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Skin In The Game…How Much Do You Have?

The years of working with leaders whether in coaching and or training settings, I get to see the ones who are fully invested in their people and organization. I also work with those who could use some support to invest.  
My mission guides me in the work I do with leaders and their organizations to support each leader to lead with skill and will to purposefully involve their people.   
How this plays out is dependent on each organization, but one thing I know for sure, each organization will see the same benefit: employees who work as if they have some skin in the game (as a new leader recently told me).
But just how do you get employees to work as if they have some skin in the game? The answer is simple, you too will have to lead as if you have some skin in the game! 
The old saying, show don’t tell, applies to leadership too. This is really hard especially when you are keeping many balls up in the air. But,  there is no way around it, you simply must show your  investment is for both your people and the well-being of your organization.  

Cogs in a wheel or Involved collaborators?

No employee wants to be treated as ‘a cog in the organization’s wheels,’ not even baby boomers or Gen X employees.  They took this treatment because the prevailing mindset of this generation of employees came primarily from those who believe you should, ‘keep your head down, do your work and don’t rock the boat’ or those who accepted the treatment as ‘that’s just how leaders lead…I can’t change it.’

In my work on 3 continents, I am seeing increasing calls for a significant leadership mindset shift from newer Millennial and Gen Z employees. No matter their gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual diversity or where they are located in their organizations. 

This predominant leadership mindset is cultivated by a deep desire to see their leaders put some skin in the game- for both the organization and for them too!  In return they will  put some skin in the game. You the leader must take the first step.

Bloom where you are planted or die

If you are new to leadership or seasoned and are seeing signs from your people that 

make you a bit nervous they might be ‘flight risks’ or suffering from ‘presenteeism’ (today this is called ‘quiet quitting’) you may benefit from a  leadership mindset shift. I went through a few over my career and there is one that still resonates with me today. It came to me through a book I read.

Many years ago, I read Gordon MacDonald’s biography, Ordering your Inner World, this book shifted my mindset dramatically.  I have since read parts of it a few times a year to remind me of the message that caused me to stop in my tracks: Skills will get you hired but it requires will and skill to keep you purposefully employed. Simple message. Very hard to do consistently.

The author  was skilled in a number of core leadership traits one being communication  
(writing and speaking). In the early years of his career he relied heavily on his innate skills. 

He piled on the many requests that came his way to speak here, to participate in this and that event. 

He would hurriedly put something together to present to the audience. Deep down he knew, though the product was good, it could be better. 

He put little time into sharpening his saw by learning, reflecting, and honing his core skills to achieve a level of personal and operational excellence. 

One day he hit the wall.  He crashed mentally, emotionally, and physically. After a weekend of uncontrollable crying interspersed with reflection, he  came to realize over the years his leadership was defined primarily by his core skills. 

He failed to pause long enough and dig deep to cultivate the will to fine-tune and hone his core skills alongside critical complementary leadership skills. 

When skill joins will…

The author failed to cultivate complementary leadership skills such as: 
The habit of self-awareness and self-leadership-though he was leading many people. 

A drive for operational excellence both personally and organizationally.

The habit of alignment by pausing long enough to ensure priorities are aligned with guiding principles.

The habit of involvement which requires a quest for learning and information. 

The day he hit the wall was the beginning of his journey for deep learning about himself and the very people he was leading. 

The early years of my career were similar to the author’s.
I leaned heavily on my innate skills and neglected to cultivate the will to hone and sharpen my core skills while learning other complementary skills. 

I, like Gordon Macdonald, had invested little skin in the game in the early years and reaped the reward of mediocrity. 

Many years later, the author shared the essence of a conversation  he had with his father. 

He learned  that as humans, one of our greatest tests of character is found in our ability to critically make choices. Whether we choose or reject opportunities, we will need to do so with 
“ thoughtful criteria.”  I liken this to having some skin in the game.  

What about you, how much skin do you have in the game? 

Is there a core leadership skill you tend to lean more heavily toward? 

Could this heavy reliance on this leadership skill be a barrier to personal and operational excellence?

Which of the above complementary leadership skills could benefit from a bit of sharpening?

How might the consciousness of leading with skin in the game impact your overall leadership?
What’s next?

To investigate more about your leadership style and its impact on both personal and operational excellence, reach out to me. I would be honoured to walk this journey with you.


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