A Leader’s T.O.U.G.H.; The 5 Keys to Toughening-Up Like a Leader!

As I’m sure you know, Leadership isn’t for the weak of mind or meek at heart! Leadership Positions at work, on a sports team, or within your home can be the most fulfilling and rewarding experience of all time, but will come with its own special level of exhaustion, mental fatigue, loneliness, being misunderstood, and sometimes being undervalued until those around you mature professionally or personally! There will be a time when you’re not at your best and will still have to Lead… and Lead at a high level! There will be times when your people aren’t at their best… and you will still have to Lead at a high level! Lastly, there will be times when you don’t like or agree with the direction of your organization or a specific new plan of action… and you will still have to Lead at a high level! Leadership will be tough; therefore you must be tougher!

Looking back… I remember going through a divorce many years ago; dragging myself out of bed, figuring out what to do with all of my emotions and low finances, and preparing my mind as I sat at my desk to face my Team and lead the day! I remember having emergency surgery due to being septic, then returning to work with staples holding my stomach together and preparing to take the day seriously as coworkers and clients complained about things I felt were trivial given my near-death situation. I remember being a Front-Line Employee with bigger dreams and actively choosing to Lead by example; as I showed up daily with a smile and 100% effort for the job as I planned my entrance into entrepreneurship while working a full-time job. I remember making the decision to pivot my business, from serving the community to impacting corporations, letting Staff, Interns, and  Members go for the sake of growth and a desired future. My point again, at times, Leadership will be tough; therefore we must be tougher! So, how do you do it?

T. – Teachable!

The first Key is two-fold! Can you teach and can you learn? Leadership isn’t simply telling people what to do… it’s mentoring and coaching! It’s sharing what to do, why to do it, how to do it (when applicable), how it will help them, how it will help the Team, and being sure expectations are clear!

When your People know what to do, great! If they don’t… will you teach or train them, will someone else, who, where, and how? My youngest son, Mase, is a quarterback and I shared two options with him many years ago. When telling your receivers what to do… always explain why it’s helping them, hurting them, and only then… helping you! Or, approach them with what they want… and what do all receivers want? MORE CATCHES, Lol! Therefore, the question becomes, “Do you want to catch more balls and touchdowns? Do you want to get hit less? Then do _____, it will help you do _____, it’s an easier throw for me because_____, and we’ll win! Being able to teach first means you’re curious enough to know what will motivate your people to learn!

Secondly, as Leaders, WE must be able to learn! Your industry is changing daily… innovation, products, technology, systems, and people. I often joke that I’m a nerd. Yes, I go to the gym, have muscles, and like to think I dress fashionably… but I’m a BIG NERD; and I suggest you be a BIG NERD regarding your craft, your profession, your husband or wife, your kids, and anything or person you say you Love! As a Leader, you can’t teach what you don’t know and when you don’t know, who do you know and how will you connect your People… Be Mindful!

O. –  Observant!

When I conduct Leadership Trainings for companies or speak on stages at conferences, I always ask people to raise their hand if they’re “Busy”. Of course, all hands go up… sometimes people raise both hands! I get it and it’s a given, you’re busy; whether you’re headed to your ninth meeting of the day, closing another deal, putting out the 99th fire of the day, or checking your 200 plus emails… We’re all busy; sometimes too busy to properly observe our people, our teams, and our clients/customers… and that’s not Leadership!

As a Leader, there are many things to observe: the body language of our people and Team in meetings, facial expressions (especially via virtual meetings), email tone and email etiquette, how clients/customers enter, engage, and exit your facility, and more.

I still remember a missed observation that haunts me to this day! While completing my Master’s Program for Counseling Psychology, I was assigned a project to video record a session with a client. I had met with her for about a year, I was comfortable with her, and she was comfortable with me. She agreed to be recorded and off we went! I thought the session went great; however, while watching the recording, something happened! As we were discussing a topic, her face twitched. Her eyebrows went up, her lips wrinkled, and it only lasted a milli-second… and of course, I kept right on talking. How could I have missed that? Did I see it and ignore it? Was I too busy performing for the camera? What was that twinge? What did it mean? What was it about? But the moment was gone! It still eats me up to this day… The point is… don’t be so busy being busy that you miss the twinge, the blink, the head nod of approval or disapproval, the leg twitch, and more of your People. It all means something and it’s our job to address it right then and there or later… but not never!!!

Nowadays when a company brings me in to conduct Leadership & Work/Life Harmony Trainings, many of my presentations are LIVE. However, sometimes there’s a mix of LIVE and Virtual. My “Virtual Rule” is, all screens must be turned on and every Attendee must be willing to unmute to engage. Yes, I’m sure Leaders and Employees beforehand hate the idea of having to do this; as they planned on multi-taking, Lol! However, it’s my job to not only make the experience awesome and enjoyable, but also not to miss the head nods of approval, the raised eye-brow of surprise as they receive new and helpful information they can use immediately, or an unknown facial gesture that tends to spark a real company scenario; taking it from concept to reality in real-time. I get goosebumps just writing about this and I love the impact observing creates!

U. – Umbrella!

This Key is short and sweet; when it rains, people get wet! As a Leader, it’s going to rain professionally… change in company philosophy or direction, organizations doing more with less, an unrealistic or intrusive Boss that asks of your people and team, furloughs, cutbacks, etc. Umbrellas are great to have when the rain starts. Some umbrellas are small, some are big, but no matter what size… anyone caught in the rain will get some degree of wet. How will you protect your People and Team as much as possible? I’ve seen great bosses become the Go-To for their Team and fight for a Direct-Report behind closed doors with their boss because it was the right thing to do. Tom Brady (7-Time Superbowl winning Champion) took less money so the organization could keep other great players. Many years ago, when my business was different, I changed who and how we served so we could keep the business afloat; allowing me to maintain and pay my employees! When you can’t change the event, what is it you people need… to vent, a regular happy-hour after work, words of encouragement, goodies in the office, acknowledgement, you to roll up your sleeves and get dirty with them… I could go on, but you get the point! Remember, the rain gets everyone some degree of wet… do your People have an umbrella; and that umbrella is YOU!

G. – Grit!

Grit in its simplest form equals RESULTS! I’m honored to make a living teaching Leadership Concepts to organizations worldwide. The 3C’s: Communication, Connection, & Culture matter, but results cannot be forgotten! Grit is leading yourself and getting your people to lead themselves while driving high-yielding results! Grit is the details… the hundred emails per day, the fifty calls, and ten meetings it took to close that deal or meet that deadline is the GRIT it takes to be successful in anything… Be Mindful!

Note to All Leaders:

Many companies and CEOs receive an email that the deal or task was completed… they smile… (I’ve had that momentary smile)…  and BOOM, they’re on to the next item on their list! They have no idea all it took to pull off their impossible idea, deadline, or working situation they asked of their Team! Sometimes, it’s par for the course, you did what needed to be done, and you can pat your own self on the back for a job well done. Sometimes, as a Leader, you may have to make those above you aware of your or your Team’s grit as you cc emails, share logged travel time, share early clock-in times and overtime, or intentionally share the duties you side-barred to address the urgent priorities. Having grit as a leader is essential, but sometimes people must be made aware or catch you displaying it before you or your people burnout and leave… or burnout and stay… Be Mindful!

H. – Honest!

It takes grit to be honest, but it takes tact to make honesty count… therefore; honesty + tact = Better Leadership! It never ceases to amaze me what people are willing to accept when you’re upfront, bold, and honest with tact… and a previous connection! Some may not like it, some may belly-ache, some won’t, but they’ll never say you didn’t tell them the truth.

As Leaders, we protect our People with the truth… the truth about the state of the company, finances, new endeavors and why, moving on from past endeavors and why, their performance, our professional expectations of them, what they do great, areas of focus, and allowing them to share their truth about the company… and your Leadership!

As I mentioned in the beginning, Leadership isn’t for the weak of mind or meek at heart! Are you teachable, can you teach, are you observant, will you be your People’s Umbrella, do you have Grit, will you be Honest, and can you listen and absorb other people’s truth? If so, enjoy your Leadership and be sure to make time and take some time for YOU too… Self-Care is not a luxury, it’s a necessity!

“Having grit as a leader is essential, but sometimes people must be made aware or catch you displaying it before you or your people burnout and leave… or burnout and stay… Be Mindful!” – Andre Young

Written by: Andre Young

Are you looking to impact your Organization, Leaders, Teams, and Employees with Leadership & Work/Life Harmony Trainings or a Speaker? Click www.youevolvingnow.com to connect, chat, and customize with Andre Young!

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