In their latest post for Fast Company online, management experts Scott and Ken Blanchard share that, “One of the big mistakes we see among otherwise promising managers is the self-limiting belief that they have to choose between results and people, or between their own goals and the goals of others. We often hear these people say, ‘I’m not into relationships. I just like to get things done.’”
“Cutting yourself off, or choosing not to focus on the people side of the equation, can—and will—be a problem that will impact your development as a leader.”
Have you inadvertently cut yourself off from your people? Many leaders have. It’s usually because of time pressures, or a single-minded focus on results—but sometimes it’s also a conscious choice to create “professional distance” that allows you the emotional room to make tough choices.
That’s a mistake say the Blanchards. “The best working relationships are partnerships. For leaders, this means maintaining a focus on results along with high levels of demonstrated caring.”
They go on to caution that, “The relationship foundation has to be in place first. It’s only when leaders and managers take the time to build the foundation that they earn the permission to be aggressive in asking people to produce results. The best managers combine high support with high levels of focus, urgency, and criticality. As a result, they get more things done, more quickly, than managers who do not have this double skill base.”
Don’t limit yourself—or others
Don’t limit yourself, or others, by focusing on just one half of the leadership equation. You don’t have to choose. In this case you can have it all. Create strong relationships focused on jointly achieving results. To read the complete article—including some tips on getting started—be sure to check out Getting Your Team Emotionally Engaged Is Half The Leadership Battle. Here’s How To Do It
Accountability, accountability, accountability. It’s an issue that comes up time and again as leaders and HR professionals think about the one underlying challenge in their organizations that holds performance back. It’s a silent killer that operates below the surface in organizations and it’s tough to address.
A best-selling business book (and one that I had never heard of until earlier this month) addresses a key piece of the accountability issue. Leadership and Self-Deception was first published in 2000 and then re-issued as a second edition in 2010. The book has sold over 1,000,000 copies since it was published and sales have grown every year since it was first “discovered” by HR, OD, and change practitioners.
What makes the book so different (and hard to describe) is that it looks at work behavior as fundamentally an inside-out proposition. We basically act out externally what we are feeling inside. Bad behavior externally—doing just enough to get by, compliance instead of commitment, and putting self-interest ahead of team or department goals—are justified because of the way that that colleagues, managers, and senior leaders are acting in return.
The folks at The Arbinger Institute, the corporate authors of the book, call this “in the box thinking” and they believe it is the root cause of many of the problems being experienced at work today.
Is your organization stuck “in the box?”
Wondering if negative attitudes inside might be causing poor accountability on the outside in your organization? Here are a couple of questions to ask yourself.
- Where are the trouble spots in your organization? Where are people getting the job done but it seems to always be at minimum level of performance—and with a low sense of enthusiasm and morale?
- What are the possible attitudes and beliefs among members of that team or department that make them feel justified in their behaviors? Why do they feel it is okay to narrow the scope of their job, focus on their own agenda, and do only what’s required to stay out of trouble—but not much more?
- What can you do to break the cycle of negative thinking that keeps people “in the box?”
Climbing out of the box
Surprisingly, the answer to breaking out of the box starts with expecting more of yourself and others. People climb into the box when they decide to do less than their best. The folks at Arbinger describe this as “self-betrayal” and it sets in motion all sorts of coping strategies that end up with self-focused behaviors. Don’t let that happen in your organization. Here are two ways that you can help people see beyond their self interests.
- Constantly remind people of the bigger picture and their role in it. Set high standards and hold people accountable to them.
- Second, and just as important, provide high levels of support and encouragement for people to do the right thing. Make it easy for people to put the needs of the team, department, and organization ahead of their own. Look at reward, recognition, and compensation strategies. Look at growth and career planning. What can you do to free people up to focus on the needs of others instead of themselves?
Change behavior by changing beliefs
Accountability is a tough issue to address because most people feel justified in their actions and opinions. Don’t let your people self-justify their way into lower performance. It’s not good for them and it’s not good for your organization. Lead people to higher levels of performance. Help people find the best in themselves.
The way an organization responds to mistakes tells you a lot about its corporate culture. In an article on innovation for Fast Company, Scott and Ken Blanchard look at the different responses they’ve seen in working with organizations.
Some organizations see mistakes as opportunities to learn. These are the organizations that create innovative environments where people grow, develop, and improve.
Other organizations respond to mistakes by finding fault and assigning blame. As the Blanchard’s explain, “It’s a negative approach that assumes neglect or malfeasance that requires punishment. This type of attitude produces a risk-averse organization where people play it safe instead of stepping out and trying new ideas.
“Now your organization takes on a culture similar to the classic arcade game, Whac-A-Mole, where most employees keep their head down except for the unsuspecting novice who pops his head up only to have the oversized mallet pound him or her back down if their initiative fails. Once an organization develops that type of culture, it is very difficult for innovation to take hold.”
What type of culture do you have?
For organizations looking to improve, the Blanchard’s recommend a three-step process:
1. Examine your current attitude toward mistakes. As a company, what’s your typical reaction to mistakes and failures? Are they seen as an opportunity to learn or to assign blame?
2. Consider your impact as a leader. What you are personally doing to encourage people to take risks and try something truly innovative? Keeping new ideas alive is hard work. Are you recognizing the efforts of people who take risks in spite of the threat of failure?
3. Find ways to engage in positive practices as a discipline. It’s so easy for things to turn negative—both internally, inside your own head—and externally as a corporate culture. As a leader, it’s important to shift from a backwards looking attitude of fault and blame to a more forward-focused approach of identifying cause and responsibility.
Give your people the benefit of the doubt. Assume the best intentions. Instead of assigning blame, look to assign responsibility for moving the organization forward given what was just learned. Leaders who take this more constructive approach can begin eliminating the fear and negative inertia that plagues many organizations. With practice, you’ll see the difference you can make in the creation and adoption of new ideas.
To read the complete article, check out To Encourage Innovation, Eradicate Blame at Fast Company
Scott Blanchard, principal and executive vice president at The Ken Blanchard Companies calls it the new “F” word—feelings. And it is something that managers and organizations struggle with on a regular basis. Should you ask people to repress feelings and “check them at the door” or should you encourage people to bring their entire selves when they come to work?
Current research points to the benefit of employing people’s hearts as well as their hands. But to do that skillfully, managers and team leaders have to be prepared for all of the situations that occur when you truly engage people. If you want everything that people can offer, you have to deal with everything that people will bring.
Eryn Kalish, a professional mediator and relationship expert believes that there are two keys to successfully negotiating the emotional workplace. In an article for Blanchard’s Ignite! newsletter, Kalish identifies staying centered and open as the key skills. But what she has been seeing more commonly is an unbalanced approach where managers and organizations go to extremes.
As she explains, “Organizations are either taking a ‘confront everything, address it, and do it now’ overly intense approach, where there is no time or space to reflect, or they are taking a ‘let’s wait and see’ tactic, in hopes that the situation resolves itself, but in reality not dealing with difficult issues until it’s way too late.”
The wait and see strategy works occasionally, according to Kalish, although most of the time things get worse. “Plus, when something is left unaddressed, there is a cumulative organizational effect where everyone starts shutting down, living in a place of fear and contraction.”
That is a huge loss, from Kalish’s perspective, because most issues in companies are resolvable.
“If issues are handled directly, clearly, and in a timely manner, something new can emerge. That’s what I see that is so exciting,” she shares. “When people normalize these types of conversations, it is amazing to see the transformations that can occur.”
Next steps for leaders
For leaders looking to get started in improving their abilities, Kalish recommends assessing where you are currently at.
“It all depends on whether you have the skills to conduct a sensitive conversation. If you have the skills, take a cue from Nike and ‘Just do it!’ See what happens. If you do not have the skills, then it is important to get additional coaching or training.
“In any case, openness and transparency is the key. Many times it helps to just be candid with staff and saying, ‘I think that we have been avoiding this and I’d like that to change’ will help.
To learn more about Kalish’s thoughts on dealing effectively with emotion in the workplace, check out Dealing effectively with emotion-filled work environments in the August issue of Ignite. Also be sure to check out a free webinar Kalish is conducting on August 22, A Manager’s Guide to the Emotional Workplace: How to stay focused and balanced when dealing with sensitive issues. It’s a free event courtesy of Cisco WebEx and The Ken Blanchard Companies.
In a new online article for Fast Company, Scott and Ken Blanchard identify one of the biggest barriers to people working together effectively.
The culprit? The human ego.
As they explain, “When people get caught up in their egos, it erodes their effectiveness. That’s because the combination of false pride and self-doubt created by an overactive ego gives people a distorted image of their own importance. When that happens, people see themselves as the center of the universe and they begin to put their own agenda, safety, status, and gratification ahead of those affected by their thoughts and actions.”
Fortunately, the two Blanchards share a four-step process that can help keep an overactive ego in place.
Name it and claim it—taking a page from popular 12-step programs, the Blanchards describe a well-known opening they use when they conduct “Egos Anonymous” meetings for senior executive groups. They have the executives, in turn, share the last time they let their egos get in the way of their leadership effectiveness. What they usually find is that the ego-driven episodes are a result of fear or false pride. By having the leaders “name and claim” the ways that their ego has derailed their behavior in the past, they give the leaders their first tool to begin to neutralize the ego’s power.
Practice humility—another way to recalibrate an overactive ego at work is to practice humility. For a leader, this means recognizing that it is not all about you; it’s about the people you serve and what they need. To illustrate their point, the Blanchards use a great story from fellow consultant Jim Collins on how to tell the difference between serving and self-serving leaders. As Collins describes it, “When things are going well for self-serving leaders, they will look in the mirror, beat their chests, and tell themselves how good they are. When things go wrong, they look out the window and blame everyone else. On the other hand, when things go well for great leaders, they look out the window and give everyone else the credit. When things go wrong, these serving leaders look in the mirror and ask themselves, ‘What could I have done differently?’”
Find truth tellers in your life—these people are essential to a leader, “Especially as you climb into the higher ranks of an organization,” explain the authors, “where honest feedback becomes scarce and everyone treads lightly. These are the people who know you well, don’t have anything to gain from being less than honest with you, and who you can count on to give you the straight scoop.”
Be a learner—the final strategy the Blanchards recommend for rebalancing your ego is to become a continual learner. You need to be open to learning from other people and listening to them. For leaders who are used to being the smartest person in the room, they recommend starting a joint project with someone who has the skills and energy to do what the leader doesn’t know how to do yet. It’s a great way to discover what it’s like to be a learner again.
Don’t let your ego derail your career
Talent, competitive drive, and confidence are the skills that often ear-mark people for leadership positions. If balanced with a healthy dose of reality and humility, these skills can lead to a long and successful career that benefits the leader and the organizations they serve. Unchecked, they lead to self-centered behavior and a stunted career path. To accomplish great things, you are going to need the cooperation and talents of other individuals.
So name your ego lapses. Practice humility. Invite honest feedback. Learn from others. These practices will not only eliminate your blind spots, they’ll also open the way for you to accomplish more for yourself and others.
To read the complete article, check out Don’t Let Your Ego Hijack Your Leadership Effectiveness on Scott and Ken Blanchard’s page at Fast Company.
One of my favorite books of all time is the children’s book, The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. In short, the book is about the relationship between a boy and a tree. Throughout the boy’s life, the tree offers whatever it can to make the boy happy—to swing from its branches, to pick and eat, or sell, its apples—to even cut it down and build a boat to sail away—all in an unselfish manner.
Great leaders do the same with their employees—doing whatever they can to help employees feel valued and be successful. I love when I catch a glimpse of this as a customer and witness great servant leadership—a manager in the grocery store stepping in to bag groceries when it gets busy; the manager in a restaurant clearing dirty dishes from a table to seat guests faster; a manager taking the time to train an employee on a process they haven’t quite mastered yet. All so they can unselfishly meet the needs of the employee, and ultimately, the external customer.
Leading is giving
My favorite part of the book, and the one that always makes me cry, is at the end when the boy, now an old man, comes back to visit the tree that is just an old stump. The tree is sad since she doesn’t think she has anything else to offer the boy, but is overjoyed to find out that the boy just wants a place to sit and rest, and a stump is a great spot to do just that!
What’s the attitude of the leaders in your organization? Is it to serve—or to be served? What can leaders in your organization teach employees that may help them in their jobs? How can leaders help their employees manage their time more efficiently to reduce stress? What can the organization do to show employees that truly ARE the best asset to the organization?
Being a true servant leader is putting the needs of others ahead of your own in service to a larger organizational goal or purpose. The good news is that in doing so, you will get so much in return yourself. That’s ultimately what the giving tree experienced. Because in the end, as the book says, “and the tree was happy.”
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.
It uses questions from a Mensa quiz to illustrate the point that a team’s collective wisdom is always greater than any individual team member’s.
To get started, see how many of these questions you can answer individually. According to Mensa, if you can figure out 23 of these, you qualify for “genius” status.
(I’ve filled in the first one for you—check the bottom of this post for the complete answer key when you are done.)
Now, gather your team together (or send them a link to this page). How many of these phrases can your team correctly identify as a group?
When we conducted this exercise in class, results varied widely. Some people scored high, some people scored low. Some people came up with the more obscure answers, while others missed the easy ones. The point of course was that no matter what, the group as a whole always outscored the individual members—even the really smart ones who got many of the answers all by themselves. In every case the team was smarter than the individual members and had a greater capacity to answer the questions that were put in front of it.
What gets in the way of sharing?
So why don’t teams share information more freely and use this to their advantage? There are a lot of reasons ranging from, “I like to be the smart one,” and “I like to be unique,” to “As long as I have this specialized knowledge, I have some leverage, etc.”
Now ask yourself two more important questions. 1. What can we do as a team to break down individual silos and share information more freely? 2. What individual or organizational barriers are getting in our way?
Teams perform best when they operate as a collective unit instead of as a collection of individuals. But that takes work—it doesn’t happen by itself. As a leader or senior team member, consider what you can do this week to help your team share more freely. It’s good for you, your team, and your customers!
1. 24 hours in a day; 2. 26 letters of the alphabet; 3. 7 days of the week; 4. 12 signs of the Zodiac; 5. 66 books of Bible; 6. 52 cards in a pack (without jokers); 7. 13 stripes in the US flag; 8. 18 holes on a golf course; 9. 39 books of the Old Testament; 10. 5 tines on a fork/5 toes on a foot; 11. 90 degrees in a right angle; 12. 3 blind mice (see how they run); 13. 32 is the temperature in degrees F at which water freezes; 14. 15 players on a rugby team; 15. 3 wheels on a tricycle; 16. 100 Cents in a Rand; 17. 11 players in a football (soccer) team; 18. 12 months in a year; 19. 13 is unlucky for some; 20. 8 tentacles on an octopus; 21. 29 days in Feb. in a leap year; 22. 27 books in the New Testament; 23. 365 days in a year; 24. 13 loaves in a baker’s dozen; 25. 52 weeks in a year; 26. 9 lives of a cat; 27. 60 minutes in an hour; 28. 23 pairs of chromosomes in the human body; 29. 64 squares on a chess board; 30. 9 provinces in South Africa; 31. 6 balls to an over in cricket; 32. 1000 years in a millennium; 33. 15 men on a dead man’s chest
Establishing trusted relationships is a critical imperative for leadership success today. A key way to develop trust with those you lead is by being vulnerable. I’m not talking about getting on the proverbial therapist’s couch and telling your direct reports all of your deep, inner secrets. I’m talking about disclosing appropriate and relevant amounts of information about yourself over the course of time as relationships grow and develop.
In his latest book, Getting Naked, author Patrick Lencioni discusses three fears that keep us from being vulnerable…from “getting naked.” Lencioni discusses these fears in the context of sabotaging client relationships, but the lessons are equally relevant for leaders in regards to developing trust with their followers. Leaders sabotage trust by giving in to the following fears:
- The fear of losing followership (“business” in the context of Lencioni’s parable about client relationships) – The business of a leader is influencing others to achieve their personal goals and those of the organization. Sometimes leaders fear being vulnerable because it could be perceived as a sign of weakness, or evidence that their leadership isn’t needed. Leaders can conquer this fear by being “other-focused” rather than self-focused and remembering that their top priority is to help others succeed. When your followers believe you have their best interests in mind, they will trust you and give you the discretionary energy and commitment that is essential for organizational success.
- The fear of being embarrassed - Many leaders are afraid they will be embarrassed by not having all the right answers or being proven wrong in public. To prevent embarrassment, leaders play their cards close to the vest, don’t share information with others, and don’t allow participation in decision-making. Creating a culture where mistakes are celebrated as learning opportunities, risk taking is encouraged, and stupid or obvious questions encouraged will help allay this fear and lead to higher levels of trust in leaders’ relationships.
- The fear of feeling inferior - This fear is rooted in the leader’s ego. Ken Blanchard likes to say that EGO stands for “edging good out.” Leaders do this by focusing on their reputation and social standing and pushing all other interests aside. These kinds of leaders often derive their self-worth from the successes they achieve and the applause of adoring fans. Trusted leaders overcome this fear by cultivating an attitude of humility. Humility doesn’t mean that you think less of yourself. It means you think about yourself less. You build trust by keeping the focus on the goals of the team and the needs of your followers and not worrying about who gets the credit for success.
The bottom line effect of getting naked with your followers is that you’ll develop trusted relationships that will fuel the success of your team and organization.
This is one in a series of LeaderChat articles on the topic of trust by Randy Conley, Trust Practice Leader at the Ken Blanchard Companies. For more insights on trust, visit the Leading with Trust blog or follow Randy on Twitter @RandyConley.