Leading with Trust

Discover Hidden Talent – How Many Jeremy Lin’s Are Sitting on Your Bench?

The sudden rise to stardom of New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin has taken the sports world by storm over the last two weeks. Seemingly from out of nowhere, Lin has gone from a no-name bench-warmer to the darling of New York and the NBA, leading the Knicks on a seven game win streak. During his last seven games, Lin has averaged 24.4 points, 9.1 assists and 4.0 rebounds, all the while reviving a moribund team, moving them up two places in their conference standings.

The talking-heads of the sports world have been proclaiming that Lin was a complete unknown who came out of nowhere to achieve this success, but the reality is, Lin was a known commodity who just needed a chance. Coming out of high school in Palo Alto, CA, he was offered the chance to walk on at Stanford, Cal, and UCLA, but chose instead to attend Harvard where he was a standout player. Although he went un-drafted by the NBA, he was signed as a free agent by multiple teams and played in the NBA Developmental league before finally getting his chance to start with the Knicks. It simply took him being in the right place at the right time for him to showcase his skills.

Lin’s story serves as an excellent leadership reminder when it comes to talent management. How many potential Jeremy Lin’s do you have sitting on your bench?

People Just Need a Chance
Our organizations are filled with people who have a wealth of talent that is left untapped. How do you explain the worker who toils in anonymity all day long only to go home at the end of the day and excel in a given hobby (sports, music, art, etc.)? Why do we not tap into some of those skills and abilities in the workplace?

A little over a year ago my organization started experimenting with in-house, high-end, multimedia productions. It was amazing to see the latent talent that existed in our company. People came out of the woodwork from various departments to lend their expertise, such as camera operators, video editors, script writers, and web designers. All these folks needed was an opportunity to showcase skills that weren’t being fully utilized in their current roles.

Don’t Stereotype People
There’s no doubt that Jeremy Lin has been stereotyped. Lin is frequently described as “deceptively quick” or “stronger than he looks,” as if an Asian-American isn’t supposed to be quick or strong. U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, who played basketball at Harvard, knows Lin, and has worked out on the court with him said “This is classic low expectations and, frankly, stereotyping. He was under-appreciated and under-recognized. The fact that he’s Asian American, those two things are absolutely linked.”

In our organizations we frequently stereotype people based on personality assessments, job roles, or competency models. There is nothing wrong with these tools, but if they’re utilized to pigeon-hole people we run the risk of limiting people’s potential. My organization is a big user of the DISC assessment, which profiles people based on behavioral preferences. I’m an “SC” on the DISC, meaning I tend to be more of an introvert, prefer steady and structured environments, follow-through on tasks, don’t like sudden change, and pay attention to the details and quality of my work. For years I was thought to be a “behind the scenes” person until I was given an opportunity to MC an all-company awards ceremony. Afterward people couldn’t believe how well I did in that role and were asking me when I was going on the public speaking circuit! Little did they know that I had a tremendous amount of experience of public speaking and teaching both large and small groups in my church.

Take a Risk
It’s easy to get trapped in sticking with the tried and true. Leaders often have their “go-to” guys that have proven themselves trusted and reliable to get the job done. We stick with them because it’s less risky than giving a new person the shot at the choice assignment. A key part of being a successful leader is developing the talent around you. That requires taking a risk and giving people the opportunity to succeed.

A member of my staff was recently given an opportunity to lead a client-project review during an all-company meeting. She worked with the project team to develop a theme for the presentation, based on the movie The Matrix, and she beautifully orchestrated an outstanding presentation. Her colleagues were amazed at her professionalism, presence, and poise, and since that time she’s been in high demand for other internal projects that require those same skills. Was it risky to put her in that position? Yes. Did it payoff? Big time!

A Star is Born
How many Jeremy Lin’s do you have sitting on your bench, just waiting for an opportunity to shine? Leader’s aren’t just responsible for bringing in new talent, they also need to look for ways to uncover and unleash the talent that’s already present in the organization.

“Everyone who thinks this an overnight success fundamentally gets this wrong,” Duncan said in an interview with USA TODAY. “Jeremy has been very good for a long time and just never quite had the opportunity.”

Don’t stereotype. Take a risk. Give someone a chance. Who knows, you just might have a superstar hiding in your midst.

Lose Control and Like It – 4 Ways to Handle Responsibility and Control

You really don’t have as much control as you think you do.

Leaders like to think they’re in control of a lot of things, because after all, that’s why they’re in charge, right? They’re responsible for making sure the work gets done correctly, on time, and on budget. So if they’re responsible, then dog-gone-it, they’re going to be in control! The reality is that responsibility and control are spread among all the team members you lead, and effective leaders learn to distinguish when they need to assume responsibility and control and when it needs to be left to the team member.

I recently read Losing Control & Liking It, by Tim Sanford. His book is specifically about parenting teenagers (I have two boys, 19 & 15), but speaking from experience, leading and managing people is often like raising teenagers so the principles definitely apply!

Sanford explains that when we look at our interactions with people and events, we can split them into two categories: What you can control and what you can’t control. We’re defining control as that which you have direct and complete power over. You may be able to control certain aspects of situations or influence people or circumstances, but when you consider that definition, you really only have control over yourself—your actions, attitudes, values, emotions and opinions. We like to think we have control over our employees, but that’s just an illusion. They are in control of themselves.

Another way to categorize our relationships with those we lead is by responsibility: What you take responsibility for and what you don’t take responsibility for. Responsible is a compound word: response-able, meaning “able to respond.” The only things you are able to respond to are those that you legitimately have ownership or control over. Friction develops in our relationships when we try to take responsibility for those things we don’t control or when we choose to shirk our responsibilities for those things we do control.

When you overlay these categories of control and responsibility you have a grid of four ways of interacting with others regarding issues of control and responsibility

TOSS – You could describe TOSSers as lazy, irresponsible, untrustworthy, avoiders, deniers, or blamers. These are folks who would rather “toss” responsibility to someone else, rather than assuming responsibility for behaviors or outcomes that are under their control. This is probably the most unhealthy of all the four styles and this type of behavior causes chaos and discord in organizations.

HOLD – HOLDers take responsibility for what is under their control. Trustworthy, honest, authentic, reliable, and dependable are all words that would describe these people. This is a healthy way to interact with others over issues of control and responsibility. No blaming. No excuse making. No shirking of responsibilities. Relating in this manner breeds confidence and trust in your abilities and in others.

GRAB – In an effort to control the uncontrollable, GRABers choose to take responsibility for people and things out of their direct and complete control. Micromanager, manipulator, intimidating, co-dependent, or martyr are all adjectives that describe a person who uses this style. Leaders often fall prey to this style of relating because they think they can “fix” people or situations. GRABing control may result in short-term wins, but over the long haul it stunts people’s development and creates a state of learned helplessness.

FOLD – FOLDing is a healthy way of relating to others regarding control and responsibility. When you practice this style it means you mind your own business, you’re honest with others about what’s your responsibility and what’s theirs, and your trustworthy enough to be counted on to respect the proper boundaries of control and responsibility. Relating in this style means you fold your hands and let the consequences fall where they may, even if it may be painful to stand by and watch.

Your goal as a leader is to influence your people, not control them. Provide them with the necessary training, tools, and support to enable them to be in control of achieving their goals. More often than not, those who are in control of their work will accept responsibility for what they produce. If you find yourself dealing with people who choose to “toss” responsibility of their shortcomings to others, resist the urge to “grab” control and try to fix the situation. HOLD your ground or FOLD your hands and let others learn from their experiences.

Seven Lessons Yard Work Has Taught Me About Leadership

Doing yard work has taught me valuable lessons about leadership. As I’ve mowed the grass, trimmed trees, pulled weeds, fixed sprinklers, tended plants, and performed numerous other chores in the yard over the years, I’ve been surprised at the number of parallels yard work has provided to my journey as a leader.

Here are seven lessons about leadership I’ve learned from working in the yard:

1. The view from the street may look good, but close inspection tells the real story — I learned this first lesson shortly after planting grass seed in the front yard. Soon after purchasing our house, I worked for weeks remodeling the front yard. I dug up the old lawn, roto-tilled the soil, raked out the old grass and weeds, fertilized, mixed in fresh soil, rolled the ground, planted seed, and watered it religiously on schedule. After a period of weeks I was rewarded with the lush growth of a new lawn that had tremendous curb appeal. From a distance it looked great, but when you got up close, you could see areas of sparse growth and patches of weeds that had sprung up.

I realized that others viewing my leadership probably had a similar view. From a distance it may look like I had everything together, but closer examination would certainly reveal flaws and areas that need improvement. As the caretaker of my personal leadership garden, I’ve learned that I have to be more concerned about the view up close and not worry about what others may think. If I’m taking care of the little things, the big things will take care of themselves.

2. Don’t let the weeds get out of control — It takes constant diligence to keep your yard looking nice. If you don’t keep a regular maintenance schedule, your yard is soon overgrown and the weeds get a foothold that is hard to erase. I’ve learned that being an effective leader requires constant learning and growth. I have to be diligent in taking time to invest in my ongoing development as a leader. If I remain complacent, then my capabilities begin to wither and I’m not able to perform up to my potential.

3. Less is more — If you plant too many varieties of vegetation, you run the risk of having plants that are incompatible with each other. The combination of the type of soil and amount of water and sunlight determine whether a plant will survive, thrive, or eventually wither and die. I’ve learned it’s better to have a few species of plants that have similar needs rather than having some plants that do great and some that end up being an eyesore. As a leader, I’ve found I’m more effective if I focus on doing a few things really well rather than doing a mediocre job at a lot of things. Finding that sweet spot as a leader where you can leverage your strengths is key to being a success.

4. Regular overhauls are needed — Every once in a while you have to schedule a work day to do a yard overhaul. Even when you’re able to keep up with the regular maintenance, there’s a few times each year where you’ve got to carve out some time to remove dead plants, plant new ones, fix your irrigation system, or even rake all the Fall leaves. Leaders need to schedule their own overhaul times throughout the year. I’ve found it helpful to take a day or two away from the office and take personal stock of how I’m doing and where I want to go in the future. It’s also helpful to periodically review your activities and see what needs to stay and what can go. Do you really need to be attending that weekly meeting or would no one miss you if you didn’t? Do you still need to generate that regular report or does the need for it no longer exist?

5. The long view — Patience is required when taking care of your yard. It takes time for it to reach its potential and no matter what you do you can’t rush Mother Nature. There aren’t any quick fixes in developing a nice yard and neither are there when it comes to being a good leader. Developing as a leader requires that you learn from your everyday experiences. You have to be patient with yourself, knowing that the leader you are today is not what you will be five years from now. Keep creating the conditions that will allow you to grow as a leader and the growth will come in due time.

6. Using the right tools makes all the difference — Doing yard work became much more enjoyable (and easier!) the day I discovered the oscillating hoe. Instead of pulling weeds by hand or using a hand-spade to dig them up, I now run my oscillating hoe back and forth over the ground and it pulls the weeds right up. My leadership has also benefited from using the right tools. Whether it’s obtaining more formal education, working with a leadership coach, connecting with mentors, attending training workshops, or even being smart with technology, I’ve learned to keep adding tools to my toolbox so that I have the right tool for the right kind of job.

7. Sometimes you need to call in a pro — There’s been a few times where I’ve gotten in over my head with a project in my yard. After spending too much time spinning my wheels and getting frustrated over my lack of progress, I finally decided to call in a professional to help me with the job. My life would have been so much less stressful if I had done that in the first place. Sometimes it’s necessary to call in a professional in our lives as leaders. A leadership coach can provide a non-biased view of whatever issue you’re facing and having that outside perspective can lead you to new areas of growth and insight that you’d never receive on your own.

Yard work can be dirty, tiring, and downright frustrating…much like leadership! Yet at the end of the day it’s rewarding to look back at the tangible results you’ve achieved and the difference you’ve made in your surroundings.

Have you experienced any leadership epiphanies doing yard work or any other “mundane” activities? If so, share your story by leaving a comment.

Three Circles of Trust

If you’ve seen the movie Meet the Parents, you probably remember “the circle of trust.” Robert De Niro’s character, Jack, a former CIA agent and overly protective father, is obsessed with making sure his future son-in-law Greg is a trustworthy and honorable husband for Pam, his only daughter. From his point of view, a person is either in or out of his circle of trust; there’s nothing in between.

Effective leaders have learned to have multiple circles, each with varying degrees of trust, depending on the people, context of the relationship, and the circumstances involved. Consider these three circles of trust:

The outer most circle is the Community and is the group of individuals that you would consider your acquaintances. Perhaps you’ve met them a few times, may know their names, and occasionally interact with them such as the clerk you regularly see at the grocery store, your plumber, or the teachers at your child’s school. This circle is characterized by the lowest degree of trust which tends to be based on the norms of the context of your relationship. There tend to be  rules, policies, procedures, or contracts in place to prevent one party from taking advantage of the other. There isn’t anything wrong with this level of trust. It’s appropriate for the transactional nature of your relationships in this circle.

The Crowd circle contains those relationships that have a deeper level of trust characterized by personal knowledge of each party. A relationship moves from the Community circle into the Crowd by demonstration of trustworthy behavior over time to where the parties involved can reliably predict each other’s behavior. This is the circle where you would typically find relationships with your team members, co-workers, or social organization associates.

The innermost circle is the Core. This is the circle of trust reserved for the closest relationships in your life such as your spouse, family, and best friends. This level of trust is characterized by the parties knowing the hopes, dreams, fears, and insecurities of each other. These relationships have the highest levels of trust because they also have the highest levels of vulnerability. Over the course of time these relationships have experienced increased amounts of personal disclosure and the parties have developed a history of respecting and protecting the vulnerabilities of each other.

Contrary to what’s portrayed in Meet the Parents, there isn’t just one circle of trust. Our relationships are too varied and complex to fit into a one-size-fits-all approach and successful leaders have learned to extend and cultivate the right amount of trust depending on the given circle of the relationship.

What are your thoughts? How would you categorize your circles of trust? Feel free to share your comments.

Have Your People Quit and Stayed? Twelve Factors of Employee Engagement

Everyday the spirits of millions of people die at the front door of their workplace. There is an epidemic of workers who are uninterested and disengaged from the work they do, and the cost to the U.S. economy has been pegged at over $300 billion annually. According to a recent survey from Deloitte, only 20% of people say they are truly passionate about their work, and Gallup surveys show the vast majority of workers are disengaged, with an estimated 23 million “actively disengaged.”

This issue presents a tremendous challenge for organizational leaders. Even worse than dealing with the effects of people who leave your organization, you have to manage these disengaged workers who have decided to “quit and stay.” You’re still paying them to under-perform and ultimately undermine the effectiveness of your organization!

Research by The Ken Blanchard Companies on the topic of Employee Work Passion has uncovered 12 factors that help create a culture of engagement. These 12 factors fall into three categories: Job Factors, Organizational Factors, and Relationship Factors. Integrating these factors into your leadership and organizational practices will help foster an environment where employees are more committed, productive, and engaged in their work.

Job Factors

  • Autonomy – People need to feel empowered to make decisions about their work and tasks. They need to be in control of their work and the ability to achieve their goals.
  • Meaningful Work – Your employees need to know that their work matters. How is it connected to making a difference? How does it help them and the organization succeed?
  • Feedback – Engaged employees always know where they stand regarding their performance. Do you offer timely, relevant, and specific information about their performance?
  • Workload Balance – Having too much work and not enough time to accomplish it all is demotivating. Experiencing peaks and valleys in workload is normal, but when the peak becomes the norm, people quickly become resentful and feel like they’re being setup to fail.
  • Task Variety – Each person is different in regards to how much variety in work tasks meets their motivational needs. Some people are motivated to do a minimal number of tasks over and over again. Others need more variety. The key is to find the right fit for people in regards to the variety of their work.

Organizational Factors

  • Collaboration – Does your organizational structure and policies foster cooperation among individuals within a work unit or across departments, or does it encourage competition and the withholding of resources?
  • Performance Expectations – People want to know what is expected of them. Does your organization have systems in place that allow employees to clearly know what’s expected in terms of the level of quality and quantity of their work outcomes?
  • Growth – Do employees believe that your organization fosters opportunities for career and job growth? This is increasingly more challenging as organizations become flatter and there is less hierarchical growth “up the ladder,” but smart organizations are finding ways to allow for employee growth through other avenues.
  • Procedural Justice (Fairness) – Are decisions made fairly and equitably? Are rules applied equally to everyone in the organization, or is there a culture of bias or playing favorites?
  • Distributive Justice (Rewards) – People need to feel that the distribution of rewards and compensation are commensurate to the effort they put out and the results they achieve at work. A fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.

Relationship Factors

  • Connectedness with Colleagues – Like the theme song from the old TV sitcom “Cheers” says, “You want to go where everybody knows your name.” People need rewarding interpersonal relationships with their coworkers to be fully engaged on the job.
  • Connectedness with Leader – Employees want and need a supportive and personal relationship with their boss. Of course this varies by personality types and other factors, but everyone wants to have a positive and productive relationship with their leader.

On January 25, 2012 at 8:00 a.m. PST, The Ken Blanchard Companies is hosting a free Leadership Livecast and I’m excited to be one of 40 thought leaders who will be presenting on the topic of “Quit and Stayed.” Over 5,000 people have registered to attend and I encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity to learn more about how you can address this workplace epidemic.

Six Ways to Power-Up Your Employees

Would your employees say their relationship with you makes them feel more powerful or powerless?

I’ve been pondering this question since I read a recent blog article from Liz Kislik on the topic of “speaking truth to power” where she made a statement that hit me straight between the eyes: “Leading — real leading — requires helping others find their power instead of squelching it.”

So how can I…how can WE as leaders…help others find their power? I think part of the answer lies in helping our employees find autonomy and control in their work and self-confidence in their abilities.

Here’s six practical ways we can help our people move from feeling powerless to powerful:

1. Give them public opportunities to shine — It’s easy to get trapped in the daily grind and just let people toil in the shadows. Leaders should look for opportunities to sing the praises of their team members to other leaders in the organization or let them showcase their talents in cross-functional teams, projects, or public presentations.

2. Let them make decisions — Don’t micromanage your employees. There’s no quicker way to make people feel powerless than to rob them of their ability to make decisions over their own work. Constant micromanaging develops a mindset of learned helplessness among your employees and inhibits their ability to learn and grow in their role.

3. Ask for and incorporate their feedback into your decisions — Simply asking others for their thoughts and opinions signals that you respect what they bring to the table and you recognize that you don’t have all the answers. Contributing to decisions and the direction of the team allows your employees to feel they have power to influence their own work environment.

4. Be a straight shooter — Being evasive or vague in your communications can create the perception that you’re trying to hoard  information, power, and control which leave people feeling powerless about their situation. Giving and receiving honest feedback builds trust and confidence with others because they always know where they stand with you and that gives them a measure of power and control over their current reality.

5. Give them leadership opportunities within the team — Whether it’s formal or informal, giving employees a chance to experience leadership positions is a positive step toward empowerment. I’ve seen a number of instances where someone who was thought to not be of “leadership caliber” was given the opportunity to lead and turned out to be a fantastic leader. Sometimes people just need a chance.

6. Let them fail — It’s easy to want to protect our people from failing. Whether we want to spare them from the pain or we’re reluctant to let go of control in the first place, we often don’t let our people get in situations where they have the potential to fail. Part of empowering our team members is letting go of control and allowing them to experience success and failure. Failure is a great teacher as long as we’re willing to learn, and that’s a key role of a leader – helping your people learn from their mistakes.

It’s our job as leaders to find ways to “power-up” our employees so they gain that sense of control and ownership of their work which leads to higher levels of commitment and engagement. What are some ways you’ve helped your people develop and embrace their personal power? Feel free to share your thoughts by leaving a comment.

Top 100 Thought Leaders

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Escondido, CA, January 12, 2012 — Trust Across America has selected Randy Conley, Trust Practice Leader at The Ken Blanchard Companies, as one of North America’s Top 100 Thought Leaders on Trustworthy Business Behavior for 2012.

Trust Across America is dedicated to unraveling the complexities of trustworthy business behavior and believes these people collectively represent a group that can genuinely transform and reverse the cycle of mistrust in business.

According to Barbara Kimmel, Executive Director, “This year’s recipients once again include leaders from the public and private sectors as well as authors, consultants, researchers and academics. Each recipient has made an extensive, positive contribution to building trust in business.”

The full list of honorees can be found here.

The Top 100 Thought Leaders represents the culmination of three years of research. Trust Across America sought the counsel of and requested nominations for this honor from over 150 professionals across the nation. The list was narrowed through an extensive vetting and independent judging process. As leaders of The Most Trustworthy Public Companies in America, these ten CEOs were included in the list.

According to Barbara Kimmel, “The honorees are inspiring organizations to look more closely at their higher purpose…to create greater value for, and trust from, all of their stakeholders. We congratulate all of these leaders whose work is shining a spotlight on the importance of trust and providing a roadmap for everyone to follow.”

Trust Across America™ (TAA) is a program of Next Decade, Inc., an award-winning communications firm that has been unraveling and simplifying complex subjects for over 20 years. TAA provides a framework for public companies to improve trustworthy business practices, as well as showcasing role models that are exhibiting high levels of trust and integrity.

Does Your Culture Breed Success? Four Lessons From Michigan’s Brady Hoke

What a difference a year makes! Almost exactly one year to the day, I wrote a blog article titled What Killed The Coach? for LeaderChat.org, where I detailed the cultural missteps taken by Rich Rodriquez that led to his firing as head football coach at the University of Michigan.

Since that time, Brady Hoke was hired to come in and turn around the program and he just finished his first season with an 11-2 record and a Sugar Bowl victory over Virginia Tech. One of the main reasons that Hoke was hired at Michigan was his former ties to the program as an assistant coach and his appreciation for the culture of the school and football program.

Hoke used the power of Michigan’s culture to reverse the course of his team and set them on the path to success. Here’s four lessons we can take away from Brady Hoke’s experience that can help us in our own leadership journeys:

1. Respect the past – Brady Hoke always speaks in glowing and reverential terms about the history of Michigan football. He shows a deep respect and appreciation for those who came before him, and he understands that he and his team have an obligation to continue the winning tradition at Michigan. We should honor those who have laid the foundations for our success and help our people understand that we have a responsibility to continue the winning ways for those that follow us.

2. Enlist the support of team leaders – When asked about the keys to his success this year, Hoke repeatedly mentioned the influence of the Seniors on the team. He spoke about how the Seniors bought into his philosophy and served as examples for the rest of the players on the team. When implementing change in our organizations, it’s critical that our team leaders, whether they hold formal leadership positions or not, are on board.

3. Create team rituals – Shared experiences build the bonds of culture and help to reinforce the ideals that we’re trying to foster within our organization. Hoke ended each of his team practices or meetings with the cheer “Beat Ohio!” in reference to Michigan’s end-of-season game against their biggest rival, Ohio State. Hoke also had a countdown clock installed in their training room that counted down the days, hours, and minutes to the game with Ohio State. Team rituals reinforce what it means to be a part of our organizations, the expectations we hold for each other, and the common goals that we strive toward.

4. Keep the focus on the team, not the leader – Unlike most football coaches, Brady Hoke doesn’t lead his team out of the tunnel before the game, he runs behind them. It’s his way of keeping the spotlight on the team and not himself. He knows that it’s the team that actually plays the game and they’re the ones that deserve the attention and focus. We as leaders need to remember that our role is to set the vision and direction, then prepare, train, and coach our people to higher levels of performance. But at the end of the day, they are the ones who are performing on the front lines and deserve the limelight of success.

Organizational consultant Stan Slap likes to make the point that the original sin of leaders trying to implement organizational change is failing to respect the power of the culture to bury you. A culture is the simplest operating system in the world and it makes all decisions based on a shared belief of survival and prosperity. It makes those decisions based on the actions of leadership and whether those actions support or contradict their stated values. If the culture believes supporting those values is in the best interest of their survival and prosperity, they’ll give everything they have to make it happen.

Three Steps to a Better You in 2012

I’m not big on making New Year’s resolutions, probably because I’ve got a crummy track record in keeping them for more than a week or two. Maybe I’m the only one who has struggled with this, but I’m guessing you can probably relate to what I’m saying.

During a recent hike I spent some time in solitude reflecting on what I want to do differently in 2012 and the phrase that kept coming to mind was “be a better you.” So in an effort to avoid repeating history by not keeping specific resolutions, I’ve chosen to focus on a few principles that I think will shape the path for me to be a better version of myself. Perhaps they can help you as you consider what the new year has in store for you.

1. Lift up my eyes – Over the holiday break I’ve been painting several rooms in our house and I’ve noticed a trend. The quality of workmanship of the trim at the top of the walls was less than stellar, but I hadn’t noticed it because I rarely look up. That tends to happen when you live life at eye level.

In 2012 I want to look up more. I want to elevate my perspective about my job, the people I lead, the way I serve others. I believe there is a higher calling inside each of us and I want to be more in tune with that voice this new year.

2. Connect with the core – A necessary companion to elevating my perspective is making sure that my goals for 2012 connect to my core values. Our behavior demonstrates our beliefs. If I say that I value health and well-being, yet continue to eat cinnamon rolls for breakfast and neglect to exercise regularly, then my behavior shows that I really don’t value my health.

So one of two things needs to happen. I need to examine, test, and confirm what I say my values are and align my behavior accordingly, or I need to drop the charade and choose some different values.

3. Get emotional – In order to sustain commitment to my goals I have to make sure they stoke my emotional fire. In their book Switch, Chip and Dan Heath refer to this as “motivating the elephant,” which is the emotional, instinctive part of our personality. Willpower lasts only so long and our “elephant” is very patient, strong, persistent, and will eventually win the battle.

If I’m going to be successful in creating a better version of me in 2012, I have to devise strategies that will direct the energy of my elephant toward achieving my goals rather than working against me.

Whether or not you’ve made specific resolutions for 2012, or simply want to join me on a journey to becoming a better “you,” here’s to a new year of elevating our perspective on life, living out our core values, and tapping into the emotional power within each of us.

Happy New Year!

Leadership Wisdom From The North Pole – An Interview With Santa Claus

After finishing his whirlwind trip around the globe delivering presents, I had the opportunity to sit down with Santa for a one-on-one interview. I was interested in gleaning some wisdom from one of the most legendary leaders of all time and what appears below is an excerpt from our time together.

Me: Thank you, Santa, for taking the time to meet with me. You must be exhausted after your long night of work.

Santa: Ho, ho, ho! It’s my pleasure Randy! I’m not exhausted, I’m energized! I love the work I do and consider myself blessed to be able to bring happiness and joy to so many people.

Me: You are one of the most trusted and revered leaders in history. Why do you think that is so?

Santa: Well, I’m humbled by that compliment. I believe a large part of it has to do with my dependability. In all my years I’ve never missed a Christmas delivery. I know that millions of young boys and girls are relying on me to bring them gifts and I never want to disappoint them. If you want people to trust you, you have to be reliable and follow through on your commitments.

Me: How in the world do you manage to make all your deliveries in a single night?

Santa: I can’t reveal all my secrets, otherwise FedEx and UPS might give me a run for my money! Let’s just say that I have to be extremely organized. Any successful leader knows that you must have a clear plan of action. It’s a cliché, but it’s true: People don’t plan to fail, they just fail to plan. I maintain trust with kids and parents by being organized and methodical in my approach to work. It helps me stay on track.

Me: I’ve heard that you keep a list, you check it twice, and you know who’s been naughty or nice. Is that true? Why do you do that?

Santa: Of course it’s true! In leadership terms I consider it my way of “managing performance.” I like to stay in touch with how all the girls and boys are behaving and I think it helps them stay on their best behavior if they know there are consequences for their actions. The parents are the front-line “supervisors” in charge of their kids, so they send me regular reports about how things are going. I partner with the parents to help them set clear goals for their children so the kids know exactly what’s expected of them. It’s not fair to evaluate someone’s performance if they didn’t have defined goals in the first place.

Me: How do you keep all the elves motivated to work throughout the year?

Santa: I have the best team in the world! I’ve always tried to help the elves realize the importance of the work they do. They aren’t robots who work on an assembly line. They are fine craftsmen who are bringing the dreams of kids to life and that’s a very meaningful job. I also look for opportunities to praise their performance and encourage them to praise each other’s performance as well. It’s creates an environment in our workshop where we cheer each other on to greater success. Finally, I put them in charge of achieving the goal. I make sure they are sufficiently trained to do their particular job and then I get out of their way. The elves have a great degree of autonomy to do their work as they see fit.

Me: Santa, I know you’re tired and eager to get back to the North Pole and Mrs. Claus, so I’ll ask this one final question. If you could give one piece of advice to leaders reading this article, what would it be?

Santa: I would encourage leaders to remember the purpose of their position – to serve those they lead. Leaders set the vision and direction for their team, provide the necessary resources and training, and then look for ways to support their team members in achieving their goals. Successful leaders remember that the most important thing they have is their integrity and the trust they hold with their followers, and they continually look for ways to build and maintain trust with others. If they focus on that, they’ll be successful in the long run.

Rebuilding Trust Starts With Forgiveness

Suffering a betrayal of trust can be one of the most difficult and challenging times in your life. Depending on the severity of the offense, some people choose not to pursue recovery of the relationship. For those that do, the process of restoration can take days, weeks, months, or even years. If you choose to invest the time and energy to rebuild a relationship with someone who has broken your trust, you have to begin with forgiveness.

Two recent news articles highlight the role forgiveness has played in the lives of two men who violated the trust of others. In one situation forgiveness has led to healing and restoration. In the other, the lack of forgiveness is continuing to haunt and hinder the forward progress of those involved:

• In 2008 Tim Goeglein was a staffer in the George W. Bush administration, responsible for working with faith-based organizations, when it was discovered that he had plagiarized articles he wrote for his hometown newspaper in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Goeglein resigned knowing that his actions were wrong and reflected poorly on the President, and he figured that he would be treated as persona-non-grata and be ostracized from the White House forever. However, within days of the incident, President Bush met personally with Goeglein with the express intent of extending forgiveness. Goeglein has gone on to have a successful career and currently collaborates with President Obama on his fatherhood initiative.

• Thirteen years ago Stephen Glass was a wunderkind journalist at The New Republic magazine. With his career on a meteoric rise, it was discovered that he had fabricated quotes, anecdotes, and even entire articles. From 1995-1998 Glass fabricated 43 stories appearing in several different publications. Glass has reportedly straightened his life out with the help of intense counseling, received a law degree from Georgetown, and passed the bar exams in both New York and California. However, his admittance to the California Bar has been delayed the last five years over ongoing concerns about his ethical standards. Forgiveness still awaits him as he currently works as a paralegal.

As you consider forgiving someone who has betrayed your trust, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Forgiveness is a choice – It’s not a feeling or an attitude. Forgiving someone is a mental decision, a choice, that you have complete control over. You don’t have to wait until you “feel” like forgiving someone.
  • Forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting – You don’t have to forget the betrayal in order to forgive. You may never forget what happened, and those memories will creep in occasionally, but you can choose to forgive and move on.
  • Forgiveness doesn’t eliminate consequences – Some people are reticent to give forgiveness because somehow they think it lets the other person off-the-hook from what they did wrong. Not true. Consequences should still be enforced even if you grant forgiveness.
  • Forgiving doesn’t make you a weakling or a doormat – Forgiveness shows maturity and depth of character. If you allow repeated violations of your trust then you’re a doormat. But forgiving others while adhering to healthy boundaries is a sign of strength, not weakness.
  • Don’t forgive just to avoid pain – It can be easy to quickly grant forgiveness in order to avoid conflict and pain in the relationship. This usually is an attempt at conflict avoidance rather than true forgiveness. Take the appropriate amount of time to think through the situation and what will be involved in repairing the relationship before you grant forgiveness.
  • Don’t use forgiveness as a weapon – If you truly forgive someone, you won’t use their past behavior as a tool to harm them whenever you feel the need to get a little revenge.
  • Forgiveness isn’t dependent on the other person showing remorse – Whether or not the person who violated your trust apologizes or shows remorse for their behavior, the decision to forgive rests solely with you. Withholding forgiveness doesn’t hurt the other person, it only hurts you, and it’s not going to change anything that happened in the past. Forgiveness is up to you.
  • Forgiveness is freedom – Holding on to pain and bitterness drains your energy and negatively colors your outlook on life. Granting forgiveness allows you to let go of the negative emotions that hold you back and gives you the ability to move forward with freedom and optimism.

Forgiveness is the first step in rebuilding a relationship with someone who has betrayed your trust. Like the example of Tim Goeglein, forgiveness can lead to healing and success. On the flip side, Stephen Glass continues to struggle in overcoming his past breaches of trust because forgiveness has not been granted. The choice is yours. Will you choose to forgive?

Trust and Consequences – Five Tips for Making Wise Decisions

December 7th of this past week marked the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Empire of Japan. Every year around this time I’m reminded of the powerful, and sometimes largely unknown, consequences of the decisions we make. The reminder stems from a story that I heard my wife’s grandpa, Don Hadley, tell dozens of times about a decision he made 70 years ago that changed the course of his life.

In the summer of 1940, Don Hadley was a newly married U.S. Marine stationed in San Diego, CA. Returning from his honeymoon, he received a call from his Gunnery Sergeant informing him of his new assignment: Report to the USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor for a two-year tour of duty.

Not wanting to move his wife away from her Italian-immigrant family, Don asked if there were any other options. He was told he could go to Guam for 18 months, but it would be sea duty versus the two years of shore duty in Pearl aboard the USS Arizona. He chose Guam. Anyone familiar with the history of the attack on Pearl Harbor knows that the USS Arizona was sunk during the battle, resulting in 1,177 officers and crew losing their lives.

This one decision had a relatively few number of stakeholders directly affected by the outcome and the potential consequences seemed narrow in scope. Yet with the benefit of hindsight, we can see that generations of lives were impacted as a result of this one choice.

In a leadership capacity, this story has always reminded me of the importance of making good decisions. There may be consequences to our decisions that we can’t readily see on the surface so it’s vital that we make wise decisions. Here’s some tips and techniques to help you make good decisions:

1. Don’t overestimate your decision-making abilities – That fact is that most of us don’t receive much formal training in how to make decisions. Creating a list of pro’s and con’s is a good start, but there are many other decision-making tools that can help. Select the tools most appropriate for the decisions you need to make.

2. Be clear on the decision you need to make – There is a difference between problem-solving and decision-making. Problem-solving usually deals with a more complex set of variables whereas a decision is a subset of solving a particular problem. Dig into the root issues of the situation you’re involved with and determine what exactly it is you’re trying to decide. You don’t want to spend time making a decision about an issue that isn’t at the core of the situation.

3. Gather the facts – It seems like a no-brainer, but it’s amazing how many times we rush to decisions because we assume we know all the facts. Do research, talk to people familiar with the situation, and get advice from unbiased advisers. One of the quickest ways to erode trust with your followers is to make rash decisions that come back to haunt you because you didn’t take the time to thoroughly vet the situation.

4. Understand the impact on the stakeholders – Consider the needs and desires of those affected by the decision. Does your decision promote the welfare of those involved? Is it fair and just? Is it in alignment with your personal values and those of the organization? Try to step into the shoes of those on the receiving end of the decision to understand how they may perceive the outcome, and if possible, solicit input from those affected and incorporate their feedback into your decision if it makes sense.

5. Make the decision and follow through – In their classic Harvard Business Review article, The Smart-Talk Trap, authors Jeffrey Pfeffer and Bob Sutton explain that in business, “When confronted with a problem, people act as if discussing it, formulating decisions, and hashing out plans for action are the same as actually fixing it.” Trusted leaders do more than talk – they actually make a decision and follow through by implementing it. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught in “analysis-paralysis,” always wanting to discuss it a little bit more or gather just a few more facts. At some point you have to make the decision and move forward. If it ends up being the wrong decision then change course and try again!

I’m glad that Grandpa Don made the decision to go to Guam. If he didn’t, I almost certainly would never have had the opportunity to marry my wonderful wife Kim and have the beautiful family that I’m blessed with today. Trusted leaders take time to make wise decisions and then move forward confidently knowing they did their best.

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