Always Be Learning Leadership Skills

leadership skills

One way to be a better leader? Always be thinking about ways to become a better leader. I see lessons about leadership skills in my reading about sports, current events and more. Today, I thought I’d share some examples that have prompted personal leadership insights as I look to constantly develop and embrace change.

First, leadership requires taking full responsibility for the company, project, process or whatever you are leading. What are some examples? Well, whether you like him or not, Tom Brady routinely takes personal responsibility for his actions as well as the actions of his team. Another example is “EK” the 25-year-old coach of the soccer team trapped in the Thai cave for over 3 weeks. He acknowledged his actions and accepted full responsibility even sending notes to the boys’ parents apologizing for having led the team astray. 

Secondly, a leader exudes confidence in his abilities and his team’s abilities. Brady is the master of making comebacks and finding a way to win; his confidence transfers to his teammates. EK may have made the biggest misstep of his life but he also exhibited confidence and strength when the team needed it most. 

leadership skills
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Next, leaders are cool under fire. Leaders set the tone in a crisis and can inspire others. While TV illustrates Brady’s explosive drive on the sidelines, he’s quite calm on the field. Under tense circumstances, EK kept himself and his boys steady until help arrived.  When you keep your cool and don’t get rattled as a leader, you can make better and more thoughtful decisions.

Leadership is a Balancing Act

Communication, hard work and knowing the market and the competition are also essential for leaders. Leaders should also put themselves second to their employees as it creates an environment of trust and cooperation. 

Brady will put his team first to accomplish a goal — the next Super Bowl win. In the Thai example, EK was the last person out of the cave and even refused food and water for himself, choosing instead to give his rations to the boys. This prioritizing of his team members likely helped EK to command respect and cooperation from his young players.

Finally, leaders also taking time to recharge and find balance. I practice yoga every day and have written about my practice and breathing in this blog. There is, however, no one checklist to follow for achieving balance. What’s most important to you will change depending upon where you are in your career. The balancing act will encompass a leader’s drive for and valuation of knowledge, professional expertise, lifelong learning, relationships, family, community, and openness to self-questioning and to change. 

I’d love to read your ideas on leadership and learn how you balance your guiding principles and life pillars. Let me know!

Becoming Uncomfortable in 2019

leaders in filtration technology
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Welcome to 2019.  

This blog marks the beginning of Perlmutter Unfiltered’s 5th year; it’s been fun writing and hearing from friends, colleagues, customers, and others from all over the world. I hope my mix of topics — innovation, leadership, and technical insight — have inspired you professionally and personally. 

Thinking about 2019 and preparing for another great year put me in mind of an interesting Fast Company article about what we can do to improve our work space.

Everyone gets comfortable at work, from where we sit and who we prefer to work with on our projects and teams.  As leaders in filtration technology, we look for “no-drama” days in which the process is optimized, production is overcapacity, and customers have no machine issues.  However, these calm and steady-state environments can lead to complacency and learning plateaus. On the flip side, when we experience periodic disruptions, we develop new views and new ideas.  

Therefore, for 2019,  I suggest “becoming uncomfortable.” Shake up projects, teams and tasks/responsibilities. Sit somewhere new. Push yourself personally and professionally to embrace change.

Becoming Uncomfortable

First, step-up to new roles and look for new responsibilities. This could be as simple as becoming an expert in distillation or solid-liquid separation (contact me and I can help you!) or developing expertise on a specific process at your company.  

Next, constantly challenge yourself to get better… call a vendor for a “lunch & learn” seminar, call a new customer and more importantly, make a call rather than sending an e-mail or text. The act of picking up the phone often makes us more uncomfortable in this digital age.

Going further, make small changes every day. A small change is easy to make and before long, the team, the process, the office will see improvements.  Working for BHS Filtration, we say, in German, eins bei eins (one by one) or as I like to say “millimeter by millimeter.”

So, let’s all become more uncomfortable in 2019. Make proactive changes rather than reactive.  Let me know your ideas on this, share your successes, and we can all learn to become uncomfortable together.  

Being a Doer and The Blues Brothers.

Loyal followers of this blog already know some of my background and likes. Now, you get to learn that I’m a big fan of John Belushi and The Blues Brothers. I link this to my years spent living in Chicago and my Master’s Degree earned from the School of Engineering at Washington University (Wash U) in St. Louis. How are these related?

Lawyer Cash Nickerson, Wash U alumni, and author of Listening as a Martial Art, recently posted on LinkedIn about “doers, reporters, amplifiers and listening skills” in the workplace. The workplace for us could be technical sales, project engineering, process development, etc., and we’re all familiar with the need for problem solving at work.

In the case of Belushi’s Jake in The Blues Brothers, his workplace was “getting the band back together.”

Cash talks about a “reporter” as someone who tells you what is happening: the client is unhappy, the project is delayed, the specifications are wrong, etc. Basically, telling the story of “how we got here.” The “amplifier” reports but also repeats the story, even louder. They are the ones who after hearing of a crisis, scream even louder. With email, text, and social media, it’s easy to become a reporter/amplifier.

problem solving at work
Photo credit: miuenski via RemodelBlog / CC BY-NC-SA

Meanwhile, a “doer” doesn’t just bring a problem; they also present a solution or a suggested solution. The best actually solve the problem or attempt to do so before even coming to you. The “doer” doesn’t announce the problem widely (amplifying it) but rather sets up a meeting (I call these an “adjustment meeting”), organizes a conference call with the client, writes a change order, etc. The doer tries to resolve the issue and only comes to the boss if the problem remains unresolved.

John Belushi is a doer. In one of my favorite scenes in the movie Jake lies in mud in an underground tunnel with a mysterious woman shooting at him. All Jake can do to solve his problem is try to talk his way out: “Honest… I ran out of gas. I… I had a flat tire. I didn’t have enough money for cab fare. My tux didn’t come back from the cleaners. An old friend came in from out of town. Someone stole my car. There was an earthquake. A terrible flood. Locusts! IT WASN’T MY FAULT!”

I think that we’ve all been in the mud at one time in our careers. Yet, I would not suggest that this is a good approach in for problem solving at work. What you want to do is stop and think first. Am I going to be a reporter, or worse yet an amplifier? Take the time to first rehearse your approach in your head. See if you can find a way, instead, to be a doer. So much more will get done, and you’re more likely to get ahead too.

We all deal with problems in the mud every day in our jobs, let me know some ideas and examples that we can share for problem solving at work strategies. Or if you just want to share a favorite scene from The Blues Brothers, I’ll be happy to hear that too!