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What is Inbound Leadership? 3 Fundamentals For a Team That Opts In

Chris Duprey

Chief Operating Officer, 10+ Years in Business Development & Leadership, Former Infantry Officer

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What is Inbound Leadership? 3 Fundamentals For a Team That Opts In Blog Feature

Published on August 10th, 2018

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In case you missed it, we redefined inbound this week at IMPACT Live.

Inbound is not simply about generating traffic, leads, and sales. It’s a philosophy, a mindset, predicated on being so helpful it hurts. It’s about being obsessed with enabling the success of others.

Doesn’t that sound like leadership to you? Or at least what it should be?

In my talk at IMPACT Live, I dove into how we, as leaders and as a community, can embrace this new philosophy of inbound and apply it to leadership.

Why Change What We’re Doing?

As a leaders of teams or organizations, what do we want to see when we walk into our offices each morning?

Teams that are engaged, and doing their best work for our clients? Employees that are living our core values every single day?

But is this really what is happening in the workplace?

According to Gallop’s recent State of the Global Workplace report, only 15% of employees worldwide say they are engaged at work.

On top of that, according to a Forbes article, 65% of the American workforce would rather see their boss fired than receive a raise.

This leads me to a serious question: Is it possible that you would make up a percentage of the 65%?

I know I was. When I first left the Army, I definitely was the kind of boss whose employees would have rather seen fired than received a raise. I was a driver, always pushing -- and I was doing it wrong.

Are we part of the problem?

Is how we lead our teams and organizations adding to these statistics, right now?

When we force our authority or leadership upon our team's, we allow this level of engagement in our businesses to fester.

The answer to this problem is what we at IMPACT call Inbound Leadership.

What is Inbound Leadership?

Inbound leadership is operating from a “how can I help” perspective, obsessed with the success of our people and teams - leading to a positive and lasting impact on the organization.

It’s about leading in a way that makes our teams “OPT In.”

An approach where they choose to be a part of the solution with us.

Sounds pretty awesome, right?

This is Inbound Leadership.

With it, individuals and teams become engaged and committed to the team and organization’s purpose.

They don’t do things because they have to; they do them because they understand the impact they have on achieving the team and organization’s vision and want to.

They have ownership over what they do. They’re living the core values; getting after it for your organization every day.

So How Can We Transition to Inbound Leadership?

It starts with how you approach the team.

How do we, as leaders, present ourselves to our teams today? As experts? As geniuses? As decision-makers?

To embody Inbound Leadership, we need to present ourselves as coaches, teachers, and mentors.

That’s what we are.

This doesn’t mean that we are no longer experts, geniuses, and decision makers. It simply means that we begin from an educating and growth-focused mindset; not with ego.

If we enter into engagements with our teams in this way, it allows for better interaction.

People are more open to providing feedback and adding to the conversation, in essence increasing the amount of brainpower that goes into solving a problem or creating something new.

The 3 Fundamentals of Inbound Leadership

Once you have this mindset, you can move into the three main fundamentals that we believe encompass Inbound Leadership:

  1. Putting People First
  2. Collaboration
  3. Adaptation

1. Putting People First

So, what does it mean to put our people first? Do we not focus on clients? Do we make sure we have plenty of beer in the fridge in the office?

There are a ton ways you can can do this, but being transparent is the simplest ways to put your people first.

People love to be in the know especially when it comes to their careers. One of the best examples we’ve seen of active transparency is showing our team the numbers.

At IMPACT, we share our financials with the entire team. We go over revenue and expenses at every all-hands meeting, to highlight how we’re doing as a company.

On top of that, we give folks the opportunity to ask questions like, “what can I do to help us hit the revenue number for next month? What can I do to help cut expenses.”  

The team is informed and not kept in the dark. They know where we stand and how they can help.

Other ways we use active transparency include sharing meeting minutes (including leadership team meetings) and showing our team how we figure out compensation (and more importantly how they can move up). The point is the more informed the team is, the better they are.

When we put our people first, in this way, they are more engaged and happy.

They present themselves this way when they are interacting with our clients; creating an even better experience and producing better results.

When we take care of our people, they take better care of the business long term.

2.Collaboration

The second fundamental of inbound leadership collaboration.

Bring people into the decision-making process. This doesn’t mean decision making turns into a democratic activity; It simply means that we hear as many voices as we can and then make informed decisions.

As we, at IMPACT, look at how we can be more collaborative as leaders, the main thing that jumps out to us is listening.  

This may sound easy, but I want you to ask yourself, 'Is this an area where I could still improve in?’

I can shed some light here as I am a horrible listener.

So horrible, in fact, I had to create a system to remind me when I am supposed to listen.  It dates back to this one time in Afghanistan when my boss told me if I cut him off again he would punch me in the face...

In an attempt to be better (not perfect, but better), I started carrying around these three pens.

My favorite is the blue pen - it means I can talk.

The red one is for writing down tasks.

The green one, however, is the magical one. It is is the one that enables collaboration, it multiplies the level of dialogue in the room. It’s the one that reminds me my role, at this moment, is to LISTEN.

You can read more about that here.

3. Adaptation

The third fundamental of inbound leadership is adaptation.

The only constant we have in life is that everything is going to change.

So, let me tell you a quick story about my time as the Deputy Planner for 1st Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division in the Summer of 2011.

We were slated to be the nation’s quick response force. The unit that, in an emergency, the President can send anywhere in the world in 96 hours.

This meant, we trained and trained and trained for an operation called airfield seizure. Then, all of a sudden, we got notified that our mission had changed.

We weren’t going to be the quick response force in a few months -- We were deploying to Afghanistan in six months, which is an incredibly short timeframe, for a non special operations unit.

Just like that, all of the planning we had done as a brigade to assume the quick response force mission, was thrown out the door. Now, we had to prepare ourselves to go to Afghanistan to face the Taliban during the fighting season.

We had no choice but to adapt.

The brigade leadership and staff had to come together to ensure that we built a training program to get our PEOPLE ready.  We had to collaborate.  And we did.

We got the unit trained and ready and were in Afghanistan in early 2012.  It wasn’t easy, but because we embraced the change, put our troopers first, and ensured we collaborated, we made it happen.

Because, as leaders, we put our troopers first and collaborated (made them all part of the process), the unit was ready, willing, and able to adapt to the changing environment and succeed.  

Sure, it was jarring at first, but we kept level heads and did what we needed to get the job done.

If your leaders can’t keep their cool during times of change or confusion, it’s unlikely that your team can. As a leader, you need to be able to roll with the punches and provide direction at the drop of a hat.

Ok, Ok, What’s Next

If you want to be an inbound leader, you need to be a coach, teacher, and mentor. You need to stay focused on putting your people first, collaborating, and adapting.

Now, the journey toward becoming an inbound leader isn’t going to be easy -- don’t think that you have to eat the whole elephant today. 

Just pick your first bite - pick that one thing you can do to move your leadership style into a more inbound one.

If you want a suggestion - I’d say you should find your green pen and start listening!

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