Why Leaders’ Words Matter…..A Lot

It is true. Words are free. Underestimating their power is costly.                                Haven’t we all said something we later regretted? In some cases, we are unaware of the impact of our words for good or ill. Words have power; choose them wisely. Business leaders, for example, unwittingly stymie creative thinking with “Have you thought about this ______?” How can a simply question shut down the very behavior a leader wants to encourage? By virtue of your position as the leader, your words carry significant weight. From the boss, “Have you thought about this….” is more a directive than a question. When the boss suggests something that’s permission to act without owning the decision. If the action has a bad outcome, it wasn’t your idea. After all, the boss told you to do it, right? Command and control is an efficient style of leadership. First, the boss knows best and he has the path to success mapped out. The only thing employees have to do is show up to do what they are told. Thinking, creativity and innovation are not valued. These behaviors can be messy. In addition, it’s difficult to engage people when the only idea that matters is the boss’s idea. Businesses with this culture have a track record of high defection. Make the most of the words you choose. Flattery and hyperbole hold empty promises which are easily detected. Blatant lies and falsehoods—well, no need to state the obvious. Use your words to build an engaged team that understands how they contribute to your company’s success. These questions are a good place to start. Five questions every good...

What Experts Are Saying About Employee Reviews

Employee reviews are not only time consuming, they are also dreaded by the giver and the receiver. How can an employee review be truly useful with so much fear and loathing? Saving your feedback for an annual review, reminds me of “Wait until your father comes home.” There is a better way. Such companies as Goldman Sachs, IBM, Accenture, Adobe, GE, and Microsoft have revamped the employee review process. The annual performance appraisal may be going the way of the dinosaur. The intent of the employee review is to help people improve job performance. With improved job performance, they make a bigger contribution to the success of the company. When they are aligned with the vision, mission and values of the company, employees are engaged. They see what they do matters. They are more likely to want to stay. It’s expensive to have a revolving door of employees who seek employment where they feel appreciated. Seven steps to improve employee reviews: 1)      Have clarity about what an employee is expected to do to contribute to the success of the company. 2)      Create goals that are simple, measurable and important. 3)      Transform feedback to coaching regularly and frequently. 4)      Use a monthly to quarterly schedule to coach [a.k.a. give feedback] your team. 5)      Make it a two way conversation: “How can I help you?” and “What do you need from me?” 6)      Separate coaching and compensation. 7)      Develop a nonthreatening, feedback rich environment. When you have frequent meetings with your team to provide coaching, you set up an environment of trust. With the purpose to support employees not to punish them, you...

Leadership’s Underside

Carrying the mantle of leader may look glamorous. It is hard work. Much of what a real leader does is hidden. Another thing about leaders—they exist at all levels in an organization. Not all leaders have prestigious titles. All of them are not at the top of an organization. Here are 6 characteristics of leaders:       Self-awareness. There is no mistaking your weak points and your strong points. Don’t forget the blind spots that we all have, too. Self-mastery. The ability to practice self-discipline. Honor your word. It is your bond. Leadership is built on trust. You can rely on leaders to be accountable to themselves and others. Understanding change is the key to growth. To keep the status quo stymies not only personal but professional development. Change for the sake of change to chase the next shiny object does not count. Willing to do things differently. Even in the face of long standing traditions that once served a purpose, embrace a new way of behaving, thinking and doing. Courage. It takes bravery to release old beliefs. This is especially true when these beliefs are held strongly by people you love and respect. It may feel disloyal to adopt new beliefs that are counter to previously held ones. Wisdom. It’s true in cards as well as leading, “…know when to hold ‘em. Know when to fold ‘em.” Some ideas are ahead of their time. Some ideas are past their expiration date. There is no one right way to lead. Behavior, not fancy words, and results, not lofty ideas, are key indicators of leadership. Where are the leaders in your business?...

Your Behavior Reveals Your Values

Companies frequently state integrity as one of their values in doing business. Sounds good but what does it really mean? Merriam-Webster defines integrity, a noun, as the following: Steadfast adherence to a strict moral or ethical code. The state of being unimpaired; soundness. The quality or condition of being whole or undivided; completeness. It is impossible to adhere to something that you have not identified.  Nice, high-minded words sound good.  We expect that from companies that get our business. The better question may be more like what do they value?  Really value. Consider the non-negotiable, core values for your company. Do safety, profitability, reliable products, fun, and happy customers make the list, for example? Careful that you keep your core values to a small list of 2 – 3, not a laundry list. It is important for all the values align with each other. Unless they are aligned, achieving one diminishes another.  For example, valuing profitability is admirable.  Without profits, you will not be in business for long to provide a product or service to make your customers happy–to say nothing of gainful employment for your people.  However, to sacrifice safety for profitability is very costly.  Knowing safety is taking a back seat to profits would not make the company a very fun place to work. A list of 2 -3-core values makes it easy to understand them and to identify when behavior and values align.  Patrick Lencioni author of The Advantage [2012] says that core values are apparent when they are an inherent and natural trait that has been apparent in the organization for a long time.  Reminds...

Trust, the Deep Rudder of Leadership

Others disappoint us when they break a promise or fail to honor their word.  Enough broken promises and distrust sets in.  When this happens, your focus shifts to staying afloat and out of troubled waters instead of excellence and serving the customer, employee or community. You and/or your business can dig a deep hole of mistrust in one fell swoop or with an accumulation of small actions. Regardless of how you get into a hole of mistrust, it takes a LONG time of consistent, trustworthy action to get out of the hole.  In come cases, the damage is never repaired. I worked on a team with Glenn (not his real name) who was quick to volunteer for almost anything that needed to be done. Glenn’s “I got it” could mean a half done assignment or a complete omission.  Either way he couldn’t be trusted.  He was likable.  He was not reliable.  Since I didn’t have the authority to “redirect his career,” I found ways to work around him.  I did not put my credibility and reputation in his hands either inside the organization or outside with client relationships by relying on him to keep a promise. As Dr. Steven Covey puts it in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, “You can’t talk your way out of what you behaved yourself into.”  Trust is based on action not talk. Working around Glenn was inefficient and frustrating for me and others on the team. Wikipedia defines trust as “a prediction of reliance on an action based on what a party knows about the other party.” The article goes on to...