Interview with David Cottrell
Can you provide three practical leadership tips for everyday life?
In a nutshell, positive leadership is the result of creating a positive environment which influences people toward a common goal.
Leadership is an evolving state that must adjust quickly and with precision when the marketplace dictates a change. So, one of the most important aspects of leadership is to drive positive change throughout the organization. That is probably the biggest challenge most people face … leaving a comfortable situation and venturing into the unknown. I think leading positive change begins long before the change is identified, analyzed, and a strategy for making the change has been created. Here are three practical leadership traits that are a common denominator for great leaders. Without any of these three, your leadership role will be temporary.
Integrity – Have you earned trust? Integrity is the master switch that controls every part of leadership. It doesn’t matter what you say to people if they don’t trust you. It doesn’t matter how committed, optimistic, skilled or courageous you are if people do not believe you. Without integrity, you eventually will be alone; everyone will flee from you. Your integrity check — constantly asking yourself, “Am I consistent in my words and action?”— is required for long-term success. Guard your integrity like it’s your most prized possession, because that’s exactly what it is.
Organization – Prioritizing priorities can be overwhelming at times. Many things come at you from different directions, making it difficult to separate the important from the trivial. It is like playing a never-ending game of Whack-a-Mole. As soon as you knock one “crisis” down, another pops up. However, a common denominator of successful leaders is being extremely organized. They create time for their family, enjoy hobbies that help them reboot, regularly kindle their spiritual fire and live life to the fullest.
They are uncluttering experts. They know the people they want to be and prioritize their lives to become those people. Your ability to navigate through priorities in the right order is key to successful leadership. Conflicting priorities will create chaos in your team. You have to learn to identify and focus upon keeping your main thing the main thing: The overriding priority toward which all of your team’s energy and attention should be directed at that moment.
Communicator – I have observed that most people do not quit their jobs; they quit work relationships. For example, a relationship at work sours due to miscommunication, unclear expectations, or a misunderstanding. People become disappointed in the person they work for, so they go somewhere else to try another relationship. Most of the time, communication is not the problem. People are being communicated to from multiple sources every hour of every day.
Connecting is the problem. There are six communication needs of everyone on your team: What is really important, How am I doing, Does anyone care, How is our team doing, What difference do we make, and Is my leader worth following. If you do not answer all of those questions, assumptions will be made that will lead your team to a place you do not want to go.
You say, in order to be successful, leaders need to create positive energy at work. What is the best way to do that?
The best way to create positive energy at work is for you to bring positive energy to work. People follow people. People follow you. I am not sure exactly where I heard the sentence “Something can be done, and there is something I can do.” for the first time. Whoever shared it with me gave me a wonderful gift; it has been a source of comfort and strength throughout my life.
Something can be done — whatever hole you are in is not permanent — something can be done right now. And, there is something you can do; you get to make the next move. Not everything that happens to you is going to be great; you don’t live in a Pollyanna world. But, you can react to whatever happens to you in a positive, optimistic manner.
Do you have a favorite experience from your speaking career?
I have been a public speaker for over 20 years. During that time, I have probably seen about everything that could happen. I have learned that my best friend at every event is the audio visual expert who finds a way to fix almost everything. I love to speak to large audiences, but one of my favorite experiences was speaking to a small group at Stratford Upon Avon where Shakespeare was born and raised. The historical significance of that venue is among the highlights of my career.
What do you personally gain from being a public speaker?
At every event, I learn more than the people in my audience. It is amazing to discover that everyone has a story and almost everyone I meet is doing what they can to help others along their journey. Ideas for content of future books are generated by listening to issues faced by people at every event.
How much does humor factor into your keynotes and other speaking engagements?
I love humor and know that it is good for the soul and my audience. However, I am not a standup comedian. I tell stories that contain humor but more importantly the stories are interwoven learning points. My goal is to have each participant relate to the story, remember it, and take action. The most important element is to take action … do something different to become better at their chosen profession.