Archives For September 2011

I’m working with a client to bring Blanchard’s new Servant Leadership program into their organization’s culture. There are a lot of really good things in place in this organization, AND, they want to take the vital steps to ensure all leaders are serving staff, every minute of every day.

Their senior leaders have formalized the leadership philosophy they want all leaders to demonstrate. They want leaders “to have the courage, confidence, and commitment to connect with and inspire others to achieve extraordinary results through teamwork.”

I LOVE the concepts they’ve clarified in this statement – AND (if they asked me, which they haven’t) I would coach them to make the statement’s language ACTIVE rather than PASSIVE. I think this statement is much more actionable: “Our leaders demonstrate courage, confidence, and commitment while connecting with and inspiring others to achieve extraordinary results through teamwork.”

Draw Your “Line In The Sand”

Creating a leadership philosophy is easy. Creating and sharing that philosophy is a much stronger commitment to leading effectively, to helping team members perform while maintaining a positive relationship with their leader. The benefits of publishing a leadership philosophy – for an individual leader or an organization – include:

  • It makes a promise that the individual leader is now bound to deliver upon. The leader understands the minimum standard he/she is expected to hit with his/her leadership efforts.
  • Individual leaders can reflect daily on their plans, decisions, and actions to gauge how well they are living their leadership standards. A proactive part of this reflection would be engaging key players (direct or indirect reports) in conversations about how the leader’s efforts are perceived by those players.

Create Your Personal Leadership Philosophy

An effective leadership philosophy is different than your personal purpose, values, and valued behaviors. While your leadership philosophy will be built upon the foundation your clear personal purpose and values statement creates, it is specific to your leadership efforts (in the workplace, in a community organization, wherever you are taking a leadership role).

Let’s define an effective leadership philosophy as a values-aligned statement that helps you inspire consistent high performance and positive relationships with all of your team members, every day.

Consider these questions as you craft your personal leadership philosophy:

    1. Key Elements (Present Day)
      • What are your reasons for being a leader? Why are you serving in an influencing role today?
      • What results are your leadership efforts generating today? There might be positive and negative results – note them both.
      • Who am I serving today? Note the roles or (even better) the specific players you are leading.
      • What is the impact today of your leadership efforts on the relationships with those noted in the item above? Note positive and negative impact.
    2. Desirable Outcomes (Future)
      • How might your personal purpose and values inform your effective leadership behaviors? For example, if a value you hold is “honesty,” how might that be demonstrated when you are influencing well?
      • How might you behave to leverage current team member skills & competencies to deliver on promised performance?
      • How might you behave to inspire future skill development in team members to deliver on needed performance?
      • How will you gauge the quality of your relationships with team members? What indicators will help you understand that mutual trust and respect is present?

Once you’ve gathered answers to the questions above, create a succinct, actionable leadership philosophy statement that 1) you’ll share with your team members and 2) you’ll work hard to live that philosophy in day-to-day influencing efforts.

Share your thoughts and even your leadership philosophy in the comments section below!

Download your FREE excerpt of my new book, #CORPORATE CULTURE tweet.


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.”

Rights granted through http://morguefile.comThis past week I enjoyed co-facilitating Blanchard’s new Servant Leadership Immersion program (which I co-authored) with Ken & Margie Blanchard in Rancho Bernardo, CA.

Margie, the director of Blanchard’s Office of the Future, is always working on cool projects that increase leader effectiveness. I first reported on Margie’s courageous career questions a year ago in this post. Margie has updated the questions to make the career conversation even more effective.

Connect Before You Communicate

That’s the advice Ken offered Servant Leadership Immersion participants. It is a core mantra of Ken’s: your effectiveness in influencing others is directly proportional to the degree of connectedness created between you, the leader, and your followers. Margie believes that courageous career coaching is a conversation that well-connected leaders have with each direct report annually.

Courageous Career Questions, Version 2.0

The updated questions below can help the leader learn the follower’s motivations, aspirations, and frustrations in the workplace. The leader guides this honest conversation, explaining that he/she wants to learn more about how the direct report is feeling about their career so far. The leader makes no promises to “fix every problem” or “grant every wish” – the conversation is about the leader connecting to their direct reports’ perceptions and goals. The updated questions are:

  1. Why do you stay?
  2. What might lure you away?
  3. What did you like about a prior job (one where you stayed several years)? What kept you there?
  4. Are you being (pick one or two: challenged, recognized, trained, given feedback) enough for now?
  5. What would make your life easier here?
  6. Are things as you had expected they would be?
  7. What do you want to be doing five years from now?
  8. What would we need to do to keep you here?
  9. What is most energizing about your work?
  10. What about your job makes you want to take the day off?

Think about how valuable the information gathered in this discussion is for both the leader and the follower! You learn what the follower wants more of: challenging goals and tasks, more recognition, more feedback more often. You learn your direct report’s expectations. You learn about gaps that you might be able to address quickly and easily.

Great bosses proactively ask about such gaps and do everything they can to address them, quickly. They reduce frustrating procedures and requirements where they are able. They increase the frequency of direct reports’ enjoying the things that are most energizing about their work. Great bosses work hard daily to provide an attractive, inspiring work environment for the talented staff on their team. If the work environment is not inspiring, talent will move on to more gratifying opportunities.

Ken’s Career Questions for Me

Ken and I were sitting in the back of the room while Margie facilitated this activity in our program. I enjoyed fifteen minutes of discussion with our remarkable Chief Spiritual Officer. Ken wanted to learn from me why I’d stayed with Blanchard for over 17 years. It was marvelous to help Ken see that the company that he and Margie created offers me the chance to:

  • Learn from colleagues who are some of the smartest, kindest in the industry
  • Engage with clients who are serious about making their organizations better places to work
  • Develop books, articles, tools, and programs that help share my unique experience with high performance, values aligned cultures

What five courageous career coaching questions would you love your boss to ask YOU? What are the best career coaching questions your mentor(s) have asked you in the past? Join in the conversation in the comments section below.


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’m fascinated by performance management systems. I often ask clients: does your performance management system really help everyone meet performance standards?

Most clients say their performance management system is “OK.” Few (less than 5%, in my experience) say their system is “outstanding.” There is a vital need to refine systems to 1) manage performance consistently well and 2) manage MORE than performance.

Don’t Just Manage Performance; Manage Contribution

In their book, Helping People Win At Work, Ken Blanchard and WD-40 CEO Garry Ridge discuss how Garry completely changed WD-40′s performance management system, with outstanding results.

Garry’s commitment to learning prompted him to join the first cohort (2000-2001) of the University of San Diego’s Master of Science in Executive Leadership program, co-sponsored by the Ken Blanchard Companies. Blanchard’s “Partnering for Performance” philosophy is carefully woven through the MSEL program, and it inspired Garry to change WD-40′s performance management philosophy. (Full disclosure: I taught the Situational Leadership® II/DISC Bridge® course with MSEL 2000-2008.)

Among the best practices emphasized in the MSEL program is the benefit of a values-aligned workforce. Garry took all of these best practices and refined them to fit the unique WD-40 culture.

Manage Values AND Performance

WD-40′s year-round contribution management system includes these three phases:

  1. Planning
  2. Execution
  3. Review and Learning

Planning – once a year, tribe leaders (WD-40′s functional groups are tribes, not “just teams”) establish each tribe member’s “final exam.” This “exam” is a formal agreement that maps out expectations in three areas: essential functions, SMART goals, and values.

  • Essential functions describe the responsibilities of tribe members within their unique job position. Every year, tribe members see their current essential functions description and are asked, “Is this still the way you understand your job?” Tribe members know whether their jobs have changed.
  • SMART goals outline performance expectations. A well-defined goal needs to be specific, motivating, attainable, relevant, and trackable. Utilizing SMART goals ensures all tribe members know what they are being asked to do.
  • WD-40′s values describe HOW tribe members and leaders go about accomplishing their goals. Demonstration of company values is carefully monitored throughout the year, and feedback is provided to ensure clarity of other’s perceptions. WD-40 doesn’t just want good performers; it wants good performers who are also good citizens.

Execution – Once expectations for performance and values are clear, tribe members begin delivering on their goals. Day-to-day coaching is the primary tool tribe leaders use to maintain a healthy partnership with each tribe member.

In this phase, leaders use Blanchard’s Situational Leadership® II model to diagnose tribe member’s task-specific development needs and provide only those leader behaviors the tribe member needs for high competence and high commitment on each task.

Review and LearningThis vitally important phase allows for leaders and direct reports to pause regularly, review progress, and look for the “learning moment” that can help move goals forward. Going to hard, “doing” too much without pause, can send tribe members down the wrong path quite easily. Mistakes are seen as learning opportunities; if caught early, they are rarely “typhoons” – what Garry calls destructive events.

Garry wants all WD-40 tribe leaders and members to take time to find the learning in every action. This results in continuous conversations regarding reviewing and learning.

An interesting focus of the WD-40 contribution management process is the foundation of mutual accountability and mutual responsibility. Both parties – team leader and team member – are 1) accountable for agreed-to outcomes delivered in a values-aligned fashion, and are 2) responsible for the outcome.

To what extent does your company have a contribution management system? Join in the conversation in the comments section below.


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.”

Employee morale in organizations across the globe continues to erode.

A recent study by the World At Work organization found that employee engagement levels for all workers at the companies surveyed have dropped by nearly 10 percent since 2008-2009, and by 23 percent for top performers. Their study also shows that, compared with 2008-2009 data, top-performing employees are 26 percent less likely to be satisfied with advancement opportunities at their company, and are also 14 percent less likely to want to remain with their company versus take a job elsewhere. According to a new white paper from the Ken Blanchard Companies, these issues cost organizations hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost productivity and poor service.

Proactive management of the workplace environment is critically important to the short- and long-term success of both the company and the leader.

Who is “In Charge” of Your Organization’s Workplace Environment?

Let’s not beat around the bush: a leader’s primary responsibility is to create a workplace environment that is safe for all members.

Whether you are a senior executive, mid-level manager, or front-line supervisor, you are responsible for the work environment that exists across your sphere of influence.

By the term “safe,” I mean beyond physical safety. Physical safety is an absolute requirement of all workplaces. A psychologically safe work environment enables all employees to:

  1. Bring Their Skills & Interests – a workplace that lets every employee leverage their unique skills and interests out-performs a workplace that does not. Every day.
  2. Bring Their “Best Selves” – a work environment that allows every employee to do what they do best in service to team and company goals generates authentic enthusiasm for tasks and customers.
  3. Bring Their Brains - a workplace that is safe for employee’s to think and share ideas about how to get work done more efficiently generates improvements in the work flow every day.

Create a Safe, Inspiring Work Environment

Any leader can create a genuinely safe work environment by implementing these steps:

  1. Standards – first, make expectations crystal clear. Be bold; ensure that every employee has a written “contribution” plan that outlines performance & values expectations. Be specific with values standards, outlining the behaviors expected to ensure all employees are great corporate citizens – with each other and with customers.
  2. Monitor & Measure – Once standards are defined and communicated, leaders must get into the flow of their work environment to observe how those standards are being embraced. Great bosses spend time observing interactions every day; they connect, praise, and coach to reiterate the equal importance of goals & values. Data must be gathered to assess employee perceptions of the workplace environment; results are promptly shared with the entire organization so everyone is “in the loop.”
  3. Reward & Redirect - Based on data and observation, leaders must regularly praise progress and celebrate benchmark performance & citizenship. For those employees who miss standards (goals or values expectations), leaders promptly engage those employees (or leaders) to learn what is getting in the way. Redirection typically will enable those employees to get back on track. If, after coaching, employees are unable to meet standards, they are “lovingly set free,” released from employment. Goals & values are that important.

These steps require constant attention. If leaders set expectations but never follow up, the “not so subtle” message is that the standards really aren’t important. Standards are critically important, and great bosses invest time every day monitoring demonstrated behavior to ensure alignment.

What is your experience with workplace environments? Join in the conversation by using the comments section below.

Download your FREE excerpt of my new book, #CORPORATE CULTURE tweet.


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.”