People-First Leadership Lessons from a Lawyer

Courtroom

What do the leaders to which you aspire to be like all have in common? Aside from being successful, they probably have a people-first approach to leadership.

So when it was my turn to become an influential leader, a “people-first” path is what I chose.

Serious Thought to Leadership

When I had the opportunity to co-found a law practice, I gave serious consideration to my role as a leader in the business. I thought about the leaders that I had come in contact with at home, at school, and in the workforce. I realized that the leaders I admired the most — the leaders I aspired to be like — always put others first in their organizations.

Then and there, I decided to apply a people-first approach to my own practice, for both my clients and my staff.

Over the years, I have built a strong reputation for myself and for my business. And I have seen the law firm grow to greater heights as a result!

The Dos and Don’ts of Practical People-First Leadership

Some of these lessons may strike you as obvious, but I think you will find that they are the foundation of running any successful business — especially one in which your reputation and the relationships you create are everything.

Do act genuinely.

The key to people-first leadership is truly believing in it.

You must actually be genuine. Don’t just act genuine.

Show your clients or customers that you care by answering their questions, offering help when possible, and going above and beyond when you can. For example, when a potential client isn’t a good fit with my firm, I do my best to help him find another firm that will meet his needs. I genuinely care about seeing people’s needs met, one way or another.

Don’t make promises you can’t keep.

No one likes to be let down — especially a paying client. Often in my business, clients come to me with problems that have truly affected their lives in a negative way. Perhaps they’ve been seriously injured on the job or experienced awful side effects from a drug. The natural impulse is to promise you can do something to make their lives better, but it’s important to set realistic expectations.

Whether it’s a matter of cost or payment, the time it will take for something to get done, or creating a vision of the result, it’s best if you never discuss or promise anything you’re not ready, willing, and able to deliver. Failing to keep your word will not only leave the client disappointed, but it will also make your word less valuable in the future.

Do implement your practices throughout your business.

Your people-first mantra should not only be a personal standard, but it should also be embedded in the core of your business and acted out daily by all employees, from management down.

You can encourage this by promoting open communication among all levels of employees, offering consistent feedback and praise to your staff, and continually communicating the company’s vision to your team.

Don’t underestimate the power of listening.

Listening to customers is an incredibly important part of any job that is often overlooked. Business leaders who actively listen to what customers have to say — good, bad, mad, sad, or totally off-topic — show a desire to engage and help in any way they can.

This simple act tells the person that you care and are there to help.

It also builds loyalty and may bring issues to light that can help you do your job better.

Do lead by example.

The best way to promote the behavior you want to see is to demonstrate the behavior you want to see. People are more likely to act like someone they admire and respect than someone they find offensive and un-supportive. Set the standard for people-first leadership by modeling it in all of your business activities, and watch as it trickles down to other employees over time.

At my firm, my partner and I made it a point to return any client calls or correspondence within 24 hours. Before long, we saw this people-first approach being adopted by others throughout our firm.

Don’t be seen as a know-it-all.

Make sure that you are open to new ideas and to new ways of doing things. If not, then you could be seen an an unbecoming know-it-all by the people around you. This would take away from any feelings or perceptions of your people-first attitude and will work against your level of influence with your internal and external relationships.

Personal & Business Growth

Whether you’re already the boss or you’re hoping to move up to that seat one day, you should consider the advantages of applying a people-first approach to your role as a leader.

These practices have not only helped me expand my business, but they’ve also helped me be a better, more focused businessman and leader. You and your business can gain so much when you put others first.

So, would you consider yourself a people-first type of leader? Do you take the steps to be inclusive with those you lead? Are you seen as genuine, authentic, and welcome person of integrity? How could you take steps to increase your level of personal leadership effectiveness by being more people-first focused? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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Mike Acosta

Michael Acosta is a partner at Acosta & Williams LLC
He specializes in Pharmaceuticals and Personal Injury Law
Email | LinkedIn | Twitter | Web | Google+

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On Leadership, Values and Beliefs

Values

Since the early 1900′s social scientists have developed a number of approaches by which to consider leadership. Lists of characteristics, influencers, behaviors, style definitions, and processes all build upon, yet sometimes conflict with each other.

A leader can learn the characteristics, confidence, behaviors and styles that are most effective, given the specific situational variables.

However,  certain inherent attributes are necessary that influence the leader’s behavior in a group or organization.

On Values and Beliefs

At the core of every thought and interaction is a set of deeply rooted values and beliefs.

We are all guided by our values. How we choose to react to others is influenced by what we value.

When I ask clients to identify their five most important values  I get a deer-in-headlights look back.

It is often the case that we are not even consciously aware of the values that influence our decisions and interactions.  When a cord is struck with us that goes against our values we feel it as stress, anger, frustration, and even betrayal. The same is true for a group of people in an organization.

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Recalibrate Values Cards

What are the Top Values of everyone you lead? Find out here.
Recalibrate Values-Cards Exercise
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Understanding Values

Think of your last job interview. Did the topic of values come up? Leading others means understanding the collective values and shared sense of purpose.

When personal values do not align with company values work becomes just a job.

When a company decision directly opposes a personal value the impact is disengagement, low morale, and lower productivity.

Leaders who understand this need to do three things:

1.Reflect on the principles, beliefs and values that drive themselves

2. Engage in work that aligns with their values

3. Understand and engage others whose values align

Knowing yourself and letting others know you as a leader will define you as authentic.

Learning To Lead Yourself

Leadership is a cycle of self-reflection and action. The first step in developing as a leader is having a very honest conversation with yourself about what you value.

Consider a list of values and circle the ones that stand out to you.Now cross some off so that you only have ten left. Now take five more off the list of circled values. Those are your top five values. Try crossing off three more. Then one more.

What is left is your core value; the one thing that you would not compromise. The one thing that, if others threaten, you react strongly. This is the one thing that guides everything you do. It is deeply rooted and part of you.

What is a guiding principle by which you live? What is one virtue you could not live without? How is your core value evident in your leadership? Have you ever been in a position where your values were threatened or did not fit with what you were expected to do? What did you do? How do these values align with your organizational values?

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Jacqueline De Leebeeck
Jacqueline De Leebeeck is founding partner of Savvy
She facilitates leadership capacity building and team development
Email | LinkedIn | Twitter | Facebook | Web

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On Leadership and Creating the Perfect Messaging

Open Minded

Effective leadership means that your vision, mission, and shared goals are clear for everyone involved. There is no room for inaccuracies, vagueness or ambiguity because these missteps only end up yielding lost time and poor results. This all boils down to being an effective communicator.

And one key way for effective leaders to make sure they are communicating most effectively is to be directly involved in the organizations marketing messaging.

On Marketing Your Message

Experts Only: Why Content Marketing Only Works When It’s Coming from the Top

Have you ever heard the phrase “Fake it till you make it?” Sure, it might work sometimes — in fact, maybe more often than most people would like to admit — but you can’t fake true knowledge. And that’s exactly what good content marketing offers: unique insights that are only gained through real-life experience.

Content marketing can mean a lot of things: news, video, whitepapers, infographics, case studies, and more. It’s branded, it’s informational, and it’s designed to open communication with your customers by giving them valuable information. That’s why the focus of your content marketing efforts should cater to your clients’ experience, not your product features.

Real Insights, Real Authority

Giving your customers a more detailed view of the landscape that surrounds your brand — and why it’s relevant to their lives — is the key to good content marketing. Why? Good content serves as an insight, not an advertisement. And the best content reveals how your product addresses the problems, challenges, and possibilities within your industry.

It’s important to create a connection by offering meaningful information in your articles — not marketing pitches.

The best way to accomplish this is by transferring your senior leaders’ knowledge to your customers.

Shine a spotlight on your customers, and give a voice to their concerns and problems. Provide them with information or resources that will help them find success. This isn’t an easy task, which is why it’s important to get the most qualified, experienced people at your company to do it.

Marketing with Knowledge

It seems like the responsibility of creating marketing content should fall to your marketing department, right? Wrong! This is a common mistake. When marketing professionals create content, it can come across as superficial, rather than insight-rich. It’s natural for marketing professionals to turn content into a sales pitch, but that’s an excellent way to quickly disengage your customers.

If your content isn’t thoughtful, your customers will see through it immediately and dismiss it as a marketing message disguised as an article. To stay relevant in your customers’ lives, you have to engage in the conversations they’re having on their own.

And if you don’t have anything meaningful to say, you won’t hold anyone’s attention.

In order to create content that your customers feel is worth reading, you need an expert’s voice. Where’s the best place to find an expert? Look to your executives.

Tapping Your Experts’ Knowledge

You need your business leaders to write your company’s content marketing. Why? Readers can tell when content marketing materials don’t offer expert-level insight. And only business leaders are immersed enough to choose, discuss, and offer advice on their industries’ issues and trends. But often, they’re reluctant to take part in it — for a multitude of reasons:

  • They are busy.

Executives are, by definition, hard-pressed for time. They might be reluctant to contribute because of the time commitment. Here are a few ways to help: Make outlines. Give examples. Help them edit and connect their thoughts. That way, they can focus on the insights, and you can focus on polishing the finished product.

  • They are trying to be modest.

Executives might not want to call attention to themselves; they’d prefer to promote the company. But that’s a mistake. You have to make it clear just how important their experiences and expertise are to your marketing content efforts — and how it can positively impact your business’s bottom line.

  • They don’t know how content marketing works.

Show your executives the value of content marketing. How does it work? Why does it work? And what can it do for your company? Then, incorporate this information into a comprehensive strategy and show your executives where they fit in. After all, executives are used to looking at things from a higher, strategic level, rather than from a task-by-task perspective.

Your in-house experts in your executive branch are your company’s greatest source of knowledge, guidance, and ultimately, good content. Channel your leaders’ voices into your marketing content, and you’ll make connections with your readers that resonate.

So how are you doing at making sure what is in your head is being heard by your customers and the people who you lead? How much are you involved in the content marketing of you business? What can you do to improve your organizations communication strategy by being more involved in the messaging? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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———————–
Don Broekelmann
Don Broekelmann is the Executive Vice President at Influence & Co.
Don works with Brand Partners to develop Content Marketing Plans
Email | LinkedIn |  Web

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Leading Colorblind – The Strength of Belief

Belief

Leading people when you have “belief” as one of your top strengths makes you stand out in any environment. It is a characteristic that brings one’s core values to the surface time after time in an uncompromising way. 

And when it comes to belief, few things are more clear to people.

It’s Black or It’s White

“It’s the right thing to do.” That’s your bottom line. Come hell or high water, you will not budge from what you feel is right. Your value system is an essential part of your design.

So essential, in fact, you use it to evaluate everything; people, situations, job opportunities, etc. Those you surround yourself with often have a similar, if not identical, set of values and are more than aware of their importance to you. This code that you live by allows you to view the world in black and white.

There is no gray – it either lines up with your values, or it doesn’t. Plain and simple.

If this sounds like you, you’re displaying your Belief strength.

No Gray Means No Compromise

Having a strong Belief strength means having a set of core values that have an omnipresent bearing on your life. Though these values vary from person to person, they often lead those who possess them to have a high sense of responsibility and ethics.

This means that when push comes to shove, they know exactly where they stand, and so does everyone else.

Where other people may experience confusion, they have only clarity. There is no gray when it comes to their Belief; therefore, there is no compromise.

For this reason, people find them to be reliable and extremely trustworthy. Their Belief acts as a guide, shedding light on the darkness, allowing them to be consistent, or, in other words, dependable.

Leading and Being Lead

It is important for those strong in Belief to do work they find meaningful. It will only be meaningful if it allows them to utilize their values. This is great news for any leader with someone strong in Belief on their team. As their leader, you will have their undying support, as long as you and their work line up with their values.

Once Belief feels that you have violated their core values, it’s near impossible to get them back on your side.

As a leader you most likely have a set of values you also operate by, however, you may have a strength that Belief does not get along with. For example, if you are high in Competition, and willing the bend the rules a little bit to win, you may offend Belief depending on their values and what rule you bend. Remember, there is no gray, not even a slight shade.

Values Drive Decisions

If you are a leader with Belief, it’s important for you to understand there are different sets of values out there. Although they may be different, they aren’t inherently wrong. There are many ways to determine what your team members values. Here’s one way.

Belief should not equate to “Judge and Jury”.

This will most likely be difficult for you to keep in mind, but it’s necessary as a leader to support your team, even if they’re different. This does not mean you should disregard your values at work, in fact, that would be detrimental to your happiness and success as a leader.

Belief makes you a reliable leader with clear standards, which is great to have when you’re the boss. Just remember, some people need to operate in the gray to play to their strengths – it doesn’t make them wrong, just different. Use your value filter wisely and you’ll find an abundance of success!

As a leader, what are the advantages of being strong in Belief? Some of the pitfalls? Have you ever been lead by someone with Belief? What did you like most about their leadership style? Least? If anyone on your team has Belief, are you always clear on where they stand? Do you find them reliable and easy to trust?

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Alexsys "Lexy" Thompson HCS, SWP
Alexsys “Lexy” Thompson is Managing Partner at Fokal Fusion
She helps building Strong Leaders through Strong People Strategy
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Dirt Road Leadership

Dirt Road

I have a dirt road heritage. Much of my roots stem from a tiny patch of land in the mountains of very rural Alabama.

Proud? You bet.

And really it is not just a heritage thing. It is mostly because I was raised with some very strong values. Values are the foundation in my life. And that is a good thing.

On Leadership and Values

Values are the foundation of leadership as well. A new buzz in the current leadership books depicts Values Driven Leadership as all the rage. Values are absolutely the frame that surrounds the picture all of our best laid plans.

But how do we determine them?

Getting Started

Here’s an idea that will work. Take your blank legal pad and your trustworthy writing implement. Open up the flood gate of ideas in bullet form fashion and as fast and furiously as you can list all the things that you count as important to who you are and what defines you as an individual.

Let this be a time of idea fluency.

Green light every idea, don’t second guess anything as you list every little thing you think is part of the definition of your existence.

Now take a break, step away from the pad, go let your mind do something else. Get something to drink – I suggest Diet Coke.

Round Two

At some not so distant future time, come back to the pad and cross out half of them that if you had to choose only half, could be eliminated.

Now take a break, step away from the pad, go let your mind do something else. Get something to drink – I suggest Diet Coke.

Again, return to your thoughts and cross out half of them that are the lesser important statements.

Take a break, you know the drill.


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Values Sorting Exercise with Recalibrate Cards

Values drive decisions. Decisions drive behaviors. Behaviors drive results.
www.RecalibrateCards.com

Recalibrate Cards - Values Sorting & Prioritization Exercise

Round Three

Repeat this process until you absolutely cannot eliminate any other statements because they are just too important to you. These remaining ideals, friends, are your values. These are the core of your existence, the things you would take a bullet for.

This is the outline for your values statement which gives you the framework for your mission and your vision. These are the foundations of your life. You have a reason and means to define your existence.

Interestingly enough it works for your team, in a corporate setting as well. Give it a try, it will give you sure footing in an ever-changing world.

Here’s to dirt roads, diet cokes, values and leadership.

So, how fully aware are are you of your personal values? Have you taken an inventory to see what is driving your decisions, behaviors, and results? If not, take a minute and see how powerful this can be to help you raise your level of personal leadership effectiveness. You will be glad you did!

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Dr. Dan Roberts
Dr. Dan Roberts is professor of Organizational Leadership at Point University
His teaches “If you desire to lead, you must decide to serve.”
Email | LinkedIn | Twitter |  Web | Skype: Danroberts531

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Values: The Lifeblood of an Organization

Organizational Health

Many companies are quick to point out their values when a customer or prospect walks in the door. They are proud of what they stand for.

Then there are many other companies who don’t have any formal values posted anywhere.

Values Drive Business

I have known many people who think that mission statements, vision statements, and values are a waste of time and keep an organization from being “productive.” But if you look at some of the most successful companies in the world, these are a key reminder to keep employees focused on what’s important.

The values that are being lived out that determine the health or the corporate culture.

“Integrity” is a word that is usually the first word out of someone’s mouth when they talk about values.

It sounds nice, doesn’t it?

“Our company values integrity.”

Not only is integrity a great value to have, but it’s the key to whether or not the corporate values are worth the paper that they’re printed on.

Your Corporate Culture

It has been said that a person’s true leadership ability shines in a time of crisis. This is also true for organizations. The true corporate culture will show when times get tough, regardless of what is written somewhere in a mission, vision, or values statement.

Here are a few critical steps to ensuring your organization embodies the values it stands for:

Build buy-in from the current employees

If your employees don’t buy-in to the organization’s values, they’re worthless. Like any vision that is cast, buy-in is vital to its success. Include as many employees as possible in setting the values.

Hold round-table discussions or run a contest to incentivize them to participate in the process. The key is to have as many people as possible feel ownership in the decision – it is the best form of buy-in.

Don’t stop talking about them

Values can’t just be written once and thrown in a drawer. In order for them to be in the front of everyone’s mind, they have to be discussed constantly.

  • Mention them individually whenever the entire company is addressed.
  • Put them in your email signature.
  • Print a poster on the wall or hang them in the offices and cubes.
  • Whatever you have to do, get them in front of people.

Align your business practices around them

The key to integrity is doing what you said you were going to do, right? If you want to represent a value, you have to live up to it. This means doing what you say you’re going to do even if it’s difficult.

Many companies include the company’s values as a part of the annual employee evaluation process. For example, if you value your employee’s growth, then you have to support them. You have to move them on to new challenges when they’re ready.

Don’t keep them at a job just because they do it very well. If you value customer service, make sure the customer is the focus of everyone in the organization.

Don’t be afraid to let people go

Companies often show that they honor performance over values. If a person is going against the corporate values, you have to be willing to part ways – even if they’re a strong performer. When a person can repeatedly fall short the company’s values, everyone around them knows it.

It sends a very strong message if that person is kept or if they are let go.

Keeping them will breed distrust in management because you are not practicing what you preach. Worse yet, nothing can be swept under the rug. You will either deal with it now by letting the person go, or you will deal with it later by the decline in employee morale. One decision affects one person negatively while the other effects the entire organization.

Which one do you think is best?

Hire the right people

This is truly a key component of any business’s success, isn’t it?

Not only is it important to hire someone who is technically competent for the position, but their values need to be measured as well. Study after study has shown that corporate culture is one of the greatest factors in a company’s success.

So a candidate who has average ability but holds the same values is going to be a much better fit for your corporate culture than someone with strong ability and different values.

Values are the lifeblood of any organization. Align your people and processes with the corporate values and you will create a company that is enjoyable to work for sets up long-term success.

What are your organizations values? Are you building a culture that promotes them in everything they do? If the organization doesn’t live and breathe the values, what comes forward in a time of crisis? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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———————
Rich Bishop

Rich Bishop is President of Bishop Coaching & Consulting Group
He serves with hands-on approach to Development through Coaching & Training
Email | LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | Web

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Your Body’s Role in Leadership

Business Yoga

Our body’s role in leadership is more than just to carry our head around.

New discoveries in neurobiology are showing us that emotions are transmitted through our bodies.

This is important because, per the emotional intelligence guru, Daniel Goleman, the emotional state of a business organization is the number one determinant of its success.

As leaders, we must become more active in setting the emotional tone of our businesses.

The Reach of Emotional Energy

Emotions literally run rampant among people. Just by being in proximity of each other, without saying or doing anything, we influence each others’ emotions.

Psychologists as far back as 1981 found that when multiple people are in the same proximity, even for relatively short timeframes, they end up sharing the same mood.

Leaders have the greatest influence on the emotional tone of an organization because people are most aware of the leaders.

Heartfelt Leadership

Our bodies emit an emotional energetic field through our hearts. The Institute of HeartMath reports that heart fields reflect our emotional state and have been definitively measured to extend at least eight feet from our body.

However, researchers making this measurement openly state that the equipment used to measure the field was only capable of measuring up to eight feet, and they believe the field actually extends much further.

As we emit this energy, the heart fields of others around us synchronize with this energy.

Your Vibe is Showing

Be Deliberate about the Emotions You Project

This research reveals the importance of monitoring our own moods. When our teams feel positive, their cognitive and creative abilities are heightened, so it’s important that our own mood is consistently positive and coherent.

We must remember that if we show up cranky and frustrated, we’re generating unhealthy emotional environments where fear and anxiety will become commonplace.

These environments aren’t conducive to productivity and will eventually lead to massive burnout.

Purposeful Positivity

In addition to influencing the emotions of teams through osmosis, we can also deliberately project our energy towards a person or a group with the goal of changing their emotional state.

For example, two researchers, Marilyn Schlitz and Dr. William Braud in 1983 found that they could remotely influence nervous people to calm them down and increase their concentration.

Be Wise, Energize

These researchers weren’t specific about the process they used to influence others’ emotions, but I’ll outline the process I’ve used.

  • First make sure your energy is the most coherent, being totally present and positive.
  • Stop any mental chatter by focusing solely on the present moment and feeling gratitude for whatever is unfolding.
  • Then propel your energy towards the intended person or group by imagining your energy projecting out from you.

I find that I can project most strongly during my out-breath, when I imagine that my breath is carrying my energy towards the target.

Pacing Yourself

I’ll warn you that this process can be exhausting, especially if the group started out being very negative. Feeling yourself grounded into the earth, where you feel an extension from your feet into the core of the earth, can be useful in maintaining your positive energy and strength to project it.

Can you see yourself using this technique with confidence? Do you already use this type of technique or something similar? How would you use this as a leader? Please share your thoughts.

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——————-
Jackie Barretta is Managing Partner at Nura Group LLC
She uses scientific discovery to help businesses achieve industry best performance
 Email | Web | Blog | LinkedIn | Twitter | Facebook

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