Posts filed under ‘management’

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

ENCOURAGEMENT – The Difference Between Night and Day

As a leader, a coach, a manager, or a parent, the most valuable tool you have for lifting and motivating others is also the lowest cost and easiest to use. Encouragement costs you nothing, but its value is priceless! It could be the only thing standing between the success and failure of someone under your charge. Like flipping a switch it can, for the recipient, be the difference between day and night…between engagement and disengagement…between loving and hating their job or challenge.

Encouragement is “the action of giving someone support, confidence, or hope.”   Show me an underperforming worker, student, or athlete, and I’ll show you one lacking encouragement (substantive support, expressions of confidence in their abilities and potential, vision driven hope) from a respected source.

Everyone responds in a positive way to sincere encouragement. And while none of us would intentionally discourage another from doing their best, we actually do it all the time, simply by not offering encouragement! You see, the lack of encouragement IS discouraging! It is, at least by default, withdrawing support, expressing a lack of confidence in, or worse, insulting another thus dashing any hope they might have of succeeding.

So, how do you do it? How can you offer meaningful and sincere encouragement more often and to more people? Here are twelve suggestions:

  1. Just do it…every day…and to everyone! Remember, it costs NOTHING and has a tremendous impact!
  2. Give praise and compliments. We’re talking simple stuff here. While it must be genuine, it doesn’t need to be about winning an Oscar or gold medal. A simple compliment about the smallest thing goes a long way!
  3. Be specific! Being a “good guy” is a nice compliment, but carries far less weight than the real reasons behind a general compliment.
  4. Express your belief and confidence in the potential of others! If they’re not quite there yet don’t feel that it’s your job to point that out. Instead remind them of what can be…what they can do and what they can become!
  5. Challenge them (to reach higher) in a supportive and affirmative way, offering your personal support along the way.
  6. Express gratitude whenever and wherever you can as you observe progress and as you are personally aided by their efforts.
  7. When introducing them to another person your words of praise and positive reinforcement can work miracles in boosting confidence and encouragement.
  8. Pleasantries and greetings. Yes, even a pleasant “good morning”, “how was your weekend”, or “see you in the morning” can be encouraging – not necessarily for its substance – but certainly, the lack thereof can be very discouraging to those who look to their boss or coworker for validation and acceptance.
  9. Take the cue! When you KNOW someone is hurting or discouraged, that’s your cue. As a fellow human being it’s the human thing to do. Even if there’s nothing you can do, your expression of concern and support is…encouraging.
  10. Write a note! If you struggle eyeball to eyeball…put it on paper!
  11. Get personal. Tell them how they’ve helped or inspired you to higher heights, and how you are better for their example or efforts.
  12. Be there! To continue to cheer, praise, support, and celebrate!

Lead on…

Cliff

June 8, 2016 at 1:53 pm Leave a comment

Focus on the G.O.O.D.

Life can be hard, and when it is, it’s easy to get down, lose perspective, feel overwhelmed, even depressed. It may be the poor choices and bad behavior of others, or perhaps our own. Financial, medical, or emotional, strain can also send one for a loop. Life is full of challenges, presenting ample opportunity to shrivel and shrink, lash out, or simply give up, but the results of any of these are sure to bring nothing but more despair.

For BEST results (sounds like medicine?), consider a better choice with an outcome guaranteed to bring greater peace, satisfaction, and success: Focus on the G.O.O.D.! Just looking for the good that surrounds us is by itself good advice in good times and bad, but what I’m suggesting here is to simply focus on the G.O.O.D.: Gratitude, Others, Opportunities, and Doing.

Gratitude – The happiest people I know are the most grateful! Even in the darkest times, there is so much to be grateful for. When your head hurts, be grateful you have one! When the house is messy, be grateful for being surrounded by others. An empty fridge means you have a fridge! A challenging job means you have income. There is ALWAYS something or someone to be grateful for, and just the act of focusing outward (instead of inward on yourself) at all the good that surrounds you, puts things in perspective and changes your attitude from one of scarcity and woe to abundance and wonder.

Others – As Albert Schweitzer put it, ”The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others.” The very act of focusing [outward] on others and their needs shifts the focus from oneself (inward) and one’s problems. You cannot focus on two things at a time. By centering your efforts on those in need your life takes on greater meaning, purpose, and satisfaction.

Opportunities – No matter where you are, there are opportunities to improve your situation…especially when times are tough. Life is all about learning, growing, and improving, and there is no finish line for any of these. Some of the most inspiring examples of living a full life come from those who appear to have had “nothing” to work with, yet have accomplished amazing things! Opportunities are everywhere!

Doing – “Action is the antidote to despair.” These words wisely penned by Joan Baez are among the truest when it comes to turning things around. Sitting and staring at your problems only makes them bigger…if not worse. Attacking them, or anything for that matter, gets the mind working and the blood flowing, shifting your focus away from the problem to something, more worthy of your efforts.

It is best always to focus on the G.O.O.D., but especially when things aren’t going so well. The most effective people understand and practice this; and the most effective leaders guide their teams to do the same!

Lead on!

Cliff

June 3, 2016 at 9:01 am Leave a comment

Character Matters Most

James Thurber wrote, “There are two kinds of light – the glow that illuminates, and the glare that obscures.” As a leader it’s important to know the difference and to be able to help others understand as well.

To me, the “glow” that illuminates represents those things that are sure, timeless, and everlasting. Things like truth, trust, and integrity. They are real; they are dependable, breeding confidence, peace and calm. They light the way and warm the soul. They are “the glow that illuminates”.

The “glare”, on the other hand are those things that are temporary, superficial, or meant to deflect, cover up or distract. Things like perfume, styling, presentation, even clothing can be helpful in covering or “prettying up” what otherwise may not, on its own merits, be attractive. The “glare” obscures what we’d rather others not notice.

Both glow and glare have their place and their utility. Interestingly, one can draw the same distinction between character and personality.

Character relates to deeply held values, principles and beliefs, such as integrity, humility, courage, fidelity…and to one’s performance relative to those values and beliefs. Like the “glow that illuminates”, character comes from deep within and is enduring and guiding to the extent one acts in alignment with one’s defining values. They are the “glow that illuminates”.

Personality on the other hand is more external, superficial, and relates to the way one presents himself to the world. The way he dresses, communicates, negotiates, and moves within social and business circles. Much of today’s self-improvement literature focuses on these temporary strategies, skills, and quick fixes aimed at advancing one’s success in any number of settings…by putting on a “better” face. These are “the glare that obscures”.

Again, like the “glow” and the “glare”, character and personality both have their place and value. However, if one compares the resources (time, effort, and money) spent on the one versus the other, there is, it seems, a significant imbalance today. Prior to the twentieth century most literature focused on character development. Since then, the emphasis has tilted heavily toward personality, with nearly all of today’s career development and “self improvement” books, seminars, and programs focusing on behaviors related to personality. Selling more, winning friends and influencing people, getting rich, deal making…

While there’s nothing wrong with improving skills and looking the best we can, there is danger in doing so at the expense of one’s character and those things (values and principles) that are of highest priority. One of the great challenges in life is finding the right balance of character and personality. The secret in successfully doing so lies in [always] putting character first and never compromising one’s character on the altar of personality.

Great leaders encourage others to put character first, even ahead of things that might bring tempting short-term gains. But that’s part of true leadership. In fact the act of encouraging character development over selfish interests itself takes on a glow that illuminates the path for others rather than a glare that may cause them to lose their way.

Lead on!

Cliff

April 3, 2016 at 3:23 pm Leave a comment

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