Anamcgary's Blog

Leadership thoughts from PeopleFirst HR


2 Comments

Success will come and go, but integrity is forever.

If I could teach only one value to live by, it would be this: Success will come and go, but integrity is forever. Integrity means doing the right thing at all times and in all circumstances, whether or not anyone is watching. It takes having the courage to do the right thing, no matter what the consequences will be. Building a reputation of integrity takes years, but it takes only a second to lose, so never allow yourself to ever do anything that would damage your integrity.

We live in a world where integrity isn’t talked about nearly enough. We live in a world where “the end justifies the means” has become an acceptable school of thought for far too many. Sales people over promise and under deliver, all in the name of making their quota for the month. Applicants exaggerate in job interviews because they desperately need a job. CEOs overstate their projected earnings because they don’t want the board of directors to replace them.

Investors understate a company’s value in order to negotiate a lower valuation in a deal. Customer service representatives cover up a mistake they made because they are afraid the client will leave them. The list could go on and on, and in each case the person committing the act of dishonesty told themselves they had a perfectly valid reason why the end result justified their lack of integrity.

It may seem like people can gain power quickly and easily if they are willing to cut corners and act without the constraints of morality. Dishonesty may provide instant gratification in the moment but it will never last. I can think of several examples of people without integrity who are successful and who win without ever getting caught, which creates a false perception of the path to success that one should follow. After all, each person in the examples above could have gained the result they wanted in the moment, but unfortunately, that momentary result comes at an incredibly high price with far reaching consequences.  That person has lost their ability to be trusted as a person of integrity, which is the most valuable quality anyone can have in their life. Profit in dollars or power is temporary, but profit in a network of people who trust you as a person of integrity is forever.

Every one person who trusts you will spread the word of that trust to at least a few of their associates, and word of your character will spread like wildfire. The value of the trust others have in you is far beyond anything that can be measured.  For entrepreneurs it means investors that are willing to trust them with their money. For employees it means a manager or a boss that is willing to trust them with additional responsibility and growth opportunities. For companies it means customers that trust giving them more and more business. For you it means having an army of people that are willing to go the extra mile to help you because they know that recommending you to others will never bring damage to their own reputation of integrity. Yes, the value of the trust others have in-you goes beyond anything that can be measured because it brings along with it limitless opportunities and endless possibilities.

Contrast that with the person who cannot be trusted as a person of integrity.  Warren Buffet, said it well: “In looking for people to hire, look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy.  And if they don’t have the first one, the other two will kill you.”  A person’s dishonesty will eventually catch up to them. It may not be today, and it may not be for many years, but you can rest assured that at some point there will always be a reckoning.

A word of advice to those who are striving for a reputation of integrity: Avoid those who are not trustworthy. Do not do business with them. Do not associate with them. Do not make excuses for them.  Do not allow yourself to get enticed into believing that “while they may be dishonest with others, they would never be dishonest with me.” If someone is dishonest in any aspect of his life you can be guaranteed that he will be dishonest in many aspects of his life. You cannot dismiss even those little acts of dishonesty, such as the person who takes two newspapers from the stand when they paid for only one. After all, if a person cannot be trusted in the simplest matters of honesty then how can they possibly be trusted to uphold lengthy and complex business contracts?

It is important to realize that others pay attention to those you have chosen to associate with, and they will inevitably judge your character by the character of your friends. Inevitably we become more and more like the people we surround ourselves with day to day. If we surround ourselves with people who are dishonest and willing to cut corners to get ahead, then we’ll surely find ourselves following a pattern of first enduring their behavior, then accepting their behavior, and finally adopting their behavior. If you want to build a reputation as a person of integrity then surround yourself with people of integrity.

Do what is right, let the consequence follow. Remember, success will indeed come and go, but integrity is forever.

Advertisements


2 Comments

Accountability – A desired behavior

When I meet with potential clients I try to better understand the challenges they are facing and how I may or may not be able to help them.  I typically ask a series of questions about their current state, about their desired state, and then about the priorities for addressing identified gaps.

One of the biggest concerns raised is often times the lack of accountability across their organization. Many times organizations implement a training session in an attempt to change behavior.  Something I always bring up is that “skills building alone” does not change behavior.

In my experience, there are some excellent ways skills building (training) can address leader behaviors and practices in a workplace. And, training will result in leaders demonstrating desired behaviors only if the organization’s culture supports leaders modeling those new behaviors.

We have all experienced training participants learning new skills and practicing those skills – quite effectively – in a structured rehearsal setting during the training. Observing those players demonstrate those skills could lead one to believe, “OK, they’ve got it now!” However, until desired behaviors are observed in the workplace, on the job, in real-time, one must believe that the training hasn’t translated into workplace behavior.

SKILLS for holding others accountable are different from ACTIONS for holding others accountable.

If skills have been effectively taught but desired actions are not observed, there are other things getting in the way. Attention must be focused on eliminating any policies, procedures, systems, or dynamics that hurt or hinder the demonstration of desired behaviors.

Four Steps to Consistent Accountability

Accountability is a huge requirement in the high performance, values-aligned culture. Our proven culture change process helps senior leaders be explicitly clear about performance and values expectations, and then hold all organization members, from senior leaders through front line staff, accountable for exceeding those expectations.

Our clients have had tremendous success creating consistent accountability by implementing these four steps:

  1. Process Coaching – senior leaders need guidance on how to proactively champion their desired high performance, values-aligned culture. Experienced consultants coach the senior leadership team on these steps and other vital activities to ensure traction.
  2. Create clarity – Create specific & measurable performance goals. Define values in behavioral terms. Get agreement from all players to embrace both.
  3. Gather & Share Data – Monitor performance progress regularly and provide feedback on the good, the bad, and the ugly. Create a custom values survey which ranks the extent to which leaders demonstrate desired valued behaviors each day. Share these results within three weeks of final data gathering. Run the values survey twice annually. Successive runs of the custom values survey will include staff as well as leaders.
  4. Praise & Redirect – Regularly celebrate high performers and great citizens (those who demonstrate desired values). Promptly redirect leaders and staff to increase performance to standard or better citizenship. If a values-aligned player struggles to meet performance expectations, reassign them into a role where they contribute. If they are unable to contribute in any role, you need to lovingly set them free – let them find employment elsewhere. If a player does not demonstrate desired valued behaviors, you must reaffirm values expectations and observe closely. If they can make the shift to values-alignment (it is rare), celebrate! If not, lovingly set them free.

What accountability systems have you or your organization had success with to increase accountability for performance and values?


Leave a comment

It’s not compassionate, not to tell someone the truth.

If we don’t provide each other with feedback, we won’t become aware of our blind spots. This means that we will continue to do those things that may be detrimental or at least not helpful to our careers. 

I believe giving people feedback is an act of trust and confidence. It shows that you believe in their ability to change. That you believe they will use the information to become better. And that you have faith in their potential. It’s also a sign of commitment to the team and to the larger purpose and goals of the organization. Because, ultimately, we’re all responsible for our collective success.

I was at meeting recently where a senior analyst, let’s call him Steve, a really good analyst and hard worker was going to present to a team.  He paused for a minute as he sorted through the pages of numbers in front of him and then he began to present his case.  Even though Steve described himself as a numbers guy, he seemed to really enjoy this part of his job. He was meticulous in presenting his ideas and took pride in the depth of his analysis.

Twenty minutes later, as the meeting ended, Diane, the Chief Operating Officer of the organization, thanked him for his work, specifically remarking on his exhaustive research. He smiled and thanked her.  Everyone filed out except Diane and me. I asked her how she thought the meeting went.

“Oh my goodness,” she said, “What’s the best way to handle an analyst who drones on and on?”

“Who?” I asked. “Steve?”  “He’s a great analyst, and always provides the right solutions, plus he is a really nice guy. But he talks too much.” 

“But you told him he did a great job!” I Said, “His analysis was great. But his presentation …” She trailed off with a chuckle.

“Have you told him?”  “I’ve hinted to it, but no, not specifically.”

“Why not?”  “I know I probably should.”   But she hasn’t. And the reason is simple: Diane is also really nice.

In fact I’ve never seen her do anything that could be remotely construed as mean or rude. And to tell someone that they drone on feels both mean and rude.

But, is it?

Diane knows she should provide the feedback.  She is a good senior leader, but even for her, it’s hard to give someone critical feedback because it still feels aggressive and confrontational. Should you really tell people they talk too much? Or dress poorly? Or appear insincere? Or walk all over others?

Without question, YES

And not just if you’re the CEO. Everyone should offer feedback to everyone else, regardless of position. Because as long as what you say comes from your care and support for the other person — not your sympathy (which feels patronizing) or your power (which feels humiliating) or your anger (which feels abusive) — choosing to offer a critical insight to another is a deeply considerate act.

That doesn’t mean that accepting criticism is easy. But that’s another story.  Even though it may be difficult, letting someone know what everyone else already knows is the opposite of aggressive. Aggressive is not giving people feedback and then talking about them and their issues when they aren’t around. Aggressive is watching them fail and not helping.

Ironically, when we avoid sharing feedback, it usually comes out at some point anyway, as gossip or in a burst of anger or sarcasm or blame directed at the person. And that’s aggressive. Passive-aggressive.

To avoid that kind of ugliness, it’s critical not to delay.

On the other hand, if we all strutted around willy-nilly tossing criticisms at each other, things would deteriorate quickly. So how should we do this?

First, ask permission. As in: “I noticed something I’d like to share with you. Are you interested in hearing it?” Or simply, “Can I share some feedback with you?” Once they say “yes” — and who wouldn’t? — it evens out the power dynamic, makes it easier for you to speak, and prepares the other person to accept the feedback more openly.

Second, don’t hedge. When we are uncomfortable criticizing, we try to reduce the impact by reducing the criticism. Sometimes we sandwich the criticism between two compliments. But hedging dilutes and confuses the message. Instead, be clear, be concise, use a simple example, make it about the behavior, not the person, and don’t be afraid of silence.

Third, do it often. That’s how you create a culture in which people are open and honest for each other’s benefit. If you only offer feedback once in a while, it feels out of character and more negative.

Of course, not all feedback needs to be critical. Positive feedback is excellent at reinforcing people’s productive behavior, encouraging them to use their strengths more effectively and abundantly. Offer it frequently. Just do so at a different time than you share the critical feedback.

Not telling Steve that he drones on is hurting him, Diane, and the business. Even though Diane feels badly sharing the criticism, choosing not to in this case is selfish behavior on her part.  Diane doesn’t want to feel uncomfortable.  But, Steve needs and deserves to know, don’t you think?

Well in this case it worked out.  After thinking about it Diane agreed and scheduled a meeting with Steve for later that day.


Leave a comment

Is it bravery or just great leadership?

Do you ever wonder how you are really doing as a leader?  Who does the judging?  Meet a CEO who lets employees vote him in or out every year. 

ING Direct is a large European banking operation that does business in the United States with a very interesting twist. When ING first entered the country, they hosted focus groups to find out what people hated about their banks, and then they did the opposite. The first rule of ING’s code of conduct is a simple concept: “We will tell the truth.” Great businesses often start from this premise.

The company’s CEO Arkadi Kuhlmann puts himself up for election by secret ballot among his company’s employees every year. “All my colleagues think I’m nuts, and the board thinks I’m nuts,” Kuhlmann told the New York Times.  “But I don’t want to serve here unless I’ve got the commitment of people genuinely wanting me to serve.”

Kuhlman says he is not asking to win a popularity contest, but he wants to know that employees have faith in the mission, the company and his abilities. Even though the shareholders, the board, and the customers seem to be happy with him he wants to know how the associates feel.  There are two messages he wants to send by doing this. One is that he doesn’t take the job for granted. And, No. 2, that he’s willing to be accountable to them, not because he works for them in a broader sense, but he feels that if he’s walking around saying that his associates are so important, then why don’t they have a say in terms of whether or not he’s leading them.

It takes courage and confidence to ask those who work for you how you’re doing as their leader.  But after all isn’t that what leadership is all about.

For the entire interview with Kuhlmann go to http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/31/business/31corner.html