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How to Build a Culture of Strong Leadership in Your Organization – Bruce Tulgan, CEO RainmakerThinking

As the saying goes, a leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way. Joining Jim Fitzpatrick on today’s episode of the Atlanta Small Business Show, is Bruce Tulgan, CEO of Rainmaker Thinking, a leading management research, training, and consulting firm, to discuss building a culture of strong leadership in your organization.


Jim Fitzpatrick: Hi Bruce, and welcome to the Atlanta Small Business Show, so glad that you can spend some time with us today.

Bruce Tulgan: Thanks so much for having me.

Jim Fitzpatrick: So how do you build a culture of strong leadership within a dealership?

Bruce Tulgan: Well, in any organization it starts at the top and when I talk about strong leadership let me be clear, I am not talking about leaders who lord it over other people. I’m talking about consistent, patient, structured guidance, direction, support, and coaching. And what we’ve learned is the key to creating a culture of strong leadership is to teach every follower how to follow and teach every leader how to do the basics of leadership.

Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s a pretty strong nothing that you’re actually teaching the followers how to follow, I haven’t really thought about it that way, but I would imagine that’s part of good leadership, right?

Bruce Tulgan: Yeah and when the followers know how to follow, then the leaders have so much of an easier time. Structured dialogue where you spell out expectations every step of the way, follow-up, follow-up, follow-up, troubleshoot, problem solve, resource plan. Push rewards toward people when they’re going the extra mile, and you know when people are digging in their heels, they’re the ones who do push-ups in the sand at 4:00 a.m. and clean the latrine.

Jim Fitzpatrick: What do employees need the most from their leaders in order to be successful?

Bruce Tulgan: What most people need, if they’ve got a job and a boss, is they need to know what exactly do you want me to do, exactly how do you want me to do it. They need regular feedback about how is my actual performance lining up with the expectations. They need to know where do I get the resources I need, and if I can’t get the resources what am I supposed to do. And they need to know, hey, who’s keeping score around here, how do I earn more of what I need and want.

Bruce Tulgan: You know sometimes people say to me like, “Oh well everyone wants to know what’s in it for them.” And I say, yeah, we’re not communists, welcome to America. People want to know, what do you want from me, what do you have to offer me, no hard feelings, work is a transactional relationship.

Jim Fitzpatrick: What are some of the benefits that the entire organization sees when managers practice the fundamentals of strong leadership?

Bruce Tulgan: Well, here’s the business case. When managers start providing high structure, high substance guidance, direction, support, and coaching, here’s what happens. Problems that don’t have to occur are avoided. Problems that do occur are solved much more quick. Resources are better planned so they’re much less often squandered. People are much less likely to go in the wrong direction for days, weeks, or months without realizing it. Low performers are scared away. High performers are more likely to stay. Everybody is inclined and able to do more work better and faster, and managers are better able to delegate responsibility.

Bruce Tulgan: So those are the proximate outcomes of strong, highly-engaged leadership.

Jim Fitzpatrick: How can managers avoid the pitfalls of what you call “false empowerment”?

Bruce Tulgan: Well, you know, if you think empowerment is, “Hey, listen, do it however you think it should be done. Take a crack at it. Sink or swim. Reinvent the wheel.” That’s not empowerment, that’s negligence. Right, I mean there’s nothing empowering about that. Real empowerment is you already have an established best practice, you teach people what to do and how to do it, you give them the resources they need, give them a checklist. If they need a checklist for the checklist, give them a checklist for the checklist. If they need it, tattoo the checklist on their forearm.

Bruce Tulgan: Real empowerment means setting people up for success, making expectations clear. False empowerment is aw, figure it out. There’s nothing empowering about that.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Bruce Tulgan, thank you so much for joining us on today’s show, we very much appreciate it. Hopefully, we can have you back to cover more of these topics because I know our viewers are going to get a lot out of this.

Bruce Tulgan: Hey, thanks so much for having me on the show.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yes, thank you.

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