Posts filed under ‘honesty’

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

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

“Stuff” Happens!

Life’s not easy!   Just when things seem to be going along just fine, “stuff” happens, throwing us off course.  Weather, traffic, illness, other people’s decisions or actions, the economy, accidents…  What’s a person to do?  There’s really only one good choice…

The real challenge in life isn’t the “stuff” of life, but how we deal with the “stuff”.   The key is to let principles, the things we believe in…down deep, not our conditions or circumstances dictate our responses.  The good news is that we do have a choice.  In fact, next to life itself, the greatest gift any of us enjoy in this life is the freedom to choose.  Unfortunately, many people give up this gift, placing it in the hands of their circumstances, surroundings, or other people to decide how they’ll respond.

Habits 2 and 3 of Stephen R. Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” are: (2) Begin With the End in Mind, and (3) Put First Things First.  Effective people live with a clear vision of who they are and what is most important.  They are principle-centered.  They carry their mission in their hearts, and make decisions based on the mission or vision of who they are and who they strive to be.  They respond to  “stuff” based on this vision…placing even conflicting decisions (and principles) in proper order (putting first things first).

Great leaders are great because of their ability to live habits 2 and 3.  Those who depend on great leaders do so out of trust and confidence in their leaders’ vision and dedication to keeping it all in proper order…unfailingly.  Unfortunately, for every principle-centered person there are many more whose decisions are short-sited – based on immediate return or satisfaction – without regard for the long-term consequences.

During the the 9/11 crisis, many companies’ computer systems were disrupted.  One bank in particular lost partial control over its ATM machines.  The problem was that the machines couldn’t monitor the account balances, leaving open the possibility that account holders could withdraw far more than they had in their accounts.  The bank had a choice – shut down the system completely, or take the risk and continue to provide service at at that difficult time.  They took the risk, and sadly, there were many – the short-sited and un-principled – who cashed in on the circumstance, withdrawing many thousands more than they owned.

After all was said and done, over 4,000 people were under investigation in the “theft” of over $15 million.  Contrast the above example of the un-principled, with that of the true-to-life, principle-centered hero…Ascension Franco Gonzales, an unassuming immigrant dishwasher in Los Angeles.  The L.A. Times reported:

 “On a lonely evening beneath the skyscrapers of downtown Los Angeles, Ascension Franco Gonzales had the kind of moment Mexican songwriters put to music and transform into myth.  The ballad, or corrido, would tell the now familiar tale: how on August 27th an armored truck lurched, its back doors flipped open, and out tumbled a bag containing $203,000.  And how Franco…picked it up.  And how he gave it back the next morning.  Franco, a boyish 23-year-old with a self-deprecating sense of humor, was waiting for a bus when the $203,000 fell to the street.  “There wasn’t another soul around”.”  The next morning, Franco stuffed all the money into a laundry bag and met police officers at a local park where he promptly turned the fortune over to them.  He asked only one thing: “can I have my laundry bag back?”

Now the cynics of the world wouldn’t be surprised to hear Franco comment, “Everybody says I’m an idiot…”  Everyone that is, but his proud mother who still lives in Mexico, and thinks he is wonderful.  You see, Franco is the “vision” of a “good son”…he knows who he is, remaining true to his principles, and keeping all things in proper order and perspective regardless of circumstances.  Good sons make good people…good citizens…good leaders. They are “highly effective” people.

You’ll be happy to know that Franco was rewarded, although no reward was expected, for his honesty.  However, I’d be willing to bet, based on what we know about Franco, that the gleam of the $25,000 reward will have faded long before the glow of self-respect and inner peace from living his principles.  Principle-centered people believe in the “always” principles of consistency and integrity.  They understand that principles are not subject to ircumstances, but rather that circumstances must be subject to principles.

Yes, “stuff” happens.  But the “stuff” that happens to us isn’t really all that important…it’s what happens within us that really matters.  As leaders (of both yourself and others) you are many many times more effective when those you serve observe your unwavering commitment to principles and priorities…always – never depending on the circumstances.  Such consistency breeds immeasurable trust and confidence, and ensures cooperation and team spirit.

So the next time “stuff” happens…

Lead on…

Cliff

November 10, 2011 at 4:34 pm Leave a comment

Great Expectations

You’ve heard the advice… “Over promise, then under deliver…and you’re sure to disappoint”.  Few things can break trust or weaken relationships more.  Making a habit of it can be “fatal”…especially in trust-based relationships.  Conversely, sound customer service is built upon “under promising and over delivering”, thereby creating situations and results that thrill and excite customers.  The interesting thing is, that while the actual quantity, quality, or degree of what is being “delivered” COULD be exactly the same in every case, it’s the relative expectations that determine the level of satisfaction…and trust.  If you expect a half glass of juice and receive a half glass, you’re satisfied.  If you expect a full glass and receive the same half glass, you’re unsatisfied.  If, on the other hand you expect only a sip of a juice and you receive a half glass, you’re elated!  Again, it all depends on expectations.  The following illustrates well this relationship between expectations, “delivery”, and trust!

I once heard a man talk about his life growing up on a ranch where he worked with his father and brothers raising cattle and horses in southern Utah and northern Arizona.  He was taught as a boy that when he wanted to catch one of the horses to ride, all he had to do was to put a handful of grain into a bucket and shake it for several seconds.  It didn’t matter if the horses were in a corral or a large field; they would come running to get the grain.  As a horse would eat, the young rancher would gently slip a bridle over its head, and prepare the horse for riding.  He was always amazed at how well this simple process worked.  Occasionally though, when he was a little lazy, and didn’t want to take the time to get the grain from the barn, he put dirt in the bucket and shook it, attempting to trick the horses into thinking that he had grain for them to eat.  When the horses discovered they had been deceived, some of them would stay, but most would run away and be nearly impossible to catch.  He said it would then take several days to regain the horses’ trust.

And so it is with service…no matter where it is given…whether it’s at a sales counter, or to your employee, co-worker, boss, or family….anyone that relies on your service, your promise, your “delivery” to them.  Do you over promise…then under deliver? Do you say what you think they “want” to hear, knowing full well you won’t be able to “deliver”?  Do you falsely build expectations by not telling the whole story?  Do you stretch the truth, exaggerate the benefit, or say whatever it takes in order to get what you want…now?  If you’re a manager, a professional, or a parent, your “customers”, those you serve and whom depend on you, expect a higher standard; Anything less is a disappointment!  Think about your “customers” and ask yourself, “what do they expect from me?” Then with that as a minimum, decide what you’ll do today, next week, or next year to exceed their “expectations”… Keep it interesting…keep ‘em guessing…and keep delighting them… They won’t just be “customers”…..they’ll be raving fans!

Lead on…

Cliff

June 22, 2010 at 12:24 pm Leave a comment

Integrity Rules!

In the landscape of human relations nothing is as powerful as integrity.  No earthly force, arsenal, or fortune can even come close to its awesome influence. Integrity is more powerful than even love! It’s easy to be loved….more difficult to be trusted.  Nothing moves people, gains cooperation, or unites like integrity!  To the individual, integrity’s reward is inner peace – the byproduct of bringing one’s behavior in alignment with his beliefs.  Power, influence, inner peace… Who would trade these…for anything?

The fact of the matter is that every day we are tested by life’s challenges.  Sticky situations can cloud judgment, while opportunities to gain advantage, increase one’s popularity, or win the approval of others, often leads to moral compromise…and the loss of integrity.  

For leaders, the benefits of integrity extend well beyond inner peace. Leaders with integrity are trusted…wholly and completely.  On the other hand, those who apply the principles of honesty, confidence, and integrity only situationally are then believed only situationally. Leaders with integrity are trusted….always!  This is power! 

No matter how forceful, demanding, cajoling, or manipulative a leader might be, no other influence even compares with integrity.  

So, when those tough decisions do come…and they will…how do you consistently make good choices, emerging each time with your integrity intact?  The next time your integrity is challenged ask yourself these questions:

1)      Is what I am considering legal and in line with company policy?

2)      Is it fair and balanced (win-win) with all parties involved in the decision being   treated fairly – in both the short and long term?

3)      Will anyone be hurt by this decision?

4)      How will I feel about myself when it’s done? If the whole world (including my friends and family) know of my decision will I feel good about it?

If the answer to any of these questions would cast a shadow on your most valuable asset – your integrity, stop…don’t do it…and enjoy the inner peace, trust, and influence it earns you as a leader… No gain is worth the loss of integrity!

Lead on……….. Cliff

May 19, 2010 at 10:35 am Leave a comment


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