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What Drives Your Leadership Behaviors?

business people group at officeWhy do leaders do what they do? I believe that leaders’ plans, decisions, and actions are heavily influenced by three things: their social style or personality type, the culture in which they operate, and their role models (past and present).

Each of these three are powerful, yet we may not be completely aware of how they drive our behavior as leaders.

Our social style is made up of traits we are born with (“wired” preferences) as well as traits we accommodate (“acquired” preferences) through interactions with others, typically in our youth. (Yes, these acquired traits are influenced by role models and the culture we operate in!).

If you’ve taken a DISC assessment or MBTI profile, you get a snapshot of your preferences for that role (DISC) or for your life (MBTI). Our leadership tendencies like driving for results or supporting team members or ignoring conflict or being aggressive with others can be attributed to our social style.

The culture we operate in can guide us – sometimes subtly, sometimes brazenly – to behave in ways we might not otherwise model.

If you were a senior leader at Toshiba in the last five years, the culture might have influenced you to tolerate scandalous accounting practices that inflated the company’s earnings by $1.2 billion. Where an organization’s culture rewards aggressive sales, you might embrace those tactics to earn “your share of the gold” this quarter. If you operate in a values-aligned tribal culture like the WD-40 Company, you share your learning moments (mistakes) willingly so others won’t make the same mistake.

Role models are powerful. If a past boss micromanaged me and I hated it, it is unlikely that I micromanage my team members today. If a past boss yelled to get his or her way, and us team members delivered, it is likely that I will yell when trying to “inspire” my team’s performance. If a past boss held team members accountable – kindly but firmly – for both performance and for citizenship, it is likely that I will do the same, kindly but firmly.

Role models can include our parents, teachers, coaches, professors, friends, enemies, public figures, and presidential candidates.

Effective leaders are able to examine the drivers of their daily “influencing” behaviors and embrace those drivers that help them serve others, exceed shared goals, and live desired values. They invite others to share their perceptions of how well they are leading.

One client described a manager that recently announced the values that he expected his team members to embrace moving forward. His demands were not credible for two big reasons. First, he didn’t include team members in the creation of those values; he simply announced them. Second, this leader does not model the values he was asking others to demonstrate.

As you might guess, the team is frustrated by the leader’s demands. The leader is frustrated by the team’s frustration. It’s not going well.

A recent article on new Denver Broncos football coach Gary Kubiac shed light on his leadership behaviors over time. Texas A&M coach R.C. Slocum gave Kubiac his first coaching job in 1992. Slocum said he knew Kubiac would be a head coach before long. Slocum explained, “Players loved him. And he didn’t think he had all the answers. As a head coach, you have the right to be demanding, but you don’t have the right to be demeaning.”

“Gary leads with class.”

Don’t assume you’re an effective leader. Ask for help. Learn others’ perceptions of you. Understand your unique drivers, and refine your efforts to consistently be of service and of grace.

What do you think? How well do you serve others kindly while driving for results? Share your insights on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Photo © .shock – Dollar Photo Club. All rights reserved.

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The music heard on my podcasts is from one of my songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © 2005 Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). I play all instruments on these recordings.


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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.”

Everyone Has Values

Good luck gesture with fingers crossed behindI had a wonderful conversation online recently with a leader who disagreed with me. I love to engage people with different points of view in a respectful manner (from both sides!).

My post and podcast last week (Surround Yourself With Values-Aligned Compadres) prompted the discussion.

Twitter discussions are interesting. The 140-character limit means one has to be crisp & clear with sometimes complicated concepts. Let me paraphrase our conversation.

This leader said, “I wish more people had values. Too few do!” I believe I knew what he meant – that many people don’t seem to act in alignment with values. My take is that everyone has values. Everyone aligns to their values daily. We can observe their values by examining their plans, decisions, and actions.

I responded with, “Everyone has values. Bullies have values. Teen gang members have values. They just hold values that are different than my own.”

The leader said, “I don’t think thugs have values!” No question about what this leader believes, right?

My responses might have helped this leader see this concept from a different angle.

My experiences with values alignment began formally four decades ago, in my YMCA days.

In the 1970’s I was actively involved in values clarification. A couple of my bosses used values clarification in our work teams. I used it with my camp directors and counselors to ensure we were all on the same page with how we’d treat each other, how we’d treat our campers, and how we’d treat their family members each summer.

In all the values clarification sessions I ran – for literally hundreds of people – not one person failed to come up with their personal values. The values might have varied widely from person to person – especially with how they defined their values – but every person was satisfied with their values list.

I also learned how values-aligned teen gangs are. The national project I directed looked at teen programs and what the teens of “today” (in the early ’80’s) were looking for in their lives. We conducted hundreds of interviews with teens and parents. One of the most valuable resources for us was a study that came from the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research.

That study found that teens were looking for three things. First, they want do do things that are cool, different from things they do with their families. Second, they want to belong to a group (as opposed to isolating themselves). Third, they want to do things with that group that advance their group’s meaningful purpose.

In our discussions of this powerful data, we realized these three things are true for teen gangs. Gang members are as values-aligned as US Marines or Zappos team members. Those three groups hold very different values, but each embrace their “team” values deeply.

This data and my experiences lead me to believe strongly that everyone has values. We experience others’ values in the ways they treat others (including how they treat us). We experience others’ values in the decisions they make. We often question their decisions from a values standpoint. In our heads, we think, “I would never do that! I value my independence (or family or faith or whatever) too much to go down that path!”

Right now, we each are acting on our values. The beliefs and principles we hold dear guide our individual plans, decisions, and actions.

By formalizing my values, I can quickly assess how well I’m living them each day. And, I can quickly assess the values of people in my life – at work, home, community, etc. – and can then assess how aligned their values are with mine.

And I can choose who to hang out with, who to work with, and who to spend my life with.

What do you think? Do you agree that everyone has values? Share your insights on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Photo © Catalin Pop – Dollar Photo Club. All rights reserved.

Subscribe!Podcast – Listen to this post now with the player below. Subscribe via RSS or iTunes.

The music heard on my podcasts is from one of my songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © 2005 Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). I play all instruments on these recordings.


Don’t miss any of Chris’ posts, podcasts, or updates – Subscribe Now!

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.”

Surround Yourself with Values-Aligned Compadres

belayer with the rope and carabinesWho you hang out with has a great influence on you.

If you hang out with bigoted people, you will likely embrace bigoted ideals. If you hang out with dishonest people, you will likely embrace dishonesty. If you hang out with people who are kind, who treat others with respect, who embrace serving others, who keep their promises, you will likely embrace those traits.

When I was growing up, my parents were very particular about who I hung out with. On our street in the suburbs of Long Beach, CA, in the ’60’s, there were more than 50 kids my age. It was very easy for my parents and our neighbors to observe what we were doing and with whom. We all played on the street, within full view of a network of stay-at-home moms.

I got most of my redirection from my folks at the dinner table each evening. “I like that you’re playing with Tim; he’s a nice boy.” “I don’t want you playing with Larry. He’s a bully.” “Carol is mean. Stay away from her.”

When I went off to college, my parents voices’ were in my head. I observed how my fellow students treated others. If they were mean, I kept my distance. If they were selfish, I chose to spend time elsewhere. If they were pleasant, fun, and kind, I hung out with them. If Linda kept her promises, that deepened my respect for her.

Warren Buffet was asked years about about what he looks for in people. He replied, “Somebody once said that in looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if you don’t have the first, the other two will kill you.” Buffet applies the same three criteria to leaders of companies he’s considering for investment.

If you are rock climbing or on a high ropes course, you’ll have someone “on belay.” They’ll loop your climbing rope securely through the belay device on their harness. They’ll control the slack so if you fall, you won’t fall far! You want your belay partner to be values-aligned – to care for you and your safety, to pay attention every second, and to be skilled in managing the rope, supporting your success.

Before you can examine the values of those around you, you must clarify your own purpose and values. You must formalize your personal constitution. It will include your present day purpose, your reason for being on this planet. It will include your values, how you define each value, and a list of 3-4 behaviors that are measurable indications of how you’ll live your values. Finally, it will include your leadership philosophy – how you choose to effectively influence others around you to contribute and serve their families, communities, and workplaces.

With those vital elements clear, you can easily assess the degree of alignment you have with your friends and colleagues. Values alignment boils down to integrity. If you see players who don’t model integrity, insulate yourself from them, as much as possible. Choose to engage often with players who demonstrate integrity, intelligence, and energy for life, daily.

By surrounding yourself with values-aligned compadres and comadres, you build a supportive team that can help you keep on track with your best self, every day.

How values-aligned are your friends and colleagues? How did key adults in your life direct you to values-aligned players? Share your insights on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Photo © vitaliymateha – Dollar Photo Club. All rights reserved.

Subscribe!Podcast – Listen to this post now with the player below. Subscribe via RSS or iTunes.

The music heard on my podcasts is from one of my songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © 2005 Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). I play all instruments on these recordings.


Don’t miss any of Chris’ posts, podcasts, or updates – Subscribe Now!

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.”

What’s Your Story?

Young Black Man with Digital Tablet in a CafeIn the midst of our hectic lives, who are we being? It is easy to get caught up in the frantic pace we see around us or that our work places reinforce – and not be our best selves every minute.

We have a lot of stuff on our plates. We have many items on our to-do lists. We want to keep our commitments. That’s good – but I suggest that we’re not contributing like we can. We’re not serving like we can.

Frantic activity alone may not be the best way to spend our time on this earth!

We must be more intentional about who we are, about how we’re acting, about how we’re treating others, and about “to what end” we’re toiling.

And, if we are not clear about these important things, we will be used by people who are.

We need to understand our unique purpose on this planet, the values that guide us, and our unique talents. We need to understand our story. Only then are we able to clarify whether our plans, decisions, and actions are aligned with our best selves.

My story is grounded upon character and values. From my family, I learned the importance of honesty, keeping commitments, serving others, and bettering yourself. In high school I learned that pride can get in the way of integrity. In my first job at our local YMCA, I learned about values clarification, teamwork, and follow through.

In college I learned that people can proclaim many beliefs but how they treat others reveals their true selves. I found synergy and success when working with people who challenged me, shared my values, and laughed a lot.

In my early career I learned that leadership is a verb! My best bosses were proactive with us, defining exactly what was expected of us performance-wise and citizenship-wise. My less effective bosses focused only on performance, which encouraged “I win, you lose” behaviors from colleagues. Those actions inhibited teamwork, service, and overall performance.

My best bosses taught me about the tremendous importance of a values-aligned culture. It drives top performance, top engagement, and top service. Culture is a passion, and I’m inspired to help leaders craft effective cultures every day.

What’s your story? What life principles came clear to you while growing up, while in school, while in your first jobs? How did interactions with your parents, teachers, coaches, friends, colleagues, and bosses influence your beliefs?

Take time away from frantic activity, away from social media, away from your connected devices, to reflect on these questions – and write out your insights. Those insights will help you formalize your life purpose, your values and behaviors, and your life philosophy. Once those critical elements are clear, you can easily see which of your activities and behaviors are aligned and which are not.

Spend more time in aligned activities and less time in mis-aligned ones. The changes you make will help you know and act from your best self in every interaction.

That’s a story that’s worth living.

How clear is your team or company’s present day purpose? Do team members understand your strategies and goals well enough to articulate them to others? Share your insights on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Photo © william87 – Dollar Photo Club. All rights reserved.

Subscribe!Podcast – Listen to this post now with the player below. Subscribe via RSS or iTunes.

The music heard on my podcasts is from one of my songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © 2005 Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). I play all instruments on these recordings.


Don’t miss any of Chris’ posts, podcasts, or updates – Subscribe Now!

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.”

The Leadership Void

Undecided businessmanWhen I’m invited in to help executives refine their organization’s culture, I start with learning as much as I can about the executive team before I start learning about their company.

Why? Because leaders of organizations maintain the current culture, whether it’s beneficial or not, productive or not, engaging or not – and whether they know it or not! Senior leaders of teams, departments, regions, business units, etc. have the authority and responsibility to change policies, procedures, and norms – which can change the culture for the better.

My discovery process allows me to learn who this executive team is, how they lead their organization, how they communicate, what they validate (through recognition and praise), what they value, and what their desired culture is.

I immerse myself in relevant data – documents like employee satisfaction or engagement survey results, mission statements, strategic plans, internal newsletters, and more. I spend hours reviewing these cultural “artifacts” before I begin executive interviews, which offers much more detailed information on the executive team and how it operates.

One client shared their new vision statement and strategic plan. The CEO was quite proud of these documents. He told me, “We worked for two weeks on the vision statement. The strategic plan didn’t take that long – we already had pieces of it formalized.”

The problem? The vision statement was full of buzzwords and didn’t specify what this company did for their customers or why customers should care. It simply stated that the company “creates value for shareholders, employees, and customers.”

The strategic plan didn’t include any clear strategies at all. There was no outline of new customer needs to be addressed or new market opportunities that will be explored. The plan simply presented percentage growth targets for existing products and services.

I asked the CEO what employees’ responses were to the vision and strategic plan. He said reaction was rather subdued – and that the executive team had gotten feedback that employees didn’t know what the company’s strategy was, even after reading the documents.

These documents were not helpful. They didn’t provide the clarity that was desperately needed. The vision wasn’t clear. The strategy wasn’t clear.

This organization was operating in a leadership void. In the absence of leadership, strong personalities fill the void. We’ve all seen it.

In some cases, those strong personalities provide clarity of purpose and strategy. Those strong personalities create a cooperative work environment. They propose clarity and direction, and proactively align plans, decisions, and actions to move their team forward.

However, in most cases, these strong personalities provide clarity for the player’s own benefit – not the team’s or organization’s benefit. An “I win, you lose” mentality gets embedded. What gains traction are norms that pit people against each other rather than aligning each other to common goals and shared values.

Left to our own devices, us humans typically serve ourselves rather than engaging together to serve others. Politics and power become the coin of the realm, not cooperation and service.

The executive team I worked with didn’t realize they were causing difficulties with their bland vision and strategic plan. They didn’t intend to abdicate leadership – and they were frustrated to learn that’s exactly what they’d done.

I worked with the executive team to create a more actionable, present day purpose statement and a clarified strategic plan that set context for business branding, marketing, and operations for the next three years.

Their executive team is embracing their purpose, values, strategies, and goals. They’re working cooperatively so that every function and unit aligns to their company’s organizational constitution.

They’re not done yet, but the politics, power plays, and self-centered behaviors are diminishing.

The executive team is optimistic about their culture transition, which is terrific.

How clear is your team or company’s present day purpose? Do team members understand your strategies and goals well enough to articulate them to others? Share your insights on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Photo © alpha spirit – Dollar Photo Club. All rights reserved.

Subscribe!Podcast – Listen to this post now with the player below. Subscribe via RSS or iTunes.

The music heard on my podcasts is from one of my songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © 2005 Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). I play all instruments on these recordings.


Don’t miss any of Chris’ posts, podcasts, or updates – Subscribe Now!

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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