Tag Archives: toxic culture

Monday Morning Moment – 10 Characteristics of a Good Leader – What Do You Say?

Photo Credit: Wolfgang Lehmacher, Quora

Too often we focus on what makes for a bad boss rather than looking at those good leaders in our lives. For the last several days, I’ve been asking friends what makes for a leader of excellence…one who  brings excellence to the table and also brings it out in their teams.

Before I asked these friends…from various disciplines (education, health care, private sector, and non-profits)…I developed my own list. As they talked about the good leaders in their lives – either past or present – their characteristics resonated with mine below.

10 Characteristics of a Good Leader

  • They enjoy their personnel. – Story after story of bosses who made the workplace more pleasant by their sheer enjoyment of their colleagues and teams. They were present. They didn’t have to have the room’s attention. They clearly just took pleasure in the folks with whom they worked (up and down the chain of command).
  • They know their personnel. – Leaders were described as excellent when they really knew their employees. They not only asked about the progress of work but how the individual was doing as well. They knew successes and failures. They knew the families. Maybe not in so many details, but it was obvious, by their interest that they genuinely cared about their employees…as well as what they were doing on the job.
  • They treat their personnel with dignity, even in hard conversations. – When conversations were disciplinary or corrective, these leaders still respected boundaries and showed care. No raised voices, no demeaning, no putdowns, no threats.
  • They reel in stress, instill confidence, and bring perspective. – Along with the above, when outcomes weren’t as hoped or when difficult change had to be executed, these leaders kept drama out of it. What was communicated was that we would get through this…together. Now, that wasn’t always possible, as when downsizing has to happen, for instance, but every effort was taken to care for those most negatively impacted.
  • They sacrifice for their personnel. – Business coach Ron Carucci wrote a post earlier this year entitled 3 Ways Senior Leaders Create a Toxic Culture. He talks about how easy it can be for leaders to become isolated from the majority of their employees, so focused on the success of the company…or their own success…that employees below them are neglected in the process. Time and time again, friends talked about how leaders would interrupt their own schedule…even travel or meetings…to deal with some difficult situation with a team or employee. This is a rare circumstance, I’m sure, but what a trust-builder, right?
  • They develop their personnel. – None of us know really what kind of person we can be until we have proven ourselves through experience and training. I hear so often about the problem of “not enough leaders”. Good leaders develop their personnel with broad generous strokes. Then, in time, they will discover who may very well be of the caliber to be in the line of succession for their jobs…avoiding the crisis of “not enough”.
  • They provide platforms for their personnel to shine. – One comment I received repeatedly was “She believed in me.” or “He knew I could do it.” Being challenged and then given the resources to be successful/effective were huge for folks describing good leaders.
  • Their decisions make sense to their personnel. – Because good leaders keep their teams up-to-date with vision, plans of execution, outcomes, then their decision-making brought no confusing after-shocks. Besides, good leaders instill trust, so buy-in comes more naturally. Often because leaders allowed their teams to speak into the decision as well. This is huge.
  • They extend their reputation to their personnel. – By this, I mean that good leaders share – with those on their teams – the responsibility and rewards of engineering a product or service. It’s not just the upper echelon leaders who collect the kudos. It’s the organization as a whole.
  • They show up when their personnel need them. – Lastly, this characteristic seemed to carry a high emotional ring to it with those I questioned. When an employee is in a tough situation, with an unhappy parent, or a litigious customer, or just having a really bad day, these leaders don’t leave it always to someone else. If they are needed they come…one way or another. “He always had our back.” “She knows me so she knew how hard it was for me that day.” For leaders to show this kind of character requires margin in their lives and willingness to let go of some other piece of their work to show up in this way. Again, I’m thinking these situations are rare, but they reflect a level of leadership that we all appreciate.

Photo Credit: Lone Wolf Technologies

Good leaders are others-focused. They have fought off the natural tendency of being self-focused and self-promoting. They are self-aware (they know themselves and know how they may be perceived by others). They have trained themselves in the habit of putting others first. This discipline is the cut of the fabric of excellence in leadership.

Now, I didn’t go into the other critical parts of a leader’s responsibility – that of keeping the business of the organization running well. This was all about what goes into the kind of leader we are glad to work for. When it comes to bottom-line and performance, Carucci in his article shows research that demonstrates the profitability of keeping priorities (like those above) and focusing positively on personnel. Photo Credit: Assad Schuitema, Care and Growth

“If a video camera captured your leadership team in action for a full day, how would you feel about that video being used as training for the rest of the organization? Serving on a leadership team should be viewed as a privilege. And along with that privilege comes a responsibility to behave in ways you would be proud to have the rest of the organization emulate.” – Ron Carucci

What do you think about what makes for a good leader? Please comment below. Whether you comment or not, take a moment to consider those leaders in your life that have made a tremendous positive impact on your worklife…and through that, your personal life as well. Maybe you’re a good leader because of the influence of those who mentored you.

Have a great Monday!

3 Ways Senior Leaders Create a Toxic CultureRon Carucci

Want to Be a Better leader? – 5 Powerful Ways Kindness Can Help – Peter Economy

What Is the Essence of Leadership? – Quora

5 Friday Faves – Pursuing Truth, Giving Voice to the Voiceless, Connecting Skill, Biomedical Treatment for Autism, and an Antique Store Experience

Friday has come…and gone. Finishing up this Faves on an early Sunday morning. Summer has wound down. School starts here in a week. Family visits. New babies. Friends back in town. Lots going on. Still…wanted to close the week out with my faves…and you.

1) Pursuing Truth – Deception is a problem of the culture that can become very personal. When something is spoken through public media as if it’s true, or someone we know speaks with confidence and authority, we are tempted to believe it is true…without weighing its validity. This is not always the case…in fact, too often we must sift through motives and spin to get to the meat of the matter.

From the time our children were little, we have tried to teach them how to sort out what is true. In the culture today, celebrities opt out of critical thinking by saying such things as “your truth”.

There is truth. How can it be colored so many individual ways?

I’m very thankful for the opportunity for table talk even today with our adult children. Sitting over dinner discussing faith, politics, and society…along with music, film, babies, and the latest technology.

I’m also grateful for friends who can be worlds apart on some ideologies but are bound together by relationship. They teach me so much. In fact, I have sought out some friendships, in the beginning, for those very differences. These are people whose passion and determination in living their passions. They help me make sure I haven’t pigeon-holed a certain worldview without considering what is winsome about it.

Nothing has changed about my belief in a good God…that deepens as I get older.  He will answer for Himself one day, as He chooses. On what may have confused any of us, in our human frailty, about both His justice and mercy. I will also answer one day about my own grasp of that and how it influenced my dealings with others.

I do believe that God has given us a guide for life in the Scriptures. I don’t understand it all, but I would not be so bold as to throw out some parts while I cling to others. Absolutely sure He can protect His own story through the ages…from getting lost in translation.

Anyway, what do you think about pursuing truth? It doesn’t happen without intentionality. We are being blasted with “someone’s truth” most all the time. Growing weary of pursuing truth would not go well for us.

Pursuing the Truth Requires Modesty About OurselvesMona Charen

Monday Morning Moment – the Essence and Ethics of Spin in Our Work, Our Politics, and Our Community – Deb Mills

2) Giving Voice to the Voiceless – Two friends and I are doing a study together, along with many others online. It is  Arise: a Study on God’s Heart for Justice. Easy to do – very thought-provoking and convicting.Photo Credit: IF Gathering

It’s a six-week look at God’s heart for justice and came at just the right time for me. Some of us are deeply engaged with turning stories of injustice into hope and healing. I am not one of those but so want to be.Photo Credit: IF Gathering

3) Connecting Skill – Benjamin P. Hardy is a writer that I follow. He is an organizational psychologist and writes on motivation and productivity. This past week, his post had an intriguing title: The Most Important Skill for Interacting with People . Definitely worth a read, but I will also tell you what that skill is:

Compassion/Consideration

Photo Credit: Carl Richards, New York Times

“If you treat every person you meet like they are dealing with a serious challenge, you’ll be right more than half the time. If you entreat people with love, kindness, empathy, and discernment, they will appreciate you so much.

You could change someone’s life today. You could potentially save someone’s life today. You could also indirectly change countless other lives through the ripple effects of making just one person feel heard and seen.

Send the text to a friend.

Make that call to a loved one.

Apologize to a co-worker or employee.

Wrote William Shakespeare, ‘They do not love that do not show their love.'”Benjamin P. Hardy

The Most Important Skill for Interacting with People Benjamin P. Hardy

Ask Yourself: What Burdens Is That Other Person Carrying?Carl Richards

4) Biomedical Treatment for Autism – [This is fascinating to me, but I have some idea how hard this could be to read by parents trying to make decisions about what’s right for their child with autism and the rest of their family. So please bear this in mind, while you read.]

During a conversation this week with a young mom who has a child diagnosed with autism (Autism Spectrum Disorder), my concept of food as intervention was rocked. In her determination to rid her child of the ravages of autism, she is following the counsel of a renowned local pediatrician,  Dr. Mary Megson.  Her approach with autistic children includes intensive testing of biological factors and then applying biomedical measures as appropriate for each child’s findings.

I’m not going into the specifics, but my friend has changed up her child’s diet and has also added a long list of supplements each day. Who would even imagine that giving cod liver oil to a child would have impact on autism? I know her sweet child and the changes I’ve seen just in the last few months are remarkable. The video below captures what another mom did for her son and the difference it made. [Don’t be overwhelmed by all the interventions…every family must decide for themselves what they can believe and manage/afford in the care of their child with autism.]

From my friend’s experience and my wonder at this strange disorder, this type intervention is definitely something to consider…for a season, for the sake of a child. There are just so many diets out there, so I can’t imagine how parents make their decisions. Hopefully the benefits outweigh what can be very isolating and divisive between people who care about each other.

Changes in Attitudes, Changes in Latitudes – Ronald E. – one father’s story

5) An Antique Store Experience – This week I was home visiting my family in Georgia. My sister-in-law is an amazing crafts-person – taking dreary scuffed-up (albeit much loved by someone in the past) old furniture and bringing them to life again. She knows all the best antique shops where others do the same sorts of re-purposing and “up-cycling”.

[Someone took a tv cabinet and made it into a beautiful display piece. Do you see the doors of the cabinet were made into the shelving? And how about an artsy chandelier made from bed springs?!]

[Chenille takes me back to childhood before our comfy modern fabrics…when chenille was the softest bed cover to wrap up in.]

RVA Antiques – a Happy Place – Deb Mills

Saturday Short – Sweet Plans for a Day in River City – #RVA – to Celebrate That Lovely in Your Life – Deb Mills

That’s a wrap on this week’s favorite finds. Please favor us with some of yours in the Comments section below. Have a splendid end-of-summer weekend. Be gentle with yourself and with those you meet…you just never know what it will mean.

Bonuses:

Beyond the Guitar – “I’m in a Video Game” – Nathan Mills

YouTube Video – The Chosen – This Movie Changed the Way I Feel About Christmas – The Shepherd Pilot Episode – Don’t miss the ending.

Quote:

Unhinged. My choice word to describe how I’ve felt all week culminating in a Friday to which I awoke with my eyes being super swollen. I’m wearing an outfit I’m 99% sure I already wore this week (hey, I blame it on being European for a short season & go ahead and judge me as though you’ve never done the same). I’ve slept horribly all week because of worry and stress waking up around 4.

I decided I was going to redeem Friday, eat a croissant, have good coffee, and read a book. Please note the weird lighting and spilled coffee in the background. Because this is actually my life.

The book I’m reading is about a surgeon who during WW2 lived in China and served the Lord and the people there until his premature death. A friend asked me where and why I find books like this and suggested I read something lighter (sometimes I do). This morning it hit me that I know the answer why.

Gravity.

The gravity of a life lived before the Lord in a selfless, sacrificial way calls into reckoning my frivolity and selfishness. I need gravity because far too often I am unhinged and need to be reminded that who I am in Christ, swollen eyes/outfit/sleepless soul/etc., is enough because it doesn’t depend on me. God takes my unhinged-ness and allows me to cast my burdens on him.

And I’m working on it. Praise God. – Taryn Blocker, with permission

3 Ways Senior Leaders Create a Toxic CultureRon Carucci

The Dangers of Distracted ParentsErika Kristakis

Photo Credit: Housekeeping 101, Facebook

Photo Credit: Marianne Wink, Facebook

Organizational Culture – 5 Questions – Notes on a Podcast with Barnabas Piper, Todd Adkins, and Eric Geiger

Blog - 5 Leadership Questions - Organizational CultureMy latest favorite podcast (one of my 5 Friday Faves last week) was this conversation between Barnabas Piper (co-host), Eric Geiger, and Todd Adkins (co-host). On Lifeway’s 5 Leadership Questions, they tackled the topic of creating a healthy organizational culture.

Image processed by CodeCarvings Piczard ### FREE Community Edition ### on 2015-05-18 23:11:32Z | http://piczard.com | http://codecarvings.comBlog - eric Geiger - 5 Leadership QuestionsBlog - Todd Adkins - 5 Leadership Questions

In the podcast, they ask and answer 5 questions about organizational culture. I took notes. Listen to the podcast if you can, but if you don’t, read on. These guys have captured something we all need to consider in thinking about our workplaces and have our values speak to how healthy we are…or are not.

1) What is an organizational culture? – Culture is defined as those values or beliefs that undergird who we are and what we’re about in our organization. Culture is “everything beneath the surface that drives behavior”. Whether we are in tune to our work culture or not, we share values as a group and those values drive our behavior. There are two types of values within a culture – aspirational and actual. Aspirational values – what’s on the wall. Actual values – what takes place in the hall. Values are so embedded in culture that we take them for granted. They include philosophies and strategies and can be both good and bad for the health of our organization. What is the personality of your organization?  Psychologist Alfred Adler wrote, in 1920s, that to be healthy, three things need to be in alignment: 1) how you perceive yourself, 2) how others perceive you, and 3) how you want to be perceived. Apply that to your organization: does who you say you are match with who you actually are? This will give you a diagnosis of how healthy your organization is…if you’re willing to take a hard, honest look. How did you get the culture you have?Piper, Adkins, and Geiger then talked about how the leader of an organization will shape culture. Leaders shape culture and after three years, it will be the culture they have shaped.  If leaders don’t intentionally shape the culture, it will evolve on its own [somewhat in reaction to that leader – my take on that].

2) What are the consequences if you don’t build and shape a culture (if you let it passively happen)? “If you don’t actively cultivate the culture, whoever has the loudest voice or the clearest vision wins.” There is formal and informal authority as well as formal and informal influence with impact on an organization’s culture.  The informal influence/authority of a long-time trusted employee is important and should be respected. Culture, healthy or unhealthy, can “trump” a new leader’s ideas or strategy. “A healthy culture won’t tolerate an unwise move or won’t tolerate someone being treated inappropriately. A healthy staff culture will call people out – “We don’t talk to people that way here/we don’t treat people that way here. That’s sacred for us here.” Wise leaders will give the culture its voice as new, healthier culture is built.

3) What is the starting point for a leader to create culture? 1) Assess the culture of your organization. “It’s a mistake to say everything is broken, ruined, messed-up in this culture and we need to rebuild a whole new culture. You’re wrong. There are things that are affirmable in that culture.” [Eric Geiger on not loathing the culture you lead]  2) Find what is affirmable in your culture and affirm them. 3) Then deal with what is not present that needs to be. “For every 2 actual values, you can have one aspirational value.” If you are a new leader of an organization, resist the temptation to shake it down entirely and rebuild the culture reflecting your values. “Actual values are the foundation upon which you build culture. Affirm over and over. Then work to implement [that other value that’s only present in aspiration form].”

Blog - Organizational CUlture - Lencioni book Silos, Politics & Turf Wars

Everybody needs to read Lencioni’s Politics, Silos, Turf Wars. “What is Bucket 1? – core DNA – values we do not change. Don’t even ask. Bucket 2? – Maybe. Wasn’t our Core DNA but goes against what we want. Bucket 3? – Do whatever you want.” The core values of a culture are those that are bedrock for your organization to continue. “Ask what of your culture is not going to change. When those things come up, address them immediately. What is counter-culture? Kill them. [Examine] what we pay attention to; how we react to crisis; the role models that we raise up; the stories we tell; the heroes we create.” Plato once said: “What is celebrated is cultivated.”  You are able to influence culture by telling new stories. What does your culture celebrate? What do you see that kills culture?

4) What are culture-killers in an organization that need to be abolished? What are signs of culture that needs to be celebrated? What are the culture killers not to be tolerated?A culture-killer would be the continued allowance of violative behavior of those values. If among a staff team the cultural value is we treat each other with respect; we’re a family; we do ministry together – and you have a lone ranger who gets promoted?…that’s a culture-killer.” Anything that violates the organization’s culture is a no-go. Disrespect. Passive-Aggressive behavior. Lying. You can’t tolerate such things. Then what in culture should be celebrated? As team members exhibit organizational values in their work and demeanor, you hold them up for everyone to celebrate. “Point out and celebrate when your culture’s values are fleshed out. Give a story; mention the value; celebrate a specific value of the organization lived out; from each campus/department. Remind each other that all these things are going on in different places/departments and the impact we’re having together.”

5) What does it look like to hire and fire strategically to create the kind of culture an organization needs. People create culture.  1) Hire on the values. Look for displayed commitment to the values before the person is on the team. You ask questions. Look for history. You see if they have to sacrifice something to be on your team. Do they have to become someone they’re not to be a part of the team? 2) Removing people – a strong culture is going to make it very uncomfortable for someone to stay who doesn’t have the same values. They will self-select out of a culture not like them. They’re saying, “This isn’t really me.” The organization says, “Here’s who we are.” “If they’re not going to help the culture stay healthy, you don’t want them on that team. You want them to be a fish out of water if this isn’t the culture for them. It’s about fit not worth. There is a culture for them somewhere that matches their values.”

I love these guys – Barnabas Piper, Todd Adkins, and Eric Geiger. This podcast was very timely in my own cultural experience. I am watching an organization dear to me go through a painful downsizing – through a voluntary retirement incentive to start. This organization (both aspirationally and actually) values longevity, experience, perseverance, and history. You can imagine the struggle within of how to come to grips with this direction – necessary but heart-wrenching for them as an organization. Organizational culture is important to understand. It is how we help our culture through a crisis to get back to a healthy place. Culture cannot be disregarded.

Don’t Loathe the Culture You Lead by Eric Geiger

How Not to Loathe the Culture You Are Leading – Eric Geiger

Silos, Politics and Turf Wars: A Leadership Fable About Destroying the Barriers That Turn Colleagues Into Competitors by Patrick Lencioni

Silos, Politics and Turf Wars – PDF – Executive Book Summaries

SlideShare – Organization Culture and Climate

Organizational Structure and Culture – Principles of Management – New Charter University

Mission Drift: The Unspoken Crisis Facing Leaders, Charities, and Churches by Peter Greer and Chris Horst

Photo Credits: 5 Leadership Questions Header. Barnabas Piper, Eric Geiger, and Todd Adkins