“Leadership is always dependent on the context, but the context is established by the relationships we value.” ~ Margaret Wheatley

Many people think that they were promoted to leadership positions because they are smarter, better equipped and/or more capable than their peers. They assume that others look to them for guidance and eagerly await their every direction. While that may be true to a degree, leaders need to know that they won’t last very long unless they get to know and respect their people.

The process of connecting with your professional team begins with becoming acquainted with them as individuals. Try to learn and understand their strengths and their goals, professional as well as personal. What are they passionate about? What are their concerns? People appreciate when you take an honest interest in then and demonstrate care. They also love it when you can identify specific qualities and behaviors that make them special. (read more…)

The Young Entrepreneur Council is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses. Read previous SmartBlogs posts by YEC.

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Q. How do you stay calm and collected when business isn’t going well? When is it right to tell your team that you’re off course?

YEC_Joseph DiTomaso1. Check in once a week

Bill (my co-founder) and I ask ourselves these questions at least once a week: Are we on track? Are we allocating our time efficiently? Is the team focused on the right things? Do we have enough money? It is always a delicate and tenuous balance. If you have been open and honest with your team, this won’t be that big of an issue. (read more…)

Is your workplace dull and frustrating, or is it engaging and inspiring?

This is a question I pose to leaders frequently. Most leaders pay more attention to the way their team is performing than to the way their team is operating.

A reader asked me recently about the nature of the “yes or no” answer I was forcing to this question. “What if your company culture is somewhere in the middle?”

My experience and research leads me to believe that most teams, departments, divisions, companies, etc., are somewhere in the middle of this continuum. Your experiences probably mirror mine — you probably see your team somewhere between those “extremes.”

What my experience and research also leads me to believe is that if your team (or department, etc.) culture is at any stage on that continuum that is less than engaging and inspiring, it’s costing you money, eroding team-member engagement and creating lousy customer experiences. (read more…)

SmartPulse — our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Leadership — tracks feedback from more than 190,000 business leaders. We run the poll question each week in our e-newsletter.

Last week, we asked: Have you ever had what you would consider a major ethical lapse?

  • Yes — I’ve made a big mistake at least once: 48.59%
  • No — I’ve never had an ethical lapse: 51.41%

To err is human. We all make mistakes. I’ve made plenty. Sometimes we find ourselves in that gray area. The most critical thing we can do at that moment is stop, call the foul, make amends, and seek to put in place safeguards to prevent the issue from recurring. Owning up to an error can be scary and painful. But pointing out when bad things happen or might happen can be a powerful relationship builder. The stronger the guardrails you put in place to keep bad things from happening, the stronger your relationships can end up being. (read more…)

A warm late December evening in Miami awaited the 163 passengers who traveled on Eastern Air Lines Flight 401 from New York to Florida. During the otherwise uneventful trip, marriage proposals were made, a young couple looked forward to introducing their newborn baby to awaiting grandparents, and college students headed back to school after the holidays. But in a few hours, over 100 of the passengers and crewmembers would be dead. The tragically simple cause of their death will not only shock you, but as the leader of your organization, will also provide a fair warning lesson in the problem of over-focusing on one issue or problem at the expense of other risks.

On Dec. 29, 1972, Eastern Air Lines Flight 401 left New York’s JFK Airport and was approaching Miami International Airport at approximately midnight, when the nose landing gear indicator did not illuminate. The pilots had to identify whether the landing gear had indeed failed to extend, or more likely, if the indicator bulb in the cockpit had simply burned out. (read more…)