Tag Archive for: Values

LEADERSHIP AMIDST THE TYRANNY OF ADMINISTRATIVE MINUTIA

“Being busy does not always mean real work. The object of all work is production or accomplishment and to either of these ends there must be forethought, system, planning, intelligence, and honest purpose, as well as perspiration. Seeming to do is not doing.”   – Thomas A. Edison
A good friend and long-time client called me the other day and asked me how I am.
I responded with, “Busy,” which is my default response when I don’t have the where-with-all to be honest. But Vincent isn’t one to let me off the hook and wouldn’t let me get away with a lazy answer. That’s what I value about our friendship. It’s real. There’s an expectation of honesty. He has a low tolerance for superficiality.
So he responded, “Is it a good busy?”
The question made me stop and think. “How do you know if your ‘busy’ is ‘good’ or not?”
He elaborated, “What have you done today that has brought you joy? How is your energy? What drains you? What fulfills you? What tires you? What animates you?”
As an executive director at a university in South Central United States, Vincent started talking about the “administrative minutia” that comes with every leadership responsibility – the paper work, the proposals, the budgets, the demands, the fires you have to put out – the day-to-day grind that will wear you down and wear you out if you aren’t careful.
I came out of that conversation with Vincent with four things you have to attend to every day in order to survive and thrive in the midst of administrative minutia.
1. MAKE TIME TO THINK. You never want to be so busy doing that you don’t have time to think about what you are doing. Peter Drucker, the great management expert said it well: “There is nothing so useless as doing something efficiently that which should not be done at all.” The best leaders I know take time – if not daily, at least on a weekly basis,  – to think about what matters, what’s important, and what needs saying no to. Remember: every time you say yes to something that is unimportant, you so no to something that is important.
2. MAKE TIME TO GET ON THE BENCH. All hockey coaches know that the game is more than performance on the ice. It’s also about good bench management. Players simply can’t go full speed for much longer than about 45 seconds. While you have to stay focused and alert on the bench, you also have to take a good rest while you’re there. Human beings are not meant to go full out without periodic rest. While you don’t want to spend all day on the bench, what do you do every day to get away from the busyness and unplug from it all? What are you doing today to get on the bench? Whether it’s a good rest over the lunch hour or a five minute rest every hour or so, we all need to regularly get on the bench.
3. MAKE TIME FOR JOY. Yes, I know we need to stop complaining about the work we have to do at work. Work is called work for a reason. You don’t come to work to play. You get paid to work at work. And we could all use a little better attitude toward our work and find a little more gratitude and a little more joy in whatever we do. But you also spend a lot of your life at this thing called work, so you want to push aside that pile on your desk and make a little room for something that brings you joy. Joy is the intersection of passion and service to others. Find something you are passionate about and negotiate for ways that intersect your passion with an opportunity to make a difference. At minimum, find something that brings you joy away from work, something that you play at, so when you go to work you can be grateful that it provides opportunities for joy elsewhere.
4. MAKE TIME TO CARE. Caring produces energy. When you intentionally and consciously take the time to care – about the work you are doing, the project you are engaged in, the colleague down the hall who needs a little encouragement, or the difference you are making – notice how it breathes new life into your days. When you s-l-o-w d-o-w-n for even a brief moment to be kind to someone, listen to someone, to be present, and put extra care into the work you are doing, notice how “busyness” can turn into contentment. Mother Teresa said that, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” It’s simple caring that makes our workplace worth working in and our lives worth living.
These strategies don’t replace hard work, effort, or results. But when integrated into a busy life you come home at the end of the day a little more satisfied, a little more fulfilled, a little more focused on what’s important, and a little less depleted. We’re all busy, but is your busy a “good” busy?

A RESPECTFUL WORKPLACE – Holding Each Other Accountable To Create One

Just about every organization will have respect, in one form or another, as one of their espoused values. We are told that a respectful workplace is one where all employees are treated fairly, diversity is acknowledged and valued, communication is open and civil, conflict is addressed early, and there is a culture of empowerment and cooperation. This all sounds wonderful, but there still remains far too much bullying, intimidation, and incivility in workplaces where people spend much of their lives.

So what is your process of ensuring that the value of respect is actually manifested in your culture? Respect is one of those platitudes that receive a great deal of attention, but are you ensuring that it is actually lived – both at work and in your family?

I have a passion for accountability and below is a suggested process for holding yourself and others accountable for living any value that you wish to instill in your organization. I’ll use respect as an example.

Step 1. State your intent. When I open a workshop I make it very clear that respect is a value that I hold to be vitally important in my work. I then state that if anyone perceives in any way that I am not respectful of any person within the group, they can call me out on it – either personally or publicly. As a positional leader, you have to lead the way to make your intention clear. You set the tone. You must model the way.

Step 2. Turn values into behaviors. Unless you can clearly measure a value, you can’t hope to hold anyone accountable for living it. And a way you make a value measurable is to describe in precise terms, the exact behaviors that demonstrate the value, along with the results that the behaviors should bring about. In my workshop example, I tell participants that, “all my behaviors need to leave you feeling 1) safe – free to be who you are, and 2) better about yourself. If you don’t feel safe, and if your confidence is not enhanced by our time together, then I am not living the value of respect. And if this is the case, I invite you to bring it to my attention at any time, either privately or publically. I promise no repercussions for having the courage to do so.”

Step 3. Turn behaviors into agreements. Accountability is the ability to be counted on. By making an agreement that you will act with respect in the behaviors you described, you create a condition for success. What you agree to must be perceived by everyone as acting in alignment with your espoused values (in this case, respect). This is why every agreement must be accompanied by a support requirement. The support you require is that people bring it to your attention if there is a perceived incongruence. To cultivate accountability, you have to make it safe for people to have conversations.

Step 4. Continually reinforce your intent. If you are serious about creating a respectful workplace, then shine a light on respectful actions whenever you have the opportunity. Catch people being respectful. Describe what you saw in their behavior that was respectful and how it aligns with what you are committed to build. Before you start your next meeting, take five minutes to hear a story about how someone on your team acted respectfully. You, as a leader, will need to model the way by wandering around and identifying and tracking respectful behavior. Lead by telling the story first, until others have the trust and confidence to start sharing what they observe.

Step 5. Follow through. There is a difference between value statements and values. With no consequences, there can be no accountability. With no accountability, all you have are empty value statements, but no real values. Recently I was helping an executive team write their value statements. Respect was on the top of the list. We then clarified exactly what respect would look like on this team, what we all agreed to do to act respectfully, and what the organization could expect – and require – in terms of respectful behaviors. We then started to talk about one of the senior sales people who out sells everyone but is the most disrespectful person in the organization. After considerable discussion, I explained, “You don’t have to fire him, but if he continues to behave disrespectfully, and you keep him on as a sales person because of his sales competence, I suggest you cross off the value of respect and replace it with profit, because that is what you are telling your organization you ultimately value.”

Everyone wants a respectful workplace. Using these five steps can get you there. It’s imperative to remember that a respectful culture begins with self-respect. Anyone who abuses others doesn’t value himself or herself, and people who respect themselves have no tolerance for disrespect.

Most importantly, leadership means making it safe to have the conversations while ensuring there are no repercussions. Being respectful isn’t about being perfect or pretending to be flawless. Instead, it’s about acknowledging mistakes and being willing to talk about perceived incongruences. Respect means supporting each other to grow and develop in an environment that fosters mutual learning. Remember, we all have bad days or moments when we need the occasional reminder to stay vigilant.

AN UNDERVALUED VIRTUE CALLED GRIT – The Power To Persevere In The Pain

When the morning’s freshness has been replaced by the weariness of midday, when the leg muscles quiver under the strain, the climb seems endless, and suddenly, nothing will go quite as you wish – it is then that you must not hesitate.
– Dag Hammarskyold

 

In the classic 1969 Henry Hathaway movie,True Grit, John Wayne plays a drunken, hard-nosed U.S. Marshal who helps a stubborn teenager track down her father’s murderer. In true John Wayne fashion, he demonstrates a most valued virtue: grit. It’s a short word with great power. Grit is tenacity, perseverance, stamina, sticking with the task at hand day in and day out, not just for the day or the month or the years, but for as long as it takes. Grit is about passion and purpose and persistence. Grit is about living life as a marathon, not a sprint or a walk in the park. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, grit is defined as “firmness of character… an indomitable spirit.” Those with grit know that everything will be alright in the end, and if it’s not alright, it is not yet the end.
It’s easy to start, but it takes grit to finish. While authenticity in leadership is learning to connect, to be vulnerable and open and humble, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have a spine. Leadership without backbone, without grit, isn’t leadership at all. Leadership means, at times, the toughness to stand for something, the toughness to finish, and the toughness to refine our soul with the sandpaper of hardship.
When my grandfather worked three jobs raising eight kids during the depression, he modeled grit. When I watch my friends, colleagues, and clients here in Alberta display courage, innovation, and tenacity to get through today’s challenging economic times, I see grit. When someone sets aside personal gain to be beside an ill loved one through a long illness, I am reminded of the value of this precious virtue. Grit means seeing the task through, not because it’s easy or comfortable or self-serving, but because it is the right thing to do.
Here are three qualities that both demonstrate – and inspire – grit:
A COMPELLING VISION
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s unwavering persistence in fighting for civil rights, justice, anti-discrimination, and peace inspired a broken nation. An athlete training for the Olympics will persevere through the pain of getting up early, endure the hours of brutal workouts, and see it all the way to the end. Why? Because of the power of the dream. Thomas Edison allegedly tried 10,000 times before succeeding in his light bulb. A gritty undergraduate college student will study long into the night, night after night, with the vision of becoming a doctor. A young entrepreneur endures the challenges and setbacks of failures to find a way to bring her vision to the marketplace. A recovering alcoholic, with a vision of self-respect and a commitment to the wellbeing of his family he loves, will muster the grit to stay with he program. It’s a captivating vision, along with a profound and sustaining commitment to that vision, that inspires and awakens the human spirit.
COURAGE
Theodore Roosevelt, a true exemplar of grit, spoke of overcoming fear by embracing it with vulnerability and courage in an address at the Sorbonne in 1910.
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly…
It takes courage to dream, and even greater courage to persist in the realization of that dream. It takes courage to identify the habits that will create and realize your dream, and even greater courage to get up early and implement those habits and ignore a thousand possible excuses to stay in bed. It takes courage to keep making progress, to keep setting new standards, in the midst of the world telling you to settle for conformity and mediocrity.
Courage, however, isn’t always apparent. You can’t always see courage, nor can courage be accurately assessed by anyone else. It takes courage to finish a marathon, and sometimes it takes courage to stop. It takes courage to build a business, and it takes courage to find other priorities in your life. It takes courage to do a job right, and it takes courage to let go of perfection, and instead allow excellence to be your standard. It takes courage to get back on the proverbial horse, and sometimes it takes courage to walk away from the horse. It takes courage to stay in a relationship, and sometimes it takes courage to leave a relationship. It takes courage to love, and it takes courage to let go. Courage, a quality vital to grit, is developed with practice and identified by a well-tuned conscience.
CARING
Jeff Clark, President of Kitchen Partners Ltd. in Edmonton believes, “there are two kinds of people in the world: ‘me’ people and ‘we’ people.” My conversation with him got me thinking that ‘me’ people turn grit into greed. Without the ‘we,’ without humanity and a dedication to the greater good, grit turns into obsession and narcissism. Grit without caring isn’t grit at all. Grit without compassion is bullying and tyranny.
Grit combined with caring is character. As I write in my book, Caring is Everything, caring enriches every facet of our lives. Grit is caring enough about someone or something to persevere. Grit is caring so much that you’ll do whatever it takes. If you care enough, you will find the grit. If you can’t find it in you to dream, maybe all you need to inspire grit is to care.
Grit, like other qualities of character, cannot be “taught” to others like you teach algebra or organic chemistry. Grit, however, can be “caught.” It can be discovered. It can be fostered in the cultures where we work and live if we take the advice of Albert Schweitzer, the theologian, philosopher, and physician:

“Example is not the main thing in influencing others, it is the only thing”.

Thank You For The Successful Book Launches

Friends have I with the world before me,

Sun above and the wind behind me,

Life and laughter, double-blessed am I.               – Brooks Tower

Thank you everyone who took time out of their busy schedules to come out and support me in launching my newest book, Caring Is Everything: Getting To The Heart Of Humanity, Leadership, and Life (Published by Gondolier). I have such amazing, authentic clients, friends, supports, and of course, family!

All the people who were at these events reminded me of what Albert Schweitzer, the theologian, philosopher, and physician once wrote: “In everybody’s life at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.”

Thanks to you all who rekindle my own inner spirit.

I very much hope you will read this book. For me personally, this is the most important book I’ve written. My connections at the book launches reinforced the messages from the book: how caring enriches every facet of our lives. It renders workplaces worth working in, schools worth learning in, our relationships worth being in, and the world worth living in. Caring helps heal those in need of healing. It inspires us to tend to our planet. It makes us better people. Caring guides us toward our authentic selves, to the lives we are meant to live. Caring truly is everything.

Taking on what I have come to call my “Caring Project” the past three years has awakened a dream to begin a global conversation about caring. My desire is to shine a light on the far too undervalued quality of human goodness. As you find time to wade through this book and the stories that I shared, I hope you will be inspired with your own acts of caring. And I would love to hear your thoughts on the book. And feedback that you care to share would be most appreciated. You are welcome to review it on Amazon:   https://www.amazon.ca/Caring-Everything-Getting-Humanity-Leadership/dp/1988440009/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1479835978&sr=8-1&keywords=caring+is+everything

If any of you would like to help support my vision to make the world a more caring, authentic, human place to work and live, write to me: http://www.irvinestone.ca/contact. I would l love hear what you might contribute to this project. I have come to discover in the past few weeks that the book is a tool to create a much larger vision for a new kind of world that seems, at the time, to be out of balance.

HAVE VALUES LOST THEIR VALUE? When Can Respectful Be Disrespectful?

If you have walked through the hallways of many corporate offices these days, chances are you have seen a nice set of value statements or guiding principles proudly hanging on the wall. The problem with these fancy value statements is that what is so often misunderstood is that there is a difference between a value and a value statement.

For example, you may have had the experience of staying in a hotel where somewhere in the lobby there is a statement that in effect says, “our number one value is our customers.” And then when speaking to the front clerk you wonder if she even read this statement recently.

It’s relatively easy to develop a value statement. I’ve been hired to help write many of them. To develop such statements, most leadership teams go to a retreat center where they can get some inspiration. They then bring them back, and, like Moses, roll out their inspiring “ten commandments,” putting them on the walls, website, and computer screens.

But what’s important is not how inspiring your values sound, but how soundly your values inspire others. In other words, how are you holding yourself and each other accountable for turning these “statements” into real values? How are you making the values real? How are you getting those decorative statements off the wall and into the hearts of every employee? How are you making sure that no hire makes the cut unless they prove that they live the values? How do you ensure that no one gets promoted unless they clearly demonstrate the values in their leadership? If there are no consequences for not living the values or recognition or incentives for living the values, then you don’t have values; you only have statements.

Let’s use Respect as an example…

If you have seen a set of these value statements, you will in all likelihood have seen the word “respect” somewhere on the list.

I measure respect in two ways. You are welcome to borrow or steal my way of determining whether a leader is respectful. After all, I likely stole them from a leader I respect. Alternatively, you can come up with your own measurement. What’s important is that everyone in your organization understands precisely what respect means in their specific world and everyone is expected to live that way.

First, I expect myself to act in a way that you will feel safe in my presence – both psychologically and physically. You can define safe in any way you want, but I am accountable in all my relationships to create a place where people feel safe to be honest, to make mistakes, and to be who they are. If you don’t feel safe in my presence – for any reason – then I am not acting with respect.

Second, I expect myself to act in a way that when you are around me, you feel better about yourself. If you feel worse about yourself in my presence for any reason, then I am not being respectful. And anyone, at any time, can come and address their lack of concern without repercussions.

While I claim to have a sincere desire to act respectfully at all times, I also know that I’m human and am not going to be perceived as being respectful all the time. And I expect to be challenged by the people in my life when I’m not respectful.

It’s disrespectful to claim to be respectful and then not respect people for talking about a perceived lack of respect. There is always a gap between what an organization claims to be and how people actually behave. The key isn’t about perfection or even trying to be perfect. Instead, it’s about an open conversation when there is a perceived gap.

Until you can clearly measure your values with defined behaviors, until you can have respectful conversations about a perceived misalignment of values, until you can hold yourself and others to account for their choices, and actually have some defined consequences for not living the values, you haven’t got values. You only have statements.

What is your process for holding yourself and others accountable for living your espoused values? Drop me a note: http://www.irvinestone.ca/contact/ I can help you with that.

Hire For Character; Train For Cashiers

The title of this blog came from an executive at Nordstrom Department Stores when I asked him about his hiring philosophy. “We hire for character; we train for cashiers.” Far too often people get hired on the basis of competence, and fired on the basis of attitude.

I am often asked, “So how do we hire for attitude? How do we ensure that the right people are hired? How do we ensure that just because a potential employee has technical competence, that they are the right fit for our culture?”

Here’s a five-step process for hiring the right people in your organization.

Step 1. Clearly define the kind of culture you are committed to create and the kind of attitude you need from your employees. Be sure you have an answer to the following questions:

  • What values do you need your staff to exhibit?
  • What behaviors do you expect from your employees that will demonstrate the kind of attitude you expect?
  • What behaviors do you expect from every employee that will demonstrate your espoused values?

Step 2. Be committed to take your time in the hiring process. The management guru, Peter Drucker, had a favorite saying: “Hire s-l-o-w-l-y; fire quickly.” Depending on the position, the best organizations are prepared to take up to several hours getting the right people on the bus.

Step 3. Bring the right questions to the interview process. Note that accountability is described as:

  • The ability to be counted on
  • The willingness and ability to take initiative
  • Taking ownership for the environment you work in
  • Taking responsibility for the mistakes you make
  • Seeing all blame as a waste of time
  • Choosing service over self-interest
  • Choosing gratitude over entitlement

Here are some sample questions for the interview to help you assess if a candidate is accountable. You can adapt these questions to any of the values that you are hiring for.

  • What does accountability mean to you?
  • Why do you feel that accountability is important in your work and in your life?
  • Where did you learn to be accountable? How was accountability instilled in you?
  • Tell me about a time in your work when you took initiative, ownership, and personal responsibility. What was the result?
  • Tell me about a time when you weren’t accountable. What was the result?
  • Tell me about a time when your accountability was tested under pressure, or when it was easier to be lazy and complacent or have a sense of entitlement instead of being accountable? How did you respond? What were the consequences?
  • When have you had to stand alone from the crowd in order to live this value?
  • How do you anticipate living this value (e.g. accountability) in the job that you are applying for?

Step 4. Be sure that all stakeholders – or as many as possible – in the organization who will depend on this person have an opportunity to ask these questions. Be sure that the questions are asked and answered from a variety of perspectives.

Step 5. Observe the candidate in action under pressure, if at all possible. Depending on the role, a probationary period where you can observe how they are living the value in their job, especially under stress, is recommended.

In the boiler room while you wait in line for the Tower of Terror ride at Disney you will find a sign with a rhyme, written by an American poet named Ella Wheeler Wilcox. It’s fitting to include it here, as no matter how brilliant a person can sound in a job interview, you don’t really know them until they are put under pressure.

It’s easy enough to be pleasant, when life hums along like a song.  But the man worthwhile is the man who can smile when everything goes dead wrong.

After a stay at a Marriott Hotel where I experienced great service from every employee all weekend, I asked the checkout clerk if everyone gets training in good customer service. After a moment of reflection, she responded, “Well… you can’t train someone to be nice. What we do here is hire nice people and train them how to use the computer.”

A well-designed culture starts with hiring the right people. I’d love to hear from you about how you use in the hiring process to get the right people on board.