Posts tagged ‘communication’

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

“…I recommend pleasant.”

I received an anonymous email from an employee in one of our stores.  It was short and simple.  It read:

“I am an employee at the ——- location.  I have a few concerns.  There is absolutely no teamwork within the facility.  I’m concerned, because without teamwork, the store cannot function properly.  It would make the whole operation run smoother if we all helped each other out.  This is a great company and I just want the experience [of] working here [to be] a pleasant one. Thank you”

As a boy growing up from the 50’s to the 70’s one of my favorite movies was “Harvey” (1950), starring Jimmy Stewart in the role of Elwood P. Dowd.  If “Harvey” was ever on TV, the Woodbury house was tuned in!  I remember most clearly a scene toward the end of the movie, when Elwood is conversing with a doctor and nurse at a sanitarium…  Say’s Elwood:

“…In this world you have to be oh so smart, or oh so pleasant.  For years I was smart.……..I recommend pleasant!”

Elwood, a wealthy eccentric, was by no means espousing ignorance-induced pleasance.  Instead, I think Elwood would advise: “work smart and be pleasant”…pleasant in your relationships and in your interaction with others.   It is important to be careful, focused, and thoughtful about one’s work, but when it comes to people, few things are more energizing, enjoyable, and unifying than an environment where people go out of their way to be kind, thoughtful, and tolerant…i.e., pleasant with each other.

If, on the other hand, we attempt to be “smart” rather than pleasant in our interaction with others, we automatically pit ourselves against them.  There is an implied position of superiority and one of inferiority, or of dominance and subservience…which leads quickly to distrust, distance, and ultimately…disdain.  Not exactly the environment of “teamwork” and productivity we are after…

So stop and take a look around you…what kind of an environment are you as a branch manager, sales, manager, or department manager fostering?  If you’re surrounded by positive energy, and pumped-up people,  don’t change a thing.  But if things could improve, begin right at “home” by…being pleasant…and then…….

Lead on……Cliff

March 4, 2010 at 10:42 am Leave a comment

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

Every Damn Thing is Your Own Fault

When something goes wrong in your team, department, or organization (and it will), do you blame others for what might really have been your fault?  We all do at one time or another.  Unfortunately, in the heat of the battle we forget this, and worse, we forget the devastating effect misplaced blame can have on others.  The way to stop shirking  responsibility for failures is to realize that by accepting it, you maintain control over your life, your environment, and your business!

In his novel “Green Hills of Africa”, Ernest Hemingway recalls how he missed an easy shot at a prized sable bull.  He could have blamed his guide, who had surprised the animal, but he didn’t.  “Every damn thing is your own fault…if you’re any good”, says Hemingway.

To be successful, managers, coaches, or leaders, people must accept responsibility for everything.  If they don’t, they’ll always find excuses that will keep them from achieving what they want – “It’s our lousy location…”, “He’s just not motivated…”, “They don’t communicate…”, “I can’t get an answer…”, all familiar statements of blame that if really believed by a leader, will ensure little or no progress.

Example:  A store manager watches a sales person that is trying to show a customer how a product works.  The sales guy bungles the job, and loses the sale.  The unsuccessful manager blames his employee for not knowing his stuff, or for folding under pressure, or for not taking the opportunity seriously.  He chooses this option to put distance between himself and a problem, but by so doing, he gives up control of his and the store’s success.  The successful manager, on the other hand, says “I need to train him better”, thus taking not only responsibility, but control over his and the operation’s destiny.  A good leader OWNS it all!

Lead on………..    Cliff

October 27, 2009 at 6:00 pm Leave a comment

“Will you PLEEEEEEEEZZZZ listen to me?”

“Will you PLEEEEEEEEZZZZ listen to me?”

 Have you ever heard this from someone you manage?  Probably not, but chances are, if you’re like most managers the thought has crossed the mind of someone that works (or has worked) for you.  If you’re not sure, here’s a simple test: 

Has ANYone, at ANY time, EVER said the above words to you?   Your spouse?   Other family members?  Friends?   At home?   At the club?   At a party?

If the answer is “yes”, you can be sure the words have passed through at least one of your employee’s minds.  You may think you listen to them, but do you really LISTEN?  Letting others talk is not, by itself listening; it’s a good start, but it’s not enough.  You’ve heard it said, “listening is a skill”.  This really is true!  You have to work at it, the same as you do for anything you really want to be become successful at.

Here are five keys to becoming a better listener…especially to your employees:

1)       Put away your work, or at least set it aside.  As soon as an employee comes to you to talk (not merely for a brief interruption) carefully note where you were and set your work aside.  Eliminate the temptation to dilute your focus from what is most important…the employee.

2)       Bite your tongue.  The best sign that you’re not listening is…that you’re talking.  There are other signs as well, but the worst thing you can do is to cut someone off mid-sentence or mid-thought.  It sends several messages including, “you’re wrong”; “you’re thoughts are not as valid or important as mine”; or “you’re not important”.  Make certain your employee is finished before you begin speaking.

3)       Smile and lean forward.  A [smile is] worth a thousand words.  By smiling and leaning forward you demonstrate full interest and participation in what the other person is saying.

4)       Ask questions even if you don’t have any.  You can’t ask intelligent questions if you haven’t been listening.  Questions are the best indication that you’ve been listening and that you are truly committed to resolving whatever’s being discussed.

5)       Begin your own comments by paraphrasing their comments.  As with asking questions, integrating the employee’s comments into your response demonstrates listening and shows consideration of their perspective; it also helps you frame the issue more clearly in your own mind.

Really listening truly is a skill worth learning, with a pay-off many times the investment!

Lead on………..    Cliff

October 12, 2009 at 5:18 pm 2 comments

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