7 Questions with Jeff Haden

Name: Jeff Haden

Current title: Speaker, ghostwriter, author, LinkedIn Influencer, Inc. Magazine contributing editor

Current organisation: Self

Prior to becoming an author/speaker, I worked in manufacturing for 20-plus years, eventually managing a 1,000-employee facility.

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1. How would you summarise your area of expertise in a few paragraphs?

I started at the very bottom -- entry level shop floor employee -- and worked my way up through the ranks. Managed to make just about every mistake possible during those years. Since then I've been fortunate enough to meet and talk with scores of successful people and successful leaders. While I didn't plan it this way, the combination of real world experience and exposure to high-level thinking and strategies has worked out really well for me.

2. One big idea: Can you please unpack the one big idea from your work that seems to resonate most with leaders?

Plenty of people tell me they hope to accomplish something big – they’re just waiting for the lightning bolt of inspiration and motivation strike. Contrast that with all the incredibly successful people I’ve spoken with; only in rare cases did they suddenly find their passion and life’s purpose. Most of them develop their passions and interests slowly, over time, simply by trying something, seeking to get better at it… and getting daily doses of motivation through enjoying small successes. That’s because motivation isn’t something you get. Motivation is something you create, on your own, by following a process that allows you to improve, bit by bit. And that alone is incredibly motivating -- because it means you already have everything inside you that you need to achieve your goals. And you can take the same approach with your employees. Don't try to motivate them with one huge burst of inspiration. Create an environment where they can regularly experience small wins and can as a result motivate themselves. No matter how hard you try, you can't motivate people -- but you can help them motivate themselves.

3. How did you become a thought leader? Can you please briefly tell the story and share ONE tip for any leaders out there who'd like to become thought leaders themselves?

Don't *try* to become a thought leader. Focus on doing good work and sharing useful, practical, actionable advice, strategies, tips, etc. Do good work, do good things, and trust that eventually people will notice. Social strategies, seeking exposure, etc. won't matter if you manage to gain attention yet have nothing valuable to say.

4. You're sitting down over a coffee with a leader and you can only give them ONE tip to help them as a leader. What would you say to them?

You're in charge. You can talk about targets and goals and visions. Still: You can communicate and engage and connect all you want, but no one tends to *really* listen to you. They just smile and nod and go back to doing their jobs the way they always do. Your employees won't really care about what you want them to do until they know how much you care about them. When an employee knows--truly knows--that you care about them, then they care about you. And when they know you care, they will listen to you... and they will do just about anything for you.

5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your thoughts on leadership? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted you?

A recent favorite is The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle. Love the idea that leadership isn't about big moments: Daring decisions, inspiring speeches, moments when a great leader shows the path forward. Leadership is about the little moments. A quiet word of praise. A small moment of confession, when the leader admits to a mistake or a weakness. By using vulnerability loops that allow everyone in a group to tell the truth, to have high-candor exchanges that drive improvement and create a shared mental model on how to perform together.

6. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?

It's not recent, but I think about it all the time: Numbers come and go, but feelings last forever. Facts and figures are important. Explaining the logic and reasoning behind a decision can help create buy-in and commitment. Charts, graphs, tables, results, etc., are useful... but quickly forgotten. Make employees feel stupid or embarrassed in front of other people and they will never forget. Spend twice the time thinking about how employees will feel than you do thinking about data and logic. Correcting a mistake is easy. Overcoming damage you cause--whether intentional or not--to an employee's self-esteem is nearly impossible.

7. What is one meaningful story from a reader or someone who's been influenced by your thought leadership so far?

Recently a gentleman for whom English is a second language wrote and said my book was the first book he read in English. I thought that was really cool.