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12 Pieces of Advice from Top Professionals

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If you assembled the top 100 business leaders and management professionals (newsflash: they aren’t mutually exclusive) across the top 10 industries and asked them for their best advice, I’m certain you’d never  hear anything about “value justification” or “user engagement.” You might not even hear “change management,” “going forward,” “setting them up for success,” “best practices,” “organic growth,” or “value added.” Most of those buzzwords are just that: buzzwords – semi-ambiguous phrases to make one person seem “in the know” to junior managers who don’t know better.

No one would even attempt to win a game of “corporate buzzword bingo” at that gathering. I doubt you’d hear any nonsensical buzzwords from anyone who’s actually built a business from the ground up, or from a wise veteran who has served as a mentor, or from someone who’s got the calluses and scars from actually doing the work to build a company.

I spoke at length with the CEO of a large organization last week. When asked for his advice to upcoming managers and leaders, his words echoed what I’ve heard in varying forms from other business leaders and owners for the last 35 years.

1. Be willing to admit when you don’t know something. Never try to bluff your way through. It’s painfully obvious to everyone around you. You know when your boss or co-workers do this. Don’t do it yourself!

2. If you’re at fault, admit it. Take any blame that rightfully belongs to you and work to correct things as soon as possible. It’s called being an adult.

3. When you’re right, never gloat. The only time you should ever say, “I told you so!” is when someone says, “You were right. I did have it in me to succeed.” Saying, ‘I told you so” with a smile is entirely appropriate at that point.

4. No task is beneath you. Even if you’re the top manager in your department or division, especially if you’re the top manager, pitch in and help – even if it’s a job no one else wants to do.

5. Share credit as much as possible. If you spread credit for successes around to others, you’ll come off as a much stronger person and you’ll build loyalty with your team.

6. When you don’t like someone, never let it show. And especially if they report to you. No matter whether you outrank them or not, never burn a bridge or offend others. Your behavioral style or communication preferences may grate on their every nerve too.

7. Reprimand in private. That’s how you would want to be treated, isn’t it? Always treat each member of your team like you would want to be treated. Praise in public ONLY if that’s how someone wants to be recognized. An emotionally intelligent leader knows.

8. Never gossip. When someone gossips, three careers are potentially hurt, the one being gossiped about,  the one doing the talking, and the one listening and saying nothing to stop it.

9. Don’t let your drive for excellence make you a jerk. There is a diminishing return for continuous improvement (another tired old buzzword). You’ll never be perfect and neither will your team. Strive for the best, but know when to let it go.

10. Keep your salary numbers to yourself. Discussing your paycheck with anyone other than your boss, human resources, the payroll department or your spouse is a complete no-win proposition. Either you’ll feel slighted because someone makes more than you, or someone will be upset with your compensation believing they’re getting the raw deal.

11. Delegate and let them work. Don’t delegate then micromanage your team. Give them the target, the standards you expect, and a completion date – then get out of the way — unless they ask for help or it’s plainly obvious they need it. If they perform, praise them. If they don’t, make the needed adjustments in coaching, training, or personnel.

12. Don’t be a second guesser. There is a lot of difference between being eyeball to eyeball with customers with sweat dripping from the end of your nose and sitting in a comfy air-conditioned office behind a computer monitor and a call screener. Your team may be having to make decisions on the fly and if you second guess their every move, before long they won’t make any moves without your input.

It all boils down to being emotionally intelligent and understanding yourself and your impact on others and having the willingness and ability to self-regulate. Emotionally intelligent leaders can read others, have the social skills to thrive in a multitude of environments, and know how to provide an environment where others can tap into their self-motivation.

What gems of wisdom have you learned over the years? What would you add to this list?


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Certified as a Professional Behavioral, Motivators, and Emotional Intelligence Analyst, Ron Haynes specializes in using the science of TTI’s TriMetrix HD to help companies select and develop their top talent, create job benchmark solutions, and implement succession planning.

He has developed an auditing process to help organizations more accurately calculate true cost of employee turnover. It’s staggeringly higher than you think.

Need a solution to your employee challenges? Contact him at or at 870-761-7881.

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