Balancing Leadership and Management: Cultivating Growth and Success

In my last blog I talked about motivational leadership styles.  I want to develop this topic a bit further to include the difference between leading and managing.  Over the years I have seen these two styles collide and cause serious riffs in the ranks of companies that I have worked for.  On the other hand I have seen great leaders that know when to lead and when to manage, these are the best type of people to work with.  Put simply managers’ control and leaders motivate.

In my opinion managing people is about control and structure.  Management is important for making sure that certain tasks happen every day to keep the lights on.  There needs to be authority and rules to make sure people do their job, this is management.

Leadership is about motivating team members to be the best they can be.  It’s about leading them to personal growth and company success.  An environment that lacks inspiration or vision is awful to work in.  Leaders make sure the organization has a vision and helps the team see how they will reach these goals.   An environment with great leadership makes it possible for the company to thrive and more importantly for the team to grow and flourish.

Both of these types of styles have a place in every business and are necessary to help a business succeed.  However if the two are unbalanced, it can cause disaster.  Too much management leads to micro-management.  If an organization encourages micro-management it will negatively impact productivity, leaving your team feeling untrustworthy and unmotivated.  On the other hand, a company with leadership and no management will most likely be in a state of chaos.  The team will get nothing done, because they will not have the resources or support to follow the vision.  They are like a ship with no sail, great ideas and no way to execute.

On a day to day basis as a business or community leader you have the choice to lead or manage, both of these tools are in your toolkit.   I prefer to make the decision to lead or manage based on the situation.  It’s very easy to get caught up in managerial tasks, or what I like to call “busy work.”  The best way to avoid this is to delegate, because we all know you can’t do it alone.  Delegation is a great example of leadership; it instills trust in your team and gives you time to calculate the next strategic move.  Having a equal balance of leadership and management in an organization is great for the business, shareholders and the team members.  It’s a daily challenge to be aware if we are leading or managing, we need to do both seamlessly.

Do you have any personal situations or opinions on balancing leadership and management?  Please comment

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How Understanding Your Motivational Style will make you a Better Leader

Make things happen

In my many years’ experience as a leader, I have seen many different types of motivational styles.  Overtime the one thing that I have really focused in on was what styles worked and which did not.  Sometimes leaders fail at motivating, by choosing the wrong situation.   As a manager I have the opportunity to choose on a case by case basis, which style to deploy.  I have three main ones that I use regularly; reward based, growth based and fear based styles.

I prefer to motivate people with the idea that what they are doing will help them grow personally.  The growth based motivation style is my favorite.  It allows me to really share my knowledge and expertise with my team.  And even better it allows them to actually know that the work they are doing will add to their personal value today and in future jobs.  This is the best motivation style, but it’s not right for every situation.

The next motivation style that I deploy is reward based.   This type of motivation involves a reward of some sort, even if it’s small it can help.   At my current job when we meet our monthly sales goal, the team gets lunch as a reward.  This is just a small thank you from the company for doing their best day after day.  I use this style with my sales team also, they work on a quarterly bonus structure, the incentive of the bonus helps them stay motivated to work harder at closing deals.

The third motivation that I use is my least favorite, fear based.  It has its place in management and I only deploy this style as a last resort.  I have seen it misused by managers time and time again.  The most effective way to use fear based motivation is when you are counseling a team member, usually about repeated bad behavior.  If I have the respect of this person and they know I respect them, this motivation will work great.  Sometimes you have to put someone on notice or final warning.  People sometimes need this type of motivation to grow professionally.   Like I said though, don’t to quick to use fear, it is a last resort method.  But when used properly it’s just as effective as the other two methods.

Do you have another motivational style that you use?  Please Share with us by commenting below.

Leadership – 3 Skills needed to be a Better Leader

Being a great leader takes a lot of practice, the more you practice the better you become.  There are many different types of leadership styles, history has shown is this time and time again.  I personally have over 20 years of management and leadership experience.  Some of my leadership skills are natural, but there a few that have developed over time and experience.  I am continually challenging myself to grow as a leader.  I am not afraid to make mistakes.  There are many skills that a great leader needs to have.  These are just three examples from my own personal experience.

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A great leader leads by example.  For many years I have watched others lead and I have seen some really great leaders.  I have even had the opportunity to work for some of these people.  By working for great leaders, I have developed some awesome leadership skills.  Leading by example is one of the toughest skills to do every day.  I strive to always do my best in every aspect of my job.  I show up early, because I expect others to be on-time.  I never ask anyone to do anything that I wouldn’t do myself.  This is a paramount detail in building rapport with a team.  If it’s 100 degrees outside and my team is unloading a container, I will roll up my sleeves and lend a hand.  I want them to know that they are not alone.  As I mentioned before, I have learned a lot from other leaders.  If I am leading by example, I have the opportunity to pass along the skills I have been given.  Great leaders mentor and cultivate future leaders.

A great leader is approachable, accessible and open.  Many times in my life I have had people tell me that they are intimidated by managers and leaders, they have even told me that they were intimidated by me at first.  I used to chuckle when people would say this, as my career grew and I got into more advanced leadership positions, I realized that this actually was happening.  I am a very direct person by nature and this particular trait does intimidate others, sometimes.  As I have matured as a business and community leader I have become a better communicator.  Today I am open, accessible and approachable.  The team I work with knows that they can tell me what is on their mind.  The reason for this is that even though I am direct, I am kind and compassionate too.  My team knows that I am there to help them succeed.    I work hard to build a rapport with my team and encourage them to share their point of view, safely.  This is what makes a leader a great leader, willingness to listen and lead.

A great leader is accountable.  Accountability is a valuable trait.  In my last blog, Be a Man of Your Word.  I mentioned the fact that sometimes your word is all you have.  When leading a team, you have to build trust with your fellow members.  As a leader it’s not about someone else trying to lead me.  It’s about getting things done as a team.  When my boss or one of my team members asks me to do something for them, I try to do it right away.  This shows them that I am attentive and accountable.  It also validates their effort and lets them know they are valuable. I need support my colleagues so they will support me.   Bottom line, if I say I am going to do something, I do it to the best of my ability.  Great leaders support and help those around them succeed.

These are just a few examples of great leadership skills that I use and continually work on to a better leader.  Do you have skills or experiences that you would like to add? Please feel free to comment in this conversation.

Be a Man of Your Word

The title of this post has a direct meaning, keep reading, I am getting to it.  I promise.

One of the themes of my blog is photography and I have to admit the business topics I have been writing about have kept me away from talking about my favorite hobby.  Last week, at the end of my of work life balance post.  I promised you the readers that I would post some photography; I also said I was going to go up to the mountains for the weekend and relax.  I did just that!

On Friday morning I drove up to a little town called Graeagle in the High Sierras of Plumas County.  I spent the first day with my Aunt.  We had a blast; we went kayaking at Sardine Lake.  The best part about the kayaking adventure was that it totally spontaneous. I had never been kayaking before, I really enjoyed it.  We ended up kayaking around the entire lake, it was awesome.

The next day I woke up very early and left before dawn with my camera.   I went up to an area called Lakes Basin; I went hiking on the Long Lake loop.  There is something special about hiking early in the morning.  It’s a great time to really reflect on how life is going and what you can be doing better for yourself and others.  And if you don’t want to reflect you can just enjoy nature and the gifts of being outside. The experience was very serene and peaceful.  This was a great way to start my day (I don’t recommend hiking alone, unless it’s on a very popular trail).

I was able to get some great shots on the trail and I am happy to share them with you, enjoy.

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Well it wouldn’t be a true 4th of July weekend without more family and friends to celebrate with. I was able to spend the rest of the day with my family and we even watched fireworks, that’s right Graeagle has a fireworks show on the 5th of July.  The whole weekend is a celebration starting with a barn dance on Friday night, a daylong celebration with live music, gunslingers and civil war re-enactors during the day and then a spectacular fireworks show at night, followed up by a parade and a triathlon on Sunday.   It was truly an action packed weekend.  Here are a few pictures of the fireworks, I hope you like them.

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I know this is a break from my usual business topics, I am really working on balance in my life these days.  I figured it was important to share that I actually live by my own advice.

In business sometimes your word is all you have, and if you are accountable and reliable; a true man of your word, you will be respected by your peers.  This has never been truer than in management, if you want to have the respect and support of your team.  You better stand by your word and stand by your team.  This leads to my next blog series – managing people and business.  Over the years I have had many experiences in management; hopefully you will read something valuable.  If you have a topic that you want me to explore, let me know with a comment.

3 Important Skills you need to Succeed in an Early Stage Start-up

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Last year a friend of mine offered me a partnership share in a tech start-up.  This company is very early stage, and there is a lot of work to be done to make an idea an actual company or even a project.  I thought what they were doing was a great idea, so I accepted.  The company is called Dragonfly Energy and we have developed an awesome process that will allow us to make li-ion batteries at a low cost.  I promise to write a follow up blog next week about the company, who we are, what we do and why we do it better than anyone else.  But for today let’s focus on some of the main things that will help your start-up succeed.

Often time’s people who are running early stage start-ups are inexperienced at business.  They are definitely smart people; just not business people.  They get so focused on proving and developing the technology, they lose track of costs, things like material costs, rent, phone service, and utilities. All of these things add up and deduct from your bottom line.  This often leads to the failure of the company.  In a start-up from day one, you need to be aware of and monitoring costs.  The company has to be founded on the idea of doing more with less.  It’s important to have someone on board that can focus on this, while the engineers and scientist are developing the product. Control your costs and spend as little as possible, this will give you a better chance at success.

Of course in a small company, with limited staff and resources, there will be challenges.  First there will be a lot of stress, due to lack of funding and resources.  Sometimes there is so much stress and pressure to succeed it can affect the cohesiveness of your team.  As a team leader you need to be an example of managing stress and pressure.  You also need to give your team a break every once in a while, take them to do something fun.  Encourage them to take a long weekend or to get a hobby outside of the start-up.  It will be more beneficial to have a balanced team moving forward, there is a lot work to do.

The last point I want to make ties into the second one directly.   As a leader in a start-up, as a new CEO, you need to be a “real” leader.  Take time to learn about management and managing people.  This includes hiring, firing and training your team.  That’s right it’s a start up and you have to wear more than one hat.  You will need a great team to delegate too, one that can get the job done right, after all you can’t do it alone.  You clearly don’t have the money to hire an HR manager, so you need to know this stuff.  Bottom line if you can’t manage people, you and your team will most likely never get anything done.

These are just a few things that are important in launching a successful start-up.  As Dragonfly Energy matures, I am sure I will have more to share.  Any skills that you want to add from personal experience? Feel free to comment.

The Work Life Balance Challenge

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When Google “work life balance” it returns 157,000,000 results.  In my opinion this sounds like a hot topic of conversation around the globe.  For me it’s actually “work, life and grad school” balance.  I have really been working toward regaining balance in my life over these last few months.  I would say that the first few semesters of graduate school, launching a startup and working my day job, has put my life out of balance.  I can only give so much energy and effort on a daily basis.  Sometimes when life is out of balance it’s not that easy for us to see, but it is certainly easy for friends, family and coworkers to see.

For me when I am feeling stressed out, I know the signs and I can slow myself down to reestablish balance.  As I mentioned before when we are out of balance, people notice, they can feel our tension.  Not if but when life gets hectic and I started to feel agitated, rushed or irritated, I do what I can to exercise patience and get some rest ASAP.  Now that I have established that I am a human being and do get stressed out, let’s cover what I do to alleviate stress and remain productive.

  1.  Take time every morning in quiet to reflect and relax, this helps me focus on the day ahead with clarity.  Some people call this relaxing, meditating or praying, I keep it simple, I have no name for it.  But I do it every day.  Even a few minutes of peace and quiet goes a long way for the day.
  1. I do my best to eat healthy food; the body and brain need good fuel.  If we expect maximum energy output levels, we need to eat right.  It’s very easy to get “too busy” and not eat right.  It’s very easy to get stressed out and not eat right.  Almost anyone I have talked with has mentioned how tough it is to eat right when life is crazy busy.   I am subject to these challenges too; I have put on a few pounds while finishing grad school.  It easy to stop and get fast-food when its 11 pm and you are on your way home after being gone since 7 am, I am guilty of it.  I combat this situation by preparing my meals ahead of time.  This allows two things to happen, first my body gets the fuel that it needs to go 12-16 hours and I don’t have to waste time thinking about what I am going to eat.  Remember every minute counts in a busy day.  I usually plan my meals (mostly) two or three days at a time.
  1. I work out three times a week, no matter what.  I personally like to work out with a trainer.  It helps me stay motivated and accountable to my personal fitness. I workout at F.A.S.T. (functional athletic sports training) in Reno, NV.  I needed a dedicated team of people to help me reach and maintain my personal fitness goals.  The trainers at my gym are very dedicated to my personal success; this makes a huge difference in my life.  I am a very busy guy; I don’t have a lot of free time.  An hour with my trainer is an efficient use of my time, more efficient than working out on my own.  It doesn’t matter what activity you decide to do walking, cycling, hiking, swimming, yoga or any other exercise you like.  What does matter is that you take time to clear your mind and body of stress.  I enjoy cycling and hiking also, but these activities are for when I have more free time.

Go have some fun or just relax for a few hours.  It will make a huge difference in your quality of life.  That is the main point of balance, it goes along with happiness.  If you are really stressed out take a day off, unplug for 24 hours.   It’s the hardest thing to do sometimes, but in the long run it will be better for you and everyone around you.  Trust me the world will not end without you for one day.  You will actually come back refreshed and renewed.  I know I am planning to do some relaxing when I am complete graduate school in five short weeks.  Until then I will maintain my routine which gives me peace of mind, focus and balance.

It’s the 4th of July weekend and I am planning a trip to the mountains.  I am leaving my laptop at home.  I will bring my hiking shoes and my camera, I promise to post some of my photography on my next post stay tuned.

2014 Cleantech Open Academy – An Experience of a Lifetime

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Over the last 8 months we have been building some momentum at my start up Dragonfly Energy.  We have won a few business competitions and have been earning some media coverage in newspapers, magazines and on the web.  Our latest accomplishment was being selected as a semi-finalist in the 2014 Cleantech Open – Western Region.

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This weekend I was offered the opportunity to participate in the 2014 Cleantech Open National Academy.  The academy is described as a weekend long “MBA cleantech bootcamp.”  The whole experience has been great for me.  I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this 3 day event.  Participating in the academy feels like a small reward for all the hard work we have been putting in.

The whole weekend has been jammed pack with world class speakers and business people, taking time to share their knowledge with the latest cohort of semi-finalists.  The event offers a unique platform to share our business model with other entrepreneurs and experts.  It’s not often that you get so many ambitious, passionate and talented people under one roof, let alone the chance to network and just chat with these experts one on one. Every aspect of the weekend was a great refresher of the fundamentals taught in an MBA program and more importantly how to apply the principals in a real world start up.

If the whole experience of the Cleantech Academy can be summarized in one sentence, a sort of elevator pitch “It’s like drinking from a fire hydrant.”   The event covers basically every aspect of a start up business from customer discovery to marketing to financial models to risks mitigation.  Lots of valuable information to soak up at the opening event of the 2014 Cleantech Open.   I look forward to sharing more about this experience with you as it develops over the next 5 months.