Chain of Command – 3 Tips to Make it Work for You
Following the chain of command can be slow and painful, but there are some advantages. When you understand the chain of command, you can use those experiences to improve your own leadership skills.

Chain of Command – 3 Tips to Make it Work for You

Following the chain of command can be slow and painful, but there are some advantages. When you understand the chain of command, you can use those experiences to improve your own leadership skills.

While I was in the Air Force one of my assignments was rapid prototyping and testing of new capabilities. It was exciting and rewarding, but there was a lot of risk. We had to go through a lot of levels in the chain of command to get approval for our projects. When I first started this job, it was incredibly frustrating. But I learned over time that I was getting huge benefits by working through the chain of command. That experience forced me to understand the needs and interests of each leader in the chain. If you feel like you’re hitting your head against the wall with your chain of command, here are three things to consider of how it benefits your career instead of feeling like its holding you back.

Chain of Command Benefit #1: Improve Your Critical Thinking

Bosses ask a lot of questions and it can be kind of annoying sometimes. They ask these questions because they have concerns you may not be aware of. Answering these questions helps us get to the best optimal solution for the organization. It may not be the best or most convenient solution for you, but listening carefully to their questions and answering them thoroughly will set you up for success. Keep track of the questions that certain decision makers in your chain, or even out of your chain, ask. Chances are they ask the same ones over and over again because the same concern comes up on every project. If you already have a good idea what questions they will ask when you bring your next project, you can address it thoroughly in your first presentation to them and solve their problem before they even know they have one.

Chain of Command Benefit #2: Build Strong Relationships

When anticipating the questions your chain of command may ask, you may wonder how to get those answers? Building relationships with other parts of your organization will help you gather the information you need. To successfully navigate your chain of command for approval you’ll want to get the perspective of the other departments on how your proposal will affect others. Addressing all of those issues is daunting, but you can get the answers from people who work with them daily. Get out there, make friends with people in other departments. As you’re working on your proposal, talk about it with them. See if it causes any problems in their department. Ask how they can be fixed and if they can support that solution. Now, when you approach your chain of command, you can show that you understand the perspective of others and you’re working with them on the solution.

Chain of Command Benefit #3: Prepare Yourself to be a Boss

Developing your critical thinking and building these relationships provides a third benefit. All this effort and experience is preparing you to be a boss someday. Learning about the problems that the leaders up your chain have gets you thinking about them today and how you might solve them if you were in their position. Having the relationships with other departments already in place will smooth your transition into a position of more responsibility.

So those are the 3 ways you can think about how working through your chain of command benefits you instead of thinking of it as a burden. This still applied even if you don’t plan to stay in your current company forever. If you change jobs you’ll still have the critical thinking and relationship building skills that will help you be one of the great leaders of tomorrow!

 

Employee motivation is a challenge for every leader. So how do we get our team members to do things that need to be done without being told?

Employee Motivation

One of the reasons we wanted to become leaders was so that we could take on challenges we couldn’t achieve by ourselves. Employee motivation is a challenge for every leader. So how do we get our team members to do things that need to be done without being told?

This week we’re answering a question from Pete. He says, “One thing I’m dealing with right now is trying to motivate people who don’t show initiative.”  To help Pete out with this issue, I’m going to give 4 tips for employee motivation.

Employee Motivation Tip #1 – Understand the Psychology

First, it’s important to remember the psychology of motivation. We need to understand the concepts of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Everyone is both extrinsically and intrinsically motivated to some degree. Extrinsic motivation is motivation by external rewards, whether that’s money, a bonus, time off or whatever the individual desires. Intrinsic motivation is the rewards that comes internally from feeling the satisfaction of doing a job well done. As a leader, you need to understand how each of your team members is motivated and in what proportion. This will require getting to know each team member! Once you know what makes them tick, you can use that knowledge to your advantage when applying the other three tips.

Employee Motivation Tip #2 – Appeal to Intrinsic Motivation

Taking advantage of intrinsic motivation is tricky. You now know more about your team, their hopes and dreams, likes and dislikes. You can use that information to get excite them. Everyone has something they want to see done better in their workplace. Encourage your team members to talk about improvements they would like to see. When you overhear them talking to each other, challenge them to follow through on their ideas.

Employee Motivation Tip #3 – Use Your Resources

To use extrinsic motivation, Use the resources you have. You may not have money for bonuses, but almost every organization has a recognition program. If you don’t, create one. Make initiative a heavily weighted criteria when giving out awards if you can. Get creative. Time off, work from home, flexible schedules, whatever you can think of. Remember, that to incentivize any behavior, the incentive structure has to match what you say you value. If you want to incentivize initiative, recognition and rewards have to reflect that. You can’t give out awards for BLANK and not recognize the people who took initiative to try to make positive change.

Employee Motivation Tip #4 – Build a Culture

Finally, and probably most importantly, we need to be sure that we are setting up a culture on our team that fosters and rewards initiative. This requires some honest introspection on our part as the leader. When our team members show initiative, how do we react? Our reactions, both conscious and subconscious, verbal and non-verbal have a lot to do with how our team will behave in the future. Patience and open-mindedness are key here. If their work is acceptable but not the way you prefer it was done, you have to find ways to build on their work without shutting it down.

If we want our team members to show initiative we have to show them that their efforts won’t be wasted. We need to get to know them as people and what makes them tick. As leaders we have to encourage them to follow-up on their ideas and we also need to use our resources to recognize and reward them appropriately. Most important we need to show that we are open to the things that they show initiative on. Even if it’s not the most important thing on our list or the outcome isn’t perfect.  We must appreciate our team members’ effort if we want them to show initiative. Keep doing that and your team members will keep taking on new challenges without you having to ask them to!

This week we're going to shift the focus to a way that we can act courageously to complement the mindset we've started to develop. Avoiding groupthink is a problem that every team faces and it takes courageous leaders and followers to point out when it occurs and correct it.

Avoiding Groupthink – Video Guide

I hope everyone had a peaceful Memorial Day weekend and got to spend time with family and friends as we all remember the sacrifices that great men and women made in service of our nation. We’re wrapping up our month discussing topics about being courageous leaders. So far we’ve mostly talked about how to get in a healthy frame of mind to help us act courageously so that we can solve problems and make decisions courageously. This week we’re going to shift the focus to a way that we can act courageously to complement the mindset we’ve started to develop. Avoiding groupthink is a problem that every team faces and it takes courageous leaders and followers to point out when it occurs and correct it.

Groupthink occurs when members of the team are afraid to speak up or hold back information that is critical to the discussion because there may be social consequences for speaking out against the group. It can be very challenging for many people to contradict a position that the group has arrived at, especially if we are new in the group or we think that what we have to say will be unpopular with the other team members. As leaders, our job is to watch out for groupthink on out teams and cut through it to make sure that we’re getting all of the relevant information to make decisions.

In this week’s video, Jason discusses why avoiding groupthink is important for every team and describes some methods that we can use to recognize and avoid groupthink.

Avoiding Groupthink as Team Members

  • Speak up!
  • Include all relevant information
  • Be respectful of others
  • Employ Intellectual Honesty
  • Encourage others to speak up

Avoiding Groupthink as Leaders

  • Be prepared and research the topic
  • Understand different stakeholder interests
  • Insist that assertions are supported with evidence
  • Ask probing questions
  • Actively solicit information and perspective from quiet individuals
  • Consider the decision carefully before implementing

It’s also true that in many cases a group can reach a decision with a consensus without getting caught up in groupthink. Just because our team might come to an answer quickly and unanimously doesn’t mean that we have encountered a groupthink situation. As leaders, what we really want to ensure is that the group arrived at the result through a rational decision-making process and employed intellectual honesty in coming to a resolution.

Photo Credit: By Shane T. McCoy (U.S. Marshals Office of Public Affairs) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Acting with courage can be difficult when the time comes, especially if we know that our decision will be unpopular with our team or other stakeholders. Courage, like other leadership traits, can be developed but it is very much like trying to build up a muscle. We need to exercise our courage frequently in everyday situations so that it is strong and well-developed for the occasions when we really need it. One of the ways we can start building up the muscle for courage, or any other leadership trait, is by developing a courageous mindset that helps us to know what acting courageously is and gives us a guide and example to follow.

Courageous Mindset – Video Guide

This month we’ve been talking about courageous leadership and how important it is to step out of our comfort zones or use courage to make decisions and take actions consistent with our core values. Acting with courage can be difficult when the time comes, especially if we know that our decision will be unpopular with our team or other stakeholders. Courage, like other leadership traits, can be developed but it is very much like trying to build up a muscle. We need to exercise our courage frequently in everyday situations so that it is strong and well-developed for the occasions when we really need it. One of the ways we can start building up the muscle for courage, or any other leadership trait, is by developing a courageous mindset that helps us to know what acting courageously is and gives us a guide and example to follow.

Developing a Courageous Mindset

In the video Jason goes provides some tips to help develop a courageous mindset. He goes into detail on how we can all help ourselves think and act more courageously when we are in the middle of making a decision. We can approach a difficult or unpopular decision by keeping some of the following ideas in mind while we work through our decision-making process.

  • Remember the mission
    • What are you trying to accomplish?
    • Who are you trying to accomplish it for?
    • Why is it important?
  • Keep Core Values in Mind
    • Personal
    • Organizational
  • Intellectual Honesty
  • Treat others with respect and dignity

It can be really challenging to make a decision or take an action that requires courage, especially if we have to face our teammates or peers afterwards. By taking an approach to act courageously in all of our decisions and actions, we start to build that courageous mindset and exercise those muscles so that we are prepared to make tough decisions and be held accountable for them in the future.

As we continue with our May theme of Courageous Leadership, this week Jason talks about the idea of intellectual honesty and how it is different from simply telling the truth. Intellectual honesty has a basis in problem solving but can be applied to make well-informed decisions in a variety of leadership situations. Striving to be intellectually honest helps us ensure that we have considered all factors when making a leadership decision. Developing our team members to be intellectually honest gives them the ability to provide depth to their work that will lead to solid decision making. In the video, Jason talks about how to differentiate between our interests and our positions and how that distinction relates to intellectual honesty.

Intellectual Honesty – Video Guide

As we continue with our May theme of Courageous Leadership, this week Jason talks about the idea of intellectual honesty and how it is different from simply telling the truth. Intellectual honesty has a basis in problem solving but can be applied to make well-informed decisions in a variety of leadership situations. Striving to be intellectually honest helps us ensure that we have considered all factors when making a leadership decision. Developing our team members to be intellectually honest gives them the ability to provide depth to their work that will lead to solid decision-making. In the video, Jason talks about how to differentiate between our interests and our positions and how that distinction relates to intellectual honesty.

Components of Intellectual Honesty

  • Not letting beliefs interfere with seeing the truth
  • Including all relevant facts in our decision
  • Presenting facts to others without bias or misleading
  • Giving credit to others for their work

Source: Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intellectual_honesty

Being aware of these concepts as well as our own biases helps us to make decisions based on all of the relevant facts and not just on the ones that support our position while leaving out facts that go against our argument. Even if we are not the decision maker, we can apply the principles of intellectual honesty when we present information to others who are making a leadership decision.

Jason goes on to talk about some practical tips you can use from Good to Great by Jim Collins in order to help you and your team adopt the principles of intellectual honesty in your day-to-day activities. Applying intellectually honest principles to our information gathering and decision-making processes helps us to make better decisions that stand up to external scrutiny and stand the test of time.

Photo Credit: By European People’s Party [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Building consensus is one of the most important skill a leader can have in their leadership toolbox. Leaders frequently need to advocate for their ideas and persuade others that their approach is the best solution for everyone involved. Building consensus provides a way to get others to buy-in to our ideas and to participate in the process of turning them into fully developed solutions that address the problem or situation.

Building Consensus – Video Guide

Building consensus is one of the most important skills a leader can have in their leadership toolbox. Leaders frequently need to advocate for their ideas and persuade others that their approach is the best solution for everyone involved. Building consensus provides a way to get others to buy-in to our ideas and to participate in the process of turning them into fully developed solutions that address the problem or situation. One of the most important ideas to understand about consensus is that it is more than just bringing about the majority of the group to our side. In a true consensus, all members of the group agree with and accept the idea or concept, not just most of the group. While it can be difficult to bring a whole group of people around to our way of thinking, there are some tools that we can use to help in building consensus among that group to gain support for our ideas.

Tools for Building Consensus

  • Find areas of agreement early
  • Separate interests from positions
  • Engage in Active Listening
  • Ask thorough, thoughtful, open-ended questions
  • Give others the opportunity to speak about impacts

Building consensus is definitely challenging, especially when multiple parties interests and positions come into play, but there are some advantages that come along with putting this effort in up front. Primarily, once consensus has been achieved among the group, it is likely that the members of the group will be invested in the solution arrived at and will advocate for it to others and strive to implement it fully. This can help in educating the rest of the work force or other organizations as to why any changes are important as well as gain their support because their interests were represented in the decision-making process. Building a consensus is almost always difficult, and not always possible, but definitely worth the effort when it can be achieved.

Photo Credit: By John Trumbull [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

No one likes to make mistakes, but we all do and we just have to accept that someday it's going to happen to us. Whatever our mistake is, it's nowhere near as important as how we react to it and what we learn from it. In this week's video, Jason talks about how to get our mindset right after making a mistake and the three steps we need to take before we can begin to learn from it. One of the most important aspects of the process of learning about our mistakes is to engage in self-reflection and take an objective look at the root causes of the mistake. Asking ourselves some key questions will help us adopt a rational process to overcoming mistakes. Here are a few examples of questions that might be valuable to figuring out the real cause of a mistake:

Overcoming Mistakes – Video Guide

No one likes to make mistakes, but we all do and we just have to accept that someday it’s going to happen to us. Whatever our mistake is, it’s nowhere near as important as how we react to it and what we learn from it. In this week’s video, Jason talks about how to get our mindset right after making a mistake and the three steps we need to take before we can begin to learn from it. One of the most important aspects of the process of learning about our mistakes is to engage in self-reflection and take an objective look at the root causes of the mistake. Asking ourselves some key questions will help us adopt a rational process to overcoming mistakes. Here are a few examples of questions that might be valuable to figuring out the real cause of a mistake:

Overcoming Mistakes Through Reflective Questions

  • Was there information out there that I didn’t have that could have helped?
  • Was there information that I had that I didn’t use to make my decision?
  • Was there someone I know with experience I could have consulted with before proceeding?
  • Were there others who had an opposing or different perspective that I could have considered?
  • Were there external factors that I didn’t consider or fully understand?
  • Did I have a thorough understanding of the flow of the activity and the people who needed to be involved?

The only way a mistake can truly be a wasted experience is if we don’t find a way to learn something from it. Adopting a healthy mindset towards mistakes and learning valuable lessons from every mistake can help us grow into stronger leaders and help those around us benefit from our experience too.

 

Photo Credit: By Ervín Pospíšil [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

developing a culture of initiative on your team where your team members solve problems and address situations before they come to you us a great way to keep these monkeys off of your back. Every problem that a member of your team can solve without having to come to you for guidance is one less monkey for you to handle.

Initiative & Keeping Monkeys off Your Back – Video Guide

One of the most widely read Harvard Business Review Articles ever written is from back in 1999 and talks about how leaders often assume problems that members of their team should be taking care of. If you’d like to read it, you can find it here. The article has a lot of great rules to implement for what to do as a leader if someone tries to let one of these monkeys jump off of their back and on to yours, but developing a culture of initiative on your team where your team members solve problems and address situations before they come to you us a great way to keep these monkeys off of your back. Every problem that a member of your team can solve without having to come to you for guidance is one less monkey for you to handle.

Ways to Develop Initiative

  • First, don’t just assign your team members tasks or duties, give them problems to solve or areas of responsibility
  • Give each team member appropriate authority to handle their assigned problems or responsibilities.
  • Encourage creative and innovative solutions and allow your team to pursue these solutions within the authority you have given them
  • And it’s really important to allow your team to make mistakes and learn from them. People can learn more from a few false starts than from immediate success. It also can help refine their ideas into the best possible solution by seeing what doesn’t work

The key to following all of these tips is to understand the degree of trust that you have in your team members and the amount of trust they have placed in you. in the video, Jason discusses both of these kinds of trust in detail and how you should take the amount of trust between you and your team in order to apply the tips above.

 

Photo Credit: By Patricedward (Personal Photo) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Just like our homes can get cluttered as the year goes on, our teams can get cluttered with misplaced priorities, ineffective procedures and tasks that no longer serve a valuable purpose. While we should always be on the lookout for waste and activities that are no longer serving our purpose or helping us achieve our mission, planning a spring cleaning activity can help us get focused on making improvements without getting caught up in our normal day-to-day activities.

Spring Cleaning – Video Guide

Just like our homes can get cluttered as the year goes on, our teams can get cluttered with misplaced priorities, ineffective procedures and tasks that no longer serve a valuable purpose. While we should always be on the lookout for waste and activities that are no longer serving our purpose or helping us achieve our mission, planning a spring cleaning activity can help us get focused on making improvements without getting caught up in our normal day-to-day activities.

Depending on how long it has been since you last did a thorough assessment of the activities that your team does on a daily basis, you may find out that there are so many things to review that it makes sense to tackle the most important ones first and come back at a later time to address the others. If you’re wondering where to get started on reviewing a task, procedure or activity, here are a few questions you can ask yourself and your team to determine how to proceed:

Spring Cleaning Questions

  • Does anyone use the results of this task?
  • Does this activity take a large proportion of work time, but is used infrequently?
  • Does the information produced by this process give us insight about our mission or our team, or is it outdated?
  • Is there someone on another team or elsewhere in the organization that uses the outputs?

One of the most challenging parts of a spring cleaning activity is to determine what course of action to follow after we’ve done our assessment. In the video Jason talks about how to determine which tasks to keep, which ones to get rid of and some ways to approach improving on a process that you need to keep, but is inefficient or wasteful.

Photo Credit: By Papypierre1 (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

One of the ideas we embrace most passionately Evil Genius Leadership Consultants is that as leaders we need to take the time to get connected with our communities and find ways to listen and understand what challenges people are facing. One of the ways we build this connection is through gathering young, ambitious leaders and business owners as well as aspiring leaders to talk about the leadership issues and problems that you face every day. To make this conversation a reality, we are hosting our next Las Vegas Millennial Leadership Forum on Wednesday, March 16 at Ricardo's Mexican restaurant from 7:30-9:00 PM.

Las Vegas Millennial Leadership Forum – March 16, 2016

One of the ideas we embrace most passionately Evil Genius Leadership Consultants is that as leaders we need to take the time to get connected with our communities and find ways to listen and understand what challenges people are facing.   One of the ways we build this connection is through gathering young, ambitious leaders and business owners as well as aspiring leaders to talk about the leadership issues and problems that you face every day. To make this conversation a reality, we are hosting our next Las Vegas Millennial Leadership Forum on Wednesday, March 16 at Ricardo’s Mexican restaurant from 7:30-9:00 PM.

Las Vegas Millennial Leadership Forum

Would you like to have a voice in how future leaders are developed in your industry? We invite you to bring your challenges, pain points, successes and insights to our leadership forum. Meet other young leaders from the Las Vegas area and enjoy appetizers and drinks as we together discuss the key principles to make ourselves more effective leaders in the Las Vegas community. Our goal is to create an open dialogue about the challenges you face in your workplaces with the managers who lead you, your peers and those you lead and supervise. We really want to make sure that we’re doing good work for the community and addressing the challenges you actually face as leaders, not just what we think you might be dealing with. We’d love to hear about any challenges or successes you can share with us and some areas we’d like to learn more about from you are:

  • What leadership styles are present in your organization and how do they affect your team?
  • What is the leadership culture in your organization and does it help or hinder success?
  • Does your organization communicate effectively?
  • How does your organization manage and resolve conflict?
  • Does your organization provide effective training of communication and public speaking skills?
  • How does your organization approach problem solving and decision-making?

The discussion will help us understand where we as a company can create better programs, workshops and content that will help young Las Vegas leaders better meet their challenges, achieve their goals and advance their careers. Please join us on March 16, 2016 at 7:30 PM for the Las Vegas Millennial Leadership Forum at Ricardo’s Mexican Restaurant in Las Vegas. Seating is limited so reserve a spot today with us on Facebook or by emailing us at jason@evilgeniusleadership.com. We’ll be in the event room with some refreshments and are looking forward to hearing your insights and questions!

Ricardo’s Mexican Restaurant
4930 W Flamingo Rd
Las Vegas, NV 89103

Directions

Ricardos Map

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