Let’s Celebrate Love!

I love the month of February because on Valentine’s Day, we officially celebrate love.

A few years ago, my colleague Michele Jansen sent me a wonderful thing. A group of professional people posed the question “What does love mean?” to a group of children. The answers they got were broader and deeper than anyone would have imagined. See what you think:

“Love is when someone hurts you and you get so mad, but you don’t yell at them because you know it would hurt their feelings.”

“Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs.”

“When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You know that your name is safe in their mouth.”

“When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn’t bend over and paint her toenails anymore, so my grandfather did it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis, too.”

“Love is the first feeling you feel before all the bad stuff gets in the way.”

“If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend you hate.”

“When you tell someone something bad about yourself and you’re scared they won’t love you anymore, but then you get surprised because not only do they still love you, they love you even more.”

Aren’t they wonderful, all these great sayings from kids about love? “Your name is safe in their mouth.” “Start with a friend you hate.”

Love is essential to good leadership. As my wife, Margie, often says, “Leadership is not about love; it is love.” When love enters into your decision making, you’re on the right track.

For too long, people thought love and business were mutually exclusive. Nothing could be further from the truth. When love extends to your mission, your values, your people, your customers, and the products or services you create, you make the world a better place.

So, let’s celebrate love this month—and every month!

When Is it Time for a Career Coaching Conversation?

My wife, Margie, says managers have three roles—doing their own job, working with people to help them develop and accomplish their current goals, and talking with people about their career aspirations.

The third role Margie cites is one that is often either forgotten or squeezed in at the end of an annual performance review meeting. As a manager, why would you want to talk with your people about their career aspirations? It’s not necessarily because you have a promotion in your back pocket. It’s because you care about them and want to know where they see themselves in one, three, or five years—where they would like to be in their career.

Career coaching is an organizational strategy that retains high performers and increases bench strength over time. Why? Because people get energized when their manager wants to talk about their future—it shows them their manager is interested in them and it makes them more willing to share their thoughts and plans.

Several signals can indicate that it’s time to start having career conversations with a direct report:

  • When they continually exceed expectations
  • When they ask for more responsibility
  • When they bring up the topic of their career aspirations
  • When they have mastered the basics of their current role

Some managers are hesitant to have career coaching conversations with a valued team member because they fear losing the person to another department or organization. But consider this: research from world-renowned coaching expert Marshall Goldsmith shows that one of the most common reasons people leave a company is because nobody asked them to stay. Look at each coaching conversation as an opportunity to let your direct report know how much you appreciate them and their work.

Another reason managers are hesitant is because they don’t have a potential promotion to offer or a good idea of new opportunities in the organization.  The idea is to have the conversation without thinking either of you have an answer—yet.  One of the questions you could ask is What are two or three positions in this organization that might be of interest to you in the future?  The person’s reply may give you clues about their general interest or intent. It may even lead to a conversation about how they can find out more about those positions.

Managers, I urge you to sit down and discuss career aspirations at least two or three times a year with each of your direct reports. A regularly scheduled one-on-one meeting is a perfect time to bring up this topic.

People need their managers to be interested in their future as well as their present—and career coaching conversations are a great opportunity to show your direct reports you really care.

The Humility and Courtesy of Love

If you’ve been reading my blogs, you’ll know this is Part 3 of my series about the nine elements of love as written by Henry Drummond in his book The Greatest Thing in the World.

We are on the fourth element, which is Humility. Drummond wrote:

“Love as humility does not promote or call attention to itself, is not puffed up, is not bloated with self-conceit, and does not dwell upon its accomplishments. When you exhibit true love, you will find things to praise in others and will esteem others as you esteem yourself.”

When some people hear the word humility, they think of it as a weakness. Even Jim Collins, the author of From Good to Great, told his researchers to recheck the data when humility came up as the second trait of great leaders. He couldn’t believe that humility could be one of the top two traits! But I’ve always thought of humility as a strength. In fact, one of my favorite sayings was coined by Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Orange County, California:

“People with humility don’t think less of themselves, they just think about themselves less.”

If this statement applies to you, there is a good chance that you have what it takes to be an effective servant leader. Rather than spending your days doing things that benefit yourself, your loving spirit wants to serve others.

I learned this lesson early in life from my father, who retired as a rear admiral in the U.S. Navy. When I won the presidency of the seventh grade in junior high school, I came home all proud and told my dad that I had won. He said “Congratulations Ken—but now that you are president, don’t ever use your position. Great leaders are great not because they have power, but because people respect and trust them. Leadership is not about you, it’s about the people you’re serving.” Quite a lesson for 13-year-old kid!

Here’s what Drummond had to say about the fifth element of love, Courtesy:

“Love as courtesy is said to be love in little things. It behaves toward all people with goodwill. It seeks to promote the happiness of all.”

It’s all about being polite—holding a door for someone, saying thanks when someone does something nice for you, and the like.

In the Disney parks, their first value is safety, followed by courtesy—the friendly, helpful service you get from each cast member every time you visit one of their parks or hotels. It can be as simple as a smiling face or a “My pleasure”—whatever brings happiness to their guests.

So this week, remember to reach out in love with a humble heart and be a courteous and considerate person in all your interactions with people. You’ll be surprised how good it feels when you make somebody else feel good!

Mondays and Fridays Are All About Perspective

I was reading recently about how some folks are “Thank God it’s Friday” people and others are “So glad it’s Monday” people.

Some might think that people who are thankful for every Friday must not enjoy their work—or that people who are excited about every Monday must be workaholics. To me, it’s not an either/or choice—it’s more of a both/and situation. I love the weekends for spending time with family and friends and doing things I don’t normally have time to do during the week. But I also really enjoy my work and don’t mind when Monday comes around.

So where are you on the Monday/Friday spectrum? As with anything, it really comes down to your mental attitude. You can choose to be upset and negative about Mondays or you can choose to be positive and optimistic about the coming week.  If you can stay positive whether it’s the weekend, the work week, or what have you—life will turn out to be that very special occasion I like to talk about all the time.

This concept reminds me of the joke about how different types of people perceive a glass that is half filled with water. Optimists (like me) see the glass as half full. Pessimists see the glass as half empty. Realists see the glass as full—half with air and half with water. But professional trainers don’t care—they just know that starting the half full/half empty discussion will give them ten minutes to figure out why their slide presentation isn’t working! (People in the leadership development business will like that one 😊)

I hope you have both a great week and a great weekend!

Managing the Ups and Downs of Performance

Every year we have a Final Four basketball week at our company. Teams of three from departments around the company compete with each other for the championship. We also have a free throw contest from the foul line. The prize goes to the person who hits the most out of 20.

In the past, I’ve won the free throw competition a number of times.  I was a basketball player when I was younger and known as an outstanding foul shooter. This year the score I had to better was 14 out of 20. When I stepped to the line, I made eight in a row. Everybody was cheering, because they thought I had it made.

Suddenly, I couldn’t hit the proverbial bull in the rear with a handful of rice. I lost.

The experience reminded me of golf. It’s been said about golf that you never own it; it’s just on loan. Just when you think you’ve got it, you don’t—and just when you think you don’t, you do.

What I should have done after missing a couple of free throws is step back, take a deep breath, and regroup. I do that on the golf course, but I had never experienced such a dry spell with my foul shooting. Live and learn!

Fluctuating performance happens in the professional arena all the time. For example, when sales go down, rather than charging on in hopes they’ll go back up, it’s beneficial to take an organizational deep breath, gather people together, and determine what might be causing the drop in sales. Whenever our company has done that, we get great feedback from our people, develop new strategies, and get back on track.

What do you do to get back on track, individually or organizationally? I’d love to hear your thoughts.