Friday, February 4, 2011


I wanted to show all of you what courage is. Nadin Khoury is a13 yr old middle school student who was attacked by 7 other kids while walking home from school. One of his attackers videoed and then posted the vicious attack, which ultimately led to their prosecution.

Most 13 old boys would have went into hiding, afraid and not wanting to discusses or relive that horrific 30 minutes of their young lives. Nadin didn't do that, he stepped up and appeared on, "The View" to discuss the event and the bullying that occurs everyday in America.

I want to honor his courage with this post and let it be a reminder to all of what courage is. This young man has taken a very scary and negative thing and is turning into a positive event that will hopefully give strength and courage to others to speak out against bullying. 

Lastly, parents, get involved with your kids. There is no room anywhere for this kind of behavior. There are kids getting bullied everyday across America. The most tragic of these cases end with the individual who has been bullied, repeatedly, ending their young lives. Educate your children on appropriate behavior at school and what to do in these types of situations. Whether they are the victim or if they witness such behavior. Make them understand that this is not acceptable behavior toward another human being. Let them know that it's OK to come to you and let you know about it. This isn't about being tough or not being the wimpy kid, this is about treating others with respect and dignity regardless of who they are. 

Thursday, February 3, 2011

CEO Calls

One thing I've always enjoyed is when my Commanding Officer (CO) or CEO holds a, "CO Call" with my people. This is where the CO comes and meets with my people, face-to-face, in a very personal and close setting. The managers and any upper leadership leave the room and the CO talks and listens directly to the people in the trenches with no buffer. I want to talk about the benefits and rewards of this and why I think it's an excellent idea.

One benefit of knowing that these meetings will be happening, on a regular basis, help leadership ensure that they have already followed up on or addressed their people's concerns. When leaders have ignored or have not followed up on problems,  I've seen cases where team's completely throw the leadership under the bus, sometimes rightfully so. Other times I've seen that one person's concern was very valid and actually brought about change in the organization.

Why is it a good idea for the upper management to meet with the people on the ground floor?

  • Uncensored communication: It almost becomes a, "Undercover Boss" situation. The only difference being is that the people know that they are talking to the main man/woman. It's good for the boss to hear it straight from the people on the front line. So many times when someone in the trenches sends a complaint or suggestion up the hierarchy it get's stomped out or watered down to the point that it is ineffective when it reaches the boss. When the message is sent directly from the person to the boss, the boss has the opportunity to hear the original message and then can ask more detailed and compelling questions to the person. Thereby getting a better formed opinion of the problem or solution. 
  • Add's a human element to the boss: I have had CO's who were great at communicating the fact that they are just as human as everyone else. They tell anecdotes about their families and kids, their successes and failures. It allows people to see that they put on their pants one leg at a time, just like everyone else. It builds loyalty within the organization.
  • It shows that leadership cares and is concerned about everyone: To many times, people at the lower levels of an organization feel that they are unheard and uncared about. They feel like they are just another resource to be used and disposed of. When they are engaged by a caring leader who listens to them with concern, they will respond to this in a positive way. 
  • Leadership can get a true measure of the organization: Once one person speaks and the group sees that they are not flame thrown or dismissed. The others will start to speak up, other like minded people will start to give positive or negative reinforcement to what is being said, therefore showing a majority thought process. This allows leadership to see when a problem is a growing concern among many, not just a select few.
  • Leadership can deliver a new plan directly to the people who will be executing it: One other thing that I've seen that is very effective is when the boss details a new plan, vision or mission to the people directly. The people can hear it straight from the source and understand what it is that is expected of them and how it will impact them. It also gives the people the opportunity to share their concerns with leadership about new plans, at which time they can be addressed or can be looked into further prior to the execution phase.

When this meeting is over, stand by for feedback not only from your boss, but your people as well. Be ready to write it all down and then follow up on it. CO's that follow up and ensure that problems or solutions are addressed and implemented are really showing the value of these meetings and reinforcing the fact that the leadership values it's people. You can do this at any level of leadership. When I was a departmental manager I would meet with the entire department and then I would meet with each individual division. It allowed me to hear what was going on and allowed me the opportunity to connect with and serve my people better. 

What are some other ways we can engage with our people? 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Because I said so

JOEL SARTORE / National Geographic Stock
Because I said so, that's all you need to know. I don't have to explain myself to you. Who's in charge here, me or you? Do you value your job? Can you afford not to work here? Do I answer to you? Get it done or i'll (insert blind threat.) Does any of this sound familiar? Have you ever said any of these things to your people?

I've seen many articles and posts about bullies in the workplace. I would like to pose a question to you, As a leader are you a bully? Do you lead with an iron fist and as if you are a dictator of some small pacific island? If you lead with fear,threats and intimidation, then you are a bully.

What is my checklist for a bully masquerading as a leader?

  • Closed door policy: You don't want or need to hear from your people. They will be told what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. There is only one way communication, you to them. There is no creativity, and no freedom for them to grow. 
  • Intimidation: Maybe it is done by abusive language, maybe it's done by physically imposing yourself on others. It's implied threats, or examples made of those who don't tote the party line. 
  • Manipulation: The workers are here for the furtherance of your career. You will use them up and go through however many you need to, just as long as you get the next promotion. Promises made, but never delivered on, you enjoy and encourage the brown noser.  
  • Fear of reprisal: You execute the first one that steps out of line, let everyone see the price that will be paid for going against your will. You have your people walking on eggshells, never knowing when the other fist will fall or the next tirade will erupt from you. You demote or phase-out those that are not party members.
  • You make your people feel insignificant in your presence. Geesh, don't they realize they are lucky to be here under my hand? You remind your people daily that their best will never do, no matter the effort given. When one does garner the courage to approach with a new idea, they are informed that's the stupidest thing you've ever heard. You do the work, I'll do the thinking. 
  • Do as I say, not as I do: I'm in charge here, I make the rules and that means that I don't have to follow them. You let your people know daily that indeed the corner office has it's perks and privileges. 
  • Glory hound: Yes that's right, this company would never make it without my awesome leadership. I get the most out of people and make my deadlines, no matter the human cost. I'm sorry, that wasn't your idea, that was mine. So I took the credit for it. I'm the leader of this department so anything good coming out of it was my divine inspiration. Oh the bad, well that's always someone else's fault, they will pay for there mistake.
Wow, I had to stop. I could added some more to this list. If these things don't sound like a bully, then I don't know what does. If your a leader doing any of the above. Stop it. You are sacrificing the very people you should be serving. It's not the other way around, your people are not there to serve you and ensure you get your next promotion. Wake up, get a clue or move to your own south pacific island. 

Have you ever experienced the bully disguised as a leader? How did they make you feel?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Untapped Resources

Workers are leaving companies everyday in search of becoming their own boss and owning their own business. These are smart people with great ideas and the work ethic to make it happen. How can we use this resource and get them to stay, thereby unleashing their potential

Let's look at a few things first. I came across this story in Forbes last night. It was about the world's happiest countries. In the article I saw the following quote about american entrepreneurialism:

"Alan McCormick, a managing director at Legatum, points out that the U.S. remains the envy of the world when it comes to entrepreneurialism, pointing out that during the recession year of 2009, Americans created 558,000 new businesses each month. That's 27,000 more per month than in 2008 and 60,000 more per month than in 2007."

Now, if there are that many people starting out as a entrepreneur, there has to be a way to tap into this resource where they are, right now. These people are not going out and starting businesses that they have no experience in. I'm sure there are a few that are starting out in a new area, mostly though, it is where they have already worked and gained experience. Mr. McCormick then went on to say this about entrepreneurial societies:

"Over the last three decades, new startups have accounted for nearly all of the increased employment in the American private sector. Entrepreneurial societies raise levels of expectation and produce a culture in which human potential is released, healthy risk-taking is encouraged, and where the fledgling business ideas of today become the global-selling products of tomorrow." 

Here are someways, we can use, to unleash our people's untapped potential:

  • Raise levels of expectations: Look around you, there are people that are not being challenged in their current roles. Find ways to increase their participation and increase expectations. People will jump how ever high you've set the bar, so raise it up a few notches. Let them see that status quo will not work. The punch in and get a paycheck will not be excepted either. Include them in a new project or solicit their input on what they think needs improved and how they would do it, then let them improve it. Get creative, get out of your comfort zone as a leader and try new approaches. Most people want to be entrepreneurs because they want freedom. So give it to them with higher expectations. 
  • Produce a culture in which human potential is released: Build a culture of trust with your people, encourage and reward them for coming up with new ideas. Don't always shoot them down. Let them help you create more efficient ways of working. When your people know that you trust them and you start letting them spread their wings, they will soar.
  • Encourage healthy risk-taking: This is an area where most leaders cringe. Don't be afraid to go out into new territory. Blaze a new path, get out of the, "This is the way we've always done things" mode. Encourage your people to come up with bold new ways to work and be efficient at what they do. Brain storm with your people and then utilize the best ideas. Once you show people that you will take their suggestions and implement them. It will encourage others to follow.
  • Solicit new ideas from our people: It's simple, ask them. Encourage real communication and feedback. People will respond to this. Find a way to say, "Yes" to their ideas. Companies spend millions of dollars on contractors and outside resources to find new ideas. You have a huge resource at your finger tips, from the people who work in your area of expertise. Use it.
  • Take action: Now that you have all of these awesome ideas, take action on them. Don't let them sit in your inbox or on your desk. Forward them up the chain and let your people know that you are taking action on their ideas and suggestions. 
As leaders, we have to establish trust first before any of this will work. If your people don't trust you, they will not be receptive to any of this. The other thing to remember, if you are taking all of the credit for these new ideas, they will revolt on you and shut down. Give credit where credit is due, let your people shine. You will keep your retention high and keep good people from leaving. 

In what other ways can we unleash our people's potential?

Monday, January 31, 2011

Are your insecurities holding you back?

According the John Maxwell's book, "21 Qualities" Security is a foundation for strong leadership. In discussing security he also states 6 common symptoms of Insecurity and how they can effect you. Let's take a look.

  • Comparison - You are always watching your peers, keeping score if you will. Seeing if your doing more or better then them. I think that healthy competition is good in the workplace. You just have to be careful not to let it get out of hand and allow it to lead to in-fighting or cliques in the workplace. Comparing yourself to others is negative when you are using it for self-promotion. 
  • Compensation - You are "Owed" You feel that everyone and everything around you owes you because of your past.The universe has dealt you a bad hand and it's everyone else's fault and they need to compensate you for it. This, "What have you done for me lately" attitude will get you no where in life and annoy most everyone. Everyone has a story, everyone has had bad times. It's life, get used to it and move on. 
  • Competition - As mentioned in comparison, competition is bad when it's done with the intent of gaining approval or attention to yourself. As I've said, healthy competition is good. It's just very hard to harness as a leader.
  • Compulsion - You feel driven to perform in order to gain others approval. If you read my post, "Man in the mirror" You know that I struggled with this one for most of my adult life. I still have to make a conscious effort daily to not allow myself to fall into this vicious cycle.
  • Condemnation - You judge others or yourself, which results in conceit or self-pity. I've had a few pity parties in my lifetime. Thankfully though I have made an effort to overcome this negative attribute and attitude. Life is going to throw you curve balls and bad hands. How it effects you and your attitude is completely up to you. No one can make you feel a certain way, you have total control over that. You just have to know it and stand in the truth. 
  • Control - Your a control freak. You have to have your hands in any and every decision. You feel that you must take control, protect self and manipulate others to do your bidding. Embarrassed to admit it, but I've been known to fall into this symptom as well. It's very tiring and not efficient at all. You expend so much energy that you wear out quickly and do not empower those around you. You use them for what they can do for you, not what you can do for them. You rationalize this behavior as a "Self-defense" mechanism. The truth is, it is a selfish attitude and show's your lack of caring for anyone else. 
To be really honest, I have fallen into one or more of these categories throughout my adult life. I have been a insecure person who allowed it to destroy friendships and those that I love. I'm not proud of this fact, but it has taught me much about myself. I want to take my negatives and turn them into positives by helping others. I want you to know that you can change, you can make a positive change. Start today, make the effort. Leadership is about changing, growing and challenging yourself. When you stop making the effort for positive change, that's when you have truly failed. 

I hope that you have found this helpful. What are some of the things you have struggled with? Please share your experiences, It is truly appreciated and is helpful not only to me, but to others. 

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Your Inner Circle, Will they speak hard truth?

As leaders we are going to make bad decisions and suffer failures due to that. What we need around us, in our inner circle, is people who are willing to speak hard truth to us out of care and concern for us. To see an example of how not to be helpful to your leaders, see my post here. King David had made some bad decisions, his friend Nathan came to him to speak some hard truth. Nathan used a parable to get the point across.

In 2 Samuel, chapter 12, verses 1 thru 15. We are told a parable by the prophet Nathan. Now Nathan was sent by God to confront David for his multiple sins, including murder. Now that's some hard truth that I hope that I never have to confront anyone about. So, let's see how Nathan handled the situation. 

1 The LORD sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. 2 The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, 3 but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.4 “Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.”5 David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this deserves to die! 6 He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”7 Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man!  ( Nathan explains to David the consequences of his sin, Skip to Verse 13 ), 13 Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” Nathan replied, “The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die.
Now David may not have listened to Nathan had he came right up to him and spoke the truth to him. Nathan was wise to tell David a story that he knew David would sympathize with and listen. 
We would do well to learn from this example when we are the one's who have to approach our leaders or friends. Yes, the truth has to be spoken, but it's the delivery that really determines how they will receive your truth and counsel. 
I also want to examine the fact that no failure is final, Yes, you will suffer the consequences of it. But, it is not final. How do we recover quicker from a major failure?
  • Own up to your failures: Many leaders feel that they have to hide or conceal their failures. It's much easier to deal with a failure if you admit it and get it out into the open. Additionally, the consequences are usually less then if you try to hide it.
  • Show forgiveness to your people: When we show forgiveness and grace to our people when they fail or make mistakes, we empower them to do the same when we fail. If your on your pedestal all the time, the first time you fall off it, not too many people will be giving you a helping hand.
  • Be accountable and responsible for your actions: When leaders hold themselves accountable it's a great example to our people. It also adds creditability to the leader when holding others accountable for their actions.
  • Be humble and willing to change: When we show our people that we are humble and teachable it empowers them to come to us and unleash their creativity. We allow them to see that we don't assume that it's our way or the highway.
  • Learn from failure: Whether it's you or one of your people, focus on the failure and the dynamics of how it happened. Don't focus on the person and turn it into a witch hunt. Record and pass along your findings to others, so they can learn from it as well. 
Have you ever failed? How do we fail forward instead of on our backs? Please share your experiences, I get great delight in discovering others points of view. It truly helps me to learn and become better as well. Thank you. 

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