Posts filed under ‘responsibility’

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!

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December 23, 2016 at 11:58 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

I Have To!

When coordinating plans with others I’ve been known to say things like “I have to run 15 miles tomorrow”, “I have to get to bed early tonight”, or “I have to finish this project this weekend”. When I do, I’m often challenged by a friend who likes to say “You don’t HAVE to……you CHOOSE to!” and technically speaking, he’s right. But I keep saying it anyway… You see, I learned a long time ago that you can either decide how to respond to challenges or opportunities over and over again, depending on present circumstances, or you can make the decision just once, allowing that decision to become your personal standard – your “have to“!

If you take the flexible approach (“we’ll see how things are going” or “it depends”) there are too many variables and too many opportunities to derail you from doing the thing you once committed to doing. It takes discipline to make the hard but right choice, especially when the decision is to ALWAYS make the same choice. But when you do and the issue comes up again, there’s no hesitation or debate. You’re resolute – You “have to”!

Once you’ve decided, then your “have to‘s” take over, relieving you of the recurring decision cycle. And here’s the interesting thing – it’s not restrictive…it’s freeing! Once you’ve decided once and for all, when the alarm clock rings, you’re up – no debate. When someone offers you something you’ve sworn off, you decline – no debate. When being dishonest is tempting or seemingly profitable, you tell the truth – no debate! And when you do, you enjoy a feeling of freedom and empowerment.

Our choices determine our habits and our habits form our character. And as author and lecturer Hyrum Smith put it, “Character is the ability to carry out a worthy decision once the emotion of making that decision has passed.” It’s character-forming habits that help us overcome adversity, accomplish goals, and ultimately approach our individual potential.

When our choices reflect our deeply held values and they are made with sincere resolution, from that point on we simply “have to“. And as we do, we grow in character.
Lead on…

Cliff

July 6, 2015 at 11:52 am 6 comments

Who’s in Charge Here?

Who’s in Charge Here?

What’s the first thing you do each morning?  If you’re like most people you check your emails!  Why?  Because you need to find out what you’ve got to do that day!

Pause…..  Think about that!  If your first act is to look to see what the rest of the world wants you to do, to respond to, to try, read, or listen to…who’s in charge?  You’re automatically turning the reins of your life over to…everyone else!  You become a completely reactive animal and not the proactive pursuer of excellence that each of us is capable of!

There are two major parts of our brain:  The Prefrontal Cortex, which is the proactive part where you plan, pay attention, exercise self control, make choices, and create.  Then there’s the Primitive/Emotional Brain which is the oldest part of your brain…and the first to develop.  This is your reactive brain, where your reflexes, instincts, emotions, reactions, and impulses operate.  As humans mature they learn to use their reactive brain less and their proactive brain more…at least that is the plan.  Generally, “mature” adults operate more from their proactive brain, while the “immature” are driven mostly by their reactive brain.

We all know that the most effective way to lead our lives and our days is to plan them out and to set goals…and then discipline ourselves to the extent that we can to accomplish our plans and goals.  This work (planning and goal setting) is done with our proactive brain.  So is execution!  When we fail to execute however, it’s because we’ve given in to our reactive brain with all its impulses and emotions.  And the more we react, the more we give in to checking emails, texts, and tweets for guidance, the less developed becomes our proactive brain!

So, how can you get back on track and back in control?  Here’s a tip…. When you turn on your computer, smart phone, or tablet each day, what’s the first thing that comes up?  Most people would say “my email”, but that’s only because you’ve trained yourself to open your email!  Try this… Try going first to your calendar” and if you use it, to your To Do list” first…to plan or to review your plan FIRST…before you do anything else!  This will provide the direction for an effective day, a day of accomplishing what, in previous moments of thought and reflection, you determined was most important to accomplish.  This puts YOU in charge of your day and not all of the people and distractions sitting in your email in-box waiting to derail you and hijack your day!

You CAN do it!

Lead on!

Cliff

December 14, 2012 at 10:47 am Leave a comment

Always Begin With the “WHY”!

It’s 3:00 Friday afternoon, and your best customer calls.  He’s in a real jam and needs a simple and inexpensive part to complete a job and quickly fills you in on all the details.  Oddly enough, you are completely out of the item, but fortunately any of your surrounding stores has plenty on hand.  You ask Bill, the only one in your branch not doing anything terribly important at the time, to run and pick up the part and deliver it to the job site as quickly as he can.  Then you return to your work.

In the mean time, Bill who’d had to skip lunch earlier during a rush of customers, stops on his way to grab a sandwich and soda.  He’s not really dragging, but he’s also in no big hurry.  He chats it up a bit with the guys at your sister store, and then heads to the job site.  He arrives just in time to see your biggest customer getting locked out of the property for the weekend, due to a conflict with a major event being held there.  He looks completely depressed…because he is!

You see, just as he’d told you on the phone, this job needed to be completed by close of business TODAY, or he’d be facing $25,000 in late penalties!  The 6 month project was all but done, except for the  $6 part.  When you took the call you didn’t think twice about not getting your customer what he needed, as it seemed like a slam dunk…IF…everyone involved knew what was at stake!  Remember, you only told Bill that your customer needed a simple part.  To Bill there was NO urgency…and being relatively new he really didn’t even know how important the customer was to your branch…and the company!

Communication is the lifeblood of an organization, a project, a relationship!  Without it any of these will suffer at least, and possibly die.  In communication, the “what”, the “when”, the “where”, the “how”, and the “who” are all important elements, but the “WHY” is king!  The “what” informs, but the “WHY” inspires!  The “how” instructs, but the “WHY” transforms!

When you communicate with others…especially with employees, and most certainly when giving instructions, go back, way back, to the very beginning and explain the “WHY” behind everything!  Don’t sell your employees, your children, or anyone else short.  Not only CAN they handle the details – the big picture…they NEED them if they are to become engaged!  And we all know the difference between the engaged and disengaged performer!

To get the very most out of people you have to reach their hearts because the heart is where the “WHY” lives!  Always begin with the “WHY”!

Lead on…

Cliff

October 26, 2012 at 3:39 pm 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

Loyalty

I once read an article about [retired] General Colin Powell. In it, he described his definition of “loyalty”. He said…”When we are debating an issue, loyalty means giving me your honest opinion, whether you think I’ll like it or not. Disagreement, at this stage, stimulates me. But once a decision has been made, the debate ends. From that point on, loyalty means executing the decision as if it were your own”.

Great leaders listen.  When it’s tme for action, they know how to lead the charge, but they also know that if they are to lead effectively they need the loyalty of those they lead.  Loyalty comes from inviting and respecting the perspective of others whether it’s applied or not.  I am reminded of an old story I heard as a child, which left an indelible impression on me and on my attitude toward others.  It goes something like this:  A mighty king of untold wealth had two great loves; one was hunting, the other was his prized falcon – his hunting mate and constant companion. One day hiking and hunting with his falcon in the hills near his kingdom, the king became quite thirsty, and approached a near-by stream. There he took his sterling cup and dipped it in the clear cool water and drew it to his lips. But before he could drink, the falcon dove from its soaring and knocked the cup away. Irritated and a bit surprised, the king retrieved his cup, filled it, and attempted to drink a second time.  But again, the falcon swooped down and knocked his cup away. Angry now and quite thirsty, the king cursed at the bird, and warned him never to repeat this uncanny behavior. But alas, a third time the king tried to drink, and again was thwarted by his now inscrutable companion. Furious, the king drew an arrow from his quiver, set it on his bow and let it fly toward the falcon who was slowly circling just upstream; The arrow hit its mark! The king hiked up to where the slain falcon now lay- next to the stream. Suddenly he spotted a horrible sight! There, laying near the bird, half in the stream, was the carcass of a deadly poisonous snake. Instantly, the king realized, with great anguish, that all the while he was fighting against his faithful companion, the loyal bird was simply doing everything he could, even to the point of giving his life, to help save his master.

This story gives pause to those of us with leadership responsibility.  Do we encourage honest disagreement?  Do we show appreciation for diverse opinions? Do we carry an open and willing attitude of learning? Then, when its time to make the [hard] decision, have we created an environment where even those with divergent views, fall in step with us because they want to, or because they have to?  To build loyalty, we must first recognize it in all its forms. Great leaders learn how to recognize it.  Great leaders learn how to build it.  Great leaders learn how to reward it.  Be great…and lead on……….. Cliff

September 12, 2011 at 8:54 am Leave a comment

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