Tag Archive for: Inspiration

How Does A Leader Demonstrate Authenticity?

One of the best parts of my work is the incredible people I connect with and learn from, one of whom is Geoff Topping, Chief People Officer at Challenger Motor Freight. Amazing guy. Totally authentic.

In one exchange, Geoff mentioned that he created a list of how authenticity can be demonstrated in the workplace. It so inspired me, that I want to pass it on:

Ways Of Demonstrating Authenticity As A Leader:

  1. Admit when you need help, advice, or just an ear. This is a strength, not a weakness.
  2. If you learn something, read something, try something, and it works for you, share it. Don’t take credit for the idea. Share who taught you.
  3. Have mentors, coaches, or confidants; we all have times when we need these people.
  4. If you can and are qualified, be a mentor, coach, or confidant.
  5. Admit that you are a person. We all make mistakes, get sick, and sometimes have personal situations to deal with.
  6. Care about people. Really care. If it’s going to be acting, leadership is not for you; management might be, but not leadership and that is okay.
  7. Think “People First,” which means ensuring people have the opportunity, training, and tools to succeed.
  8. Take personal inventory, and when you’re wrong, admit it.
  9. Always take time in your day or week to reflect on what you need to do better, what you are doing well, and how you can improve.
  10. Take care of your health. Your body and mind are your tools.
  11. We all get Situationally Overwhelmed at times. This is normal and different from being truly overwhelmed. Sometimes, we need to step back and look at our to-do list, tasks, problems, etc., through different glasses.
  12. Find a work-life balance or blend that works for you, but remember that yours will not work for everyone on your team; help your people find one that works for them and the organization.

Thank you, sincerely, Geoff, for inspiring me with your authentic presence.

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ARE YOU CONNECTING?

Everyone communicates but few connect.

–  John Maxwell

Our newly hired hand arrived early. When I saw an old man riding a rusted bicycle up our gravel road in the pouring rain and into the yard of our family farm, I wondered, “Who is this slightly scary, weird-looking guy, whistling and smiling, dressed in worn-out coveralls, a flannel shirt, a torn jacket, and rubber boots?”

I was a teenager and was expected to work with this newly hired hand—whose name was Norris—for the summer. I didn’t want much to do with him at first. I just hung around for a few days and quietly worked alongside him.

He didn’t seem to mind that I wasn’t talkative. He simply went on about his business. At the time, I thought it was a little odd that no matter what the weather was like, or if we were fencing or building something or hauling hay, Norris always showed up on time and was happy. Except for a short lunch break, he never stopped working and never complained. Whether we were fencing, hauling hay, cleaning stalls, building a corral or a barn, or working with the horses, from the moment he arrived until the moment he got back on his rusted-out, single-gear bicycle at the end of the day and peddled off, he was always smiling. Always whistling. Always working. Never grumpy. Always the same steady mood.

We ended up working together for three summers, and in those six shorts months, Norris changed my life. While I could never have articulated it then, here’s some of the things I learned from him:

  1. Relationships are mostly about showing up. Being reliable, being able to be counted on, being calm under pressure, being steady in the storms – all go a long way in building unspoken trust.
  2. Norris, through his safe and steady presence, taught me to bond with horses rather than break them. People have a lot in common with horses. A horse doesn’t progress or perform as you want it to because you demand that they do so or because you threaten them. Horses, like people, will enlarge their capacity only when they have the right conditions and are given the proper care. You don’t have a right to the trust of another. You must earn it.
  3. You can have huge influence on others when you’re comfortable with yourself. You make a difference when you don’t have to pretend or impress or try to make yourself big or others small to prove that you are someone that you aren’t.
  4. Listen more than you talk. In all the time we worked together I can’t tell you one thing about Norris except what I saw. As a self-absorbed teenager, I never took the time to listen like he listened to me. I never asked anything about him. I only knew that he had only a grade seven education and was a bachelor who lived in a dirt shack (my father drove me there once) and was very selective about who he worked for. He liked and respected both my parents.
  5. Bring a firm handshake to everyone you meet. One of the only times I saw Norris’s gruffness was the first time I shook his hand. “You shake a hand like a fish,” he told me. “If you are going to go anywhere in life, learn to shake a hand like you mean it.” I found out that shaking a hand firmly is a confidence builder.
  6. Assess your ignorance. Always be a student. Everyone has something to teach you. Be a learner, not a knower. Humility goes a long way to earning trust. Norris was always curious, a consummate scholar of life.
  7. Pound a nail with your arm, not your hand. While building the new round corral one of those summers, Norris shook his head as he watched me pound in a nail. Quietly he took my hand with the hammer in his hand and taught me how to pound a nail with accuracy and the least amount of effort. “You have to drive a nail with your whole arm,” he told me, “Not your wrist. You’ll wear yourself out doing that.”
  8. Attitude makes a big difference. I once asked Norris how he can be so happy all the time. In his defined Scottish drawl, he responded, “Happiness, young man, is not a destination. Happiness is a method of travel.”

Years after I left home, and after my parents sold the farm, I received a note from one of my former neighbors telling me that Norris had died. The old dirt shack he lived in caught fire and burned to the ground. He passed away in the middle of the night, alone.

I’m sure that Norris had no idea of the impact he’d had on my life, and how that impact created ripples in time that will go on to generations yet unborn.  Not just impact in the here and now, but in the here and forever. People who influence us are like that. They come into our lives at important junctures, sometimes intentionally with a request, and sometimes unexpectedly—like a passerby who stops to help us when we’re stranded in our broken-down vehicle. Most never know the difference they make.

Our world seems to be more and more in flux. Things seem more unsettled and unpredictable. I’m not sure that the use of our devices has really helped us get more connected. I think John Maxwell got it right. Everyone communicates, but few connect.

Are you connecting?

VALUES BASED LEADERSHIP – It’s Not What You Think

After guiding a senior leadership team to helping them identify their values, I proceeded to take them through a process of defining specifically how they would ensure that they would live these values in their leadership, first as an SLT and then throughout the company.

Like most organizations, the value of “respect” was up near the top.

And that’s when it got sticky.

“What about Bob?” the COO asked.

“What about Bob?” I responded.

“He heads up our main sales division, and it’s well known that he’s one of the most disrespectful people in the company. We can’t fire him. He singly brings in more money to the company than our entire sales team.”

“You don’t necessarily need to fire him,” I said. “But if you don’t do something about this, then I suggest you take the word respect off your values list and replace it with the word profit. Be honest about what you truly value.”

They decided to fire him, and the entire sales team started to flourish. They got the message that the senior leaders were serious about the values they were touting.

In walking organizations through the values journey over the years, I’ve learned five things:

  1. Make it real. It’s been trendy over the past couple of decades to re-brand your values every five years. It’s also been a lucrative business for consultants. While having clearly defined values is important, you make it real by involving the front-lines in developing them and creating meaningful and accountable culture conversations with everyone. If the end result isn’t real and relevant at the field level, you’re wasting your time and breeding cynicism.
  2. You don’t really know what your values are until they’re tested under pressure. If your values haven’t come into conflict lately, if you haven’t had some tough conversations about the contradictions in what you claim to be important, if you haven’t had some uncomfortable value discussions, you probably haven’t taken your values seriously enough. Don’t mistake value statements for real values.
  3. Just as you can’t build a reputation on what you’re going to do, you can’t build a reputation in your organization on espoused values. For example, if you’re serious about creating a safe workplace, don’t tell people “We’re going to be #1 in safety.” Tell people what you are willing to pay to get there.
  4. Values based leadership is built on the foundation of values based living. When we clarify our own values and develop a process for holding ourselves accountable to live in alignment with those values, we make better leaders in every aspect of our lives.
  5. When it comes to values, most of us really are doing the best we can. Let’s grant each other a bit of grace and support each other to use values to strengthen our organization, bolster our relationships and our fortify our resolve to be better people.

Find Your Inspired Leadership: The Power Of Your Presence

The ability to inspire separates leaders from bosses. It takes inspired leadership to create an environment where people genuinely care about their work, about each other, and about going the extra mile. Only a few leaders are able to infuse the necessary energy, passion, and connection into their team.

The ability to inspire isn’t about your proficiency. It’s about your presence.

Eight conditions that access inspiration:

  1. Curiosity. Ask people what inspires them. Bring an inquiring mind to your work, and make inspiration a priority.
  2. Attention. Inspiration is all around us, if we slow down and pay attention. One definition of leadership is the ability to amplify the beauty of the ordinary.
  3. Perseverance. Inspiration can come from the dedicated commitment to a cause greater than oneself. The courage to recover from an addiction, care for a dying loved one, or show up for a colleague are all acts of inspiration.
  4. Self-Awareness. Inspiration is about accessing energy – first of all within ourselves. To inspire others we must be inspired. What activities take your energy or give you energy? How is your own personal energy account?
  5. Connection. When we truly connect with others we make deposits in the inspiration account. Getting past the daily grind of the transactions of work and making time for connections brings a transformative quality into our work.
  6. Authenticity. When we connect with our true nature and express it consciously in our life and our work, inspiration is born. Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive. What the world needs is for you to come alive.
  7. A Compelling Why. What inspires you to get up early? To stay late? To go the extra mile? Defining for yourself a persuasive, meaningful reason to get out of bed in the morning will breed inspiration within and around you.
  8. Generosity. To be inspiring, be kind. Generosity generates inspiration. What we appreciate appreciates.

While connections, courage, and compassion are conditions for inspiration, it ultimately takes commitment. It’s easier to move people than to get people moving. The most powerful inspiration is our personal commitment.

If you are committed to go beyond learning about leadership to true leadership development, check out our Authentic Leadership Academy: https://lnkd.in/gMi2euzp

And if you want a taste of the Academy, sign up for our complimentary Academy Mini-Series in March. https://lnkd.in/g4M9qpWh

Dealing with Disruption and Disorder – The Authentic Way

Disruption and disorder have always been a part of the human condition. This reality is often seen at a global level, as in the brutality of terrorism and war, and sometimes more personally, as in the sudden arrival of an illness, an injury, or a personal betrayal. Our work is to embrace times of great difficulty honestly and courageously through the lens of authenticity, allowing the pain to break us open so a stronger, wiser, and kinder self can emerge.

When faced with a global disruption or a personal tragedy, will you become a better person from the disturbance, or will you distract yourself and miss the growth opportunity? Will you use this time to develop your authenticity and connect more deeply with yourself and the world around you, or will you look for diversions to drown out your pain?

Specifically, how can disorder in the world or in our lives make us better people? Here are three simple strategies to resist the tendency to distract during times of disruption and instead take the road less traveled to deepen our authenticity.

Disconnect to connect. Periods of disruption lead to the allure of escapism, particularly the kind that technology can offer to alleviate emotional pain. Programs on our devices are designed to give us relief by drowning out grief. Does the escape these devices offer actually lead to greater well-being? We’d be hard pressed to claim these devices will pilot us into increased mental health.

Connect with your emotions. Binge watching shocking news is different than connecting with your own experience. Take time to ask yourself a few questions:

  • How are these atrocities affecting me? What is my own inner experience?
  • How do I respond to the endless images reminding us of the wars in the world?
  • How do I process the scenes of horror, the carnage in Israel, the Gaza, Ukraine?
  • How do I process the grief?

Last evening, I sat with a friend, who was putting her parents, who stayed with her in Canada over the summer, on a plane back to Israel. They are in their seventies and want to get home to do what they can. Sitting with this woman for just a few moments yesterday made the war more real to me. Connect to yourself. Connect to others. Let life touch you. Don’t let it consume you, but let it touch you, even briefly.

Clarify your values. In search of authenticity, I am inspired by the words of Brad Stulberg in his book, Master of Change, about how to navigate unavoidable upheaval; that a more sustainable response to change can be found in your core values:

When you feel the ground shifting underneath you, when you don’t know your next move, you can ask yourself, how might I move in the direction of my core values? … The portability of core values means that you can practice them in nearly all circumstances. Thus, they become a source of stability throughout change, forging the rugged boundaries in which your fluid sense of self can flow and evolve. Nothing can take your values away from you. They provide a rudder to steer you into the unknown.

There are times in our lives when we are on narrow roads. At those times, we are fools if we try to maintain our usual speed. Disruption is a time to s-l-o-w d-o-w-n when the world seems to be speeding up. Stop and get your bearings. Reset your compass. Clarify your values and renew your commitment to take the small actions that can make a big difference within your sphere of influence.

Value-driven responses are not as immediately enticing as a manic digital escape. These escapes, Cal Newport reminds us: inevitably reveal themselves to be transient and the emotions they’re obscuring eventually return. If you can resist the allure of the easy digital palliative and instead take on the heavier burden of meaningful action, a more lasting inner peace can be achieved.

Five Ways Leaders Accidentally Create Dishonesty In Employees

Honesty is a key value for any organization. It sets the tone for the kind of culture you are committed to create. It provides consistency in behavior. And it builds loyalty and trust. Honesty is one of the most effective ways to establish the environment that will propel your organization to long-term success. As a leader, the importance you place on honesty can create a culture where your team members feel inspired, empowered, and validated.

Moral dishonesty, such as stealing, padding expense accounts, or lying about results can unfortunately be a part of an organization. More subtle and every bit as important, however, is psychological honesty.

  • What is the experience of your team members working in this organization?
  • Do people feel free to bring you their concerns, questions, or feedback without fear of reprisal?
  • How tense do people feel working around you?
  • Can people be honest with you about your leadership?
  • And how do you know if people are giving honest answers to these questions? How much are people on your team choosing to be merely polite rather being genuine?

Here are five ways leaders accidently create dishonesty in their team. I say accidently because no one sets out to create a dishonest work environment. Often, however, amid stress, demands, and particularly in a hybrid work environment where we may not be as connected to our team, we may inadvertently overlook some unintended consequences of our behavior.

  1. A lack of transparency with your team about why you made a decision. If you aren’t modeling honesty, it’s difficult to expect it.
  2. Unacknowledged stress, tension, and anxiety. It’s tough enough to be honest with your boss. But when you add emotional volatility to the mix, you are inserting a variable of instability which encourages being polite rather than genuine. It is for this reason that leaders must pay close attention to how they act and communicate. To create an honest workplace, you must attend to your inner state. Whether you see it or not, if you have unrecognised strain, tension, and anxiety, your team is likely going to hold back telling you the truth. Volatility breeds unpredictability. And unpredictability breeds dishonesty.
  3. Talking over people. When we interrupt others rather than sincerely listen, we give the message that we think we are smarter than they are, that they aren’t as valued, and aren’t needed. I, for one, am guilty of this when I’m feeling stressed, pushing for results, and forgetting about the importance of the people on my team.
  4. Ignoring people’s emotions. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to ignore your team members’ feelings. This error often occurs when a leader is either unable to deal with their own emotions or are overly focused on tasks and results. The key here is empathy: you will succeed only when you care enough to attend to those around you. You are less likely to increase anxiety in others if you consider how your actions impact them. It’s your responsibility to be attentive to how people around you are doing.
  5. Defensiveness. This is the big one. If you ask for feedback in these areas, you need to let go of needing to be right to protect your ego. As Steve Covey used to say, “seek first to understand…” That is our work. When people have the courage to bring anything to our attention that creates discomfort in us, our responsibility is to resist the tendency to get defensive and to listen to understand.

In summary, positional leaders impact their employees’ stress and anxiety levels. What they say, feel, and do hugely influences their team’s physical and emotional well-being and how they respond. But sadly, far too few leaders are aware that they have this power. And many are overconfident in their leadership skills, creating a gap between their perceived and actual levels of competence. This explains why even well-meaning bosses may inadvertently contribute to high anxiety levels in their team members and how they inadvertently shut people down.