Greg Gilbert's notes

Entrepreneur, founder of Corporadio

This is my take on a question asked on a leadership Q&A page.

What people in leadership positions fear most is to let people down.

As a young entrepreneur, I was afraid not to be able to make payroll. A poor decision could hurt the whole staff.

These people took a chance on me when they joined my business. They believed in the vision and started following me.

When people accept to follow you for any other reason than authority, they entrust you with something they care about.

In some extreme situations, it can be their lives. At work, it can be their careers or the next promotion.

If you are concerned about people, experiencing fear is normal.

I'd even argue that it's healthy. It keeps you alert and gives you the motivation to try your best.

Now, you don't want to let this fear grow out of control.

To keep it in check, approach the issue methodically.

Start by defining what you fear and put words on what scares you.

Then, make sure that people are aware of the risks. Don't brush them off, thinking that risks are evident.

Be honest and transparent.. without scaring people. It's a fine line; you don't want them to panic, but you certainly don't want them to follow you blindly.

Great leaders make sure that everybody understands the risks, terms, and rules at all times.

They do not hesitate to regularly check in to make sure that people are still following willingly. And that they know what it entails.

When people buy in on a vision, they need to own their share of the risks, too.

Even though you will do everything in your power to protect them.

And why you should care about the way you package your communication.

Recently, I had to write a detailed email to a customer.

I answered some of his questions regarding my company's software and provided guidance to help him improve results.

My reply drew from my experience working with similar companies. When I was done, it looked like a report I'd send at the end of a short consulting gig.

What I'm implying here is how long this email was. A small litany of bullet points and over 1500 words.

And that was after severe editing to make my reply easy to parse and process.

I turned to my business partner and asked:

“Should I turn this long email into a multipage document?”

“Why would you do that?”, he inquired.

“To highlight the work that went into this.”

I wanted the customer to understand how much I cared about his issue. I wanted him to have a sense of the value at first glance.

Email doesn't do justice to the content.

When you buy luxury goods from Hermès or Louis Vuitton, they come in stunning, well-designed packaging.

Vuitton famously includes a dust bag.

While I recently learned that there is a market for these dust bags that you can't buy separately from a Vuitton product, this is not what the customer initially wanted to purchase.

However, it participates in the experience of the buyer.

Nobody would imagine a handbag with an exorbitant price tag delivered in a cheap supermarket plastic bag.

I ended up sending the email. The content was premium. I felt like I sent it in a plastic bag.

This is my take on a question asked on a leadership Q&A page.

Some might be inclined to say that a leader needs to be both task-oriented and people-oriented.

My answer is that it's either-or. It depends on what is expected of the leader.

Scenario 1: The leader is an expert in their field. Initially, they were hired for their skills and experience.

Now, they have the responsibility to show the team how to reach a certain quality threshold. How to perform at a high level of expertise.

They are leading by example. And that requires to be task-oriented since that's what you want from the team following them.

Evidently, a bit of people skills are always required. For instance, the leader needs to possess pedagogical abilities.

Scenario 2: The leader is the manager of the team. Their main tasks include mediation, facilitation, supervision, and development of their teammates.

This leader is accountable for the collective outcomes.

And to achieve team performance requires to be people-oriented.

When leader number one leads by example and through an authority built on skills and experience, leader number two needs a strong understanding of psychology.

Organizations often want to have a leader 1+2.

A leader who has the knowledge of the craft (and is task-oriented because of their background) and can also empower individuals to achieve collective performance.

So they promote their most senior people to leadership positions. They train them with accelerated leadership education and send them back on the pitch.

It rarely works.

A better way to do it is to leverage complementarity.

Create an outstanding duo instead of relying on a mediocre soloist.

This is my take on a question asked on a leadership Q&A page.

Father of modern management Peter Drucker said:

“[...] to get strength, one has to put up with weaknesses.”

Don't waste time trying to get rid of weaknesses when you could be furthering strengths instead.

Anyone has a set of skills and character traits. Hopefully, some of these are relevant strengths to their position.

But some of these traits might be perceived as weaknesses in the context of a particular job.

When you hire people who excel at what they do, excessively pronounced traits are part of the package.

Extreme traits leave no room for somewhat opposite characteristics.

You can't hire an amazing creative and hope to get a risk manager. Likewise, you can't hire a disciplined project manager and complain about their inflexibility.

Try to convert their weaknesses, and you will destroy what made them great for the job in the first place.

So how, then, can you have your cake and eat it too?

You can reduce the impact of your teammates' weaknesses by managing situations.

If a project could be at risk because of one's weakness, you assign it to someone else.

And if you need this person and no one else, you pair them with a teammate whose strengths complement their weakness.

Creating beautifully complementary teams is part of the art of management.

One last thought.

Some weaknesses can't be overlooked even if the person is exceptionally gifted. Integrity, for instance, is one of them.

Try to mitigate these at your own peril.

“If the software crashes during the demo, it's game over for us!”

This is something I'm still guilty of: using hyperbolic, epic language. Part of me probably believes that this increases motivation and concentration.

The reality is that it rarely works. It adds stress to the existing pressure.

Of course, we know this demo is important!

A better approach is to turn this pressure into positive energy. Channel the existing tension by looking at the potential, positive outcome.

When an upcoming situation stresses us, chances are this situation carries some tremendous rewards.

Focus on that, but remain moderate.

Experience teaches us the stakes are rarely as high as we think. We are resilient animals. Most of what we create is as well.

When I read the passage below, I immediately highlighted it on my kindle; I recognized this tendency in me.

I'm working on fixing it, but it's a work in progress!

How many times do you need to repeat something to your team to truly get heard? Many, many times.

I've read in a book that when you have something important to communicate, you should repeat it until people start making fun of you.

Extreme? Maybe. But I'm willing to believe it.

A few years ago, people doing marketing commonly said that it took seven expositions to a product or a brand for someone to consider buying it.

In an ocean of information, I'd bet that this number is way more significant today. Probably more than tenfold.

The same applies to the ideas and information you share with your team.

The number of things you are competing against for their attention has also increased.

People always had thoughts about their personal lives and work.

However, what is new is that your message is now competing against thousands of micro information battling fiercely for their attention.

I'm talking about the kind of information spread through digital. Accessible via the person's mobile, these attention stealers have invaded the workplace. Not necessarily during work time, but during the break.

Behind many of these posts and ads are marketers who understand how to make people care about what they have to say.

Add to these skills the firepower to expose people to the same idea 5, 10, 20 times across the day.

This is what you, the leader, are competing against.

If you have an important message and want to get heard, you need to start finding ways to repeat your message over and over again. Until people start making fun of it.

We all want to make better decisions faster. In some cases, that means not deciding at all.

Which is the topic of today's post.

Human beings are wired to hate uncertainty. We like predictability and clear answers, sometimes to the point of absurdity.

We want to know how things are going to develop. We want to know how a person feels towards us.

Making a decision is a shortcut to gaining some apparent control over uncertainty.

By taking action now, I can force uncertainty to dissipate. For better or for worse.

In my thinking toolbox, I recently added a set of questions. They help me ponder the weight of uncertainty in my decisions.

1) Am I looking for a solution because uncertainty is making me uneasy?

2) What would be the cost of doing nothing?

3) What is the worst that could happen from doing nothing?

4) What is the best that could happen from doing nothing?

5) How long can I safely delay this decision?

Passing a problem through these filters allows me to evaluate if a solution is needed. Or if it's only needed because uncertainty is causing me discomfort.

Did you know that only a minority of CEOs are coached?

As I was looking through my notes, I found an article about coaching for CEOs.

I figured this is something you might find interesting too.

The first surprising data is that only a third of the CEOs declared being coached. For the most part, it was their initiative, not following a recommendation from their chairpersons.

I guess that the other two-thirds have advisors to go to. Still, I found this number surprisingly low.

My second takeaway was top skills CEOs actively work on:

Delegation and conflict management.

Conflict management particularly stands out because it's the number one skill CEOs believe they need to develop.

This leads us to my third takeaway:

Compassion, persuasion, and interpersonal skills all live at the bottom of these lists.

That raises two questions.

1) How can one get better at conflict management without heavily focusing on improving their compassion and persuasion skills?

2) Are these skills ranking so low because they sound weak, vague, or abilities a seasoned CEO should already possess?

This study's a couple of years old now.

Hopefully, more executives are open to coaching now, including so-called soft skills, which are indispensable to being a good leader.

Here are three questions employees want their CEOs to address now that the peak of the pandemic seems to be behind us.

1. Is the company safe? Is my job safe?

Many people have lost their jobs, and those who got to keep theirs have seen some colleagues, friends, or family members being laid off.

So they wonder how healthy the company employing them is.

How filled is the order book? Will there be work for people of my trade?

2. Will I be able to keep some of the advantages of working from home?

Alongside the struggles of working remotely, some have come to appreciate its perks.

No commute. Less time wasted in meetings. Sometimes more flexibility in one's schedule.

These employees want to hear from you if the company has plans to change the way it works.

Will some of these temporary arrangements become permanent?

3. How is the company preparing for the next similar event?

This pandemic was a wake-up call. Nobody wants to have to experience it ever again.

Yet scientists warn us about future similar catastrophes waiting to happen.

Now is the perfect time for leaders to share the lessons learned and how the organization is preparing to better cope with future disasters.

There's one desire that all human beings have.

Understand this basic human need to build better relationships. Master it to empower people to give their best.

This need, this desire we all have is to feel important.

All of us want to be acknowledged. No matter who we are or our past accomplishments.

We want to feel confident that who we are and what we do matter.

Organizations have mission statements. The hope is that the collective pursuit of a meaningful goal will runoff on individuals and make them feel fulfilled, important, and therefore better performers.

It can happen. Sometimes.

But it cannot replace the old fashion direct feeling of importance given from one person to another.

My challenge for you this week is the following: make one person dear to your heart and one colleague or partner feel important.

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