8 Tips for Becoming a True Leader

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On the surface, the difference between a step and a stumble seems obvious.

But in business, plotting long and hard to climb into a leadership role often is indistinguishable from inadvertently falling into one. The fact is, whether you take a deliberate step toward an objective or immediately trip on a shoelace, you may end up in the same spot. Put another way, many people who have a laser focus on getting to the top make it there no faster than those who have a leadership opportunity thrust upon them.

Yet knowing the difference between thoughtful business leadership and the kind that happens seemingly by accident is critical—not only in your ability to grow and develop as a leader, but to establish a pattern of success that’s deliberate, not miraculous.

Here, then, are eight attributes that separate genuine leadership from leadership that’s more a matter of chance:

1. Real leadership means leading yourself. Passing out orders is as easy as passing out business cards. But a prudent leader also knows how to lead himself or herself—not merely to provide a genuine example to others, but to become a working element of the overall machinery of your business. “It’s important that leaders have the ability to focus and motivate themselves as they motivate others,” says Larraine Segil, an author and consultant who teaches executive education at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

2. Don’t be a monarch. Thoughtful leadership likely means you already have a talented work force in place. That’s terrific. But be careful not set up a throne room in the process. Accidental leaders often inadvertently establish a system of guidance that’s unnecessarily restrictive. Guide employees, but don’t implement more parameters than are absolutely necessary. “It’s important to influence the people with whom you work,” says Segil. “Don’t see your business as a hierarchy.”

3. Be open to new ways of doing things. One potential land mine of a prosperous operation is to repeat anything that proves successful. It’s hard to argue against that, but an inadvertent leader will put far too much stock in sticking with what always works. By contrast, thoughtful leadership acknowledges success but also recognizes there are always ways to do things better.

4. Remember that white males are fast becoming a minority. Statistics show that white males now make up only a small fraction of the workplace population. Couple that with growing partnerships across borders, and it becomes obvious that blending a variety of cultures and backgrounds in a work environment is an essential leadership skill. A thoughtless leader will try to cope with this as best as he can. One with more vision will work to take advantage of differences. “Competition—the constant push for faster, better, cheaper — mandates that we learn to effectively deal with differences in the workplace,” says career consultant Susan Eckert of Advance Career and Professional Development in Brightwaters, N.Y. A company that weaves an appreciation of diversity into its cultural fabric will make itself “unbeatable,” Eckert says.

5. Establish a genuine sense of commitment. I must admit this is a personal sore point with me. I’ve seen too many company slogans and catch phrases whose import is no deeper than the paper they’re written on. Want to be “committed to superior service”? More power to you, but a genuine leader will see that as words and little else. Instead, put some meat on those bones—establish how to quantify excellence, design a cogent plan to achieve it, and set a reasonable but real timetable for its completion.

6. Finish the job. Many business leaders yak about their complete game, but how many actually finish what they say they’re going to start? A thoughtless leader who never genuinely finishes anything loses the confidence of clients and customers. That lack of follow-through isn’t going to be lost on his or her employees, either. Instead, set goals and establish pragmatic, accountable measures to actually finish what you start. “The ability to complete things is critical,” Segil says. “Nothing’s useful unless you actually complete it.”

7. Show genuine appreciation. Thoughtless leaders must have forearms like Popeye’s, what with all the back-slapping they do. That’s fine, but good performance requires a more substantive response. Leaders with an eye to the future hand out praise but augment it with real rewards: promotions, raises, bonuses, and other tangible tokens of appreciation. That motivates your people, not only to apply themselves with enthusiasm but to stick around your company longer than they might otherwise.

8. Know that leadership skills come from learning, too. Far too may business executives believe leadership skills stem from some sort of wondrous epiphany or other such flash of insight. Sure, great ideas can come to any of us, but being a bona fide leader also means study. Read books on effective leadership, attend seminars, and pick the brains of colleagues to see what works for them. It can be a long education, but one with rewards that multiply with the more knowledge you have under your belt.

2011 Microsoft Business Tips

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A Fun Guide to Personnel Evaluation

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Every once in a while we need to take an irreverent look at what we do.

For all of you who are involved in personnel evaluation, here is a guide – sort of.

Guide to Evaluation

Letting Go

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Letting go does not mean to stop caring, it means I can’t do it for someone else.

Letting go is not to cut myself off, it is the realization that I can’t control another.

Letting go is not to enable, but to allow learning from natural consequences.

Letting go is to admit powerlessness, which means the outcome is not in my hands.

Letting go is not to try to change or blame another, it is to make the most of myself.

Letting go is to not care for, but to care about.

Letting go is not to fix, but to be supportive.

Letting go is not to judge, but to allow another to be a human being.

Letting go is not to be in the middle arranging the outcome, but to allow others to affect their own destinies.

Letting go is not to be protective, it is to permit another to face reality.

Letting go is not to deny, but to accept.

Letting go is not to nag, scold, or argue, but instead to search out my own shortcomings and correct them.

Letting go is not to adjust everything to my own desires, but to take each day as it comes and cherish myself in it.

Letting go is not to criticize and regulate anybody, but to become what I dream I can be.

Letting go is not to regret the past, but to grow and live for the future.

Letting go is to fear less and live more!

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5 Ways Principals Can Keep More Irreplaceable Teachers

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Irreplaceables ….. Teachers who are so successful they are nearly impossible to replace, but who too often vanish from schools as the result of neglect and inattention.

Irreplaceables influence students for life, and their talents make them invaluable assets to their schools.  The problem is, their schools don’t seem to know it.

1.  Start the school year with great expectations

The best teachers want clarity. Use meeting or orientation time at the start of the year to rally teachers around a clear and specific definition of excellent teaching and a set of goals for making the school a better place for learning. Then set individual goals aligned to that vision. Tell teachers that you will observe them frequently and that you will be honest when they are falling short. Be clear that ineffective teaching is not an option.

2.  Recognize excellence publicly and frequently

Don’t let success be a secret. Set aside 5 to 10 minutes in regular meetings to publicly celebrate teachers who have done exceptional work in the classroom or achieved a notable milestone with their students. Congratulate them and tie what they’re doing to the school’s goals and vision of great teaching. Don’t praise everyone every time; nothing demoralizes Irreplaceables more than false praise for mediocre or poor performance.

 3.  Treat your Irreplaceables like they are irreplaceable

Make it hard to leave your school. List the teachers who are most critical to your school’s academic success and spend time with them. Observe them at work and offer regular feedback. Get to know their interests and development needs, help them access resources, and give them opportunities to grow their careers and increase their impact. Invest them in the school by involving them in decision-making, and make sure other school leaders treat them well, too.

 4. Start having “stay conversations ” by Thanksgiving

Many teachers use the winter holidays to think about what’s next. Block off time after Thanksgiving to talk to your Irreplaceables and rising-star teachers about continuing to teach at the school next year. Tell them how important they are and how much you want them to return. Ask them about their own interests and concerns, and if they are considering other options, ask what you can do to convince them to stay.

 5. Hold the line on good teaching

Schools that refuse to tolerate poor teaching keep more of their top teachers. Inevitably, some teachers will struggle, despite good intentions and hard work. Be honest with them about their weaknesses, give them regular feedback and support, and set reasonable limits on how long they have to show significant improvement (months, not years). Make sure they don’t get mixed messages from other school administrators or coaches. However difficult it may be, do not allow unsuccessful teachers to linger.

from Understanding the Real Retention Crisis in America’s Urban Schools

The Irreplaceables

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Irreplaceables ….. Teachers who are so successful they are nearly impossible to replace, but who too often vanish from schools as the result of neglect and inattention.

Irreplaceables influence students for life, and their talents make them invaluable assets to their schools.  The problem is, their schools don’t seem to know it.

THE SOLUTION …. Smart Retention

Smart retention hinges on the ability of school and district leaders to accurately identify Irreplaceables and low-performing teachers. States and school districts need to replace outdated teacher evaluation systems that rate nearly all teachers “satisfactory” and give them little useful feedback on their performance.

Research has shown that combining value-added data with the results of classroom observations and student surveys provides a more complete and accurate picture of a teacher’s success. Although using value-added data was the most practical way to conduct the research for this report, we strongly believe that teacher evaluations in the real world should use a “multiple measure? approach e4

However, school and district leaders don’t need to wait for better evaluations to start focusing on smart retention. While working to build new evaluation systems, they can use existing information to better understand their teachers’ performance.

For example, the Houston Independent School Districi developed a “staff review” process while it worked to build a comprehensive new evaluation system. As part of the process, principals gave each teacher an informal performance rating based on the results of standardized tests, classroom observations and all other available performance information. Research shows that principals can make these kinds of judgments accurately, especially when it comes to the highest and lowest performers.

The process helped the district support smarter retention decisions by requiring principals to discuss the retention of every high- and low-performing teacher with their managers. Principals needed to explain everything they had done to retain their
Irreplaceables. If they were not working to dismiss or counsel out a low-performing teacher, they needed to make a compelling case for giving that teacher another year to improve.

from Understanding the Real Retention Crisis in America’s Urban Schools