Quit Using Your Personality as an Excuse for Behaving Badly

Personality2One of my pet peeves is people who use their personality as an excuse for their behavior. “I can’t help it, that’s just who I am” is the phrase that’s often uttered to rationalize or justify an action, position, or attitude. In some ways it’s almost the perfect defense to any argument, isn’t it? “You mean you want me to change who I am?” How can you ask someone to change the very essence of what makes them who they are?

There’s no doubt that our inborn temperament and natural personality traits shape the way we perceive and react to our environment, however, we are in control of the way we choose to respond to situations. Part of being a successful and trusted leader is learning how to regulate your thoughts, emotions, and natural personality traits so that you can respond in a manner that is appropriate for the situation at hand. Using your personality as a crutch to stay in your emotional comfort zone will only limit your leadership potential and alienate those around you.

Your personality is not an excuse for…

Shirking job responsibilities – Every job has mundane or tedious tasks we don’t like doing or may not even be good at performing. However, it’s a cop-out to use your personality to shirk those responsibilities, or even worse, pass them off to someone else. “I’m not a detailed person” or “I have more important things to do than this paperwork” are examples of this kind of attitude. If you want to be a trusted and respected colleague, you need to take responsibility for all the areas in your job description and not ignore the others or push them off on someone else.

Being rude to people — If you frequently find yourself saying “I’m just being honest and telling it like it is,” then you’re probably relying too much on your default nature of being direct and to the point. Those are great traits to possess, but they shouldn’t be used as an excuse for being harsh or inconsiderate with people.

Not giving feedback when feedback is due — It’s difficult for most people to deliver constructive criticism to others, but people often hide behind their personality traits as an excuse to not give feedback. Whether you’re introverted and shy and find it difficult to engage others, or an extroverted people-pleaser that can’t stand the idea of someone not liking you, you have to learn ways to give feedback. You owe it to yourself and others.

Avoiding or inciting conflict — Along the same lines as giving feedback, dealing with conflict is probably the most common area where we stay in our emotional comfort zone. This is especially dangerous for people who tend to fall on the edges of the spectrum in dealing with conflict – either avoiding it or gravitating to it. Whatever your natural style of dealing with conflict, it doesn’t mean that’s the only way to deal with it. Just as important as knowing your natural tendencies, it’s important to know how others tend to deal with conflict so that you can “speak the same language” when trying to resolve issues.

Blaming others — It’s easy for us to blame others for whatever shortcomings we may have in our life or career; it’s much harder to honestly examine ourselves and take responsibility for the choices we’ve made that have led us to where we are today. For example, if you have a personality need to always be right, and you demonstrate that by constantly arguing and debating with colleagues, you shouldn’t blame others when people stop including you in projects, meetings, or decisions. “They don’t want my opinion because they don’t respect me and don’t want to hear the truth”…no…they don’t want your opinion because you always think you’re right and it’s annoying!

Our personalities are what make us the unique individuals we are, and the beauty of organizational life is that we’re able to take this diversity and blend it into a cohesive whole that’s more productive and powerful than the individual parts. Learning to be more aware of our own personalities and those of others, combined with a willingness to stretch out of our comfort zones and not always rely on our natural instincts, will help us lead more productive and satisfying lives at work.

Posted in Personality, Professionalism, Relationships, Responsibility, Teamwork | Tagged , , | 9 Comments

6 Strategies for Helping Your Team Manage Change

Change Just Ahead Green Road Sign with Dramatic Clouds, Sun Rays and Sky.You remember the old saying about the only two certainties in life, right? Death and taxes. Well, I think we should add a third: change. Life, by its very nature, requires change. All living things change over the course of their existence; there’s no getting around it.

Today, our organizations – businesses, churches, governments, schools, community organizations – experience change more rapidly than at any time in history. Technology has simultaneously shrunk the size of our world and sped up our interactions. Communication that 20 years ago would have taken several days to complete can now be handled in seconds or minutes. Our world is changing fast and leaders need to be effective change managers if they want their teams and organizations to thrive.

Here are six strategies for helping your team embrace and manage change:

1. Help them understand the need for change – Sounds like a no-brainer, right? Well, it’s amazing how many leaders launch change initiatives without their teams understanding why the change is necessary. One way to help your team understand the need for change is to share information openly. Leader’s are often afraid to share information if they haven’t figured everything out ahead of time. You need to be discerning in what you share and how you share it, but sharing information about the need for change will help your team understand the necessity for doing something different. If you help your team see what you see, know what you know, and understand what you understand, they will probably reach the same decision as you regarding the need to change.

2. Engage your team in planning the change – I love this quote: “Those who plan the battle rarely battle the plan.” Rather than going it alone and planning the change all by yourself, or limiting participation to just your closest confidants, pursue a high involvement strategy by getting more people engaged in the planning process. Involving your team creates a sense of ownership in the outcome of the plan, resulting in a higher level of engagement and commitment to the success of the plan.

3. Address the concerns of your team members – When faced with a change, people experience a series of concerns in a predictable and sequential process. The first stage is information concerns. Your people need to know what the change is and why it’s needed. The second stage is personal concerns. Team members want to know how the change will impact them individually. Will I win or lose? What’s in it for me? Will there be new expectations of me? The third stage is implementation concerns. What do I do first? Second? Will the organization provide the necessary resources? Will I have enough time? Will there be new training involved? It’s critical for leaders to address these stages of concerns to alleviate fear and anxiety so their team can embrace the change effort.

4. Give the team autonomy and permission to make changes – Undoubtedly your team will uncover details you didn’t consider. Make it clear upfront that you give team members permission and the autonomy to make minor adjustments along the way to better implement the change initiative. Of course there will be certain nonnegotiables that can’t or shouldn’t be changed, but give the team clear boundaries for what they can change so they feel more in control of the change process.

5. Create emotional moments to help the team “feel it” – This past week the Wall Street Journal published an article about basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski using “moments” to help his team of volunteer, highly paid NBA professionals develop a sense of pride, patriotism, and commitment for playing for Team USA during their professional off-season. Do the same for your team to build commitment for the change initiative. It might be a ceremony of burning an old policy manual that is being replaced by a new process, cutting a ceremonial ribbon for the new computer system being installed, or holding a party to celebrate the birth of a new team or department.

6. Be open to feedback and changing course – It’s impossible to think of every contingency when implementing a change initiative. You can be guaranteed that your plan will encounter bumps in the road and you will catch some heat for it. Be open to feedback and changing course if needed. Responding to feedback defensively by digging in your heels and refusing to listen to others will only cause your team to lose commitment and actually work against the success of the plan rather than working for it.

If you’re interested in additional strategies for making change stick, I encourage you to download this free white paper. Feel free to leave a comment and share your own strategies for managing change.

Posted in Change, Leadership | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Trusting Someone Requires You to Confront These 4 Uncomfortable Truths

uncomfortable2No one disagrees that trust is an indispensable ingredient of strong, healthy relationships. In the workplace, high levels of trust increase productivity, efficiency, innovation, and profitability. When trust is low or absent, people avoid risk, decisions are questioned, bureaucracy increases, and productivity and profitability diminish.

However, there are some uncomfortable truths about trust we must confront. These difficult areas often hold us back from fully trusting others and enjoying the personal and corporate benefits of high-trust relationships. We often shy away from acknowledging or addressing these truths because they are exactly that – uncomfortable. But confront them we must if we are to grow in our capacity to trust others and be trustworthy ourselves.

Four Uncomfortable Truths about Trust

1. Trust exposes you to risk – Without risk there is no need for trust. When you trust someone, you are making yourself vulnerable and opening yourself to being let down. That’s scary! People are unpredictable and fallible; mistakes happen. We all know and accept that fact as a truism of the human condition. But are you willing to let the mistakes happen with or to you? Ah, now that’s where the rubber hits the road, doesn’t it? It’s one thing to be accepting of other people’s fallibility when it doesn’t directly affect you. But when it messes up your world? Trust suddenly becomes very uncomfortable and painful.

If you are risk-averse and slow to trust others, take baby steps to increase your comfort level. Start by trusting others with tasks or responsibilities that have no or minimal negative consequences should the person not follow through. As the person proves trustworthy in small matters, extend greater amounts of trust in larger, more important matters.

2. Trust means letting go of control – Most people assume that distrust is the opposite of trust. Not true. Control is the opposite of trust. When you don’t trust someone, you try to retain control of the person or situation. In a leadership capacity, the desire to control often leads to micromanagement, an employee’s worst nightmare and one of the greatest eroders of trust in relationships. Control, of course, is closely related to your level of risk tolerance. The lower your tolerance for risk, the higher degree of control you try to exert.

The truth is we really don’t have as much control as we think we do. I’m defining control as that which you have direct and complete power over. In many situations you may be able to exert some level of influence or control, but when you consider that definition, you really only have control over yourself—your actions, attitudes, values, emotions, opinions, and the degree of trust you extend to others. As I wrote about in this post, you can learn to let go of control and like it!

3. Trust requires a personal investment – Trust doesn’t come free; it costs you dearly. Whether it’s your acceptance of risk, loss of control, emotional attachment, time, energy, or money, trust requires a personal investment. Trust works best in a reciprocal environment. I trust you with something and in exchange you reciprocate by trusting me. It’s the very foundation of cooperative society and our global economy. Trust without reciprocation is exploitation. Whether or not you receive anything in return, trust requires a down payment in some form or fashion. From the perspective of earning trust from someone else, trust requires your investment in demonstrating your competence, integrity, care for the relationship, and dependability – the four key elements of trust.

4. Trust is a journey – Establishing trust in a relationship is not a destination; it’s a journey. It’s Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride as you experience the highs and lows of building relationships and nurturing the development of trust. Trust isn’t something you can mandate. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Trust has to be given freely for it to achieve its fullest power. Who do you trust more? The person who demands your trust and allegiance, or the one who earns it by his/her behavior over time? Since trust needs to be given freely, you can’t put a timer on its development. Trust grows according to its own schedule, not yours. Patience is a prerequisite on the journey to high trust.

It’s human nature to prefer comfort and safety, but trust is anything but comfortable and safe. Trust pushes us out of our comfort zones into the world of risk and uncertainty. Yet in one of the strange paradoxes of trust, confronting these uncomfortable truths allows us to achieve the very things we desire: safety, security, comfort, reliability, and predictability. Confront these uncomfortable truths about trust. You won’t regret it.

Posted in Leadership, Relationships, Trust | Tagged , , , | 9 Comments

3 Leadership Lessons from Market Basket CEO Artie Demoulas

demoulasIf your employees felt you were fired unfairly, would they walk off the job in support of you? Would they stage protests and rallies for weeks on end calling for your reinstatement? Would your customers choose to take their business elsewhere to show support to those employees and their cause?

That is what has transpired in the Northeast U.S. over the last six weeks and it provides remarkable lessons for leaders everywhere.

First, a little background. Arthur T. Demoulas (Artie) was fired as CEO of the Market Basket supermarket chain in June by a board of directors controlled by his cousin, Arthur S. Demoulas, in a classic power struggle of a family owned business. Employees staged protests, warehouse workers and drivers refused to deliver food to the chain’s stores in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine, and the company lost tens of millions in revenue as loyal customers took their business elsewhere. Customers showed their support by going as far as taping their grocery receipts from competing stores to the windows of their local Market Basket. After weeks of negotiations, Artie Demoulas reached agreement to purchase controlling interest in Market Basket and was reinstated as CEO.

As I’ve read various news articles and commentaries on this situation, three important leadership lessons have emerged:

1. A little caring goes a long way – Artie Demoulas has created a unique emotional bond with Market Basket employees that fosters intense loyalty. He is well-known for remembering names and birthdays, checking on the status of ill employees, inquiring about spouses and kids, and attending the funerals of employees. “He’ll walk into a warehouse and will stop and talk to everyone because he’s genuinely concerned about them,” said Joe Schmidt, a store operations supervisor. “He cares about families, he asks about your career goals, he will walk up to part-timers and ask them about themselves. To him, that cashier and that bagger are just important as the supervisors and the store management team.” People want to feel valued at work as more than just workers showing up to do a job. Make the effort to get to know your people on a personal level and you’ll see the rewards of trust and loyalty.

2. Business doesn’t have to pursue profits at the expense of people – Last year Market Basket generated $4.6 billion in revenue and has doubled their profitability since 2008, making it the country’s 127th biggest company despite being a regional chain that operates in only three states. The company pays its clerks starting salaries $4 above minimum wage and full-time employees earn 15% profit-sharing bonuses, all the while Market Basket’s prices are 22% lower on average than their closest competitor. “If there’s anything people should take from this, it’s that America is hungry for this kind of success story where everybody wins: the customers, the employees, and the people who run the show,” said Shawn Dwyer, a manager at the Burlington Market Basket store. Profits don’t have to come at the expense of people. Good leaders value results and people.

3. Work has a higher calling and purpose beyond a paycheck –  In his return speech to employees, Artie beautifully expressed this concept.

The workplace here at Market Basket is so much more than just a job.

You have demonstrated that everyone here has a purpose. You have demonstrated that everyone has meaning and no one person is better or more important than another, and no one person holds a position of privilege.

I have always believed that we are born into this world and at a certain place to be with certain people for a reason and a purpose. Everyone has a destiny, and because of you, I stand here with a renewed vigor and a sense of purpose. May we always remember this past summer first as a time where our collective values of loyalty and courage and kindness for one another really prevailed. And, in that process, we just happened to save our company.

You all have demonstrated to the world that it is a person’s moral obligation and social responsibility to protect the culture which provides an honorable and dignified place in which to work.

Leadership doesn’t have to be that complicated: provide a good work environment, take pride in your work, care about people as individuals and not just workers, and serve your customers well. It seems as though Artie Demoulas and the Market Basket employees have found a formula that works and it offers valuable lessons for leaders everywhere.

Posted in Commitment, Culture, Leadership, Success | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

5 Benefits of Involving Your Team in the Hiring Decision

Thumbs Up GroupYou are making a big mistake if you aren’t involving your team members in the hiring decision of new employees.

Regular readers of my blog will know that over the last several weeks I have been knee-deep in the process of hiring a new team member (using my ten awesome interview questions as part of the process). Although I believe hiring a new employee is one responsibility a leader can’t delegate, I would be stupid not to lean on the incredible discernment and wisdom of my team members to help me make the decision.

I’ve found there are five key benefits of involving my team in the decision of hiring new employees:

1. It makes team members feel valued – Team members consistently tell me how much they appreciate being asked to participate in interviews and give their feedback on each of the candidates. By letting your team members have a voice in the hiring process, it signals that you value them, respect their feedback, and want the hiring decision to be a collaborative process.

2. It provides interviewing and decision-making experience for future leaders – Some of your individual contributors today will be your supervisors/managers of tomorrow. Having them participate in the hiring process now gives them training in interviewing techniques, experience evaluating candidates, and insight into how hiring decisions are made that will benefit them when they move into leadership roles. I’ve had it happen in my own team over the years and it has improved our success in hiring quality people.

3. It creates a sense of ownership in the success of the new employee – I’ve found team members take the responsibility of selecting a new teammate seriously. Because they are staking a bit of their reputation on the selection, they tend to be more invested in the success of the new employee and will work extra hard to prove they made the right decision.

4. It gives you a broader perspective on candidates – Hiring people is risky business. No matter how extensive the interview process, there is only so much you can learn about a candidate prior to him/her joining your team. Having more people involved in the interview process gives you a broader perspective and more insight into the candidate. Inevitably some of my team members see things in people I don’t, and likewise, many times they confirm the positive/negative qualities I’ve observed. Some of the worst hiring decisions I’ve seen in my career are those where the boss independently hired someone he/she was enamored with and didn’t seek the input of others. Leaders often aren’t aware of their blind spots, and getting more people involved helps prevent that problem.

5. It gives the candidate more insight into his/her future co-workers, team, organization, and culture – I view the hiring process as a two-way decision: I’m choosing a person to join my team and the candidate is making a choice to join my team/organization. Having exposure to more teammates allows candidates to get a broader taste of the type of people they’ll be working with and the culture of our team and organization. Candidates need to make an informed decision when joining an organization and interviewing with their future teammates is invaluable in that process.

I wouldn’t hire any new employee without the input of other people on my team. I pride myself on being a pretty good judge of character and talent, but I know better than to trust my opinion alone when making such a significant decision. I’ve found that involving my team in the hiring process has proven the truth of the adage that “no one of us is as smart as all of us.”

Posted in Decision-Making, Interviewing, Leadership, Talent Management, Teamwork | Tagged , , | 3 Comments