Tag Archives: leadership

Leading with Honor: Do You Have What It Takes?

By Lee EllisLee Ellis

Are you alarmed by the frequency of ethical scandals in recent years?  No doubt, you have seen the headlines about Wall Street greed, but ethical problems are just as prevalent on Main Street where bookkeepers, purchasing agents, and business owners violate the trust that others have placed in them.  Think of the headlines in recent months: a highly respected coach resigned for covering up NCAA violations by his players; a Congressman is convicted of accepting bribes; a religious leader cheated on his wife, another is accused of using his authority to fleece the flock; teachers changed students’ responses on standardized tests and administrators collaborated in cover-up; a college inflated the average SAT score of their students to improve its image. 

What is happening to our society?  Does anyone care about honorable leadership?  What can you do about it?  What have others done that might guide those of us who seek to turn the tide in this onslaught against character-based leadership?

It seems ironic that some of the best examples of leading with honor come from the POW camps of North Vietnam, an environment so life-threatening that one might expect to see frequent examples of self-centered, self-serving leadership.  But when life and limb were on the line, these brave leaders chose honor rather than comfort, humiliation rather than cooperation with the enemy.  Their courageous service can inspire and show us what is required to lead with honor. Let’s look at some of the lessons they offer to us today.

Know yourself: The POWs leaders were experienced and strong yet they had no choice but to be humble.  The enemy used torture and isolation to try to break their will and force them to cooperate in making propaganda. They were vulnerable, stripped to their core; they could not pose or pretend they were something they were not.  Fortunately, they were solid—healthy people with a strong character that enabled them to lead with honor through the most unimaginable humiliation. 

If you don’t know yourself and have a peace about who you are, your fears and insecurities will take you out.  Rather than pursuing your passion and purpose using your unique talents, style, and convictions, you will constantly be comparing yourself to others and trying to guide your life by someone else’s ways and standards.  Alternatively, when you know and accept yourself, you can be authentic, leading from your own true north.  Objectively knowing your strengths gives you confidence, while awareness of your weaknesses gives you humility.

Few will ever be POWs, but eventually we will all face situations that expose who we really are.  Spend time with yourself and go deep. Accept who you are, but realize there is always room for growth; work every day to build yourself strong so you can lead authentically, from the inside out. 

Clarify your values and standards and commit to them: The POWs had a uniform code of conduct that everyone knew and was charged with following.  It acted like signs along the road giving direction and providing a framework for decisions, choices, and behaviors, helping them stay on the right path even in the most difficult situations. 

Unfortunately, most people have only generic assumptions and a superficial understanding about their moral values and ethical commitments. Jeb Magruder, White House advisor who went to jail, said that he had been taught right but somewhere along the way he “lost his ethical compass.”  We are all cut from the same cloth as Magruder and without regularly clarifying our commitments, we will drift off course as well. 

Confront your doubts and fears: Fears and insecurities take out more leaders than anything else and they generally can be traced back to the first point above—your identity—knowing who you are and being comfortable with yourself.  Even the smartest, toughest, and best leaders face insecurities and fears. 

The POW leaders were tough warriors but they all struggled with fear.  Commander Jim Stockdale endured frequent physical abuse and more than four years in solitary confinement, so naturally, there were fears, but he did his duty and suffered the consequences. Great leaders know that fear is the norm, and they know they must lean into the pain of their fears to do what they know is right.  Courage does not mean that you are not afraid, but that you do what is right when it feels scary or unnatural. 

Connect with your support team: In your struggle to lead with honor, you are like any other warrior—it’s not good to fight alone.  That’s why the enemy tried so hard to isolate the POWs in North Vietnam and why the POWs risked everything to keep the communication lines open.  Even the toughest POWs relied on the counsel and encouragement of their teammates.  Authentic leaders realize they cannot see every situation objectively.  On the tough choices, you will usually need the perspective of someone who is outside the issue to help you evaluate the situation. Build a network of a few key advisors who can help you navigate the treacherous waters ahead. 

Our culture desperately needs men and women who will lead with honor. Don’t take it for granted that you will lead honorably. Engage in the battle required to guard your character. To be prepared, know yourself, clarify your values, standards, and commitments, confront your doubts and fears, and connect with your support team.  Then you are ready to face the giants and avoid the headlines of failure. 

Lee Ellis is a speaker and the author of “Leading With Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton,” in which he shares stories from his experiences as a Vietnam POW and highlights leadership lessons learned in the camps.  As president of Leadership Freedom, a leadership and team development consulting and coaching company, Lee has consulted in the areas of hiring, teambuilding, executive development, and succession planning for more than 15 years.  For more information, please visit www.freedomstarmedia.com.

A Business with a Soul Inspires and Motivates Its Workforce

By Pat HeydlauffPat Heydlauff

Some businesses are born out of ideology and conviction. Others spring up out of necessity, to fill a void or meet a burgeoning need. Then there are those born out of innovation with a vision for the greater good that have soul – companies like Apple, Disney and Ford. 

  • Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple wanted to produce products so imaginative and appealing that people didn’t even know they wanted them until Apple released them, not just another computer.

  • Walt Disney, founder the Disney Empire wanted to create the happiest place on earth for children of all ages with Disneyland and Disney World – not just another amusement park.

  • Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company wanted to build a horseless carriage that would be affordable by every family in America, not just the wealthy.

What is a Business Soul? A business’ soul is well defined by Henry Ford who said, “Business must be run at a profit, else it will die. But when anyone tries to run a business solely for profit … then the business must die as well, for it no longer has a reason for existence.” He did not want the Ford Motor Company to be a soulless giant business, known for its coldness and aloofness.

A business with a soul is built on principles that inspire, bring to life and permeate thought, action and end-user products. It is the driving force that propels a business innovatively and creatively forward.

Does It Matter? Research in the late 1990s of 3,000 of the largest U.S. businesses reported in the 100 Best Companies to Work for in America showed that businesses with a soul averaged 5.5% more annual profits. A business with a soul was defined as those having a meaningful purpose and a proportional relationship between bottom-line profits, people relationships and products. A business with soul not only nurtures and grows human talent and the human spirit, but sees healthy profits as a facilitator and by-product of achieving other worthwhile ends.

Businesses with soul yield an inspired workforce with higher productivity and job satisfaction, increased brand and customer loyalty, and increased productivity and profitability with sustainable results.

Begin Here: Be who you claim you are. Soul is authenticity, which comes from being who you are, not what you say you are. Itis about being sincere and honest in a way your workforce and customers feel, see, touch, and experience your business to be what you say it is.

Determine your reason for existence: Creating a business soul begins with soul searching by leadership. Determine the “who, what, why and how” of your business and how you can make a difference in the lives of your workforce, community and customers through your business. Do you have a meaningful purpose for existing other than bottom-line profits? 

Once you have drilled down so far that you cannot get more succinct, develop a one sentence description of your soul. Then drill down once again to get that sentence into a three- to five-word statement. This is your business vision and everything you do should be measured by this statement. Then, share this new vision with your workforce.

Create Genuine Connections: Share your new soul/vision with your workforce. Only once you share it can you determine its accuracy and whether it properly reflects who your business really is. Encourage feedback. There is a natural circular flow to the soul of a business which needs to be in harmony at all levels. If the workforce perceives a facade harboring a different reality or the creation of a fake soul, their productivity will drop and chaos will erupt.

By asking for their input you will create genuine connections with your workforce and complete the circular flow. Incorporate their input and republish your soul/vision to see if it resonates. When this process is finalized, don’t just put this nice new statement on the shelf and continue as before. Take the necessary action to make it a reality. Then implement collaborative decision-making as the rule not the exception.

Incubate Human Potential: After discovering and applying your soul in your business, unleash the human potential of your workforce by creating a physical workplace environment that is representative of your new soul/vision. Keep the enthusiasm flowing by removing or eliminating things (unwanted paperwork, stashed boxes, items for storage) and old thoughts (industrial age thinking and organizational charts) that clutter the workplace environment – they will stand in the way of focus, growth and expansion if left unchecked. 

By creating a workplace environment that engages and unleashes the focus of your workforce, and maintaining a circular motion of communication and nurturing, you will inspire and empower your workforce. This results in increased productivity, employee buy-in and profitability.

It is easy to overlook the importance of or discard your company’s soul because of the economy, the desire to expand, increase market share or simply the pursuit of the dollar.  But if you desire sustainable growth, an inspired workforce and an empowering workplace, discovering and nurturing your business soul is a significant key to success. 

Pat Heydlauff speaks from experience. She works with organizations that want to create an environment where employees are engaged, encouraged and involved, and with people who want to be in control, anxiety-free and confident. She is the author of the forthcoming book, Engage: How to Lead with Power, Productivity and Promise and Feng Shui: So Easy a Child Can Do It. She can be reached at 561-799-3443 or engagetolead.com.

Hooked on Experience

By Eric J. RomeroEric J Romero

“Imagination is more important than knowledge.” Albert Einstein

How much experience do you have is a question that is often posed to job applicants, and lack of experience is the main reason why many applicants do not get an interview. It also prevents entrepreneurs from getting access to capital to start new businesses and current employees from being promoted. The over-reliance on experience as a selection criterion results in missed opportunities for individuals, organizations and society.

Poor Old Experience: Experience is a poor indicator of what has been learned in the past and what can be done in the future. Driving is a good example of how experience often fails to lead to learning and expertise. Many people who have been driving for years, and therefore have ample experience, are still poor drivers. The weak relationship between experience and expertise is evident in many organizations as well. Anything that you do admirably today, you at one point did not know how to do, so experience was not a valid predictor of your future success. Therefore, for the same reason, it is unreasonable to use experience indiscriminately as a selection criterion.

Organizations depend on new ideas and innovation for survival. Since innovation is by nature something new, prior experience in often irrelevant. Some of the most creative and successful entrepreneurs had no experience at all in their fields when they started their firms. For example, Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream was started by two friends who knew nothing about the ice cream business. In fact, they learned how to make ice cream from a $5 correspondence course. Despite their lack of experience, they built an American icon with unique ice cream products such as Cherry Garcia and Chunky Monkey. Perhaps the secret of their creativity was their lack of experience based barriers to limit what they could do. If they would have applied for jobs at a mainstream ice cream producer, they would have likely been rejected due to a lack of experience. Ben and Jerry illustrate the notion that work experience is a poor measure for future creative performance. Personality characteristics and behavior patterns are far more reliable predictors.

The global economy makes change occur far more rapidly than in the past. Furthermore, change is occurring too rapidly for prior experience to be used as a selection criterion for many jobs. Even if people consistently learned the maximum possible from past experience, knowledge becomes obsolete rather quickly in a rapidly changing environment. This is particularly true at technology firms like Google, which was formed by two Stanford graduate students who had no business experience at all.

While prior experience is important for technical jobs, such as nuclear power plant engineers, or medical doctors, it is not required for many of today’s jobs. This is particularly true for jobs that require personnel to develop new products, work independently, use their knowledge in new ways, create new markets, etc. For example, Richard Branson has created numerous unrelated ventures (Virgin Record, Virgin Airway, etc.), which have made him one of the richest men in the world, despite the fact that he did not have any experience in many of these areas.

Hooked on Experience: Why does the over reliance on work experience persist? Dependence on work experience is like a crutch on which employers and financers have come to rely. It is measurable, easy to use and it has long been used as a selection tool. Since most organizations do not measure personality characteristics, skill levels or assess behavior patterns, using experience is a convenient, although often inappropriate, surrogate for more valid criteria. Additionally, using experience is often arbitrary (i.e., minimum 5 years of management experience) and helps decision makers lose cite of far more reliable predictors of success. It ignores that fact that some people learn little, even if they have a lot of experience, and other people can learn much in a short period of time. When one uses experience as a selection criterion, one assumes that everyone learns at the same rate, which is obviously false. The result is poor hiring, promotion and investment decisions and missed opportunities for individuals, organizations and society.

Just Try Something New: One may ask, what are good selection criteria for selecting unconventional thinkers who can work in a dynamic environment where personnel are expected to figure stuff out? Seeking people who are open to new ideas, have a vision similar to the company, and are comfortable with ambiguity is likely to yield better results than focusing on how much work experience applicants have or whether they have a university education.  The ability of learn quickly and adapt are particularly important.  Each organization should devise its own selection criteria and process that is matched to its culture and strategy. Keep in mind that the process you create is not static, it should be tweaked and adjusted over time. Experiment with new ideas that come from almost anywhere; movies, military, psychology, etc. Below are some general ideas that one can use as a start.

Finding and Selecting Unconventional People

  • Do no use “professional attire” during interviews and encourage people to be themselves, you want to learn about the real person in an interview

  • Have people do a creative activity as part of the selection process

  • Hire people from diverse backgrounds (music, arts, sciences, etc.), unconventional ideas will emerge from a mix of heterogonous people

  • Using psychometrics to measure personality characteristics

  • Use job previews for select candidates so you can see how they actually work

  • Hire people who are good listeners

  • Hire some people who have no education or experience, but have a lot of energy, ambition, great ideas, etc.

  • Hire people who are a little weird and wouldn’t fit in most organizations

  • Hire people who have traveled extensively or lived overseas

  • Have a debate with the candidate to see how he or she hold up to conflict

  • Hire self-motivating workers (described in the next chapter)

  • Use team interviews for people who will join a team

Summary: Kicking the hooked on experience habit is hard. As an unconventional leader, you will have to do some convincing and selling of the ideas presented here. It will take time for a company to devise a new custom designed system and to refine it.  When using an innovative selection process, you might spend much more time searching for personnel. That is the price to pay for doing things differently. For example, Google interviews are a day long affair, or more. Google is also one of the most unconventional companies in the world. A customized and innovative selection process will help you to find and select more unconventional thinkers who can help your company beat the competition.

Eric J. Romero, PhD is a speaker, consultant, and coach. He helps managers become unconventional leaders who beat the competition. Eric teaches them how to create competitive advantage based on innovation, flexibility and risk-taking. Eric has written over 20 articles and presented his ideas around the world for over 14 years. Originally from Brooklyn, his presentations are delivered with a sense of humor, 100% unedited honesty and street smarts! For more information, go to competeoutsidethebox.com.

Leaders Play a Major Role for the Employee

By Gregg GregoryGregg Gregory

Think of the best boss you have ever had in your adult work life. Now what are the top three reasons you said this is your best boss? If you are like many you answered with statements like:

  • Lead by example

  • Encouraged everyone

  • Rewarded fairly

  • Held me accountable

  • Empowered me

Now either go see or call this person (do not email) and tell them you just thought of him/her. How do think they will feel when you tell them this? Pretty awesome I would think. These are just a few of the things employees said are important to them. What is interesting is that these are leadership traits and not management traits.

When you take a training class what are you looking to learn? Many of us want to learn ‘the how’ to do the things in our jobs – which translates into managing things. Have you ever given thought to what your team members look for and are they getting what they expect. Leadership from the top down in essence dictates the culture of an organization. If the leadership is empowering then this will breed future leaders that too empower others. On the other hand if the organization is one that keeps a stronghold on everyone then that too will result in breeding future leaders of the same style. Think about it this way. Have you ever noticed how much a child resembles the parent?

Not just in physical appearance either. This includes mannerisms and communication styles. Here are four quick tips on breeding a successful legacy in your organization:

1. Treat everyone fairly – and fairly does not mean equal – it means fairly. This is one of the strongest ways to build a respectful team and a respectful team is generally a trusting team.

2. Lead from a position of integrity – How do you expect to breed others if you are not leading the pack. This goes beyond walking the walk – it means you must live the part you are portraying. This means be consistent between word and deed at all times.

3. Develop the right track for everyone to run on – Have you ever had an employee that shared in the vision but could not perform at his or her position? Get the right person into the right job and do it fast.

4. Show a genuine interest in your team members – Everyone likes to have some attention shown to them. This means that even if you are not the extroverted leader develop the skill set to make sure the employees know you care about them on every level.

If you are lucky you will be like the legendary San Francisco 49er head coach Bill Walsh. When he was asked about his career he said he was proud of his super bowl rings but he was even more proud of the number of head coaches he developed over the years. One day five years from now you could be sitting at home and answer the phone. The voice on the other end says, “Hey boss – I just read an article about best bosses and when I thought about my best boss I thought of you and wanted to just give you a call and tell you how much I appreciated everything you did for me back in 2007.” Imagine that…

Gregg Gregory, of Teams Rock, works with organizations to create a culture where people work together and perform at peak levels. Through his interactive workshops and consulting, Gregg’s clients achieve greater team focus, cooperation, productivity, and impact. His experience includes more than two decades of human resources, real estate, mortgage banking, as well as radio and television broadcasting. Please contact Gregg at 866-764-TEAM or greg@teamsrock.com see how his keynote speeches and breakout training sessions can help your company or organization.

Become a Better Leader: Commit to Continuous Learning

By Joelle K. Jay, Ph.D.

Joelle K JayIn order to excel in your work, in your life, or as a leader, you need to commit to continuous learning. Many leaders know this, but many more are missing the opportunities for powerful learning that could really help them get ahead on their goals.

Leaders are encouraged to learn “on the job.” The problem is that many of us don’t. Either because we’re too busy, we forget, we don’t know what we need to learn, or we don’t have the resources we think we need, we end up learning by chance or command. Neither one is very powerful.

Learning by chance means you take opportunities to learn whenever they show up, but you don’t necessarily go looking for more. A conference brochure arrives; it seems interesting; you go. A friend recommends a book; it looks good; you read it. You take opportunities to learn as they come to you – in other words, when it’s convenient.

Learning by command means you learn when someone else demands it. When your colleagues tell you that you need to learn to be more decisive, or when your profession requires that you get an advanced certification, or when your boss sends you to a workshop to learn specific skills, you are learning by command.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with these approaches to learning. Anylearning that advances your expertise and builds your capacity may be worth your time.

Or it may not, and that’s the problem. You have so much potential, and there are so many opportunities to learn, and there is so much to be gained by learning that it simply doesn’t make sense to relegate your learning to the whims of chance and command. You need to learn by choice.

Learning by choice means carefully setting up your own learning opportunities based solely on what you need to get better results. Learning by choice is based on a number of assumptions.

Learning is leadership: Learning is an essential component of leadership. Some experts go so far as to say learning is leadership, a leader’s constant quest for the improvement of the business, people, and results. As a leader, what do you need to learn? What leadership skills, strategic practices, or management techniques will help you be more effective? Look at your results, and notice where there’s room for improvement. What do you need to learn in order to improve those results? This is the kind of learning that supports powerful leadership.

Learning is profit and competitive edge: The soul of business is innovation; the soul of personal leadership is the innovation of the self. You can’t have one without the other. If you want to have, run, or be part of a business that succeeds in a time of change, you need to be willing to change, as well. Think about it. If another company is doing better than yours, what do you need to learn to be better able to compete? If you personally are stuck in a rut in your career, what do you need to learn to get a more competitive edge? Without asking these questions, you will start to languish in mediocrity, and that’s no place for a leader. Refuse to buy into the assumption that the economy, the market you’re in, or your products are creating your results. If you’re not happy with what you’ve got, go out and learn what needs to change. You’ll feel more in control, and you will learn to lead the way to a more powerful and profitable place.

Learning is life: In addition to learning for all of the practical and rational reasons that contribute to your effectiveness as a leader, there’s one more: learning is part of the fun of life. When was the last time you picked up a new sport, game or hobby? We learn these things not because we have to, but because we want to. Your vision and goals will be infused with a new sense of exuberance when you commit to learning what you need to learn in order to achieve them. You will know that you can do anything you want to as long as you know how to learn.

Learning is an essential component of leadership, but not all learning experiences are equally powerful. Learning by choice means understanding exactly what you need to learn in order to achieve your vision.

Try this simple exercise to sharpen your approach to learning.

  • Think about your vision or an important goal.

  • Brainstorm. What do you need to learn in order to achieve this vision or goal?

  • Choose one area in which to focus your learning, and choose the one that is likely to have the biggest impact.

  • Ask yourself, “What’s the most powerful way I can learn in this area to get the best and fastest results?”

This approach will steer you away from learning by chance and help you choose your learning, so it’s more strategic and leads directly to your vision.

If you really want to lead well and live well, you must learn to learn well, too.

Joelle K. Jay, Ph.D., is president of the leadership development practice, Pillar Consulting.  As an executive coach, author and speaker, Joelle helps leaders achieve top performance and business results. Her clients include presidents, vice presidents, and C-level executives in Fortune 500 companies. Joelle is the author of “The Inner Edge: The 10 Practices of Personal Leadership.”

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