Hard Truth About Leadership and Numbers

It happened again today. My phone rang and upon answering a friend began to express feelings of failure and disappointment. Further she explained she quit work and can’t take it anymore. It’s appalling and sad. Hundreds have come and gone from this place. The actual company doesn’t matter. It happens each day, all over the world. Kind, competent, capable and hard working people are led toward powerlessness, then toward giving up. It’s the garden path. People young, older and in-between, from all walks of life and of every diverse background. People with great commitments and high aspirations. People with drive, passion and great work ethic, all over time, experiencing the same learned helplessness.

How you say, can this happen to hundreds of people? The shocking fact is, it happens to thousands each day. Gallop polls indicate that 87% of worker are disengaged. Yet the solution is simple. Perhaps not easy but yes, simple. I’ve asked hundreds of managers why. Many aren’t aware there’s an issue. Others state, “People don’t work like they used to.” or have comments about generational work ethic. To the contrary, I’ve also had dialogue with countless associates who state, “The managers and leaders don’t lead.” or have comments about how managers don’t care because it’s all about the numbers.

What a conundrum right? – Wrong, yes, wrong. Here’s a hard truth, as stated so simply by John C. Maxwell, “Everything rises and falls on leadership”. It’s time we focus on hard truth. Leaders are those who take the time to be part of the solution not part of the problem. It takes work. It takes sacrifice but the return on investment is unparalleled. As Mack Story states, “High impact leadership has everything to do with the leader’s character & nothing to do with the leader’s title, position, or number of degrees.” I like to put it this way, “One presents outside the aggregate of what is held inside”. Regardless of how your state it, the time has come to take a hard look in the mirror and at the root cause.

So many managers are driving by numbers. Are we made up of numbers? Maybe, let’s face it, we know it. We may resist, but it’s there in front of us. For example, if I asked for your last four, anyone would know what I mean. We also have a driver’s license number, birth date, credit card, employee numbers, sales numbers, production numbers, etc. It’s so ingrained in our subconscious. But that’s not what drives us. It’s obvious we are not made up of numbers. They’re just metrics, tools or pieces of what make our experiences unique. A book isn’t only made from the ink on the page or letters that form the words. It’s made from the art created by the author. so too, our internal make-up, art, unique brilliance ,comes from our individual experiences. It’s the aggregate of our beliefs, values and principles that make us whole and drive our motives.

Why then, would some try to lead with numbers? Would you lead me toward my driver’s license? Where, out the door? This is not what drives us. Why not, “Lead the people and manage the numbers; not lead the numbers and manage the people.”? Too many leaders manage through numbers. You want to reach the numbers? We want a leader! What we actually want is to know you care. We want to feel significant. Your numbers will soar once we’re convinced of this. Why put the cart before the horse?

The numbers are insignificant. What drives us is recognition, kindness, understanding and connection. What motivates us is a belief that we are on board together headed toward the same positive outcome. This is leadership and professionalism. It’s what produces hope now and for the future and leads toward producing positive predictable results in reasonable time. This includes meeting the numbers but it’s done through people not to people.

Leaders, if you cannot find a way to engage, inspire, motivate, empower or drive, then perhaps it’s time to reevaluate. Perhaps it lies not within the team but within the individual in the mirror. Perhaps it’s time to take a hard look not at the numbers but rather the person within. Inside character is what will determine the amount of influence earned, not the position, title or methodology.

Let’s try something different. Let’s begin by asking the following simple questions about the people you work with:

Who are they?

Do you know them well?

How do things occur to them?

Do you care for them?

How do they know?

If you can’t begin to answer these questions, there’s no foundation of trust. If no trust, no relationship and it follows that, if there’s no relationship, there is no connection. How can one lead if not connected? As is said, if no one’s following, then you aren’t leading, only taking a walk alone.

Try muting your phone occasionally. Instead listen actively and intently. Try eye contact and a smile. Come away from your desk on occasion without your tablet. Why not shake a hand or two each day? Why not close the screen of your laptop or share some quality time with a story? Sure, work is busy and time is short but try caring and displaying that you do care. Perhaps ask yourself how you can begin to discover the desires, trials and tribulations of your team and why they come to work. Can you make it a point to know what their struggles are? How about sharing quality time in collaboration to find creative solutions? What about working toward resolve? That’s a powerful thing to get connected over. What would happen if you discover who they really are, who they care for and what drives them passionately?

The hard truth is, if you fail to connect in this, your situation will perpetuate repeatedly. If you do connect in this space, you will have won their gratitude and you will grow together and “norm and perform” as a great team rather than spiral downward gradually. When true connection is achieved, people will support you and fight for the causes in which you believe.

If you connect in this way, your numbers will never be an issue. Together you will transform the company’s culture and will supersede any expectation or goal. Synergy will ignite and be harnessed. Achieving this, will transform your life and theirs. At this juncture, you will have led something special, something different. As the team grows they will continue to extend what you extended to others. The people you reached will reach people beyond your grasp and your legacy will go with them. You will have led well and they will honor you in doing the same. This is no secret to high impact leaders. They know they are meant to be beacons of hope. Strong teams transform cultures. As is said, “to go fast go alone, to go far go together”. United we build our brilliance and simultaneously knock the numbers out of the park.

If you follow these suggestions even imperfectly. Your future will be bright. But remember, life is a work in progress. When necessary plan, but jump in and build your wings on the way down. If you take the right actions, with the right intentions, you will make a difference in the work and home lives of all the people you touch. I too will be touched, as I won’t have to receive any more of those all too frequent phone calls.

Brad A. Milford

Build Brilliance LLC

Building Depth of Character into Life and Leadership

Where uniqueness meets maximum potential.

You have a brilliant future – Ignite it!

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