Over the years, I’ve often asked the people that worked with me (“worked for me” sounds so autocratic) to compete this short quiz…
“What 3 body parts are essential to becoming the best leader you can be?”
I’d offer a nice little prize (yes, out of my own pocket, Mr. Finance Scrooge!) to anyone who got the correct answer.
Unfortunately, no one was able to grab that prize, but that was fine with me as the quiz was intended to teach, not necessarily reward.
Got a lot of different answers from a wide variety of people…”I have no idea!” was, by far, the most common response.
A particularly-interesting answer was “your soul”. Interesting? Yes. Correct? No.
Other excellent answers included “your eyes” (ya gotta observe what’s happening in your real world, not your office or cubicle), “your ears” (it’s always important to listen to your employees & customers, especially the critics) & “your legs” (get out amongst your people & let ‘em know you’re right there on the ol’ battlefield with them).
Yes, all outstanding answers, but not what I was looking for.
(Pls note: No accusations now from you guys that I rigged the quiz, OK? C’mon, I was putting up the prize myself!)
The answer is “your gut”!
Your mind, your heart & your gut.
The head part is pretty obvious. You have to have the necessary knowledge & the data & the prerequisite interpretative skills to be an exceptional leader. Your head also includes your eyes & ears.
The heart? You’re dealing with people, regardless of whom you lead or what you’re involved with. You must have feelings, compassion & worry about (“think about” is not strong enough) how your actions impact those who you lead.
I believe strongly in the “gut” factor.
That’s not to say that you solely rely on your “gut feel” when you evaluate what changes need to be made or how you evaluate a situation, a person or an issue.
It doesn’t mean that you don’t examine all the relevant & available information. It doesn’t mean that you don’t accept, evaluate & use the input of others, especially those that you’re leading.
I believe that you need to be close enough with your people, close enough with what’s going on in your sphere of responsibility to be able to “trust your gut”…in conjunction with all the data & information.
I’ve always believed that you should be able to know what’s going on in your business instinctively…then the data will help support your intuition. And not the other way around where you’re clueless…until you go look at the data.
You have to be so intertwined with your people & the business as a whole that you truly know what’s going on, what changes need to be made, often before you have the specific information to support your instincts.
Your gut is not just “a feeling”. It’s based on a deep & intense knowledge of what’s going on. It’s based on studying the data so you’re able to quickly recognize the early signs that’ll point to something just beginning to happen or to the root cause of a problem.
Way too many “managers” focus all their time & energy on treating the symptoms of a problem & fail to look at the underlying cause(s) that enabled the problem to occur & manifest in the first place.
No one is born with the gut necessary to be a outstanding leader. It needs to be built as you grow within the organization. It’s difficult at best to “take your gut feelings” from another environment & immediately apply them to a new situation.
You could be the greatest Mom or Dad in the world. But if you’re suddenly thrust into a totally-new family situation, it’s gonna take some time to get to really know everyone & your new setting before you can quickly evaluate a situation & figure out what’s the right thing to do, how & when.
It takes time to develop your gut that’ll fit your organization now & help it move to even higher levels of performance.
You hafta dive deeply into your organization & try your very best to familiarize yourself with what each & every person does. You have to prove yourself, each & every day, to your people.
Your organization is not in your PC or in those charts & graphs you use. It’s impossible to be the best possible leader if you’re remote 100% of the time.
It needs to get to the point where certain aspects of your position become second nature, but you never lose your passion to stay close to your people & learn even more with each passing day.
That’s what I mean by gut…it’s an “educated gut”! It’s built over time, with a helluva lot of effort & sweat invested.
An educated gut will also provide you with a strong confident feeling that what you’re saying & doing is the right thing for everyone involved.
The business world doesn’t always give you the opportunity to prepare or study the data before you must take action or address a situation.
You must be confident enough in your talents & abilities & intellect so that what appears to others as something that “comes naturally” is actually the result of many long hours of work.
I never had any problems whatsoever getting up in front of an audience, be it a group of my own people or all 400+ managers at a site-wide leadership conference or 30 or so Senior VPs, and handling whatever questions, problems or requests they would throw at me.
Or going to visit a new hire training class & answer just about every question under the sun, even from the trainers themselves.
Your mind, your heart, your gut.
It doesn’t matter in which order you employ them, but they are ALL critical elements whenever you’re making ANY decision whatsoever, evaluating ANY person or performance & you want to be the best possible leader you can be!
Thank you for listening!