Leadership Advance

Leadership Thoughts for Life Long Learners

Archive for the tag “culture”

VISION < ?

I have always heard that a compelling VISION is the most important ingredient in building an organization. Vision gives a common focal point for all to push towards and build around. No doubt, a compelling vision is necessary if you desire to attract people to your organization and ultimately make measurable forward progress. The only problem with focusing all of your energy as a leader on a compelling vision is that vision may attract people, but CULTURE will keep them. Your vision tells me what you desire to do, but culture tells me how you will actually accomplish the vision. I have met a lot of people with grand visions, yet their organizations are extremely unhealthy. Vision may attract talent, but the culture that exists in your organization will determine whether the talent stays. Vision may attract high energy and high impact people, but culture will determine whether they will remain high energy and if they will be high impact. For this reason, I have determined that vision is necessary to give us a focal point to work towards, but culture will determine whether the vision is ever accomplished. If you never see your vision come to pass, the problem may not be the vision, it most likely is the culture that is trying to accomplish the vision. As a leader, do you know your VISION? Also, have you considered the CULTURE it will take to see that vision happen?

Self Fulfillment vs. Self Development

I was reading John Maxwell book, “15  Invaluable Laws of Growth” and was deeply impacted by what he stated in the Law of Contribution.  Maxwell differentiates the difference in living a life focused on Self Fulfillment vs a life focused on Self Development.

Self Fulfillment – thinks of how something serves me.

Self Development – thinks of how something helps me to serve others.

Self Fulfillment – feeling good is the product.

Self Development- feeling good is the by-product.

I do not know any leader that would not list one of the goals of their lives as desiring a feeling of self fulfillment.  Yet, according to these definitions we realize that living with the focus of self development is a much deeper and generous claim.  I have no doubt fallen into the trap of desiring self fulfillment at different times in my life.  Yet, when self fulfillment becomes the goal it sabotages the culture you work in.  The insinuation is that there is a defining moment when we arrive.  The moment we think we have arrived we begin to lose our grip on the progress we have made.  When self development becomes the aim, we never buy in to the mindset that there is some elusive “arrival” and we focus on consistently getting better as we progress forward.

 

 

The “BEE” Method of Empowerment

I am privileged to lead a monthly small group in our community which pulls business leaders together to discuss leadership principles and how they apply to our current situations.  This last week our topic was on the concept of Empowerment.  While thinking about this topic throughout the week, I have come to believe that Empowerment encompasses three elements, which I will call the BEE Method of Empowerment.

Empowerment always begins with Believing in someone first.  One could argue that it is impossible to empower another leader unless first you believe in them as an individual.  Empowerment begins with Belief in.  When someone believes in us, it sets wind to our sails and frees us to know that our value is not in proving our worth, but in making progress.

Unfortunately, many leaders are convinced that believing in someone is all that is required to empowering an individual.  Nothing is more frustrating in life than having someone believe in you as an individual, yet feeling as though you do not have the proper tools or knowledge needed to accomplish the task set before you.  I may be a very skilled writer, but if I am never given a computer with word processing capabilities, the fact that you believe in my writing abilities means nothing.  We all have natural talents…. the difference between those who achieve and those who don’t is found in those who believe in their talents and are equipped to use the talents for the betterment of all.  This is why the second stage of empowering someone is to EQUIP them.  I see someone with potential that I want to Empower, so I 1) Believe in them, 2) Equip them.

The last part of empowering someone can be difficult for the leader that has pride issues.  The completion of Empowering someone comes when you Believe in them, you Equip them and then finally you Endorse them.  Leadership is influence and influence comes through permission.  When a Leader Endorses someone they are moving their belief into action by giving the one whom they have equipped permission to influence others. The reason this is difficult on the prideful leader is because once an endorsement is made it reflects on our character.  Yet, I have come to realize that it is impossible to create a culture of empowerment without being willing to put your character on the line every once in a while.
“BEE” Empowering – 1. Believe In 2. Equip 3. Endorse

Mirror Mirror on the Wall

Yesterday I was struck yet again with the fact that many of the best lessons we learn in life come from ordinary things.  I had such an experience yesterday while I was getting a haircut.  As I made my way to the chair the stylist asked a question that causes stress to rise in just about any guys mind, “How do you want your haircut?”  The answer to this question is the same as every other time; I desire my hair just how it is, just shorter.  Then the stylist asked how much hair I wanted her to cut…. a half inch… and inch?  So, in the best way possible I gave her some pointers and she told me she would cut it and then I could take a look at it and let her know what I thought.
When a few moments were completed she turned my chair around for the final REVEAL.  I looked straight into the mirror in front of me and checked out the front of my hair.  After a quick perusal I looked in the mirror as it reflected an image of the back of my head from another mirror.  The stylist then asked me a question that stirred my thoughts, she said, “Is this what you were thinking?”  In that moment the stylist was looking for me to evaluate the work she had done and give her feedback as to whether everything was exactly how I desired it to be before I left.  To be honest, she really didn’t even need to ask me for feedback because if it didn’t look right I would have immediately said something and had her fix it.  I have to live with my haircut- it affects everything about me, so feedback is not just crucial it is necessary.

This leads me to a simple thought, you wouldn’t even think about getting a haircut, or dressing in the morning without taking a glance in the mirror to get some perspective as well as some feedback as to how you look.  Feedback is crucially important to our confidence.  If feedback is that important, why do so many organizations never create a feedback loop into their culture?  Many organizations operate by a leader casting  a vision of some compelling future and then handing the task of creating that future in the hands of everyone else.  The problem with this is that it leads both parties frustrated.  The leader is frustrated because what is created never ends up looking like what they had in mind and the team players are frustrated because they create something based upon their interpretation of what the leader said, not necessarily what the leader visualized.

I am challenged to become better at creating a feedback loop in the culture of the organization I lead.  Providing feedback is not only important to the overall stress level of the organization, but it will also be a game changer to build confidence in the culture moving forward.  As a leader are you providing feedback, or are your expectations of others performance based upon a dream in your head and not an idea which has been properly communicated with sufficient feedback along the way?

Inspire Me!!!!

Motivation can not be taught, it can only be inspired.  For this reason, I would rather have one individual that is internally motivated with little experience over ten professionals that lack drive.  The world in which we live is filled with people that promise 10 step plans to motivate those who refuse to be motivated. Additionally, companies spend large percentages of profit for the sole purpose of keeping a sales force motivated, and on and on the cycle goes.

I am convinced the problem is not a lack of motivation, but a lack of inspiring work.  People desire to be game changers.  They desire their life as well as their work to matter…. to somehow make a difference.  The desire to matter does not come from some external ideology or corporate tag line, but rather it is born in each of us from the day we take our first breath until the moment we take our last.  It is something internal, not external.  Motivation is temporary, Inspiration is eternal.

Many leaders have bought into the idea that you can somehow motivate inspiration!  They do this by rallying the troops and pushing people to limits far beyond any healthy boundaries all for the sake of desiring something inspiring to happen. This has created a culture of hype, with little substance or meaning. The product of trying to motivate inspiration is do more, be more, try harder.  This leaves people feeling inadequate and under an elusive goal that always seems to never be achievable.

A much better way to approach people is not by pushing or even pulling them, but rather by inspiring them to something greater.  Nothing pulls people out of mediocrity quicker than the inspiration found through the recognition of our meaningfulness in the grand scheme of the greater story!  Possibly a better approach to loyalty and motivation would be to inspire people rather than demand from them.  In what ways have you communicated their significance in the story of life change?  The world doesn’t need another manager trying to motivate.  The world needs a leader willing to take a risk and live life on an adventure that could possibly change the world forever!  When a leader does this, they will not have to demand allegiance or motivation, they will have to turn people away from desiring to be a part of the meaningful story that is being written.

Values, Morals & Ethics

A common phrase that is repeated often is, “actions speak louder than words.”  When contemplating the issue of personal values, morals, and ethics, we must focus primarily on the actions and choices we take rather than just on stated values.  Just as the clearest identifier of a seed is the fruit it ultimately bares, our actions become the fruit of our lives that flow from our roots or our values and morals.  Having clearly defined values and morals are what ultimately guide our decision- making process both personally, as well as organizationally.  In this paper, I will briefly discuss how values and morals guide my decision-making process.

The very nature of being a leader immediately positions us in a place of influence.  In many cases, the leader of an organization is the one that does not run from a tough decision or problem, but rather is the one that embraces the difficulty standing ahead.  While some decisions the leader must make are simple, many predicaments the leader is given to handle are not clear-cut.  It is in these moments the leader must find something deeper within them than just what can be found on the surface.  Clearly defined values and a moral code that drives ethical behavior must come into play.

When faced with an ethical decision that will ultimately affect myself, as well as those I lead I must begin by digging beneath the surface to the core of who I am by exploring my values and morals in light of the choice.  For me personally, these values and morals come from a solid foundational belief in the Word of God as the authority in my life.  Therefore, it is my personal desire for others to discover the fruit of my life in perfect alignment and sustained by the root of the Word of God.

When faced with an ethical or moral dilemma it is not wise to rely upon feelings as the guide of our choice.  While a gut feeling can lead you in some instances it is not a reliable standard to use when facing issues of this magnitude.  Having made the decision to build my life on the Word of God and viewing the Word of God as the foundation of all moral choices and the seedbed for my personal values I always go back to it when seeking clarity on specific issues.  In many instances, the Word of God will speak clearly for or against an issue that society views as a personal preference. On the occasions when it doesn’t, I must begin to process my decision-making through the lens of my values and principles, which are rooted in the Word of God.

If I do not have clear direction on a difficult decision I am facing, I then ask how the decision I am about to make will affect the values and principles I have chosen to live by.  If a decision for something is legally and morally ok, yet it would violate my personal values and principles, I am obligated to not pursue the decision any further.  If the decision is legally and morally ok and it does not violate my personal values and ethics, I would then place the decision in perspective of short- term and long- term benefits and drawbacks of the choice.  Information is necessary to make wise choices; therefore, if I am lacking information I know I could get if I pursued it, I will try to get that information before I make the decision.  In this case, ignorance is not bliss.

Just as the fruit of a tree determines its DNA, the actions and choices I make determine what my moral code and personal values are.  It is vitally important in the life of a leader to determine early what they personally value. The process of determining ones personal values in life will liberate you to make choices based upon those values later on.  In a sense, our personal values and moral code become the track for which we choose to live our life upon.  The role of a leader is established by the permission of those who choose to follow.  When a leader clearly defines their values and morals and then makes decisions based upon them, trust is built between the leader and follower, which in turn establish a greater permission to lead.

 

How To Create The Culture You Desire

Can you define what a good organizational culture looks and feels like?  While it may be a little difficult to define the many intangible aspects of a positive organizational culture, just about anyone could tell you immediately what destroys organizational culture.  The culture is the life blood of an organization.  I would even take it as far as saying that vision, mission and even codes of conduct matter little if the culture of your organization is not healthy.  So, as a leader, how do I create the culture I desire for my organization?  Simply put, there are two elements the leader must consider if culture building is their desire.  First, your conduct is the most powerful tool you have to create culture.  Secondly, your communication can reinforce your conduct.  When these two elements are in place, you will begin to create the culture you desire.  One of the largest mistakes leaders make while trying to build culture is by communicating first and expecting the culture to be created.  While there is no doubt that communicating a vision has power to create the future, it does little to create culture if your actions are not in alignment.  As a leader focus on acting in the way you want others to act, then reinforce your actions by verbally communicating and rewarding others as they emulate what you have shown them.  While this process may not create the culture you desire overnight.  Consistent actions, backed up by communication will create a culture that is healthy and vibrant.

 

Systems Are Like Domino’s

One of the things I used to enjoy as a kid was to take a pack of domino’s and stand them up one by one next to each other.  It would take painstaking time to organize everything just right, but if done correctly you could make some incredible shapes and intricate designs.  The creation of the domino trail was part of the fun, but the most exhilarating moment of all was when you would give one tiny push on the end domino piece and watch as one by one the rest of the domino’s would fall to the ground.  Each domino’s fall would impact the domino next to it and so on until the end result was every domino was on the ground.

While I still have a child- like fascination with domino’s, I have come to recognize the concept which intrigued me is the same we see in organization’s we lead and are apart of every day.  The leader has incredible potential to give a little push here or tweak something just slightly and before you recognize it, the domino effect takes place and it impacts the entire organization and system.  In the leadership world this is called systems thinking.  What you do today, regardless of how small or large it may appear, will affect every part of the organization you lead or are apart of.  The incredible aspect of the domino effect is understanding that touching one domino will affect every other domino that you have never touched before.  As a leader, one must recognize that their actions and decisions will impact the entire system, even the parts they do not have direct access to.

As the old saying goes, “you are only as strong as your weakest part”, is so true.  The impact of the weakest part of your organization can cause it to hemorrhage to the point of no repair.  The weakest aspect of the organization is like a constant force on a domino that is pushing against every other aspect of the system.  Before long the system breaks down and can not function properly.

The challenge for the leader is to take a step back and view their organization as a set of domino’s.  What domino in the system is throwing every other domino off?  Do you need to push a little harder, or maybe pull back a little?  What small thing are you doing or not doing that is causing an impact that is unhealthy to the culture of the organization you serve?  And just for the fun of it, maybe you should go purchase a pack of domino’s and teach some of the leaders within your organization the impact each one of them makes on all the surrounding people in the organization.

X or Y

The understanding of human relations as it relates to organizational effectiveness has been around for nearly 100 years.  Douglas McGregor (1906-1964) was a huge contributor in this specific field.  One of McGregor’s greatest contributions in regards to organizational effectiveness as it relates to human relations is a theory he developed called Theory X and Theory Y.  These theories are based on a set of assumptions about people within an organization.  Assumptions are powerful indicators which build the framework of how a leader approaches those they lead.  A quick breakdown of each theory and the assumptions made are as follows: (taken from, The Human Side of Enterprise by McGregor and Bennis)

Theory X Assumptions:

1.  People do not like work and try to avoid it.

2. People do not like work, so managers have to control, direct, coerce, and threaten employees to get them to work toward organizational goals.

3. People prefer to be directed, to avoid responsibility, and to want security, they have little ambition.

Theory Y Assumptions:

1.  People do not naturally dislike work; work is a natural part of their lives.

2. People are internally motivated to reach objectives to which they are committed.

3. People are committed to goals to the degree that they receive personal rewards when they reach their objectives.

4. People will both seek and accept responsibility under favorable conditions.

5. People have the capacity to be innovative in solving organizational problems.

6. People are bright, but under most organizational conditions their potential is underutilized.

While reading through these assumptions the leader can immediately begin to identify the power they play in our approach to leadership.  The most healthy organizational environment in my opinion is when the leader can operate from the Theory Y Assumption.  If assumptions are powerful forces in how we approach those we lead the effective leader must constantly be evaluating the assumptions from which they operate.

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