30-Day Micro Leadership Course (September 22nd 2021)

September 22, 2021. Day 22 of our 30-Day Micro Leadership Course.

Daily communication.

Yesterday we focused on the DNA kind of message – the communication that tells everybody why we’re here together, what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. In my experience, conciseness and candor pay. Bigtime.

Before we go further about any kind of communication it’s important to figure out how valuable candor is going to be in your group, team or organization. I’m happy to make an appeal for you to embrace candid conversations fully, but you have to decide for yourself. 

There is an environment among any group where everybody understands the unwritten rules of having candid conversations. I’ve coached clients who were in environments where being candid simply wasn’t done. Not out in the open at least. Secret private conversations might be, but leadership dare not engage in such behavior when they were formally together. It typically goes that way because the top-level leader – the #1 – doesn’t place a high value on candor. I respect every leader’s right to operate as they please. Even if I disagree with their philosophies or way of doing things. 

Such cultures though take a heavy toll on people. And they stymie innovation, growth, and high performance. It’s especially vexing when an organization performs at a high level in spite of their lack of candor. What could they do if they fully embraced honest, candid communication? That lost potential always haunts me. 

I encourage every leader and every emerging leader to understand the high value of candor – the quality of being open and honest in expression; frankness.

The enemy is usually just one thing, a lack of safety. The leader doesn’t feel safe. Others don’t feel safe. So people remain silent or they avoid being as honest as they need to be. It’s safer to avoid speaking up, speaking out, or being completely honest. 

We’ve all experienced those situations where we just stare down at our shoes, unwilling to speak up even though our minds are racing with things that need to be said. It’s especially frustrating when nobody says the very things that need to be said and we’re wishing we could. But we don’t. The fallout, the potential for negative consequences is just too great. It’s called being stuck. Not a place of growth or the highest performance!

So let’s figure out how we can build safety so we can then make candor part of the fabric of our organization. 

First, avoid a critical judgment environment. 

But how? For starters, listen – and listen so you can better understand. Go back and revisit those critical components – the ingredients – that make up the progression of leadership.

Without a commitment to these ingredients, there’ll never be enough safety to have candor. Critical judgment emanates from people who lack humility and curiosity. Show me an unsafe culture and I’ll show you a culture filled with arrogance and answers. That’s why people keep their mouths shut. There’s no need to share insights with somebody who already has their mind made up. 

The boss enters the room, asking people to weigh in on an issue, but first, he throws down this verbal gauntlet, “My mind is made up.” 

Nobody in their right mind dare speaks up after that unless it’s to echo agreement and consent with the boss. It’s the proverbial “yes men” syndrome that can overtake any culture led by a closed-minded person. 

Second, avoid playing the blame game. 

At the moment, finger-pointing isn’t profitable. Even if we’re managing a crisis, finding who is at fault isn’t profitable. But the critical thing is to refrain from the reason why we assign blame altogether – to feel better about ourselves. Perhaps to deflect any responsibility from ourselves. Lots of reasons why we behave so poorly. We have to resist being so selfish. 

Grace is unmerited favor yet we’re all prone to say that somebody doesn’t deserve forgiveness, or compassion, or consideration. But that’s precisely the point. To give such consideration to people no matter what – that’s the true mark of high-level leadership. 

You can fix any problem without fixating on who’s to blame. Remedy “the person responsible” in a way that won’t disrupt the group safety. Besides, consider the valuable (or invaluable) lesson learned if somebody did actually make an error. Think they’ll do it again? Not likely. We’ve all done some boneheaded things. Think about how it can negatively impact the individuals and the group for you to call out or barbeque a person – even if they are responsible. Now think about how the individual and group will respond when the problem is addressed and you’re not absorbed by convicting somebody (or a group of people) for having caused the problem. 

Third, be strategic and think long-term.

It makes all of this behavior easier because we see the value. When you’re playing a longer game it changes these perspectives from knee-jerk reactions in the moment to considerations about how this might impact us next week, next month, next year – and moving forward.

Last night I went to one of my grandson’s football games – 7th grade. They came into the game having lost both their games so far, but they had high hopes they might win this one. They got off to a good start, but pretty soon it was apparent that they lacked the speed and tackling ability to match their opponent. The longer the game went, the more success the opponent had. The more my grandson’s team failed. At some point, the coach of my kiddo’s team grew openly frustrated. He started yelling at the timekeeper. He was yelling at the officials. At some point he even spiked a football in his hands he was so outraged. His team’s performance declined as his demeanor declined. Negative influence at its worst. Influencing a group of 12-year-olds not to perform at their best, but maybe at their worst. 

The same things happen to us at work. We have moments or extended periods of time where we’re stuck thinking at the moment. It brings out our worst. We react and suddenly all safety is forfeited. Now people shut down. Grow increasingly less engaged. Shut their mouths. Keep their insights and ideas to themselves. And we all suffer because of it. 

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

30-Day Micro Leadership Course (September 21st 2021)

Ten more days until we’re done with this short 30-Day Micro Leadership Course. The course is micro, but not your leadership. 😉 

Let’s get busy concentrating on creating and sustaining a high-performance culture. I likely could have devoted every session of this course to one topic: communication. Communication is the easy scapegoat for all that ails us because from our heart emerge our words. Or lack of words. And our tone. Emotions. Feelings. Thoughts. Beliefs. 

“You’re just being emotional,” is a common retort from people who think they’re more logical and rational than you. They act as though emotions are a bad thing, something they would never surrender to…yet we all do. We feel what we feel. Sometimes there’s logical reasoning behind it. Sometimes not. 

We’ve talked a bit about “story” and how important it is for you – and everybody else in the enterprise. Remember we talked about how as leaders we must give people a great story – we must provide them with a narrative of where they fit and how they make a positive difference in the outcome. If we don’t, then they’re liable to create their own story and it usually won’t be very good. Maybe it won’t be due to evidence, but it’ll be due to the way they see themselves. And it’ll be peppered with whatever fears they’ve got. It’s what we all do, even if we fancy ourselves as completely rational and logical. 

It’s the power of self-communication. And the power of listening to the communication of others. 

Culture or environment is heavily influenced by all the communication. Formal, informal, direct, indirect, from the top, from the middle, from the bottom, spoken, written, implied – all of it matters!

Let’s start with your formalized statements or declarations. 

Teams, groups, and organizations have a reason for being. High-performing cultures step forward with bravery to state why they exist and why they do what they do the way they do it. 

Too many bosses lean on the Successories poster-type trite admonitions. Forget that. The first rule of communication is to be real. Honesty matters. Otherwise, the communication will never be trusted. 

Why are you all here? 

What’s the point of it all?

“We’re competent, capable, and confident.” I saw that one the other day and thought, “Surely they could come up with something better than that!” But it demonstrates how little some of us put into communicating the real distinction of who we are, what we do, and how we do it. 

Today, let’s focus on two objectives of this mission statement type communication. It must be something you truly mean and it must be something that will inspire everybody because they know you mean it. They know it’s true. 

A lifetime ago I had an enormous custom-made sign made of individual raised letters installed directly above a cash wrap – the counter customers would go to in order to complete a purchase. This cash wrap, located in the middle of the store, was the first thing your eyes were drawn to as you entered the store making this sign a major attraction. It was less of a motto and more of a mandate, one I fully meant. 

Extraordinary service. No excuses!

We meant it. It was short, honest, and powerful. To us and to every customer. 

Worthless if we weren’t going to live by it. Trite if we weren’t going to back it up. 

Our sole purpose was to serve customers and do it in remarkable fashion. Daily we talked about how to deliver remarkable experiences so our customers would consistently be dazzled. We didn’t just talk about it. We worked hard to achieve it. Much more fun than, “We’re as good as anybody else.”

My coaching practice is focused on one simple phrase, “helping you figure it out.” 

My story, which is entirely true, centers on helping people achieve what THEY want. That’s why years ago I started telling my story like this…

In a coaching world filled with experts and pundits who often offer empty, but good-sounding advice, I’m going against the tide of scalability because I meet prospects and clients where they are. From the moment I’m engaged as their coach I’m merely a guide or facilitator helping them get to where they most want to go. The direction of the conversations and work is entirely dictated by two things: where the client is right now and where they want to go. So my story is congruent with that uniqueness. And that truth. 

What is your truth? And how are you expressing it? 

Think about it. Then think about it some more. It needs to resonate with your team, group or enterprise. It needs to be something people don’t just remember…they live it. So they don’t have to remember it. It’s who they are. It’s what they do. It’s how they do it. 

Once you get this foundation built then you’re ready to incorporate it into every communication and commit yourself to daily congruency where everybody is able to connect the dots between what you say and what you do! That’s how you’ll build a safe environment that fosters growth, improvement, and high performance.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

30-Day Micro Leadership Course (September 20th 2021)

Day 20. Monday, September 20, 2021.

Pride. And I’m not talking about the pride we take in doing great work. I’m talking about pride as in our ego. Our quest and desire to have power and authority. 

Every leadership failure you experience will occur or be worsened because of your pride. We can lose our humility in a moment. We can lose it for extended periods. Some never figure out humility’s value. 

Bosses are all prone to think we know best. After all, many times we’re privy to information and data that rank and file employees simply don’t have. And we’re in charge, bequeathed with authority. The temptation to be large and in charge is real, often fueled by our grandiose view of our smartness. Few of us would dare exclaim we’re the smartest person in the room, but in our head, we’re thinking it. 

Arrogance will cost you as a leader. It diminishes trust. It stifles open conversations and collaboration. Proud bosses mistakenly think they’re proving their brilliance and displaying how much smarter they are than everybody else. The reality is people realize their insights and observations don’t much matter. Psychological safety goes away, if it ever existed. And the collective intelligence goes down as people shy away from being as open and as honest as they’d like. 

Pride puts the focus on self, making ME the most important person in the world. 

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that will create anything positive in your culture. Feel good about yourself all your want. It won’t be enough to overcome the damage your arrogance will do to your leadership and your organization. 

Permit me to make a solid pitch for humility and for you to pay close attention to those times when pride might get in your way. 

ONE: Humility fosters curiosity. Pride eliminates curiosity. 

The deeper your humility, the deeper the potential for your curiosity. Rather than think you know the answer, you keep asking questions. The more you keep asking questions, the more you learn. The more you learn, the deeper the potential is for your understanding. That alone makes humility worth the price of admission. 

Proud and arrogant people lack curiosity because they already have the answers. And their answers never get questioned, which is another benefit of curiosity. It’s not always about asking questions for answers. It’s also about questioning answers to make sure they’re on point. 

TWO: Humility puts a high value on others. Pride puts value on self. 

By now I hope you’re fully persuaded that you must make people feel valued. Employees need to know they matter. And that their insights will be heard. Humility fosters that by reinforcing those things to be true. It’s not a façade. It’s real and the employees know it because humility is easily noticed. 

Bosses can appear to be the most important people on the planet. Pride. If the boss is the most important person, then where does that put the frontline worker who is 11 levels below the C-suite? Yep, you guessed it. They’re invisible. Totally unimportant to anything that goes on. 

A side consequence of pride is when the so-called leader is filled with it, then it promotes others to follow suit. You think you have no influence unless it’s positive? Wrong. Lots of people are a terrible influence on others. Proud and arrogant leaders show others that selfishness is acceptable behavior. So don’t be shocked if you see other people in your organization mirror your pride.

THREE: Humility is necessary for compassion. Heartless organizations have no life. 

I’ve already defined compassion as a focus on others so this is similar to point number two. But compassion is more than a high value on others. It’s understanding others and it has empathy as fuel. All of that goes away or is greatly reduced when pride rears its selfish head. 

Any team, group, or organization that is led by pride and arrogance is a heartless organization because compassion will be absent. Humanity doesn’t matter when pride rules the day. Sterile operations without hearts are increasingly finding it hard to get people and keep them. Humans connect with other humans, not with people who think they’re better. 

FOUR: Humility affords us opportunities for the greatest growth, improvement, and high performance.

Group power is well documented. No need to reiterate it here except to remind us that together we achieve much more. Even my 8-year-old grandson who plays baseball knows that. He learned it a few years ago. Everybody on the team has to be willing to do their best individually and collectively in order for the team to succeed. They work together to spark improvement in each other. And they have fun in the process. 

Consider the alternative. One player thinks they’re the center of the team. Suppose they truly are head and shoulders better than the other players. Suppose they pitch. No matter how great they are, they still can’t pitch, catch and play first base simultaneously. If the hitter knocks the ball to left field, they’re not going to be able to sprint from the mound to make the catch. They must rely on their teammates if they’re going to have any success as a pitcher. 

Your enterprise works the same way. Regardless of your gifts or talents, they’re not enough to go it alone. Humility affords you the best chance to be part of a winning team. 

The upside of humility is enormous. Just like the downside to arrogance and pride. Do the math. Then decide which route you’ll take because one path will be very lonely and filled with pitfalls. The other will be filled with others who want to go higher and further. And faster!

Be well. Do good. Go great!

P.S. You might find this short Inc. article by Jeff Haden interesting. I did. It’s entitled, Here’s How to Tell Within 5 Minutes If Someone Isn’t as Smart as They Think. Enjoy!

30-Day Micro Leadership Course (September 19th 2021)

Day 19. September 19, 2021. 

While most of the things contained in this 30-Day Micro Leadership Course are timeless, there is a current disruption that may last for years – the great resignation. Google it and you’ll be overwhelmed with search results. There are millions of people who, thanks to the Pandemic and other reasons, are opting out of traditional work. Additionally, my generation – the baby boomers – are reaching retirement age, even though many of us have no plans to quit working. Leadership roles have been largely filled by baby boomers who are now stepping away to retire or do different work. All of this is leaving an incredible, unprecedented void in organizations. Many experts predict this void will be in place for a number of years to come. 

Developing people, serving people and growing people are more crucial today than ever before because of this shift. Neglect this work and you run the high risk of being left in the dust by organizations dedicated to it. 

Business is comprised of 3 basic things: ideas, money, and talent. There’s no lack of ideas. Everybody seems to have a great idea. Few of those ideas ever see the light of day because most people don’t do anything about their ideas. As for money, it’s always available. Sometimes it’s easier to get than at other times, but usually, it’s just gauged by how good the ideas are. When the economy is robust, even bad ideas can get funded. When the economy isn’t so good, great ideas still find the money needed. But talent is always a struggle. And even more so today!

The good news is that YOU are the differentiator. So are the people on your team. Or the people in your organization. 

Yesterday we talked about looking at your organization as a garden – a garden where you’re growing people. Now let’s get busy figuring out how.

Step 1: Focus on the individual.

Effective high-performance leaders know the value of making growth personal. Now, this isn’t practical if you’re the CEO of a large organization with thousands of employees. It’s not even practical if you’re the number 1 leader of a small to medium-sized organization with hundreds of people. But it’s always possible with the people who report to you. Or the people within the immediate proximity of your work, those folks you interact with on a regular basis. 

Who are these people? I don’t mean their names. I mean what details do you know about them? What are their dreams and ambitions? What do they each consider growth opportunities? If you don’t know, then you’re understanding the gap in your leadership – it’s not personal enough. 

Step 2: Focus on the collective.

Another disruption made worse by the Pandemic is the siloing of employees and departments. It’s always been a challenge, but the Pandemic made it worse. People understand their role and often fail to understand the role of their teammates, especially those teammates outside of their immediate team. Sometimes they even fail to understand the various roles of teammates with whom they work. It’s easy for us to get our head down, focused on our work, and never give thought to those around us, much less those completely outside of our department. 

Effective leadership involves finding ways to give employees the opportunity to understand they’re not alone, and that we’re all in this together. This isn’t merely some team-building philosophy, but a more practical reality where people have the chance to see one another as humans who share an experience. Those folks down the hall in that other department aren’t likely so different from you. It’s highly probable that they share some frustrations with you – along with a host of other things, positive and negative. 

Leaders who find a way to help the collective develop into a more cohesive unit will find employees who are better able to understand each other, connect more deeply with one another and collaborate to elevate the performance throughout the organization. It’s done with communication. Just like step one. 

Step 3: Care, challenge, and build accountability.

It begins with making sure you care about people. I know you care about results. You likely care about systems and processes, too. Maybe your business is product-focused so you have to care about that. You may be in city government where you have to care about politics, including the community you serve. There are lots of things to care about, but none is more important than caring about your people. 

I don’t have a magic bullet or pill you can take to help you care about people. Can people learn and improve empathy? It depends. Not if you’re a psychopath! 😀 

We can all grow through improved vision. By seeing things more clearly, everybody can get to a new level of performance. Even when it comes to caring. 

In my earlier sessions where we went through the ingredients for the recipe for improved leadership, we talked about compassion. The verb “care” has the same connotation, “a focus on others.”

Great leaders have the capacity to focus on others. And they’re always willing to find new heights within themselves to keep improving it. Why? Because they understand that’s where their biggest competitive advantage happens. They understand that talent is the name of the game. And talent isn’t some grandiose notion – it’s real world. It’s a daily effort where people know they matter because leadership continues to make them the priority. 

If you’re married, do you know whether or not your spouse cares about you? Are you able to gauge whether your spouse makes you a priority? 

Then don’t you suppose your employees can figure out whether you care about them or not? And how much you care? And whether or not they’re really a priority?

Go back and revisit earlier sessions where we talked about employees needing congruency in order to grow and thrive. You can’t say one thing and do something different. It will drive people away because they’ll be unable to make sense of it all. The pieces won’t fit as they hear you say something, but they fail to see it in action. 

You have to care and you must demonstrate how much you care by doing everything possible to help people succeed. That means putting people in the best positions possible to achieve their goals – and to be superior performers. No, you can’t do it for them, but it’s your job to put them in ideal situations so they can succeed. Set them up for success, not failure. 

Challenge and accountability are part of caring. If you’re a parent I can easily demonstrate it. If you didn’t love your children you’d have no expectations for them. Because you want their best, you have high hopes for them. Not to live their lives for them, but to set them up for a great life. You know it’s important for them to be responsible. So you give them chores, you expect them to stick with things, you want them to complete school assignments – in short, you want them to accept responsibility for their own work. You don’t want them to rely on laziness or procrastination. So you challenge them, sometimes in spite of their objections and tantrums. You do it because you love them and want their best. 

Remember my definition of leadership — influence and doing for others what they’re unable to do for themselves.

Doesn’t that sound like what we do for our children? They’re not able to see what we see so we’re working diligently every day as they grow and mature, hoping to teach them valuable lessons that will benefit them now and later. 

Do the same thing for your people. And when they disappoint you – and sometimes some of them will – then keep serving them. Care about them because they’re humans and they’re part of your team. Be responsible for your influence and your ability to do for them what they can’t do for themselves.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

30-Day Micro Leadership Course (September 18th 2021)

Happy Saturday. It’s day 18 of our 30-Day Micro Leadership Course. 

We’re now leaning heavily toward a discussion about elevating our leadership in order to establish a high-performance culture inside our organizations. Before we dive more deeply into that I think we need to make a distinction between management and leadership. 

We lead people.

We manage the work.

Both are necessary. I put leadership first because the people are doing the work. We all rely on the employees to each do the work for which they’re responsible. Fixate on the task instead of the person and pretty soon you’ll have a task that needs to be done, but nobody is available to do the task. It’s urgent that we get busy growing people. 

As we think about leading people and managing the work I’m going to use a garden as my metaphor for growing people. Great leaders tend the garden well. 

High-performing cultures are the best gardens in which to grow people and produce better work. If it were easy, everybody would do it. Fact is, most organizations don’t commit to it because it’s not how they see the world. Largely, they see the world and their workforce as things to exploit for higher profits. That’s why there’s far more talk than action when it comes to high-performance environments. It’s also why publicly traded companies have grossly escalated CEO pay in the past 20 years. Greed tempts us all. And it ruins many organizations from achieving stellar results – both in building organization (developing people) and in building a business (growing revenues and profitable at a sustainable/predictable rate). 

Planting a garden, and tending it is hard work. But consider the payoff. 

You plant your favorite fruits and vegetables. You make sure conditions are ideal to produce the harvest you want. Daily you watch over it, protect it, and nourish it. In time, you’re able to pick and enjoy all your favorite things. And if you continue to take care of the garden, you’ll be able to enjoy it year after year. 

People aren’t plants, but the principles are similar. We all need an environment in which to grow. We all need protection from the things that would destroy us, or stunt us. We all need to be nourished so we can develop fully into being our best. 

Because the workplace is filled with other people fulfilling many other roles, and since we don’t live or work in solitary confinement, then how we interact with one another forms the environment in which we must work. Toxic is how some people describe their work environment. Toxicity might be a result of tyrannical leadership. It might be leadership indifference. It might be that nobody trusts anybody. It may be that nobody has candid, honest conversations. It could be pure ineptness. Many things can make a work environment toxic. This much is true, nobody grows a great garden in toxic soil. You won’t grow great people in a toxic setting at work either. The good ones will hit the eject button to get away before much damage is done to their life or career. The bad ones will linger, contributing to even greater toxicity. 

Till the soil. Turn it over. Weed it. Make sure it’s ready to plant the seeds of what you most want to grow. And be aware that the soil for growing greatness is pretty terrific for growing all kinds of weeds, too. Left alone, the weeds will thrive in the soil you prepare. Leadership isn’t for the wimps unwilling to withstand the rigors of pulling weeds. 

Plant what you want to grow. Look for and hire people who are ideally what you want – or what you know you can help them become. Not because you’re going to impose your will, but because you know they’re not yet who they most want to be – but you know they’re dedicated to putting in the work necessary to become better! Feed and water them regularly. It’s your number one job. Serve them well. Don’t be distracted into thinking your work is about something else. Most of all, don’t get sucked into thinking it’s all about you. It’s not. It’s about them. 

Great players on your team will thrive when you surround them with other great players. Likewise, they’ll grow increasingly frustrated if you surround them with weeds (unproductive players). Don’t make your stars live in an environment where they’re surrounded by thorn bushes and weeds. Get rid of the thorn bushes and weeds as soon as possible. The moment you realize they’re undesirable elements in the garden, take swift action to uproot them. Few things will kill your environment faster. 

Protect your team from predators. Some may be internal, but some may be external. Be on guard. Be prepared to fend off anybody or anything that might get in the way of your employees and their ability to perform well. Your service, as a leader, is to influence and do for your people what they may be unable to do for themselves. You are not there to do their job for them. Or to rob them of the opportunities for growth, development, and improvement. You certainly aren’t there to enable them to behave or perform poorly. Set your expectations high – both for yourself and your team. Then get busy doing everything in your power to help your team meet or exceed them. 

Leading people is all about finding out what they need to get to the next level of high performance. It’s about your commitment and willingness to remove roadblocks, to knock down speed bumps, to provide the necessary resources, to fend off any obstacles that might stand in their way — so together you can all achieve more. 

You must be THE person people can trust and look to for the help necessary. Otherwise, your leadership is failed. And you’ve become an impediment, not a service. 

Too many bosses (aka leaders) want to blame the people for failing to grow or improve when they’ve neglected to do those same things in their own life. And they’ve failed to tend the soil by not providing an environment in which people are even able to grow. “Deadman walking” isn’t simply a description of a prison inmate walking to the execution chamber. It’s also an apt description for too many people who just have yet to find a garden in which they can thrive and flourish. Create a place like that and see if you don’t find yourself attracting and retaining more people able to perform at much higher levels. 

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

30-Day Micro Leadership Course (September 17th 2021)

Day 17. September 17, 2021. 

Employment has been disrupted more in the past 18 months than at any other time in my lifetime. The Pandemic, government economic incentives (or whatever else you’d like to call them), and people migrating from one place to another – it’s all led to major problems for employers all over the country. Perhaps worldwide. 

According to commercial real estate services company Cushman & Wakefield, Dallas/Ft. Worth has experienced the largest growth of any metro area in the country. They predict that will continue through 2029 when the DFW may reach 9 million. As of 2018 (the July 2018 census), we were around 7.5 million. It’s estimated there is an average of 200 people moving into the area every day! And we’re not alone in experiencing new citizens. 

With remote work becoming more commonplace, many people are leaving larger metro areas opting for smaller cities and towns where the cost of living is lower and the quality of life may be higher. Some small towns are also offering a cash bounty if families will relocate there. 

We’re experiencing employment disruption. And it crosses every industry sector. From police officers to medical staffers, to nurses, to school teachers, to engineers, and just about any other role you can think of – employers are struggling to find people. We used to say finding good or great people is tough. Today we’re saying finding people is difficult. Many employers report just needing “warm bodies,” and finding it hard.

I don’t bring all this up to depress you, but to introduce an important topic of establishing a high-performance culture. This is important no matter the landscape or economy. A high-performance culture is always vastly better than the alternatives. Even in times like these, the companies with a high-performance culture – an environment that fosters growth, improvement, and high achievement – have a clear advantage. Why wouldn’t you want to lead your enterprise into being such a culture? 

In 1982 I stood before a group of employees and told them, “Who knew being polite would be a competitive advantage? But today, if we’ll be fanatical in saying “please” and “thank you,” “sir” and “ma’am,” then we’ll be vastly ahead of our competition.” It was true then. It’s still true today. 

That illustrates how simple it can be to elevate our work. The hard part is first making up your mind to do it, and then, to follow through with execution. 

So it is with establishing a high-performance culture. It can help us better lead people. 

We’ve been talking about and thinking about story – our narrative. We’ve talked about the importance of crafting our story – figuring out our ideal outcome. Then we talked about writing our story, which is our metaphor for taking full responsibility for the life we live. And then we talked about making sure we tell our story well. Well enough for others to accurately comprehend it, which is how I define understanding. 

Today, let’s talk about the story our employees tell themselves. Few things impact all of us more negatively or positively than the story we tell ourselves. As leaders, we have to be mindful of all our employees, individually and collectively. 

Leaders must provide a great story for every employee. A story that tells them where they fit in the organization and how they make a positive contribution to the enterprise. If we fail to do that, they will craft a story about those things and it will not be good. People don’t automatically think the best. Most of us think the worst. Leadership must serve people with a great story. 

I’m not talking about fables or fiction. This isn’t about patronizing people with something that sounds good but is completely untrue. 

High-performing cultures are killed by many things, but there are 2 things in this area of story that contribute greatly to employee dissatisfaction: not knowing how they can make a positive contribution and incongruency (leadership says one thing, but does something different). 

Whether you’re leading a very small team within the enterprise or you’re the number 1 leading the entire organization, you can influence the outcome. Start by making up your mind that you’re going to grow and improve as a leader. Make up your mind that you’re going to serve everybody so they too can grow and improve. How do they make a positive difference? Tell them. Show them. Make sure they understand it. From the lowest skills workers to the highest skill workers, people need to wake up each workday knowing that what they do matters. And it does. But if they don’t see that, then it won’t be long before they’ll lose heart. In time, you’ll lose their physical contributions because their heart left long ago. Avoid that by making sure they know and are constantly reminded of where they fit and how their work makes a positive difference!

Don’t be a hypocrite. I’ve preached that sermon before, but we have to keep preaching it because it’s easy to say one thing and do something completely contrary. Some think as long as we say the right things, then it doesn’t matter what we do. Wrong! Our actions and words must be congruent. It’s among the chief reasons why people leave. They can’t make sense of the incongruency. They hear what we say. They see what we do. They pay attention to our actions and decisions. When they don’t match up, people are confused. Worse yet, they lose trust (assuming they ever had it). And when we lose the trust of people, we lose the people. 

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

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