I just arrived back from beautiful Fujairah—one of the northernmost emirates in the UAE—where we held the final module of six in a 15-month leadership development curriculum for a global technology company.
The total program included modules around personality, values, organization vision and alignment, leadership style, high performing teams, change management, and motivation—the gamut.
This final module consisted of five one-hour-long group presentations about various aspects of their learning journey and its impact on people, process, and results. We asked about personal insights, how they applied their learning to real work, and what the human and economic impacts were of such application. And finally, in terms of their development, we asked them what they wanted to do next.
In terms of roles, the “what’s next” question revealed an array of ambitions. One wants to be CEO within 10 years. Another wants to lead the expansion of engineering capabilities in the African subsidiaries. And a third sees a future in corporate strategy with the aim of improving how global change initiatives are conceived and executed.
What was most beautiful was not the ambitions themselves, although I often feel their gravitational pull compelling me to double-check my own goals and velocity toward them. Instead, the most heartening aspect of their ambitions was how they promised to approach them.
Reduce Pressure to Go Fast
Whereas in the past, on their way to greater roles and responsibilities, these executives would have passed the pressure they received from their bosses to others in direct proportion—or even amplify it—now they realize that pressure often does more harm than good. The motivation research shows that pressure is easily internalized as a form of control, which then undermines a person’s eagerness to perform an act voluntarily and with an optimistic sense of purpose. In other words, pressure creates a negative Motivational Outlook, which slows the pace and quality of work in the moment and in the long run.
These executives also described how they helped even very senior employees build additional competence faster than before, and how those employees then displayed increased confidence that they could handle even more-complex projects. It was nice to hear, too, how the quality of their relationships improved as a result.
Executives take a lot of heat—much of it deserved—for leading as if people do not matter much. So, I decided to share this with you because I wonder what you think when you read about executives who have dedicated themselves to leading in challenging times with boldness, grace, warmth, ever-increasing skill, and maturity. How does it inspire you or catalyze new thinking about how you lead?
It was a privilege to watch these leaders commit to a truly human—and humane—approach to leading others, and to see that by actually doing it things are already improving for them and everyone around them. Sometimes it is nice to take a break and simply enjoy watching people flower and shine right in front of our very eyes. I thought you might enjoy that, too.
About the author:
The Motivation Guy (also known as Dr. David Facer) is one of the principal authors—together with Susan Fowler and Drea Zigarmi—of The Ken Blanchard Companies’ new Optimal Motivation process and workshop. Their posts appear on the first and third Monday of each month.
- “Do unto others as you would have _____ ___ _____ ____.” (Yes, the Golden Rule)
- “Beauty is in the eyes of ____ _________.”
- “If it were me, this is what __ ______ ___.”
I trust you were able to complete these very common sayings. While well meaning and mostly true, these are not just sayings, they are mindsets. They are beliefs that determine behavior and how we act toward other people. This is all fine except when it comes to service.
Find your focus
In my last blog, I said that service was all about you: your willingness to serve, your decision to serve, your instinct to serve. But what you do—your actual behavior and how you approach a situation—has to be about the customer, if you are genuinely interested in wanting your customer to feel served.
In their original form, these sayings all sound as if they are actually focused on the customer. However, with careful analysis, you will see how they are not:
- “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” (There’s an assumption here that everyone wants to be treated the way you want to be treated. Not necessarily so!)
- “Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.” (Guess what? The beholder is you. The customer might see the situation in a completely different way!)
- “If it were me, this is what I would do.” (Oh, wouldn’t the world be a better place if we were all just like you!)
A better approach
If you were to finish those sayings with the customer in mind, they might sound something like this:
- “Do unto others as they want to be done unto.” (Ah yes, The Platinum Rule!)
- “Beauty is in the eyes of the beholden.” (Much better!)
- “If it were me, this is what….” (On second thought—rid your vocabulary of this one altogether!)
At least the first two can be “spun” to focus on the customer. But the last one—“If it were me, this is what I would do”—is one of the most dangerous phrases in the English language. It’s all about you in the worst possible way.
It is advocacy disguised as choice. It completely blocks you from understanding or giving any consideration to how other people think, feel, make decisions, or in any way might act differently than you would in a given situation. Unless you’re giving casual advice to a friend, stay away from this one.
A one word reminder
So what’s the cure for, “If it were me, this is what I would do” syndrome? In a word, LISTENING.
Listen to understand. Listen to be influenced. Listen to learn. And when you’ve felt that you’ve heard enough—listen just a little bit more—it really is the best way to put yourself in the customer mindset!
About the author:
Ann Phillips is a senior consulting partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies. You can read Ann’s posts as a part of our customer service series which appears on the first and third Thursday of each month.
My two boys played three different sports during high school and, as it happens, there were times when they needed to visit the athletic trainer because of an injury. If you want a lesson in how to treat your internal customers, come to my boy’s high school and see a pro in action! The Head Athletic Trainer, Christina, takes her job very seriously, is always concerned about “her kids” as she calls them, and is focused on doing the very best she can to get them healthy again.
Saying “yes” and sometimes “no” to customers
Christina is 100% about the student athletes—her customers—and ensuring that they are getting the best care and attention needed. And part of that is sometimes saying what the customer DOESN’T want to hear—“You are not ready to play yet.” You see, taking care of customers is knowing when to say “yes” and when to say “no” because, in this case, it is about getting the athlete better and keeping them healthy.
Although she is known for playing it safe vs. taking risks—which can frustrate players, coaches, and even parents at times—her code of ethics and responsibility always wins people over in the long run. Many a time has a coach, parent and player thanked her for her dedication and thoroughness after the fact.
Working in the best interests of the customer
Christina never loses sight of who her customers are—the student athletes—and does whatever it takes to make sure that they feel cared for. In fact, she often calls a parent or student over the weekends, as well as check in with doctors to see how her patients are doing! In return, the sign of her customer loyalty is displayed by the number of athletes that show up in her office to eat their lunch and chat. They know they are always welcome there and feel comfortable just hanging out.
As a parent of two student athletes over the years at this high school, I am so grateful to have her as our athletic trainer and thank her for her professionalism and servant heart. And I know from having two sons that have been in her care, that her “customers” appreciate her as well!
About the author:
Kathy Cuff is one of the principal authors—together with Vicki Halsey—of The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Legendary Service training program. Their customer service focused posts appear on the first and third Thursday of each month.
As you look back over your work career, who is the supervisor, manager, or leader that you would identify as your best boss? And more importantly, what was it about them that made them great in your eyes? Take a minute now to identify that person. We’ll use your experience to identify something that will help you in your own personal leadership journey.
Once you’ve got your best boss in mind, take another minute to identify what it was about him or her that made them special and memorable for you. Chances are that you will identify a couple of traits similar to these that other people have identified when we’ve asked this question.
“_____________________ was/is my best boss because he/she …
- Believed in me
- Trusted me
- Gave me an opportunity to grow
- Took me under their wing
- Made work fun
- Treated me fairly
- Went to bat for me
- Stuck their neck out for me
Was your boss’s trait one of these—or something different? While each of us will identify different specific traits that our best boss has, there is probably a word that includes any that you might have come up with. All of us, no matter what our experience, could probably say that our best boss was so special in our eyes because they truly CARED about us.
I know that this is true in my own case. My best boss was Margie Blanchard, the cofounder of our company who I reported to from 2000 to 2003. The traits that made Margie so special in my eyes included that she
- Connected with me
- Acknowledged me
- Respected me
- Expected more from me
Now I know that acronyms can be overdone at times—especially in the consulting business, but I couldn’t help but notice that the first letter of those traits spells CARE.
Magic? I don’t think so, just a great reminder of a key ingredient to being a great boss. Though it will be displayed in many forms, at its core, one of the key traits of our best bosses is that they cared about us.
A Fun Exercise and Way to Celebrate
So let’s have some fun with this and tap into our collective brilliance. I’m a big believer in “catching people doing things right” and that “none of us is as smart as all of us.” Let’s put both of those ideas to work today with a little exercise.
Help me expand on this CARE acronym by adding your boss’s trait into the mix. As the cheerleaders say, “Give me a C, Give me an A, Give me an R, Give me an E!” Just use the COMMENTS button above to type in a trait of your best boss that goes with one of these letters. (For extra credit, take a minute to identify and say thanks to that best boss while you’re here.) I promise you’ll feel good and get off to a good start this week if you do.
Who knows, together we might create one of the truly great leadership acronyms (rivaling SMART goals even!)
And even if we don’t, we will still have a great reminder of this one important trait that we can carry with us today as we work with our colleagues and direct reports.
Boss watching is a fact of life in many organizations. Frontline employees are more concerned with keeping the boss happy than they are with keeping the customer happy. Leaders can help employees focus in the right direction by taking the mystery out of what people can expect from them as a leader.
Employees are always concerned about how their boss will react when he or she finds out about a situation. This uncertainty keeps people unwilling to step out of tightly defined roles for fear that they will do something wrong. People shouldn’t have to guess how their leader would respond. Leaders can improve the situation—and open up a little playing room for employees—by clearly sharing their expectations.
An effective team brings together people from different backgrounds and different experiences to work together toward a common goal. Yet most teams do not ever achieve their full potential because team members do not take the time to explore and agree on the team’s purpose, values, and destination.
Jesse Lyn Stoner, a leading expert on the topic of visioning, and coauthor with Ken Blanchard of Full Steam Ahead!: Unleash the Power of Vision in Your Work and Your Life believes that when team members set these foundational pieces in place, there is less wasted time, less conflicting priorities, and less interpersonal conflict because team members trust they are all moving in the same direction, guided by the same values.
In a recent article for Ignite!, Stoner recommends a three step approach to getting people aligned and working together effectively.
Years ago, business owners were asked, “If you had to choose between a fire that wiped out your facilities versus having all of your people quit and walk out at the same time, which option would you take?” Almost everyone said they’d rather lose their buildings and equipment because to rebuild their human organization would require a lot more effort and be more difficult to accomplish.
In the latest issue of The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Ignite newsletter, co-founder Ken Blanchard shares how the recession of the past two years put many organizations into a position of having to decide between people and profits in order to stay in business. Some of those decisions were painful, and in some cases, the way decisions were made had an adverse impact on the human side of the organization. The facilities and the equipment are intact, but the people are not present in the same way as before.
As a result says Blanchard, “People are looking for clues to see if their organization is only interested in the bottom line, or if they are equally concerned with the people side of the business.”
For leaders looking to rebuild trust, commitment, and morale in their organizations, Blanchard recommends senior leaders focus on creating a compelling vision, while immediate managers work to implement plans by connecting individual work to overall goals.
As Blanchard explains, “Senior leaders need to create a compelling vision that defines or redefines the organization’s business. The key here is to have a clear focus on the customer and make that everyone’s goal. During the past recession, people saw what looked like self-serving behavior on the part of a lot of leaders. In many organizations, it seemed as if top leaders saw the organization only as a way to achieve personal ends. In contrast, when senior leaders identify a compelling vision of the future and align the organization’s goals and values toward this vision, everyone can move in the right direction and focus their energy on the customer.
“Frontline managers need to make sure that each and every employee’s work is connected to an overall department or organizational goal and that the employee can see how their work has an impact. To build trust and respect with direct reports, frontline managers should schedule regular one-on-one meetings with their people. Managers should use these sessions to clarify expectations, solicit input, answer questions, and provide feedback. Nothing shows that you care and respect a person—and their work—more than spending time with them, checking on their progress, and providing help when necessary.”
To read more about Ken Blanchard’s thoughts on rebuilding trust, commitment, and morale, be sure to check out the complete article here. To participate in a complimentary webinar Ken Blanchard will be conducting on this topic visit the information page for Healing the Wounded Organization. The webinar is free and hosted by Cisco WebEx. Click here for details.
So much of leadership advice focuses on what to say and how to act in ways that creates trust, confidence, and followership. And while it is important to understand how certain leader behaviors can be interpreted by others, that should never take the place of authenticity.
All of us have a genuine leader inside of us. To help you get started with discovering and communicating who you really are as a leader, here are six questions to ask yourself from Ken Blanchard’s book Leading at a Higher Level:
1. Who have been the leadership influencers in your life? People often point to former bosses or other organizational leaders, but also consider other people who may have influenced you such as parents, grandparents, friends, coaches or teachers. What did you learn from these people about leadership?
2. What is your overall purpose, and what do you want to accomplish? The most important thing in life is to decide what’s most important. What are you trying to accomplish as a leader?
3. What are your core values? Values are beliefs you feel strongly about such as success, integrity, or honesty. You’ll probably start with a long list of values but fewer are better, particularly if you want your values to guide your behavior. You’ll also want to rank the order of your values. Why? Because values are sometimes in conflict. For example, if you value financial success, but integrity is your core value, any activities that could lead to financial gain must first be checked against your integrity value.
4. What are your beliefs about leading and motivating people? This is about surfacing your personal beliefs and assumptions. In your experience, what do people want from work? What do you believe motivates people to give their best? What is a leader’s role? Answering these questions about your beliefs gives you insight into how you will subsequently act.
5. What can people expect from you as a leader? Letting people know what they can expect from you gets at the core of transparency. Given your purpose, values, and beliefs about people and leadership, what can people expect from you?
6. What do you expect from your people? People want and need clear expectations from their leaders. Be upfront—it’s imperative that you let people know what you expect from them. It gives them their best chance to succeed.
Answering the questions above helps you understand a little bit more about yourself as a leader. What did you learn? What are your strengths? What are potential pitfalls? As you take your first steps toward authenticity, don’t be too hard on yourself. This might be your first time thinking about your beliefs about leading and motivating people. Incorporate the ideas above and keep working at it. Have open and honest dialogues with those you lead and with those who lead you. The world needs genuine authentic leaders. Be a leader who makes a positive difference. People are counting on you—the real you!
Want to know what a person believes? Watch their behavior. People act consistently with their world view. If someone is acting scared, or selfish, or self-centered, they are telling you something about their beliefs. That’s the message Hyrum Smith, co-founder of LegacyQuest and former vice chairman of Franklin Covey delivered at The Ken Blanchard Companies 2011 Summit yesterday.
Smith explained that people are constantly seeking to meet deep seated needs in four areas: survival, love, significance, and variety. And their experience in getting their needs met in these four areas creates a “belief window,” that drives their behavior. Since everyone has different experiences in these four areas, Smith explained that we each have different belief windows that color our perceptions.
At work, the challenge is when we have beliefs that result in behaviors that hold us back. For example, procrastination based on a fear of making mistakes or a constant need for attention based on a past sense of insignificance.
As a leader, it is important to periodically look at your beliefs—especially if you feel that your behaviors are not generating the results you want. Here’s a six-step process that Smith outlined that will help you get started
- Identify the behavior patterns. What is holding you back?
- Identify possible principles driving the behavior. What are your experiences and beliefs in this area?
- Predict future behavior based on those principles. If you continue to hold on to these beliefs, what are the likely outcomes you can expect?
- Identify alternative principles. Is there a way to challenge or reframe that belief? Is it necessarily true? More importantly, is that belief serving you?
- Predict future behavior based on the new principle. If you did adopt a new belief, what are some potential new behaviors you might expect?
- Compare steps three and five. Look at the results you want versus the results you are currently getting. Are you where you want to be? If not, what beliefs need to change first?
Our reality is based on our perception. How are you perceiving the world? Is it getting you where you want to go? If not, take a look at your belief window. Are their some things you can clean up starting today?
Once, while sharing her thoughts on leadership, Colleen Barrett, president emeritus of Southwest Airlines (stock symbol LUV), was asked if she was worried that competitors would now be able to steal her management ideas—like writing thousands of thank you notes to employees. She said “no” because the real magic wasn’t in knowing the concepts, it was in doing the work.
For Barrett, doing the work is a key ingredient to the success that Southwest has enjoyed in the tough airline industry over the past forty years. It’s also one of the reasons why best-selling business author Ken Blanchard wanted to work with Barrett on a new book that captures the real-life leadership examples that have made Southwest Airlines a model of good management. Titled Lead with LUV: A Different Way to Create Real Success, it’s just out in bookstores this month.
“She does the things I write about,” says Blanchard. “The stuff that I’ve learned and taught over the years, it’s all in there with a real person who did it.”
And one of the things that Blanchard writes about often is the importance of celebrating both people and results.
As Barrett explains, “What’s important is the fact that you’re honoring people and acknowledging that what they do makes a positive difference. In the process, you are making heroes out of them. You are letting them know that you love them for their efforts and you want everybody to celebrate their success.”
But it does require doing the work. And at Southwest, this means that officers hand-write notes to thousands of employees each year.
As Barrett explains, “Besides being loving, we know this is meaningful to our people, because we hear from them if we miss something significant in their lives, like the high school graduation of one of their kids. We just believe in accentuating the positive and celebrating people’s successes.”
You can learn more about the ways that Southwest Airlines takes the time to stop and recognize their people by accessing the first chapter of Lead with LUV: A Different Way to Create Real Success here.
Also, don’t miss a complimentary webinar that Colleen Barrett and Ken Blanchard will be conducting on January 26. Hosted by Cisco WebEx, click here to find out more about this free Lead with LUV event.