Tag Archives | Servant leadership

GM’s Heart Failure

car keysWe’re learning more details about GM’s delays in reporting significant, deadly issues with some cars’ ignition systems.

What we know at this point is that GM’s internal documents indicate that in 2001 the company knew that, in some small car models, the ignition key could move unexpectedly from “run” into “accessory.” This key movement turned off the engine, shutting down power assist systems for steering and braking – and usually disabled the car’s airbags.

The loss of steering, braking, and airbag deployment while a car is operating is deadly. GM attributes 13 deaths and 46 injury or fatal accidents in North America to this ignition problem.

GM’s internal documents note repeated incidents of this ignition switch defect in 2003 and 2004. Yet GM continued to use the suspect ignition in small car models into 2007. GM didn’t issue a recall until February of this year.

Worse, a 2008 internal GM presentation coached employees on what words to use – and not use – in emails and documents to GM peers due to the potential liability of terminology. Judgement words and phrases such as “deathtrap,” “apocalyptic,” “This is a lawsuit waiting to happen,” and “unbelievable engineering screw-up” were described as “examples of comments that do not help identify and solve problems.”

More GM small car models were recently included in recalls, totaling 2.7 million cars worldwide. Estimated costs of replacing those faulty ignition switches is $200 Million.

US law require automobile companies to report safety issues they discover. GM said last week it would pay the $35 Million fine levied for delays in recalling affected models.

GM is not alone in delaying recalls. Numerous automobile recalls have occurred over the past 40 years and, too often, those recalls come years after the makers learned of these safety issues.

I’m not concerned that companies make mistakes. I’m not concerned that, as vehicles age, for example, components may not be able to maintain the safe performance they were designed to do. That’s natural in our fast-paced global business world.

I am concerned about how companies respond to the issues discovered. Company responses say a great deal about the organization’s purpose, values and beliefs.

When recalls happen promptly (as is the case recently with Nissan, Mazda, and Ford), I rest assured that these companies are concerned about consumer safety.

Recall delays are failures of internal systems, failures of engineering, but most critically, failures of the heart.

If a company doesn’t value people – employees, customers, consumers, etc. – it will be obvious in the plans, decisions, and actions they make. If a company does value people, that, too, will be obvious.

GM’s demonstrated plans, decisions, and actions regarding this deadly ignition switch defect lead me to believe that theirs is a culture that values profits, not people.

What do you think? How do you view these delays in safety recalls? How does a company’s purpose, values, and beliefs impact your perceptions of that company? Add your comments, insights, or questions below.

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

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/nixite. 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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Find Your Reason

Rock climber clinging to a cliff.“This is what I was meant to do.”

Have you heard this impassioned declaration from friends or colleagues? When you meet people who are passionate and clear about their reason for being, their enthusiasm, confidence, and drive is tangible. Their passion is impossible to ignore.

Steven Spielberg, in a USAToday interview this week, said of his Shoah Foundation, “This is the most important work I can be doing.”

How do you see your work today? If you see work as mostly a series of meaningless efforts and interactions, it is unlikely that you will feel fulfilled over time – and may not feel focused each day. You might feel as if you are “going through the motions.”

How do you see your life today? You might be more intentional with integrating meaning in your personal life, engaging in meaningful contributions in your community regularly. You might volunteer at a soup kitchen, shelter, or community non-profit. You might engage in finding space for a neighborhood garden and rally others to ensure it comes to fruition.

Finding your reason for being is not about your happiness – it’s about creating meaning in your life and work.

In fact, a recent study by researchers from Florida State University, the University of Minnesota, and Stanford University, found that happiness is primarily about the “now,” being happy in the present. Meaningfulness primarily involves integrating the past, present, and future. Engaging in meaningful endeavors often requires unhappiness – experiences like one’s discontent with how things work or with the unfairness of treatment, policies, or practices.

Meaningfulness to us humans means we will tackle difficult issues that are important to us. We choose to tackle these issues so we can serve others. We may choose to address unfairness or inequality we see.

Our engagement in our reason for being will cost us time, energy, and funds. We make those sacrifices willingly because of our passionate belief in doing good and providing benefits to those around us. For example, a chef at a neighborhood restaurant left a corporate banquets position to create a warm, family environment with tasty, healthy fare that amazes customers. He said, “I took a 75% cut in pay and doubled the hours I spend at work, but I’m doing what I love – and customers love it, too.”

How do you discover your reason for being? For many of us, life experiences help us filter out things that are less important – less meaningful – to us. So, it takes time (often years). You can start by reflecting on what you’re truly passionate about from a “serving others” framework. What projects, activities, or opportunities engage you, inspire you, and lift you up?

Keep a list. Revisit your list every couple of weeks. Refine your list as you get clearer on those few, vitally meaningful things that provide insights into your passions.

Does your work have to be fully aligned to your reason for being? For many of us humans, our work activities are not fully aligned with our most meaningful drives. For a few, work fits perfectly into their passions.

What is important, I think, is to understand your reason for being – and engage in it often. You’ll make the world a better place when you do.

Add your comments, insights, or questions below. What is your reason for being? In what ways are you able to engage in your passions and service to others at work, with family, or in your communities?

Get your free copy of my ChangeThis manifesto, “What? Your Organization Doesn’t Have a Constitution?

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/gregepperson. 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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Serve Well Then Lead Well

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.”

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Lousy Bosses are Lousy Role Models

UnemploymentWhat did your worst boss do to deserve that not-so-coveted title?

I’ve experienced the same lousy boss behaviors that you probably have at some point in your career.

One of my lousy bosses made grand promises – to staff, to volunteers, to customers. However, he kept few of his commitments. I learned his word was not trustworthy.

Another lousy boss of mine was amazingly skilled at pointing out my mistakes and failures. However, he was quiet when I exceeded expectations and moved the organization forward. I learned to insulate myself from his presence because all I heard from him was disappointment.

My worst boss asked me to lie. My non-profit branch had raised $25,000 in our annual campaign my first year as executive director. That was double what the branch had raised before! At the campaign’s closing dinner, with 300 volunteers and staff in attendance, my boss told me to announce that we’d raised not $25,000, but $30,000. I refused and announced the real total. He was not happy; I didn’t care. Our values mis-match was deep and wide. I left that boss and job as quickly as I could.

What makes leaders behave the way they do? My research and experience leads me to believe that there are three primary drivers of leader behaviors:

  • Their personality, disposition, or social style (these are different terms for the same driver),
  • Their organizational culture, and
  • Role models – good ones and not-so-good ones.

Role models are immensely powerful to us humans. We observe how others behave, how they treat people, and how those behaviors are reinforced by the organization through recognition, bonuses, and the like. We notice how our role models are validated and we embrace their behaviors as our own.

The problem is that one may be embracing lousy boss behaviors and not even realize it.

Feedback from global respondents to my Performance-Values Assessment note that proven best boss behaviors are not universally embraced. For example, only 52% of over 375 respondents believe that their direct boss holds everyone accountable for their commitments. Only 30% believe that their direct boss gives them effective performance coaching. 43% believe their direct boss provides regular praise for effort as well as accomplishment. 61% believe their direct boss is honest in his/her dealings with them.

These results indicate that proven “best boss” behaviors are experienced, on average, less than 45% of the time in workplaces around the globe every day. That’s not a high mark. It means that there are more lousy bosses running teams and businesses today than there are best bosses.

My research shows that great bosses inspire employee engagement, WOW’ed customers, and higher profits than lousy bosses.

Seek out #GREATBoss behaviors and emulate those. Notice lousy boss behaviors, and eliminate them from your “influencing tool kit.”

What did your worst boss do to earn that title? Who are your “best boss” role models – and what do they do that inspires you to emulate their behaviors? Contribute your thoughts about this post/podcast in the comments section below.

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/shironosov. 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.”

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Integrity is Not Situational

coin flipOnce again, headlines in global media outlets this week highlight American “male politicians behaving badly.”

San Diego mayor Bob Filner is facing allegations of decades of sexual harassment. Seven women have publicly accused Filner of degrading behavior. One woman filed suit this week against Filner and the city. Despite calls for his resignation from local, state, and congressional officials, Filner says he will not resign.

New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner resigned his congressional seat in 2011 after a sexting scandal. Weiner admitted this week that he continued sexting as many as 10 women after he resigned. Despite calls for him to drop out of the NYC mayor’s race, so far he has refused to do so.

London’s The Telegraph headlined it’s report, “The American Way: Anthony Weiner shows no shame . . . ”

That bold headline reflects on the US’s poor showing in these circumstances. Our badly-behaving men politicians do not typically accept personal responsibility despite overwhelming evidence that the fault is theirs, alone.

I believe these are personal integrity issues. These issues may have other influences (power, personal gratification, etc.) but, at their core, they are integrity issues.

What do I mean by integrity?

Dictionary.com defines integrity as adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.

Integrity is built when individuals promise to demonstrate strong morals, then do what they say they will do – they live strong morals, in every interaction.

Integrity doesn’t mean you act in alignment with your moral compass in “some” interactions but not others. Integrity happens when you’re in alignment in every interaction. With people of different genders, races, ages, religious beliefs, sexual preference, etc. Every person, every time.

Consistent personal integrity won’t get you headlines but it will garner you trust and respect of those you work with. It boosts relationships with bosses, colleagues, team members, and customers. It creates psychological safety within those relationships, which drives others’ willingness to apply discretionary energy towards shared values and goals.

Strong personal integrity is powerful – and worth pursuing.

Don’t let the current headlines paint the entire picture of American integrity. There are positive stories in the ether but you have to seek them out. Two that inspired me recently include:

  • A New York Times Magazine article features Jason Everman‘s story of his transition from rock star wanna-be (he was kicked out of two genre-defining bands: Nirvana and Soundgarden) to highly decorated Special Forces member.
  • PGA golfer Hunter Mahan was in the lead at 13 strokes under par of the Canadian Open on Saturday morning, July 27. While on the practice tee, he received a call from his pregnant wife. Though due to deliver the baby in August, she was headed to the hospital after starting labor. Mahan withdrew from the tournament at that moment to fly to Dallas to be with his wife. His potential winnings meant far less than being present at the birth of he and his wife’s first child.

Be a person of high integrity. Our world, today and in the future, desperately needs those people.

In what ways did your best bosses demonstrate high personal integrity? What do you do, day to day, to ensure you’re living according to your strong moral compass?

Contribute your thoughts about this post/podcast in the comments section below.

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/jgroup. 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.”

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