2 January 2018
I grew up in a small town, surrounded by adults who constantly told the community’s young people to dream big — that we could do anything we wanted and we could be anything we wanted to become.
These words of encouragement led me to dream big as I pondered what to do with my life.
I loved basketball and dreamed about becoming a coach. My father in his infinite wisdom told me the seemingly transient life of a coach would be difficult, and he guided me to pursue the field of finance. My father was wise indeed as, at the time, very few women were in this male-dominated space.
After about five years in banking, I switched to healthcare and over the course of time, I found myself being encouraged by mentors to seek to lead a hospital. Once again, I dreamed big, although I didn’t see this particular dream as being realistically within reach because I hadn’t followed the traditional career path of hospital CEOs.
In 2006, my dream came true as I was given the opportunity to lead a hospital. In the years that followed, I realized my role as a hospital president was actually a lot like the job of a coach. We had a clear game plan. We practiced discipline to ensure our team was “brilliant at the basics.” We celebrated great performances, and we provided constructive feedback to encourage our team members to play at the top of their game. My dream to be a coach had come true after all.
In 2015, I made a bittersweet decision to retire from hospital administration. Once again, I found myself dreaming big. After almost four decades within financial services and health care industries, I knew my true love from a professional perspective was positive leadership. I also knew that I loved to write. I wondered how I might combine my passion for respectful, effective leadership with my love of prose. I soon discerned my next big dream would be to write a book about leadership… gracious leadership.
Encouragement all around
During the past year, I have been immersed in memorializing the important lessons I have learned about leadership and life. These lessons have been gleaned from my parents, my favorite mentors and my own leadership journey. This book has been a labor of love, and I am pleased to share my dream has come true as “Gracious Leadership: Lead Like You’ve Never Led Before” is being released this month.
I have been blessed throughout my life to have been surrounded by encouragers who taught me to dream big. I now encourage you to do the same. Dream big … dream far beyond what you believe is realistically possible. Take risks. Ask for opportunities. And don’t be afraid to fail as it is our mistakes that teach us the most memorable lessons of life.
You’ll never know what a positive difference you can make until you try. It all starts with a little encouragement and your own big dream.
Are you Ready for Gracious Leadership? The Time is Now!
13 December 2017
Several years ago, I started dreaming about writing a book regarding positive leadership. I am humbled to share that this dream has now come true as Gracious Leadership: Lead Like You’ve Never Led Before will be launched in January.
When I started my journey as a young leader, I was not aware of any book that defined the qualities and competencies required to achieve my personal mission as an aspiring leader – that being, to lead my team with uncompromising respect and to achieve peak performance within a work environment that my employees would revere.
Fast forward almost 40 years… When I decided to leave my full-time role in hospital administration in 2015, I reflected upon the reality that leaders still did not have ready access to a “how to” book that might teach them to become good and gracious, peak performance leaders in a fully respectful environment. As such, I started the journey to write a book about Gracious Leadership.
My zeal for this work grew exponentially this past year as I, like you, found myself bombarded with sad-but-true stories of toxic, high profile leaders. It seems that on a daily basis we hear media accounts about bad bosses who have become known for bully behaviors including sexual harassment.
I thought to myself,“Enough is enough.”
Now is the time to turn the tables and focus on all the good that can be achieved, all of the joy that can be derived, and all the value that can be delivered through positive, effective leadership.
Because you are an ambassador of positive leadership, I wanted you to be aware that the Gracious Leadership website is now available awww.graciousleadershipbook.com. Through this site, I will be sharing resources and blog posts that support the Gracious Leadership Movement.
While the book and ebook will be not be available through Amazon until mid-late January,pre-orders of signed copies are now available directly through the website and should be shipped beginning the second week of January.
Please visit the Gracious Leadership website, order the book if you’d like to learn more, and share freely with your friends, family and colleagues. Come along and join me as we seek to create a world full of good and gracious, peak performance leaders.
Together we can lead like we’ve never led before.
Gracious Leadership Pre-Sales Now Available
7 December 2017
We’re excited to announce that Gracious Leadership: Lead Like You’ve Never Led Before is now available via pre-sale through our website!
A limited supply is available and orders will be filled on a first come, first served basis. The books will be shipped beginning the second week of January.
Please provide special instructions in your order if you would like a signed copy of the book.
Why Gracious Leadership?
6 December 2017
You might wonder why it was important to me that I write a book about Gracious Leadership.
There are two primary reasons. When I started my journey as a young leader, I could not find any book that readily defined the specific qualities and competencies required to achieve my personal mission as an aspiring leader – that being, to lead my teams with uncompromising respect to achieve peak performance results within a work environment that they revered.
As a new MBA in 1978, I simply did the best I could to be a respectful leader who guided my teams to achieve the right results. Thankfully, I was blessed to work for some incredible mentors who showed me the way by the great examples they set.
Fast forward almost 40 years… When I decided to leave my full time role in hospital administration in 2015, I reflected a lot about my journey as a leader and those mentors who had inspired me.
I was struck with the reality that four decades later, we still did not have ready access to a “how to” book about becoming a good and gracious, peak performance leader in a fully respectful environment.
As a result, I found myself becoming intrigued about writing such a book to memorialize the important lessons of respect in leadership and life that I had been blessed to learn throughout the years.
In the spirit of transparency, my passion to pursue this work grew exponentially in 2016 – 2017 as I, like you, found myself bombarded by the media with a seemingly endless proliferation of sad, but true stories of toxic and negative, high profile leaders. I thought to myself, “Enough is enough.”
I decided that remaining silent on the issue of negative leadership was not an option. Instead of falling prey to the adverse impact of highly visible, toxic leaders, it was time to turn the tables and to focus on all the good that can be achieved, all of the joy that can be derived, and all the value that can be delivered through positive, effective leadership.
In short, I wrote this book to inspire a movement of positive leadership… indeed to create a world full of good and gracious, effective and respectful leaders…the type of leaders that inspire teams to achieve greatness. And equally as important, my big dream is to fill our world with role model leaders that we want our children, our grandchildren and the leaders of the future to emulate.
The second reason I wrote Gracious Leadership is both personal and pragmatic. Simply put, books last longer than people, and because the key ingredients of Gracious Leadership are timeless, I wanted to leave these lessons of respectful leadership and life for the generations that will follow.
At a time in our history when civility and decency have been significantly diminished within many environments, aspiring leaders now have an opportunity to step up and serve as fully respectful, peak performance leaders.
Now is the time for Gracious Leadership, a positive leadership movement – and now is your time to make a profound difference as a good and gracious leader! Come along with us. Join us today and lead like you’ve never led before!
What is Gracious Leadership?
30 November 2017
In today’s cut-throat, get-ahead-at-all-costs world, the idea of showing basic decency towards one another has sadly been pushed to the side. Yet, the power of respectful, positive and gracious leadership can be more impactful now than ever before.
Gracious leaders stand apart because they have a better way. Leaders who listen with purpose, recognize they don’t have all the answers, and demonstrate uncompromising respect to all are better equipped to lead their teams to peak performance.
Let’s get real. Great employees want to work for positive, gracious leaders because they want to feel respected, they want to know their work is meaningful and they want to feel appreciated for the value they are providing. Simply put, they want to know they are making a difference! This is true for employees of all ages, and it’s especially a priority for millennials.
Gracious Leadership is not soft stuff. Much to the contrary, Gracious Leadership is a proven, strategic approach through which you can lead your team to peak performance through being fully respectful in how you lead.
Gracious Leadership includes 13 key ingredients. All of the key ingredients are required, and no shortcuts are allowed.
Come along with us in this positive leadership movement and lead like you’ve never led before… starting today!
1 October 2017
Have you ever been purposeful in observing the variation in corporate culture among multiple organizations? I marvel at the stark difference in culture from one company to another as evidenced by “how” customers and co-workers are greeted and treated.
During a recent visit to a large corporation, I observed that employees did not acknowledge each other as they passed in the hallway. In fact, many of the employees had their heads buried in their cell phones and did not appear to be happy. As a guest of the company, I was saddened that, other than the receptionist, very few individuals acknowledged the company’s visitors.
When I worked at Mount Carmel St. Ann’s Hospital, our Leadership Team was purposeful about perpetuating our culture of compassionate accountability. Our employees went out of their way to treat every patient like the “only” person in our world. Patients and visitors frequently commented that they could “feel” our positive culture. Our guests loved the friendly nature and the helpful, “can do” spirit of our employees, physicians and volunteers.
During a recent layover in the Denver airport I saw an ad displayed by Southwest Airlines. The ad said, “In a world full of no, we’re a plane full of yes.” This ad reinforced the accolades I have long heard about the high-flying culture at Southwest.
On my journey home I read within the inflight magazine stories about Southwest employees who love their jobs and who had made a positive difference for their customers. Southwest is intentional about encouraging and reinforcing such culture-shaping behaviors. The company has clearly made a commitment to keep its culture healthy, its employees happy and, as a result, its passengers loyal.
C-Suite Executives and Corporate Directors appear to be having more deliberate conversations about the impact of corporate culture upon sustained organizational performance. As a result, is it time for your company to have a Cultural Check-up?
I invite you to consider the following questions:
- What is your organization doing to create and to sustain a positive corporate culture?
- “How” are the people of your organization showing up every day?
- Is your corporate culture helping or harming your company’s efforts to create brand loyalty?
- Can you identify one word to describe your corporate culture? How would your employees and customers answer this question? Is there a gap in perception? If so, what steps will you take to fill the gap?
- What is your organization doing to recognize systematically the positive, culture-shaping actions of your employees?
- What should you do differently as a leader to make your culture a magnet for customer loyalty and a source of pride for your employees?
My grandmother frequently quoted Ralph Waldo Emerson who said, “What you do speaks so loudly, I can’t hear what you’re saying.
As the pilot of your team, what are you “doing” to pursue a high-flying culture? Now is the time to lead the way so that your company’s performance might soar to new heights!
Discipline Can Be a Lifeboat for Entrepreneurs
1 July 2017
As entrepreneurs and corporate leaders experience rapid success, caution should be used to navigate through rocky waters that have the potential to sink your ship.
Think about it. You’ve launched your new product. The sales charts show an upward trajectory that your team has coveted. Growth is dramatic, and it’s all your team can do to meet increasing demand for your products and services. As leader you have become a Jack-of-All-Trades and a consummate juggler. There’s never enough time. Your employees are stretched to the point that they’re barely keeping their heads above water. Your team feels like it’s drowning in its own success.
It is at this point in the entrepreneur’s journey that critical business processes are vital. The action (or inaction) of the entrepreneurial leader to implement basic business discipline may lead to the ultimate success or demise of the beloved organization.
Entrepreneurial leaders would be wise to implement a handful of business concepts from the organization’s inception. These business practices are prevalent in management courses. They make sense on paper. Yet to an entrepreneur who may get caught up in the adrenaline rush of success or the “busyness of the business”, these simple disciplines may sound boring or unnecessary. “We don’t have time for that” or “We’ll get to that later” may be the very words that some entrepreneurs will live to regret.
I have long been a proponent of Triple A Leadership as critical “must haves” for sustainable organizational success. Triple A Leadership includes Accountability, Alignment and Acknowledgement.
Accountability: One of the most important things a leader can do is to be crystal clear with employees about expectations. Employees can only be held accountable for achieving the right results when they definitively know what is expected of them. Failure by leaders to define goals clearly is like asking a blindfolded person to hit a target.
Alignment: Employees need a direct line of site between what they do every day and how their efforts contribute to the organization’s success. When the team’s actions are aligned with organizational goals, the probability of success can increase dramatically.
Acknowledgement: Employees need and deserve feedback in a predictable manner. They want to know how they’re doing in supporting the organization’s success. “In the moment” recognition and properly conducted performance conversations are vital for employees to understand what she is doing correctly or how he can be even more effective. The key is to assure that performance conversations are relevant and meaningful for each individual and that feedback for every employee reinforces the actions required to achieve the right results. Properly conducted performance conversations can contribute to phenomenal individual and organizational performance. If not implemented correctly, performance conversations can be no more than an exercise in futility.
Leaders who practice Triple A Leadership can achieve sustainable organizational success through highly motivated teams that produce optimal results consistently. Through implementing these simple, yet vital business disciplines early on, Triple A leadership just might become the lifeboat of your entrepreneurial future.
Leader as Coach
1 March 2017
When I was in the eighth grade, my father encouraged me to go out for basketball. While I admittedly had zero natural athletic ability, I was willing to give the sport a try. I’m so glad that I did.
In addition to having fun and learning the love of physical fitness and team spirit, some of my most important leadership lessons originated from this competitive team sport. The principles of coaching in athletics are closely correlated with leadership in the workplace.
As with any corporate team, an athletic team must adhere to the coach’s discipline associated with mastery of basic skills. Athletic teams adopt the coach’s game plan by executing brilliant plays necessary to win the game. Teams in the workplace follow the leader’s game plan by accomplishing goals and strategies required to realize organizational mission and vision.
Victories for coaches are typically measured by the win-loss column. For corporate leaders, the victories are measured by profitability, value and stakeholder engagement. In reality, coaches and leaders understand that victories transcend numerical measures of success. Victory to a leader as coach is also measured by teaching important life lessons such as learning from mistakes so that continuous improvement is pursued for self and for team; accepting disappointment with grace; winning with humility; learning to be comfortable feeling uncomfortable as we accept stretch assignments that we’ve never before attempted; learning that the team accomplishes more together than could ever be achieved by one extraordinary performer; and, learning the importance of teaching those who follow us the same leadership lessons that we learned from those who came before us.
Great coaches like great leaders provide constructive feedback when things don’t go according to plan. They also provide ample praise when excellent results are achieved. I shall never forget the day that as a ninth grader, I heard Coach Kea say, “Smith, that jump shot looks pretty good.” Those simple words of encouragement were all that I needed to set me on fire to work harder and to achieve more. The same is true in the corporate setting as employees are starving to hear the words “Well done. Thank you.” from those to whom they report. It is regrettable that some leaders believe that praise is soft. Recognition is not soft at all. It’s absolutely strategic.
Outstanding coaches and leaders “own” the game plan and the ultimate outcome. There is simply no room for the blame game in greatness. Revered coaches and leaders don’t offer excuses about poor officiating, competitive interventions or extenuating circumstances. The team always gets the credit when things go well. The coach and leader should always accept responsibility when things don’t go according to plan. Period. End of story.
As you think about your own leadership responsibilities, please know that the lessons you teach your team today are the same lessons your team members will pass along to those who follow them. I hope you pay it forward when they say, “Put me in, Coach!”
Slow Down or Speed Up. What’s a Leader to do?
3 January 2017
In an era in which profit margins can be thin and shareholder expectations are high, C Suite executives are challenged to achieve greater results within shorter spans of time and with fewer resources. The bar is set high to do more with less.
Achieving more with less requires adept change management skills as leaders seek to meet and exceed expectations. Run faster. Push harder. Achieve more. Do it now.
A few weeks ago I was chatting with a colleague who expressed frustration that her new boss was making changes without seeking staff input. Her co-workers were uniting, not to accept the advocated change, but rather to forge a common bond of opposition to the boss’s agenda. Not good.
This story reminded me of a time when as a leader, I painfully learned the importance of slowing down before you can speed up.
I had been named to a senior leadership role within a multibillion dollar organization and was recruited to implement strategies for aggressive growth. With fresh eyes, I could see changes that were required to accomplish the desired advances. This was textbook. Complete the project plans. Done. Define implementation plans. Check. Execute the plans. In process. Deliver. Oops! Not so fast.
Everything was going according to plan with one minor exception. The tenured employees were perfectly content with the way things were. They weren’t interested in having some newbie, regardless of title, telling them that the way they were was not good enough. So what happened? They stalled, and so also did the plan.
It was suggested that I needed to slow down and get to know the staff. Slow down? You’ve got to be kidding. As a Type A, the thought of slowing down did not sound like a viable option. It was at this juncture that I learned one of the most important leadership lessons of my professional life. To be successful, I had to slow down purposefully and build relationships of trust before I could speed up and lead necessary change in short order.
What else did I learn from this experience that is applicable to today’s leaders? I learned the importance of asking for feedback from staff. I made it my standard operating procedure to pose three powerful questions to direct reports as well as to front line staff.
- If we could change just one thing to make life better for our customers, what should we change?
- If we could change just one thing to make your work life better, what should we change?
- Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Slowing down to speed up sounds counterintuitive. Yet taking just a little time to seek feedback from your staff makes them feel valued and can foster the “Can Do Spirit” that is required to accelerate performance within today’s high-pressure leadership environment.
Slow down to speed up? Make it happen today and accomplish more with less faster than ever.
Originally published on January 3, 2017 by Smart Business.