Archive for January, 2010

Do They Know How They’re Doing?

 I once had the very good fortune to hear, and even speak with Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, and regarded by many as “the CEO of the Century”. What a great experience…one I’ll never forget! Jack spoke of many things that made him and GE successful, but if there was one central theme, both in his presentation and in his life it was “candor – openness, and transparency…” He said “candor and transparency are absolutely critical to the success of organizations”. In his book, “Winning”, he calls the “lack of candor” ”the biggest dirty little secret in business”. He says, “Lack of candor basically blocks smart ideas, fast action, and good people contributing all the stuff they’ve got. It’s a killer!” Lack of candor effects entire organizations, departments, work teams, and, I believe most importantly, the relationship between the employee and his/her boss. It is this last relationship that I’ll focus on here.

Have you ever learned, way after it was too late, that you’d damaged a relationship, made a mistake, or spent weeks, months, or even years working on the “wrong” priorities only to find out your boss had been disappointed or angry the entire time? How frustrating! How discouraging! How unproductive! Unfortunately, this occurs more often than not! If you’ve attended my class on coaching, you’ll remember the survey: “Why Don’t Employees Do What They’re Supposed to Do?” The top three answers to this question [given by bosses] are: “They don’t know what to do”, “They don’t know how to do it”, and “They don’t know why they’re doing it”. These answers are followed closely by my favorite: “They think they are!”

How does this happen? It is the result of a serious lack of communication and lack of candor! So who’s lacking? The boss! The employee doesn’t have a chance unless the manager [honestly] opens his mouth. Now this doesn’t mean being unkind, demeaning, or sarcastic…it means being open and honest in a respectful way…in teaching, correcting, and encouraging workers to apply their very best to the producing of results. One of the most powerful (to me) things Jack said was, “The day you become a leader is the day you put others (their development, success, rewards, and growth) before yourself and your work.” In other words, it’s the day you love your people! Great leaders are so into the welfare and success of their people, that they set aside any preconditioned tendencies to hold back, not be open, not deal with the difficult thing, that would rob the employee of the opportunity to grow! Employee failures are [almost always] the failure of the boss!

It is equally important that employees are open and honest with their boss. The best ideas come from those doing the work. In an environment of candor and openness, employees know they can, at any time share their ideas, suggestions, and observations, and whether their ideas are adopted or not, they know they are at least appreciated! On the other hand, where mangers respond to worker’s ideas dismissively, sarcastically, or patronizingly, the door to candor and openness gently closes. Moreover, where managers ever express themselves to their employees with anger, intimidation, abusive language, or disrespect that same door SLAMS SHUT…often permanently! Great leaders know this, and work tirelessly on creating an environment of candor and trust as a first priority, for they know that all other things are dependent on doing so. Again, from “Winning”, “To get candor, you reward it, praise it, and talk about it. Most of all, you yourself demonstrate it in an exuberant and even exaggerated way.”

So, why is it that we even need to discuss candor, openness, and honesty? Because it runs counter to our nature, or at least our conditioning. For most, it’s just not easy…but, what is [easy] that’s worth doing? Just as with exercise, good nutrition, reading, and planning, adopting the values of openness and candor require self discipline and determination. But as with exercise, good nutrition, reading, and planning, the payoff is HUGE!

The two most powerful motivators of human behavior are: “Achievement” (a sense of accomplishment), and “Feedback” (acknowledgement for accomplishment). Neither of these most powerful motivators can be maximized outside an environment of candor and openness. Ken Blanchard calls Feedback “the breakfast of champions”. Feedback should not occur on an annual basis, but should take place monthly, weekly, daily, even…hourly! It is a constant and ongoing process. In his closing remarks, Jack offers this last simple, yet powerful, and absolutely critical charge…“No one should ever come to work not knowing where they stand!” Think about it… An employee who doesn’t know how they’re doing, or doesn’t know they’re not performing well, will either continue to do the wrong things, the wrong way, for the wrong reasons, or at least work at an unmotivated level.

If you want to be a successful and effective leader of a highly charged, excited, and engaged team, begin by creating an environment of candor and openness…and begin with YOU!

Lead on… Cliff

January 14, 2010 at 9:16 am Leave a comment


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