As I was wrapping up a client meeting last week, my client came up with a new label for me: butt-kicker. They actually said it with a smile and seemed to be looking forward to the experience. It made me chuckle. I have been called a lot of things in my career, but “butt-kicker” has not typically been one of them. The fact that we labeled our relationship in that way was both fun and helpful and it made me wonder….
How can the butt-kicking analogy inspire us to add energy to our workplaces and/or get us to think about our leadership in new ways?
I observe the butt-kicking phenomenon on a regular basis in the early morning at the gym. As I quietly wake up on the treadmill, I watch the trainers work with their morning boot camp magic. I hear yells of encouragement. I hear groans from the boot campers. I hear laughter. I see the trainers touching base with each person. I see sweat and effort. I see confident nods. I see smiles.
There is something powerful happening here.
Occasionally, I submit to a butt-kicking experience when I attend kick boxing class. I am amazed when, after I am sure that I’ve kicked my hip out of the socket, the instructor yells that I can do another set. I think to myself, “No, I can’t” or “I don’t want to.” But somehow, the instructor knows my inner capabilities and I give in to the elation of a few more kicks. At the end of the class, I’m glad I did.
So what’s so special about a butt-kicker and why should we aspire to be a good one?
#1: Butt-kickers see our potential. They understand the goal that we are reaching for and remind us of what we are capable of. “Being seen” is one of the greatest gifts another person can give us. Butt-kickers see the best in us – and, more importantly, they tell us what they see.
#2: Butt-kickers gain consent for the process. Consent and buy-in are important leadership concepts. In this context, consent implies that the butt-kicker has taken the time to ask the right questions, to listen to the answers and to help us articulate goals related to that conversation. They help us state where WE want to be.
#3: Butt-kickers apply tough love and hold us accountable. They remind us of what we said we wanted to do. They help us track our progress on a regular basis. And when necessary, they steer us to new goals and targets. Butt-kickers expect a lot from us - and we want them to.
#4: Butt-kickers push us to do more. They encourage us to do one more push-up, run a little faster, and try a little harder. They remind us that we can do more, be more, give more. They make us feel invigorated by our own efforts. In so doing, they make us proud of ourselves.
#5: Butt-kickers reward and encourage. They notice our efforts and give us credit for working hard. They cheer us on. And they remind us to build in rewards when we reach our goals. Butt-kickers are tough but they understand that we all need to be recognized, encouraged and acknowledged. They praise us when we give our best effort.
One important note (and this is really important): These 5 concepts must be applied at the same time. Tough love and accountability without clearly defined goals and buy in does not equal butt-kicking leadership at its best. The organizational efforts that I see fail are usually lacking a thoughtful and inspirational butt-kicker at the helm. A butt-kicker can be a very positive thing.
So, how can you integrate these positive butt-kicking concepts today?
Make the time - you pick two: Inspire more vision. Reinvigorate planning. Set new goals – together. Initiate new conversations about the people you are here to inspire. Hold people accountable. Expect greatness from others - tell them what they are callable of. Tell others what you see in them. Push them to do more, be more, give more. And then reward and encourage them. They’ll be glad you did and the results will be remarkable.
As leaders we should aspire to be motivational, inspirational butt-kickers. Remember that you are here to inspire others. Add some energy to your work environment by applying a few kick-butt concepts.
I am proud to have been labeled this way by my client and I am going to let their playful spirit inspire me. I’m bringing a whistle and coach’s outfit to our meeting on Friday.
Can’t wait to kick some butt. How about you?
© Kathy Sturgis, Ph.D. Kathy is founder of Refreshment Zone and is an organizational and personal development specialist with a doctorate in communication. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on motivational programs.