As the CEO of LeasePlan USA, we were one of the hundreds of companies that launched visionary campaigns called “Vision 2020”. It is now obvious that we were all clueless on exactly what 2020 would bring. And yet, here we are.
Let me begin by stating my definition of leadership. In my opinion, it is very simple. Leadership is influence. If you are in a position to influence the thoughts, behaviors and/or attitudes of someone else, then you are in a leadership role. I do not believe that leadership is the private domain of corporate executives and politicians. I know for a fact that leadership is practiced every day in schools, churches, non-profit organizations, and in our homes. The leadership role we hold in our family might be the most important of all.
In this challenging environment of political unrest, social injustice, economic uncertainty, and that other little issue (a global pandemic named COVID-19), how will you influence those that you lead? As fleet professionals, you do indeed influence many different people in your organization.
Be a Positive Force
With the issues mentioned above, it is simple to engage in some pretty depressing conversations both at home and at work. Choose not to participate. I realize that sounds rather simplistic, but it is true. Choose not to participate. As a leader, you can set the tone on your conversations and you can choose to be the one with an optimistic view. We are going to get through this. We will. Might things be tough along the way? Yes. But you are reading this right at this moment and that is testimony to the fact that tough times don’t last, but tough people do. Optimism is an amazing gift that is incredibly contagious. Be a positive force.
In my book, I identify seven elements of success for leaders today. The seven elements are Laugh, Learn, Listen, Language, Lagniappe, Legacy and Love. The language of our leaders has such a tremendous impact on how we feel about the world. Is your language uplifting, inclusive, does it inspire, and of course, optimistic? Highlight the good things going on in your business or in your family. Identify those little victories that occur every single day. Spread that “feel good” human interest story that you found on social media. Even in these challenging times, there are people and organizations that are doing amazing things with, and for, others that are less fortunate.
It is time to “AMP UP!”
As I write about your leadership language, I want to suggest that we all should amp up!
- Amp up the frequency of our communication.
- Amp up the number of communication channels we use.
- Amp up on compassion and caring.
As a leader, amp up the frequency of your communication with your team. We are past the need for a weekly phone call that begins with “I’m checking in to see how you are doing.” Leaders, including CEOs, executive vice presidents, sales managers, teachers, moms, and dads should realize that “more” is better. Several times a week, leaders need to communicate with their teams about a wide array of issues. I recognize that these times are unprecedented, and that leaders are being pulled in multiple directions, but being there for your team and your family needs to be a top priority.
As a leader, amp up the number of communication channels that you use. Video chat, WebEx, phone calls, e-mails, text messages and social media are all valuable forms of communication. And now, as many states have eased the restrictions on public gatherings, face to face discussions are becoming possible. Effective leaders will use a communication strategy that utilizes multiple delivery options. Recently, I was blessed with the opportunity to coach a woman in the technology industry. This new leader was beaming with pride as she described a call with her boss in which he praised her for work done with one of the company’s largest clients. I asked how this made her feel, and the feedback was exactly what one would expect. Excited, proud, energized, etc. I then explained that she had the ability to give that gift every day to someone if she wanted to.
Recognize the good things that are happening in the world and make someone’s day exceptional every day. Call, text, video chat — hell, shout it from the rooftop!
I will give you one other method that packs exceptional impact – the handwritten note. Yes, good old paper and pen, sent through the US Postal System. Over the course of decades, I have seen dozens of cards and notes on people’s desk, and I have yet to see an email displayed with the same pride. If your kids are heading back to school, put a note in a lunch box. If you are leading a team of essential workers that show up every day at work, place a handwritten note in a place where your team member will find it. Use multiple channels to have maximum impact. In my book, I describe this as lagniappe. It’s a Cajun French term for “a little something extra”. Great leaders do the “little things” that other leaders don’t do.
Amp up the compassion and the caring. Today, we need one another. We need understanding and compassion. It is comforting to see that in a virtual world, many leaders have become more understanding of barking dogs, screaming children and the Amazon delivery professional being a part of a Zoom or WebEx call. Life in a virtual world is stressful. As a leader, how you react to the daily stress will influence how your team reacts. Laughter is a great stress reliever. It always has been. Music is another method for reducing stress. Show compassion for your team, and for your family, in these unusual times. When there is a last-minute cancellation, or a mom or dad has to deal with a child at home, remember that as a leader, you set the tone.
Team members will go to great heights to deliver on objectives when they know their leader cares about them as a person, not just as a colleague at work. Many of your team members are also fearful and stressed. Research indicates that half of American workers are worried about getting furloughed or laid off. Couple this with the fear of coronavirus, and one can easily understand why many Americans are more than just stressed, they are struggling. As a leader, you have the opportunity to ease some of that burden.
In a virtual world, communication is really one of the keys to success. Great communication is intentional. Great leaders work at it. Great leaders develop the skills to effectively send optimistic and positive messages to their team members. Be that leader. Finely tune this skill and watch how people begin to react to you. The power of positivity is an awesome thing to witness. We will always remember those leaders that helped us navigate tough times. We believe in leaders that help us feel safe, secure, and cared for. Be that leader – be unforgettable.
About the Author: Mike Pitcher’s career spans four decades and three continents with global organizations like Pitney Bowes, Dell and LeasePlan. His international experience includes leadership roles in Australia and Hong Kong. Pitcher is the former CEO of LeasePlan USA, as well as the former president of Efficiency Enterprises (currently serving as Board Chair for Efficiency). Pitcher’s efforts have consistently led to increased employee engagement, client satisfaction and an increase in bottom line profitability. His teams have been recognized as a Best Place to Work in Atlanta (twice earning the Number One spot), as well as Forbes Magazine recognition as a Great Place to Work in the United States. Pitcher’s book “The Seven elements of Leadership for a New Breed of Leader” was published in 2016.