5 KEYS TO UNLEASH GREATNESS ON YOUR TEAM
I meet some amazing leaders in my work. People hire me to work with their organization and I end up a better person by spending time with them. One such leader who has become a good friend is John Liston. John was formally a regional director at Great West Life, and now is the principal of Liston Advisory Group. John lives what he leads. He’s a person of strong character. He’s passionate. He cares. He cares about his people. He cares about the work. He cares about his organization. And his approach to leadership produces results. When he was at Great West Life, his was the top region in Canada in 2010, 2011 and 2012. This spring we ran a customer service program together for a police department.
In a recent conversation with John about his coaching experience with his daughter’s Under 19 Ringette team, he explained how he coaches the same as he leads. Same philosophy. Same approach. Same leadership. Here are John’s five keys for unleashing greatness within a team:
1) Hire great people. You need to know the skills you need from your people and, more importantly, you need to know the kind of attitude you want from the people around you. You can always teach skills, but you can’t teach attitude. Building a great team means knowing precisely the kind of person you want on your team. It means hiring s-l-o-w-l-y. Take your time. Ask questions and assess the right fit. If you study what most people do in business you find that they spend their time hiring for competence (resume, experience, etc.) and almost always fire for character. What John, and other great leaders do, is hire for character and train for competence.
2) Create an environment for people to be their best. When are you at your best? Typically it is when you are focused, but not worried about mistakes or failing. In John’s words, “When we win, we party; when we lose, we ponder.” This means it’s okay to make mistakes, as long as you learn from them. See the best in people. Fit people don’t fix people. Find their strengths and build on those strengths. Find a place where people can take their gifts, their passion, and their talents, and make a contribution. It takes coaching, mentoring, and, most importantly, time. When you create these environments, people “chose to” come to them; they don’t feel they “have to”.
3) Understand the why (the reason) before the what or the how. At the 1963 Washington D.C. Civil Rights March, Martin Luther King did not stand up with a “strategic plan.” Martin Luther King had a dream. He gave people a reason. What’s vital in building a team – as well as building a life – is to not confuse the means with the ends. John Liston understands this. He understands that people aren’t accountable if they aren’t motivated. If they aren’t accountable, it’s because they don’t have enough reason to be accountable. A vision is what gives people a reason to get on board. John uses the vehicle of sport to teach character. Character is the why. Character is the goal. Sport is the means to that goal. Some people get confused and think sport is about winning. Professional sport may be, but all others are about character. Winning is a by-product. It works the same in business.
4) Execute with precision. John is a master of accountability cultures. He understands that you have to inspire people, and then you have to link that inspiration to clearly defined outcomes and a precise way to get there. This is where John is tough. He models the values. While he cares about people, he has a precise, results driven process for creating an environment for people to hold themselves accountable – to themselves and to each other.
5) Celebrate success. In John’s words, “you have to know what success is, know how to get there, and know how to celebrate it when you’ve achieved it.” You have to know what constitutes success and shine a light on it. Tell the story. Acknowledge people. Catch people being successful. You have to care and you have to connect. Celebration can be big or it can be small, but most importantly it has to be meaningful.
John’s passionate, inspiring energy is contagious. It’s always been important to him to create an environment in which people have a chance to be their best, to realize their potential, and to be recognized for their achievements. John is the kind of leader people want to work for. He’s also the kind of friend people seek.
What kind of environment are you creating on your team?
6 Lessons From A Dying Person
In the fall of 2013, my sixty-one year-old brother, Hal, was in Vancouver to receive the award for Alberta’s Outstanding Family Physician. Three days before the award ceremony he had a seizure and a few days later came the grave diagnosis: a grade III Anaplastic Astrocytoma – an aggressive, inoperable tumor intersecting three lobes of his brain. The prognosis was grim. With no treatment, he would live an estimated three to four months; with aggressive radiation and chemotherapy, one to three years, and with a miracle, longer.
For the past two and half years I have traveled with Hal through what he has been calling his “Adventure with an Astrocytoma.” This so called ‘adventure’ was at first a grinding mix of aggressive radiation and chemotherapy treatments, with accompanying aphasia, memory loss, itching rashes, seizures, headaches, nausea, diarrhea, and so little energy that putting his feet on the floor in the morning can be called success. Hal’s limbs got skinny and his belly grew from the steroids that prevent brain swelling. With the medication experimentation, the days when he was able to get himself outside into the sunlight and around the block was a ‘Mount Everest’ accomplishment.
While I wouldn’t wish this hell on anyone, I am surprisingly grateful. Hal and I have spent more time together in the past thirty months than we have the previous thirty years. We’ve done some reminiscing; we’ve said “thank you” and have forgiven each other. Every time that we are together, we now say that we love each other. And we make time to hang out when he simply can’t get out of bed, can’t utter a word, and I have no clue what to say. This whole imperfect and human experience of being together in an awkward and clumsy way has somehow been a blessing. This reminder of the impermanence of life has strangely increased my life’s quality. My marriage and my relationships with my daughters have improved as I’ve slowed down and made a little more room to be a bit more present a little more often with those that matter most to me. Being open to the pain of Hal’s experience has deepened my experience of being alive, what matters in life, and what it means, more fully, to be human.
Below are six lessons I have learned thus far on this adventure with my brother and his astrocytoma:
1) Don’t procrastinate getting to your bucket list. If you have some things you are planning to do when you retire, don’t wait. Do it now. The preciousness of life is not realized in the future. It is realized only in the present. There is no guarantee that the future will meet your current expectations.
2) Take time to connect. Life is so short. Every relationship as you know it today eventually ends. Don’t wait for the end to be near to appreciate what is here now. Besides, we never know how abrupt and unplanned that ending can come. You really don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. Don’t miss opportunities to be present to the people around you.
3) Embrace the realization of life’s impermanence. “Impermanence is life’s only promise to us, and she keeps it with ruthless impeccability,” writes the poet Jennifer Welwood. The older you get, the more opportunities arise to be with people who are in the sunset of their life. Be with people when they are dying whenever you can. Embrace the experience of dying along with the pain, and your life, and the lives of those still around you, will be enriched.
4) Take regular sabbaticals. In today’s world, with its relentless focus on success and productivity, we have lost touch with the balance between work and rest. Constantly striving, so many of us feel exhausted and deprived in the midst of abundance. Carve out regular time each week for rest, renewal, time with friends and family, and a few moments for yourself.
5) Take care of your health. When you have you health, you have a thousand wishes. When you don’t, you have but one. Don’t take your health for granted. Good health is a source of wealth. Being free of pain is one of life’s most vital blessings. While you can’t necessarily control your health, you can certainly influence it – with good habits. Later life will test your disciplines.
6) Renew your faith. Times of loss afford us immense opportunities to renew, strengthen, and deepen our own personal and individual experience of spirituality. Take time each day to commune with nature and witness the intelligence within every living thing. Spend time in a sanctuary away from the demands of the world. Sit silently and watch a sunset, or listen to the sound of the ocean or a steam, or simply smell the scent of a flower.
The reminder of impermanence awakens you. The awareness of death magnifies what’s important in your life. Remember to stop and embrace fully that which surrounds you. The life you have today won’t last forever, and remembering this will help you appreciate and grasp it more deeply. And in turn, you will amplify your impact while enriching and nourishing the lives of those you lead and enlarge. There is no better personal or leadership development than coming to terms with your humanity.
Seven Ways To Enlarge The Lives Of Others – The Work Of The Best Leaders
“Believe in your heart of hearts that your fundamental purpose, your reason for being, is to enlarge the lives of others. As you enlarge the lives of others, your life will be enlarged. And all the other things we have been taught to concentrate on will take care of themselves.” – Pete Thigpen, Former President, Levi Strauss
Not long ago, I had the privilege of touring the plant of a client who hired me to help improve the culture of his organization. As we wandered around, the CEO introduced me to everyone we came across – in the halls, the offices, the labs, and on the shop floors. But he didn’t just know everyone’s name and title. He made a point, whenever possible and appropriate, of making a brief – and positive – comment about everyone. When he introduced me to the janitor, the caretaker’s eyes widened and brightened as the CEO told me how he puts pride into everything he does and that he’ll be greatly missed when he retires next month after more than a quarter century of service. Every employee smiled as they were introduced and the CEO said something positive about the unique contribution they individually made to the well-being of this company. This CEO understands a fundamental responsibility of leaders: to enlarge the lives of every one of their employees.
As I think of my own staff, I realize that I often take them for granted. I give them work to do, put pressure on them to deliver on their accountabilities, and attempt to give them support to do their work. But do I actually make a conscious effort to enlarge their lives? We all get into our routines, our habits, our mundane patterns. In a world of incessant demands, it is easy to lose touch with the people around us and the real work of leadership.
Here are seven ways to enlarge the lives of others:
- Care. Enlarging the lives of people isn’t a technique. You can’t fake it. People will see right through you. We all get busy and forget to notice people. Your staff will forgive you for forgetting. What they won’t forgive you for is not caring. Enlarging the lives of people involves caring about people, not manipulating them. People are uplifted and better by being around people who care about them.
- Serve. Serving means having a commitment to people’s growth as much as finding the resources to help them get their job done. Serving means making the success of others more important than your own. Serving means making others look good and being willing to not take the credit. Great leaders know that you can’t necessarily make people happy, but you can help them take pride in themselves and their work – by seeing their worth, beyond what they may see in themselves.
- Make Time. Enlarging the lives of others takes time. Take time to learn names. But more than that, take time to learn about what matters to people you serve, the names of their family members, and the kind of things they do when they are away from work. Leadership is more than just wandering around. It’s tuning in. It’s paying attention. It’s being in touch. Carry a notepad and make a note of what’s important to the people on your team.
- Challenge. If you are going to enlarge the lives of others you have to push them beyond their comfort zone. You have to set a standard that stretches them. And you have to encourage them. “You can do this;” “I trust you;” and “I believe in you;” are enlarging statements. Then model the way. When was the last time you encouraged someone to go beyond what’s easy? When is the last time you did something for the first time?
- Accountability. Collin Powell, the former US Secretary of State, once said that “everyone on a team knows who is and who is not performing and they are looking to you as the leader to see what you are going to do about it.” You don’t enlarge the lives of people when you let them off the hook or hold back from having the difficult conversations. Set clear standards and hold people accountable. It enlarges the lives of everyone.
- Safety. Enlargement is about creating an environment where people can grow. Bruce Lipton, a cellular biologist, says that a cell has only two options in life: to grow or to protect. If the cell perceives its environment to be toxic it will go into protection mode. When it perceives its environment to be nourishing, it will enlarge. To enlarge the lives of others, you must create an environment that is physically and psychologically safe – safe to work without harm, safe to make mistakes without fear, safe to be honest without retribution, safe to be yourself without judgment.
- Appreciation. Appreciation is about acknowledging (both privately and publicly) effective, productive action. Appreciation is recognizing people when they take special care in a delivery, when they go out of their way to fix a glitch in a product, when they make a customer feel extra special, when they send the order out early, when they go the extra mile. Appreciation isn’t empty praise. Appreciation is genuine recognition when someone makes a difference. It’s about catching people doing things right rather than succumbing to the seemingly natural tendency to criticize. Say thank you. What you appreciate, appreciates.
When you are mindful and intentional about making these actions a habit, the lives of people around you will naturally enlarge. As you help people grow in this way, it will inevitably come back to you in the form of commitment, loyalty, and results. As you enlarge the lives of others, your life and your organization will be enlarged. And all the other things we have been taught to concentrate on really do seem to take care of themselves.
Six Ways To Know If People Trust You
Trust is the most important issue facing the world today and lies at the foundation of every relationship. Trust is the keystone of success in work and in life. It’s the new global currency. It crosses cultures and generations. Building, restoring, and sustaining trust is your number one leadership challenge. Without trust there is no leadership, no relationship, no life as we know it in this interconnected universe. If you stop and think about it, trust lies at the centre of everything we do.
So, if trust is so important, how do you know if you are trusted by others? How do you assess it? How do you measure it? While trust has an emotional component to it, trust is not an emotion. Trust is an action. Trust is demonstrated by the way you behave in response to another person or circumstance.
In your most trusted relationships, trust is generally not even talked about. Instead, it’s demonstrated.
You know you have earned trust when:
- People seek your advice. You know that you have earned the trust of others when they come to you for your input, your opinion, your perspective. Do others ask you for guidance?
- People are honest with you. People will have the tough conversations with people they trust. You know you have earned trust when others bring you the bad news, negative feedback as well as celebrations, and when they are vulnerable, direct, candid, and straightforward with you. You can be polite with anyone, but the seed of trust lies within Are people giving you open and honest feedback, bad news as well as good?
- People challenge you. As a corollary to #2, you know you have established trust, especially when you are in a position of authority, when others respectfully challenge your point of view, your approach, and your decisions. Are you being challenged by the people who report to you?
- People are competent. While you can foster competence for a time in a non-trusting relationship, it won’t last. Trust breeds competence. Trust builds results. Trust fosters capability. Are you getting the results you need from your team?
- People are relaxed around you. I recently coached a manager whose boss exploded every couple of weeks. He constantly lived in tension, never knowing what would set the boss off. Being relaxed is not the same as being complacent. It means being calm in the midst of activity. You are more effective when you aren’t wound up and stressed. You are more productive and do better work when enjoying yourself. Tension, stress, anxiety – all indicators of a lack of trust – can destroy a workplace. Are you aware of the level of tension in the people around you?
- People stick around. It’s been said that people don’t leave organizations; they leave bosses. The number one reason people leave marriages is because they no longer feel good about themselves in the presence of their spouse. People leave bosses for the same reason: they no longer feel good about themselves in their presence. You don’t feel good about yourself when you are around people you don’t trust. How’s the retention rate of your direct reports?
Trust is not built in a day. It is built daily. It’s built with consistent action. It’s built with care and compassion. It’s built with honesty and stability and strong character. Trust is built through paying unwavering attention to the small things and knowing what’s important to people. Trust is built with integrity and a can-do attitude. It’s built with a disciplined, focused approach of investing in the lives of people who matter to you.
FIVE WAYS TO STAY ALIVE AS A LEADER
Leadership is not only hard work; leadership can be dangerous. Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, John F Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. are prime examples. Political leaders, however, are not the only leaders that get assassinated. When you courageously take a stand for something or when you dedicate yourself to making a difference, you become a lightening rod that attracts both positive and negative power by your mere presence. While a uniform or a title does not make you a leader, those in uniforms today are targets, as are leaders who are making a difference. I’ve learned from my work with the RCMP and other police agencies that in policing, officers use the words service, dedication and commitment to describe what they do on a daily basis to keep us safe. These words also describe a leader. And when we make a decision to lead, there is a risk involved. That risk cost the lives of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo who was shot while guarding the tomb of the unknown soldier in Ottawa and RCMP Constable David Wynn, who was senselessly gunned down in a St. Albert, Alberta casino while serving and protecting the citizens of his community.
People who make the decision to lead frequently bear scars from the efforts to bring about change. Leaders are always perceived as failing somebody. Often they are misunderstood. At times they must be willing to bear violent opposition. Many times they are despised. Just ask the parents of a rebellious teenager, or a senior executive committed to changing a culture, or a front-line leader who is loyal to a principle that goes against the grain of how things have always been done in an organization.
While leading can be dangerous, every leader must have a strategy for staying alive, for sustaining their energy, and for continued self-renewal. Following the slaying of Const. David Wynn, RCMP members were reminded to take care of themselves, to be especially mindful of their actions, and extra supportive of their colleagues. What is the directive you have given yourself for staying alive? What are your disciplined actions for ensuring your strength as a leader, so that leading comes from overflow, not emptiness?
Here are five fundamental strategies and sources of strength for staying alive:
- Sanctuaries: Leadership is both active and reflective. A sanctuary is where you find refuge from the demands of the world. It can be a physical place, a special person, or a space you create in your mind. All of these sanctuaries enable you to renew and listen to your inner wisdom and strength. Regardless of how you define or experience sanctuary, we all need a place where we can find peace.
- Faith: Faith is an important source of strength to myself and to many leaders I respect. We all need to find strength beyond ourselves to help us lead, maintain perspective, find inner wellbeing beyond the approval and disapproval of the world, and help carry the load of life.
- Sabbaths: The tradition of sabbath began centuries ago to create an oasis of sacred time within a life of labor. In the midst of relentless demands, sabbath is a ‘boundaried time’ (whether 24 hours or 10 minutes) away from the tyranny of the urgency of others to spend in renewal, restoration, rest, and recovery. I find it valuable to take at least one full day every week to shut off my computer and email, spend time in nature and with people I care about, and simply to rest.
- Confidants: Confidants are those with whom you share your deepest self. They hold you while you are holding everyone else. They put you back together at the end of the day. Confidants can be friends, spouses, lovers, coaches, or close colleagues. Confidents give perspective, stand beside you, and help hold you accountable. A confidant is not afraid to tell you the truth, will not allow you to stay a victim, and will challenge you to be all you can be. Leadership is a lonely journey, but it can’t be done alone.
- Inspiration: The true measure of a person comes when tragedy strikes and extraordinary things need to be done. Mr. Rogers used to say that in times of tragedy, look for the helpers, those who move in to support and help clean up the mess. Watch who the helpers are and what the helpers do, and hope will be born.
We all need a source of inspiration in order to inspire those we serve. Hope inspires me. Service, dedication, caring and commitment inspire me. Good conversations inspire me. Stories inspire me. Artists, poets, and musicians all inspire me. What inspires you? Who or what uplifts you? Stay plugged in to the source that supports and sustains you – so you can inspire others.