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Prioritize Your Values

iStock_000017529275SmallWhen values are clear, decision-making is easy.

This week a Russian TV reporter quit her job over the coverage of the downing of a Malaysian Airlines passenger plane over war-torn Ukraine.

“It’s the level of disrespect for the facts that really bugs me,” Sara Firth explained. She described that reporters were ordered to cast blame on the Ukrainian government or other factors instead of on Russia.

“I couldn’t do it any more,” Firth said. “We’re lying every single day … and finding sexier ways to do it.”

Sara’s values include respect for the facts. When confronted with a job role that demanded disrespect for the facts, she chose to leave.

Once you clarify your personal purpose, values, and behaviors, you can see plans, decisions, and actions in a very different light.

That intense light enables you to see values gaps with greater clarity. That brings you to a “fork in the road.” Will you follow your values or will you discount your values, “going along” with mis-aligned actions?

Sometimes the choices we face regarding values alignment are not quite so simple. You may hold values that compete with each other at times. How can you resolve that conflict?

Let’s say that you hold these three values: stability, integrity, and family. You work hard to provide stability for yourself and your family while demonstrating integrity at the same time.

Your three values are “all tied for first place.” You strive to behave in ways to honor these three principles in every moment. No one of these values is more important than another.

However, real life (and work) causes a constant push and pull on our values. They’re in “dynamic tension” every day!

If you find yourself in a similar situation to Firth’s – your job demands behavior that is not aligned to your values – you must choose how to respond.

You could quit your job – but that would severely impact your stability value for you and your family.

You could engage in discussion about the values conflict. The best scenario would be that you help your team or company change their approach so the values disconnect is diminished or eliminated.

The worst scenario is that the approach does not change – and you still face the values conflict.

A third response might be to put your head down and do your best – while beginning a job search for a more values-aligned opportunity.

To make our values more actionable, I believe we need to prioritize them. Prioritized values lets us prioritize values conflicts so we can address the most important gap first.

If you evaluated your three values in order of importance, you might come up with family as your first value, integrity second, and stability third. (Some of you are already debating these priorities in your mind! You might have a different order than what I’m suggesting.)

With these prioritized values, your response to the sample values conflict might be easier to justify and embrace. The third choice would seem to be the most aligned, to me.

Are there additional choices you would suggest? I would love your insights – add them in the comments section below.

Add your experiences to two fast & free research projects I have underway: the Great Boss Assessment and the Performance-Values Assessment. Results and analysis are available on my research page.

My next book, The Culture Engine, will be published by Wiley in September 2014. Pre-order your copy now! Subscribe to my weekly updates to get free resources, insights, and news on my book launch.

Get the “Inside Scoop” on Chris’ Book Launch!

Photo © istockphoto.com/BettinaSampl. All rights reserved.

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

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


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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Demand Nice

$_57A recent news story about a local diner caught my eye. The owners and staff are creating a comfortable customer experience that diners love.

The food is terrific, the staff is modeling great service, and the environment is safe and inspiring. Staff love it and customers love it. Business is booming.

Safe and inspiring work environments – for employees and customers – is unfortunately not normal. It’s all too rare, even if leaders want that kind of environment.

How do you craft a safe and inspiring environment? By demanding that people be nice in every interaction.

The diner owner has a big sign posted near the front door stating, “Be Nice or Leave.” The owner said, “If staff members can’t be nice, they can’t work here. If customers can’t be nice, they can’t eat here. Life is too short to put up with mean people.”

The “Be Nice or Leave” concept has been popularized by the talented Dr. Bob, creator of gorgeous New Orleans folk art.

How nice are leaders and team members in your organization to each other? How nice are leaders and team members to your organization’s internal and external customers?

Setting clear values expectations – with behavioral definitions – is a great start to a nicer, more civil work environment. But setting expectations alone won’t align behavior. Holding people accountable for those behaviors is how one ensures a nicer workplace.

One culture client implemented values and behaviors in their stores. Store leaders received training in the new approach before the valued behaviors were put into place. Store leaders and employees “signed up” – literally, they signed a form – to model the new values and behaviors in every interaction.

These behavioral expectations allowed team leaders and members to raise questions with borderline behaviors, promptly and confidently.

One store employee was known to have a bad temper. She could “fly off the handle” – storming into the stock room, cursing like a longshoreman – at the slightest provocation, by peer or customer.

Soon after the values and behaviors were announced, she popped a cork at work. She barely contained herself in the store’s public areas – but as soon as she got into the stock area, the curse words flew, loud and long.

Her employee peers heard it (they couldn’t miss it). Customers on the floor heard it too (again, it was impossible to miss).

The store manager and her team leader approached her promptly. Behind closed doors, they explained that the employee had broken one of their new team citizenship valued behaviors: “No cursing, no tantrums.” They coached her to ensure she understood that her behavior could not continue if she wanted to remain a company employee. She understood, and calmly went back to her station.

I wish I could say that this conversation stopped her bad behavior forever. It didn’t. She popped her cork later the same week, and was suspended for that infraction. She chose to leave the company rather than return to work.

If your workplace tolerates bad behavior of any kind, refine, refine, refine so it is consistently nice. You’ll enjoy better employee engagement, customer experiences, and performance – and profits.

What do you think? How “nice” is your workplace? How does your organization manage workplace civility? Add your comments, insights, or questions below.

Add your experiences to two fast & free research projects I have underway: the Great Boss Assessment and the Performance-Values Assessment. Results and analysis are available on my research page.

My next book, The Culture Engine, will be published by Wiley in September 2014. Pre-order your copy now! Subscribe to my weekly updates to get free resources, insights, and news on my book launch.

Get the “Inside Scoop” on Chris’ Book Launch!

Photo © Dr. Bob Art. All rights reserved.

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

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


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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Cause and Effect

iStock_000011328804Small

My wife does our laundry. Recently she’s been frustrated that my t-shirts came out of the dryer inside out.

She’s said on more than one occasion, “I need you to put your t-shirts in the laundry right-side out. Would you please do that?”

“I do put them in right-side out,” I’d reply. “Really. I’m very intentional about doing that.”

“Then why do they come of the dryer out inside out?” she’d ask.

In the past, I never thought about how I tossed my dirty shirts in the laundry hamper. And, these past six months, I’ve been extremely careful to do exactly as my wife had asked: I ensured my shirts were right-side out.

My wife had her truth. I had mine. How could we resolve this issue?

This past week, I made a suggestion. I said to her, “Have you noticed if the shirts were inside-out in the dirty clothes hamper?”

“No, I’ve never checked,” she admitted.

I said, “How’s about this round you check the dirty shirts to see if they’re right-side out? I’ll help!”

She said, “That’s a good idea. I don’t need help – I’ve got it.”

Today she came in and showed me one of my t-shirts, fresh out of the dryer. It was inside out. She said, “All your shirts went into the washer right-side out. By the time they got out of the dryer, they’d inverted themselves!”

She apologized for blaming me for not doing what she’d asked.  “No worries,” I replied, adding “That is a bit weird. I wonder if the washer or dryer turns them inside out.”

Now, I don’t mean to infer that I listen to everything my wife says to me or that I do everything she asks me to do. I’m a normal, moronic husband. This time, though, I really tried. It wasn’t my fault – this time.

How often do you experience “competing” truths in your work environment? I see it happen all the time.

Disagreements about what the “real truth” is can evolve into major conflicts pretty quickly if they’re not resolved in a way that honors everyone’s truth.

Just like with the inside-out t-shirts, something in your organization is causing an undesirable result. In many cases, it’s not anyone’s fault – no one is intentionally causing the issue.

(If someone is intentionally causing the issue or is not honest about what’s happening, that’s a different problem entirely.)

Now things aren’t working as desired. Rather than blaming people, a better approach is to dig in and learn the process more deeply – and discover the root cause of the issue.

Your truth may be about the first part of the process (the t-shirts in the laundry hamper right-side out). My truth may be about the last part of the process (the t-shirts coming out of the dryer inside-out).

We’re both right, yet we still must resolve an undesirable outcome.

Don’t blame. Dig in. Examine the process and find the root cause. Address it if possible – without harming relationships.

If you can’t fix the issue, you at least now understand it. You might have to spend a little extra time with the t-shirts before you fold them, but people will feel heard and honored.

What do you think? What “competing truths” get in the way of performance and relationships in your work environment? How are those truths addressed in your work teams? Add your comments, insights, or questions below.

Add your experiences to two fast & free research projects I have underway: the Great Boss Assessment and the Performance-Values Assessment. Results and analysis are available on my research page.

My next book, The Culture Engine, will be published by Wiley in September 2014. Pre-order your copy now! Subscribe to my weekly updates to get free resources, insights, and news on my book launch.

Get the “Inside Scoop” on Chris’ Book Launch!

Photo © istockphoto.com/donstock. All rights reserved.

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

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


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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Speak Their Language

Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics - portraitHave you ever found yourself in a foreign land, trying to communicate your needs in a different language? It’s a disquieting feeling, to say the least.

I recall doing client work in Osaka, Japan, years ago. We were well cared for by our hosts and by expat Americans who spoke Japanese during our week’s stay.

One night, my colleague and I were left “on our own” to get dinner as our hosts had a business dinner to attend. My colleague spoke fluent Mandarin Chinese and excellent English. I spoke only English. We ventured into a neighborhood cafe, hoping to find someone there who could translate for us.

No such luck. We each tried communicating in English and Chinese to no avail. We eventually pointed to a menu photograph of a bowl of, well, something. That’s what we had for dinner. It was delicious – we just didn’t know what we were eating!

The fault was ours. We had been spoiled by our hosts and didn’t make any effort to learn the basics of communicating in Japanese.

How well do you speak the language of your customers, today?

To serve external customers today, your organization may have hired team members fluent in your customers’ native languages. When customers can converse in a comfortable language, they are more likely to engage your organization in solving their problems – be it leaky plumbing, providing aviation services, or something in between.

Equally important is the need to communicate effectively in the business languages of your internal customers. You and your team members must be fluent in each of your key customers’ native business languages.

For example, if you need to influence your organization’s CFO to get his or her approval for project expenditures, you must speak to them in their daily language – not in your daily language. You must learn about their needs and concerns, and present your solutions in their terms.

Let’s say you are in charge of facilities and your air conditioning and heating system is in need of replacement. Most of our organizations have not been good stewards of our infrastructure! We “hope” that our buildings last another 10 years with little investment in maintenance and capital expenses. Going to your CFO with an unexpected expense – especially a large, unbudgeted expense – requires something more than “rational” explanations of the need to replace a broken system.

To influence a CFO today requires you to analyze the investment in terms of the return on that investment (ROI), beyond payback over time. One client facing this scenario presented a business case for investing in a high-efficiency HVAC system that would not only pay for itself in less than eight years (due to electricity savings), but, over twenty years, would actually reduce expenses by over 8% annually.

That approach – with supporting documentation – not only got the CFO’s interest, but got the CFO’s commitment to the project. Funding was granted by the board within a month.

Learn to speak the language of your internal customers. Educate yourself about the issues and concerns they have, and communicate where you and your team can help with those issues and concerns.

You’ll gain friends in high places.

What do you think? How well do you understand your internal customers’ issues and concerns? How can you get smarter more quickly in “their” language? Add your comments, insights, or questions below.

Add your experiences to two fast & free research projects I have underway: the Great Boss Assessment and the Performance-Values Assessment. Results and analysis are available on my research page.

My next book, The Culture Engine, will be published by Wiley in September 2014. Pre-order your copy now! Subscribe to my weekly updates to get free resources, insights, and news on my book launch.

Get the “Inside Scoop” on Chris’ Book Launch!

Photo © istockphoto.com/jackich. All rights reserved.

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

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


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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Bad Leader Habits

Broken ChainI learn a great deal when I’m coaching leaders and executives. Recent conversations have brought to mind three bad habits that leaders need to break.

A habit can be defined as an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary.

We humans find comfort in routine – even if those routines and habits don’t serve us well all the time!

If habits are “almost involuntary,” we are likely less aware of them. We might be even less aware of the benefit or disservice our habits cause us.

The following “bad leader habits” consistently cause disservice – to the leader, to their team members, to team performance, and to team member engagement. And, I see leaders struggle with the impact of these bad habits quite frequently.

The first bad leader habit is not listening. If leaders don’t listen, they’re working in the dark. They won’t understand the current reality. They’re disconnected from their key players and from key information required for good decision making.

There are two components to leader’s effective listening – understanding the speaker’s ideas, needs, or concerns, and having the speaker feel heard. Understanding the speaker’s ideas requires the leader to pay attention to what’s being said. The leader may need to ask clarifying questions to ensure he or she understands the situation or opportunity as the speaker see it. The leader may need to make notes to ensure they don’t miss anything important that’s being shared.

The speaker will feel heard if they experience the leader paying attention, showing appreciation for the speaker’s insights, and learning the speaker’s recommendations. Note that listening doesn’t mean you agree! The leader can describe their view after listening well to the speaker’s point of view.

The second bad leader habit is abdicating. Abdication is the absence of dialog and mutual problem solving. Why might a leader abdicate to a team member? The leader may trust the team member thoroughly – but isn’t positioning their delegation of authority and responsibility very well. The leader may not know anything about the issue or the opportunity – and doesn’t engage in dialog because they might feel “stupid.” Another common driver of abdication is the lack of time for the leader do to anything with the information the speaker provides.

Strategic delegation is an effective way to assign authority and responsibility. That approach requires discussion, planning, goal and deadline agreements, and the like – which doesn’t happen if the leader abdicates.

The third bad leader habit is fixing – which is the polar opposite of abdication. Fixing happens when the leader takes control of the issue or opportunity and either 1) acts on it him or herself, 2) tells the team member exactly what to do and how to do it, or 3) assigns the issue or opportunity to a different team member.

Even if the leader has the skills necessary to fix the issue, is it a good use of the leader’s time to engage in that micro-level activity? Probably not. If the team member raising the issue or opportunity doesn’t have the skills to fix it, the leader and the company would be better served to engage someone to help teach the team member those skills. That would build capacity for addressing these needs in the future.

Do you engage in any of these bad habits? The best way to find out is to ask your team members. Learn their perceptions. If you discover that you have some bad habits, refine those habits, ask for feedback, and continue to refine.

What do you think? Do you engage in any of these bad habits? What bad leader habits would you add to this list? Add your comments, insights, or questions below.

Add your experiences to two fast & free research projects I have underway: the Great Boss Assessment and the Performance-Values Assessment. Results and analysis are available on my research page.

My next book, The Culture Engine, will be published by Wiley in September 2014. Pre-order your copy now! Subscribe to my weekly updates to get free resources, insights, and news on my book launch.

Get the “Inside Scoop” on Chris’ Book Launch!

Photo © istockphoto.com/mrincredible. All rights reserved.

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

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


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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