Category Archives: Character-based Leadership
Today’s post is offered by Shelly L. Francis, her latest book The Courage Way: Leading and Living with Integrity identifies key ingredients needed to cultivate courage in personal and professional aspects of life. The common thread throughout her career has been bringing to light best-kept secrets — technology, services, resources, ideas — while bringing people together to facilitate collective impact and good work.
The following is an excerpt from “The Courage Way”:
Greg, whom we met in chapter 8, faced a difficult time as a business owner in the years following the 2008 recession. “I was constantly stretched by the reality of living through ’08, ’09, ’10, when the economy was so tough. Wanting to keep the company healthy and profitable and also care for the workforce I care so deeply about, as so many things are shifting . . . Talk about tension.”
In his business organizing corporate meetings and incentive trips, Greg wanted his employees to be as productive as possible and to enjoy what they did—because when they did, it showed. “We clearly are in business to assist clients at a high level of excellence. But what do we do internally for the people here who give the best hours of their day, year after year, to this work so that they feel engaged and know that they’re cared about? That’s what kept me awake during those lean years.”
Of course his employees knew the economy was in a rough spot, but they didn’t know the extent of Greg’s concern. “I was torn between not wanting, but wanting to share a little bit of that tension. And I wanted to demonstrate that I believed in them, as individuals, and that I had confidence that we would get through it.”
Greg was faced with many difficult decisions affecting the bottom line, including rapidly escalating health insurance costs. Although the company covered the employee portion, Greg was aware that the big increase in premium costs meant that many employees were not purchasing additional coverage for their spouses and children. With significant price differences among plan options, he could have made a swift unilateral decision to select the least expensive plan. But Greg chose a different path that aligned with his and the company’s stated values to always relate in an open, honest, direct, and caring manner.
He wanted to bring people from different departments together and have a conversation about choosing a health insurance plan, so he sent out materials for his staff to read in advance, with questions to reflect on as well. Greg explained in advance that when they all came together to talk, they would listen to each other share about how plan options might impact families or spouses. He told them, “We’re not just going to dive in to which plan do we want, but we are going to spend some time looking at the whole person you bring to the room and the other whole people in the room. We’re not always aware of what’s going on for one another. I might make difference choices if I know more.”
On the day of the meeting, people had individual time to reflect and write down their thoughts. Next, they sat together in smaller groups where they could safely share a little bit aloud and hear the questions that others were asking. “By the time the discussion moved back to the larger group, the rough edges of thought were gone, and the collective truth was more well defined,” Greg said.
Greg noted how helpful it was for everyone to prepare for speaking honestly to each other. He watched as people stepped out of their own context and saw a bigger picture. He could see them realizing the ways that different health plans would affect others. As they shared their stories, they began to see that maybe another option would be better for all of them as a whole.
In the end, the decision was Greg’s, but the staff supported his choice because they had heard one another’s concerns and understood Greg’s convictions. e process increased their personal regard and respect for each other as human beings, which is essential to building more relational trust (as we discussed in chapter 4).
Greg recognizes that people become more invested and engaged as employees when they reflect on their own choices and attitudes. By offering a reflective process to his staff that honored their wholeness and trusted their capacity for empathy and dialogue, Greg increased the chances that their own internal plumb lines would guide them, which enhanced their sense of commitment to and fulfillment in their work. But it all started with Greg’s internal choice to lead with integrity.
A man or woman becomes fully human only by his or her choices. People attain worth and dignity by the multitude of decisions they make from day to day. These decisions require courage.
Shelly L. Francis has been the marketing and communications director at the Center for Courage & Renewal since mid-2012. Before coming to the Center, Shelly directed trade marketing and publicity for multi-media publisher Sounds True, Inc. Her career has spanned international program management, web design, corporate communications, trade journals, and software manuals.
If you’ve ever gone or seen crab fishing, you will notice that large crates are used to catch them and hauled aboard when ready. The crates are often teaming full with crabs climbing all over one another.
What is probably the most interesting thing about crabs is that if you lift the trap lid to the crate, the crabs will not generally escape. The reason is – as one crab vies for the opening, the other crabs will grab hold of the lone wanderer and pull them down back into the pile. The aggressive nature of a crab makes the individual one venture forth, but the rest of the pack pulling them down.
In what ways does our leadership pull down and prevent others from standing out of the crowd? Here are some ways to prevent being a “crabby” leader:
- Encourage people’s efforts. When an employee works to complete a task, no matter how great or small, acknowledge them. Instill the appreciation for the behavior by showing it’s welcomed. Let everyone know hard work is appreciated.
- Talk up your team members. Build others up by letting them know you believe in them, how their talents are valued, and remind them why they’re on the team.
- Don’t shoot down ideas. Any idea is a good one, even if it’s failed before. Validate people’s insight and willingness to contribute to making the organization better. Try to see the merits of each idea before they reach the feasibility stage.
- Watch the non verbals. Perhaps the most elusive step here, it requires you to be self-aware. Do eyes roll when an employee interrupts with an idea or concern? When they talk to you, are you engaged with 100% undivided attention? Are your arms crossed? Be aware of the cues you’re giving off, they speak louder than your words.
- Give opportunities to grow and develop. Find ways to develop others based on their needs, talents, and goals. Get your folks in the queue for promotions, increased responsibility, or personal and professional development. Help them stand out in the company and in their career.
- Recognize constantly. Take time to “catch them doing something right.” Find times to celebrate any achievement. Go to bat for your people when nominations for promotions or employee recognition time comes. Reward them in some way, any way possible, for their contributions.
- Say “Thank You” all the time. Every time a task is complete (whether it’s done right or not!). When they leave for the day. When they tell you of a concern or issue. When they hold you accountable. A “thank-you” helps acknowledge them and tell them you appreciate them.
By building others up, you allow your people to climb out of the pack and beyond the crate of obscurity. Don’t pull them down. Fish for them and pull them out of the water.
Earlier this week I posted on “How Extra Effort Makes The Difference“.
Since then, I’ve received feedback and ideas from many people that explodes this definition beyond what was suggested.
Everyday, leaders from all over are giving that little extra effort to push towards that goal, to build that person’s confidence, or to generate synergy within a certain team. It’s the belief that when they lay their head on the pillow at night, they know they did everything they could that day to improve their lives and the lives of those in their world.
Here are some more ideas on how to give that “extra effort”:
- Call your mentor and closest professional friends weekly to thank and appreciate them for their efforts in your life
- Breaking your team out for a “vision session”
- Call a quick “town hall” meeting to ensure everyone is on the same page and aligned
- Stopping during the day to review your company goals and mission
- Pausing during the day to review your life goals and mission
- Asking questions to find out which two parties need to be more connected and integrated
- Tabling all administrative task to late day or after business hours to spend more time with your people and customers
- Calling or texting your spouse or family and folding them into your busy day
- Asking colleagues to proofread a proposal to look for feedback
- Telling your customers that you appreciate their support and are glad to work with them
- Take 5-10 minutes daily to learn more in your job role
- Conduct a 2-Minute Drill for planning and refreshing
- Take the pulse of your team through a temperature check
- Finish Friday on a strong resonating note
Every idea will not fit every leader, but in putting these in front of you the hope is that you can be inspired to give a little more and reap enormous benefits as a result of a little extra effort.
Remember, a little goes a long way, whether it’s your smile, your attitude, or your effort.