Montgomery, Alabama. It was a homecoming of sorts. Carla and I met and married in Birmingham; our kids were born at St. Vincent’s Hospital, and much of our family lived in the area. We were happy to be back.
I moved out of a successful sales and marketing role with Hershey into a new company representative job. My new role required me to represent the company’s interests to the local bottling partner, develop plans, gain strategic alignment and help deliver results. I felt a little over my ski tips – a new role, new market, new industry, and new people. I knew it would take every bit of my mediocre leadership, communication, sales, and marketing skills to do well.
Why? My primary call point, Rick, had a reputation as a driven leader, very demanding, and hard to get along with. He’s a towering man with a very intimidating demeanor – like the kind of guy who could have played professional football. He’d recently been appointed as Market Unit VP and tasked with turning a deficient performing operation around sooner than later. He was under considerable pressure.
I’ll never forget my first presentation to Rick and his team. He asked me to put together a marketing plan for a local university. I thought it would be a piece of cake based on my experience. I invested two weeks pulling together detailed plans, initial creative images and felt good about what I developed.
I presented my plan during his monthly operating meeting in front of his key leaders. After I finished, I asked Rick, “What do you think?”
Rick paused and asked with frustration, “Is that all you’ve got?”
There was a long, awkward silence in the room. I felt embarrassed.
My voice cracked, “Yes.”
Rick replied sharply, “I’m expecting more. Your plan is very disappointing. Go back to the drawing board and bring back something that will help us win in the market.”
I ducked my tail, sat down, and stewed.
This wasn’t the first time I’d stumbled with Rick by not delivering on expectations. As I sat simmering, I thought to myself, “I’m never going to gain credibility in Rick’s eyes. I’m failing in my new role. I don’t know what to do.”
Fast forward a few months. I’d been working hard to gain Rick’s trust and respect without much traction. Then one day after a market execution tour, we were leaning against a grocery store check-out lane conveyor belt recapping the day.
After summarizing the sub-par execution we observed in the market, I changed the subject and said to Rick, “I know my work hasn’t lived up to your expectations. I am working hard to get better and am on a steep learning curve. I’m confident that I have what it takes and can help you turn the business around.”
Rick just looked at me.
I continued, “If you’ll take me under your wing and teach me everything you know, I will learn and do everything it takes to help you and the team win.”
Another long, awkward pause – I think he liked the interludes.
“Preston, I’ve been hard on you to see if you have what it takes—testing you. You know what? I think you do, and I know you can help me. I’ll take you up on your offer.”
From there, things took off. Rick began including me in his market visits and key leadership meetings. We collaboratively developed robust plans, focused the team on the work that mattered, and executed with excellence. The Market Unit gained positive performance momentum and began to receive national recognition. We were privileged to pilot new brands and packages before national launches based on our strong performance. We also re-negotiated key marketing asset contracts in the face of fierce competition. Lastly, we became a model team, importing and exporting talent. We won under Rick’s tremendous leadership.
I don’t necessarily think about our accomplishments when I think about Rick. I think about the friendship we developed over the years. I remember all of the windshield time we had together, driving from town to town, sales center to sales center. When you spend multiple hours every week traveling with someone, you get to know them. Under Rick’s sometimes-rough exterior, I discovered a genuine person that cared about people. During our conversations, Rick and I found that we shared several values, including our faith. I’ll never forget the countless belly laughs we had together, the confidence he placed in me, and how he took me under his wing.
Rick taught me the Coke business, invested in me personally and professionally, and played a massive role in my future success. I’ve benefited tremendously from knowing and being mentored by Rick Kehr.
Rick and I still stay in touch and talk occasionally. Recently, I heard he was retiring, and I called him a few weeks ago to check in. He said a 28-year career with Coke and seven years in the NFL were enough. “It is time,” he said.
That’s right. The towering, intimidating man I mentioned earlier played professional football during his first career and won a Super Bowl championship with the Washington Redskins – beating my beloved Denver Broncos nonetheless. Rick is a winner in whatever he does. More importantly, he’s a leader.
Rick, thank you for being you, mentoring me, and leading well. You’ve made a positive difference and left a great legacy.
Leaders – do you have a mentor in your life? Someone that will invest in you and you can trust. Someone who wants you to win and challenge you to reach your potential? If not, I recommend you find one. On the other side of the coin, are you mentoring someone? Are you investing in someone to help them grow? If not, consider mentoring someone. You’ll make a positive difference as Rick did with me if you do.
Want to discover how to become a leader others will gladly follow? Visit my website, prestonpoore.com, today!
Preston> Read More
“For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome.” —Jeremiah 29:11 AMP
Leaders know that decision-making always involves some level of uncertainty. You’ll never see the result of an option until it’s chosen, and the decision is converted into action. The more information, advice, and experience you have to decide, the higher your confidence level will be. You’ll be able to anticipate potential outcomes and assign probabilities.
On the other hand, incomplete, inaccurate, and unreliable information, a lack of wise counsel, and inexperience will lower your confidence level. You’ll be unable to adequately assess potential outcomes, let alone foresee likelihoods.
Your role as a leader is to reduce uncertainty. How?
- Build knowledge: Learn as much as you can about each option. What are the required information and parameters you need to decide? The Bible says, “The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out” (Proverbs 18:15 NIV). Do your best to validate the information’s completeness, accuracy, and reliability. At the same time, be at peace when you don’t know everything.
- Involve people: Seek advice from others. Listen to people who listen to God. The Bible says, “Surely you need guidance to wage war, and victory is won through many advisers” (Proverbs 24:6 NIV). Pursue different points of view, encourage debate, and listen carefully.
- Determine predictability: Based on your knowledge and advice you’ve received, rank each option according to its positive outcome likelihood; 1 is a low positive outcome probability and 10 is a high positive outcome probability. The higher the probability, the lower the uncertainty. The lower the probability, the higher the uncertainty. You want to lean toward options that have the highest likelihood of success.
- Understand and accept risk: I learned a long time ago from Dale Carnegie to ask myself, “What’s the worst that can possibly happen?” Consider what you might lose. What’s at risk? If you understand and accept what’s at risk, you’ll reduce the anxiety that comes from uncertainty.
- Remember your values: Grounding a decision in your core values and guiding principles will help you navigate uncertainty. Without values, you’ll be tossed about and be at an even more significant disadvantage when faced with doubt.
- Remain flexible: Keep all of your options open to accommodate an uncertain future. You may need to course-correct and select another option as a contingency plan.
The goal of improving decision quality is about reducing uncertainty and increasing the probability of positive results, not guaranteeing them. Let’s take this a step further.
For the believer, you can reduce uncertainty to a large extent and make the best decision possible. You may make a terrific decision and not achieve your objective. Or, you may make a lousy decision and somehow achieve your goal. Uncertainty remains. Either way, there is one thing that is for sure: God is in control. You can trust him with the outcome.
Think about some Bible heroes who made decisions and weren’t so certain about the outcomes:
- Noah decided to follow God’s direction and build an ark but wasn’t exactly sure how everything would unfold.
- Abraham faithfully followed God’s call and left his home, not knowing where he was going.
- At Jesus’ invitation, Peter courageously stepped out of the boat and walked on water, moving from certainty to uncertainty as he sank.
In all three examples, each person decided in the face of uncertainty and trusted God with the outcome.
- Rain covered the earth, but Noah and his family were rescued in the Ark.
- Abraham settled down and his descendants became a mighty nation.
- When Peter began to doubt and sink, Jesus grabbed his hand and pulled him up.
Noah, Abraham, and Peter trusted God with the outcome. You can too! Why? God promises that he is for you, not against you (Romans 8:31). He has wonderful plans for you (Jeremiah 29:11). And he works all things together for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28).
When faced with uncertainty, consider asking
- How do you reduce uncertainty when deciding?
- Do you trust God with the outcomes?
- Do you believe he has a plan for your life and will help you make sound decisions?
Look to him when you’re faced with a decision and uncertain outcomes. Whether you experience a successful result or make a mistake, know that God is in control. Place your trust in him.
Do want to learn more? Visit http://www.prestonpoore.com
 Dale Carnegie, The Leader in You (Diamond Pocket Books Pvt Ltd, 2020).> Read More
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Express appreciation. Inspire confidence in others by encouraging them and frequently celebrating their contribution to the team. Make recognition part of your regular agenda.
- 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> Read More
The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. (Proverbs 16:9 ESV)
I’ve struggled with the paradox of my life’s role and God’s providence, the understanding that he wisely and purposefully governs our world and engineers all circumstances. With a fatherly hand, he sees to it that his will is done. I also struggle with the tension between my planning, making decisions, acting, and knowing that God controls everything. Does my work really matter? Can I be a positive influence on my business, community, and church?
I’ve always been wary of these phrases:
- “If you don’t like the circumstances you’re in, go make new ones.”
- “If it’s meant to be, it’s up to me.”
Many leadership experts espouse the belief that we can take control, make changes, and grow, and that the results are up to us. That’s the tension within me. Maybe it’s within you as well. I believe people can do all these things, but the Bible teaches that God is responsible for the outcomes.
So, what are the alternatives?
I may think that, if God controls everything, one option is to sit back and passively observe. Let things play out on their own. Stick my head in the sand and not get involved. What happens then?
Entropy sets in—the natural tendency toward chaos, disorganization, randomness, degradation, deterioration, disorder, and erosion. Things move toward disorder without our involvement. It’s like watching someone drown although you have the means to save them yet choosing to look away and leaving the rescue up to God.
Another option is to take matters into your own hands and make things happen. Just do it. But when you race ahead of God, you’ll find that your choices, actions, and results end up being suboptimal. Often, you’ll crash and burn.
The best option is to actively participate in God’s purposes. Collaborate with him. Wait on him, gain his insight, understand what he wants to accomplish, seek his direction, and then move when prompted.
As you surrender your heart to God and seek his guidance, you will begin to act as a catalyst to transform, innovate, and positively influence the world around you. God will work in you and through you to:
- bring chaos into order
- empower you to lead in times of crisis
- solve impossible problems
- make wise decisions
- move people and resources toward reaching their potential.
If you seek God and place him at the center of your decisions and plans, he will guide you and establish the work of your hands.
Consider: Are you actively participating in God’s purposes? If not, why not?
Do you want to learn more? Visit my website, www.prestonpoore.com.
Preston> Read More
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.
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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.