Byron's Babbles

A Better Boss Stays Engaged

Guest post by Mark Miller

In the Talent Magnet, we established how important it is for leaders to Demonstrate Care. The well-worn axiom is true: People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. According to Top Talent, this is a highly valued trait of the women and men they want to work for.

What other attributes or best practices are often associated with a Better Boss? Well, there are some things leaders can delegate, and there are others we cannot. The second expectation of a Better Boss underscores this truth. Top Talent expects their leaders to Stay Engaged.

The following is an excerpt from the Talent Magnet Field Guide co-authored with Randy Gravitt.

Why do some organizations prosper while others plateau? The answer is usually found in how well they are led and in how much talent they have. As the leader, you have the ability to impact both. But in the eyes of your people, your ability to lead well is contingent on your level of engagement. A Better Boss must Stay Engaged.

Whenever we hear the word engagement it often brings to mind a wedding proposal. But great marriages are not built on a one-time engagement day. No, both the bride and the groom must remain engaged if a relationship is to flourish over time. The same is true for leaders. If they really hope to attract Top Talent and keep them energized over time, the leaders themselves have to show up – ready to contribute.

To be a Better Boss, your presence is required – not every minute of every day, but your presence must be felt. You must remain involved and stay grounded in reality. Leaders demonstrate involvement in many ways. Staying focused in meetings, listening to the opinions of others, being willing to do real work, and taking ownership when things go wrong communicates a strong message to your team.

Your responsibility is to fully lean in and Stay Engaged. When you do, you meet one of Top Talent’s most often stated expectations of their leaders: Showing up in reality – never just going through the motions.


About Mark Miller

Mark Miller began his Chick-fil-A career working as an hourly team member in 1977. In 1978, he joined the corporate staff working in the warehouse and mailroom. Since that time, Mark has steadily increased his value at Chick-fil-A and has provided leadership for Corporate Communications, Field Operations, and Quality and Customer Satisfaction.

Today, he serves as the Vice President of High-Performance Leadership. During his time with Chick-fil-A, annual sales have grown to over $9 billion. The company now has more than 2,300 restaurants in 47 states and the District of Columbia.

When not working to sell more chicken, Mark is actively encouraging and equipping leaders around the world. He has taught at numerous international organizations over the years on topics including leadership, creativity, team building, and more.

Mark began writing about a decade ago. He teamed up with Ken Blanchard, co-author of The One Minute Manager, to write The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do (2007). More recently, he released Chess Not Checkers (2015), and Leaders Made Here (2017). His latest is Talent Magnet: How to Attract and Keep the Best People (February 2018). Today, over 1 million copies of Mark’s books are in print in more than two dozen languages


How Do We Change This World?

IMG_2188This morning as I was driving to visit with my mom I was listening to my favorite band, Alter Bridge. I would argue that no group has a line up of more inspiring songs. If you disagree, let’s have that discussion because I would love it, but that is not the point of this post. One of my top five songs from Alter Bridge is “Rise Today.” The main lyric of the song says, “I Wanna Rise Today And Change This World!” How can you not be inspired by that? But then as I sat with my mom, I got to thinking about what it, or what does it, mean to “rise today and change this world?” Particularly, when we all have different ideas of what it means to change the world.

img_0666Then I remembered what Leo Tolstoy, the Russian novelist, so famously wrote: “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” This got me thinking that if we really want to change the world we need to think and act on changes that we need to make to ourselves. Tolstoy’s dictum is a useful starting point for any leader engaged in organizational change that will change the world. I’m convinced that organizational change and changing the world is inseparable from individual change. Most change falters because individuals overlook the need to make fundamental changes in themselves.

There are a few pieces of the lyrics of “Rise Today” that really hit home as I was reflecting on the question of what it means to change the world. Here they are:

  • Have we lost our way tonight?
  • Have we lost our hope to sorrow?
  • Feels like we’re all alone, running further from what’s right
    And there are no more heroes to follow
  • Hope we find a better way before we find we’re left with nothing
  • Seems to me that we’ve got each other wrong. Was the enemy just your brother all along?

Research shows that half of all change efforts for transformational change fail either because leaders don’t act as role models for change or because people defend the status quo. Let me tell you, I have experienced this a lot lately. So as I think deeply about the five phrases I pulled from the song, it really comes down to something I learned from my studies at the Harvard Graduate School of Education: Technical vs. Adaptive Leadership. The problem is we view most things as technical challenges and they really aren’t. Technical leadership is just about applying the solution we already know to apply. An example I can think of right now to illustrate the difference is with budgets. Most think doing a budget is just a math problem – tweak here, tweak there, presto… done. That would be a technical challenge. But, with all budgeting, difficult discussions, trade-offs, staffing changes and re-deployments, and disappointments happen—this is the adaptive leadership work.

“Adaptive leaders learn to live with unpredictability. They spend less time fretting about the inability to establish a routine or control the future and focus more on exploiting opportunities.” ~ Dr. Leonard Wong
Therefore, if I want to be an adaptive leaders and truly change the world I must go through the continual process of challenge, adaptation, and learning, which readies me for the next challenge. It also challenges me to examine whether, as Alter Bridge’s song says, whether “the enemy was just [my] brother all along.”  If we want to be adaptive leaders we need to hone the following skills:
  • Be able to consider diverse and conflicting views in all situations.
  • Be able to operate with autonomy under a general framework (and not just look for the easy way to be compliant).
  • Model great behaviors as being both technically and and tactically proficient.
  • Be mentally flexible and agile.
  • Recognize and be able to navigate the gap between the way things are and the desired state.
  • Understand there are multiple perspectives on the issue.
  • Remembering that new learning will absolutely need to happen.
  • Knowing that resistance will be triggered in stakeholders.

So, if we are going to change the world we know that behaviors and attitudes will need to change. The tough part is people with the problems are key to solving the problems. And, those groups will have varying opinions on solutions. Thus, why I believe the lyric, “Seems to me that we’ve got each other wrong. Was the enemy just your brother all along?” is so appropriate. We must also remember that with adaptive leadership, old ways need to change, and that will create a sense of loss for some (or a lot).

As I reflect on rising today to change this world, I believe we must, as leaders, not miss thinking, “What’s good, right, and just for everyone?”

Leaders Never Fully Ripen

IMG_2177Gem #11 entitled, “When You’re Green You Grow. When You’re Ripe You Rot” in 52 Leadership Gems: Practical and Quick Insights For Leading Others by John Parker Stewart reminded us that when we quit learning and growing we become like an over-ripe apple and rot. This is an interesting topic because we do not want to just continue to be a green apple that has not ripened in certain areas and is not good for anything, but we do not want to ever take the attitude we have arrived – or ripened, so to speak – and we have nothing else to learn. I believe we need to look at this in terms of having “green apple” traits and “ripe apple” traits. We will always have those things, “green apple traits,” that we need to work on, grow and mature in, and develop. In other words we need to be participating in our own personal and professional growth to ripen. What we do not want to do is just be content to fully ripen where we are. Personally, I do not ever want to quit learning, or arrive.

“Look for ways to improve any aspect of  your capabilities and skills. Stay fresh and green. Like good fresh apples, you will be in high demand.”  ~ John Parker Stewart

img_1749How sad is it that I have literally heard people say, “I have many years experience and am old enough that I don’t need to participate in professional development activities”? I guess these people think time is standing still, but really they are becoming over-ripe rotten apples. Being a leader means being willing to continually grow and develop. If we don’t want to become over-ripe we must develop our insights about ourselves and our areas for growth.

Servant Leadership; Not Just Cliche`

Servant Leadership in Action: How You Can Achieve Great Relationships and ResultsServant Leadership in Action: How You Can Achieve Great Relationships and Results by Kenneth H Blanchard

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I began reading Servant Leadership in Action from a somewhat jaded view. It had seemed to me that the term and thought of servant leadership has become somewhat of just a cliche`. I have watched leaders become doormats in the guise of being a servant leader. Or poor leaders making the excuse of not producing because of being a servant leader. This book reminds us that servant leadership is about influence and action and not just cliche`. My favorite thing about this book is all the great leaders that Ken Blanchard had write chapters, or really essays, that are collected in the book. I have read most, if not all, of the books by many of the chapter authors in this book. It is a great review of many of the great leaders of our time. We are guided through how to truly be a servant leader to those we serve. We are taught that servant leadership is about relationships and a desire to lift up those around us. Great leaders, we are reminded, are always looking for ways to develop and advance those in their organizations. This book is designed in six sections to help us understand how to do this. Additionally we are given exemplars that have been lifted up as the models for servant leadership. If you want to do more for the people you serve and care more about people, then read this book to learn how to empower them to use common sense and good judgment. you want to start catching people doing the right things, and great things, read this book!
~Dr. Byron L. Ernest

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