Charles St.John
Author Archives: Charles St.John

A Heartfelt Thank You to the Jerks I have Worked For

We've all had them.  Great leaders that inspire us, stretch us, and help us achieve things we never thought we could.  And...we've had bosses who don't have a clue.  They do things that make us slap our foreheads and go..."OMG."  You may be working for one of these jerks right now.

A Couple of Examples:

  • Like the one who said, critically: "You're doing too much leadership."  Still scratching my head trying to understand what she meant by that.  I asked and she didn't have an answer.

-or-

  • The ex-marine CEO whose top priority was to rappel down the elevator shafts of his office building to see if there were open spaces between floors that could be used for storage!!!

Early in my career it was common for my colleagues and me to complain and laugh at these absurdities.  But, after a while, I realized that the complaining was like a short-term sugar hit that just left us feeling worse a short while later.

What I Did:

I decided to turn things around and learn from these events. I said to myself, " I

may not know yet exactly what I should do, but when I get my shot at being the

boss, - I sure know what not to do!"

The Result:

This shift accelerated my on-going growth as a leader. I was able to learn and grow

into leadership by observing both the positive things the good bosses did and to

equally learn what not to do from the bad bosses.


Oh, and by the way, this new way of observing also allowed me to catch myself

and course correct when I made some bonehead move.


So - Thanks Jerks – little did you know that you made me a better leader.

 
Action Step:

  • What have you learned from a bad boss?
  • How has it changed you as a leader?

Leave your reflections in the comment box below.

Charles St.John

P.S. Want to see another strange example? Check out “Weirdest Memo Ever”

An Extraordinary Film that Will Inspire You as a Leader

Need a boost of confidence and energy? Here’s a film that I watch whenever I want to be reminded of why I chose to be a leader and what can happen if I continue to work at making my small part of the world a better place.
 
WATCH - The Man Who Planted Trees also known as The Story of Elzéard Bouffier, is a tale by French author Jean Giono. It was adapted as a movie and has earned many awards including an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. The creation of this film was remarkable – it took 5 years and 20,000 drawings to bring the story to the screen.
 
CHECK OUT - this Amazon link for additional info about the original book and other adaptations.
 
It seems particularly appropriate to share this resource with you during the holidays. A time to reflect, be thankful, and look to the new year and new beginnings.
 
If you are already familiar with this film – view it again and be inspired.  If it is new to you – you are in for a treat.
 
Action Steps:

  • What thoughts came up for you in watching the film? How are you like Elzéard Bouffier or how could you be?
  • Share the link with your team (and family?) and ask about their reactions.
  • Discuss how your team's work is like planting trees and what the long-term impacts may be as a result.

 
What other films have inspired you as a leader?

10 Crucial Deliverables Your People Expect from You As a Leader – Or You’re Toast!!

This post is based on an actual list of expectations 75 middle managers of a large company asked me to convey to their senior executives. The wording and the order of the 10 items are exactly in their words – I haven’t edited them. Interesting that they didn’t feel it was safe to pass the message on themselves.

Since then I have used this list in workshops over many years. The response I always get is “Yeah, I wish my boss did these things, but they hardly do even one or two of them.” Any manager who understands these 10 things and acts on them will substantially improve their relationship with their team and their team’s performance. How do you stack up?

  • 1
    To Understand the Larger Picture  
    Help us understand how our part fits meaningfully into the whole.
  • 2
    To Be Heard
    Create two-way communication – not just top-down.
  • 3
    To Be Informed
    If you can’t release a decision, give us the status.
  • 4
    To Be Respected 
    Show us that our opinions count. Create a safe environment for us to raise questions and take risks.
  • 5
    For You To Be Human 
    Be open, approachable, and flexible – not just focused on the numbers.
  • 6
    To Be Recognized
    Acknowledge and reward us when we do things right – and quit whacking us when we don’t.
  • 7
    To Be Shown the Way
    We understand leadership concepts but it’s hard to know how to do them under daily pressures. We need role models.
  • 8
    For Vision and Values to Be Real
    Let’s move beyond these statements as slogans and bring them alive. Let’s walk the talk.
  • 9
    To Be Given Support
    Help us be successful – don’t hang us out to dry.
  • 10
    For You To Have a Sense of Humor
    Lighten up – what we do is important but there’s more to life.

Action Step:  Start anywhere on this list and do something about it today, however small.  Just asking your peoples’ opinion about one item, like “when you are successful at something on your job – how do you like to be recognized?  In person? In private? With a certificate, a pizza, a round of applause…?  What would make you feel appreciated?” Listen to their answer – you are likely to be surprised.

Get your FREE copy of the "10 Crucial Deliverables" which expands on each item in the list and includes specific action steps.  Click Here (Downloaded separately).

How Will You Spend the Next Hour?

Every hour you spend in meetings maintaining the status quo is an hour spent as a manager. 

Every hour you spend enabling your people to challenge, change, and improve the status quo is an hour spent as a leader.

Both are necessary.  It’s a matter of priority and balance.

Here's how most managers spend their time...

Action Steps: 

  • Take a look at your next hour - how will you spend it?
  • Log how you spend your time in the next hour - meetings, texting, phone calls, interruptions...
  • What does your log tell you?  What adjustments do you need to make?

Eagle, Duck, Turkey, or Vulture – How Do You Fly as a Leader?

Leaders come in several types of feathers.  

Ducks are cute but paddle around in circles, turkeys don’t fly so good, and vultures are hated. 

Eagles, on the other hand, fly high.

It’s how it is. A few leaders are like eagles – soaring and inspirational. Many are like ducks – benign, likable, appear calm on the surface but are paddling like hell under the surface to survive. Some (unfortunately too large a group) are the turkeys – clueless and gobbling a lot. And then there are the vultures who only serve themselves and can do a lot of damage.  

Given these birds, it’s no wonder that the most common reason people leave their job is because of their immediate boss.  

Not enough eagles!

How do you think your people would describe you – which bird would they assign to you?      And why? What actions on your part qualify you to be that bird?

Unfortunately, based on the odds, you are likely to be a duck or a turkey. Sad, but true.  

Fortunately, nobody is all one kind of bird – we are a combination of all four depending on the circumstances.  We can develop the more desirable traits and let go of the negative ones.

So, there is good news. Ducks and turkeys can become eagles. (Rarely, if ever, do vultures morph into anything better.) It will take some work, but here are the steps toward becoming an eagle:

  • Decide you want to be an eagle. It all starts with a clear decision that you want to be a more effective, inspiring leader – the type people admire and want to follow.
  • Get some feedback. How are you viewed? In what ways are you seen as an eagle and in what ways are you a duck? It’s very helpful to find someone who is willing to hold up a mirror for you.
  • Get a mentor / support. Find an eagle, someone you and others respect and admire. Observe them and learn from them.
  • Practice, practice, practice. As a leader you will always be learning, growing and working on something. Expect to always be improving your flying skills.
  • Pick one thing to work on. Don’t approach this globally. Break it down and take bite-sized action.

Action Step:  What is one thing you could do that will help you fly higher – what will make you a better leader? Do that thing today.  

Get started now – and soar!

Learning 3D Chess

Early in my career I had a sales manager named John who was a brilliant coach and developer of talent. There were eight of us who worked for him in a regional office of a global company. 

I recall the first time I was scheduled to present a proposal to a new client.  John said, “Before you go, run your presentation by me.” My reaction was similar to when my grade school teacher, Sister Mary Joseph, took my term paper in one hand, a red marker in the other hand and began to edit brutally. Instead, when I ran my presentation and sales materials by John, he was calm, looked interested, and appeared distinctly “non-nunnish.”

When I finished, John pointed out a couple of things he thought I did particularly well –

  • how I constructed the flow of the presentation to lead the prospect down a logical and persuasive path
  • and how all of it was clear and concise.

He then said words that I would hear from him every time I ran things by him – “What would you say if…” For example:

  • “What would you say if the prospect was only concerned about price and not quality?”
  • or, “What would you say and do if you realized that the person you are presenting to isn’t the decider but just a screener?”

There were many variations on the question, but every time he would ask, it caused me to step back and look at the situation either more broadly or in more depth. 

I figured this was a game called – “craft the perfect presentation that is so good John will have no questions.” Of course, in my youthful naivete I didn’t realize John would always have a stretching question to ask no matter how well I prepared. He would ask increasingly sophisticated questions that forced the whole team to think and anticipate every possibility that might occur in our presentations. He was teaching us critical and strategic thinking. Like learning 3D chess.

The result of his questions and coaching techniques was we became the most successful sales team in the entire global organization. Our closing rate was stellar. The odds were almost certain that if we got in front of a client and made a presentation we would get the business. 

John went on to become the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. And five of the eight of us on the team became CEOs, C-Suite execs, and/or business owners. 

At the time I didn’t realize it, but John’s coaching style and his commitment to bring the best out of us was a lifelong gift that would pay dividends repeatedly.  

Thanks, John.

Action Step:  What can you do today to stretch and grow someone?

Weirdest Memo Ever?

The memo below is real.  It has parts redacted to mask the source.  But it is an actual memo that was distributed to all employees of a regional office of a large, 50+ year old, international company.  I'm going to hold my commentary until after you read it.  See what you think.  

This is a very well organized and clear memo - everyone knows what they are responsible for and when to do it. But, you have to be kidding me - the task is totally absurd - shaving chair fuzz???!!!

Is this the highest and best use of staff time? What impact might this have on morale? What does it say about priorities? Drop what you are doing and go shave fuzz!!! Maybe it would make more sense if tequila was involved!!

Where does this rank on your weird scale?

Got any strange memos to share?  Send them to me.

Which of These Timeless Mistakes Do You Make?

Marcus Tullius Cicero was a Roman statesman, orator, lawyer, and philosopher who died in 43 BC in the time of Julius Caesar.  Cicero famously recorded what he saw were the six most troublesome mistakes made by humans.

  • 1
    The delusion that individual advancement is made by crushing others
  • 2
    The tendency to worry about things that cannot be changed
  • 3
    Insisting that a thing is impossible because we cannot do it ourselves
  • 4
    Refusing to set aside trivial preferences
  • 5
    Neglecting development and refinement of the mind, and not acquiring the habits of reading and study
  • 6
    Attempting to compel others to believe and live as we do

Some things never change!!

Action Step: Which of these six mistakes stands out for you personally?  Which apply to your team?  Do something today to turn the mistake into a strength.

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