Nobody Follows A Tentative Person

I was standing at the meat counter at the local market and watched a leadership principle unfold before me: Nobody Follows a Tentative Person.

Normally, they have little slips of paper with numbers that make the process run smoothly: take your number and wait for it to be called. But they ran out of numbers. Which meant we had to figure out for ourselves who was next.

The nice part: people were concerned about not "butting" ahead.Meatcounter

The bad part: as a result, when the butcher yelled, "Next", there was a lot of shuffling, faux self-deprecation, and confusion. No meat was moving out of the display case.

Finally, someone said strongly, "I believe I am next" and, at the same time. stepped forward right in front of the butcher. Following her move, there was a similar response at the ensuing, "Next!"

The "Aw, Shucks Shuffle"

This struck me as being similar to what we often see in meetings and presentations. In an effort to not want to stand out or seem "pushy", meeting leaders or speakers do the "Aw, Shucks Shuffle".  The result: people in the room wait forever--uncomfortably--to get to the topical meat counter.

It's popular to want to seem like "one of the guys" and do the "we're all equal" thing.

We're not. When you are in front of a room you've been given the responsibility to lead the rest of the group.

So remember: no one follows a tentative person.

Self-Awareness Matters

Organizations gain a lot more from leaders who take responsibility for what they know they don't know than from leaders who pretend to know everything.

Self Awareness Dog MirrorWhat recently occurred to me in an "aha" moment is this: self-awareness is one of the most valuable leadership competencies, yet it is one of the least discussed. In an effort to appear task-focused and "business-like," organizational feedback often gravitates toward hard skills and competencies that are more easily measurable. 

Have You Thought About This?

People who don't know their strengths and weaknesses actually tend to overestimate themselves. Research literature and my own coaching experiences have shown that poor self-awareness leads to poor performance and, frequently, termination. 

We live in a highly competitive culture. I've watched more than a few leaders and leader wannabes try to appear as if they know everything all the time. They believe that if they don't, people will question and even challenge their capability, undermining their leadership effectiveness. In fact, the opposite is true. Whether you acknowledge your weaknesses or not, those around you still see them. The result: trying to hide a weakness actually magnifies it, leading to a perceived lack of integrity and, ultimately, trust. 

Knowing yourself helps you use your strengths better, develop where you can, and avoid or compensate for areas where you are unskilled or just plain unsuited. 

The simple truth: People who know themselves better do better.


Changing Something? Start It Right

If you're about to change something, remember that it's your change.

You've thought about what you want to do--most likely for a long time. You've weighed the risks and benefits. You've visualized what things would look like if your new idea/project/improvement is implemented. You've even thought about at least some of the details. But most of all. . .

You are convinced of it's worth and you feel good about it.

Hey, I'm pumped up! Why isn't everybody else feeling good? 

When you introduce your new thing, you are at the end of your process. Everyone else is at the beginning. They can't get to where you are without you laying out your full process--including your own apprehensions.


What have you needed in the past to commit to someone else's new idea? Think about it and see if these match pretty closely

To maximize your chances of gaining commitment, be real and. . .

1. Tell people what you want to accomplish.
2. Tell them what led you to believe it's important to them and to you.
3. Tell them your own struggles along the way.
4. Tell them how long you've been thinking about it.
5. Tell them you are committed to it.
6. Tell them your plan for helping them be able to do "it."

Then give people a reasonable amount of time to think about it, question it, be uncomfortable with the newness of it, begin to accept it, and then be involved with how it will be  implemented.

How long will it take?

Depending upon the size of the change, the time line for building critical mass of acceptance and action will vary. Your relational behavior--physical presence, clarity, direction, ability to listen, and encouragement--will help determine  your success.

Remember that it's your idea. Do what it takes to help make it their idea. Well, that sounds manipulative. I hate manipulative.  Let's look at it this way: It's your idea. But ownership by others comes through being allowed to use one's own ideas for the implementation. After all, the people involved know best how their operations work.  So let other people develop and mold the "how to." Then provide a reasonable amount of time along with your support.

The outcome: you stand a great chance of other people making your idea even better in the process. Everybody gets a chance at creating something new.  Satisfaction and success follow.

Big win for all concerned.

Tell The Truth About Talent

If you want to be the person who offers real value in a Talent Management discussion, then be the person who demands the truth about performance.

Organizations are all about power and equilibrium. Over time, "conventional wisdom"  creates the list of high potential candidates. Then, at "developmental discussion" time the same names often keep popping up, unquestioned.

Seek TruthPreparing for a keynote at a healthcare conference, I interviewed some CEO clients and their direct reports. The question: "What would make a manager or HR director a leader in your eyes?" The answer: "Ask the hard questions when a name is proposed for promotion or a new assignment." 

The execs shared how easy it is to have someone perform well in one assignment, then have that single success create a "career aura." When it comes time for succession planning and development, no one really questions the totality of the individual's success.

The lesson for all of us: Ask for the evidence. Value rests with the one who helps uncover the truth about performance.

Your organization's future depends on it.

Culture and Perception

Clear-thinking people everywhere acknowledge that it's easy for two people to see the same situation very differently. 

In a world where we increasingly work across time zones and cultures, this would have even greater meaning if perceptions were influenced by one's culture. While those of us who work globally may have experienced--and thought about-- the inherent reality of these perceptive differences, a few years ago Canadian and Japanese researchers  confirmed some very specific distinctions.

East westWhen East Doesn't Meet West

According to the study:

Researchers showed Japanese and North American participants images, each of which consisted of one center model and four background models in each image. The researchers manipulated the facial emotion (happy, angry, sad) in the center or background models and asked the participants to determine the dominant emotion of the center figure.

The outcome?

The majority of Japanese participants (72%) reported that their judgments of the center person's emotions were influenced by the emotions of the background figures, while most North Americans (also 72%) reported they were not influenced by the background figures at all.

Takahiko Masuda, a Psychology professor from the University of Alberta, noted:

"Our results demonstrate that when North Americans are trying to figure out how a person is feeling, they selectively focus on that particular person's facial expression, whereas Japanese consider the emotions of the other people in the situation."

This may be because Japanese attention is not concentrated on the individual, but includes everyone in the group, says Masuda.

Why Is This Important for Business?

1. It has always baffled me when I've watched Western corporations decide to indiscriminately import programs and processes that  work well in the East. Looking for a "quick fix" or a "magic pill" is a very North American business characteristic. At the same time, there is no reason not to examine theprinciples behind things that work elsewhere; then, figure out what might be applicable and how to make it work.

When corporate meeting rooms ring with the cry, "Perception is reality," then Masuda's study should be a caution that global reality can't be driven by local perceptions.

2. Even more specifically, definitions of "team" hugely influence what happens across cultures. North American "teams" are made up of individuals who see themselves as individuals participating in a group with a common purpose for some finite period of time (my observation and experience). Eastern team members honor the group as the important entity to be served, not as a vehicle to one's individual career aspirations.

While time and exposure have somewhat altered instances of the above in the minds of some, Masuda's study should be taken seriously by organizations involved in East-West business and collaboration.

This is one instance where perception can be grounded in reality--for the good of all concerned.


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Steve Roesler, Principal & Founder
The Steve Roesler Group
Office: 609.654.7376
Mobile: 856.275.4002

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