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?

Don’t Just Sit There, Say Something!

Managers typically react to the performance of their direct reports with one of three responses: positive, negative, or no response at all. It isn’t hard to guess which one works best for increasing good performance—the positive response.

A person who does something correctly and receives a positive response will most likely continue to perform using that desired behavior in the future. By the same token, a person who receives a negative response for doing something wrong will most likely not repeat the behavior. So, in effect, even performance that gets a negative response can improve if the manager coaches the person and encourages them to improve.

The most dangerous response a leader can offer is no response at all. Think about it. If someone performs tasks and completes projects correctly and receives no response from their manager, how do you think they will perform in the future? The good performance might continue for awhile, but eventually it will decline. Why? Because no one seems to care.

What about the person who makes mistakes but is never corrected? It seems logical that if a person is left to fail again and again with no support or direction, their performance will get even worse. It is the leader’s responsibility to help everyone succeed. Ignoring bad behavior hurts not only the individual, but also their manager and the organization as a whole. It’s just bad business.

Even though leaders are busier than ever these days, most still notice when their people are doing great or when they need coaching. The big mistake happens when the manager doesn’t say it out loud. I often say “Good thoughts in your head, not delivered, mean squat!”

If you want your people to achieve and maintain high performance, let them know that you notice and care about the things they do right—and that you want to help them when they are off track. Share your thoughts. No one can read your mind.

Be consistent with your communication and you will build a consistently high performing team.

4 Business Practices for Government Leaders

Four years ago, I wrote a blog post about how disappointed Americans were with our political system and activities that were taking place during the months leading up to the presidential election. I followed that with a series of blogs offering advice to both political parties about how to lead at a higher level. As we approach the final weeks of another presidential election cycle, I’d like to revisit that information.

As in 2008, the four business leadership practices I’ve implemented in organizations around the world can be adapted to provide stronger leadership in government.

The first practice is to Have a Compelling Vision. This country needs a clear and compelling vision that people are passionate to follow. A vision is made up of three elements—a purpose, a picture of the future, and values that will guide behaviors on a day-to-day basis.

A perfect example of a compelling vision is the one Martin Luther King, Jr. outlined in his “I Have a Dream” speech. By describing a world where his children “will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character,” he created powerful and specific images arising from the values of brotherhood, respect, and freedom for all. King’s vision continues to mobilize and guide people beyond his lifetime because it illuminates a significant purpose, provides a picture of the future, and describes values that echo those of our founding fathers.

The second practice is to Treat Citizens as Your Business Partners. The more information people have about a problem, the more likely they are to help resolve it. Government leaders at every level need to be open about dilemmas we are facing—and citizens need to get involved by understanding the intricacies of issues they will be voting on. I encourage government officials to work closely with citizens to create a true partnership. Working together is the way to develop solutions for all kinds of problems.

The third practice is to Involve Every Sector of Society. In their book To Transform a City, Sam Williams and Eric Swanson explain that there are three primary sectors in our society, each of which has three domains.  They are:

  • The Public Sector – government, military, and education
  • The Private Sector – business, arts/entertainment, and media
  • The Social Sector – faith community, nonprofit organizations, and families

In the past, when searching for solutions to local, state, or national problems, the focus has tended to be on only two of these nine domains—government and business. When people start believing that our problems can be solved only by government or by business, problem solving is doomed to failure because the other seven domains are on the outside looking in—and some of them have become our country’s most critical judges.

The fourth, and perhaps most important, practice is to Elect Servant Leaders. The more leaders who are in local, state, and national government to serve and not be served, the better chance we have to mend what’s wrong with our cities, states, and country. Everyone has seen the negative effects of self-serving leaders in every segment of our society. We need to elect leaders who really live their role as servants to the people.

America is a great county. I feel blessed to live here. I also feel it is my duty as a citizen to support our leaders—and one way I can do that is to encourage them to implement these four leadership practices.

And on November 8, don’t forget that it is the duty of every American to vote!