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.

Is Middle Management Really Going Away?

Middle Managers

I had the pleasure of watching an interview with Jay Samit, CEO of SeaChange International and author of Disrupt You speak at the C-Suite Network conference a few months back. One of the more provocative predictions he made was that in 5 years, one half of all middle management jobs will be gone. Not 20 years. Not 50 years. Five.

Needless to say, the number of implications that creates are far too many to discuss here. Jeff Hayzlettthe interviewer, asked the question we were all asking ourselves — if half of all middle management is going away, what should middle managers do? Here are Samit’s 3 pieces of advice:

  • Commit to life-long learning: change is occurring so rapidly that we can’t possible know what our opportunities will be in 2 or 3 years much less 10 or 15.  By continually learning you can see what may be coming around the bend and be ready for it while those who have chosen to shut-off their learning will never know what hit them.
  • Keep an open mind: the further we go in life we can begin to assume that we know the answers and how it should work.  The truth is, without an open mind, it’s amazing how wrong you can be.
  • Invite data in:  in some circles, you hear a lot about big data.  Data comes in many forms – quantitative, qualitative, anecdotal. Data is available in so many ways, don’t be afraid to gather and use data to help inform your path and illuminate possibilities.

The quest for certainly blocks the search for meaning. Uncertainty is the very condition to impel man to unfold his powers.”

-Erich Fromm

Tic, toc, tic, toc — Getting Beyond Time Wasters

Time Wasters

I don’t know about you but the first half of the year has flown by for me.  Time has a way of doing that, moving quickly.  So, it’s important that we use our time well. Here are three tips for making the best use of your time:

1) Weigh urgency and importance.  We all have things in life that need our immediate attention.  We also have things that are important for us to achieve the outcomes we desire.  They are not always the same thing.  If something is urgent and important, it usually gets our time. However, if it’s important and not urgent it is very easy to not give it the time it needs. Take a look at how you’re using your time.  Are the things taking up your time urgent? important? urgent and important? or urgent and unimportant.  If too many are in the last category, you probably feel frustrated.  Recalibrate and determine how to move those things off your plate and make more room for the important and not urgent.

2) Build mental breaks into your day.  If you don’t build in mental breaks, you become less effective. And more prone to get distracted by Facebook, fantasy football or your text alerts.  However, if you know you will be taking break to get your electronic fix, you can spend time truly focusing on what needs to be done rather telling yourself ‘I’ll only take a minute to check…’ Research shows it takes 25 minutes for us to completely refocus after an interruption. So that ‘minute’ becomes more like 30.

3) Create blocks of time for just you.  When you lead other people or work in a team, it’s easy to have your time become booked with meeting after meeting or for people to continually stop in because of your open door policy.  All of us have work that needs our undivided attention.  Build times into your calendar that are sacred so you can focus on that work.  Let your team members and other people who may need to know that at a certain time, you’re going to be in your office (or cubicle) with the door (or imaginary door) closed so that you can focus on work that needs your undivided attention.  Ask them to please not disturb you unless absolutely necessary.  Then close your door and get to work!
Cheers!
Edith

Worried about retention? Some news about millennials

Millennials and careers

 A recent article from Reuters provided some insights into why millennials quit their jobs and just how many of them plan on doing so in the next 2-4 years. First, the numbers:

  • Sixty percent of millennials, those people who are 22-32, have changed jobs 1-4 times in the past 5 years, according to State Street Global Advisors. Could be some of the younger millennials in the survey population were moving from part-time or ‘I needed a job’ jobs, but that numbers should give you pause.
  • If given the choice, 44% would leave their job in the next two years and 66% expect to change their employers in the next 4 years. Not would if they could. They expect to change.

Why? As we’ve all heard, millennials want work that aligns with their values. Old news.  What was interesting is how important it is even to those who are what they call ‘senior millennials’ — those with high-level job titles. Sixty-one percent of them say they’ve chosen not to undertake a task at work because it conflicts with their values. So much for work is not personal.

However, this article points out that isn’t the whole story. Turns out money does matter. A woman quoted in the article only chose to change to a career she thought she would like better when she figured out it was lucrative in the market where she lives. It also notes how often millennials are developing additional revenue streams outside of their jobs. Sounds pretty entrepreneurial to me.

What can you do to keep your millennials around.  Most likely, they will leave you at some point but you can probably extend that timeframe by focusing on three things:
  • Know what your millennials, as individuals, value and integrate that into their work.
  • Give them the opportunity to generate business ideas and be entrepreneurial. Their doing it on the side.  Why not as part of their regular job?
  • Don’t think that all of this takes the place of money.  They want financial rewards for their effort.  What may be different from others is that the rewards need to be aligned with their values, how they are making a difference and the ability to be entrepreneurial at work.
Cheers!
Edith

Change Your Attitude

change your attitude

Anyone will tell you that attitude can make up for other things that may be lacking when it comes to success.  Carol Dweck’s most recent research shows that attitude is a more effective predictor of success than IQ.  However, what makes a difference is not whether you are Mary Sunshine, alway arriving with a smile and a spring in your step or Sam Schlubbum who greets interactions with a stoic face and isn’t excited about too much of anything.

The key difference is whether you have a growth mindset or a fixed mindset.  A growth mindset embraces challenges, persists in the face of setbacks, believes effort will lead to a level of mastery, and learns from criticism.  A fixed mindset,on the other hand, tends to avoid challenges, gives up easily, doesn’t believe effort will lead anywhere and ignores useful criticism. I’m sure we all know people who fit both of these descriptions.

If you’re stuck in a fixed mindset, don’t despair. Anyone can move into a growth mindset. The key is to start small. For example, when you’re faced with a challenge and ready to give up, decide to work at it for a few more minutes. Decide what you’re passionate about and find ways to incorporate more of that into your day. When the answer is no, don’t be afraid to try again. Countless successful people were rejected over and over again.

Watch the people around you this week.  Who is exhibiting a fixed mindset?  Who’s exhibiting a growth mindset?