Category Archives: Character-based Leadership
In virtually every organization there are people who seem to never learn or grow. Oftentimes we classify them as disengaged, subversive, or troublemakers, and look to dismiss them.
I have observed repeatedly a fair number of people that have slow learning curves which takes them a while to learn the fundamentals of their job. Yet I have been amazed at how many have blossomed over a longer period of time than others into solid team members and even became strong leaders in their own right.
What was the cause for the transformation?
Many people grow in proportion like a bamboo tree.
When a bamboo tree is planted and watered it doesn’t sprout for the first year, or the second. Or the third. Or the fourth. It takes five full years for the typical bamboo plant to finally break ground.
Once it does, it is actually one of the fastest growing plants in the world, sometimes growing at a rate of 35 inches in a day.
What is the cause for this tremendous growth?
In the course of the four-year period of seeming nothingness, the tree is growing a complex underground network of roots. These roots are so vast and extensive, that if you were to uproot a grown tree you would find it difficult to do so because of the root system.
It’s roots store all that water and nutrients, and create a myriad of conduits to support the rapid growth of the tree when it’s time has come.
And when the tree has come to full maturity, it possesses a denser strength than brick or concrete and a higher tensile strength than steel.
Sit back and think of the people in your organization that don’t seem to be growing. Are they working hard? Listening? Are they staying loyal, staying put with your company?
These people might actually be growing under the surface in ways you may not notice. These could be future impact players who, with the right combination of water and nutrients – training, encouragement, and entrusted responsibility – could shoot up from their place and make their presence known.
Just because we don’t see anything happening on the outside – stellar performance, heads nodding in agreement, skills being mastered in our timeframe – does not mean your people are not learning and growing. They may very well be developing some strong roots underneath.
Every leader is responsible for giving their people the necessary ingredients for growth and development. If you withhold any ingredient, you stunt their growth. When you liberally apply training, vision, knowledge, trust, and other internal and external resources, you may see quick growth. But if you don’t see anything quickly, be patient and wait. They are growing, you just may not actually see it.
Invest your time into everybody. Don’t be prejudiced by the outward displays of growth and performance. You just might discover some people ripe for rapid growth.
People that will be strong as steel – or a bamboo tree – in their value and loyalty to your organization.
Some time ago I conducted a training session for a number of restaurant employees. I prefaced my training session with an explanation of how restaurants made money, and that the average restaurant makes about a 5% profit.
As soon as this fact rolled from my mouth, a number of servers who were present with their owner turned to her and questioned “Is that right?” The owner nodded and confirmed “Some months, yes.”
The staff then turned around to me and many of them exclaimed, “Well, we’ll need to help Cathy make more money then.” The sense of teamwork to rally and help their boss make her business more profitable was the most incredible aspect of that training.
Usually in consulting with business owners, I find that most of them never share the financials with their employees.
The usual excuses abound:
“They don’t need to know.”
“I can’t trust them, why should I show them the books?”
“It’s not their job to know.”
“We can’t show them what we really make.”
“They’ll want a raise!!”
Then there are always the unspoken excuses that being open-book will reveal issues, such as impropriety, false reporting, bleaker financial pictures, and so on.
Business owners and leaders who want to increase engagement can easily develop trust by adopting an open-book culture that lets employees know the financials, a more connected and positive workplace results. This study from the University of Michigan underscores some of the benefits of this approach.
Here are some of the other benefits of adopting an open-book culture:
- It give employees information to make informed decisions
- It builds trust in all directions of the organization
- It enables people to make decisions to better increase bottom line, without being told so
- It gives employees a better understanding of how strategy and goals are, or are not, meeting financial goals
- It holds leadership and the entire organization accountable for financial stewardship
- It indirectly asks people to give input on ways to help make revenue, and save on costs
- It gives people a deeper insight as to your industry so they can develop their knowledge more thoroughly
- It also builds more experts in your industry and deepens your organization’s competency and acumen
While it’s clear there are so many advantages for open book leadership, there is one disadvantage however – holding unethical leadership accountable. The case is pretty clear, if you want people to open up and engage, you will need to open up your books first.
This guest post is from Jim Haudan, the CEO of Root, Inc., a renowned strategy and culture change organization that helps other companies “get their strategy out of the boardroom and into the hearts and minds of everyone in the organization.” Jim has co-authored a new book “What Are Your Blind Spots?” with Rich Berens. Today’s post is an excerpt form the Root Blog and highlight some of the principles in their book.
Words are poor conveyers of meaning. Pictures can be one of the most versatile tools in any leader’s toolbox. Michelangelo started the David in 1501 at the age of 26 and famously said: “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” He was intensely focused on freeing the slumbering figures in the stone.
Similarly, Picasso was able to visualize and capture realism in his painting from a young age, and evolved so immensely throughout his career eventually co-founded the cubist movement.
For many of us, our best “artistic” moments happen on a napkin sketch at the kitchen table or at a bar. We use images, lines, stars, circles and arrows to first capture an idea. Then share it with someone else. That person’s perspective and questions are what encourage us to revise the sketch and improve its clarity and meaning.
The conversation around our napkin art is what drives the a-ha moment, the excitement. You, as a leader, can use visualization and visual iteration to free the figures (or your people) slumbering within your organization, and drive innumerable a-ha moments.
Here are three ways to do just that:
- Use visualization to create clear meaning
Even the most common terms in strategic plans (words like operational excellence, customer centric, innovation, accountability, high performance, collaboration, vision) suffer from lack of meaning. Instead, define meaning with a picture. Have each member of your team draw a picture of what a high performance team looks like to them.
Compare the pictures. Then create a single image made up of the strongest elements of each person’s initial drawing. As a team, tell one story (accompanied by the picture) of what a high performance team means. Pictures drive common understanding in a way that words often cannot.
- Use visualization to think in systems
Many of the most complex issues we face are systems issues. It is hard to understand a system unless we can see it. Consider systems such as how we make money, or how to execute our business model. It’s tough to imagine without a diagram.
One well-known manufacturer found itself with hundreds of millions of dollars painfully tied up in working capital. The company tried unsuccessfully to reduce this amount for two years.
Finally it used imagery, pictures and metaphors to illustrate where the money came from, where it went, and how much is left afterwards. The business engaged all of its people to better understand how its economic system worked. Within six months, the company had freed up $300 million of working capital. Pictures make invisible systems tangible.
- Use visualization to frame a process
Customer acquisition, supply chain, and new product/ process development are just three examples of key business processes. Many process errors occur at the handoff points where clarity of workflow between departments and people is not always clear and co-owned.
Instead, visualize or blueprint a major process step by step and highlight the key handoffs that often become the “process busters” for the most important processes in your organization.
If Aristotle was right when he said the soul never thinks without a picture, and if everyone is right when they say a picture is worth a thousand words, then a grand visual metaphor for achieving organizational goals can be priceless.
When a picture is clear in our mind’s eye, we can make sense of it. When it is not clear, it is nearly impossible to take action on it. So, it doesn’t have to be the Sistine Chapel ceiling, but every extraordinary leader must know how to paint a picture for their people of where they are and where they want to go.
About Jim Haudan
Jim Haudan is Co-Founder and Chairman of Root Inc. Root Inc., the organizational change expert on helping companies create leadership alignment, execute strategies and change successful, build employee engagement, and transform businesses. He is a sought-after business presenter who has spoken at TEDx BGSU, Tampa TEDx, and The Conference Board. His latest book, What Are Your Blind Spots?: Conquering the 5 Misconceptions that Hold Leaders Back is co-authored with Rich Berens is CEO and Chief Client Fanatic of Root Inc. The book equips readers with the tools needed for a personal leadership reset. You’ll discover how to increase engagement, productivity, and growth in your own organization.