Eagles part 2: How to get more Eagles and less Ducks? Start with you

In my last post, I described one of the greatest challenges that faces every organization – how to attract and retain more eagles while eliminating ducks and cancers.  And I used one of my past mortgage branches as a case study.

When I fit each of my  teammates into the Jack Welch Personal Assessment model above, I found out my problem, why my organization was underachieving despite my working huge hours. I had too few eagles trying to pull the entire train while caring too many ducks and cancers along for the ride. It was getting heavy with my Eagles  were at risk of breaking. What to do?

The 1st place to look is at your organization and your value proposition. If you have a poor value proposition, then you will never be able to get or keep enough Eagles no matter how good a recruiter or leader you are. If you are truly an eagle, then you have to ask yourself why you are at a duck organization. So look around – if there are other branches and leaders that are excelling using the current value proposition, it’s been proven to be possible, so it has to start with you. Moment of truth – if you were graded by your teammates, your peers, your customers, your boss, and even your competitors – would you be viewed as an eagle, and irreplaceable asset?

One of the greatest traits of successful, growing leaders is that they are self-aware and take an honest inventory of their strengths and weaknesses. They don’t ask more of others than they ask of themselves. They humble themselves,  seek honest feedback, and then develop a plan to improve. Unfortunately, I have known many leaders that are egotistical, not self-aware,  and first blame others for their lack of success. They do not take personal accountability, it can’t be  them. I used to hear many branch managers at our regional meetings complain that their processors were weak or that their loan officers were lazy and complacent. And I always wonder, even if that’s true  – what does that say about you? You hired them, you set the expectations, you trained them, you gave them coaching and feedback, and you established the environment.  So, who’s fault is it – them or you? Did you settle when you hired them, just filling desks hoping that a certain % stick? Did you give them the training  and support to succeed, or are they left on their own  – sink or swim? And are they fixable, or are they as good as they can be?

Let’s face it, if you’re not an eagle, then you can’t expect to attract eagles. What’s the old saying – birds of a feather flock together. John Maxwell says it best in his classic book “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership”. One of these laws is “The Law of Magnetism”. In it he convincingly states that  we attract people like ourselves. And those who follow you share common ground on several key areas: attitude, background, values, energy, giftedness, and leadership ability. Who you  attract is not determined by what you want, it is determined by who you are. If you’re not crazy about the people you’re  attracting,  then start with you and increase your leadership skill and character. Start from inside, then move out.

Even if you are a great leader, you can always improve. There are certainly some areas that you can work on to move from low  Eagle to high Eagle.  And as you raise your game, you make more room for Eagles to follow you and fly higher themselves.

Here are 5 things that you can do to become a better leader and attract their followers:

  1. do an honest self-assessment - using a checklist similar to Maxwell’s 21 laws, honestly grade yourself on a scale of 1 to 10. Anything less than 5 requires immediate attention and anything less than 8 will eventually require improvement to become a high Eagle leader. And since it’s human nature to see ourselves through a positive bias filter, we need to collect honest feedback from people who know us the best and are most impacted by us – our teammates, our peers, and our bosses. And they can only give honest, constructive feedback if you make it safe for them to do so. If you want to grow, foster 360° feedback can be open to constructive criticism and act on their feedback. Your teammates will respect you for it and they will in turn be more open to feedback on their own performance.
  2. Get a mentor/coach – it’s cliché, but we don’t know what we don’t know. We can’t effectively see ourselves. As Einstein said, “we can’t solve today’s problems with the same tools that created them”. We need a guide to point us in the right direction, push us when we get stuck, and keep us on course when we stray. We can take 10 times  longer by trial and error and still may never get there. Some of the coaching and wisdom can be gained by studying books like John Maxwell’s. But nothing can replace a real live coach that knows us,  who cares about us and our success. This coach will be one of your most valuable personal assets, a member of your Board of Directors.
  3. Get your teammates to help you – it sounds odd, but your teammates have most of the answers and insight to help you evolve –   especially the Eagles, but sometimes even the cancers and ducks.  Collectively, they know you and they know what they prefer and need in a good leader. If you can humble yourself and ask for their help, most of them will help you to succeed.  be their partner in  mutual success, not their boss. Model the behavior of asking  how you are doing, what you can do better. The simple act of open communication can dramatically shift the environment from closed  and  negative to  positive, paving the way for other improvements  in your teammates.
  4. Study the successful branches and leaders -  if someone is achieving exceptional results in the same company, then it is proven that it is possible. And success leaves clues. Many of the same things that work and Las Vegas will also work in Sacramento. The only variable is you. For the environment, the energy, and the culture to change  – you must change.    left adrift, gravity will pull you into the mediocre 95%.  For positive change, you must model the top 5%.
  5. commit to continuous improvement -  you never graduate from leadership training. Even if you are a great leader at your current level, you can become an even higher Eagle and you can prepare for higher leadership roles. If you do get promoted from a branch manager to district manager, then you start all over as an eaglet in your new position and you will need to master new skills to be considered an eagle at this higher altitude. Leading other leaders requires higher skills. One of the key evidences of your leadership is how many great leaders you develop.  secure leaders and Eagles want to fly around other Eagles,  including those who might be better than them. Superior leadership is a lifetime pursuit with rare moments of mastery. Great leaders innovate and learn from their mistakes.

And by the way, this law of magnetism isn’t just about our work relationships. It’s about all of our life relationships  – spouse, children, family, and friends. If you’re not getting the relationships you desire,  then start with you.  how do these people view you? Do they view you as addition or subtraction?  Small changes in you will result in big changes in how others relate to. And that’s how you get to 1 + 1=3 in your most important life relationships.


Question: on the Jack Welch personnel assessment model, how do you rate at work ? …  At home? What 2-3 things can you do immediately to fly higher and move towards becoming a high eagle? 

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One Response to “Eagles part 2: How to get more Eagles and less Ducks? Start with you”

  1. Rob Carlson November 10, 2011 at 11:18 pm #

    Mike…I really liked this post. The biggest “a-ha” that I had was the need to “be” and eagle in order to attract other eagles. I have been doing a lot of thought about that the last couple of months and I really agree with that point. Again, great post. :)

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