Tag Archives: employee engagement

Monday Morning Moment – a Snow Day and an End-of-the-year Leadership Checklist

Monday morning. Quieter than usual. 11+ inches of snow has closed down much of the goings and comings of Richmond life today.

Although we know it’s not really a gift of time, snow days sure have the feel of a free day. Work still goes on for some (thank you all in the service industries), but for others we will catch up another day.

Today I am working on Christmas cards but they can’t be finished until husband Dave and I do our end-of-year reflection. We both look back separately, over the highs and lows of the year, and then come together to write a summary for our Christmas newsletter.

[If you hate those newsletters, just throw them in your recycling. They are probably more for the sender as the receiver…so the good has already been done. Happy Christmas.]

Dave works for an international organization. If we had kids or grandchildren at home, he may have just called it a snow day as his office, like many others in the city, is closed. However, because much of his day was already scheduled conference calls with people in different parts of the US and the world, he could work, from his office at home.

I say all this to emphasize how challenging it is to do any sort of review of the year…even on a snow day.

Still, year-end reflections are such a positive and productive activity, both for ourselves and for our workplace.

By year’s end, we are often just trying to appease the tyranny of the urgent. The dilemma is that a work life of putting out fires rarely puts in place barriers that can prevent further fires.

A year-end checklist used by leaders in concert with their direct reports can make a huge difference in accountability, employee engagement, evaluating practices, and planning for the next year.

Otherwise we live and work in the insanity that comes when we don’t block out time for reflection, evaluation, celebration, and development or planning.Photo Credit: Twitter, Seven Quotes

We think we’re doing all those things…but are we?

Below, you will find five links with five different end-of-the-year checklists. Some are longer than others. Some require deeper reflection than others. They are a nice mix written by brilliant thought leaders. [two have the same title but they are very different, by two different leaders].

Tomorrow, I will post my favorite points of the checklists below. Today, maybe you would take the time to look at them, like me, and come up with a checklist you would use…or one of your own making.

A Year-end Checklist That Will Make You a Much Better Leader – Lolly Daskal (2018)

15 Things to Top Your Business Checklist for the new Year – Forbes – 2017

A Year-end Checklist That Will Make You a Much Better Leader – Marcel Schwantes (2016)

A Great Leader’s Year-end Checklist – Les McKeown – 2012

A Leadership Checklist – 10 Things to Do Right Now to Make it a Great Year – Terry St. Marie (2010)

Monday Morning Moment – the Endearing, Enduring Multipliers in the Workplace

Photo Credit: Amazon.com

[Adapted from the Archives]

For several years, we had the great privilege of living and working in Cairo, Egypt. My husband directed a Middle Eastern Studies program. I helped him oversee the comings and goings of bright, energetic 20-somethings. When the work, heat, or press of city life became too much, we would escape to the Sinai and the Red Sea. Usually the resort town of Ras Sudr was our quick and quiet get-away, where we could take a weekend just to clear our heads with blue skies and salty sea air.

This time, we went for a week to Dahab, on the far side of the Sinai. r_seaman@hotmail.comPhoto Credit: Egypttailormade.net

Dave was finishing his time in this director role and would take a short sabbatical in the US. We would then return to Egypt, this time for a regional consulting job, guiding the expansion of these study centers.

We were tired, and a consulting job was a dream, with the prospect of just giving a hand to other directors – not nearly the intensity of being responsible for so many young people.

Driving the long road to Dahab, through the calming desert of the Sinai, kids in the backseat, Dave got a phone call.

Whoever it was on the other end, (Dave hadn’t called him by name), the conversation, from my side, was warm and affectionate at first, and then serious. As they talked, visible goose bumps rose on Dave’s arms. Goose bumps on a hot deserty day in Egypt?! I knew no one had died from his side of the conversation, but something huge was clearly being introduced by the caller.

When the call ended, I got the details. Dave spoke quietly so the kids wouldn’t be distracted by a call that could change the course (and geography) of our lives. The person on the other end of the conversation was his dearest mentor – a man for whom he had the deepest respect, even love. On the phone call, he had asked Dave to consider not taking the job of consultant but to take a job with him where he would have even more leadership responsibility. Supervising many more than a couple of dozen 20-somethings in one city. This job would require him to provide leadership to about 100 people spread over 6 different countries AND we would have to move from our beloved Cairo.

Thus, the goose bumps.

Dave did walk away from the “easier” job of consultant to take on the much larger, scarier job his mentor asked of him. We did eventually break the news to our children that we would be moving away from Cairo to a whole new country of possibilities and friendships. It was a stretching move for us (more so than our original move to Cairo), and it was a job and situation we would never have aspired to…were it not for this mentor…this multiplier of leaders.

Liz Wiseman has written the most incredible book on leadership – Multipliers – How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter . Her book describes this mentor of my husband as if she knew him personally. Wiseman is the president of The Wiseman Group, a leadership research and development firm, headquartered in Silicon Valley, California.

Blog - Liz Wiseman

Photo Credit: LiveIntentionally.org

I first heard her speak at the Global Leadership Summit. Her presentation centered on a more recent book Rookie Smarts. This engaging young woman clearly has had multipliers in her own life and has obviously learned from some diminishers as well.

On the inside cover of Wiseman’s book Multipliers, she defines the terms “Diminishers” and “Multipliers”:

“The first type [diminishers] drain intelligence, energy, and capability from the ones around them and always need to be the smartest ones in the room. These are idea killers, the energy sappers, the diminishers of talent and commitment. On the other side of the spectrum [the multipliers] are leaders who use their intelligence to amplify the smarts and capabilities of the people around them…These are the leaders who inspire employees to stretch themselves to deliver results that surpass expectations.” – Liz Wiseman

Have you ever been in a job where you felt your wisdom, understanding, experience were being drained right out of you? As if you were getting stupider and stupider? That can happen…or at least the sense of it happening is so strong it might as well be real. Some of this we must own ourselves, and some of it is owned by our leaders.

[Sidebar – It’s not like diminishers are evil people. Possibly, their focus is so tuned to the endgame that people and processes get lost in the pursuit. I believe if ever they have an “aha!” moment, maybe through the multipliers in their own lives, they could change their habits and disciplines…especially those who become accidental diminishers – in video at minute 28:35.]

This mentor of Dave’s was/is a Multiplier. For much of Dave’s professional life, this man has “popped in” and pressed my husband to reach farther than he might have in his career.

I want to be this sort of leader myself – this one who inspires confidence in others, who sees the possibilities, who risks by giving over control to another, who stirs thinking and enlarges the lives of those in his/her circle of influence…a circle that’s widely inclusive.

Being a leader is a humbling, stretching experience and, for the sake of those under our watch in the workplace, we want to offer the best leadership possible. We can all fall into habits over time that diminish others. Forging disciplines that keep us from doing so is wisdom. Note them from Liz Wiseman’s book:

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Wiseman also talks about leaders as change agents – do we reserve the right to make the final decision every time or do we wrestle through decisions with those most affected by them? The latter can definitely be more messy but is also more effective and honoring.

“Multipliers invoke each person’s unique intelligence and create an atmosphere of genius—innovation, productive effort, and collective intelligence…He’ll outstretch all your capabilities to make it happen. He is highly demanding, but you feel great. You know you are signing up for something that will challenge you on a daily basis for many years to come. You will challenge yourself and all your capabilities…Exhilarating, exhausting, challenging, gratifying. He’s a big source of energy. He is a source of power and a tail-wind for what we do.”  – Liz Wiseman

Thank you, Liz Wiseman. You are a wise woman (I’m sure you get this all the time…couldn’t resist). Thanks also to that unnamed mentor and multiplier in my husband’s life…and to all those multipliers in my life’s journey.

Read Wiseman’s book. [If you watch this video, you will want to buy the book…if I haven’t already sold you.] I’d love to hear your stories of multipliers in your life…and any diminishers that you learned from but (hopefully) were not diminished in the season you were together…maybe you became a multiplier in that person’s life. Journey strong, Friends.

Multipliers – How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter by Liz Wiseman with Greg McKeown

Photo Credit: Leadership Natives

Leadership Natives – About Multipliers

YouTube Video – Leaders as Multipliers with Liz Wiseman

Multipliers Quotes from GoodReads

Monday Morning Moment – How an Accidental Diminisher Becomes a Multiplier – Deb Mills

2013 Global Leadership Summit Session 3a: Liz Wiseman

Brian Dodd – 4 Leadership Lessons From Mt. Rainier and the Inc. 500 Fastest Growing Business List – another example of a Multiplier

Monday Morning Moment – 6 Basic Elements of Leading Well – Dave Mills

Leadership is a process that has been a great interest all my adult life. There’s this man I know well who actually spends concentrated time studying about leadership, both through books and observing it in practice. He has had the experience of being a leader of few and many. He has managed teams, budgets, and action plans. Other times, he has led only by influence, without authority. He is my go-to person on what is good leadership – which is never a finished product. Leadership changes as organizations and cultures change.

Yet, the basic elements of leadership that builds leaders and, at the same time, gets the job done are foundational.

The man is my husband. He, from time to time, has also been my boss in the workplace. Dave Mills wears many hats. He most recently applies himself to risk/crisis management, security processes, and strategic partnerships. Making leadership development happen is his professional happy place.

In the training he does on Leading From the Heart, he lays out these 6 Basic Elements of Leading Well. With permission, they are excerpted in brief below:

  • Be clear about what you want personnel to do (What)
  • Make sure they know why it is important (Why)
  • Make sure they have what they need to do the job (How)
  • Give them a way to know how they are doing
  • Follow up regularly on priorities and progress (accountability)
  • Make sure they know you care about them

This is intended to help leaders understand what they need to provide for people to thrive in their work. This doesn’t address vision or strategy; it focuses on the people part of the process – the interaction between leaders and those we are responsible to lead.

For someone to thrive in a job, they need all six of these in place.

6 Basic elements of leading people:

1. What:  Be clear about what you want them to do.

People tend to underestimate the amount of communication effort required to achieve clarity.  This requires repeated communication to hammer home a clear understanding of the task. A feedback loop where you ask the team member to explain the assignment back to you is essential.  Even when they can do that, you still need to revisit it regularly.  Do not short-change the work involved to achieve clarity.

[This is very different from micro-managing. This is empowering through comprehensive, understandable information-sharing.]

2. Why:  Make sure they know why it is important.

Do not assume that employees understand why the task is important.  Make sure that is clearly communicated.  If they already know the importance, it helps them to hear it so they know their leader understands the importance.

This is often neglected.  Sometimes it is because it is assumed that the person knows why the task is important.  Sometimes it may be obvious why it is important.  However, it is worth unpacking that together to reinforce the importance of the task and your confidence in the person to successfully carry out the assignment.  The most common scenario is probably just to ignore the issue and never bother to help the person understand why their work is important.  This is one of the points in Lencioni’s three characteristics of a miserable job.  He calls it irrelevance.

3. How:  Make sure they have what they need to do the job.

When you assign a task you must be sure that the person has what is needed to do it.  This may involve resources, like access to equipment or funding.  It may be knowledge.  It may be connections to other people.  There may be a training need.  Or it may be capacity.  Do they have the capacity to take on the task you are assigning to them?  Make sure they have capacity, or free them up from something else, or give them someone to help them with the task.  Also recognize that sometimes at the beginning it may not be clear where the gaps are.  This is something that should be regularly revisited with people – Don’t forget to ask them if they have everything they need.

[This is another area where micro-managing would stifle rather than empower employees. Give team members the authority to get what they need to get the job done.]

4. Give them a way to know how they are doing.

People need to know what a good job looks like.  At the end of a day they need to be able to assess whether or not they did a good job that day.  What are the most important outcomes that you are expecting from them?  Have you expressed these in ways that can be quantified?

5. Accountability: Follow up regularly on priorities and progress.

Check in with them regularly, with intentionality, about progress and priorities.  The leader must take responsibility for driving this.  The frequency depends on the employee and situation, but there should be a regularly set time.  This needs to be a one-on-one conversation with each direct report to discuss what progress has been made since the last check-in and what are the priorities to be focused on until the next check-in.

Not only do you give them a way to assess their own performance, you regularly review their progress and provide feedback on how they are doing.  This is a good opportunity to revisit whether or not they have everything they need to accomplish the assigned work.  This is where coaching and accountability happen.

6. Heart level connections: Make sure they know you care about them.

Relationships are key to leadership.  You need to be intentional and deliberate about building heart level connections with those you lead.  There is an enormous amount of research indicating the importance of this.  If you do all the other parts of the process well and fail on this one, your people may endure your leadership but they will not thrive.  On the other hand, if you are not so great on some of the other parts but do this one well, people will cut you a lot of slack if they know you care about them.  Relationships are the oil that keeps the work machinery going.  Like having something with a lot of moving parts – as long as the oil is there, it runs smoothly.  If you throw some sand in the works, it doesn’t run so well and over time it will grind down to a point where it doesn’t work at all.

Caring about our employees (direct reports, in particular) involves investing in their development. Proactively looking for ways to help someone improve and grow in their work is a very caring and practical thing to do.

[Be careful that you, as a leader, don’t presume a relationship exists. This is only effective when the employee experiences the relationship as positive and caring.]

– Dave Mills, Leading From the Heart

___________________________________________________________________________

What do you think? Any element you could use as a leader or team member? In our work (both together and in work independent of each other), Dave and I also believe that leadership development – intentional and proactive – should begin at orientation. The tendency in the workplace is to load development on those already in authority. Entry level and mid-level employees don’t always have benefit of the care needed to provide opportunity to grow and develop in their areas of expertise. It is something to consider on the order of company core values.

Lastly, I just wanted to give a shout-out to some of the folks who have demonstrated excellent leadership to Dave…as well as those in relationship with him who have developed as excellent leaders themselves during the time they worked together. These make for long and rewarding relationships across a lifetime of work.

[Just a few of those remarkable ones are in the following images]

Monday Morning Moment – What You Think of Others Matters – Workplace Wisdom – Deb Mills

Monday Morning Moment – Sizing Up Your Future Employer

Graduation. Moving from student to employee. It’s an exciting time, riveted with possibility and weighty decision-making.

[Yep…our kids, one by one entering their next season of life.]

As parents, we hope, first off, that our children secure jobs in their field, in this competitive and changing workforce. Given that, it would be lovely for them to be in a company or organization where they can thrive and grow.

Work-life writer Simon Sinek and organizational psychologist Adam Grant have addressed this issue – this issue of looking for employers who genuinely care about their employees and invest in them. Photo Credit: Aspen Ideas Festival

It’s definitely something to consider as our graduates are applying for jobs. This pursuit of an employee-friendly employer should continue throughout our professional lives. At the end of our careers, who we are as people and what we were able to accomplish in work will be strongly impacted by our employers. Think about it.

I came across a piece written by Kaitlyn Wang last year. She summarized a talk Sinek and Grant gave at the 2017 OZY Fest.

Simon Sinek and Adam Grant on the Best Ways to Size Up a Potential Employer

In their talk, Wang writes, these two workplace thought leaders talked about the out-dated leadership value of customer always trumping employee. If in bottom line thinking, employees are under-valued and under-utilized, eventually the product, service, and customer will also suffer. To me, that is just common sense…and, to hear Sinek and Grant, that workplace scenario is changing.

For the new graduate (and any one of us looking for that future employer), two ideas are offered as telling of company values and leadership philosophy:

  • Ask the interviewer if they LOVE their company. Not like but love. See what their response reveals.
  • Ask the interviewer to tell a story about something “that would only happen at that company”.

How would you adapt these two ideas?

Even before the job interview, we can learn clues on the culture through the messaging on the company’s website and social media. What matters to those in charge? What is clear or not so much about employee engagement?

Something to consider…

Simon Sinek and Adam Grant on the Best Ways to Size Up a Potential Employer – Kaitlyn Wang

Millennials, Motivation, and the Changing World of Work – Video – Aspen Ideas Festival

50 Smartest Companies – 2017

The Happiest Companies to Work For in 2018

Top 10 Companies for Worker Satisfaction – Lily Martis

100 Best Companies to Work For

Monday Morning Moment – Avoiding the Warm Body Mentality in Recruiting and Retention of Volunteers and Quality Employees

Photo Credit: Flickr

[We’re not talking about the 2013 zombie apocalypse romantic comedy Warm Bodies, although I do like this graphic. Read on.]

Yesterday, I participated in a large community event. There must have been 50 or more volunteers making it happen over the course of the day. My volunteering was just across two hours. It was an event that included a large gathering, food for all, and lawn games for all ages afterwards. We observed and experienced the beauty of a “living organism” – a well-planned, well-executed event. Except for three paid staff, all the responsibilities were carried on the capable shoulders of volunteers.

An isolated event is one thing but it can speak to the core values of an organization’s overall care of its people. Is it just about filling a slot or making the organization look good, or is it moving everyone toward a mutually shared vision? Is it just the securing of warm bodies to feed the machine? Or is it a called, capable, and committed community of folks working together for a greater good? [See Matt Orth’s piece below].

How volunteers (and employees) are recruited and retained matters.

What made yesterday’s one-time event so successful and well-executed? This is what I observed:

  • A mix of event-only volunteers and longer-term volunteer leaders on point for the various activities. This made for a win-win all around. Plenty of willing helpers and lead people to guide toward success.
  • Clear organization and preparation allowing the volunteers to easily do what they signed on to do.
  • High enthusiasm – shared ownership and vision related to the event.
  • Multiple teams allowing for most of the volunteers to have a fixed service window of time.
  • Obvious valuing (by staff and leads) of the volunteers’ participation.

Writer, speaker Matt Orth wrote a piece on warm body mentality   (already mentioned above) which bears a read. Orth tells a humorous story of how he fell into being a Vacation Bible School director due to the stealth of a volunteer recruiter. He defines warm body mentality(WBM) as the process whereby “a church decides what needs to happen program-wise in their church life and then they just find the Warm Bodies to make it happen”. This could relate to any organization or company. It is task or program orientation vs. person-orientation.

Orth proposes a system of volunteer recruitment that avoids a warm body mentality:

  1. How long the commitment is for and when will they have an opportunity to step down or renew the commitment. Or if/how they can downgrade or upgrade responsibilities.
  2. What kind of accountability they will have, who they are responsible to report to, and what the evaluation process will be.
  3. What the time commitments are, including not just the start/end times of services/events, but what time they will be expected to be there both before and after the service/event.
  4. All the rest of the duties spelled out whatever they may be (teaching, running sound, getting food ready, etc.) including any intangible expectations.
  5. Give them a gracious way to say “NO.” You’re looking for volunteers who want to be there.

He recognizes the importance of having volunteers demonstrating a sense of calling, commitment, and capability. However, all of these are negotiable depending on the person… Training, casting vision, and appropriate resource equipping can move folks who currently don’t see themselves in a volunteer role toward volunteering…and not just as warm bodies.

To recruit and retain the kind of volunteers (or employees) we want depends more on us in recruiting roles…than it does on them. Showing genuine care for the individual makes such a difference in both execution of programming AND the long-term development and engagement of that person.

Give volunteers a voice and they will help you shepherd them…, and, in the end, you will a community of deeply committed people who care about the vision as much as the leaders do.

Yesterday, in the midst of all the buzz of volunteering, one of the leads announced that this was the last event for one couple to serve because they were moving out-of-state. I didn’t know them very well, but what I did know was that they always stepped up to help in whatever capacity they could. Here on their last day with this organization, they chose to spend it serving…again.

If I’d had more time yesterday, I would have loved to know more of how one comes to be like that. Some of us are natural servers, and all these seem to require is opportunity and just a bit of regard or recognition.

The rest of us may need a bit more to be successful beyond a one-time commitment. Sunday’s event for me was illuminating. How do we take what happened Sunday and grow it into something that yields thriving, committed volunteers and sustainable programming over the long-haul?

Thoughts?

Conquering the Warm Body Mentality – Matt Orth

Overcoming the ‘Hire a Warm Body’ Mentality – Gina Trimarco – Love her quote: “Think of recruiting as marketing.”

How Volunteer Recruitment Works – Warm Body and Targeted Recruitment – Robert Lamb

Warm Bodies, Cold, Hard Facts – Volunteer PlainTalk – Meridian Swift

Volunteer Quality vs. Volunteer Quantity – Amy Fenton

Recruiting Warm Bodies – Ron Edmondson

Monday Morning Moment – Adam Grant on 3 Traits of the Highly Functional Workplace

Photo Credit: Pixabay

I love Mondays! It’s ripe with possibility…and prospects of new beginnings. The tricky part of the start of any week is not settling into your work station and returning to the “same ol’, same ol'” – whatever that might entail. Even when we are excited, or at least hopeful for what’s next, we can default to usual rhythms and routines. They are familiar and comfortable (at least on the surface). Neuroplasticitythe brain’s ability to restructure itself after training or practice – can be both our enemy AND our friend.

If you love your work and you see how you fit integrally on your team, and you love your team, that is fantastic! Celebrate that every day! For you, I would just love if you could take a minute and comment below. What do you see at work in your situation? What do you do yourself to nurture that workplace experience?

[Even if you love your job, would you be willing to consider how you could help other teammates to have your experience and move to the top of their professional game?]

Adam Grant is one of those guys who loves his work…and shares generously with all his readers and TED Talk and podcast viewers/listeners.Photo Credit: Flickr

WorkLife with Adam Grant: A TED Original Podcast

Adam (he makes it feel comfortable to refer to him by his first name) is an organizational psychologist and professor at Wharton Business School. He’s authored excellent books and is now moving into a new role as pod-caster. He has affirmed much of what I believe about workplace culture and its impact on day-to-day function, employee engagement, and outcomes/product.

Author, entrepreneur Damon Brown interviewed Adam Grant and posted recently on the traits of companies which are the most highly functional. His findings weren’t surprising to me, but I’d like to hear what you think.

Best-Selling Author Adam Grant: The Most Highly Functional Companies Have These 3 TraitsDamon Brown

3 Traits of the Most Highly Functional Companies:

  1. These companies make a high priority of helping their employees discover both their weaknesses and strengths, together with their coworkers. The goals relate to outcomes, sure, but, as part of that, the professional development of each employee, as well as team cohesion and a “best practice” level of collaboration. How refreshing when both department heads and all stake-holders turn a mirror on themselves for the sake of both the individual and the whole. Having this core value could turn a company on its head…in a good way!Photo Credit: Pixabay
  2. Adam Grant has discovered that many high functioning organizations have flexible hierarchies. You might walk into one of these work meetings and not be able to tell who the “big boss” is. Also, when a decision is made, it is not always top-down. Sure, the decision is given authority from the top, but the process clearly demonstrates and validates the employees closest to a decision (and the impact of the decision) to make that decision. Again, please comment below if you work in such an environment. For me, the whole idea of this is so reasonable and wise. By the way, even if your hierarchy is currently rigid, what would it look like, if you began working toward flexibility? What could be your next steps?Photo Credit: Pixabay
  3. Highly functioning organizations use the word “family” in describing themselves. Not in a smarmy, feel good way, but in actual experience of community and belonging and care. We as colleagues can make this happen within a team, whether it is a top-down experience or not. We communicate and demonstrate, in good faith, that we have each other’s back. We show genuine care for each other and don’t allow ambition or personal preference blind us to the needs of the rest of our team. This actually can eventually have a cross-team impact…if we are patient. If you wonder how, just search on-line for Adam Grant – he has both written and spoken volumes on this.

All three of these traits, or patterns, point to a vision that is highly peopled. It is not just driven from the top. Nor is it owned by one work group over another. A shared vision, in the truest sense of its meaning, gives room for all players…with their varying strengths and weaknesses. There is space for leaders and those who prefer to follow (excellent leaders or even those not-so-much), for the persuaders and those willing to consider the persuasion, for the decision-makers and those who want to speak into the decisions. Your over-all vision might be right but engaging all employees in going after that vision makes for highest function (especially for all you efficiency folks out there). Highest function and greatest care for each employee. That is a vision all of us could share or even own.Photo Credit: Flickr

What all this says to me is that people matter. Not just the most brilliant, bombastic, or brand-worthy, but everyone in the organization. Maybe you already work in such a company. if not, you …each of us can move it in the direction of such a company.

After all…it’s Monday. Who knows what could happen by the end of the week?

Best-Selling Author Adam Grant: The Most Highly Functional Companies Have These 3 TraitsDamon Brown

WorkLife with Adam Grant – Podcast – The Problem with All-Stars

Why Our Brains Fall for False Expertise, and How to Stop It – Khalil Smith

Infographic: 1 of These Four Strengths Is Your Superpower – Damon Brown

Self Sacrifice Won’t Get You Ahead. Wise Leaders Do This Instead – Damon Brown

Monday Morning Moment – Are Customers Loyal to Your Company or to Your Employees?

OK, any of us familiar with Chick-Fil-A restaurants know the yummy goodness of their chicken sandwiches and waffle fries. However, the stand-alone deliciousness of the food can not actually be separated from the quality of customer service. If I lived in Lenoir, North Carolina, for instance, I would drive across town to dine at operator Mike Sheley’s Chick-Fil-A. His character, kindness, and community commitment infuse his staff. “It’s my pleasure” is part of their heart language and also our customer experience.

My loyalty to Southwest Airlines is similar. The free bag check and cheap fares definitely matter as I choose what airlines to book.  Then there is the customer service as fleshed out in Southwest employees like Candace Hewitt. She reached out to me, sitting at the gate, in a time of grieving over two years ago…and she still does from time to time.
That’s the kind of employee that inspires customer loyalty to a company.

Companies these days are often focused sharply on business processes that streamline innovation and the quality and availability of the product or service. Competition is a constant stressor.

What if we are missing the opportunity to nurture our hidden customers? The employees themselves.

Thought leader Michael Lowenstein researches and writes extensively on this. This making employees “ambassadors” of our companies. For those interested in exploring what he and others recommend, I’ve included links below.

In brief, if you’re thinking this might be an issue to address, here are Lowenstein’s recommendations for building such a workplace philosophy and ethic:

Some years ago, my colleague Jill Griffin and I identified nine ‘best practices’ for generating employee behavior which extends beyond loyalty to contribution and commitment.

1. Build a Climate of Trust – That Works Both Ways
2. Train, Train, Train and Cross-Train
3. Make Sure Each Employee Has A Career Path
4. Provide Frequent Evaluations and Reviews
5. Seek To Inform, Seek To Debrief
6. Recognize and Reward Initiative
7. Ask Employees What They Want
8. By All Means, Have Fun
9. Hire The Right Employees In The First Place

To build more of the first best practice, employee trust and empowerment, into the company culture, consider the following:

• Insure staff trust and empowerment are key values in the firm’s mission and vision statements
• Practice effective story-telling
• Create company rites and rituals that help reinforce the rewards of employee trust
• Maintain a free flow of information between management and staff to reinforce the trust factor and help prevent negative communication and gossip.
• Actively expose all employees to customers’ perception of experience value
• Teach senior managers the importance of ‘walking the talk’ and inspiring employee trust. – Michael Lowenstein

Whatever our company or organization, cultivating practices which enhance employee loyalty will yield the fruit of customer loyalty. Whether or not we can measure that, in the end, the former is a worthy goal all on its own.

Research: Are Clients Loyal to Your Firm or the People in It? – Joe Raffiee

Why Managers Should Care About Employee Loyalty? – Timothy Keiningham and Lerzan Aksoy

Does Employee Loyalty = Customer Loyalty? And, Did It Ever? – Michael Lowenstein

World-Class Customer Service – The Key Is Caring – Horst Schulze on a Culture of Service – Deb Mills Writer

Eyes on the Customer Experience Prize: Will 2016 Be the Year of the Emotionally-Driven Employee Ambassador? – Michael Lowenstein

Jeffrey Pfeffer: Why Companies No Longer Reward Loyal Employees – Eilene Zimmerman

8 Reasons to Keep Your Customers Loyal – Rama Ramaswami

Monday Morning Moment – Turning Ordinary into Extraordinary – The Fred Factor

Photo Credit: SlideShare

Happy Monday, Friends! This weekend’s activities included a visit with friends in their home in the Virginia mountains. The wife is an artisan, and the husband is on staff at a nearby university. He, in fact, mentors student leaders as part of his work. In my little gift bag for them was a favorite leadership story by Mark Sanborn. Its odd title is The Fred Factor: How Passion in Your Work and Life Can Turn the Ordinary into the Extraordinary

Sanborn uses his experience of a mail carrier named Fred as the hero of his story. Fred, because of his commitment to personal care and service, elevates a seemingly mundane job into the stuff of excellence and fulfillment. On the long drive over, I opened the book and re-read the bits of wisdom we can learn from such a person’s character. We actually have such a mail carrier in our daily lives, and the mail delivery when he is on vacation is very different than when he is on the job.

[Our leader guy friend is a deep thinker who actually referred us to one of his favorite books as well: The 33 Strategies of War by Robert Greene. When we returned home we promptly ordered it and will be reading it by mid-week. Our friend can easily read the little book we gave him in a quick evening. My re-reading it on the drive over stirred its wisdom in my heart and my desire to share it with you as well. One day, I’ll share what Robert Greene teaches us from The 33 Strategies of War.]

The Fred Factor includes five distinctive features:Photo Credit: SlideShare

We can determine to deliver excellence in our action and attitude at work, no matter our situation. Mail carrier Fred demonstrated that and modeled the content for Sanborn’s book.

Just to give you a taste of his writing, I list four quotes from the book:

1) “When those who know are able to show, those who learn are able to grow.” – Mark Sanborn

A clear lesson here is to note your personnel who have shown mastery in their work and make opportunities for them to mentor those who are eager learners. It is a perfect win-win. Leadership development is an often-discussed topic but isn’t always executed in effective ways.

2) “When people feel that their contributions are unappreciated, they will stop trying. And when that happens, innovation dies.” – Mark Sanborn

Excellent employees don’t need appreciation or acknowledgement to keep them at the task. However, over time, they will weary of the task (and the vision meant to inspire innovation) if they don’t see how what they do fits in the larger picture. One strategy that prevents stagnation or disengagement is going back to 1) – teaming up mentors and those ready to learn.

3) “You are the spark that sets others on fire when you initiate.” – Mark Sanborn

Initiative is rewarded in a culture where there is freedom to create and ownership of work. Control is at a minimum and inclusion in problem-solving is high. For us as employees, nurturing our initiative is huge. For us as leaders, we do ourselves and our employees good when we guard against waning initiative.

One Behavior Separates the Successful from the Average – Benjamin P. Hardy

Six Simple Ways to Rekindle Your Employees’ Love For Their Job – Lama Ataya

4) “Faithfully doing your best, independent of the support, acknowledgment, or reward of others, is a key determinant in a fulfilling career.” – Mark Sanborn

At the end of the day, for all of us, we are the masters of our own work, in terms of excellence. The greatest challenge to how our day goes is our own attitude. We all know this. Still, it’s easy for us to allow the negative impact of others diminish who we are or what we do. We are wise to keep learning on the job, especially from folks like Fred (and writer Mark Sanborn).

Photo Credit: SlideShare

The Fred Factor – SlideShare – Jitendra Gupta

GoodReads Quotes – The Fred Factor: How Passion in Your Work and Life Can Turn the Ordinary into the Extraordinary by Mark Sanborn

Monday Morning Moment – Principles of Execution – and Teams That Get It Done

Photo Credit: USAFA

Two workplace scenarios. The first is when either the manager or the team is super excited about a goal, and action items are determined and given to just the right team member and calendared for quick turnaround. Photo Credit: JSC

The second scenario is when either the manager or the team is super excited about a goal, then one or the other digs in their heels. The meeting ends with no clear shared responsibilities, no movement forward, no hope of change.Photo Credit: GangplankHQ, Flickr

Sigh…all the most excellent strategic planning can take place inside a conference room…and without execution. Essentially, nothing happened there.

I’ve had both kinds of team experiences and want to focus on the former one above. Talk about high employee morale when a group of colleagues operate as a finely tuned machine and the yield is high-quality productivity.

FranklinCovey is a leadership consulting firm. I discovered this firm through the book The 4 Disciplines of Execution authored by leaders in the firm.

The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals is written by Sean Covey, Chris McChesney, and Jim Huling.

When you go to the website, you actually are able to immediately grow in your understanding of how to influence execution in your company. The video below is an incredible teaching tool – 17 minutes of powerful content on execution:

In brief, their 4 disciplines of execution are:

  1. Focus on the wildly important goals (WIGs). The day-to-day operations always stand against those game-changer goals. Determine to be unyielding on the highest-priority goals (1-3 maximum).
  2. Act on the Lead Measure. [New terminology for me.] The lag measure is the goal itself. The lead measure is what you can influence to accomplish the lag measure. Lead measures are the leverage used to get to the lag measure (goal). Lead measures are “predictive and influenceable“.
  3. Create a compelling scoreboard. I appreciate the wisdom of this (Chris McChesney describes it so well in video above). The scoreboard is not for the manager. It’s all about the players at this juncture, and it should feel like a game. [Actually an element of fun and energy incorporated. What a concept!] The scoreboard would be simple, highly visible and the players (employees) should be able to tell right away from the scoreboard whether they are winning or losing toward meeting the goal.
  4. Create a cadence of accountability. Everybody is going to love this! 20-minute meetings are calendared every week, at the same time. All the people in the room have “skin in the game”.  This meeting is sharply focused on 3 things (related to the lead measures only): each person reports on the week before; reviews/updates the scoreboard; makes commitments for coming week. That’s it! How streamlined and forward-moving, is that?!

[ 4 points taken from the video above: 4 Disciplines of Execution]

Many years ago, I was on a work team that was given the responsibility and liberty to determine what else was needed in the formation of a comprehensive cancer center. We had many places already in place – excellent medical and nursing care, an engaged community, and a charitable foundation to provide extra resources for taking us to a state-of-the-art cancer center.

3 nurses – Kay, Kathy, and I – had the question to answer of “Why Else?” What else did we need? We worked together on the planning and execution of comprehensive support services and education. Each of us brought our own giftings – I had vision and ideas, Kay was an influential nurse manager, and Kathy was detail-oriented and had a gift for taking a project to completion. Some of the services that came out of those problem-solving sessions are still embedded deeply into the DNA of that cancer center today.

Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates, presented some of his business principles in a TED Talk entitled “How to Build a Company Where the Best Ideas Win”.

Start at 6:17 minutes in (if you don’t want story and context), and you will hear his wisdom about the importance of radical truthfulness and radical transparency.

“One of the greatest tragedies of mankind: People arrogantly, naively holding opinions in their minds that are wrong…and acting on them, and not putting them out there to stress-test them, and that’s a tragedy.” Ray Dalio

“Collective decision-making is so much better than individual decision-making if it’s done well.” – Ray Dalio

Kathy, Kay, and I had that sort of team relationship – radical truthfulness and radical transparency.

Whether you are part of a team, or an independent entrepreneur, there are excellent principles here.

Finally, in Gerald Leonard‘s piece on Steve Jobs‘ principles of execution, Leonard listed 9 nuggets of wisdom:

1) Do what you love for a living.

2) Build partnerships that will turn into lifelong friendships.

3) Attend college to get an education not just a degree.

4) Join your local industry associations.

5) Experiencing other cultures will open your eyes to new worlds.

6) Find others who have complementary strengths and recruit them.

7) Don’t be afraid to recruit others that are stronger than you.

8) Practice CANI – Continuous and Never-Ending Improvement.

9) When one door closes, another will open if you look for it.

Principles of Execution 014: Insights from Steve Jobs on Visionary Leadership – Gerald Leonard

If you want to take an honest and critical look at your team or company’s success in operation, you have great helps here – in the FranklinCovey’s counsel, in Ray Dalio’s discoveries and in the philosophies of business leaders like Steve Jobs. I’d also like to add anything on teaming by Patrick Lencioni.

I would love to hear how you get to execution…because until you do, it’s just meetings upon meetings.

Please add in Comments below any other resources that have proved helpful to you in getting to effective execution with the added impact of high morale in getting to goal.

Get Better: 15 Proven Practices to Build Effective Relationships at Work – Todd Davis, FranklinCovey

The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals – Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, and Jim Huling

YouTube Video – The 4 Disciplines of Execution in a Nutshell

Patrick Lencioni – 3 Indispensible Virtues that Make Teams Successful – Dan Schwabel

Having a Team Scoreboard – The Table Group

Building a Healthy Work Culture – in a Season of Change, Uncertainty, and Dips in Morale – Deb Mills Writer

Monday Morning Moment – Social Capital – an Invaluable Resource We Can Develop – and a Tool to Help – Deb Mills Writer

Monday Morning Moment – Taking the Social Capital Challenge – 5 Steps Forward – Deb Mills Writer

Monday Morning Moment – True Humility in Leadership – So Not Cliché – Deb Mills Writer

The Five Characteristics of a Highly Functional Team – Dennis Hopper

YouTube Video – 4 Disciplines of Execution – Gwinnett Medical Center – This was personally very satisfying and encouraging for me. My dad was a patient at this medical center during the time when there were banners flying everywhere about it being one of the top medical centers in the country. At the same time, we family members stayed with him around the clock, because nurses did not come when we called, nor were other services offered with any communication that my dad or we mattered to staff. To see that they also came to recognize this was a problem and took effective steps to correct it was exciting.

Monday Morning Moment – Audacious Leadership – Lead Like Jesus

Photo Credit: Leo Reynolds, Flickr

Today’s workplace bends with the culture. Historical and current contexts are present in our work culture, whether or not we acknowledge it.  What if our culture has lost its interest in history…in experience… in the wisdom of the ages? What does that mean for those of us in the workplace, when cultural context isn’t seasoned by what we learn from the past? What does history teach us about leadership, about work, about each other?

When I think of audacious leaders, by definition, they can be two different sorts of folks:

  1. Courageous bold risk-takers, or
  2. Arrogant, impudent decision-makers

A negatively audacious leader demands followership. A positively audacious leader, in his own way, also demands followership. Still the most followable leader is the one who leads with both courage AND care.

Hopefully your experience of audacity in leadership is the most a positive one (as will be spelled out more below). Two things leaders always communicate, either positively or negatively, is that “work matters” and “people matter”. Context and history both matter, also, even though the trend in thinking is toward the ever-changing “latest and greatest”.

I am sounding really old here, but fortunately those who speak with much greater authority across the business world are starting to sound the same clarion call. Take Steve Farber and Paul Sohn.

What do they say about radical, audacious history-changing leadership?

In leadership coach Steve Farber‘s article What Is Extreme Leadership?, he talks about taking a “radical leap”. He asks the question: “What can I do, right now, regardless of what others around here are or are not doing, to change my piece of this world/company/organization for the better”?

The acronym is LEAP:

  1. L – Cultivate love.
  2. E – Generate energy.
  3. A – Inspire audacity.
  4. P – Provide proof.

Photo Credit: Extreme Leadership, Steve Farber

The Radical Leap – a Personal Lesson in Extreme Leadership – Steve Farber

I love Farber’s definition of extreme (audacious) leadership and I’ve had the great fortune of working with leaders like that.

Paul Sohn, also a leadership coach, write about a bold leadership model – one that incorporates the practices and wisdom of Jesus of Nazareth.

[Sidebar: It’s a shame that most think of Jesus as belonging to Christianity. I wonder, even, if only Christians read to this point of the piece. There is so much to learn and appreciate in the teachings of Jesus. Being put off by how we as clay-footed believers represent him at times is part of our dilemma today. Please don’t miss the wisdom and understanding his life offers to all of us.]

In Sohn’s article, 12 Leadership Lessons Every Leader Should Learn From Jesus, he lists out these lessons and gives context and commentary. Click on the link above to read more.

  1. To serve is to be great.
  2. There is a cure for worry.
  3. Love conquers all.
  4. Follow the Golden Rule.
  5. Ask for what you need.
  6. Judge not.
  7. Keep your word.
  8. Give in secret.
  9. Forgive others.
  10. Speak good words.
  11. Nothing is impossible if you have faith.
  12. Use it or lose it.                        – Paul Sohn from the teachings of Jesus

12 Leadership Lessons Everyone Should Learn from Jesus

On Sohn’s bio page, he showcases this quote:

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”

“One will weave the canvas; another will fell a tree by the light of his ax. Yet another will forge nails, and there will be others who observe the stars to learn how to navigate. And yet all will be as one. Building a boat isn’t about weaving canvas, forging nails, or reading the sky. It’s about giving a shared taste for the sea, by the light of which you will see nothing contradictory but rather a community of love.”Antoine de Saint-Exupery

This is such a beautiful picture of audacious leadership in the most positive sense. We who work together to develop a product or deliver a service can create something better together. Not only is the product or service better suited for the customer, but we are changed in the process.Photo Credit: George Couros, Flickr

I do actually think it matters who the leader is, because our whole culture moves and shifts in response to who’s making decisions. However, we can determine (as leaders or as team players) to honor and elevate one another…as servant leader Jesus demonstrated in his life and teaching. We can build capacity, caring, and community, as Farber and Sohn prescribe, in how we lead and work.

We look back to what history has taught us; we consider the context of current culture; and we work forward to, hopefully, a better future. It’s only in giving up, that we fail. Be audacious in moving forward. It’s Monday…lots can happen.

The People Skills of Jesus – William Beausay II

The Management Methods of Jesus – Bob Briner

Lead Like Jesus Revisited – Ken Blanchard, Phil Hodges, Phyllis Hendry

Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast – Paul Sohn

Wisdom for the Workplace – The Christian Working Woman – Mary Lowman

17 Powerful Workplace Scriptures – Work Matters – Whitney Gaines