Keys for New Leaders


December 23, 2020 Dr. Charles Boyer Episode 2
Keys for New Leaders
Show Notes Transcript

#002 - FIVE KEYS.  Five must-haves for all new or newer leaders.  Hosted by Dr. Charles Boyer, here's an overview of five essential qualities to help you be a better leader.  You'll learn about building trust, teamwork, listening skills, gaining perspective and using  humor effectively.

Hello again! I’m so glad that you are here today for this podcast. Welcome to Episode 2 of Keys for New Leaders.  Today, we’ll focus on FIVE KEYS, five must-haves for every leader.  This is your host, Dr. Charles Boyer, but my friends call me Charlie.  And, as I said before, that’s YOU, my friend!  If you subscribed to the podcast last time, thank you and welcome back.  If you didn’t, here's your chance to click on the subscribe button so you won’t miss getting the announcement about the next episode.  AND, if you stick around to the end of this episode, I’ll have another SPECIAL KEY just for you as a thank you for being with us today, as well as a SPECIAL INVITATION.

Now, let’s dig into these FIVE KEYS.  What in the world are they?  If you’ve looked through some books and articles about leadership, there are lots of lists of essentials for leaders out there – the Top 10 Leadership Essentials, Seven Essential Qualities, five this, three that – lots of numbers, and lots of good things to say to you about being a good leader.  You can sure get overwhelmed with all that is available in books, online courses, webinars, and so forth.  In this episode, you’ll learn about FIVE KEYS that I consider must-haves for every leader, but especially for new or newer leaders.  This episode is an overview of these FIVE KEYS.  I’m sure these are not new concepts for you, but what I plan to do is give you some fresh viewpoints on each of these FIVE.  We’ll talk about each one in more detail in later episodes, so, again, this is just an introduction to give you a taste of what you must do and demonstrate consistently to be a BETTER leader.  That doesn’t happen overnight, my friend.  These KEYS give you a place to start and some things to focus on.  And, once again, the KEYS will work -- if YOU do!  So here are those FIVE KEYS:  Trust, Teamwork, Listening, Perspective, and Humor.  That may seem like an unusual collection of topics to you now, but keep listening and then think about the questions I have for you toward the end of this episode.

So, here we go!  Let’s talk first about TRUST.  There is a very good reason why this KEY is #1:  everything depends on TRUST.  Take a good look at lists of must-have leadership traits and you’ll find TRUST at or near the top.  To be an effective leader, you simply must earn and keep the trust of those you lead.

Have you ever worked someplace where the leader was not trusted?  I have, and was it ever a good place to leave!  It soon became obvious to me that nobody trusted the leader, and it wasn’t long before people began to lose trust in one another.  Do you begin to sense a connection here?  It doesn’t take long for a distrusting workplace environment to become toxic.  I’ve seen a recent survey that reported 45% of employees do not trust their leaders.  That survey also reported that only 11% of employees feel that their leaders show consistency between their words and their actions.  Wow!  That’s mind-boggling, isn’t it?

People tend to grant trust sparingly.  That’s not hard to imagine these days.  We tend to dis-trust – advertising hype, the stock market, politicians – more than we trust.  Trust is hard to earn and easy to lose.  Warren Buffett has been quoted as saying “It takes 20 years to gain a reputation and 5 minutes to ruin it.”    Gaining trust back again is like putting toothpaste back in the tube.  Not an easy task by any stretch of the imagination!

So, what must you do to earn others’ trust?  The steps don’t seem all that difficult, but it’s a long and not-so-easy process.  Building relationships based on trust takes a LOT of time and careful nurturing.  You must demonstrate – again, and again, and again –whatever it takes, that you have:

·        Credibility – it goes hand-in-hand with TRUST.  If you are CREDIBLE as a leader, you are TRUSTWORTHY.  Earn one and you earn the other.  Lose one, and you lose them both.

·        Authenticity – you earn authenticity when you show by your actions as well as your words that you are genuine, honest, and respectful of others.

·        Integrity – you must show that you can be counted on to do what you say you will do, without fail and without excuses.

·        Competence – show that you have the knowledge, skills and abilities you need to lead effectively, OR you know where and how to find others who do and who can help you.

·        Confidence – in yourself and in your team to get the job not just “done” but “well done!”  And if you have confidence in your team, your team must have confidence in you.

Earning the trust of others is a process that you must repeat over and over again, demonstrating that indeed you ARE Credible, Authentic, Competent, Confident, and a person of Integrity.  The result?  People will, in time, take you at your word, believe that you will do as you say, and place more trust in you as their leader.

The next KEY is TEAMWORK.  It’s as simple as this:  if you don’t have a team, you have nobody to lead.  You can’t do it all yourself.  Your TEAM can be any group of people – a football team, a work group, a church committee, an orchestra, a class, and so forth.  I’ve found that good TEAMWORK is essential to just about everything you do or can accomplish as a leader.  Building a good team is not easy.  It takes time and lots of practice.  You must balance team and individual gifts and strengths, be aware of attitudes and behaviors, trust one another – there’s that TRUST again – hold one another accountable, and focus on achieving collective results.  Sounds easy, doesn’t it?

Well, it isn’t.  The art of leveraging the efforts of a talented group of individuals into an effective team is one of the greatest challenges you are likely to face as a leader.  Want to see great teamwork in action?  Go to a symphony orchestra concert.  As you listen to the performance, also watch how the conductor and the musicians work together to make the music happen.

The conductor doesn’t make a sound, but first envisions and hears internally how the whole orchestra will sound, then inspires, guides, directs, and influences the musicians to produce those sounds we hear and enjoy.  The conductor knows how to make music with and through the talents of others.  Now that’s TEAMWORK!

Building a good team requires you to maintain a delicate balance of team and individual strengths, attitudes, and behaviors.  Among other things, members of successful teams trust one another, hold one another accountable to a high standard of excellence, and focus on achieving collective results.

Did you notice what was mentioned first?  Trust! When trust isn’t there, your team can quickly become dysfunctional.  Patrick Lencioni’s study of team dynamics concluded that a single dysfunction can begin to undo the most successful team effort.  Now ask yourself, is the team I’m serving functional or dysfunctional?  Think about it.

The third of our FIVE KEYS is LISTENING SKILLS.  Whatever you do, you must LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN, and then LISTEN SOME MORE!  Your job as leader involves a LOT of LISTENING – or at least it should.  People like being listened to.  Knowing that they are being listened to helps your team members feel valued and more engaged with their work.  That seems to be so simple.  Yet a study of 2,000 organizations revealed that only one in three people reported that their company listens to them.  You heard that right – ONE in THREE people.  That’s hardly a passing grade, is it?

Too many of us don’t listen well these days.  We tend to think about ourselves or something else rather than truly listening to others.  When asked to describe their listening habits, many leaders admitted to thinking about other things rather than focusing intently on what the other person was saying.  They were hearing, perhaps, but not listening.  There is a big difference between hearing and listening.  Our ears hear all the sounds around us, whether it’s music, noise, or conversation.  Our ears hear more than we listen to.  When we begin to listen, we begin to filter out some sounds and focus on others.  Ask yourself:  Am I a good hearer, or a good listener?

If you want to be a better leader, spend more time listening than you do talking.  You know, there’s a reason why we have two ears and one mouth!  We should listen twice as much as we talk.  It takes practice to clear your mind and focus your attention on others as you listen.  The payback for you, the leader, is that people listen more attentively to someone who listens to them.  So, what does that tell you?  Talk less and listen more.  You might be surprised by what you hear -- if you are really listening.

What best describes the way you listen to others?  If you are a passive listener, you listen – sort of – and assume you know what the other person is really trying to say to you.  That’s not good listening.  If you are more competitive, you wait for a break to jump in and add your two cents’ worth, like a bad actor waiting to say his lines.  That’s not good listening either.

If you are a multi-tasker, you really aren’t listening well at all.  Don’t fool yourself – multi-tasking just does not work!  You get distracted and begin to tune out, and probably miss a lot of what’s being said.  We’ve all done it – tuned someone out – and we’ve all been tuned out by someone else.  Distracted listening is definitely NOT good listening.

Better Leaders must be excellent listeners.  One of the most intense forms of listening has been described as engaged listening.  That’s when you listen actively and intently, not only to WHAT is said but also HOW it is said through gestures, body language, vocal inflections, energy level – all of these and more.  You follow through with open-ended questions, not ones that can be answered yes or no, to make sure you understand clearly what the other person is really trying to tell you.  You listen openly, without filters and without judgment.  Engaged listening takes lots of practice, and it is one of the highest compliments you can pay to another person.

This next KEY – PERSPECTIVE – may seem like an odd choice to you, but I believe it’s one of the most important qualities that every leader must have.  PERSPECTIVE is one of these FIVE KEYS that, to me, is more difficult to describe than the others.  Some describe PERSPECTIVE as seeing the big picture.  Some describe vision, or focus, or purpose, or balance.  PERSPECTIVE is all of these, and more.  PERSPECTIVE is being able to see the whole of a concept, an idea, a project, and on top of that, having the ability to see all the parts and how they relate to the whole.  That’s quite a mouthful.  Let’s break down the “whole” and take a look at the parts.

Being able to see the big picture or “bird’s eye view” of a concept or a project is important, and that may have been enough during simpler times.  Today’s leaders need more of a 360-degree view to understand how all the parts relate to the whole.  Think of the computer-generated maps that make it possible to view cities at street level and then zoom up to an aerial view.  A tall building sure looks different at ground level than it does from the air.  Now, think about this -- how different does your project look from another angle?  And another?  And another?  What impact could these different perspectives have on your team’s decisions, the quality of their work, and their outcomes?

VISION is another part of PERSPECTIVE.  The leader’s ability to imagine a thought or concept and turn that vision into reality is a most remarkable skill.  Think of all the Disney artists who were able to “imagineer” fairy-tale concepts into real-life amusement parks.  Can you imagine all the work that went into creating Disneyland in what was once an old orange grove?  Inspiring and empowering your team to follow your vision is definitely one of those must-haves.  But remember, people follow someone they trust, and they won’t if they don’t! 

Vision also involves seeing things from the perspective of others.  I am hearing in my head the old Native American proverb about “…walking a mile in another man’s moccasins…”  What a different perspective that would bring to each of us.  You, the leader, must take into account the viewpoints of others on your team to really know what’s going on inside them.  I’m reminded of a line spoken by Morgan Freeman as the character, Hoke, in the movie Driving Miss Daisy.   I’ll paraphrase the line, something like this:  “How do you know what I see unless you can look through my eyes?”  Now ask yourself, what are others seeing that I don’t?

Another part of PERSPECTIVE involves your focus on goals, committing to a course of action, and achieving those goals.  However, to focus on goals without perspective can be like looking at a two-dimensional roadmap.  What looks like a good road from point to point doesn’t show that the road is actually a narrow mountain road with steep grades, no guardrails, and no center stripe.  Been there, done that!

PERSPECTIVE also means keeping everything in balance.  Some years ago, I remember watching a circus performer on TV juggle a row of china plates, each plate spinning atop a row of sticks.  The juggler ran from one stick to another to keep all the plates spinning.  It was quite a feat.  I never saw a plate fall.  I have thought many times about that wonderful example of keeping things balanced.

As a leader, you will get plenty of advice, some good and some not so good.  It’s so very important to listen and to consider others’ thoughts, opinions and insights.  However, always keep in mind that YOUR perspective is one of a kind, just like YOU.

And our fifth key is HUMOR.  It’s last in this list because it is so  important, and is so often overlooked.  Each of these FIVE KEYS is equally important, in my opinion.  It’s last in this list because HUMOR can tie all the other KEYS together so beautifully – if it’s done right!  And that’s the trick, my friend.

Just a touch of humor at the right time and in the right amount can be an extremely effective leadership tool for you.  Using humor appropriately can reduce stress, help build relationships, and provide perspective.  Humor can show others that you are authentic, are confident, and are willing to be vulnerable.  But you must be careful – humor used in the wrong way or at the wrong time can sure backfire on you.  A good rule of thumb is to laugh WITH, never AT, others, and be ready to laugh most at yourself.  Here are a few examples:

·        Abraham Lincoln was a master of self-deprecating humor.  When accused of being two-faced, he replied, “If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?”

·        Comedian Jack Benny, in reality a very good musician, made many laugh with his portrayal of a sour-note violinist.  In reality, he was a very generous man, but got lots of laughs playing the part of a stingy penny pincher.

·        After an assassination attempt, President Ronald Reagan was able to quip to Mrs. Reagan, “Honey, I forgot to duck.”

Notice that each one laughed first at himself and used humor appropriately to “lighten up” everyone around him.  I read that children laugh several hundred times a day, and most adults laugh fewer than 50 times.  We’re missing out on some good times here!  Groucho Marx said, “If you’re not having fun, you’re doing something wrong.”

Benjamin Zander was able to get overly competitive students to lighten up by having them smile and say “How fascinating!” when they made a mistake.  The big surprise was that the students performed better because they weren’t obsessed with their mistakes but were able to relax and move on.  Try this.  I have, and it really works!

Here's a similar one that I’ve used to break a logjam and get people to lighten up.  When a group is hopelessly stuck on solving a problem, I like to ask, “What’s the most fun way you can think of to make this happen?”  Or, the most outrageous way, or the most ridiculous way.  You’d be amazed at the creative ideas that begin to pop out!

Maybe you have trouble remembering punch lines, or maybe you don’t have a comedian’s skill at telling jokes.  That’s ok – just be yourself!  You can find humor in lots of situations.  My wife once whipped out an awful photo ID of herself to distract two quarreling teenage daughters.  Anger and tears quickly turned to giggles, then guffaws.  That brilliantly timed move has given our family something to laugh at for years.

Share a story to illustrate a point, to lighten up a tense situation, or pass along some of your favorite experiences to others.  My great-grandma always had great stories to tell, and her stories got a bit more creative each time she told them.  We kids were never quite sure which parts of her stories were true, but they sure were entertaining.  Especially the one about the time she met Jesse James.  Or was it Billy the Kid?

Hone your sense of humor – it’s so important.  President Dwight D. Eisenhower said:  A sense of humor is part of the art of leadership,

of getting along with people, of getting things done.


Now for those Coaching Questions:  Since we have FIVE KEYS in this episode, I’ll ask you FIVE questions, one on each topic.  This isn’t a test, and there are no wrong answers, only YOUR answers.  Write your answers down and give them some thought during the coming week.  Here they are:

1.     TRUST:  How do you show others they can trust you?

2.     TEAMWORK:  What is ONE best example of good teamwork that you can think of?

3.     LISTENING:  What three things can you do to become a better listener?

4.     PERSPECTIVE:  When has your perspective changed for the better after listening to others’ viewpoints?

5.     HUMOR:  From your experience, when has laughing WITH someone been most effective?

Hey, just a quick reminder – if you haven’t done so already, I invite you to subscribe to this podcast so you’ll get announcements when new episodes are posted.  And many thanks if you’ve already subscribed!

And now for that SPECIAL KEY ---  the first one was B NATURAL.  Here’s another B  -- B REAL.  The two are similar, but not quite the same.   B REAL means B Yourself, but also B genuine and B Authentic.  Kids, dogs, cats can spot a phony a mile away.  Always remember that who you ARE is so much more important that what you DO.

I’d like to share a fun article with you.  I called it “Five Leadership Lessons I Learned from My Cat” and I posted it on my new blog.  Here’s a special invitation for you to subscribe to my blog, “Chats with Charlie”  -- a collection of some short articles to give you some food for thought, some reinforcement, or just some fun.  Hey, we could all use a good laugh now and then.  I hope you enjoy the articles.  Here’s the URL:

In the next episode, we’ll be Navigating the Seven Cs, not the water variety, but 7 VALUES all beginning with the letter “C”.  I believe that  these qualities and characteristics will help you be a BETTER leader.

Thanks so much for joining me today.  I’ve really enjoyed our time together, and look forward to your joining me for our next episode.  In the meantime, take good care of yourself and your loved ones, and stay safe and well, my friend.