With more than 30 years experience earning serious results for some of America’s best known corporations, including Ameritech, Convergys, AT&T, IBM, Pitney Bowes and SuperValu, Keith Wyche has risen to become a successful CEO and one of the highest-ranking African-American executives in the U.S. Keith understands the rules for success, rules he now shares as an author, speaker, and thought leader.
Winston Churchill once said, “You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word. It is victory; victory at all costs; victory in spite of all terror; victory, however long and hard the road may be, for without victory there is no survival.” The same wisdom Winston Churchill imparted while taking office back in 1940 is still significant as it pertains to challenges many organizations face today. The first step to overcoming disaster begins with good leadership.
1. Don’t Act Hastily: During a crisis is where your leadership skills are challenged the most. It is the leader’s responsibility to not only provide direction for the team, but respond to the problem in a timely manner without making irrational or hasty decisions as well.
2. Don’t Panic:With any crisis come not only fear and apprehension, but terror and panic, so it is up to the executive to address the magnitude of the crisis before alarming the team. Additionally, a good leader must take control. While it may be impossible to control the actual problem at hand, it is the leader’s job to control the response.
3. Consult with the Experts: Because crises are unpredictable, leaders must practice flexibility in their tactics. Committing to one specific strategy will only limit the possibility of a speedier resolution. Consulting with the experts who are at the frontline of a crisis is essential when making decisions, but, it is important that the leader not get too involved in frontline responsibility as their main concern is again, setting the overall direction on behalf of the company. In fact, executives tend to lead more effectively when they are away from the action.
4. Maintain Perspective:Although mapping out the course of direction is extremely crucial as I’ve already mentioned, another important task for a leader during a crisis is to provide perspective. An executive that can tackle a situation, while retaining a sense of perspective, will successively help the organization subsist any crisis.
5. Be Pro-Active: Moreover, having a crisis-management team already in place is also a good idea in the event of the unforeseen. The team should consist of legal counsel, public relation professionals, a select few of senior leaders, and additional crisis-management specialists.
No organization wants to be caught up in a crisis, no matter the scale, however, disasters do occur, and averting the problem all together could cause more harm than good, so it is in the best interest of the executive to prepare for the unfortunate beforehand.
However, in the event adversity does strike, a leader must remember to act with discipline and confidence. Your company depends on it!
Making the transition from manager to executive successfully isn’t as easy as moving from one office to the next. It takes effort and adjustment in your leadership focus and skills. When you step into the executive role, it’s not just about your expertise and knowledge in one particular department, but the ability to see the company’s overall goals and objectives as a whole.
Often times, new executives make the mistake of leading with the same mentality from a managerial perspective by trying to run a division rather than leading an entire organization. Understanding the significance of making the shift from a senior manager who has all the answers to a leader who knows that in order to lead efficiently, one must surround themselves with a great team of individuals who will advise, plan and execute in the areas where perhaps the executive is not the strongest, is important when positioning yourself for an executive role. This is just one of many adjustments to consider as you step into your new title. So here are a few tips to help ease the transition:
Out with the old; In with the new—Relinquish the old ways of managing situations and let go of the old identity that stemmed from it. Then embrace the transition and get comfortable with your new position.
Think transition rather than change—Chances are you’re going to experience some sort of emotions along the way as you come to grips with the reality that your old role is ending. This has a lot to do with the fact that people think in terms of change rather than transition. Change is much harder to grasp.
Don’t rush through the “neutral zone”—It’s the invented fictional place between the old and the new. The neutral zone is where the conversion of ‘manager’ into ‘leader’ takes place. During this time you’ll have the opportunity to experiment, challenge your traditions and implement new goals and standards both on a personal and executive level. However, make sure your goals and expectations are realistic.
Journal the transition—By keeping track of what has helped or hindered you during your transition, or simply jotting down what you would do differently will only make future transitions much smoother.
Arriving at the corner office means taking your leadership skills to the next level. Sure it’s the same company, but, it’s an entirely different ballgame at the top!
You’ve heard the saying before, “happy wife, happy life.” Well this timeworn concept not only applies to the home front, but to the office as well. It’s really quite simple; when your employees are fulfilled the entire company reaps the benefits. It creates a positive work environment which contributes to the overall culture of the company, resulting in the organization’s success.
Employees who find joy in working each day are more engaged and connected to their jobs. A culture comprised of unhappy workers is detrimental to an organization. Therefore, it is your job as a leader to maintain a happy work space. So, on the heels of the second annual International Day of Happiness, here are a few suggestions to consider when it comes to your employees:
1. Treat Employees with Respect—Personnel on every level need to feel like they are bringing something to the table. By treating your staff with respect says that you value them as assets to the company. Subsequently, they become more concerned with helping the organization reach its intended level of success.
2. Trust the People You’ve Hired—Give employees opportunities to shine by allowing them to take on projects and responsibilities without second-guessing or demeaning their abilities. Trust that you’ve hired the right people; then set the strategy, define the goal, and get out of the way!
3. Clearly Communicate Your Vision—When your employees understand the company’s overall vision and goals, they become more aware of their roles and the position they play in the company. Lack of clarity or the feeling of confusion will only frustrate your employees more.
4. Give Feedback—Like I always say, “feedback is a gift.” In fact, it’s the gift that keeps on giving. Not only will constructive feedback motivate employees to perform better, but one can also learn from their mistakes resulting in an increased willingness to learn.
5. Gratitude Goes A Long Way—Last, but certainly not least, show your employees how much you appreciate them. Leaders are human beings too; it’s okay to express your feelings of gratitude. When you let workers know you care, the appreciation will begin to emanate through work performance.
Just remember, happy employees lead to a happy business,thus resulting in an even happier boss!
Several weeks ago I discussed with you the importance of perception and proposed the question of whether or not perception is truly a reality.
The question, although seemingly easy enough to answer is actually a lot harder to come to grips with than one might think. While you may perceive yourself to be an effective leader, there is a chance that others may see differently, and what those around you think of you, matters!
A perception gap can cause a great divide between an executive and his team. Initially, for most leaders, it’s all about the job and task at hand, often showing less concern for what people think about them. However, more leaders are recognizing the importance of perception from the start. I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Fox News Live about the two different types of perception, the way you see yourself and the way others see you, and how understanding the importance of perception can help or hinder your executive career.
When you lack self-awareness of the acuities of others, your perception becomes distorted. Some leaders fall into the trap of not knowing how they’re portrayed by other people. The worst thing you can do is exude an air that you don’t care what others think.
It is important to connect with people, particularly those that work underneath you so they know that you are a “real person” or else they’ll begin to form in their mind who they think you are. Stereotypes can be proven untrue when you show your personality. By simply ommunicating and talking to people on every level of the organization gives you power to control what others think they see.
Additionally, executives should allocate 10 percent of their time making sure that their image, brand and reputation are being maintained. A positive perception helps create followership, which is another reason why listening to your employees is a vital skill for all leaders to have. Without proper insight from those you lead, you run the risk of filling gaps with your own assumptions. This is why feedback is important or a gift as I like to call it. Leaders need to ask more questions to guarantee that the choices they make are based on what’s really going on and not on what their mind perceives there to be.
So again I ask, is perception truly a reality? I’d like to think so. But it’s a reality YOU can help influence!
Reputation is something every leader possesses. In fact, many executives feel that in a leadership role, your best asset is your reputation. Further, a good leader understands the importance of maintaining a healthy repute, as it is an integral part ofyour professional career. Still, there are many executives who choose to engage in activities that demoralize their character, subsequently ruining their reputation overall. Some of these activities include:
As a leader you must always be mindful that what you say and do greatly influences the perceptions of others. In the event that your character has been compromised, there are ways you can get it back. Find out How To Repair Your Damaged Reputation.
In my latest book, Corner Office Rules: The 10 Realities of Executive Life,I stress the importance of constructive conflict and why it is necessary for companies to embrace. Within any organization, big or small, there is sure to be disagreements along the way. Often times, dissimilarities cause tension, so the obvious ploy is to avoid it all together. However, conflict is a normal part of working together as a team. It challenges the organization to find innovative solutions to new and existing problems, as well as helps employees to develop deeper thinking skills.A company that does not embrace constructive conflict will result in damaged relationships amongst its employees, colleagues, and perhaps even the boss. Moreover, a culture that eludes conflict will only hinder a team’s success, negatively impacting the company as a whole.
Good leaders understand the value of conflict, recognizing that disagreements amid the organization often leads to superior results, sharing of ideas, and individual professional growth.
The advantage of constructive conflict is that it teaches employees how to advocate for differing and opposing opinions without taking things personally. Furthermore, conflict proves beneficial to a leader’s growth in the sense that it teaches executives to differentiate between who a person is and the person’s ideas. A leader who embraces conflict will develop a strong team of people unafraid to express their opinions, ideas, and disagreements, thus giving the leader a better understanding of what team members and groups really feel, not what they think the boss wants to hear. In this type of environment, the staff then become more confident in knowing that they are able to stand up for what they believe in without fear of rejection or reprisal. Lastly, conflict helps to encourage a feedback-oriented culture, where anything can be said and conferred as long as it is done in a tasteful manner.
A culture that embraces constructive conflict is a safe place where questioning is abided from all members of the organization, no matter the position or rank. When employees feel like they can express themselves freely without being shunned or eschewed by the executive, they are more likely to discuss and accept truths, even when they may be difficult to hear. However, keep in mind that as the leader, you must be able to take control of these conversations without avoiding them. Your team is counting on you to be the example. Constructive conflict requires a balance between respect for individuals and respect for their ideas. Without conflict, there can be no resolution.
Leadership occurs within the context of core values. These values define the priorities, beliefs, and fundamental driving forces of an individual or company. Such principles form a solid core of who you are, what you believe, and what you want to be going forward.
Because an organization must stand for something, its values are a good way of creating the framework that occurs in and outside the company. These core values make up a significant percentage of what determines your corporate culture. Particularly, for a senior leader who has a great deal of power to set the tone for a quality work environment, having a clear understanding of your core values is critical.
However, not everyone in the organization will share the same principles. In fact, reality is, most of us don’t even think much about our values at all until we feel we have to compromise one of them. The successes (and failures) you achieve as a leader has a lot to do with your values. These values don’t necessarily determine what you do, but rather, how you approach challenging situations and the choices you make when faced with decisions. To determine your core values, ask yourself the following questions:
1. What would make you extremely happy on your job?
2. What would make you feel most secure on your job?
3. What would make you trust your company?
4. What would make you quit your job?
But, as important as it is to have a deep understanding of the values that are important to you, knowing which principles are your “deal breakers” are equally important as well. Your deal breakers will cause you the most difficulty if you compromise them. To determine your “deal breakers,” ask yourself the following questions:
1. Do you believe that the actions required of you are illegal or shady?
2. Are you unable to tell anyone—not even your closest friend—about your action?
3. Will you, for the foreseeable future, feel like a smaller person if you do this?
4. Do you believe that you could get fired for cause because of this action?
5. Will you be able to forgive yourself for this action, or will you feel guilty all the time?
6. Could what you need to do damage your reputation permanently?
With a clear set of core and corporate values, the individual, as well as the company are then able to communicate the principles for what they stand for. As a result, goals and objectives are met successfully.
Unfortunately, in many cases, there are differences in values between the employee and company. When this occurs, take accountability for what you believe in, even if it means planning your exit strategy. You can’t expect to fit in to every type of organizational setting.
Keith Wyche’s first book, Good Is Not Enough, helps aspiring executives achieve C-Suite status. His follow-up, Corner Office Rules, provides them with the ten key guiding principles necessary to sustain that level. This book reveals many of the critical unspoken truths of corporate life. Its contents are the closest that I’ve seen to a corporate GPS.
Curtiss Jacobs, global strategy and operations executive, American International Group, Inc.
“Keith was dynamic, compelling, and on point with his presentation, causing several moments where the audiences clapping required him to pause, before jumping back into the message. At the end he brought the audience to its’ feet. Keith was clearly the right choice to close out our conference, and to re-energize the leaders.”