Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Leadership – Unsafe at Any Speed?

Guest post from John R Childress:

In 1965, when I was a junior in high school and sporty, stylish and innovative cars were all
the rage, Ralph Nader, a Harvard trained lawyer, published a book that was both highly controversial and highly influential.  The book was called, Unsafe at Any Speed: The Designed-In Dangers of the American Automobile, and after much persistence and lobbying by Nader, resulted in the establishment of a new government agency, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to oversee and regulate automobile design and manufacturing safety.

The Chevy Corvair, a unique rear engine US automobile that became the poster child for poor automobile safety and design, was just one of the many cars Nader and his team researched in order to highlight the dangers of automobile design and manufacture.  As a result, many of the modern safety features that are common place in cars today, like airbags, seat belts and collapsible steering wheels arose from this early consumer advocacy work. Over the past 3 decades, automobile deaths have dropped significantly due the leaders of the automobile industry taking more responsibility for improvements in safety design and manufacturing practices.

And here's where our auto design safety analogy comes together with my thoughts on leadership.

While leadership can confer ever-increasing levels of power, authority and compensation, it also carries with it greater and greater responsibility, just like automobile manufacturing. Not just their responsibility to shareholders and Wall Street, but to multiple stakeholders who buy the products and services, to the communities the business resides in, and perhaps most importantly, to the employees and workers. In fact, if you believe in the importance of the Johnson&Johnson company credo as a guideline for business excellence and sustainability, then customers and employees are first on the list, with shareholders last.

I am not advocating for another government agency (my personal belief is that there is already far too much government regulation), but I do believe strongly that leadership needs to carry with it more than just a title, a larger office and a bigger pay check. Leadership is a responsibility!

If leadership appointments come with big responsibilities, then employers and senior executives have to come to grips with how they train, develop and equip employees for leadership roles inside their company.  And if you talk to almost any senior executive, they will tell you that most internal (and many external) leadership trainings, workshops and seminars don't work! These may be incremental in helping improve a person's knowledge and information about leadership, but rarely do they deal with the two fundamental foundations of effective leadership that is "safe at any speed"; CHARACTER and COURAGE.

Effective leadership has more to do with character and courage than with IQ or business degrees. Many highly effective leaders who took their responsibilities to heart never attended a leadership course. Leaders who changed things for the better, like Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Andrew Carnegie, even Ralph Nader, made an impact through their character and courage and not their degrees or leadership course diplomas.

Nader's book was instrumental in changing things because it raised awareness to an important issue.

“The book had a seminal effect,” Robert A. Lutz, who was a top executive at BMW, Ford Motor, Chrysler and General Motors, said in a telephone interview. “I don’t like Ralph Nader and I didn’t like the book, but there was definitely a role for government in automotive safety.”

So how do we in business put Character and Courage as an important issue in improving leadership at all levels inside our organizations?  Do we hire for character, or just for skills and experience and hope character comes along for the ride?  Do we have leadership development scenarios for aspiring leaders at all levels that require courage to effectively solve?  When is the best time to start to develop character and courage in our up and coming employees, supervisors and managers?  When was the last time your CEO gave a talk to new employees about character and courage?

Why am I so focused on character and courage as absolute foundations for effective leadership at all levels?  Besides the fact that "it's the right thing to do", many of the problems that result from internal politics, toxic corporate cultures, waste, pollution and unsustainable business practices could be more easily solved by those in positions of leadership who had real backbones made of character and courage.

I just read a collection of papers written by Andrew Carnegie and compiled into a book entitled The Empire of Business. It contained one fascinating article on advice for young people starting out in business. The thoughts would make a great leadership foundations class! Another great read about character and courage as foundations for leadership and success is I Dare You, a small book by William H. Danforth, founder of the Ralston-Purina Company, written in 1931 as a model for living a life of character and courage.

The foundations for a great life, a great family, a great company, and a great country are Character and Courage. That's Leadership!

Courage without Character is dangerous activity.

Character without Courage is just wishful thinking.


John R Childress is the former co-founder and CEO of the Senn-Delaney Leadership
Consulting Group (now a part of Heidrick&Struggles) and brings over 35 years of experience advising CEOs, Boards and senior teams in multiple industries. Many of the thoughts contained in this article are explored further in a new book by John R Childress, CULTURE RULES! The 10 Core Principles of Corporate Culture and how to use them to create greater business success. You can find out more about John R Childress at www.johnrchildress.com.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Great Leaders Stand Up and Take Responsibility

Guest post from Lloyd “Skip“ Amstrup:

Imagine you are sitting in your office when your assistant rushes in to tell you that your security system has been breached. Sensitive customer information has been compromised. You get a chill down your spine, as you struggle to maintain your composer. Your assistant dreaded having to make this announcement, fully expecting a highly charged emotional outburst. She anxiously awaits your response.
This incident will test your true leadership ability to remain calm, rational, and to demonstrate your ability to take charge under pressure. You could start the “blame game” by immediately finding fault with your security software or your IT team. You could hurriedly create a “damage control plan” to minimize the problem. You could simply pull out the bottle of whiskey you have in your bottom drawer and take a few shots.

The prudent leader would first seek to get all of the needed relevant information by gathering his or her key advisors to review the situation. He or she would immediately contact his or her superiors to let them know about the situation, while letting them know that his or her team was working to identify the scope of the issue, followed by the formulation of the needed corrective action. The leader would give his superiors a specific time he or she would report back.
As the details are ascertained, the team should determine their course of action, keeping the impact to their customers as their prime focus. They will need to make a timely announcement to their customers identifying what happened, what the impact is to the individual customers, what will be done to correct the situation and by creating a communication channel to field customer questions and concerns. A customer-focused approach will go a long way toward maintaining the integrity of the company, which will now be subject to intense scrutiny.

Good leaders stand up and take responsibility. They replace excuse making with full disclosure and offering an effective plan for recovery. They show empathy for those who may have been harmed. They act with a “compassionate leadership” style.
The distrust of the general populace of community, business, and political leaders stems from a steady stream of talking points, spinning narratives, and denials that have replaced accountability, truthfulness and transparency. People simply don’t trust many of our traditional leaders. Even the most eager leader will struggle in this negative environment.

Leaders need to be masters of persuasion. To be able to be “innovative change agents”, they must develop and sustain a strong bond with those they lead exemplified by a consistent display of integrity. What everyone wants from a leader is the ability to “fess up” when he or she makes a mistake. They then want the person who “Fouled up” to fix the damage done rather than making excuses or pushing the fix onto someone else.
After the damage has been fixed, the leader must learn from the mistakes made. This will prevent similar mistakes in the future. This learning process is the difference between average and great leaders. Great leaders spend time in meaningful reflection before taking on the next challenge.

Excellent leaders rise to every occasion replacing chaos with a sense of calm resolve.

Lloyd “Skip” Amstrup earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from San Jose State University. He taught high school students for eight years and worked in the insurance industry for 32 years, retiring as a field executive for State Farm. He was born in San Francisco and grew up in Columbus, Ohio. He is the author of “Found Treasure Gems of Great Leadership and Personal Skills”, designed to help readers build their leadership skills, learn to make informed choices and shape their personal brand. He shares his “Five F’s to a Successful Life” and helps individuals define his or her personal aspirations. The subjects include faith, failure, family, fear, feelings, focus, flexibility, forgiveness, freedom, fruitfulness, friendship, future, funniness, framework and fundamentals. His approach helps readers define and meet their leadership goals in their personal and professional lives.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

The Right to Work Place Inspiration

Guest post from regular contributor S. Chris Edmonds:

You’ve heard of them. KPIs. Key performance indicators. If I were to ask you to list your company’s top five key performance indicators, you’d probably be able to tell me at least a few of them. However, there may be some that are unclear.

If you are a leader, it is your responsibility to make your organization’s KPIs straightforward and succinct, to communicate them regularly, to hold staff accountable to them, celebrate their accomplishment, and to meet your own KPI’s.

A clear set of KPIs helps everyone align their plans, decisions, and actions to those metrics. Every member of your team, whether a leader, supervisor or the front line, has a right to know what is expected and to what measures they will be held accountable.

There is another set of indicators that will also be extremely helpful: WPIs.

Everyone in your organization has the right to Work Place Inspiration – WPI’s - as well.

WPIs are your company’s valued behaviors. The “how” of team interaction, customer service, and community impact. You can create policies, procedures, and practices that form your WPIs. For example, how do you expect your teammates to approach disagreement? What are the procedures for dealing with a dissatisfied client? How will the team regularly review the company’s value statement and make sure to implement it?

Just like KPIs, your WPIs should be straightforward and succinct, communicated regularly, demonstrated, and part of your accountability program.

In my culture work with senior leaders, I help them craft an organizational constitution--a formalized statement of agreements showing how they will deliver promised performance (KPIs) in alignment with company values (WPIs).

Research* indicates that happy employees:

     Deliver 31% higher productivity
     Demonstrate three times higher creativity on the job
     Are ten times more engaged by their jobs
     Are 40% more likely to receive a promotion within a year
     Generate 37% greater sales figures
     Are three times more satisfied with their jobs

While some companies take the idea of an organizational constitution literally, most of my clients do not use the exercise to refine business governance. Instead, they use it to increase their WPIs, which affect their KPIs. They see a boost in employee performance, passion, and profits.

Your employees deserve this. Moreover, you do, too.

* The Economics of Wellbeing by Tom Rath & Jim Harter and Positive Intelligence by Shawn Achor (from the January/February 2012 Harvard Business Review)

S. Chris Edmonds is a sought-after speaker, author, and executive consultant. After a 15-year career leading successful teams, Chris founded his consulting company, The Purposeful Culture Group, in 1990. Chris has also served as a senior consultant with The Ken Blanchard Companies since 1995. He is the author or co-author of seven books, including Amazon best sellers The Culture Engine and Leading at a Higher Level with Ken Blanchard. Learn from his blog posts, podcasts, assessments, research, and videos at http://drivingresultsthroughculture.com. Get free resources plus weekly updates from Chris by subscribing here

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Do you have these 5 leadership traits?

Guest post from Ron Schutz:

Confidence is my #1 trait for leadership as an entrepreneur.  There must be a proper balance of humility and belief in one’s talents.  The excess of this is arrogance; the demonstration of pride!  A simple reality could be, do people respect you and seek out your opinion or do they avoid you as much as possible?
Prideful people turn others off.  Confident people attract others to their strength.

#2 Vision.  If you do not know where you are going, how will you know when you get there?  One of my favorite movies is Patton.  The most impactful scene in the movie is Patton standing on a muddy stump – directing tank traffic.  As a leader, he had a clear vision of what he wanted to accomplish, yet he was willing to get off his white stallion and take a place of an MP directing traffic to keep his vision moving forward toward his goal.
#3 Respect.  Seeking the input of others, weighing their thoughts, attempting to understand their logic for why they see or believe a reality as they define that reality.  In developing a SIFT Coalition (Securing Individualism and Freedom Together), productivity increases exponentially because of emotional buy-in and respect of input from fellow workers.

#4 Delegation.  A strong leader, with a strong clear vision, surrounds themselves with talents that complement their skills.  They trust those others and give them both responsibility and authority to act.  I find the largest roadblock to continued growth is this inability to trust others.  As an effective leader, your time is so valuable that anytime you can “buy” more time for the “important, and not urgent,” * by delegating to your highly skilled and dedicated team, your effectiveness increases.
#5 Avoid Tweaking.  I find it highly demoralizing to watch a leader fiddle with a plan, making last minute changes once the plan has been agreed upon.  I am not talking, here, about a fluid situation like a fire, or a battle.  I am talking about things like an event.  Insecure leaders come back and shift things around.  This creates disorder, loads of additional stress and a lack of respect for those who contributed to the plan. Learning to accept the ideas and contributions of others, even it is not exactly how you might have done it, goes a long way. How many people do you know who have changed jobs, not for salary issues, but rather because they feel unvalued?

A practical list of great leaders who have demonstrated these 5 qualities are Jesus, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, Ronald Reagan and numerous military leaders.  Go forth, read up on these leaders. Learn from their struggles and successes. 
*See Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Ron Schutz, consults with business owners to help them realize their full financial potential. He develops strategies and workable solutions to prepare companies for transition.  After being trained in problem-solving techniques as an engineer and receiving a commission in the United States Naval Reserve, Schutz pursued his passion for finance and banking by completing his MBA at New York University.  With nearly fifty years in business, he relives his challenges through the eyes of Sasha in his new book, AMERICAN FATHERS. For more information, please visit www.profitpicture.net or www.ronschutzauthor.com.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Leaders of Great Teams Don’t Rely on Luck

Great Leaders Build Great Teams with Intention

Guest post by Linda Adams, Abby Curnow-Chavez, Audrey Epstein and Rebecca Teasdale:

If you lead a team, you know that the best ones don’t happen by happy accident. Outsiders may look at extraordinary teams and think, “The people on them are so lucky,” or “They just have great chemistry.” If it’s your team, however, you know that you can’t count on luck or chemistry to keep your team together and on target. You know that the best teams are built with intention and hard work. 

We run The Trispective Group, a coaching and consulting firm, and wanted to demystify the process of building a great team for our clients. We studied thousands of teams from dozens of industries to see what separated the best from all the rest. We assessed each team, compiled the data, analyzed the results, and looked for patterns. 

The highest-performing teams, in any organization, have identifiable and replicable traits and characteristics. People on these teams don’t rely on good luck or good chemistry. Instead, they choose to:

· Work hard to build and maintain trust with all team mates

· Care about each other’s success as they do their own

· Put the team’s agenda ahead of their own agenda

· Are loyal to each other, the team, and the organization

· Provide candid feedback and challenge each other to be their best

We call these teams “Loyalist Teams,” and label the worst of the worst “Saboteur Teams,” because on these dysfunctional messes, someone is always trying to sabotage someone else’s efforts. On Loyalist Teams, the mindset is “We win or lose together.” On Saboteur Teams, it’s more like, “I can only win if I make sure you lose.”  

 As you might expect, serving on a Loyalist Team is a lot more fun than suffering through a Saboteur Team. And our research showed that stakeholders clearly see the difference between the two.

Compared to Saboteur Teams, Loyalist Teams are 2,000 times more likely to be viewed as highly effective by their stakeholders.

Loyalist Teams aren’t made up of perfect individuals who always agree with one another. They disagree plenty but they openly discuss conflict when it arises. They explore the issues and choose to roll up their sleeves and fix the problems, whenever a problem pops up. They call out the “elephant in the room” and they do it with respect. Members of these teams value one another enough to say what needs to be said. They assume that any critique comes from a place of positive intent—that their teammates want the best for them, the team and the company, as they do.

When something happens beyond the company’s walls—a new competitor shows up, the market shifts or the economy takes a hit—a Loyalist Team has the commitment, relationships, and practices to keep moving forward. They’ve built the muscle memory needed to respond quickly. When asked, people who have been on Loyalist teams routinely report that these experiences were the most positive, engaging and rewarding times of their careers. Of all the teams we see, very few earn the Loyalist designation—only about 15 percent. But the good news is every team can become one.

Wherever your team is on the spectrum from Saboteur to Loyalist, you have the capacity for higher, sustainable performance and the ability to become a Loyalist Team. And you should start building that capacity today.

Linda Adams, Abby Curnow-Chavez, Audrey Epstein and Rebecca Teasdale are
partners in The Trispective Group and co-authors of The Loyalist Team: How Trust, Candor and Authenticity Create Great Organizations.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Leave No Doubt Leaders

Guest Post from Paul Cummings:

Leave No Doubt Leaders focus on people, not power, as they build and develop their teams. In this period of rapid and disruptive change to the makeup of the employment base, leaders must focus on empathy and trust as a means of building genuine “equity”. Leaders who empower others consider empathy an essential competency to develop high-performance teams. In fact, great leaders leave no doubt about the value of their family, friends, colleagues and customers. They invest in relationships and strive to build high levels of relationship equity through their actions.
A true leader will recognize that they must build their teams through the development of strong relationships, rather than asserting or trying to demand “power” or “title”. The old method of the “My way or the highway” style of management simply doesn't work in business today. As baby boomers retire and more and more millennials begin their careers, the necessity of building relationship equity has grown exponentially. The newer, younger work force thrives on more of a relationship-based leadership style and approach. 

This new generation values a sense of community and a work environment where they feel valued and cared for by their leaders. In order to create maximum productivity today, a leader must demonstrate a high level of care towards all of his or her team members. Do your people know beyond a shadow of doubt that you genuinely value and trust their input, contributions, and capacity to impact your organization? 
Do you view the development of trust and relationship equity as mission critical items of your personal leadership philosophy? Are you committed to investing the time required to truly get to know your people on a deeper level? When you know your people and what they value, you have placed yourself in a perfect position to be able to inspire and lead. The key is you must also be vulnerable enough to allow them to get to know you in return. 

My past interactions and experiences with leaders from around the globe have led me to formulate the belief that most leaders don't truly know their people.
Here were my five questions for leaders:

1. Do you know your team member’s most important individual dreams?
2. Do you know your team member’s top three personal goals?

3. Do you know what one individual has been the most positive center of influence in your team member’s life?

4. Do you know your team member’s viewpoint of his or her greatest strength?

5. Do you know your team member’s personal core values?
Knowing the answers to these questions is critical in helping you build relationship equity and trust, which will also help you maximize your leadership ability with your team members. In order to build real relationship equity, you must display morally courageous leadership principles. It takes courage to establish trust and allow your people to move forward without doubt and fear. The morally courageous leader knows that his or her team members will make mistakes as they strive to perform. When you leave no doubt that you will be there to support and encourage them, even through their mistakes, it sets them free to succeed. 

A leader must invest the time required to truly know his or her team members. A truism of life is that people will work harder to reach their own goals and dreams than they will for anything else. When you care enough to find out what matters most to your team members, only then can you inspire their greatest efforts and motivate them to achieve higher levels of performance.
About the Author: Paul Cummings’ latest book is called It All Matters. Paul Cummings has been educating business professionals for over thirty-five years and has developed revolutionary techniques in sales, customer service, and leadership development. Enthusiastic. Driven. Intense.  Filled with the desire to not only teach but to also make a lasting difference, Paul is well-known for teaching his students and clients with unrivaled zeal and unmatched passion as he enthusiastically lives out his business motto, changing lives through dynamic instruction. A thirteen-time winner of the Telly Award and five-time winner of the Communicator Award, Paul’s ultimate desire is to tangibly and exponentially improve both personal and professional performance. Paul’s personal mission is to always leave it better than he found it because he truly understands and firmly believes that It All Matters. 

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Leadership Lesson from Your Dog. Be Doggedly Determined

Guest post by Krissi Barr:

They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. That, of course, is #FakeNews. I know because my 12 year-old dog Yoda just learned how to pull a coffee cake off the kitchen counter and make the entire thing disappear in under 10 minutes. 

The real question is whether a dog can teach new tricks to people. If by “people” we mean “business leaders” then the answer is a resounding “woof yes!”

Dogs are natural leadership geniuses. This stems from their innate knowledge of four critical concepts—The Fido Factors—that all great leaders share: they are faithful, inspirational, determined and observant.

Of these, determination is clearly one of the most critical to business success. And to finagling a pan of breakfast pastry off the kitchen counter.

Good leaders persevere until they get what they want. Great leaders never quit until their entire team crosses the finish line. In first place.

Life litters our path between the parking lot and our office desk with obstacles. Our favorite employee quits, a key customer switches to a competitor or raw material costs skyrocket due to a conflict 6000 miles away.

Stuff happens. And when it does it can knock us down. But the most resilient among us bounce back and keep going. Most importantly they lift up their entire team and plow ahead.

We are often measured by the success we achieve in life. But what matters most—what really sticks with others—is how we respond to adversity. Because those who crank up their determination when others throw in their chips are almost always the ones who win in the long run.

Like a big dog with long legs who really wants some coffee cake that’s just out of reach on the counter, leaders never give up. Ever. If something is worth going for it’s worth going all the way for.

When times get tough, real leaders redouble their effort. And they find a way to motivate those around them to do the same.

Like an extra gear on a sports car, leaders kick it up. It isn’t a matter of physical strength. It’s all about mental toughness. Like a dog backed into a corner, it’s fight or flight. And leaders unleash the full measure of their fight in order to secure victory for the home team.

Edison invented over a thousand non-working lightbulbs before he finally got it right. Most people would have given up after five or 50 failures, and certainly after 500. But that never say never attitude is what changed his life—and the world—forever.

You will face adversity. It could be a difficult customer who says they will never switch from their current provider. Maybe that’s true. Or maybe they haven’t experienced the supersized onslaught of your determination to show them how your solution is better.

Yoda said “Do or do not. There is no try.” That’s Yoda from Star Wars, not Yoda the dog who likes coffee cake. Either way it is true. Redouble your determination and do. Then watch your leadership quotient zoom.

Krissi Barr is CEO of Barr Corporate Success, consultants specializing in strategic planning, executive coaching, and behavioral assessments, and the co-author of The Fido Factor: How to Get a Leg Up at Work.