Leadership Lessons from Nebraska Football

Writer’s note: I have already seen numerous wonderful leadership lessons from the first four games, and I suspect that will continue.  This article will probably become a running commentary on what I learned during the season. Stay tuned.

My husband is a Nebraska football fan. That might just be a serious understatement.  For our 40+ years together, he anxiously awaits fall, and sits glued to the television for each and every game (unless they are losing so badly that he can’t bear to watch.) He devours every article on every move, and dissects the plays weekly with his son, another FANatic.

Back in the day, Nebraska was the pinnacle of successful college football. Over the last couple decades, not so much. They have brought in coaches, fired coaches, changed strategies, poached players, but have never revived their glory days. (more…)

How effective leaders deal with “push back”

I saw a cartoon recently that hit home. It was a picture of birds sitting on a telephone pole that had several layers. The birds at the top were nice and clean. The further down the layers, the birds were covered with…well…bird poop. It is a parody on an organizational chart where the poop travels downstream, and those at the bottom feel pretty yucky.

I get that. There’s always someone above you in the organization pushing down initiatives, projects, and other accountability processes, and the further they are pushed, the more overwhelmed are those at the bottom.

What happens when those at the bottom say, “Enough?” They “push back.” Pushback can take many different forms, and each form presents a different challenge to leadership. Basically “push back” means, “Nope, ain’t gonna happen; at least until I get comfortable.” It may take the form of silence, or of arguing or even of passive-aggressive behavior that nods, then goes about doing something things as usual.

The way a leader handles pushback has a dramatic impact on a leader’s credibility, both to those above and to her employees.

Think about it this way: someone “higher up” demands a process change and communicates the change and the myriad accompanying tasks to the leader who then must deliver them to staff.

What happens next depends on the magnitude and impact of the change on the daily lives of employees. Generally, the more significant the change, the more pushback occurs. And let’s face it, there is usually more than one bird sitting on top of the org chart passing down requests and demands. Staff groups like HR, finance, marketing, legal and others speak for “the top” in their area of expertise, and all those “speakers” can get very loud. (more…)

The “D” Word

Sometimes saying that you are disappointed is a very powerful statement.

Several years ago, I watched a hospital President speak with employees who messed up. It could have been a med error, tardiness for a shift, or poor treatment of a family member.

If an error occurred, she would invite the employee to her office and ask her what happened. After the employee explained the situation, she asked if there was something she had needed or help she didn’t get. They had a two-way conversation. Then she asked what she would do differently in the future and made sure the employee “got it.”

Then she would say she was disappointed…the “D” word. She didn’t say she was disappointed in the employee but in the situation and was assured the employee that she was certain it would not happen again. It generally didn’t. (more…)