Archive | April, 2012

New Secret Service Rules Are A Good Thing

This week, in response to the Columbia sex scandal, the US Secret Service put into place ten new rules to govern agent and officer behavior on international trips.

Some see the rules as “closing the barn door after the cows have escaped,” but I see these rules as an appropriate shift in clarifying expectations.

The facts are not all in; the investigation of the agents/officers’ behavior in Columbia continues. We do know 1) the information that has been reported and 2) agents/officers have been fired, relieved of duty, or given the opportunity for early retirement due to their behavior.

What Went Wrong?

The US Secret Service boldly describes the organization’s values and culture on their “join the team” web page. The following statement is powerful:

The United States Secret Service culture is represented through the agency’s five core values: justice, duty, courage, honesty and loyalty. These values, and the Secret Service adage “Worthy of Trust and Confidence,” resonate with each man and woman who has sworn to uphold these principles. Not only do these values foster a culture of success, but they also hold each person to the highest standards of personal and professional integrity.

The most important declaration is that the service holds each person accountable to these high standards. Yet, apparently, 12 agents and officers engaged in heavy drinking and payment to prostitutes in advance of President Obama’s visit to Columbia two weeks ago.

The problem? The standards were an “unwritten code of conduct.” A former agent of eight years, Andrew O’Connell, is quoted in an April 27, 2012 Washington Post article saying, staff were “taught certain principles from day one and throughout our career — acting professionally and ethically and not in a way that embarrasses the service or the president. It’s too bad they have to put it into writing.”

It is unfortunate that widely-held principles that worked for so long now need to be defined more fully. And, it’s the right thing to do.

Formalize Expectations, Then Hold All Accountable

The challenge with “unwritten rules” is that – without consistent observation, coaching, reinforcement, & accountability – they evolve over time. Rather than wait for mis-aligned behavior to occur, we help guide senior leaders to be very specific about the values-aligned behaviors they expect of all employees – including themselves!

The US Secret Service has an opportunity to align ALL agent and officer behavior to conduct their unique responsibilities around the globe in ways that align to the service’s mission, culture, and values. The recent scandal means that the service will be under greater media scrutiny for years to come. I’m hopeful that the leaders of the organization pay attention to the details and 1) celebrate behavior that is in alignment with the new rule and 2) promptly redirect any behavior that is misaligned.

Time will tell.

How well are your organization/team’s values defined in specific, behavioral terms? Are folks held accountable for valued behaviors? Tell us in the comments section below.

Get your FREE EXCERPT from my new book, #POSITIVITY AT WORK tweet, written with the delightful Lisa Zigarmi. View our video on why we wrote the book, understand the research on positivity in the workplace, and more!


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.”

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Out-of-the-Box Thinking about Corporate Culture

I’m always on the lookout for unique corporate cultures. There’s no “wrong” corporate culture, so long as three elements are fully present: 1) employees demonstrate high work passion, 2) customers are not only loyal but devoted, and 3) the organization is making money to sustain itself.

A recent Fast Company article featured Jon Stein, the founder of Betterment. The article describes Stein’s investment banking startup’s very unique culture. Titled, “The No-Hour Workweek,” the article opened with citing a powerful study from the University of Southern California, where a researcher shadowed over two dozen new investment bankers during their first two years in the industry. She discovered that 100% of the individuals she observed developed a stress-related physical or emotional ailment during those 24 months (!).

With Betterment, Stein is reinventing financial investing with a cool product, different ways of interacting with customers “on the go,” a values-aligned approach to business, and a nurturing environment for team members. Stein and his team needed to come up with a new approach to manage the demands of a startup business during a global recession while leveraging skills yet balancing needs of the organization’s workforce. Their solution: the “no hour workweek.”

Here is how it works for them. The team is in constant contact. Work is done in their NYC office or in planes/trains/automobiles or in cafes or home offices, as required. Work happens 24/7. Two-thirds of their team take customers calls at night and on weekends. Overtime is inevitable. To offset the stress of overtime, traditional time restrictions for work are eliminated. Staff get to leverage their best times of the day, manage partner/kids/health/social connections, all while getting needed work done with valued colleagues.

To keep the no-hour workweek from becoming all-work, all the time, four values are in place. They include:

  • Respect – team members respect each other and work as a team. Moment to moment, they balance the priorities of the business with the commitments & needs of their colleagues.
  • Focus – each team member, with their leader, drafts specific, measurable goals that are reviewed every three months. This enables autonomy as well as activity towards a common goal.
  • Environment – team morale is nurtured & fostered daily. Despite the options for working wherever, whenever, 95% of the team comes into the NYC office because they enjoy working with their colleagues.
  • Leisure Time – being on duty “in the moment” requires the discipline to go off duty just as quickly. Rest & recuperation creates energy, which creates creativity, which increases performance, which is good for everyone.

A “no-hour workweek” like this may not be effective in your organization. But – what tweaks to your corporate culture might boost employee work passion, or increase customer devotion, which then leads to greater financial success? Don’t be afraid to try something “out of the box.”

What about your organization/team’s culture is “out of the box”? What interesting cultures that work have you seen? Tell us in the comments section below.

Photo © iStockphoto.com/CDH_Design

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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.”

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Don’t Get Distracted – Focus On Culture

Spring has sprung here in the Rocky Mountains. At 8400 feet above sea level,  “Colorado Springtime” brings a wide variety of weather. Two weeks ago we were evacuated because of wildfires. Last night we got 8″ of fresh snow. Tuesday, it’ll be 65 degrees.

One has to deal with the realities of the moment – here in the Rockies as well as in your own organization’s corporate culture.

Don’t Get Distracted

Like the dog in the photo above, it is easy to get distracted by the new, the shiny, and/or the desired in the midst of one’s journey. Two of our culture change clients were distracted recently.

One client is at the beginning of their culture initiative. The leadership team is excited about partnering with Blanchard and utilizing our proven culture change process.

And – I’ve had a couple of conversations with one of the senior leaders regarding additional assessments. She’s done a great deal of research about leadership profiles and is convinced they need to have all leaders get rated. I’ve explained that the profiles she’s found are great and that Blanchard has a number of effective leadership profiles, as well. And – don’t get distracted. We need to stick to the proven plan for the next 12-18 months. When the culture is a bit more refined & aligned, such profiles might be very effective.

Another client is well down the culture refinement path. They are about to conduct their initial custom values survey (asking employees to rate leaders throughout the company on the degree to which those leaders demonstrate desired valued behaviors). This step is a critical one as it’s the first time they’ll have reliable, measurable data on values alignment of leaders.

The president just received notification of a terrific new Blanchard program (set for release mid-summer). He’s asked if it makes sense to integrate this new program into their culture efforts. My coaching to him – don’t get distracted. His company has enjoyed terrific traction on their desired culture. Leaders and staff are intrigued at what the values survey will reveal. I reminded him that he’s asked us to bring in Blanchard’s Servant Leadership program for leaders (another recent offering) later this year. The strategy is in place – let’s not confuse people with pieces that may not perfectly fit the strategy at this point in time.

How Do You Know If Your Desired Culture Has “Arrived”?

What are reliable indicators that your high performance, values-aligned culture is on track?

  • Every player in the organization can describe the company’s purpose & values in their own words. The core message has taken hold.
  • Customers indicate that they are well-cared for, listened to, and valued as key partners. Products and services are of high quality and serve well.
  • Employees praise and encourage each other. Spontaneous recognition of genuine effort & contributions aren’t always managed by leaders – they’re managed by employees, too.
  • Leaders are seen as “in service” to employees and customers, as credible & caring, and as connected to what’s happening “on the floor” and “in the field.” They respond quickly & appropriately.

This post comes on the two year anniversary of the Driving Results Through Culture effort. Thanks for reading, commenting, and sharing my articles about creating a high performance, values-aligned corporate culture.

What keeps you “on track” and focused on team or company culture? Tell us in the comments section below.

Get your FREE EXCERPT from my new book, #POSITIVITY AT WORK tweet, written with the delightful Lisa Zigarmi. View our video on why we wrote the book, understand the research on positivity in the workplace, and more!

Photo © iStockphoto.com/godrick


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.”

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Do You Manage People’s Results Or Their Energy?

How do leaders in your organization see their jobs? Not long ago a culture client told me, “I used to see my job as managing processes and results. Now I see my job as managing people’s energy!

Great things can happen with this mindset. One of our culture clients enjoyed a significant turnaround in their manufacturing plant, driven entirely by senior leaders shifting their focus to being “in service” to their staff. The Banta Catalog Group measured a 20% increase in employee engagement, a 17% reduction in employee turnover, and a 36% increase in profitability – in less than 18 months.

The Costs of Managing Only Results

Years ago a client described a retirement celebration he attended. Clyde worked for a large retail chain and served as a regional HR director. One afternoon Clyde was invited to a retirement party at a distribution center. He arrived just in time to witness the retiree, a gentleman named Jose, blowing out candles on a big sheet cake. There were 30 or so of Jose’s colleagues and a few region staff there to join in the party.

Jose’s colleagues called out, “Speech! Speech!” as the cake was being cut. Everyone encouraged Jose to say a few words. Ball cap in hand, Jose simply said, “For over 30 years I’ve worked at this distribution center.” He held up his hands. “During all those years you paid me to use these hands to do my work every day. But, you know what?” He pointed both index fingers to his head and said, “For the same money, you could have had my brain, too.”

Clyde related that there was a moment of stunned silence – after which Jose’s colleagues cheered, applauded, and scarfed down cake. Clyde, however, didn’t forget Jose’s comment so quickly. Jose’s experience indicated that, during his career:

  • Jose’s boss (or bosses) did not ask him to THINK about the work he was doing
  • Jose could have been much more engaged in his work
  • Jose could have been a problem solver vs. a “cog in a wheel”
  • Jose might not be the only employee who feels this way

Clyde decided right then to refine leadership development efforts to ensure that company leaders understood that their primary role was to inspire employees – not just manage “stuff.”

What are YOU Managing?

Consider these ideas to increase your inspirational leadership of team members:

  • Set clear goals and coach appropriately. If you have talented staff, set the goal and let them run. If you have staff who are new to a task or goal, coach them (or arrange for expert coaching to occur) so they get up to speed quickly.
  • Let team members apply their knowledge and skills to their daily tasks. If a team member gets the job done but it’s not how you would to it, that’s OK.
  • Praise progress AND accomplishment. People do a LOT of things right. Validate effort and their completion of tasks, goals, and projects.
  • LISTEN. Learn what team members want to learn about. Learn what ideas they have to improve efficiency. Learn how they’d do work differently. Support their efforts to make the work their own.

How does your boss inspire you? Share your insights in the comments section below.

Learn about my new book, #POSITIVITY AT WORK tweet, written with the delightful Lisa Zigarmi. View our video on why we wrote the book, get a FREE excerpt (and automatically be entered in our monthly contest for the entire ebook), and more!

Photo © iStockphoto.com/vernonwiley


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.”

9

Reflections On My Best Boss

Jerry Nutter, my best boss ever, passed away this week. His passing caused not only my personal reflections on what he and his guidance means to me, but it enabled others who Jerry influenced to connect and reminisce about this great man.

Everything good I do today – as a husband, parent, team member, and consultant – is immensely influenced by Jerry’s coaching, humor, high standards, and love of service. My understanding of high performing, values-aligned teams came from my experiences on teams lead by Jerry. My “great boss” tweets all stem from what I learned from Jerry over my 15 year career as a YMCA professional.

Nutterisms

Two co-workers from my YMCA days have remained dear friends – Sioux Thompson with the Federal Reserve Board of Governors and Ann Phillips, a Blanchard colleague. Our time with Jerry changed us – and binds us together. We celebrate Jerry every day by repeating truisms Jerry shared with us. We call these truths “Nutterisms.” Favorites include:

  • “Everything a leader does either helps, hurts, or hinders the creation of peak performers.”
    Leaders do not have “neutral” impact. They are “on duty” 24/7. Withholding a decision IS a decision. Leaders need to be present, be smart, ask for help, and do the best they can, every moment. This Nutterism expands to include a leader’s impact on teams, organization culture, discretionary energy – across the board.
  • “There’s no such thing as a hole in the other guy’s end of the boat.”
    We’re all in this venture together. Ignoring issues in other parts of their organization put leaders and their team at risk. Be observant, raise questions, and lend a hand to solve problems to keep the enterprise vibrant.
  • “You can’t make up in training what you lack in hiring.”
    An organization has the responsibility to hire team members with the best skills & work ethic possible. Once hired, these potential stars require an extensive orientation and ongoing mentoring to find the best fit for their skills & motivations. If you don’t hire great skills or a great work ethic, you’re screwed. No amount of training will “fix” a bad hire.
  • “You can shoot the arrow then run over to where it hit and draw a target around it and say, ‘Bullseye!’ Or, you can draw the target, shoot the arrow, and close the gap.”
    Be intentional. Make your strategy and goals clear. Make your best effort, then refine your approach to hit your target. Otherwise, it’s all a game and little good will be accomplished.
  • “I believe you believe that.”
    I believe something different. I’ll engage in dialog to help you understand how I see the scenario playing out. If I do that well, I may educate you on the realities of the moment and we can move forward.

In retirement, Jerry was relentless with his service. He volunteered to help create and serve on a non-profit board of directors for the Humboldt Crabs baseball team. His service inspired an entire community to support this independent club and create a wonderful family resource that today is entering it’s 68th year.

Jerry’s impact has spread far beyond his one-on-one efforts and our world is a better place due to his influence. Condolences and positive vibes surround Jerry’s wife Karen and their family during this difficult time.

How did your best boss influence you? Share your insights in the comments section below.

Learn about my new book, #POSITIVITY AT WORK tweet, written with the delightful Lisa Zigarmi. View our video on why we wrote the book, get a FREE excerpt (and automatically be entered in our monthly contest for the entire ebook), and more!

Photo © iStockphoto.com/SchulteProductions


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.”

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