Creating a Leadership Philosophy

Leadership PhilosophyWe often talk about leadership styles and leadership behaviors but don’t often talk about our leadership philosophy. However, it is a critical part of understanding ourselves as a leader.  It is this underlying philosophy that has broad impact on our actions as leaders.  Leadership philosophy is a concept I’ve learned from my colleague Michael Maccoby.

We all have a life philosophy.  Our life philosophy is a way of putting our values together to guide how we behave.  We knowingly or unknowingly live our lives in accordance with this philosophy.  A leadership philosophy integrates our organizational purpose with the practical values and moral reasoning which you believe are essential to achieving that purpose.  It also includes how we define and measure results. Effective leaders are very aware of their leadership philosophy.  They not only communicate their philosophy, they can be trusted to act in accordance with that philosophy.

Think about your leadership philosophy.  What is it and what impact does it have on you, your team and your organization.  Ask the following questions:

1. What is the purpose of our organization?
2. What is my purpose as a leader?
3. Which organizational values support that purpose?
4. How do my personal values align with these organizational values?
5. What ethical and moral reasoning do I expect from myself and my people?  Do we work simply to avoid punishment and gain rewards? Do we operate in terms of what is good for my organization and myself without regard for my impact on others?  Do we function in a way that benefits or does not harm all those who may be impacted by our actions?
6. How do we define results?  Is this consistent with my leadership philosophy?

Once you’ve crafted your philosophy, validate that it is meaningful to you. Read it several times over the next two weeks.  Does it resonate with you?  If someone asked you, would you stand behind its representation of you to others?

 

Re-frame Your Feedback

I have a leadership challenge for you. You will need to execute this challenge at the most foundational level of the leadership experience — in the one-on-one relationships you have with individuals on your team or in the company. The challenge relates to feedback.

I’ve found over the years that giving feedback is often not the favorite part of the leadership conversation. I believe this is true because for many of us feedback means hearing something negative. We only think about giving feedback when it’s about what someone is not doing well or about a mistake that person made or about what that person needs to do to improve. For the next week, my challenge to you is to make

Feedback = Positive

One of the things research has proven over and over again. but hasn’t seemed to make it into leaders’ thinking is the power of positive feedback. Several years ago The Corporate Leadership Council did research on the impact of one-hundred-plus performance management practices on bottom-line results and employee satisfaction. Positive feedback was one of seven practices that had significant impact on both results and satisfaction, and the impact was far greater than feedback that was focused on the negative. The ratio of positive feedback and developmental feedback that seems to have the biggest impact is about 4:1 (i.e., 4 positive, 1 negative).

So, your challenge is to catch people doing something right this week. Focus on a couple of team members and try to get close to the 4:1 ratio.

When you provide your positive feedback, remember a couple of guidelines:

  • The feedback should be specific and situational. Tell them the specific situation you are talking about.
  • It should focus on behavior. What did they do or say that created a positive result?
  • It should describe the impact of their behavior. What was the positive impact they created? How did it affect you or the team or the company or the customer.
  • Avoid vague feedback like “great job” or “way to go.” One of the reasons to give positive feedback is to help someone replicate the behavior and results in the future. If he’s not sure what you’re talking about, it’s harder for him to make it happen again.

Leading Change

change-constant
Over the past several years, this saying and many others about change have become trite. “Change is everywhere and to be successful you must embrace it.” “Change is the new normal.” “Champions eat change for breakfast.” You’ve heard it all before.

What is somewhat new about change is the sheer pace of it. With the advent of breakneck technology advances, change is not only constant but accelerating. Every few months a new social media outlet comes along that can help you reach your customers while you’re still trying to figure out Twitter. In other cases, some businesses are wondering if they should create an app for their services. Messages travel throughout your company, not to mention the world, in nanoseconds. Besides keeping up with all the technology, there are still the normal business changes like new product introductions, reorganizations, and new workflows. What do you have to know and how should you take a leadership position around change in today’s workplace?

  • Answer the big question, “Why?”: People yearn for context. They want to understand why things happen and how they fit into that equation. As things move ever more quickly, we often forget to answer this simple question of why (is this important, is this necessary, does this impact my business, etc.) in our haste to just get things done.
  • Listen to the reactions. Sometimes we think that in order to lead change, we need to be the cheerleader, playing down the realities that change is hard and there will be bumps along the way. We become better leaders when we take the time to listen and to respond in a realistic way to the reactions people have to what’s going on around them, including the good, the bad, and the ugly. In some situations it’s okay to say, “Yes, this stinks and at times it is going to be difficult. When we get through this, here is how we will be in a better place…” In other situations it’s okay to say, “No, that isn’t as good an option as it looks on the surface, and here’s why…”
  • Understand that some people will be more ready to change than you. When it comes to introducing technological change, there are people in your organization who will be asking why the company isn’t moving more quickly, or they may not ask, but their actions show they want to move faster. We have a whole generation who have grown up with Instant Messaging (IM), texting, Facebook, and other forms of social media. They’re comfortable with the fast pace of change technology has taught them. Harness their enthusiasm to learn all they can about the benefits and the drawbacks of various technologies. Engage them in understanding how a change could be used in your business or, just as importantly, why your business isn’t ready for whatever the change is.
  • Be a storyteller. Think back to your childhood. I could mention something about a story you haven’t heard in thirty years and you could probably tell most, if not all, of the story to me. If I asked you to explain freshman algebra concepts to me, that would probably be more of a challenge (at least it would be for me). We are wired to remember stories. They help us relate to concepts and ideas by putting ourselves in situations and thus remember information better. Tell your people stories about the successes of previous changes where first there were doubts. Tell stories about how a team worked together to make something happen. Tell stories that help people paint a picture, create a vision, and understand how to move forward to accomplish change.
  • Use social media. More and more organizations are using social media as way for people within the company to communicate with each other. Use social media yourself to ask questions, share updates, talk about successes, and ask for ideas. Encourage your team to use it as a way to have a productive conversation about the changes that are occurring . Soon you’ll see leaders emerge on your team, taking the reins of championing change. Again, if you need help in this area, there are people in your organization who are social media savvy.

How Unhappy Are Your Employees?

unhappy-employeesWorkers in America are an unhappy lot. The Conference Board reports that only 45 percent of workers are satisfied with their work, continuing a two-decade trend of increasing dissatisfaction. Research tells us that there is often a link between dissatisfaction and people not doing their best at work. Think about that. Nearly six out of ten people in our organizations may not be bringing anywhere near their best to work

Those types of numbers can lead unwelcome scenarios for your organization. For example, people who are dissatisfied in their jobs will leave — either physically, or sometimes worse, mentally. Usually, the best performers are the first to go when they are dissatisfied. They are highly marketable, and they know it. On the other end of the spectrum, poor performers will often not leave but simply continue to be dissatisfied. The bulk of the dissatisfied workforce will stay. That is, they won’t be the first out the door, but they will begin mentally shutting down. They will begin to only do what absolutely needs to be done or only what will impact their merit increase. They will come in at 8:00 a.m. and walk out precisely at 5:00 p.m. And once they see top performers leaving, they too begin to look toward the door.

As a leader, you need to retain and engage the strong performers on your team. Here are some things to think about:

    • Look at your team. Who’s a flight risk? Whose departure would significantly impact the business or the team? Who’s not going anywhere but at the same time is not as fully engaged as they once were? Create re-engagement strategies and contingency plans to implement if a performer leaves.
    • Look at yourself. How satisfied are you? Does your performance reflect your satisfaction? As a leader, your team takes direction from you.
    • What vision have you developed and communicated for your organization? Does it make people say, “I want to be part of this.”
    • As you set goals with your team, how meaningful are those goals? Will the person have a sense of progress? People are satisfied when they perceive they
      are doing something meaningful, have a choice in their work activities, feel they are performing competently, and are making progress.
    • Are you giving people a choice in how they run their business or manage their work?
    • Are you helping them build their capacity through coaching? Do they have the skills and knowledge to perform competently? Are they able to use their strengths?
    • Have you spoken with people about how they perceive their current work and working environment. How do they feel about it? What interests them about it? What frustrates them? Have a conversation and create a plan together to build on what’s good and to address what can be changed.
    • Don’t throw money at something, unless that is the real issue. In the same way, avoid contests, employee of the month programs, one-time bonuses. These things do create motivating environments for a short period of time—until the momentary glow wears off. Money will not work long term. You need to think about the real motivators. Authors Thomas and Tyman refer to real motivators as meaning, autonomy, progress, and competence. Dan Pink, in his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, talks about autonomy, mastery, and purpose.
    • Finally, on the chance that a poor performer leaves, how attractive is it for a strong performer to join your team?

The Moral Compass of a Leader: Learning from Revolutionary Leaders

Moral IntelligenceA radical group of leaders created a new country in the late eighteenth century – the United States of America. When you look at the leadership characteristics of this group, with the likes of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin, the lessons we can learn from them are as relevant today as they were three centuries ago.

Leaders have a strong moral compass and stand up for their beliefs, sometimes against immense odds. By signing the Declaration of Independence, the members of the Continental Congress were committing treason which is a pretty serious statement about their beliefs. At the core, their decision to sign the Declaration and commit treason was based on their personal moral grounding about the rights of government and the rights of the people. They used that moral compass and their integrity to guide them against the superpower of the day.

In their book, Moral Intelligence, Doug Lennick and Fred Kiel, state, “The most successful leaders in any company are likely to be trustworthy individuals who have a strong set of moral beliefs and the ability to put them into action. Further, even in a world that occasionally rewards bad behavior, the fastest way to build a successful business is to hire those people with the highest moral and ethical skills you can find.”1 If you look back over the past several years, in the wake of high-profile business scandals like Enron, the Bernie Madoff ponzi scheme, and the behavior of some Wall Street firms leading up to and during the 2008 economic crisis, some would assert that too many business leaders lack a moral compass. The importance of a strong moral compass is as important today, if not more so, as it was 240 years ago.

Leaders listen. The conversations and debates that led to the Declaration were often heated. Different delegates held very different views about independence and about each other. Each one’s views were heard and debated. Unity is possible only if each person feels he is heard and his ideas are given a fair shake. Each person in that room was at times a leader and at other times a follower. Yet, at every turn, each was grounded by his personal moral compass.

Leaders stand as one. After the debates and conversations, compromise was reached, and once each signed his name, the group stood as one behind the words on the page. Benjamin Franklin marked the occasion with the words, “We must all hang together or assuredly, we shall all hang separately.” Their belief in the concept of independence superseded potential personal injury or gain.

Why Engagement Isn’t Just About Soft Stuff

Employee Engagement

If you’re serious about improving performance and driving growth, focus on how happy and engaged your people are. That may seem mamby pamby, but there is growing evidence that it’s not such soft stuff.

Here are a couple of Gallup statistics to consider:

  • Actively disengaged employees erode an organization’s bottom line.  Within the U.S. workforce, Gallup estimates this cost to be more than $300 billion in lost productivity alone.
  • Engaged work groups show higher productivity, fewer safety incidents, lower absenteeism and are more profitable than disengaged work groups.  Their research shows that engaged organizations have 3.9 times the earnings per share (EPS) growth rate compared to organizations with lower engagement in the same industry. (Gallop statistics)

Now the question is. “What really drives engagement?” Teresa Amabile, a Harvard Business School professor, and Steven Kramer researched that question. What they determined is that of all the events that engage people at work, the single most important is simply making progress doing meaningful work. In a September 4, 2011, New York Times article, Amabile and Kramer note, “As long as workers experience their labor as meaningful, progress is often followed by joy and excitement about work.” Interestingly, this positive “’inner work life“ (as the researchers call it) has a profound impact on creativity, productivity, commitment, and collegiality.

The leader’s role, then, is to help people make progress — remove obstacles, provide support, recognize progress, and provide feedback on what’s not working. Unfortunately, almost all managers don’t see making progress as a compelling motivator. When Amabile and Kramer asked 669 managers from around the world to rank five employee motivators, they ranked “supporting progress” dead last. Ninety-five percent of these leaders failed to recognize that progress in meaningful work is a far more important motivator than raises and bonuses.

When was the last time you talked about any of this with your people? Probably not recently. Conversations with our teams are usually about financial results, how many deals are about to close, or where someone is in a project.

Next time you are trying to create motivating environment, don’t automatically think about traditional rewards. Think about whether your people feel like they are moving up the trail or if they feel like their pushing a boulder up a mountain only to have it roll back down on them.

Then ask yourself how you can bring more of of a sense of progress to the work and the workplace.

Creating a Powerhouse Culture

Company CultureThe powerhouse employee is highly capable in the work he does, motivated, and engaged.  Capability is something you can either hire for or develop.  An investment in skill-building is never wasted unless those skills become obsolete very soon after the investment.  Most people come to anew job full of motivation and engagement.  They are ready to go, excited to be there, and committed to success.  The ironic thing is that, after a period of time in the job or with the company, commitment can take a bid dive.

As a leader, spend time this week thinking about where your team’s capability, motivation, and engagement levels are.  How are you increasing them or decreasing them?  As you do this week’s thinking, take money out of the motivation and engagement equation.  Money is the cheap and easy way to try to create commitment and one that really doesn’t work for anything but short bursts.  Over and over again, research shows that long-term motivation and engagement at work come from being able to make progress and feel competent in doing something that is meaningful.  Many things, such as those listed below, can get in the way of generating long-term motivation and engagement.  Have you been guilty of any of these?

  • Assuming that making a profit is motivating enough for anyone to inspire performance
  • Giving someone a project, allowing them to move forward with it, and just before it’s completed telling them priorities have changed.
  • Consistently setting goals that are so much of a stretch they are viewed as unrealistic in any time frame.
  • Shifting priorities again and again and again.
  • Promoting people or moving them into new roles while providing little to no direction regarding your expectations for them.
  • Telling someone they own the project, then advising them in a way that makes them feel yo are controlling every aspect.

Take Action!  Real Change Accelerator

Examine your efforts with your team, then answer this question.
What are you really doing, really putting effort into, that’s building a powerhouse team?

Do Your Company’s Values Make Sense

Core Values
On websites or internal company portals and communities, there is a tab or tile that says “Our Values”.  They are there for everyone to see when and if they choose to look at them.  We use them to inform prospective employees, our current team, and business partners about who we are and what we’re about. Yet, according to a recent PwC survey, 63% of CEO’s want to increase communication to stakeholders about values and purpose.
Before jumping into another communication plan full of town hall meetings, email blasts, etc. to get the word out about your organization’s values, I encourage leaders to take a step back and look at how else they are communicating or not communicating the values.

Do your values make sense?  Many of you will look and say, “Of course they do.”  However, if your actions and the way you run the business are saying one thing and the words are saying another, then the answer is no, they don’t. These questions can help you decide if your reality is meeting the aspirations of your values.

  • How well have they been integrated into your business strategy?  Can your stakeholders see how the values are playing out in your business strategy.  When someone looks at TOMS or Life Is Good’s business strategies, their is no doubt what their values are.
  • Do you look for them in who and how you hire?  It’s one thing to say that you have certain corporate values.  It’s another to overtly make them part of your hiring and onboarding process.
  • Can I see them in the way you manage talent?  Nothing kills the credibility of a value statement more quickly than saying, for example, that we value collaboration, innovative thinking, and the power of great ideas only to then promote and recognize the people who get results while completely disregarding your stated values.
  • Are they part of our decision making?  When tough decisions need to get made, are the values one of the key factors considered?
You see, it’s one thing to say what you value.  It’s another to make them come alive.

Let’s Lead Change, Not Just Manage It

lead change

Change is a subject that’s near and dear to my heart.  It’s been at the core of what I do for over 25 years.  Lately, I’ve been thinking about the topic of leading change.  We’ve talked for years about managing change but not leading change.

Leading change is different from change management.  Change management is a well thought out set of approaches and tools that supports change, often at a project level.  For example, there is a change management component to installing a new system, transitioning how you do performance management, or introducing a new project. It happens in parallel to the project to make sure the business solution is implemented and that people adopt the new behaviors associated with it. It focuses on understanding the difference between the current state and future state, creating communication and training plans, identifying early adopters and resisters and paving the way for the business outcome to be reached. It is a very important toolkit and competence that should be part of projects that introduce change.

Leading change is about creating and communicating a vision for change and is not directly tied to a project or initiative. It is what drives the business solution, not what implements it. It is transformational. It creates a mindset across the organization that focuses on what could or should be different rather than asking them to simply adopt an already determined solution.  It removes the shackles of how we do things and asks people to truly engage in the change, to become part of creating a solution. It enables others to think differently.  It moves change along more rapidly and more efficiently, even while it creates a sense of upheaval. It is what makes people say “I HAVE to be part of this.” It creates momentum and a desire to continually move to the next phase or next level.

Most executives I talk to and organizations I work with are hungry for change leadership.  What about yours? Do you only manage change or do you truly lead it?

Your Growth Mindset

Growth Mindset

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the edge having a growth mindset gives.  Research shows it is a better predictor of success than IQ.  A growth mindset embraces challenges, persists in the face of setbacks, believes effort will lead to a level of mastery, and learns from criticism. The problem is, on those days when we need it the most, when we are facing challenges and setbacks and nothing seems to be going right, is when it can be the most difficult to engage with a growth mindset.  After all, in the short run, it’s sometimes easier to just throw up your hands, take the easy route or just walk away.

What question is is how do you feel about that choice tomorrow.  Quite possibly you tell yourself that you could have stuck with it a little longer. You may realize that at least some of the criticism may have been justified.  Or, you may decide that the route for growth really was to walk away. Sometimes the setbacks you’re facing are the very things that are telling you to move on and grow in a different way.  The way to face of the setbacks is to make a left turn and go around it rather than trying to bulldoze through it.  Many people will tell you it’s that growth, the growth that happens when we take a totally different view of the setback and how we can move towards mastery, that creates some of the greatest breakthroughs in your life and your work.