Archives For December 2010

In December 2010, the secretly-recorded audiotapes of US President Richard M. Nixon were in the news again. Additional recordings (another 265 hours worth) were released earlier this month which found Nixon making disparaging remarks about ethical groups, foreign powers, and worse.

Ignoring the ethics of recording conversations of any number of White House staff, congress members, foreign dignitaries, etc. without their knowledge or permission, I wonder how our workplace behaviors would stand up to such scrutiny.

Imagine your every conversation, your every word, recorded and immediately posted on the web for your employees, family, and friends to hear. Would your behavior, your treatment of others, your tone, etc. – recorded 24/7 – reveal that you:

  1. Value and trust others?
  2. Respect others’ contributions and opinions?
  3. Expect the best from others?
  4. Give others the benefit of the doubt?

. . . or, might those recordings reveal that you sometimes stray into unfair judgment, gossip, humor at others’ expense . . . or worse?

Not a Proud Moment

An example might illustrate the “unintended” impact of our behavior. Years ago, in one of my first ever “supervising others” roles, I found that I managed some staff easily, others took a bit of effort, and a few were a complete mystery. I basically was learning “on the job” how to be a good manager.

One of my “complete mystery” staff members was a terrific contributor. Let’s call her Kelly. Her skills were exceptional and her interactions with customers were appropriate and pleasant. However, Kelly’s interactions with her staff peers and her bosses were driven by biting sarcasm, rolling of eyes at others’ comments or ideas, etc. I tried a number of approaches to raise the issue and close this gap, but Kelly never listened nor did she agree that there was any problem with her behavior.

Kelly also worked in another department, managed by a colleague. He had the same experience with her attitude and was equally frustrated.

One important complication – Kelly was the daughter of one of our board members. That dynamic caused me hours of consternation, trying to figure out what to do with my “mystery” and to do so without disappointing a key board member at the same time. I was exhausted.

The Conversation

I decided to take the bull by the horns. My colleague and I set up a meeting with Kelly to discuss our concerns. I explained the purpose of the meeting by boldly stating, “Kelly, your performance is great, but you have a %^$@% attitude.”

Silence followed. A long silence. My use of that curse word shocked her – and she barely said a word through the 10-minute meeting. I explained the inappropriate behaviors we had observed and asked her to change those behaviors ASAP. She agreed and left.

Later that evening I got a call from my boss . . . who had heard from Kelly’s dad, our board member. My boss expressed his frustration with my approach and my language. He told me in no uncertain terms that I was in the wrong, and that I owed Kelly and her Dad an apology. I called them within minutes and did just that.

My good intentions didn’t help at all. I blew it, big time – and Kelly’s and my relationship never improved. If (hypothetically) I knew I was being tape recorded, I would have never used that kind of language.

Act as If Your Every Word was Being Broadcast

Ultimately, our leadership responsibility is to create a caring, supportive work environment where goals are accomplished by passionate employees. Your influencing efforts – your words, actions, tone, and attitude – either build or erode trust and respect.


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Human communities have utilized social rituals for centuries. We humans are inspired by workplace events that help define how our work is meaningful – to our clients, to our peers, to ourselves, even to our stakeholders.

However, few senior leaders leverage corporate rituals as an intentional strategy to define and reinforce a company’s desired culture. This week’s post looks at how to do just that.

Typical Rituals

We define corporate rituals as events which communicate and reinforce desired performance and values. Common rituals in workplaces across the globe include:

  • All-company meetings
  • Department celebrations
  • Voicemails/videos/memos from senior leaders
  • Service award events
  • Customer summit events

These events typically vary in how effective they are at reinforcing your desired culture. Intentional efforts can ensure that all corporate rituals create a common bond, inspire commitment and innovation, and build the “finely woven cloth” of an effective culture. Humans need a source of workplace connectedness or they lose focus, passion, and willingness.

Organizations are Human Systems

Organizations are made up of humans who perform needed roles to deliver products and services that meet (or exceed) customer’s requirements. Therefore, all organizations are human systems. Just as your automobile needs the engine tuned and oiled, the tires inflated properly, the brakes adjusted regularly, etc., the human systems in your organization need proactive tending to maintain peak performance and inspired commitment.

Let’s examine a few well-proven approaches in two strategic categories – communication and celebration.

Communication Rituals

Communication rituals focus on educating participants about your business strategy, market environments, opportunities, company performance, insights about customers, new solutions in process, etc. Powerful communication rituals address these primary outcomes while building human connectedness. Two key rituals used at Blanchard can enhance communication efforts:

  • Regular Information Sharing – At Blanchard, our chief spiritual officer (yes, that is his real title) Dr. Ken Blanchard, leaves every employee a voicemail message every business day of the year. (OK, not every day – when he travels internationally he asks select staff to leave the morning message in his stead!) Ken’s messages cover a variety of topics of importance to Blanchard associates, including book projects coming to fruition, client project updates, board of directors meeting debriefs, milestones reached by teams and individual associates, and “what has come clear” to Ken about leading others. These are inspirational messages even if Ken is pointing out areas of improvement!
  • All Company Meetings – Blanchard holds ACMs each quarter, led by key leadership (including Blanchard family members). For associates on campus in Escondido, CA, they are live, face-to-face meetings; the meetings are broadcast (video/audio) for field based associates around the globe. Blanchard is a very relationship-driven organization; these meetings are major connection events for Blanchard associates.
    The agenda includes a report on finances (how we stand to budget expectations), delivery days (classroom, virtual, blended), product development updates (always cool projects in the works at Blanchard), and service awards (which gets into celebration a bit). Associates educated about where the business stands are able to make decisions, in the moment, that move the business forward.

Celebration Rituals

As noted above, sometimes communication rituals include celebration elements, which is a great thing. Celebration rituals are not exclusively the responsibility of “all company” events – these rituals are very powerfully utilized by work teams, departments, and functions. Blanchard’s celebration rituals include:

  • Birthdays
  • Project completion
  • Small wins (along the path to project completion)
  • “Open Forum” lunches, Q&As on how things could be done better on the team

These corporate rituals can not only shift your organization towards your desired culture but they are critical pieces in maintaining your desired culture. Be intentional with rituals you invest in.


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

I recently facilitated a discovery call with one of my sales partners and a new client. We asked our contacts, directors in a medium-sized service business, about the issues they were facing and what outcomes they’d love from the proposed initiative.

We learned how market changes now require very different behaviors from company staff. The old ways of doing business will no longer satisfy customers or generate the profits they once did. Players who have been in roles for years must drop old skill sets and scramble for new skills. Many are frustrated with their lack of knowledge, their lack of traction, and their feeling of incompetence in this new environment.

My sales colleague and I dug deeper. I asked how senior leaders viewed the required changes and how they viewed these struggling employees. Our contacts said about half of the senior leadership team “get it.” They understand the need to change their business model, culture, and approach. The other half truly don’t understand what the problem is.

I learned that their CEO is in the camp of “don’t get it.” (That’s never a good sign!) The CEO has told all staff, through a series of memos and announcements at staff meetings, that their business model has changed and staff need to embrace this new approach. The CEO is “shocked and appalled” that the staff are not doing what he has told them to do.

<sigh>

This CEO and these leaders have made a common mistake: “Managing by Announcements.” Leaders with this mindset believe the podium is their most important tool to “lead and influence others.” The reality is that announcing a change is step one – many other supportive steps and modeling must follow for the desired change to gain traction in the work environment.

Great Bosses Announce, Model, and Hold Accountable

Here is what effective change leaders do to ensure the change takes hold and the work culture evolves to embrace desired new behaviors:

  1. First, clearly state the new expectations. (A podium may be involved in this step!) Describe the context for the change by making the business case. Explain what has happened that leads the senior leadership team to ask the organization to make this shift?
    Then define the new reality by describing the new business model and required behaviors. Use real business examples to embed the model in team members’ minds and hearts.
    Use the “3rd Grade Teacher” approach – tell them, tell them, tell them. Over and over. Use multiple and differing marketing strategies to help staff keep their eye on the new model and revised behaviors expected of them.
  2. Second, demonstrate defined new behaviors to reinforce the change. Senior leaders must champion the new approach by modeling desired behaviors, FIRST and consistently. Demonstrating desired new behaviors creates credibility for both the leader and the change.
    Share difficulties you encounter and frustrations you experience (trust me, you will stumble as you are learning) and express gratitude for their efforts to model the new way.
    Engage staff in this journey. Listen to their suggestions and frustrations, all while focusing effort on embracing the new required model.
  3. Finally, hold staff equally accountable for consistent demonstration of desired behaviors. Regularly praise and encourage demonstration of desired behaviors. Celebrate small wins! Redirect and coach staff who are not embracing the new approach. With staff who are unable to make the shift, find roles where their skills serve the new model. If no suitable roles are available, you must lovingly “set them free.” Keep only the talent that can support and embrace the desired change.

How can Blanchard help you manage your desired change most effectively?


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

In December 2010, Sports Illustrated recognized Drew Brees, the quarterback of the NFL’s New Orleans Saints, as their 2010 Sportsman of the Year. It is an award well-earned for Brees, who came into the Saints organization a bruised and battered player . . . and into a region that was nearly destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. I understand that sports metaphors don’t translated well for many. AND, I believe there is much we can learn from Brees’ effective approach to leading this team and this region.

Strong Values

Brees is an American sports celebrity, which means he is in the public eye 24/7. In the Internet Age, personal foibles become headlines in moments. Brees boldly lives the values of fidelity, fatherhood, service, selflessness, and sportsmanship. Brees and his wife Brittany came to New Orleans feeling a faith-based calling – and both have immersed themselves in helping recovery occur.

A telling quote from the article describes how vital Brees has become to the region. Veteran Saints tackle Jon Stinchcomb says, “People come up to Drew and don’t say ‘Congratulations.’ They say, ‘Thank you. Thank you for coming here.’”

Demonstrated Accomplishment

The Saints needed a quarterback – and Brees has delivered, big time. In 2006, his first season with the team, he threw for a league-high 4,418 yards. In ’08, he became only the second quarterback in NFL history to throw for 5,000 yards in a season. In 2009, Brees completed 70.62% of his throws and lead the team to the first Super Bowl win in the Saints’ 44-year history.

Brees is relentless in his efforts to build his skills, stamina, and savvy-ness. He works his body, his mind, and his spirit to be an effective leader on and off the playing field. Those efforts have created a terrific athlete and a brilliant quarterback, surrounded by a team that would follow him to hell and back.

Selfless Service

In 2003, Brees established the Brees Dream Foundation to support cancer research and the care and education of children in need. Since that time his foundation has contributed over $6 million in Louisiana, San Diego, and West Lafayette, IN (the home of his alma mater, Purdue).

Brees gives time, talent, and treasure, even during the football season. The foundation has helped nearly 50 New Orleans schools and organizations, and Brees supports many schools with visits and individualized attention. He developed a “Quarterback Club” made up of nine New Orleans businessmen Brees brought together to leverage their creativity and wealth (each member contributes at least $25K annually to the foundation). In addition, Brees has made five NFL-sponsored USO visits to troops all over the globe.

Personal Connection

Brees cares about his teammates AND holds them accountable for their responsibilities. He spends time daily – during the season and off-season – building the “communal faith” that makes the modern passing offense work. Slot receiver Lance Moore said, “The biggest thing Drew ever said to me is, ‘I trust you.’ When Drew trusts you, you can get the ball anytime.” Wide receiver Marques Colston said, “Just being around so great a player, a guy who works so hard . . . it makes you feel like you have to raise the level of your game.”

Insights from this Genuine Leader

  1. Be bold about your values and about the behaviors you must demonstrate to live your values. Share them. Ask your staff to help you live them.
  2. Demonstrate your skills in the workplace and help others build their skills. Be bold about the skills you DON’T have, yet, and ask for coaching from players who do have those skills.
  3. Commit time, talent, and treasure to personal and company philanthropy. Share what you have with those less fortunate, not just during the holidays, but all year long.
  4. Connect to each of your team members. Learn and support their plans, hopes, and dreams. Let people know you care – and they will care right back.


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”