Eve Annunziato

Follow The Leader March 24, 2008

Filed under: Leadership — Eve Annunziato @ 1:14 am

“Followership has recently been studied as a key to understanding leadership. To follow, people must feel confidence in the direction in which the leader is headed. They are enabled and empowered to do their part in accomplishing the stated objectives.” Susan M. Heathfield

I appreciate and value following a great leader. It’s refreshing, rejuvenating and rewarding. Further, the process is both educational and healthy, and I welcome opportunities to step aside, listen, learn, and follow directions. As a leader, don’t be reluctant to follow. Instead, embrace the experience as an occasion to sharpen your own skills.

Recently, I was asked to co-produce and write a video package with another producer for a current freelance gig. Before we started the project, I made a concerted effort to let him lead. He’s seasoned, talented, experienced, and extremely creative. Plus, he has been working on the project for many months. I allowed him to cast the vision, conceptualize the graphics and formulate the outcome. Meanwhile, I focused my energy on executing his expectations. As a result, the piece was well- produced, well-crafted and much more successful than if I were giving the orders.

Quite frankly, this particular producer is a gracious and humble leader and a person of character and integrity. I’m a much more effective follower when I work with a notable leader – one whom fits Vince Lombardi’s description:

“Leadership rests not only upon ability, not only upon capacity; having the capacity to lead is not enough. The leader must be willing to use it. His leadership is then based on truth and character. There must be truth in the purpose and will power in the character.”

As a student, I gain such a tremendous perspective and respect for the teacher. And, honestly, it’s a nice break.  Next time, seize an opportunity to step aside, take direction well and embrace moments to follow the leader!


Is Your GPS ON? March 17, 2008

Filed under: Leadership — Eve Annunziato @ 2:23 pm

When I landed my first TV job, I quickly noticed the entire team frustrated with our Newsroom Manager. Once we received our assignment, we spent hours enterprising, researching, interviewing, shooting, producing, editing and writing stories, only to hear that our final draft really wasn’t quite what she wanted. There wasn’t any direction from our leader, resulting in wasted time, energy, and resources. My reaction – to begin a quest to climb the corporate ladder. My thinking was along the same lines as the old adage, “I can do this better.” (Boy, was I naive).  A few years later, I had my first position in middle management and from that moment, I gave my team players clear direction while efficiently communicating and always leading them down the perfect path – right? WRONG – so very, very wrong! I made the same green, inexperienced, novice mistakes. I, too, had to suffer the consequences of not concisely explaining expectations to my team players. Here are some humbling lessons I’ve learned along the way that I still struggle to implement:

A Leadership Global Positioning System (GPS) Guide

  1. Provide Road Maps – Before you hand out any assignment, cast the vision. As the leader, often you’re the only one who understands the big picture. Keep in mind, everyone is focused on his or her individual task so they need an explanation of the entire mission. “Vision points us in the right direction. It helps us get focused, get energized and get great results,” explains Ken Blanchard.
  2. Handout Clear Directions – Explain your expectations by expressing what you want, when you want it, and how you want it. If necessary, convey steps to get them from point “A” to point “B.” People can’t read your mind. I suggest after handing out an assignment, put it in writing. This can simply be a follow-up email outlining your aspirations.
  3. Stop for Direction – Don’t be afraid to check in with your teammates along the way. Then, if you notice someone is going astray, address the issue and give him or her the proper tools to get back on track. Offering suggestions and providing feedback is considered healthy dialogue. Address mistakes constructively and up front – don’t just drop little hints. I call that, “passive aggressive leadership.” You want to dodge this annoying behavior at all cost.
  4. Avoid the Scenic Route – The best way to avoid your team players from “taking the long way” is to merely communicate. I was recently reminded of the importance of communication in every environment while reading John Maxwell’s book, Qualities Of A Team Player. Maxwell retells one of my favorite Aesop fables called, “The Lion and The Three Bulls.”

Three bulls lived together for a long time in a pasture. Though they ate and lived side by side, they never spoke to one another. One day a lion came along and saw the bulls. The lion was very hungry, but he knew that he could never attack three bulls at once because together they would over-power him and kill him. So the lion approached the bulls one at a time. Since one bull never knew what the others were doing, they didn’t realize that the lion was working to separate them. The lion, who was crafty, succeeded in dividing them, and once he successfully isolated them, he attacked them individually. Thus he overcame all three of them and satisfied his hunger. Aesop concluded the story by stating, “Union is strength. But there can be no union without good communication.”

Use your Leadership GPS and you’re likely to send your teammates down the right path, time and time again, well before all of you get too far off course.


Can you hear me now? March 10, 2008

Filed under: Leadership — Eve Annunziato @ 1:15 pm

“When you ask people about the best leader they ever had, one quality is always mentioned – they are good listeners. Test the power of listening for yourself by taking time to listen and focus on others.” Ken Blanchard

Have you ever felt as if your supervisors were listening but didn’t hear a word you said? Ah, then I must have been your manager at some point in the past! Well, at least I could have. In all honesty, this has been one of my greatest leadership challenges. This is a discipline I deliberately pursue. At times, I think everything I have to say is so very urgent – and I mean EVERYTHING! After all, I don’t have time to listen; I have important tasks to complete, deadlines to meet and emails to write! I sometimes get so preoccupied with my own thoughts and so focused handing orders and direction out – that I miss out. Getting too busy to hear what others on my team have to say results in missed opportunities in capturing the full vision and potential of my team members and making true connections and relationships with them.

The truth is – I don’t learn unless I listen. Listening lets people know they are important. Asking questions makes them feel as though their opinions count. “Shutting up” enables us to discover diverse points of view from others. Authentically, genuinely and earnestly becoming immensely interested is what my team has to say, both personally and professionally, allows me to grow and develop into a mature and effective leader.

In his book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, Marshall Goldsmith writes, “80% of our success in learning from other people is based upon how well we listen. In other words, success or failure is determined before we do anything.”

Goldsmith calls listening the one skill that separates the great from the near-great. So, what are the stories your key players are sharing? What creative ideas are flowing from their sudden brainstorms? What barriers are preventing you from creating authentic relationships? Learning about their likes, philosophy, and daily walk, enables you to assemble fellowship amongst your team. It not only elevates the growth and development of the people in your organization; it also forms unwavering community in the work place.

Put people before paper. In other words, drop what you’re doing and take a few minutes to spark the conversation, listen to the funny story, the family crisis, the creative burst of energy and create an atmosphere open to others’ ideals. For just a few deliberate moments, forget the responsibilities on your to-do list, and open your ears to people’s lives, ideas, and discerning words of wisdom.

As Christians, we’ve been taught to listen to God. But I once read a devotion that teaches that Jesus is known as “The Listener” because He invites us to share with him our prayers, our requests, our hopes and our dreams. After all, often before Jesus responds, He first listens to our heart. Before we respond to our team players, first we need to listen to their thoughts about anything – about everything. So I challenge you to ask yourself are your team players screaming, “Can you hear me now?”


Catching People In The Act! March 3, 2008

Filed under: Leadership — Eve Annunziato @ 3:46 pm

‘Catching people doing things right is a powerful management concept. Unfortunately, most leaders have a genius for catching people doing things wrong. I always recommend that leaders spend at least an hour a week wandering around their operation catching people doing things right.’ Ken Blanchard, Leadership Smarts.’
Imagine if every CEO, Vice President, Boss, and Department Head adhered to Ken Blanchard’s advice. The ‘work-place’ would be more like a ‘doesn’t feel much like work place’ – a celebratory atmosphere where we reinforce the positive, strive toward the vision and excel with excellence.

‘Therefore encourage one another and build each other up…’ 1 Thessalonians 5:11
It wasn’t too long ago when my 8-year old son’s teacher told me that after a child in his class started to cry and was frustrated with an assignment, Gentry went over and gently gave him a hug and quietly helped him finish his project. During our commute home, I celebrated Gentry’s act of kindness explaining that I was not only proud of his humble leadership but also his display of grace and mercy. Gentry beamed, he glowed, and he smiled joyfully while hearing genuine positive feedback. Although I was authentic in my praise, I unmindfully motivated my son to continue to make loving choices. For most of us, praising our kids comes naturally.
Funny thing, words of affirmation never grow old no matter our age. Nothing exhausts a team member more than when a supervisor only points out mistakes – it’s demeaning, demotivating, and discouraging. Recently, I was asked to recruit a team of volunteers to help prepare an Easter Dinner for over 40 folks serving at our church during the biggest ministry weekend of the year. Yes, these volunteers get the big picture, but regardless, I know sacrificing time from family during a holiday isn’t easy. Personally, I’m already making plans to insure that every team member knows he/she is appreciated and treasured. Whether a goodie-basket, gift-card, hand-written note – I want all of them to know I’m proud to serve by their side.
‘I firmly believe that providing (positive) feedback is the most cost-effective strategy for improving performance and instilling satisfaction.’ Rick Tate
After all, it takes very little time, it takes very little effort, and it costs nothing, yet in the end if gone unrecognized, it can cost you EVERYTHING as a leader. Take time this week to develop the team players surrounding you by catching them in the act of doing something right.
Continuing on this positive note, I want to personally thank all of you who have responded to my blog or sent me encouraging emails – your feedback is very well appreciated. I’m passionate about healthy dialogue discussing leadership smarts! Until next week