Walk Your Talk

A few weeks ago, my blog focused on leading by values and the importance of communicating your organizational values clearly and constantly. Another critical element for leaders to practice is what I call walking your talk. Leaders must make every effort to become living symbols of their organization’s value system. Walking your talk means that your company values act as a set of guidelines for decision making, problem solving, and general day-to-day business operations.

For this process to work, you need a method of identifying gaps between values and behaviors. One way is to describe what the current situation is and what you want the desired situation to be, and to document action steps for making the change. Let me share an example from our own company.

We used to have a conflict at the end of each month among our sales, accounting, and shipping departments. One day, we brought representatives from each department together to discuss the issue in a fact-finding meeting. What we learned was very interesting.

The cause of the problem was a compensation policy stating that a sale couldn’t be credited to a sales person’s goal until the product had been shipped and billed. Since every sales person received bonuses based on monthly performance, they wanted every order fulfilled by the last day of the month—even the last-minute orders. This put extreme pressure on the shipping and accounting departments. In fact, in some cases people in those departments were working twelve-hour days at month end.

When everybody put the issues and their personal perspectives on the table and began to work on solutions, it actually became quite easy to eliminate the pressure caused by this policy. The group worked together to develop a new solution for dealing with the end-of-the-month workload crunch. And our corporate values provided the framework for the team to work together when solving the issue.

It would have been easy to continue to recognize the revenue at the expense of the people. However, Relationships was a corporate value—and making some people work twelve-hour days wasn’t honoring that value. Our leaders and teams walked their talk and restructured the process to honor both regular working hours and sales goals. The solution recognized the importance of both people and results.

Ignoring this issue would have put corporate values at risk—but using the values to solve the problem fortified their importance.

Think about situations that need to be improved in your organization. Then use your values to drive conversations and do the right thing. Leading by values is a continuous journey—and it is never too late to start walking your talk.

What Are You Thankful For?

I love Thanksgiving. It is one of my favorite holidays because the focus is on being thankful. I like to say, “Life is a very special occasion—don’t miss it.” Part of that is being thankful for the blessings you have. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t troubles along the way but we need to be thankful that we have another day to share, and be with people, and maybe make a difference.

So this week, reach out to the people you care about and love. I’m wishing you all the very best and I’m thankful that we all have an opportunity to make a difference in the world. Have a wonderful holiday. Recognize how blessed you are and reach out to the people you love and who love you.  Take care.

Leading by Values

I write and speak a lot about the importance of having strong corporate values. I believe when a company is truly leading by its values, there is only one boss—the values.

In light of this, I challenge you to think about something:  Are you truly leading by your values?

Now, don’t worry, I’m not underestimating your own personal importance as a leader in an organization. I’m asking you to consider whether your organization’s values are ingrained in such a way that they provide guidelines for daily communication, decision making, and problem solving. Do your people use the values consistently to make decisions for the good of the whole organization instead of for one department or individual? Do your people participate in valuable, honest discussions because they know they are operating in a safe environment? Do your people take pride not only in the organization as a whole, but also in their role in the company? Do your people consider the company values to be actual rules of operation, not just suggestions?

One way to ensure that your core values serve your organization well is to communicate them to people clearly and constantly. We recently revised our values at The Ken Blanchard Companies in a collaborative process that invited participation from every person. The values were defined, approved, and announced at an all company meeting.  A dedicated team developed a plan to roll out the values to our people over a period of several months by focusing on one value each month. This helped everyone develop a deeper understanding of each value so that they were able to incorporate the behaviors of the values into their daily actions.

The team used standard communication methods such as creating posters for office walls, plaques for every person’s desk, a document that listed each value along with examples of congruent and incongruent behaviors, and a Facebook group. But they didn’t stop there—they took the launch much further. For example, one of our values is Focus and Clarity. The team arranged for all-company webinars that detailed how to set clear goals and focus on goal achievement.  Then they held an activity where people could learn archery. Believe me, when you are aiming an arrow at a target, you experience the importance of focus and clarity! Each month, creative activities like these have provided a different way for people to embed the respective value into their own belief system.

I encourage you to consider how your company values are communicated to your people. Are they buried away in a manual—or are they a part of everyday conversations, decision making, problem solving, and planning? Leading by values means stating and restating your organization’s values until they become second nature. This creates a secure, nurturing work environment where people thrive—and where values rule.

A Simple Framework to Manage Performance

A critical skill for any leader is managing the performance of others. In our book Putting the One Minute Manager to Work, Bob Lorber and I introduce the ABCs of management as a framework to help leaders and their people succeed. It is a simple way to get back to the basics of influencing performance.

A stands for Activators—this refers to things a leader does before performance. All good performance starts with clear goals, so in this phase of the framework leaders must make sure employees understand (1) their areas of responsibility and (2) what good performance looks like in each of those areas. Goal setting is critical because it activates the management process. Once goals are clear, the leader provides the appropriate leadership style—directing, supporting, coaching, or delegating—to help the employee achieve the goals.

B is for Behavior. Here is where the leader observes what employees say and do while working on their goals. Leaders take note of tasks being completed (or not), deadlines being met (or not), and progress being made (or not). Since goals are clearly developed and agreed to in the first step, it is easy to determine whether people’s behaviors are contributing to the accomplishment of the goal or taking away from goal achievement.

What leaders observe in the Behavior stage determines the basis of a response. This leads to the C element in the framework—Consequences. In this phase, leaders manage the behaviors they have observed. If an employee is making progress, the leader praises that progress; if not, they redirect the employee to help them get back on track.

The ABC framework makes managing performance easier for leaders as well as their people. Employees have clear goals and an understanding of performance expectations—and leaders manage consequences in a helpful, respectful way. Give it a try!

Getting to Know Yourself

In our book Mission Possible, my coauthor Terry Waghorn and I state that the most important earthly relationship you can cultivate as a leader is your relationship with yourself.  That might sound self-serving, but think about it—how well do you really know yourself?

Every leader should have a purpose—a reason for being—something to strive for. A purpose is different from a goal because it is ongoing. It has no beginning or end.

As a leader, your purpose comprises two elements: a personal mission statement and a set of values that define your strengths and help you make values-based decisions on a daily basis. Having a clear purpose gives meaning and definition to a leader’s life.

Some people have asked me if making money is a good purpose.  There’s nothing wrong with wanting to make money—and it may be a goal to work toward—but it’s not a purpose. Purpose isn’t about achievement. It is much bigger. Your purpose is your calling. It’s about what business you are in as a person.

I ask leaders to spend time developing their personal mission statement by answering these four questions:

  1. Why am I in the world?
  2. What is my overarching purpose?
  3. What would I like people to say about me after I’m gone?
  4. What difference will it have made that I was here?

The next step is to identify your personal values by answering these questions:

  1. What is really important to me?
  2. What do I stand for?
  3. What three values do I want to live by?
  4. Which of those values is most important?

Going through this process takes some soul searching and quiet, thoughtful time. This isn’t an exercise to rush through.

Once you clearly understand your motivation and intention as a leader, you are able to monitor yourself on a daily basis. You’ll begin to notice certain actions that are more in line with your purpose than others. And you’ll begin eliminating behaviors that don’t support your purpose—and staying on a path of continuous personal improvement.

When you really know who you are as a leader, you can operate more efficiently and calmly while making meaningful decisions. But the best part is that you’ll also be able to bring out the magnificence in others. And isn’t that the most important role of a leader?