It’s happened to us all: At some point in our careers we didn’t know the answer.
We were not prepared. We weren’t sure of what decision to make. And for some – this is our worst nightmare! Especially in the workplace, we are concerned with how our coworkers, bosses or clients perceive us. We want them to feel we are credible and competent additions to the team. But how do we balance that with our innate “human-ness”? The state of being imperfect – but trying to be so?
A visit with my husband to one of our favorite yogurt shops compelled me to reflect and write on the topic of Integrity. This shop is a favorite of ours for many reasons. It has great service, is very clean, offers several choices, and provides an uplifting atmosphere. During our visit, we noticed something different from the moment we walked in. The floor was very dirty, the toppings were low and mixed together, and the cashier (who usually greets people as they come in and makes sure the counters are clean and the spoons are all upright and in the same position) was busy talking to his friend and was not the least bit interested in the customers or how the shop looked. A few moments later, I realized that two of the yogurt machines were frozen. I “interrupted” the cashier to ask for help with the frozen machines. Long story short, we finally got our yogurt, paid, and sat down to enjoy it. The challenge was that I could not enjoy mine. With the dirty atmosphere and my frustration rising, I continued to watch the cashier be uninterested in his work. Then, the straw that broke the camel’s back happened. It was about 10 minutes from closing time and I saw the friend of the cashier go over and help himself to a large serving of yogurt and toppings without paying. I could not be in integrity and remain quiet any longer.
Trust in leadership is on a decline1. There are several reasons for this, and the purpose of this white paper is to identify areas where leaders can focus to bring higher levels of trust.
The first question we should ask is, "Why is trust so important in an organization?" I believe that answer is in this quote from Sissela Bok, author of Lying2 :
According to Patrick Lencioni’s model "The Five Dysfunctions of a Team,” trust is the foundation for all relationships. The workplace is all about people and relationships and that is why trust is crucial to the success of any organization.
So why is trust declining? There are three key reasons for declining trust:
1. Lack of vision
2. Fitting into the strategy
3. Uncertainty of values
Let’s break these key reasons down one at a time. The first is lack of vision or lack of understanding of the vision. An ancient Hebrew proverb says,
Where there is no vision, the people parish.
People need to know the vision of where the organization is headed and see a clear line of how to get there. Carly Fiorina said,
2 Bok, Sissela. Lying: Moral Choice in Public and Private Life. Vintage Books, 1999.
Trust in leadership is on the decline. What is most concerning is that trust is the basis for all positive human interaction, either in the workplace or in our personal lives. Without trust collaboration and communication deteriorates, employees are less likely to bring innovative solutions or thoughts to the table, and productivity declines. All of this eventually leads to employees who are not engaged and a workplace that becomes toxic to be in.
The first question we should ask is, "Why is trust so important in an organization"? Consider this quote from Sissela Bok, author of Lying:
Trust is a social good to be protected just as much as the air we breathe or the water we drink. When it is damaged, the community as a whole suffers; and, when it is destroyed, societies falter and collapse…Trust and integrity are precious resources, easily squandered, hard to regain.
The opposite of accountable is irresponsible, inconsistent, faithlessness; undisciplined... one website even says reckless1. I would dare say if we asked a leader if they were any of these things, we would get a resounding, "No, I am quite the opposite." If a leader is the opposite of these things, then he or she is accountable.
I have found that when you ask leaders if they are accountable, most say "yes." I believe most say "yes" without understanding the depth of their answer. Or they are accountable only for their specific area of responsibility, and that usually is the numbers (until something happens, that is).
The question we should be asking is, "What about accountability in our integrity, values, judgment decisions, vision for the future of our people, our families and friends?"...
“I am big on mercy”. This was the statement that caught my attention and sparked this blog. I was listening to the radio while getting ready for work a few mornings ago. The DJ made a statement about the poor performance and the mistakes being made by a certain athletic coach. The sports announcer responded with the surprising remark, “I don’t have a lot to say here… as you know…. I am big on mercy.”
I don’t remember who was talking or what was being talked about; however, this statement grabbed me, so I wrote it down. I asked myself throughout the day, “Michelle, how big are you on mercy?” I must say, mercy is not one of my strong suits. But I certainly appreciate it when I am given mercy. Mercy by definition (according to dictionary.com) means: Compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one's power to punish or harm: "the boy was begging for mercy". An event to be grateful for, esp. because its occurrence prevents something unpleasant or provides relief from suffering. Mercy is also identified as a noun and an adjective. However, I would argue that mercy is a verb… it is only meaningful when it is put into action. As leaders, we have the opportunity everyday to show mercy and give compassion to someone who may not “deserve” it. I do believe that the same measuring stick which we use to measure other people’s deeds will be the same measuring stick which other people will “judge” ours. I also believe in the law of “sewing and reaping” or “good karma”, whatever you choose to call it. I hope there have been times when you have received mercy when you did not deserve it, because when any of us receive mercy, we are given the opportunity to right ourselves when we have gone down the wrong path. We could all use a break sometimes.
Below are five questions to ask yourself:
This blog stirred inside me before I wrote it and continues to stir inside me as I finish it. I am striving to be more merciful…. What about you? Do you have a story of how you gifted someone with mercy when they did not deserve it, or a story where someone gifted you with mercy? If so, I hope you will share it with us! If you are a leader and interested in developing new behaviors, be it in mercy or another area, I invite you to contact us today. We specialize in working with leaders like you (and me)!
“Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony”, Mahatma Gandhi. This is a meaningful quote and one I find to be true. I have worked in leadership and with leaders for over 20 years and I am still surprised (although I should not be) when I work with a smart, experienced, and a well read (in leadership) leader who knows all the right things to say, yet does not practice what they preach. For a leader’s credibility and influence, it is invaluable that their words and behaviors align. Nothing will destroy trust in the leader and the organization faster than this lack of alignment. Several years ago I had a colleague who worked with an organization that was having many challenges. This colleague worked for several years trying to get to the root of the problem. She slowly peeled the onion, building trust and uncovering the source of the “cancer”. Eventually the true root was revealed. The CEO constantly spoke of honesty, integrity, and family values, and how important all of these things were to him and the organization, and all the while he was having an affair with a subordinate within the organization. His lack of alignment was not hidden, even though he thought it was… and even when people do not know exactly “why”, they can usually discern when sincerity is not “real”. This is one extreme example of words and actions not aligning. However, misalignment shows up in many forms, such as respecting people, valuing time, being dependable, not gossiping, taking care of your mental and physical health… just to name a few. The truth is that none of us are 100% perfect at leadership alignment, but we should always be striving to be as close to perfection as possible. Are there any places in your personal or professional leadership that are out of alignment? Are there things (even the smallest things) that you do not want others to know about? If so, I challenge and encourage you to ask yourself “why? “ Remember the quote we opened with: “Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony”. You will not only be a better leader when you are in alignment, but you will also sleep better at night, be healthier, and enjoy more meaningful work and personal relationships. To thine own self be true first. Below are 5 questions for the “thought leaders” to ask themselves:
If you would like an accountability partner to work with you on your leadership alignment, you can read more here or contact us. Having a leadership coach is a meaningful way to begin or enhance this journey, and “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”, Lao-tzu.
I was recently working with a group of first line leaders that represented several departments in an organization. We were discussing the importance of trust and how to create an environment of trust. As often is the case, I heard from the group, “My boss needs to hear this stuff. He doesn’t do any of this”. I’ve been at this long enough to know that some truth and a lot of perception is involved in those statements. When I challenged the group to have a conversation with their boss about their perceptions of the environment, I got the usual - an emphatic, “No way!” We know trust is the foundation to good leadership and a strong organization. Yet we often pay little attention to ensuring that trust actually exists, let alone nurturing it. Trust isn’t a competency or skill – it is (for lack of a better term) a “living thing”. By “living thing”, I mean it can grow; it can be injured; it can be withheld or freely given; and, it can cease to exist. I believe that trust is created and built upon three primary components – Intentions, Words, and Relationships. So, with that in mind, I want to share (one more time) – How to build an environment of trust. Intentions We all have met people that we were skeptical of their intentions. Often we can relate it to past experiences, reputation or our “gut feeling”. Often the skepticism is just part of the tension that exists between leaders and followers (as well as leaders who lead other leaders). Unfortunately, the world we live into day reflects a “always question the intention” attitude. Those you lead need to believe and see that your intentions are good. How do you do that?
Hopefully, your answers are well-intended. Your next step would be to ensure that your actions align with your intentions.
The most powerful tool we have are our words. There is a song that says: “Words can build us up or put us down. Words can give us life or kill our dreams”. All too often we are careless and not very thoughtful with our words. As leaders we do not get a pass for poorly chosen words - we are responsible and accountable.
In my earlier years, I had a boss that could not seem to remember my name correctly– even after a year. This same boss would make statements like: “I’m not here to be your best friend.” Believe me, I didn’t want this boss as a best friend – I just wanted to be called by name! How would you define your relationship with your employees? How would they define the relationship? Good, bad, or indifferent, a relationship exists with all our employees. Studies continue to show that people want to know that their boss cares about them as an individual. That level of care is defined differently for each person. The stronger the relationship between leaders and their employees the more engagement there is for everyone.
Trust can be achieved and maintained when people believe that your intentions are good, that your words support those intentions, and that you choose to have a caring relationship.
There is an additional benefit to nurturing and growing trust. The day will come when trusting you to lead through a tough time is paramount to the success of a project and/or the organization. Your employees will “have your back”. How do I know? They trust you!
As I think through what to do in order to honor and celebrate my dad for Father’s Day, I find myself reflecting on how fortunate I am to have such a wonderful dad. He has always been a quiet pillar of strength for our family. To me he represents: stability, security, respect to others and self, consistency, non-judgment, encouragement, inspiration, careful listening and loyalty.
In addition to all of these positive strengths, he still holds the ability to call for correction when it is needed and his family, as well as those who work for him, respond positively. How does this happen? It happens through the first attributes listed but also because he has built relationships and has earned respect with those around him. We are open and receptive to correction when we know the person bringing correction in our corner has our back and wants the best for us.
When I think about my dad, I can’t help but draw parallels between what it takes to be an effective father and what it tasks to be an impactful leader. Whether you are male or female, young or old, to lead effectively you need to embrace the same characteristics it takes to be a great father. When you reflect upon your leadership, do you demonstrate the attributes describe above: stability, security, respecting others and self, consistency, non-judgment, encouragement, inspiration, listening and loyalty? As you reflect on these characteristics, here are three questions to ask yourself:
If you are not pleased with any of the answers to the above three questions, what will you do differently?
This is a meaningful blog to me for two reasons. First, it honors a very important man in my life, my father. Secondly, it also stirs me to action… to strive for a higher level and to be a better leader. It creates a desire in me to follow in the footsteps of my father’s example. I hope my very nature (Def: The basic or inherent features of something, especially when seen as characteristic of it) can be a reflection of my dad’s example of leadership. Although I have not chosen the same career path as my father, I can choose the same leadership path.
How about you? How do you define leadership? Do you have someone in your life that inspires you to be better as a leader? If so, I hope you will share your story with us. Also, if you are interested in working with a coach to become a more effective leader, I hope you will contact us today at and Happy Father’s Day to all of the dads our there! Continue to lead well and inspire!!
We have all heard the old adage, “Do as I say, not as I do”. Effective leaders work tirelessly to understand themselves, practicing to the best of their ability what they preach. In Making a Difference, I shared the importance of preparing yourself mentally, physically, and spiritually. Now let’s move to part II of getting to know yourself as the absolute best way to begin to make a difference.
I would like to share this quote with you as you think about getting to know yourself, "Success is when you realize obstacles you face are challenges to help you become better - and your response equals the challenge." - Stephen Covey Becoming a leader requires learning from a combination of successes, failures, training as well as mentoring, and finding value in challenging experiences. Effective leaders learn from many situations encountered in life. As a leader, you have a unique story and a “special” lens through which you view the world. Leaders receive the greatest benefit when they appreciate and absorb every experience in their “story”, then they move forward to make the experience (both positive and negative) a part of their leadership fabric.
As a leader your experiences create a journey. Although journeys may be similar, no two experiences are the same. I’d like to share a chapter from my daughter’s leadership journey and how it affected her. She is a 4th year cadet (freshman) at Virginia Military Institute. For the last six months she has been a “Rat” in the “Ratline” going through what many call the hardest military school initiation in the country. During this time the upper classmen developed her into a Cadet for the class of 2017. Many times we would ask her if she was going to make it and she would answer, always with tears in her eyes, that she was fine. She told us that although she sometimes felt like quitting when faced with some of the toughest challenges, what kept her going were her “brother rats”, finding an outlet in her studies, her soccer teammates who give her constant support, her mentor who continues to guide her, and advice from her “grand” mentor. Here is the advice that we as leaders would benefit from as well – 3 steps to leadership growth:
After completing her most challenging time at the Institute thus far, she said, “It was the hardest thing I have ever done. It was awesome.”
In your leadership journey, find the value in all your life lessons and be proud of all the challenges you have encountered. I encourage you to recognize that it is “awesome” when you face challenges “head-on” and not only persevere, but succeed!
You learn more about yourself through your experiences, your challenges and the great stories from the people in your life every day. As a student of leadership on my own journey, it would enrich my experience and those of others to hear yours. Please share your story.
This blog in no way is intended to be political in nature or reflect on any one person in leadership. I am just putting some thoughts out there in the world I have been pondering regarding the importance of character/integrity vs. ability.
If asked which is more important I would have always said… character and integrity any day. However, recently I found myself pondering this. I have been reading “The 8th Habit” by Stephen Covey and he addresses this issue. In one of the chapters he posed the question “who would you rather have working on you…. a mediocre surgeon who has character and is honest or the best surgeon who has poor character and is dishonest.” Wow I had to think about this… which led me to think about a lot of things….
We like to think things are black and white and there definitely things that are. Unfortunately the more you mull over a thought, the older you get and the more people you meet - you realize there is so much gray. This frustrates me… I like the black and white. It seems to make decisions easier.
Last night when our former President Bush gave his welcome speech in TX he said, “Popularity is fleeting, but character and integrity are our oaks….” So I started thinking about this regarding our country. Would I rather have a leader who can make me successful or one that has integrity… why can’t we have both? I think we can and I think this what we are finally hungry for in America…. enough with the empty promises. I think when it is all said and done I would still rather have character, honor and truthfulness. What about you, I would love to hear your thoughts on my quandary….