Caution. Great Help Can Actually Be Anti-Help.

Caution. Great Help Can Actually Be Anti-Help.

“In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”— Maya Angelou

I was once coaching a leader whose team absolutely adored him.

He did a great job leading the team. He worked extra hours to make sure every team member was successful. Whenever a team member seemed to be struggling with a task, the leader just took care of the task himself.

I expect you can see the problem already. Even though the team liked the help their leader gave, he was actually giving the team a very subtle form of anti-help. He was denying the team its opportunities for growth.

The senior executives needed this leader to assume leadership of a number of larger teams and assume broader responsibility. Yet the executives knew that they had a problem. The leader’s current team was a critical part of a high technology project but the leader had not grown the skills of the team. There was no one on the team who could take on the upcoming challenges without his help.

The first step in the transformation of this team leader was difficult. I told him that for his team to grow, he had to allow them the opportunity to fail.

In response, he looked faint. He lowered his head below his knees and took a few minutes of silence. From that position, he said, “How big a failure?”

I told him that the potential failures could start small. After a minute he sat back up. “I can do that.”

He needed some more coaching on how to grow his team’s skills, but the transformation started with his letting go of providing too much help because it had become anti-help to his team’s growth.

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,

Alan Willett

 

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Be Neither the Giver or Receiver of Anti-help

Be Neither the Giver or Receiver of Anti-help

“Leadership is about vision and responsibility, not power.”
— Seth Berkley

There is a lesson about anti-help I learned early in my career. The project I was leading had some troubles as projects sometimes do. Unfortunately, I was not treating the project with the same level of importance as the executives were. Further, I had done a poor job of communicating my understanding of the problems and I had not made others aware of how I was addressing them. The executive team did not ask if I wanted help, they just sent in five people to “help”. Unfortunately, this led to significant delays in the project. My team had to stop the problem-fixing work we were already engaged in. Bringing these new people up to date on the situation took an inordinate amount of time. The project was eventually delivered and the executives were pleased with the help they provided to the project. However, team morale was lowered and the team members felt deprived of their ownership in the project’s success. Anti-help had been given and I had accepted it. From that experience, I learned how to ward off anti-help. The key is to provide crucial product stakeholders with the answers to these five questions on a regular basis. Do so even if these questions are never asked. Even when others around me were getting plenty of anti-help, my projects were now immune.
  1. What are the biggest problems with your project right now and what are you doing about them?
  2. What are the top risks to quality with your project and what are you doing about them?
  3. What are the top risks to schedule with your project and what are you doing about them?
  4. When is the most likely time your project will finish with high quality – and how do you know?
  5. What help can executives provide that will improve schedule and quality?

If you answer these questions well, you will have warded off anti-help.

As an executive, ask these questions.  Do not assume that help is not needed simply because you have heard no requests for help. If someone cannot answer these questions well, their immediate need is the help in finding the answers to the questions. When they do answer them well, you will know how to give the support the project needs.  

You will not be firing the anti-help torpedos. Your projects will thank you.

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,

Alan Willett

Sunrise in a city very near Death Valley in California

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When you are focused on speed, do you call for the help you need?

When you are focused on speed, do you call for the help you need?

“If you need help bark like a dog.” – Gendry.
“That’s stupid. If I need help I’ll shout help.” – Arya”

— George R.R. Martin, A Clash of Kings

This is not just a picture of a fence overgrown with morning glories. This is a picture of a small portion of a fence that was completely repaired in an amazingly short amount of time. The fence goes around our entire yard. Since it’s been there for quite a few years, it needed fixing. There were a few posts that needed replacement as well as several parts of the lattice that needed repairs. A friend and I looked over what needed to be done and estimated it would take us at least two to three full days. I called in our local fence repair experts. They did a much better job than I ever could have. Instead of the repairs taking two to three days, the experts were finished in under two hours! Along with the speed and quality work, they were able to do the work without disturbing the garden. They even replaced portions of fencing covered by the morning glories without damaging them. How did they do that? This result reinforced to me why businesses should, and do, call on me and other experts like me to help them accelerate their progress. If you have the need for speed, call in the help you require.

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,

Alan Willett

 

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Four Questions to Ponder on the Equinox

Four Questions to Ponder on the Equinox

“All you can do is learn good to balance the bad. Learn and do all the good within your reach. Then, if you wake in a sweat, you have something to set against the dream.”— Tamora Pierce

The equinox was yesterday. The sunrise came as expected, splitting the night from the day in a perfect balance. In the Northern Hemisphere, it brought summer to a close and here in New York, it ushered in a season where the leaves will be painted with the glories of fall. Whether your part of the globe is turning toward longer or shorter days, this is a perfect time for a pause to look at the bigger picture of leadership. Here are four leadership questions for you to ponder:
  1. Is the work you are doing building your skills?
  2. Are you leading your projects in a way that is building the talents of the team’s members?
  3. Are you and those you are leading doing the work in a way that will exhaust them by the start of 2020 or in a way that will have them leaping into the new year with momentum?
  4. Are you having fun with your leadership?

It is my observation that those leaders who answer the first three questions with a strong “Yes!” are almost certainly having fun while leading. If they answer no, it is less likely.

I encourage you to work on moving all your answers to a “Yes!”. You will find that the value you provide to those around you, your company, and your customers will grow.

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,

Alan Willett

 

 

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Enjoy a Wealth of Learning Opportunities

Enjoy a Wealth of Learning Opportunities

“Tired of being led instead of leading? Then it’s time to take charge, take the lead and be the leader you deserve.”— Nora Gonzalez

One of the surprising delights that came with publishing my first book (Leading the Unleadable) was being invited to speak in many different forums.

Recently, I had the delightful opportunity to be interviewed by Nora Gonzalez on her new series entitled “Ignite The Leader In You: Go From Passive Employee To Promoted And In Charge.”

If you sign up for Nora’s free series, you will have the opportunity to hear 20 interesting interviews with leaders from around the world, including one with me.

Nora said I could share the following:

Nora’s series will cover:

  • How to turn your challenges into joy
  • How you can be an exceptional leader in any work environment
  • The best way to increase your emotional intelligence and have your team fall in love with you
  • How to give feedback that inspires and encourages your team members
  • The major pitfalls of productivity and burnout
  • And so much more

The great news is you don’t even have to leave your house to attend. The “Ignite The Leader In You: Go From Passive Employee To Promoted And In Charge” event is free and virtual.

All you need to do is to register to attend, and every day you will receive an email with training that is less than an hour long.

Nora told me she wishes she had opportunities like this when she started her career.  I do agree with that.  And I have to add, these opportunities are also valuable when you are more advanced in your career.  I find that almost every interview with experts I listen to, I can pick up a least one valuable idea that helps me get better myself.

Check out the full details and sign up right here.

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,

Alan Willett

 

 

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I have seen leaders show great endurance in leading marathon projects. They are putting in marathon hours. The sweat sheen on them and their teams is obvious, even heroic.

Do You Need a Win?

A client wrote to me recently with a note that said simply “I need a win.” Have you been there, where it feels like you have faced a sudden losing streak and quite simply there is a need for a win? I have. I expect Elon Musk is looking for one with Tesla.

The Reader’s Edge

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BOLD

BOLD

“A fascinating thing about mindsets is that the positive ones build on one another, and the negative ones do too. They spiral, or snowball, one onto the next.”— Alex Goldfayn

I have a great T-shirt that is bright orange with the word BOLD front and center. One of the reasons I love the shirt is that one of my sons enjoys covering up the B which he finds quite hilarious. But my main attachment to the shirt is that my consultant & author friend Alex Goldfayn gave it to me when I bought his book. I was delighted to see that his book is doing quite well. I even found it at an airport display of great books. It is a book about growing “confidence, happiness, and sales”. While the focus is on sales, the lessons in the book are great for any leader. Here are three of the critical lessons I loved.
  • Do the most important things first, even when they are hard or scary. 
    As Frank Herbert wrote in Dune, “Fear is the mind-killer.” Alex writes persuasively about why it is essential to overcome fear – and better yet, how to master your confidence over fear.
  • Be persistent and patient. 
    Even when doing the right thing the right way, you may not get immediate perfect results. Be persistent. Be patient. The book contains many examples that demonstrate why this is key to success.
  • Work with joy. 
    Alex details why no one enjoys buying from someone who is stressed. My own extension of that is that people would rather follow a leader who leads with confidence and joy.

Be bold!  Do good in the world.

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,

Alan Willett
You may also like:

Endurance Is Not Always a Virtue

I have seen leaders show great endurance in leading marathon projects. They are putting in marathon hours. The sweat sheen on them and their teams is obvious, even heroic.

Do You Need a Win?

A client wrote to me recently with a note that said simply “I need a win.” Have you been there, where it feels like you have faced a sudden losing streak and quite simply there is a need for a win? I have. I expect Elon Musk is looking for one with Tesla.

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"Ritual is important to us as human beings. It ties us to our traditions and our histories." — Miller Williams, Poet My wife and I just celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary. Even though real work of building a life together happens in the minutes and hours between...

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"Welcome to Sherwood!" — Robin Hood Father's Day was a delight for me. My family treated me a number of fun things. I was served breakfast in a hammock. I was treated to a delicious cold milkshake at a local ice-cream shop. My daughter and I have a plan to go buy some...

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"I have never had to face anything that could overwhelm the native optimism and stubborn perseverance I was blessed with. " — Sonia Sotomayor One of my best clients and I were enjoying the start of our day at a local coffee cafe. We covered a range of topics and one...

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"Language is the means of getting an idea from my brain into yours without surgery. " — Mark Amidon The Washington DC zoo has this very interesting roulette-style wheel located just past the cheetah exhibit. You spin the wheel to find out if you caught your prey, your...

ANTICIPATE INFLECTION POINTS

"A strategic inflection point is a time in the life of a business when its fundamentals are about to change. that change can mean an opportunity to rise to new heights. But it may just as likely signal the beginning of the end." — Andrew Grover There are a wave of...

PATIENCE, PASSION, PERSISTENCE, PROGRESS

"Even though it is not always easy… being a planetary scientist is one of the coolest jobs on the planet!" — Elizabeth (Zibi) Turtle   Imagine exploring Titan! And to be clear, I am not referring to the planet Titan of Thanos (Avengers), I am referring to a...

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Paradigm leaps take need, courage, and sweat. You will notice a different look and feel to the newsletter this week. Earlier this year, I became unsatisfied with a few key things and decided to make some changes.