Don’t be the Battleship

A battleship had been at sea on maneuvers in heavy weather for several days. As night fell, the captain noticed the patchy fog and decided to remain on the bridge.

Shortly after dark, the lookout on the wing of the bridge reported, “Light bearing on the starboard bow”. “Is it steady or moving astern”, asked the captain? The lookout replied, “Steady, captain,” which meant the battleship was on a collision course with the other ship.

The captain called to the signalman, “Signal that ship: You are on a collision course. Advise you alter course 20 degrees.” Back came the answering signal, “Advisable…YOU change course 20 degrees.”

The captain said, “Send another message: “I am a senior captain. Change course 20 degrees.” “I am a seaman second class,” came the reply, “Change your course at once.”

The officer was furious. He spat out, “We are a battleship. Change YOUR course 20 degrees.” Back came the flashing response: “I am a lighthouse.”

As a boss…or a manager…a parent…or a spouse, have you ever been the battleship? The better question might be, “how many times this week have you collided with reality…when you were sure you were right and that you knew everything there was to know! You immediately jumped in and began coaching or correcting, only to find that you were woefully uninformed and on a collision course with disaster!

Habit 5 of Dr. Stephen R. Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” is “Seek first to understand, then to be understood”. Unfortunately, this habit doesn’t come naturally – most good habits don’t! As human beings, we often don’t see the world as it is, but as we are. We act as if it’s all about us, that the world revolves around us until a startling encounter with a “lighthouse” shakes us to the realization that we’re not bigger than the realities and natural laws of life.

Some examples of the “lighthouse” include: The free-will of others, circumstances beyond our view, limited resources, others’ perceptions and attitudes, natural laws of human behavior, and universal principles…principles that can’t be broken. As Dr. Covey said, “we cannot break a principle, we cannot break a natural law; we can only break ourselves upon them.”

None of us are bigger than life, and so we cannot just will the world to bend to our whim and accommodate our “reality”.

Truly successful leaders seek first to understand, and allow that understanding to light the way to safer waters and effective relationships.

Lead on…

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July 23, 2018 at 2:35 pm Leave a comment

Onboard or Overboard

Think back to your first day on the job. You were excited, ready to be part of a team, ready to learn, ready to serve customers, ready to make a difference. Then you arrived at work. Everyone was busy – too busy to talk to the new guy, so the boss gave you a project…a pile of something that needed attention, but clearly not high on the list of priorities. You sensed that it was beneath everyone else and that if it wasn’t done right it was no big deal. How’d you feel? Like you were part of a team? Like you were learning and growing? Like you were a hero, or even a help to customers? Did you feel you were making a difference?

Unfortunately this is the kind of experience far too many people experience when joining new organizations. Some might argue “what’s the big deal…it’s just the first day?” Well, as it turns out, the first day…and every day are “big deals” in setting employees up for success…or for disappointment! One thing is certain, poor onboarding most often results in overboarding…pushing good employees overboard, sooner or later!

Just as with relationships, first impressions can be lasting impressions. When no one befriends the new guy, because “he probably won’t stick around anyway”, too often it becomes self-fulfilling prophecy! Instead, if every new employee was treated and felt like a rock star from day one, they would be far more likely to become the “rock star we all want to work with!

What if…EVERYONE who passed the new gal stopped, introduced themselves, and welcomed her to the team? What if the boss celebrated the new hire with donuts or lunch for the whole team? What if someone from the team, or the sales group, or the home office reached out to welcome her and then shared a project they’re working on and said “I could really use a fresh perspective on this…what do you think?” What if…? Imagine the difference!

Statistics say 70% of employees who experience great onboarding will stay for at least 3 years, and with a much higher engagement level. And in an environment where 20% of employee turnover happens in the first 45 days, that’s huge!

So, the next time you bring a new person into the family, try treating them like family. Make them feel important, needed, and appreciated from the get-go and see the difference!

Lead on!

Cliff

June 1, 2018 at 10:41 am Leave a comment

Leaders Must Walk the Two-Way Street of Communication

Leadership involves more than giving instructions to subordinates and measuring how they handle their responsibilities. True leaders want to know how their teams are faring, and how they can improve personally to ultimately improve their teams’ circumstances.

They can only do this if they are communicating effectively and holding themselves accountable as leaders. Things go sour fast when they don’t. I’ll illustrate this with a little story…

The Tale of Gavin the Well-Intentioned Manager

Gavin, a newly promoted store manager, wanted more than anything to exceed the sales and profitability goals that he had just inherited after the recent departure of his predecessor. Although he was new at the job, Gavin understood that he would only be successful with the help and full engagement of his branch team.

So, the proud Scottish immigrant embarked on an aggressive effort to win their hearts in the way he thought best—through their stomachs. Gavin determined that he’d treat the team to his favorite Scottish breakfast every morning. Certainly they’d appreciate this new perk and it would help them get to work early or at least on time every day.

Over the weekend, Gavin labored to replicate the haggis and black pudding recipes his mother had taught him in his native Scotland, and he could hardly wait to share them on Monday morning!

As each employee arrived, Gavin thrust a plate of his proud creations at each of them with complete confidence that they’d love it. Sensing his enthusiasm, his employees feigned appreciation for the meal, but then secretly disposed of it at the first opportunity.

Day after day this scenario repeated itself—the employees growing more and more disgusted by the sheep innards and pork fat and blood-infused foods, but not wanting to offend or irritate the boss.

They pretended to enjoy it. To make matters worse, Gavin never asked or watched them eat to gauge their satisfaction; he just assumed they loved what he loved, and that everyone was perfectly content with the new arrangement.

In time, the employees would get nauseous just thinking about going to work. At first, they were often late and then they began missing days. It never occurred to Gavin that he was responsible for their attendance issues.

Instead he assumed that there was something wrong with his employees, and he began blaming them for their tardiness and absences, even telling his regional manager of their “bad attitudes.” Eventually, Gavin made plans to replace all of them!

A lack of communication is a symptom of a greater problem

So what went wrong? Yes, a lack of communication—specifically, a lack of feedback from both sides contributed. The employees didn’t want to offend or hurt their manager’s feelings, and Gavin didn’t want to have the difficult conversation about their attendance issues, instead taking the easier route of blaming his employees’ “attitudes.”

But the lack of communication was just a symptom of the real problem. The real problem was a total abandonment of personal responsibility and accountability—by all parties.

How to be truly accountable

You see, all success, all progress, all growth, all character development begins and ends with personal accountability. Accountability means being personally responsible and taking ownership of one’s circumstances… especially when it’s hard or unpleasant.

And it’s not just facing up to the obvious—true accountability is going a step further, by seeking out and welcoming (less obvious) feedback from any and all sources. It’s asking, “How have I contributed to the problem?” or “How can I get better?”

That is the ultimate display of true accountability. That is how we get better. That is how we build trust and create alignment with those we work with. That is leadership!

Lead on,

Cliff

July 24, 2017 at 10:33 am Leave a comment

The Spirit of the Camino – the Spirit of Leadership

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I recently completed the “Camino” with my wife Correen and youngest son. “What’s the Camino?” The briefest explanation, from Wikipedia:

The Camino de Santiago…is the name of any of the pilgrimage routes, known as “pilgrim ways”, to the shrine of the apostle St. James the Great, in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain, where tradition has it that the remains of the saint are buried. Many follow its routes as a form of spiritual path or retreat for their spiritual growth. It is also popular with hiking and cycling enthusiasts…”

For our Camino we chose to hike the Camino Primitivo route (the original way) across 200 miles of Spain’s most beautiful, lush, and mountainous territory. For two weeks we treked through remote wilderness, rugged countryside, verdant farmland, and medieval towns. We struck up friendships with fellow peregrinos (pilgrims) from literally every corner of the globe. We pushed to and through our physical “limits” of challenge and discomfort, but reveled in the hours of opportunity for quiet contemplation, reflection, and conversation.

In the end, our Camino was truly one of the greatest experiences of our lives. So much so, I’m sure I will share more in the coming months, but there’s just one aspect in particular I’ll share today…

In order to be considered a perergrino, to be able to stay in designated “albergues” (hostels) along the way, and to earn one’s “compostela” (certificate of completion) at the end of the journey, one carries an official Camino passport (pictured) that must be stamped at certain places along the journey. The back of the passport contains the following message, entitled “The Spirit of the Camino”:

LIVE IN THE MOMENT

WELCOME EACH DAY – ITS PLEASURES AND

ITS CHALLENGES 

MAKE OTHERS FEEL WELCOME

SHARE

FEEL THE SPIRIT OF THOSE WHO HAVE GONE BEFORE YOU

IMAGINE THOSE WHO WILL FOLLOW YOU

APPRECIATE THOSE WHO WALK WITH YOU TODAY

I cannot for the life of me think of a better message for managers and leaders…or for a Managers Minute than this! If each of us who are responsible for managing, leading, teaching, guiding and mentoring others could simply remember and do these seven things, imagine the impact; imagine the outcome!

Lead on!

Cliff

 

 

July 7, 2017 at 12:18 pm Leave a comment

Trust is the Foundation

There’s a nice house in my neighborhood that at one time no one wanted. When it was built, it was nicely located, architecturally impressive, and beautifully landscaped, but within a very short period, it was abandoned. No one – especially the family who had waited patiently for its creation – wanted to own it.

The problem? Cracks appearing on the exterior (stucco) walls. The cause? Inadequate compaction of the building pad leading to settling and sagging of the foundation.

Everyone knows that the most important part of any building is its foundation. Without a firm foundation no amount of paint, design or décor can make a poorly constructed dwelling a place of safety or a worthy investment. The same is true of relationships and organizations – without a firm foundation of TRUST, no amount of window dressing or convincing rhetoric can produce the speed, engagement, and productivity that high functioning companies, teams, and relationships enjoy.

Speaking of TRUST, Stephen M. R. Covey wrote, There is one thing that is common to every individual, relationship, team, family, organization, nation, economy and civilization throughout the world — one thing which, if removed, will destroy the most powerful government, the most successful business, the most thriving economy, the most influential leadership, the greatest friendship, the strongest character, the deepest love. On the other hand, if developed and leveraged, that one thing has the potential to create unparalleled success and prosperity in every dimension of life. That one thing is trust.”

Trust is built over time, through the demonstration of character and competence. It is earned and is based on historical experience and performance. It is not instantaneously given or received. On the other hand it can be lost, or at least seriously damaged, in an instant.

Great leaders know both the value and powerful impact trust can have on their teams’ success, and they work consistently to create high trust environments and relationships through consistency, transparency, and integrity…not by demanding it, but by modeling it.

But even the best leaders aren’t perfect – making a wrong call, use the wrong words, or allowing emotion to take over. The good news is that while it takes greater effort, renewed consistency, and time-proven ownership for missteps wrongs can be righted and trust can be restored! And when it is, it’s often stronger than ever.

So, what about the once despised house mentioned above? After significant expense and heroic efforts by the builder and engineers, it was eventually restored to perfect condition, and is now inhabited by a very happy, content, and trusting family. And the contractor keeps building and selling homes to happy families.

Lead on!

December 23, 2016 at 11:58 am Leave a comment

The Power of Alignment

If you’ve driven a car with even one wheel out of alignment you know what an unpleasant experience it can be. A misaligned car might try to fight you, pulling in another direction, or it may wobble or shake. At a minimum it will wear out or unevenly wear the tires. If left untreated it can cause more serious problems or even result in a catastrophic accident.

On the other hand, a perfectly aligned car runs smoothly, requires less gas, and provides a more efficient and pleasant ride.

Work teams either suffer or benefit from the alignment that they experience.   Poorly aligned teams pull apart and away from the intended results. Team objectives and results are shaky at best, leaving the team worn and uneven in their performance. Left unaddressed team misalignment may even result in catastrophe or disbandment.

A well-aligned team however, runs smoothly, efficiently, and provides a much more pleasant experience.

Team alignment, is critical to success, whether with your crew, on the sports field, the boardroom, or at home. With shared vision, common goals, and united efforts a well-aligned team is nearly unstoppable. And behind every great team is a good leader who not only values and applies the principles of alignment to his or her team, but also to himself. Great leaders live and lead in alignment with their heads and their hearts. They act consistent with their beliefs. As a result, they enjoy the confidence and credibility necessary to inspire and be trusted by those they lead.

Credible and inspiring leaders then create alignment within their teams by applying the following five principles:

  • Share the vision (what, where, when, how, and why) – with everyone on the team.
  • Involve the team in planning – You need their perspective, experience, and most of all, buy-in!
  • Clarify roles and expectations – Nothing kills alignment like a lack of clarity, and fuzzy expectations! Empower a man, clear the path, and define and agree upon the expected results. Then prepare to be dazzled!
  • Provide a feedback loop – Communication solves everything. Ask for and give constant, open, and honest feedback. Feedback IS the breakfast of champions (and well-aligned teams)!

A leader who is well-aligned with herself first and the principles that guide her, and who then creates alignment within her team, will enjoy the power and benefits of a smooth running, highly efficient, and very productive team. Even an unstoppable team!

Lead on!

December 20, 2016 at 5:07 pm Leave a comment

Leadership Lessons from a Dirty Double Crosser

Fifteen hours, all alone, crossing the Grand Canyon…twice, is a perfect opportunity for considerable reflection, if not hallucination. My recent Rim to Rim to Rim run across this Natural Wonder of the World and back was the fulfilling of a long held goal to run the 50 plus miles from the Bright Angel Trailhead on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon to the North Kaibab Trailhead on the North Rim…and then back, in one day. I knew it would be hard, having hiked the entire trail with friends five months earlier, but doing it all, twice, in one shot, running, would be a bit different. I wasn’t flying completely blind however, having completed several ultra marathons in recent years. Still, this would be no walk in the park, covering over 50 miles and climbing (and descending) over 11,000 ft., and with temperatures pushing ninety degrees during the day.

So back to reflection… There is no school better than the great outdoors for learning life lessons. And while some of the best lessons are the result of mistakes, in this case there weren’t many, as I was well prepared. Well, I guess that’s lesson one:If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear.” I’d made a [training] plan, based on previous ultras, I’d faithfully followed the plan, even when it wasn’t convenient or I didn’t feel like it, and all that training and preparation did indeed pay off, allowing me to complete my goal. The formula, plan, follow, succeed just works!

Ok, so not everything went perfectly. I did make a couple of mistakes: At about 15 miles in, I rounded a corner and to my horror there was a 20 ft. geyser coming up from the water pipe that feeds the seven water stations inside the canyon. I suddenly regretted my last minute decision the night before to remove my water purifier from my hydration pack! After all, the Park Service website said all stations were flowing! I still had the 9 hardest miles to the North Rim ahead and this might mean no more water ‘til the top! Could have been a disaster! Fortunately, the fountains were still flowing. Lesson two: Don’t doubt that inner voice!

The second mishap occurred shortly after the geyser where there’s a hill…a nasty annoying hill, that by itself is not terrible, but after several hours of running and anticipating the brutal 7 mile climb to the North Rim that still lay ahead, I was dreading it. Just before the hill there’s a faint path leading off the main trail to what I knew to be Ribbon Falls, a cool place to escape the sun and enjoy the fall’s cool mist for a few minutes. There’s also a sign at that intersection pointing ahead up the main trail to another trail and a bridge over Bright Angel Creek leading to Ribbon Falls. But I chose the first path thinking I could find a better, easier way across the creek and on to Ribbon Falls… Bad idea! After running into an impassable creek and bushwhacking for 20 minutes I came to the humble and a little bloody understanding of why they’d built a bridge. Lesson three: “Shortcuts make long delays” (thanks, J.R.R. Tolkien).

One more lesson – the climb up past Roaring Springs to the Supai Tunnel, and finally to the North Kaibab Trailhead on the North Rim was…REALLY hard! Add to that it was 11:30 am and full sun! Finally, when I hit the top I thought to myself “I’m done…totally spent…nothing left…NOTHING!” But there was this little issue of now being 26 miles from where I’d begun, and a wife on the South Rim waiting hard for my return seven hours later. No cell service, no way to get ahold of her…oh, and I’ve never quit anything before! So, I choked down another PROBAR, refilled and mixed my water, took one deep breath and headed back down…DOWN the canyon wall! If I hadn’t been there, I’d never have believed it was possible, but, and here’s lesson four: When the need is great enough, human potential exceeds all rational limits! A change in direction helps too!

Well, seven and a half hours later, after a beautiful but grueling day and still other lessons contemplated, I dragged myself up on to a now dark again South Rim, right back where I’d started and right into my wife’s arms! Just kidding – she had no interest in hugging this very dusty, dirty double [canyon] crosser!

 

 

December 11, 2016 at 4:07 pm Leave a comment

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