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Knowledge alone will fail you … You need wisdom succeed in leadership

It couldn’t be said more simply than this Quora response:

Knowledge is knowing a desert path is 16 kilometres long.

Wisdom is building a lemonade stand at kilometre 6.

To run a healthy organization, a leader must place a higher premium on wisdom over knowledge.

It seems that we spend most of our time acquiring information and not enough time thinking about what to do with it.  

How do leaders gain wisdom?

First, stop spending so much time acquiring knowledge.

Leaders who are constantly consuming industry information and the latest trends can become distracted by what is new and shiny.  

Instead of searching for a magic bullet, the best leaders spend more time with their leadership team members:

  1. Ensuring there is a clear and widely understood strategic vision;
  2. Implementing plans to meet their objectives and ensure that the efficiencies and effectiveness achieved support delivery of the vision; and,
  3. Monitoring and maintaining a laser-like focus on its strategic goals and objectives.

There is no argument for professional ignorance.   

But, there is an argument for knowing how to take the collective knowledge of the organization, apply the right amount of wisdom to put it to good use.

“Knowledge is understanding that a tomato is a fruit.  Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.”  

Leadership is not about being the smartest person in the room, or the smartest person in the company.

It is about not putting tomatoes in the fruit salad, leaving employees wondering “how could someone be so stupid?”


5 Questions You Should Ask Your Team Members Every Month

Being a leader is about understanding what is going on around you.

In the military, it is called ‘Situational Awareness,’ Often, the people with the most pertinent information about the situation are those working for you.

Questions are powerful tools, and knowing how to wield them precisely is key to becoming a better leader.

How to ask?

If it’s about asking the questions, how do you ask the right questions in the right way?

  1. Ask these questions like you care & want to know the answers. You’re not reading from a script; ask with authenticity.
  2. You asked, so be prepared to hear answers that you may not like, but time to listen — openly and honestly.
  3. The answer you need may not happen the first time you try. But if you ask sincerely and humbly, you will build trust & confidence. So ask regularly, and the quality of the information you gather will improve.

Read about the six things you need to communicate

What to ask?

1. What is your biggest accomplishment this month?


  • This question provides a sense of forward motion and progress.
  • When workers relate positive information, it gives them a sense of personal accomplishment.
  • Answers give you both oversight and performance improvement potential.
  • You have a measure if people contribute in the ways you need them to.

2. What’s your biggest challenge right now?


  • You can begin to understand where the worker is struggling.
  • You can learn about pinch points in an employee’s process, work, or company culture.
  • It puts your conversation into problem-solving mode because when you know where your team member is struggling, you can do something about it.

Read how not to Eff Up talking to your people.

3. What things should we do differently, or what processes can we improve?


  • People understand that things can be done differently, so being open to feedback from ‘below’ can be invaluable.
  • When team members recognize that they can provide value beyond their job description, you can harness this power to improve the company.
  • You may not always act on every suggestion, but you’re going to discover some things that genuinely need to change.

4. What resources would be helpful to you right now?


  • By using the word “resources,” you’re opening the door beyond money.
  • What you might think employees need is often different from what they want.
  • Don’t assume the solution is more people or money, trust the people working on the project to understand what will solve the issue.

Read about how to listen.

5. Is there anything I can help you with?


  • It lets your employees know you’re a human and care about their success and well-being.
  • It allows you to understand any personal factors that may influence their work.
  • It demonstrates you’re a real human being.
  • You improve your working relationship with them by showing sincere interest in their life and improvement.

The Essential Leadership Skills Needed To Catapult Your Career

Leadership is a concentrated experience. Everything you do is immediate, definitive and inexorably tied to your eventual success.

It’s critical that to be successful in business is to understand leadership. That means real leadership, not some watered-down TED Talk or watered down the flavour of the month corporate leadership fad.

You can read the summary below or watch Steve’s video:


Here are the five skills you need the most:

  1. The skill of self-awareness

 Success begins within. When you have a sense of who you are, it invites you to do something about it. Having self-awareness amounts to be better advised. The more you know yourself, the closer you can become to being all you can be.

  1. The skill of business acumen

Success begins with keenness and quickness in understanding and dealing with a business situation in a manner that is likely to lead to a good outcome. In the competitive environment of business, being the best at what you do is good, making good decisions is great; but a clear, comprehensive understanding of the business environment you’re operating in is invaluable.

  1. The skill of relationship-building

Building lasting relationships is the cornerstone of all business success, and respect is at the heart of building business relationships. It is the glue that holds together the functioning of teams, partnerships, and managing relationships. Even with the best products and business practices, you still need strong relationships to succeed.

  1. The ability to create an inspired culture

A culture of inspiration and motivation influences others to perform at their best. One of the most important assets of any enterprise and every business is the employees and its culture. Together they create a system of shared passion and commitment, which creates an environment that breeds, talent, growth, development, and creativity.

  1. The skill of agility and adaptability

Adapting to change requires the willingness to manage change and to stay open to new ideas, it means to be adaptable to new situations, handle unexpected demands with aplomb, and be ready to pivot at any moment. To maneuver through changes is to learn to be adaptable and agile. So where do you stand with your leadership skills?

Ask yourself the following: What do I need to do to keep up with the pace of business with the increasing complexity of today’s workplace? What can I do today to hone in on my leadership skills to be successful?

There are many leadership skills and competencies that, when combined and applied, go toward making you an effective leader. It is best to remember you could develop each of these skills within yourself. It’s always up to you.

I know—too well from firsthand experience—that being good at your job doesn’t qualify you to be the boss. You have to learn how to lead. That’s why I’m offering to share some of my years of around-the-globe-in-some-pretty-wild-situations experience

7 Simple Shifts – Your Checklist To Being A Better Leader

“We become what we repeatedly do.”
― Sean Covey


This is a checklist of seven simple shifts that can lead to exponential gains.

To gain benefit: print it; post it; and, do at least one action each day.

1. Take the time to say good morning to someone & thank them for coming in

2. Ask someone for their opinion on something & listened to what they have to say

3. Ask someone what is happening in their lives outside of work

4. Tell what is happening in the larger organization to keep people connected to the big picture and the higher purpose of their work

5. Write a personal thank you note to a team member or colleague

6. Make rounds, to stay in touch and talk about your expectations, so your team knows what matters

7. Take time to pursue or read something to enhance your leadership

Attracting people who’ll believe and trust you doesn’t happen overnight. You have to stick with it and continually learn to be a better leader.

Sincere & simple leadership actions draw people’s attention and are the most effective tactic for generating trust and engaging team members.

Click to download ‘7 Simple Shifts – Your Checklist To Being A Better Leader’

6 Things You Can Do To Show You Care For Your Employees

Recently I was interviewed for a leadership podcast, and the question that caused me to reflect on a lifetime of leading was: How do you show you care for your employees?

I landed on 6 key actions:

One, the easiest and most important is to connect them to the organization and the mission and the objectives of the organization in a very simple, articulate way.

How: Explain in respectful and appropriate language how each person’s work contributes to the success of the entire team

read more about the Mission

Two, show a high level of trust and confidence in them and in return you will get that back.

How: Explain what’s happening. I think most leaders, not because of ill-will don’t want to worry anybody, so they’re not going to tell the full truth about what’s happening around them.

And one of my consultancy clients were laying off people, because of economic reasons, there wasn’t enough work. But they stopped telling people what was happening and why people the project ended and there was no work.

People saw that the people in charge had stopped communicating and their coworkers just disappear. They began to assume that the company was in big trouble. The company was financially solid, still making a profit, had good sales and lots of potential work in the pipeline.

I coached the president to hold town halls and open the books as much as possible that was happening to give people confidence that the company was solid.

read more about talking to you people in tough times

Three, get off your butt, get out of your office and go see how people are working and ask them what’s going on in their lives, and in their workplace and show a little empathy.

How: Find out what’s going on, fix the little problems, be empathetic with people and that’s as equally simple and as complex as that.

During one of my walk arounds, I learned that a young lady working for me had a chance for a scholarship to go to nurses’ school. She couldn’t afford to travel, so the company paid for a hotel in Vancouver attend the application interview.

I didn’t have to do that, but trust me, that the word got spread that I helped her with this and, suddenly, people thought “If they’re going to do that for her, they’ll help me out,” and morale loyalty and trust goes up.

Four, deal with poor performance. Nothing will demoralize you people quicker than seeing a coworker get away with poor performance.

How: Pull your big boy or girl pants up and deal with poor performance.

No one comes to work wanting to do a bad job, create the desired expectations, provide the resources required for that person to improve, and monitor, mentor and support the behaviours you expect.

You are the Boss and eventually you will have to bring people up to the standard of performance or move them, respectfully, out of the organization.

Learn more about performance agreements

Fifth, have a little class and dignity.

How: People are not stupid or unrealistic, they understand that when times get tough layoffs may have to happen. But that is not license to treat people like so much trash being kicked to the curb.

Even if you have to fire somebody make sure that everyone sees that person being treated fairly and with respect.  That translates onto the shop floor or the rest of the office or the rest of the team, or they go “You know what, they treated that guy okay, so maybe they will look after me.

Finally, do the things no one would miss if you didn’t do it.

How: When I learned that someone on my team had a death in their family, I always send flowers from the organization and the team.

The cost? $30

… $30 for a little bit of caring.

It is those low cost yet important little things that become exponentially important to that person and the rest of your team.

The Eight Skills You Need For Success As A Leader

I have a coaching client who was promoted from a specialist engineer to the dizzy heights of team-lead without the company investing in the skills she needed to transition from specialist to leader.

Because her boss and company did not recognize that they were promoting her into a new profession and invest in her accordingly, their accomplishment was to turn a fine and capable engineer into a poor supervisor!

The difference:

  • Specialists use their skills and experience to create a product
  • Team leaders need management skills, a knack for problem-solving and the ability to plan and manage the work – NOT to do it!

So, what is a team leader’s skill set?

1 Balancing between leadership and management

These are two separate skills:

Leadership is communicating a common vision of a future state; gaining agreement; then, motivating others in a forward direction.

Management is results driven and getting the work done.

Your job as a good team leader will constantly switch from a leader to a manager as situations require.

2 Be a Team Builder and a Leader

The leader sets the “tone” of the team to lead them through the various team development phases to the point where they begin to perform.

Read about teams

3 Be a Problem Solver

Identify the possible “causes” that lead to the problem, then analyze possible options and alternatives, and determine the best course of action to take.

4 Be a Negotiator and Influencer

Negotiation is working with others to come to a joint agreement. To avoid power struggles, develop influencing skills. Influencing is the ability to get people to do things they may not do otherwise.

5 Be an Excellent Communicator

Being a communicator is a two-way street as. A good way to get a grip on managing the information comes and goes is to ask yourself the following questions: who needs this information? Who gathers and delivers it? When or how often do they need it? And, in what form?

Read about communicating

6 Be Organized

Think of what you need to organize; project documentation, contracts, emails, memo’s, reviews, meetings, etc. It’s almost impossible to stay organized without developing good time management skills.

7 Become a Planner

The skill of planning can’t be underestimated. There are known and logical steps in creating plans. You may well own your team’s plan, but others depend upon your success.

8 Manage Budgets

At the heart of this is the skill is managing the budget, particularly costs. You will need a knowledge of financial systems and accounting principles.

If you are new to team leadership, don’t be overwhelmed by all this. There are well-understood methodologies, tools, guidelines, and procedures to help you on your way to developing the life-skill of leadership.

The first thing you need to do is book time with your boss and ask what their performance objectives are; what does he need you to do to help them be successful; and, then what professional development do you require to be successful.

Read about partnering with your boss