7 steps to a better C.U.L.T.U.R.E.

Culture is a leader’s best friend!  A workplace with a great culture provides fuel to get the momentum machine moving!  Companies that have great cultures make coming to work a joy instead of a dread.  Excited, positive employees have less absences, cause less drama and produce more.

If the collective attitude of your workplace needs an upgrade, start by following these simple suggestions to better your C.U.L.T.U.R.E.

Create an inclusive atmosphere – Start by celebrating diversity and create a feeling of openness to share ideas and suggestions for improvement.  It’s one thing to hire for diversity, but the best leaders understand the treasure of ideas and creativity that comes from having people with different backgrounds on their teams.  Encourage all ideas to be brought to the table and you’ll be amazed at what you get!

Understand the pulse – Learn to observe the attitudes and rhythms of your teams.  This will help you better assess engagement and needs for intervention.  Watch the mannerisms of your people as they interact with each other and customers.  Do your employees move with a sense of purpose and pep in their steps?  Is there a natural willingness to serve others?  Leaders in tune with their team’s pulse can identify when culture needs to be tweaked.

Love your employees – Think about the sacrifices as well as the contributions they make for the team.  Most of your employees do not wake up with the desire to come to work and goof off all day.  They want to succeed and rely on you to help them do that.  As a leader, you should desire for them to be as successful as possible and this desire comes from a love for them.  The best leaders love their employees because they genuinely care about them.

Treat everyone with respect – Respect everyone as not only a team member, but more importantly, as a human who is there to make the team a success.  Respect must be earned and, as a leader, it is up to you to lead by example.  The most effective way to increase respect is to model what it means to give it.  Think about your tone when you address your employees and be mindful of showing them respect.  Remember that respect must be given for it to be reciprocated.   

Unify the team – Help team members understand how their contributions serve their teammates as well as the company.  Unification comes through service to the team, from the team.  When teammates help each other, productivity goes through the roof and excitement builds.  Watch any documentary about a championship sports team and you will discover how unified they are through their service to each other.  Talent and coaching are important, but not as much as unification. 

Rely on each other – Trust is a must with regard to culture.  Learning to rely on each other is the catalyst for solidifying a team into a family.  When the team is so unified it becomes like family, it becomes easier to trust each other.  Leaders should always stress the importance of relying on each other and look for creating opportunities to do that.  Team projects and exercises are a great way to help increase reliability.    

 Expect excellence – Expect excellence of yourself as well as your team.  Raising your level of expectation based upon your belief in your employees will cause them to elevate their game.  One of the U.S. Air Force’s core values is, “Excellence in all we do”.  Along with integrity and service, excellence was permeated into everything we did in the military.  When excellence becomes a pillar of your team’s culture, great things will happen.

Following these suggestions to a better C.U.L.T.U.R.E. has proven itself to be a game changer in my experience.  I have been on teams that have gone from dysfunctional to wonderful in little time because leaders focused on bettering the culture.  Those teams, in turn, produced more, increased engagement scores and significantly reduced turnover.

What are your suggestions to help create a better workplace culture?  Please comment and let us know what has worked for you.

Hope this helps, everyone…lead well!


The Sweet Spot

What is your leadership style?  I have been asked this question too many times to count.  If you are in a management position, I’ll bet you have been asked the same thing.  It is a great question, because it causes us to do some self-reflection and analyze how we tend to lead.

As you ponder this question, think about leaders you have worked for.  What did you admire about their leadership styles?  What did you dislike about their leadership approach?  What worked and what didn’t work?  How did you and your coworkers respond to how they led? 

I have found that the vast majority of poor, ineffective leaders land on one of two ends of the management spectrum: micro- and macro-management.  The best managers recognize the spectrum and land their leadership style somewhere in between the two.

Webster’s dictionary defines micromanage as, “to manage especially with excessive control or attention to details”.  As I think about all the micromanagers I’ve worked for, the words excessive control fits them like a glove!  They were overbearing and tended to hover critically over those who worked for them.  They left their followers feeling inept and negative towards their work.  Micromanagement dissolved any desire to follow such leaders and the team’s will to succeed suffered.

At the other end of the management spectrum is the macro-manager.  These leaders are so hands-off that you wonder if they actually do anything other than collect a larger paycheck than yours!  Macro-managers lead from so far out that they cannot see obvious opportunities or pitfalls ahead.  They view the workplace like someone zooming as far out on Google Maps as possible.  They can see the country where their neighborhood is located, but not the roads and businesses unless they zoom back in.  Macro-managers view the workplace the same way.  They are rarely seen and often provide little direction to their employees.  Like micromanagers, macro-managers also dissolve the desire to follow them.

Leadership is the art of influencing people.  This is best performed by finding that sweet spot between micro- and macro-management.  If you think of the best leaders you’ve followed, didn’t they land somewhere in-between micro- and macro-management in the way they led?  The top leaders I have worked for were close enough to provide support and coaching but did so without hovering and nitpicking every detail.  They led by getting out in front, but not so far ahead that I never saw or heard from them.  The most influential leaders lead their teams by finding the sweet spot between micro- and macro-management.

As you lead your teams, keep consciously aware of your leadership style.  Ask yourself whether you are providing too much direction or not enough.  Knowing your followers is essential to leadership because it will help you better pinpoint where you need to land on the spectrum.  You will discover that your people will respond to varying degrees of your style. 

For example, the newest employee on your team may require more micromanagement from you at the very beginning.  Be keenly aware of how quickly they grasp concepts and perform the skills needed to get their work completed.  It’s a lot like teaching a child to ride a bike.  As I taught my children to ride, I held onto the seat and handlebars as they sat on the bike.  Running beside them as I held on and they found their balance gave them the security they needed while learning how to keep their balance.  As their confidence grew, I would let go while still running beside them.  Eventually, they no longer needed my constant micromanagement as they hopped on their bikes and took off.  Look at your employees in the same way by providing up close direction and coaching at the beginning, but also recognize when to let them go it alone.

For more seasoned employees, you must learn to trust in their ability to perform tasks and get the results needed for the team to excel.  Experienced employees will appreciate you not hovering and constantly criticizing their performance, but they also expect you to notice their efforts.  The only way you can do this is if you stay involved enough to see how effective they are.  As my children grew in their abilities to ride, I continued to provide encouragement and only coached them when it was necessary for their safety.  Macro-managers never encourage their employees because they are too focused on the big picture to notice the efforts of their team members. 

Influencing people truly is an art because everyone on your team needs different levels of encouragement from you.  As a leader, it is up to you to know your followers well enough to provide the exact leadership style to properly influence them.  As you go through your day, analyze how you are leading and keep aiming for that sweet spot between the micro- and macro-management spectrum based on what your team needs.  Your team will appreciate it and your leadership will become more effective.

Lead Well to Succeed Well

The best leaders in the world all have one thing in common:  They seek to become better leaders.  Those of us in leadership roles must continuously improve our skills or we will become ineffective influencers of our teams.

John Maxwell points out that, “Everything rises and falls on leadership”.  This statement is so profoundly true.  If you think about all the major successes and failures from history, they can be traced back to one thing: Leadership – good or bad.  As such, it is vital that leaders seek to improve their leadership habits so they can lead their teams well.

Leading well is the proof of your ability to positively influence followers.  

What actions can you take to ensure you are leading well?  Start by improving in these three areas and you will see an increase in your overall leadership effectiveness:

1. Listen Well – It all starts with actively listening to our followers.  Active listening means that we are listening with the intent of understanding. 

Put away your smart phone, turn off the computer monitor in the office, silence the desk phone and give your follower your undivided attention.  By reducing the distractions, you are telling the follower that they are important, and you are genuinely ready to listen to understand what they are communicating.    

When we actively listen to those we lead, we convey their importance to us and the team.  Your followers need to feel that they belong and are valued by you. 

Active listening is the gateway to empathy.

Check out https://www.mindtools.com/CommSkll/ActiveListening.htm for some great techniques to increase your active listening skills.

2. Coach Well – Great coaches believe in their people by placing them in positions to use their natural talents and abilities to help the team win.  Coaching well involves spending time with team members by providing instruction and feedback with encouragement.

As a coach, it is imperative for you to provide instruction.  The difference between a trainer and a leader is how they deliver the instruction.

Trainers will show someone how to do a task and maybe observe them performing it.  Leaders show the task, observe the performance and provide encouraging feedback to reinforce motivation. 

Feedback should always be presented with the spirit of growth, from both you (giving the feedback) and your follower (receiving the feedback).  This is best accomplished if your feedback is more positive than negative.

There are times for negative feedback, but if that is all you are prone to give, then your followers will become disillusioned and stop receiving it.

By providing mostly positive feedback, your followers will better listen to and accept the negative when it is necessary.

For some great coaching tips, visit https://www.bizlibrary.com/article/7-coaching-tips-managers-leaders/

3. Serve Well – Every great leader is a servant to their followers.  Intentionally serving our team simply means we actively pursue ways to serve them.  Serving our team goes beyond providing tools, teaching and places of employment. 

Serving your followers does not have to include elaborate things like catering lunch or giving rewards for accomplishing goals.  Serving well means you look for small daily ways to show your appreciation for them. 

Roll your sleeves up and help your followers complete a task.  As you do, talk about the things that matter most to them like their family, hobbies or career aspirations.  Make the conversation about them as you help them complete a task and you will be amazed at how well they respond to your leadership.

Serving well means providing genuine encouragement, support through rough periods, and celebrating successes.  When followers know their leader cares deeply for them through acts of service, they are motivated to perform their best for their leader.

Check out a great post from Ken Blanchard for more insight into Serving Well at https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/4875282/posts/2142

Those looking to increase their leadership influence should focus on Listening Well, Coaching Well and Serving Well.  Increasing these skills will ultimately help you to Lead Well.

My hope is that this will help you on your leadership journey.

Lead Well,


Next Level Engagement

Hello, Leaders!  From whatever level you lead in your organization, you undoubtedly know the importance of a team that is fully engaged.  If you have worked on a team that wasn’t engaged, you understand and appreciate the value of working with people who come together for the common goal of making each other successful in accomplishing company objectives.

I have had the honor of working on teams, both in the military and in business, led by people who understood the importance of highly engaged followers.  Those teams highlighted the value of engagement and made me appreciate the positive power it has.

After all, the more a team is engaged the better they contribute to the company’s overall success.  Productivity, profitability and retention rates soar as a result of engagement.  As leaders, it is up to us to help create this type of atmosphere.  It also makes our jobs easier and more enjoyable!

We often hear about companies that provide fun atmospheres like free cereal all day, or slides to take rather than stairs.  Bean bags, beach balls and ping-pong tables make for an exciting workplace, for sure.  Even companies that provide free on-site daycare or health club memberships offer obvious beneficial engagement perks.

Free food and fun activities are excellent surface level engagement tools, but there are better ways to get your teams locked in and engaged that will outlast fun fads.

It does not cost you very much, if anything, to go beyond surface level engagement ideas and create long lasting employee loyalty through the following leadership habits:

Go Beyond the Surface…

  1. Go beyond simply asking employees for their opinions about a direction you are planning to take them.  Get them involved in those decisions.  Whenever possible, have your team come up with solutions and then implement their ideas if it will help improve your situation.  Nothing creates buy-in better than team involvement!
  • Go beyond simple high-fives.  Showcase successes by highlighting achievements to the whole team.  If your workplace is divided into departments, make sure all the departments hear and see the celebrations.  Make commendations important and the employees will give you ample reasons to celebrate!
  • Go beyond just saying thanks.  Instead, look for creative ways to show true appreciation.  Give your team handwritten thank you cards pinpointing what they do to make a positive contribution.  Send them an encouraging email or take them to lunch out of the blue.  Genuinely invest in team appreciation and you will see huge engagement returns!

Going beyond the surface by implementing these simple habits will develop stronger loyalty in your employees.  It will not happen overnight, but if you consistently include your employees in decisions, make a big deal of successes, and show true appreciation, your teams will become more engaged over time.  The key is to keep at it and make it the norm for the way you lead.

Continue to have fun, but don’t neglect the more meaningful leadership habits that solidify loyalty!

Thanks, and go lead well!


Be a Servant Leader

It was not that long ago that “management” was the big buzz word in business.  Books and seminars about becoming better managers were everywhere.  While management is important, why did all the buzz around it not produce the desired results that caused companies to catapult into stratospheric success?  Because you cannot manage people…you MUST lead them if your company will ever grow!  The best leaders in every industry have come to the realization that if you take care of your people, your people will in turn take care of your business.  If you neglect your people and don’t make them priority, they will neglect your business.  It really is that simple!

Gone are the days of the overbearing, micro-managing, fist pounding manager who sat behind a huge mahogany desk looking as if his head was going to explode.  You may have had the opportunity to work for someone like this.  Hopefully, it inspired you to never want to lead people through fear and intimidation.  Those types of leaders inspire the absolute minimum in everyone around them.  After all, why would anyone want to stick their neck out and implement new ideas for fear of being shot down and belittled? 

It is extremely difficult for true leaders who find themselves working for such managers.  If you do, you must determine that you will not lead your team in the same fashion.  You have the power to break that line of fear and authoritarian style management at your position.  How?  By leading your team through exceptional service.

Ever since Robert K. Greenleaf coined the term, “Servant Leadership”, there have been countless books, articles, lectures and seminars on what it means to be a servant leader.  While the term itself seems like an oxymoron (serving and leading at the same time), a deeper look reveals that it is hands down the best approach to leading people.  Servant leadership turns the hierarchical pyramid upside down and means the leader, or the one at the top, is now at the bottom and their focus becomes serving all those who “work for them”. 

Does this sound insane or like anarchy at work?  Don’t take servant leadership to mean “weak leadership”.  To the contrary, it means the boss goes out of his or her way to provide the tools, resources, training and motivation to equip their people to be as successful as possible.  Sometimes it requires the leader to sacrifice self-interests in order to help a team member.  It also may mean having tough love conversations or removing someone that is hindering the team.  In fact, servant leadership requires the leader to constantly look for ways to strengthen the individual and, thus, the entire team. 

As leaders, it should be our privilege to serve those we lead.  If we effectively model service behaviors to our teams, they will respond in kind with how they serve customers.  For example, if an employee approaches you with an issue and you take care of it on the spot for them, you just created a positive example of service to that employee.  No matter how busy you are at that moment, the fact that you paused to help them will solidify their importance to you.  This is leadership gold!  Repeatedly looking for ways to serve your team members shows them what service looks like and they will follow your example. 

For those of you in a leadership position, whether entry-level or CEO, get into the habit of going out of your way to serve your employees.  It doesn’t have to be big or elaborate like an employee appreciation event (although big employee celebrations are important, too).  Every day is chocked full of small opportunities to serve your team.  For example, take out the office trash for everyone or offer a hard worker an extra 30 minutes at lunch while you handle their tasks.  Continually look for ways to serve and they will present themselves to you more often than you may think.  Those small opportunities compile and create huge dividends for you and your team!

We must turn our thinking around and move away from our titles and towards gaining real trust from those who follow us.  We can’t do that by trying to manage people.  We must influence them to buy into the vision and produce better results.  The best way to do this is to lead from a servant’s heart and realize we cannot progress in our leadership journey without willing followers.

Please let us know in the comment section about any leaders you have worked with, or for, who exemplify servant leadership.

If this helped, please click the like button.

Thanks, everyone…go lead well!


Earning the Right to Lead

Hello, Leaders and welcome back!  In the last post, You’re a Leader…Now What?!, we discussed what it means to be entrusted to lead a group of people.  This week, we are going to go further into one of the foundational principles that must occur for you to be successful in leading people:  Building Relationships.

Building relationships is foundational because it is key to creating trust in your followers.  In other words, if you expect your people to buy into you as their leader, and to trust your leadership ability, you must first build a relationship of mutual respect.  To become good at leadership, you must earn the right to lead. Followers will follow you because you have earned their trust. This starts by showing your followers how grateful you are for them and how much you care about them as a person.  John C. Maxwell said, “People never care how much you know until they know how much you care.”  When followers sense their leader truly cares about them as a person, they are more likely to follow from the heart and not just out of obligation to a job title.  This sounds simple; nonetheless, it is true. 

Think back to all the leaders that impacted your life.  I bet the key to their leadership effectiveness was their ability to connect with you.  In fact, they probably spent more time talking about those things important to YOU and not about work (e.g. your family, your hobbies, your weekend plans, etc).  Remember those times they asked for you to get something work related accomplished?  You probably did it with more enthusiasm and intensity because of the rapport your leader had with you.  The best leaders understand that relationships are the most effective way to lead people.

What are some ways you can build positive relationships with your people?  Start by keeping things informal and relaxed.  Don’t call them into your office and grill them on their personal life!  This is cold and indifferent.  Leave your office and go to them.  Schedule time on your daily agenda to spend with them completing a daily task.  By getting them to show you how to do something, you are reinforcing their importance to you and the company.  Even if you know a more efficient way to accomplish the task, resist the temptation to correct them if they are not endangering themselves, you, or the equipment.  Remember, your first goal is to get to know them and encourage them to trust you.  There will be time for coaching and correcting in the future.

As you work with them, ask them about their families, their background, their goals, etc.  Here are ten good questions to start with:

  1. What does your spouse (or significant other) do for a living?
  2. How many kids (or grandkids) do you have?
  3. What do you and your family like to do?
  4. What do your siblings do for a living?
  5. Where did you grow up?
  6. If you could vacation anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
  7. What was your favorite summertime activity as a kid and why?
  8. Who do you look up to and consider to be your life hero?
  9. What are your personal goals?
  10. What are you passionate about?

The list of questions is endless, and I’m sure you can come up with more.  The point is to find out as much as possible about your followers so you can better relate to and serve them.  Internalize your personal commonalities and lace them into future conversations.  Ask follow-up questions based on what they have already revealed to you.  In doing so, you show you care about more than their ability to perform the job.  Subsequently, they will respond by doing better quality work for you.  Building relationships with your followers goes far beyond leading them from your title.  It allows you the opportunity to make a real connection and for them to genuinely want to follow you. Getting to know your people is the first step in earning your right to lead them.

Hope this helps, everybody!  If it does, please click the “Like” button and leave a comment.  Also, be sure to sign up for an email alert when we post new leadership bricks and other materials to help you build your leadership fortress.

Lead well!


You’re a Leader…Now What?!

Congratulations on your selection to a new leadership role!  Whether you were promoted from within because of your dedication and hard work, or an outsider who was brought in because of your unique background and training, you landed this position.  Your hard work, dedication and commitment have paid off and now your experience and skills are going to help you in your new role.  It is wonderful to know that others, especially those with higher positions in the company, think you have what it takes to make a positive impact leading a team of people to accomplish your company’s vision and mission.

Now that you are in this new and exciting position, what do you plan to do with it?  In other words, you have been granted a position of power, so how do you plan to handle your new responsibility?  In fact, just what is your responsibility anyway? 

Too often we see, and have probably had to work for, new leaders who come into their positions without a clue as to how to lead people.  These new leaders try to lead their teams from their titles, and not through the influence it takes to inspire action in a positive direction.  Any leader who states, “Because I said so”, or “You have to follow me because I’m the boss” is really letting us know that they don’t have the foggiest idea on how to lead you or your teammates.  Sadly, they are also letting us know that they are more concerned with their position and status rather than your success as a viable team member.

As a new leader, you must first come to the realization that it is no longer about you!  The best and most effective leaders in any business or industry are the ones that put the well-being and success of their team members ahead of themselves.  Leadership is all about influencing others to better themselves, the team, and thus the company.  Think about the best leaders you’ve known:  Did they know the technical aspects of the business?  Probably.  Did they reach their position because of hard work and dedication, like you?  Sure.  But think about what made them such a great leader…wasn’t it the way they treated you and your teammates?  Simply put, they cared about you and your development as a person.  Now it is your turn to use your new platform to do the same for your team!

The first priority for new leaders is to get to know your people.  How well do you know the people who work for you?  More importantly, how well do you know them beyond their contributions to the team?  Do you know about their families?  Do you know about their hobbies?  How in-tune are you to their dreams and aspirations?  Getting to know your people is the best way to connect with them on a real level.  It may not make much sense, but believe me, it carries far more weight in your ability to influence them than your job title ever will.  Start by dedicating just 15 or 20 minutes each day, individually, helping a subordinate accomplish a task.  As you are serving them by helping them, talk with them about their families, hobbies, and their dreams and aspirations.  If you will commit to doing this daily for a few weeks, it will become easier to do and you will start to see immediate positive responses to your leadership.  As a whole, your team will respond to you and follow your leadership because they want to, not just out of obligation.

This blog is dedicated to helping all newly appointed leaders in every industry understand what it means to lead people.  We will dig into the differences between managers and leaders.  We will discover how to lead beyond your job title and why it is vital to your success.  We will also explore how you can use ages old, but still very effective, leadership principles and techniques to properly influence the people you are charged with leading to action. 

With over 25 years of leadership experience in multiple industries, from the military to retail, I will share with you lessons I’ve learned along the way.  As author John C. Maxwell says, “Leadership is simple, but it’s not easy”.  Trust me, this is a very true statement.  I have fallen and skinned my knees on this leadership journey so many times, that I now can see many of the tripping hazards along the way.  My goal is to guide you as you start your path on this long and exciting, ever challenging and highly rewarding leadership road!

We will explore other techniques for getting to know your people in future posts.  In the meantime, please feel free to share your leadership experiences and “lessons learned” in the comments section.  This blog space is dedicated to helping new leaders better understand leadership.  I look forward to corresponding with you and watching you develop into strong leaders!

Welcome to Leadership Bricks!

Hello, everyone! My name is Bryan and I am so excited to be able to connect with each of you reading this blog!

I am a retired military member and currently hold a senior leadership position in the retail sector. I have an MBA in Human Resource Management and love to help people reach their potential. Leadership training and development is an area that I have helped hundreds of people and plan to use my experiences to help you, too.

Leadership Bricks is dedicated to providing advice on leadership for anyone who wants to become a better supervisor, manager, CEO, co-worker, friend, parent, spouse, or any other “leadership” title.

So why the name “Leadership Bricks”? Think of each blog post as a brick. Together, we are going to build your leadership fortress, one brick at a time. Great leaders provide stability and a sense of protection for those they lead. This is accomplished through trust from followers. The “bricks” you will learn will help you build that fortress of trust with your followers!

My ultimate hope is that you find the posts insightful, inspiring, and that they influence you to become the best leader you can. I look forward to reading your comments and helping you build your leadership fortress, one brick at a time!

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