Archive for February, 2012

Communication Effectiveness – Dealing With Known Problem Players, CYA!

SERIES: Part Five of a Five-Part Article

Sometimes as a leader, you will need to communicate with a person who you know to be difficult or who has a reputation of being difficult. In those instances, for an effective engagement and an intended positive outcome, there are some safeguards to consider.

Dealing With Known Problem Players
Means “Covering Your Actions” (CYA)

In Non-Confrontational Ways

There are clues that you have a possible problem ahead of you and that a person is branded as “bad luggage” (although management has not or is unwilling to free up their future for other career opportunities at the health benefit to an organization):

  1. If the employees of an individual turn over faster than they do
  2. If colleagues leave, quit or take a lateral transfer faster than the individual in question gets promoted
  3. If peers to an individual limit their exposure to them, don’t go out of their way to engage them and are reluctant to give you insight to how best to engage them when you ask for coaching guidance
  4. If you have ever witnessed individuals having communication implosions with a person
  5. If vendors have more critical than constructive comments about an individual
  6. If a long-standing, positively contributing event, program, initiative or service is attacked by an individual for the sake of drawing attention to him or herself
  7. If you have ever been mislead or used by an individual
  8. If you know a person is a political animal and they use people – at the expense of the organization – for their own goals
  9. If a person uses their position (tenure with the organization, age, gender, race, personal connections, etc.) as their insurance policy for not being “terminated”
Many times, problem and difficult players are a cancer
with which leadership refuses to deal.
In that wake, many times more contributing forces

to organizational success are lost!

Forecasting problematic players to communicate with is easy if one pays attention to the numerous clues. The question then evolves to how best to engage them for solution-oriented, organization-benefiting outcomes. If you have someone like this in your organization, consider these strategies:

  1. Pre E-mail or Correspondence – Look for an opportunity for an upcoming initiative on which the two of you will work together. After your initial dialogue, e-mail them an after-action review, recapping your understanding of the essential 5-Ws and 1-H (Who, What, When, Where, Why, How). In essence, make sure you specifically speak to – in a non-confrontational manner – any item that the person has previously demonstrated to be a point of contention. Then send a copy to all appropriate supervisors, vendors, clients, etc. This will be a positive intention e-mail, and the copy provides for initial documentation that will motivate the other party to constructively participate when they see others have received copies. You can preface the reason of sending copies to others under the pretense, “If anyone has suggestions as to how any of us can attain a higher level of success with our individual responsibilities, please share immediately.”
  1. Backup Documentation – In heightened situations where you know someone to be difficult and you really need to cover your actions, keep appropriate documentation off site. When push comes to shove, documentation always wins if you have the facts. Then, and only then, will a habitual problem player be held accountable and possibly purged from an organization!
  1. Assume Follow Up – Between when you initially talk about doing anything and when it is actually done, determine consistent and regular interval update times to ensure they are on track.  By doing this, you will avoid deadline implosions. This may mean setting check points in your PDA, calendars, tickler-systems or day planners. At each of these check points (again in a non-confrontational manner), document and send a follow-up correspondence to them with copies to all appropriate parties in the universe – otherwise it is your word versus theirs!
  1. Involve Neutral Parties – As appropriate, identify neutral third parties, whom the other person appears to respect and that you can accept as well. Engage them early and often to enhance one another’s actions plans for greater efficiency. By doing so, you are not focusing energies or attention on one another as personalities, but rather on the mutual gains. Thus, interactions will also begin to condition the perceived difficult player to be less difficult in your presence.
  1. Stay Focused on Big Picture – Another way to avoid the personal involvement with problem players in communication is to ensure your goal is always the end game of the organization. Tie your communications to that of the organization’s Mission Statement, and it will become increasingly more difficult for the traditional problem player to challenge you or attempt to undermine your initiatives!
  1. Alliance Communications – Associate your communication subject matter to others that have bought into it or are supporting it. Problem players are more inclined to come after you when it appears to be a “You versus Them” format. Likewise, they tend to be less confrontational when you seem to be a part of a bigger grouping. It could sound like this, “In talking with Susan, Tom and Chris, they thought it would be in our best interest if we…” Now, whatever you present appears to be part of a larger energy force.

It is a fact of organizational reality that many times that which holds an organization back from peak performance is not an outside force, but rather an internal one. And yes, it is also true that far too often these people are just clever enough (not actually smart enough) to play the system to their advantage that management is intimidated to do their leadership job and intervene with them, coach them, council them or terminate them. They become an actual passive-aggressive cancer to an organization.

As a managerial-leader you don’t have to become a victim of them. You need merely become a better communicator in the presence of them.

-Dr Jeff Magee
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Communication Effectiveness – Using Technology as Your Surrogate!

SERIES: Part Four of a Five-Part Article

Why must you communicate?

As a leader, determining the purpose of your communication objective will lead you toward one of two options. When you must actually connect live with the other party, you need to have a “dialogue.” When you must merely “exchange” data and information with the other party, the need for a live interaction may not be necessary. Either way, you have just identified both a second option and a time- saving opportunity at the same time.

While you need to remain in constant communication with your team, it is not necessary that you be actively in touch with everyone. In fact, today’s effective leader must tactically utilize the advances in technology as a surrogate to “exchanging” information at every opportunity!

By tactically and effectively drawing upon technology as your surrogate, you can guard against micro-managing people and over communicating, yet ensure effective communication takes place across lines. In addition, you provide yourself with the freedom of flexibility to be the leader that is required for your organization to succeed!

Here are some tactical performance communication tips for the technology at your fingertips:

  1. eAuto responder – Within the realm of electronic email, you have the ability to enable or disable the auto response messenger service of your email. When someone sends you an email, you have the option of an automatic response being bounced backed immediately. To maintain the forward momentum of you, your team and the outside world, consider an informational update by enabling this feature.

You could state, for example if you are on site on a given day, “Your message has been received at JMI, I will respond ASAP. If you need immediate assistance please call Toll free 1-877-90-MAGEE and ask for Amie or Koby. You also can get immediate assistance by e-mailing Koby@JeffreyMagee.com” Or, if you are off site, be specific, “Your message has been received at JMI, I am off site at an educational program enhancing my skill abilities to better serve my customers and will respond ASAP. If you need immediate assistance please call Toll free 1-877-90-MAGEE and ask for Amie or Koby or by e-mailing Koby@JeffreyMagee.com

  1. E-mail – Consider converting from long, drawn out sentence/paragraph form e-mails to a numbered or bulleted e-mail draft. This format tends to encourage brevity and makes it easier to track informational items in conversation with others.

For an even faster e-mail response, merely draft in your response in a different colored font adjacent to their questions. Then all you have to do is hit send!

  1. eAuto Signature Line – Ensure that all informational items you would want at the end of an e-mail draft are attributed to your eAuto Signature line (and set up). This will save time on all future email correspondence, as it will automatically appear. To further encourage effective communication, you should have in your include: Name, Title or position, E-mail address, Phone number, Fax number, website and any seasonal, informational or time sensitive item you want to ensure your recipients know (use this as advertising, marketing or update opportunity space, but be brief!).

  1. Personal Voicemail Extensions – By knowing the voicemail extension/box of those people with whom you have to communicate or get something from, you can now choose to telephone them and engage in a live dialogue or avoid the conversation chit-chat trap by going directly into their voicemail box and leaving a message. Of course, you can also follow up with an e-mail directing them to the voicemail message you have left or leave a message with their gatekeeper to have them check their voicemail.

  1. Recorded Outbound Telephone Voicemail Message – By evaluating the recorded messages you receive, you can determine if your own message is action- oriented. For example, if you have to repeatedly replay a message to distinguish a phone number or name, you need to rerecord your greeting. If you are returning calls to people because you are not sure what they want, rerecord your greeting. A leader has precious discretionary time today, and every minute must be a wise invested minute.

Try: “Thank you for calling. This is Mr. X.  Please leave your name – and if we do not know one another, please spell it for me – along with your phone number, repeated twice. Please leave a very specific message as to what you need and how I may be of service to you, and I will return your call by the end of the day.”

This may seem awkward, but it does not matter! The caller will tend to do exactly what they are prompted to do, and this information allows you to expedite your actions and maintain peak performance for both of you!

  1. Pagers – By knowing the pager numbers of those people with whom you have to communicate to, you can now choose to page them when necessary to maintain states of efficiency!

  1. Fax – There still seems to be an air of urgency to a fax transmittal. Knowing the fax numbers of organizations and, even more importantly, the systems on your intended recipients’ desks, you can avoid live dialogue and send communications via fax. And to draw even faster attention, legibly write your message and fax that!

  1. Faxback Responses – You can even expedite follow-up responses to other parties by taking a document that requests information from you, circling the question and drawing a line to the margin. In that margin, write your answer and immediately fax back their letter/document with your handwritten answer/response. Labor is minimal, and productivity soars!

  1. CD/DVD/Tape/Etc. – Alternative communication delivery vehicles also can be used if you know the recipient’s preference. A fast form of communication exchange can be accomplished with these mediums.

  1. Any Other Instrument – Reflect upon your skill level and industry for any other examples, instruments, products or services that you can deploy to effectively increase your communication ability, while reducing the degree of work and time consumed by the process. Once you’ve found it, deploy it aggressively!

As a leader, determining the purpose of your communication objective will lead you toward ways of becoming more effective within “dialogues” or in the mere act of “exchanging” information with others.

How you do what you do is the art and science of tactical communication. An effective leader recognizes that, whether you communicate or not, you have communicated loudly to your team.
-Dr Jeff Magee
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Communication Effectiveness – Becoming a Constant Solution Provider!

SERIES: Part Three of a Five-Part Article

Turning arguments and debates into solutions and alternatives is a hallmark of both effective communicators and successful leaders. As communication goes hi-tech and low-touch, it becomes easy for disconnection to arise in communication. These disconnections only serve to impede productivity and profitability to businesses.

A leader must be constantly cognizant of the individual tactics deployed to stimulate open dialogue.  While in pursuit of solution-oriented dialogue and an environment conducive to free spirited communication exchanges, how one engages or responds to another directly influences whether that communication exchange will be solution oriented or corrosive.

How you arrange a conversation has a direct influence upon the mindset of the participants, which will determine how healthy the outcomes will be. In her classic work, The Argument Culture, author Deborah Tannen illustrates how one sentence sets up defense posture and another creates inclusion. Consider: “Battle of the sexes” (argumentative) versus “Relations between men and women” (dialogue). Or, “Debate” (argumentative) versus, “Discuss” (dialogue). In striving for solution-oriented communication exchanges, be careful not to derail otherwise positive intentions.

Here are ten powerful ways to tactically stimulate solution-oriented communication among individuals in your work place:

  1. Establish Ground Rules – Identify how the other party likes to communicate (visual, auditory, kinesthetic) and share with them how you communicate best. By establishing these most basic ground rules, you open yourself to gain greater participation from others!

  1. Covenant-Based – This implies that, as the sender of a signal, you “also” recognize what else you can do to make the communication exchange non- threatening and solution-oriented. So, in looking at the “What else can I do?” (covenant implies other responsibilities) factor, make sure to listen and take notes to objectively consider the other parties’ positions, ideas and views.

  1. You First – Become known as the person who always seeks others’ ideas before offering yours. This may allow for a synergy of action plans and a more cost effective final result!

  1. Demand Alternatives – Whenever someone voices a rejection to an idea or action plan, instead of defending, digging in and challenging the other party, simply back up, gently look at the attempted challenger and say, “What do you feel would be a more viable option?” If they don’t respond with a tangible answer, repeat the question again. What you are implying is, “Put up or shut up!”

  1. One Percent Factor – Regardless of a solution (whether yours or someone else’s), always ask, “What can we do one percent more to make this even more productive or profitable?” This causes people to strive even harder and implies that pushing for something better is always acceptable and expected!

  1. Learn to Forecast – Recognize that when circumstances dictate that you realize an impending problem, and adjustments are not made, this is a great opportunity to invest internally with your colleagues. Ask, task, delegate or assign to everyone to collectively workshop your forecasted challenge for alternatives, solutions or coping strategies so the forecasted issue does not implode the productivity of individuals in the future.

  1. Shop Your Ideas Electronically – Before implementing any solution-action plan, always bounce your challenge and perceived solution off of at least three other people. Someone you know, who previously has been where you are, someone two positions removed from you, who can provide an emotionally biased view and the person most likely to be affected by your action!

  1. Identify Internal Subject Matter Experts – Intrapreneurs – Cultivate from your colleagues, employees and customers (that would be entrepreneurs) those individuals who possess a wealth of knowledge (based upon their education, experience or certifications) and could be the official or unofficial “go to” people to solicit feedback for your solutions and quick-start ideas for your challenges.

  1. Solution Board – When time allows for solution (idea) generation, post that on a community bulletin board with all of your team (including yourself) listed vertically below the entry. Then, post a deadline and publicly invite everyone to write their ideas and allow for ideas to feed off one another. If someone posts an unprofessional energy, let it stand. Later, when you pull the idea list down for discussion in a meeting, engage that person by using technique number four in this list.

  1. Horizontal Action Information Grams – Encourage cross communication among individuals, not from a bragging perspective, but from a “lessons learned” celebration perspective. When someone has faced a difficult situation, generated a viable solution and experienced victory, encourage them to share that three-step evolution with everyone.  If someone else finds him or herself in a similar position in the future, they will be prepared with solutions!

As a leader, if you really want to empower your team and create an environment of mega solutions, design a system that both recognizes and rewards implemented solutions. Imagine giving ten percent of any solution that yields a savings or increase in profitability to an organization. Wow! Pure solution energy. The downfall, unfortunately, is that most leaders take a minimalist attitude towards this view; they don’t want to share ten percent of something they don’t have at the expense of never cultivating the solutions from their most prized assets (their people) that would otherwise yield them a 90 percent gain!

An effective leader continually focuses on individual performance improvement in a highly effective organization. A leader always appreciates, respects and focuses upon the tactics which turn arguments and debates into solutions and alternatives for positive outcomes in every communication exchange.

-Dr Jeff Magee
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Communication Effectiveness – The Three-Level Exchange Process to Value-Based Action!

SERIES: Part Two of a Five-Part Article

World-class communication exchanges made easy in the work place. What could be easier?

As a leader, how the other party interprets your message is crucial for the exchange process to occur. Understanding the act of communicating to another person or groups in the work place and in which level of the communication exchange process you are residing is also important to word economy and communication breakdown avoidance.

If you were to have an out-of-body experience and observe yourself communicating with someone either significantly younger or significantly older than yourself, you would notice how your behavioral patterns change, without much pain or effort, to allow for a successful exchange. When one transitions into a communication exchange with someone in the same peer group, however, many of the exchange process breakdowns occur due to simple resistance or avoidance to what one just did effortlessly with the youth or elder.

So, what are these behaviors, and what are the three exchange process steps to value- based action on the part of the recipient in your communication exchanges?

1. RECEIPT/RECEIVED of the message itself is obviously necessary if the message being sent is to be processed and acted upon. Many times, managers and leaders merely craft a message with little regard for the actual recipients.  They send that message through the communication airwaves and assume it will be received and acted upon.

2. UNDERSTANDING of the communication signal being sent by the recipient is essential for the exchange process to evolve upward. Tailoring the message intent by using the appropriate words, syntax, tone, emphasis, imagery, stories, examples and statistics that the recipient can actually comprehend is essential at this second exchange level!

3. VALUE of that signal to that recipient causes action!


As a tactical leader, ensuring communication exchange success is dependent upon your ability to deploy the individual steps necessary to ensure each level is addressed thoroughly!

Here are several immediate application techniques to ensure each step is addressed as thoroughly as necessary and you don’t overkill any one level.

  1. RECEIVED – Ensuring that the signal is received dictates an awareness of any possible interference issues and objectively looking at the transmission of the communication exchange from a broader perspective.

Make sure you communicate at the right time and place. Be sensitive to what is happening in the other person’s environment, and ask for verification that it has been receive. Also inquire if they would like the signal delivered in a different format than how you are delivering it at that present moment. The objective is to do something to ensure that if you are taking the time to send a message, it is, in fact, being received. If you d o not receive any immediate feedback confirming a message’s receipt, assume the responsibility to follow up with them in the near future to solicit feedback and determine if it was received. If you receive feedback that the message has been received, cease the delivery activity and evolve upward to the second communication exchange level. Another tactical way to ensure a signal is being received – with minimal interference – would be to ask the recipient to repeat the message; this will ensure the message is correctly relayed. Give the signal a bounce back mechanism – an email return receipt, a phone call response or a postal receipt vehicle – to merely let you know level one has successfully been accomplished.

  1. UNDERSTOOD – Ensure that you adjust how the message is constructed so the recipient can understand and process its meaning. A lot of times, the core reason a person does not take action (Level Three, VALUE) in a communication exchange is due in large part to a breakdown at level two.

This is where one adjusts the jargon, slang, code words, phrases, vocal tones, speed, pitch and pace of the communication signal being delivered.  This allows for an accent that can break down understanding based upon the level of education, knowledge, training or experience the parties involved in the communication interaction have!

The use of PowerPoint, handouts, slides, signage, literature, business cards, notes, audio and anything else used to reinforce the understanding of the message must be used judiciously and concluded at the precise moment the recipient clues you into the fact that they understand. The danger of continuing can be the complete disconnect by the recipient to the sender in the communication exchange process!

  1. VALUE – When a signal has value, it motivates the recipient to take action. Your objective in crafting the signal is to build it from the other person’s vested interest level and perspective – the old “what’s in it for me” syndrome!

Motivating the recipient to take action is the net result of effectively crafting your message to evolve through the three levels. A person can sense value only when your message addresses two core needs: Pleasure or Pain. If they sense a better outcome, elevation in status or enrichment of any level, the “Pleasure” is implied, and the recipient will tend to sense a level of value and take action. Conversely, if your message communicates a worsening of lifestyle, status or position, “Pain” has been implied. If that reaches a level the recipient cannot tolerate, the action will again be taken.

The effective leader recognizes all of the nuances that tactically influence effective communication exchanges and strives to ensure he or she takes the necessary steps at each individual level to attain success with the intended recipient.

-Dr Jeff Magee
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Communication Effectiveness – The Psychology of Shaping, Sending & Receiving Signals!

SERIES: Part One of a Five-Part Article

As a leader, how you tactically shape and send communication signals to others will have a direct influence on how others perceive you as a leader and embrace your communication signals!

Communication effectiveness in sending and receiving signals in the work place is critical to keeping everyone on the same game plan and not creating minor implosions for miscommunication. With a better understanding of the shared commonalities between the sender and receiver, a leader can become increasingly more effective in creating a hospitable environment for the communicators.

When crafting a communication signal, the tactical leader must recognize that for all of the differences among the individuals involved in the communication exchange, there are some shared commonalities concerning the communication psychology. As a sender (encoder) of a signal or the receiver (decoder) of a signal, it is important to see the psychology of communication as circular in design; what occurs within the process of sending a signal is similar to what occurs in receiving the signal.

To improve the process of sending communications (whether printed correspondence and memos, email, voice mail, teleconference, face-to-face interactions or group presentations), consider the six evolving variables of the process:

1. YOU as Sender =

2. Encoding Via =

3. How one Thinks (logic, rationalization, analyze…) and

4. How one Feels (instinct, emotion, experiences…) =

5. Shaped by your Filters =

6. Your Intentions =

7. The communication signal that actually leaves as a

    representation of you!

“The words that you choose to use are the only representation I have of who you are and how you wish to be judged!” Explosive advice from a trusted colleague, Mr. Jim Stovall, President of the Emmy Award-Winning Narrative Television Network, television for the sight impaired viewed daily by millions!

To further enhance your ability to craft powerful words and messages, recognize that within the norm of communication exchanges in the work place how one goes about sending a signal is mirrored in the receiving side as well. Recognizing as much as you can about the intended recipient of your signal will help you tactically adjust the building and sending of a signal for maximum impact!

1. THEM as Receiver =

2. Decoding Via =

3. How one Thinks (logic, rationalization, analyze…)=

4. How one Feels (instinct, emotion, experiences…) =

5. Shaped by their Filters =

6. Their Perceptions =

7. The communication signal that actually is received as a representation of you!

What causes most communication breakdowns in the workplace today is when the psychology of communication is obstructed due to the sender or receiver, which in turn allows their FILTERS to be violated. There are six shared FILTERS that influence how we think and feel in the process of communication. If violated, the communication exchange process typically will break down, and one or both parties will feel compelled to defend the filter that they feel has been challenged. The six common shared filters are:

  1. Age
  2. Gender
  3. Race
  4. Education (formal, informal, technical, certifications, etc.)
  5. Socioeconomic position and background
  6. Profession (or cumulative professional backgrounds)

All of these shape how one encodes and decodes. The more you know about the other person, the more you will recognize that six filters are not a finite number. Rather, there are an infinite number of filters one can have. The six is merely a shared starting point. If you know what your filters are, that’s great! But remind yourself that if the recipient does not share a similar filter, you shouldn’t let that filter become such an over influencer of the signal that it becomes the filter violation breakdown!

Example: When I moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma a few years ago, I found myself being turned off by a great number of individuals when it came to communication exchanges. I soon was able to isolate the cause…it was a filter violation. In Oklahoma there is a shared number seven filter (RELIGION, or a derivative thereof) that is used to influence how almost everyone communicates; outside of Oklahoma it is exceedingly unprofessional. Once I was able to recognize what it was that I was unaccustomed to, I was able to set that to the side. Now, I hear people for the signal they are sending and not the one they are violating.

Should you need to engage someone on your team, there may be a reason for you to suspect that there could be a communication filter violation that would impede the flow of encoding and decoding. Therefore, you should preface the signal intent with a respectful reference to their filter, encouraging their ear to remain focused on the intention and not shut you out at the first sign of a filter violation. It could sound like this:

“With all due respect, I know that you have been doing this for some time (profession, education and possibly age filters have just been referenced). What are your thoughts on…?”

With this sentence, the leader has tactically built the exchange to be sensitive to filters and allowed the signal process to continue to the point of the message.

-Dr Jeff Magee
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Attitude – It Is 100 Percent Replicable With Your Team!

SERIES: Part Five of a Five-Part Article

If the foundation of human behavior performance management and improvement rests on the psychology that one’s mindset (thoughts) dictates the behavior one exhibits, an effective leader recognizes daily the tactical actions that can reinforce positive behavior or influence negative behavior.

The code for mindset, thoughts and mental energy is ATTITUDE. Therefore, it would be valuable for a tactical leader to recognize all of the actions that can promote and foster constructive behaviors in those around them.

As an effective leader today, there are eight elementary tactics for encouraging positive ATTITUDE and holding individuals accountable to positive actions. Consider:

A = Always ASK those on your team questions about involvement and the best practices for every endeavor. By involving them early and often, a sense of inclusion will be created, and powerful working relationships will develop as well.

T = TEACH others at all levels as much as you can, as often as you can. If done in a spirit of cross training, it will ensure maximum performance from every player on your team. And with this approach, others will be able to provide enhancement ideas to one another as well as hold one another accountable to performance standards and expectations!

T = TOLERATE others’ approaches to executing a task, when different from your approach. Individuals always embrace their action plans with greater enthusiasm and passion. Your benchmark should be whether the other person’s action plan is: Legal, Ethical and Cost Effective. If it is, let go. If any one of these specific perimeters is not, then speak only to that one perimeter as you coach them and encourage them to maintain a wealthy attitude for success.

I = INFORM your team as often and as thoroughly as possible about everything! Consistently, the number one threat to active implementation of initiatives by the front line is when they are left to guess the motives of the leader’s policies. The hidden “why” factor causes more implosion and missed spent energy than any other single force. Answer this question, and others will actively embrace you!

T = TERMINATE poor performance behaviors immediately. An effective leader recognizes that a bad attitude left unengaged (not challenged) is like a cancer. Early detection and early engagement can lead to early elimination. Left unchecked, negative actions and thoughts spread, becoming systemic and leading to visible implosions in performance behaviors.

U = UNDERSTANDING is a hallmark characteristic of a powerful leader today. This implies that that the leader has tactically interacted with others to gain an understanding of others’ values, core beliefs, desires from their employment and an overall general perspective as to how they think and feel. With this, increased awareness and a significantly better understanding of how others will respond to a given situation will be gained!

D = DELEGATE appropriately to those on your team to gain increased productivity. Also develop the platform of skills necessary from individuals to ensure their growth, development and success.

E = EMPOWER (Empowerment = Education + Access + Experience + Desire) others to greatness. Let go of cultural autocratic management and become a leader that others will want to follow!

The picture and numbers are very clear. Performance, whether good or bad, is directly tied to one’s ATTITUDE. As a leader, your tactics either reinforce the positive or encourage the negative. You make that decision.

-Dr Jeff Magee
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Attitude – Leading at 30,000 Feet & Avoiding Managing at 5,000 Feet Issues!

SERIES: Part Four of a Five-Part Article

An immediate clue you’re leading at the 30,000 feet level is where your attention is and remains. A clue that you are immersed in 5,000 feet issues is that you are off course as an organization.

Managers fly at the 5,000 feet level, but leaders must fly at the 30,000 feet level! Where should you be? Better yet, as a tactical leader in today’s marketplace, where must your organization have you to succeed?

Far too many major corporations find themselves in trouble today for one simple reason. They have placed 5,000 feet people in 30,000 feet positions. The momentum of the organization may carry them for a period of time, but if they are not capable of flying at the 30,000 feet level, they will eventually crash and burn!

One of the first indicators that an implosion is about to occur happens when people are placed into positions in which they functionally cannot perform. The first thing to go is one’s attitude, which directly impacts one’s behavior and treatment of those around them.

The needless victims of this crash are the people who make up an organization, and if a public traded firm, the shareholders as well.

A tactical leader, regardless of the place from which he or she operates, must understand the subtle nuances of 5,000 feet issues and 30,000 feet issues if they are to remain positively focused and create the proper attitude for others to follow suite.

First, the Analogy:

An airplane pilot knows that when departing and arriving they must be very focused and in total control of all plane operations, functions and actions in the area between the ground and 5,000 feet in the air. Thus, a high level of hands-on activity takes place. Most airplanes from 5,000 feet upward are on autopilot, meaning the actual pilot is not continuously involved in the total activity of managing and operating. Most pilots cruise in commercial aircraft at the 30,000 feet range, and at this level, you are able to assume more of a leadership role. You can see your horizon, destination, goals and overall big pictures, enabling you to make individual calculated course corrections to attain a successful arrival.

Second, the Application:

As a tactical leader, you must ensure your team is vested, empowered and held accountable to the 5,000 feet issues and basic operational activities that make your organization what it is. Examples of 5,000 feet actions are functioning tasks such as:

Meetings
Delegation
Training
Implementing, educating and enforcing policies, procedures and rules
Facilitating basic business processes that are what you are and do
Interfacing with end users or customers
Front line activities and behind the scenes functions that reinforce each
Dealing with conflicts, confrontations, problem behaviors and counseling or disciplinary issues
Etc.

When you as a leader have to come down from the 30,000 feet level, maintain a healthy perspective (attitude) in all of your interactions with others, as people will model what you telegraph to them. Also, stay focused because it is in the 5,000 feet issues that you can rally significant positive mental attitudes from the team that allow you the energy force necessary to be productive, be profitable and regain the 30,000 feet focus.

Examples of 30,000 feet actions are functioning tasks such as:

Planning, mission statement design, strategy sessions, ensuring that the values and integrity of the organization are maintained
Organizing big picture issues, advocates, personnel assets, etc.
Coordinating resources and personnel talent pools from which business functions will be drawn today and in the future (succession planning)
Building partnerships and alliances, forecasting market needs and maintaining course clarity for growth
Etc.

A tactical leader must understand necessary interpersonal skills, how to work the people equations effectively at both levels and be committed to instant interactions, if necessary, to ensure maximum positive influence at each level. Therefore, when a tactical leader is not at the 30,000 feet level, they must ask, “Who is left at the destiny controls?”

Maintaining 30,000 feet control takes a powerfully focused, controlled and positive mindset (attitude). Ask yourself who you interact with, who you seek counsel from, who you collaborate with and who serves as your model. All of these are 30,000 feet tactical leader questions.

Making sure everyone is flying with you requires you to stay on top of the environmental matters that allow people to either soar or come down into the turbulence of 5,000 feet implosions and mundane functionality issues.

Dr Jeff Magee
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