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More Good Decisions

February 10, 2014 — Leave a comment

indian lab technician working in the laboratoryHow effective are your day-to-day plans, decisions, and actions?

One of my #GreatBosses told me a story that sheds light on good decision-making.

A leader and follower were discussing an important project. The follower felt the pressure of performing well as the lead on this project.

It was the first formal leadership role she’d been given. She wanted to inspire her team members to high performance while making them feel trusted, honored, and respected.

She asked her boss, “How do I ensure I’m leading my team well?”

The leader said, “Leading well requires only one thing.” The leader paused.

The follower asked, “What is that one thing?”

The leader said, “Good decisions!” The leader paused again.

The follower asked, “How to I ensure I’m making good decisions?”

Experience!” the leader replied. The leader paused again.

The follower asked, “How do I get experience?”

The leader said, “Bad decisions!

(This story is based on a quote from Mark Twain, the great American author and humorist.)

I took away three key insights from this story.

Don’t be Afraid to Make Decisions

All leaders struggle with making good decisions.

Some struggle because they don’t want to disappoint a portion of their followers. Some struggle because they’re in new territory; they don’t have a proven knowledge base and the risks of any decision are high. Some struggle because they don’t have enough data. Some struggle because they can see the benefits of opposing arguments.

The biggest negative impact of these struggles? Decisions don’t get made.

The reality is that not making a decision is a decision.

#GreatBosses know their job is to lead their team – and to make the best decisions they can, moment to moment. So, make decisions.

Involve Key Players in Decisions

Surround yourself with trusted, talented colleagues. Invite them into the decision making process. Explain the opportunity and the context. Let them express their opinions, the pros and cons as they see them.

Seek insight from those that will be directly affected by the decision – which may mean involving far-flung, front line team members.

Listen. Consider. Then decide.

Ask for Feedback on Decisions

Once the decision is made, examining the impact of the decision begins. Ask those affected by the decision for their views on the impact of the decision. Ask early and often!

Listen without defending. Learn what unintended consequences might have been prompted by the decision.

Then refine the decision to reduce the negative impact and boost the positive impact.

If the decision turns out to have far more negative results than positive ones, rescind the decision. Explain why – and thank people for their feedback.

Then, decide again. Involve others again. Get feedback from others again.

These experiences will help you make more good decisions.

What do you think? How good are your decisions – or your bosses decisions? To what extent do you or your company’s leaders involve others in decision-making? Is feedback sought out to assess decisions or not so much? Share your thoughts about this post/podcast in the comments section below.

Subscribe to my free weekly blog & podcast updates. Subscribers enjoy two “fabulous gifts:” my Be a GREAT Boss ebook plus an excerpt from my new #GREAT Bosses tweet book.

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Add your experiences to two fast & free research projects I have underway. The Great Boss Assessment compares your current boss’ behaviors with those of great bosses. The Performance-Values Assessment compares your organization’s culture practices to those of high performing, values-aligned organizations. Results and analysis are available on my research page.

Photo © istockphoto.com/michaeljung. 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 Chris’ songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). Chris 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.”

Serve Well Then Lead Well

November 4, 2013 — 1 Comment

Happy Diverse Business GroupLast week’s post/cast outlined the foundation of effective service and leadership – living well, being of positive physical well-being.

If I have inspired you to take steps (literally and figuratively) to boost your physical health, let’s look at the second step: serve well.

Serving others is the foundation of citizenship in our families, workplaces, and communities. The call to service is also found in nearly every one of the world’s religions.

I define servant leadership as a person’s dedication to helping others be their best selves at home, work, and in their community.

What if you are not a formal leader in your family, workplace, or community today? Please don’t let the terminology “servant leadership” dissuade you from embracing the philosophy and practices of servant leadership.

Anyone can serve – and lead – from any position or role in a family, workplace, or community.

What is the philosophy of servant leadership? One must understand and embrace the philosophy before their daily plans, decisions, and actions can be consistently aligned to that philosophy.

Servant leaders believe:

  • Every person has value and deserves civility, trust, and respect.
  • People can accomplish much when inspired by a purpose beyond themselves.
  • It is their role and responsibility is to enable others to bring their best to every moment and every interaction.

What are the practices of servant leaders? Servant leaders typically:

  • Clarify and reinforce the need for service to others. They educate others by their words and actions. They help create a clearer understanding of the greater purpose of serving others. They pose questions to help those around them consider how to set aside self-serving behaviors and embrace servant leadership behaviors.
  • Listen intently and observe closely. They understand that, in order to inspire the best in others, they must understand the world others live in. They do not assume things about others, nor do they judge others. Over time they learn about their players’ unique worldview and opportunities to serve by listening more than talking, observing more than preaching.
  • Act as selfless mentors. They are not looking for credit! They are looking to boost traction in others’ efforts to better serve. Their interactions and communications are designed to boost others’ servant philosophy and others’ servant skills.
  • Demonstrate persistence. They understand that a conversation or two may not change a player’s mindset or assumptions. They are lovingly tenacious; they invest hours in conversations over months to help educate and, hopefully, inspire servant leadership practices in others.
  • Lovingly hold themselves and others accountable for their commitments. Servant leaders are human; they’ll make mistakes. They know the players they are working with will make mistakes. And, they push for high standards of performance and service quality by everyone. They praise aligned behaviors and redirect mis-aligned ones to create consistent service to others.

How do you know if you are a servant leader? You don’t have a vote! The only folks who do have a vote are those that interact with you daily: family members, friends, colleagues, customers, and strangers. You must ask regularly, “How can I be of greater service to you?” then refine your behaviors to serve more effectively.

What do you think? What are your best servant leader practices, ones you use frequently to serve others? What did your great bosses do to serve you effectively? Share your thoughts about this post/podcast in the comments section below.

Subscribe to my free weekly blog & podcast updates. Subscribers enjoy two “fabulous and exclusive gifts” which include my “Be a GREAT Boss” ebook plus an excerpt from my new #GREAT Bosses tweet book.

How does your boss fare in my new fast & free Great Boss Assessment? Contribute your experiences – it takes only minutes. Results and analysis are available on my research page.

Photo © istockphoto.com/ridofranz. 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 Chris’ songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). Chris 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.”

Corporate Soul is REAL

October 7, 2013 — 1 Comment

Hand of Business Man Hold light on dark background“Corporations have no soul.” I read this in a non-fiction book recently and I thought, “Oh, yes, they do!”

Let’s define what “soul” means. In theology and philosophy, the soul is seen as one’s essence or spirit which exists beyond the physical self.

I define corporate soul as the organization’s essence or spirit which exists in the hearts and minds of the humans who operate within that organization.

I believe corporate soul is not tangible or visible. It is a subtle, steady entity that provides insights into how the organization is acting upon it’s perceived purpose, values, strategies, and goals.

Some examples may help further define corporate soul. When I think of Southwest Airlines, two words that describe it’s soul to me are “fun” and “service.” When I think of Apple, two phrases that describe it’s soul to me are “elegant design” and “disruptive technologies.” When I think of Zappos, two phrases that describe it’s soul to me are “service” and “pleasant surprise.”

You may have different words come to mind when you think about these organization’s corporate soul descriptors.

If you agree that corporate soul exists, what then? Should one “do something” with corporate soul? Is corporate soul worth “tending”? I firmly believe that it is.

I have a number of friends who are former Navy sailors and SEALs. At dinner recently one shared that for sailors onboard a Navy vessel, that ship’s soul is tended intentionally, every day. He said, “Sailors definitely believe their ships have a soul. Outsiders see ships as metal and machinery; sailors attribute soul to the ship’s spirit.”

Ships are referred to as female forms – “she’s running well tonight.” Proactive maintenance is a constant onboard, a shared value and shared goal for every sailor. During the overlap between shifts, sailors describe the creaks & groans as indications of “that’s normal” or “that’s an unusual noise – we need to check that out.”

Sailors are incredibly attuned to the ship’s essence, it’s soul. Therefore, they invest time and energy daily to keep the ship in perfect operating condition, everything neat and in order (i.e., “shipshape”).

Tending to Corporate Soul

The most effective leaders I’ve observed pay close attention to both the obvious and the subtle in their organization’s soul and culture. They monitor the obvious through performance metrics and dashboards, to ensure that promises made are being fully delivered.

They monitor the subtle by casual conversations with players at all levels, inquiring, “How’s it going? How can I make your job easier?” then listening and refining where possible. They “manage by wandering around,” observing the nuances of employee engagement in day to day interactions with peers & customers.

They tend to their organization’s soul by reflecting what they’re seeing and hearing, saying “I think this is an unusual noise – we need to check that out,” or “It sounds to me like the project is going very well. What are you hearing?”

What is your take on corporate soul? What creaks & groans have you learned to pay attention to in your company, department, or team? What did your best boss do to tend to your team’s corporate soul? Share your thoughts about this post/podcast in the comments section below.

Subscribe to my weekly blog posts and podcasts and receive my “Be a GREAT Boss” ebook free!

How does your boss fare in my new fast & free Great Boss Assessment? Contribute your experiences – it takes only minutes. Results and analysis will appear on my blog’s research page once we reach 100 global responses.

Photo © istockphoto.com/julenochek. 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 Chris’ songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). Chris 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.”

iStock_000009846590XSmallDo you have a group of people who are committed to your success, who push for your greater learning and reach, and who hold you accountable to live your purpose and values each day?

Few of us do – yet that kind of “board of directors” or “board of advisors” would help us immensely in this life.

I was a non-profit executive for 15 years. From my best boss, I learned how important a strong board is to the success of an executive’s organization – and, personally, to that executive’s success.

Board members are volunteers in many organizations. In large corporations, board members are sometimes paid (sometimes paid handsomely). Your personal “board of directors” members are willing volunteers, dedicated to help you grow.

In the best scenarios, a personal board serves as an accountability group and support team to help you be your best, honoring and serving others effectively, every minute.

In the worst scenarios, a personal board drives to meet its own selfish needs, eroding the growth and influence of the receiver. We certainly don’t want that to happen for you!

The first step is to formalize your personal purpose and values, which includes defining your values in measurable and behavioral terms. This statement sets your path, outlining who you want to be and how you want to act in your personal and work lives.

Desirable Traits of Personal Board Members

You need to be selective and intentional to build an effective personal board of directors. Consider 3-4 people in your network who consistently demonstrate these traits:

  • Honesty. These people don’t pull punches. They tell you the truth from their perspective, knowing that you need to consider their truth so that you can improve your effectiveness in influencing others.
  • Service. These people are inspired by helping others. They derive great joy from enabling others to be their best, and they invest time and energy in serving others regularly.
  • Success. These people have demonstrated success in building great teams, businesses, and even families. They understand how to get the right things done the right way in this life.

Once you identify potential personal board members, ask for a half hour of their time so you may explain how you believe they can help you by serving as your personal board members. Share your personal purpose, values, and behaviors to indicate that you’ve mapped out a desired path and want their help to keep you on track.

Consider these parameters for the board relationship. Let them know you need:

  • An hour a month of their time for one-on-one conversations, by phone or face to face if circumstances allow.
  • Them to hold you accountable for living your personal purpose and values in every interaction, every day.
  • Direct feedback on their perceptions of how you’re interacting with others.
  • Coaching on opportunities they see for your continued evolution as a servant leader.

Start with two personal board members. During your one-on-one conversations with each of them, share your hits and misses with serving others. Ask questions, and listen carefully. Speak less than they do – give them time and space to share their insights on your journey.

Learn from your board members, then refine your behavior so you can report progress over time.

You may find benefit in meeting with both board members at the same time. You’ll definitely find benefit in the insights your board will provide.

Contribute your thoughts about this post/podcast in the comments section below. How have trusted advisors helped guide you through turmoil in your past? Who do you think would be committed and effective members of your “board of directors”?

What is it like to live in your organization’s culture? Share your experiences in my fast & free Performance-Values Assessment. Results and analysis are described on my blog’s research page.

This research can help you refine your organization’s corporate culture. Contact me to discuss conducting the Performance-Values Assessment in your company.

Photo © istockphoto.com/globalstock. 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 Chris’ songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). Chris 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.”

iStock_000018595234XSmallCustomers drive your business. If customers feel trusted, honored, and respected in discussions and transactions with your business, they typically come back a lot and are positive word-of-mouth advertisers for your business.

Employees are the primary face of your business. If you have employees that love their customers, service rankings go up and customers keep coming. Those customers create a positive buzz about your business in your community. That positive buzz typically has a logical consequence on your business revenues – they go up.

If you have employees who do not love their customers, they leave a lasting impression. Customers often choose to go elsewhere – and create a negative buzz about your business in your community. That negative buzz typically has a logical consequence on your business revenues – they go down.

Recent conversations about service experiences prove this point. In one case, a client had been receiving a quarterly report and payment for years. When this quarter’s payment date went past with no communication, she reached out to this provider. The person in charge said that the amount was too low to send a check so they decided to roll over that amount to the next quarter. This client was fine with that – but was frustrated that the decision was made without any attempt to communicate the circumstances to her.

In another case, a client had a charge appear on his bill that he questioned. He reached out to the provider and spoke to a live service agent on the phone. The agent explained the charge which was for a feature the client didn’t need or want. The agent cancelled the feature and refunded the fee – all in less than five minutes. The client could not have been happier with the experience.

How do you know how customers are being treated? How do you know what customers think about your business and about your employees? The best ways to understand customer perceptions is to ASK – regularly. Observe and/or listen in to customer interactions with employees, especially during hectic times. Create a quick survey channel – five questions on a postcard or online survey.

Embrace the information you receive. Review it with employees. Refine policies and procures if they stand in the way of trusting customers. Coach employees on appropriate ways to interact with customers. Then, ask customers again. Observe interactions again. Gather data. Celebrate progress and address gaps. Repeat.

The economy in your community (no matter what country you work in) has growth potential. If you have strong products & services that are priced right, customers will be drawn to your business. If employees treat those customers as valued partners, your business will grow.

That’s something we all need in our communities: strong businesses that provide fine products, good jobs and great service to customers. Every community needs more businesses like this.

Join in the conversation about this post/podcast in the comments section below. How do your customers feel about the way your business and employees treat them? How do you stay “in touch” with customer perceptions?

What is it like to live in your organization’s culture? Share your experiences in my fast & free Performance-Values Assessment. Results and analysis are described on my blog site’s research page.

This research can help you refine your organization’s corporate culture. Contact me to discuss conducting the Performance-Values Assessment in your company.

Photo © istockphoto.com/yuri_arcurs. 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 Chris’ songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). Chris 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.”