Last Saturday, Kevin Eikenberry very generously gave an hour of his time to answer questions from my students in a course on Leadership. Kevin is the author of a number of best selling books including Remarkable Leadership (2007), Vantagepoints on Life and Learning (2005), and From Bud to Boss: Secrets to a Successful Transition to Remarkable Leadership (just released in February 2011).
Q: You talk about the importance of continuous learning in your book, Remarkable Leadership. What does continuous learning mean for you? How do you keep current?
Kevin: I read blogs, books, and attend 3-5 professional workshops or conferences a year. I also learn from the writing I do. I find writing and reflecting clarifies my thinking. An excellent way to learn is to teach others/share your knowledge and information with others. It’s about intentional learning-you have to take ownership of your own learning process.
Q: Can you give us advice on how one finds their niche?
Kevin: Do work that is interesting to you. Find your passion. You have to be happy with the work you are doing. Create an area or business that serves you and is not just a job. Figure out how to market yourself. One of the things I have learned throughout my career is that I’m not just a salesperson or a consultant. I’m in the marketing business.
Q: What do you suggest I do if working with others on a team and one team member is not fully committed?
Kevin: Ask yourself if there really is a performance gap. Sometimes it is simply a matter of perception. Don’t start from a place of judgment but instead ask questions. What does this person value? What is holding them back from being committed?
Q: What are your strategies for leading in today’s economy?
Kevin: Enthusiasm is contagious. Be a positive influence. Choose your attitude. If there are challenges, talk about them with your team. Think about what’s within your control and within your influence. Now is the time to offer training to your employees and to keep them engaged. That way, when the economy changes, you can keep them. Build your employees.
Q: I see a real technology gap between generations. Can you address this issue and what to do about it?
Kevin: Ask yourself, what’s the real problem? Is it a performance discrepancy or a difference in preferences? There have always been generation gaps. You see the world differently at 20 than you do at 50. Read the research on the different generations and then forget most of what you read because it leads to stereotyping. Focus on what you need in the workplace.
Young employees prefer text messaging to phone calls. I understand this. My son at college prefers texting. I can leave him a phone message but he’s much more likely to respond to a text message. It works for him.
You as a manager need to explain to your employees your business need. It’s about the other person, in this case the customers or clients. Talk about issues of technology as a group. How to get past perceptions? However, be careful not to stereotype. I know older people who are very tech savvy and younger ones who are limited to just what they prefer. It’s not just age-related.
Q: Can you give us advice on how to be successful?
Kevin: Get a mentor. Mentorship is a critical part to learning anything especially leadership. Choose good role models. Also, help mentor others as you learn from mentoring. Keep in mind that leadership is not a role or position but an action.
If you think you are leading but no one is following you, you are only taking a walk.
It’s about the actions you take. Be remarkable-someone worth remarking or talking about.
Focus on your strengths but also remember that your strengths can be your biggest weaknesses. For example, your strength may be that you are decisive. However, the weakness of that might be that you don’t ask for input from your employees. I had a friend who was upset because someone accused him of being stubborn. He asked me if I agreed. I hesitated and then asked him if he thought he was persistent. It’s the same behavior with a difference in degree. Strengths are always valuable but not always appropriate.
A: Any final words of advice for being successful?
Kevin: It's about finding your passion. Taking advantage of defining moments. Transforming yourself.
At this point, Kevin gave the students a simple, yet effective exercise to do to show them how to take their dreams of success and make these a reality.
Write down the word "Transformation" in the center of a piece of paper.
Then go back up and write "Information" (these are the books, classes, degree, valuable input to help you learn).
Next, write "Inspiration" (get inspired-do stuff that engages you).
Then write "Application" (apply what you know and learned to what you love to do).
Once you reach Application, you need to take action to reach Transformation. It's up to you.
His final words? Believe in yourself. “You’re qualified if you decide you are.”
Kevin Eikenberry is the Chief Potential Officer of The Kevin Eikenberry Group, a learning consulting company that provides a wide range of services, including training delivery and design, facilitation, performance coaching, organizational consulting, and speaking services. They have worked with Fortune 500 companies, smaller firms, universities, government agencies and more. His specialties include: teams and teamwork, creativity, developing organizational and individual potential, facilitation, training trainers, presentation skills, consulting and the consulting process.
Kevin blogs on leadership here: http://blog.kevineikenberry.com/
Kevin shares free resources for reaching professional and personal goals here: http://www.kevineikenberry.com/resources/index.asp