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

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

Sailing to Engagement through Communication

Just as “a rising tide lifts all boats”, good communication lifts all “ships”…including effective leadership, courtship, and friendship. In the long run, each of these is buoyed up by frequent, and positive, communication. For the purposes of THIS discussion, we’ll focus on leadership, however the same principles certainly apply to effectively maintaining and sailing any kind of “ship”!

Great leaders know that the wind that fills their employees’ sails, and moves the [engagement] ”ship” forward is clear and thoughtful communication from the leader. Communication answering the questions “Where are we headed?” “Why are we making the journey?” “What’s my role and how does it fit in?” Without these, the ship flounders.

Moreover, timely, specific and sincere feedback regarding employee performance, progress, and accomplishment puts your inspired leader-“ship” in full sail! Add to these, the many additional opportunities available to all, but utilized only by the most effective, leaders in engaging their teams, including:

  1. Simple greetings! “Good morning”, “How was your weekend?”, “Have a good evening”. Daily interactions provide simple, but effective opportunities to connect and acknowledge others. Sometimes just not doing this can leave employees thinking “what did I do?” or “why’s he upset?” A pleasant greeting truly lifts morale and increases trust.
  2. When giving instructions or making an assignment, ensure full communication by asking questions. Until you hear your intended thoughts coming out of their mouths, you have not effectively communicated…and they know that!
  3. Listen! Remember, Habit 5 – “Seek first to understand, then to be understood. You can only understand what you truly hear, and EVERYONE wants and needs to be understood.
  4. Thanks!” Never, ever, ever let an opportunity to express sincere thanks for any and all (even the simplest) act of kindness, assistance, or help of any kind. You may think it doesn’t matter and maybe it doesn’t, but to many a simple “thank you” is gold!
  5. Look beyond your team! Kindness, respectful recognition, and friendliness expressed to everyone in your path raises the overall engagement level of everyone within the organization.
  6. Compliments, when issued spontaneously and sincerely lift spirits, show recognition and awareness, and demonstrably increase trust and communication, while reducing barriers of skepticism, fear, or introversion.

Put the wind back in your team’s sails by increasing the quality, frequency, and sincerity of communication to and with them! It is the surest way to increase employee engagement…and have FUN doing it!

Lead on!

Cliff

 

April 3, 2016 at 3:14 pm Leave a comment

“Leadership Begins with a “W”

Many managers became managers suddenly and unintentionally. And while it’s gratifying to be tapped out as “the guy” (or gal) best suited to take over the reigns of leadership when there’s a void, it can also be intimidating, especially when one doesn’t feel prepared! After all, how many managers of teams took the “management class” before they were handed the keys? Relatively few, so it’s natural for newly appointed managers to do the natural thing – to emulate their managers…who mimicked their managers…and so on! The problem is that this “legacy” of managing as it’s always been done, often finds its roots in the industrial age. For eons the accepted definition of management was “getting people to do what you want them to do”. That’s it! In the “old days” The typical worker didn’t have many choices and mobility and communications were restricted, so managers could get away with industrial age management techniques – those of directing, threatening, correcting, and controlling.

However, times have changed and so has the world. Today there are more choices: where to work, what to do, how to do it…the possibilities are endless. Add to that an entirely new and different generation of workers. Today, old management attitudes, such as “my way or the highway” just don’t fly! People have more choices, they’re more connected, better informed, and they expect to be respected, want to participate and to matter.

As a result, instead of “management” the focus has shifted to “leadership”, the definition of which is related to, yet vastly different from the definition of “management”. While management was getting others to do what you want them to do, Leadership is different. As Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “Leadership is the art of getting people to do what you want them to do…because they WANT to do it”!

THIS is one of the most valuable lessons a new manager can learn. Unless people WANT to do the work they will not fully engage in the work. It’s a matter of free will (another important “w”). And here’s the second most valuable lesson: Until your employees have a vision and understanding of WHY they’re doing the work – how it helps – how it makes a difference – how it effects the customer, the team, and the organization, they won’t truly WANT to do it. Yes, without these you might get temporary compliance…when you‘re present, but as soon as you’re not, free will takes over and you lose their hands…unless you’ve won their hearts (WANT). The minute a manager thinks, “no one needs to know the plan, the details, or the results but me” he’s already lost!

To truly win the hearts and hands of any organization’s most flexible and valuable resource, the human resource, the effective leader begins with the WHY (the vision). This inspires the WANT (the heart), thereby engaging the will and hands of the team! There is no other sustainable way!

Lead on,

Cliff

February 4, 2016 at 10:09 am Leave a comment

Staying Centered

“If you change nothing, nothing will change”. This timeless truth inspires many to reach higher, work harder, and learn more. In this regard, change is good. On the other hand there are some who argue that all change is good, that all change is “progress”, and that nothing is sacred when it comes to change.

We live in a time of change – the most rapid change the world has ever seen! This can be good…and sometimes not so good. Either way, more change is coming, and with it more disruption and distraction than ever before. In the midst of all this commotion, it is easy to lose one’s bearings and to wander off.

Like yesterday’s seasoned explorers who depended on their maps and compasses, today’s most successful navigators of modern life are those who rely on their inner compass – a combination of conscience and timeless principles. But even for the most principled, staying on the path, and remaining centered is a challenge.

I recently read of an artisan who was asked to demonstrate his pottery skills to a group of young people who were instantly awestruck as he transformed lumps of clay into beautiful plates, bowls, and cups. He made it look so easy, that when he asked if any of the youth would like to try it they all volunteered.

One after another they tried, but none were successful as they awkwardly attempted to keep the clay from flying off the potter’s wheel and all over the room. The potter asked them if they knew why they were unsuccessful, to which they gave responses indicating a lack of experience, training, and talent. But the real reason they failed was that the clay was not centered on the wheel. They thought they had placed the clay in the center, but from a professional’s perspective, it wasn’t in the exact center. So he showed them again.

This time, the potter placed the clay in the exact center of the wheel and then started to turn it, making a hole in the middle of the clay. He then turned the wheel over to the youth, who excitedly were able to keep the clay on the wheel, and even create some crude bowls. Although they weren’t perfect, the outcome was vastly different than their first attempts. The difference being that this time the clay was perfectly centered on the wheel.

In a world where, like the potter’s wheel, the speed of change is increasing, it is vitally important that individuals, teams, and families remain centered on the timeless principles that keep them from being thrown off course. Principles like honesty, integrity, tolerance, perseverance, courage, responsibility, self-discipline, loyalty, quality work, and faith. Sound familiar?

Even these principles that we hold in common are being challenged by a world whose standards are being lowered and even abandoned all in the names of “change” and “progress”. Interestingly, holding firm and not giving in requires the exercise of the principles themselves – remaining honest, having integrity, being tolerant, persevering, having courage, being responsible, being disciplined and loyal, doing quality work, and being faithful. Not only does our success depend on it, but so does the success of those we lead.

So, stay centered, and…

Lead on!

Cliff

December 2, 2015 at 2:18 pm Leave a comment

The Simple Secrets to Motivation

A good leader wants nothing more than a highly motivated team, pursuing a purposeful plan. The rest is relatively easy.

So what’s the secret to creating an environment where motivation is high and where workers are happily pursuing the planned objectives? The answer is simple. – By remembering and leveraging the two most powerful motivators of human behavior – purpose and appreciation!

Purpose – The most highly motivated people in any endeavor are driven by a deeply held sense of purpose, accomplishment, meaning and “matter”. They are emotionally connected to their toil to the point that “quit” is not even in their vocabulary! They believe in their cause. They have an acute awareness of the importance and impact of their contributions, and they take complete ownership of their stewardship

Appreciation – Everyone loves appreciation – a sincere acknowledgement for accomplishment. Even a simple “thank you” or other expressions of gratitude for a job well done, have proven to have greater influence on worker motivation than any tangible rewards. Interestingly, this hunger for feedback isn’t limited to positive feedback. Everyone wants to know how they’re doing – even when they’re falling short (remember the first motivator?) But when they excel AND they hear about it, motivation is off the charts!

Knowing the simple “secrets” to motivation is half the battle. As with most things however it’s the lack of execution that keeps many managers from creating a truly motivating environment. Rather than sharing the vision – the big picture – the “who”, “where”, “when”, “how”, and most important, the “why”, they keep it all to themselves and deprive the team of the real “purpose” of their work.

Then, when their team members do accomplish tasks, make progress, or move forward on known objectives, and the only ones taking notice are the crickets, not only is this not motivating, it’s actually terribly demotivating!

So, here’s the plan…

  • Communicate
  • Share the vision
  • Empower
  • Facilitate
  • Get out of the way
  • Provide feedback
  • Praise liberally
  • Express sincere appreciation…frequently!

Follow the plan, remembering that real motivation comes having a strong sense of purpose, meaning, and matter, followed by acknowledgement and appreciation for effort and accomplishment!

Lead on!

Cliff

November 1, 2015 at 1:35 pm 1 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

New Life Through New Eyes

Have you hit the wall? Do you feel like you’re “done”? Is the joy gone…in your work, a relationship, or your life in general? There comes a time in most lives where the joy and satisfaction that once filled and fueled them diminishes even to the point of crisis. When this happens the natural reaction is to run, to flee, to get away from whatever it is that’s moved from beautiful to drab or from exciting to boring. In extreme cases this can lead to divorce, unemployment, or worse. At a minimum it results in dissatisfaction, disharmony, and disengagement.

The interesting thing is that most people who resort to “flight” versus hanging in to “fight”, don’t ever really solve the problem. They may find temporary relief in “different”, but the tendencies that pushed them to the tipping point in the first place will take them there again and again. The reason is that as they see it, the problems…AND the solutions are “out there”…when in reality they lie squarely within themselves! It’s easier to blame a companion or a job or our environment for one’s misery…when the real problem and solution lies within themselves and they choose to see things.

It is a marvelous and amazing thing to witness when someone chooses to see the same [old] thing in a new or different light; to see through new eyes. The author Marcel Proust wrote: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes”. When we choose to see the same thing differently, to refocus on the positive, on its worth and potential, it (or they) changes right before our eyes. Seen from a different perspective or “attitude” what was drab or boring CAN become beautiful and exciting again.

Try this… Whatever it is (or who they are) that’s lost its luster in your [old] eyes, take out a blank sheet of paper and write at the top “Things I love about…” (whatever it is). Then below that make a list of all the good things, the good qualities, the value, the interesting things, the things about it that you’re grateful for, it’s irreplaceability…in short – the things you genuinely love about it or them. Then, before you go to bed at night stand in front of a mirror and read the list saying before each item on the list “I love….(that thing, aspect, feature, etc.)
Then the next morning repeat this reading, staring yourself in the eyes as you do. Do this every day for the next few days until you begin to see a transformation – until you see the thing (or person) as you once did…and you will!

A small investment in this process may well bring a huge improvement in your life and your relationships and may prevent unnecessary pain, loss, and disappointment down the road.
Too often people run from the very things that are the best things…when the right thing is just to see things with new eyes.

Lead on…

June 2, 2015 at 6:14 pm Leave a comment

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