Archives For character

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I received an email last week from a leader that I’ve been coaching for the last couple of years. She has a contract employee whom she must decide whether to hire into a career position. She described the employee as competent, but consistently disrespectful, condescending, insulting and rude to her.

The supervisor acknowledged that there are two sides to every story, and there are some questions of personal perception that are worth exploring. But I shared with her these rules of thumb related to recruiting and retaining the right employees and re-assigning the wrong ones.

There are five characteristics (The Five C’s) to look for in choosing and assessing members of your team.

The first and most important is good Character. Do they speak honestly, act with integrity, and treat others with dignity and respect?

Second is Competency. Do they have the skills and qualifications to do the job?

Third is Capacity. Do they have the mental and physical strength to sustain good quality work? Can they learn new things and be developed to grow?

Fourth is Chemistry. Do they work well with you and with their team members?

Fifth is Calling. Do they want to be here and be a contributor to this team, or do they just want a paycheck?

Most great leaders would agree that character is the most important attribute on this list. Competency can be learned, and capacity can be developed in people with some effort from the leader, if the employee has a teachable attitude. But bad character is flat out dangerous! In fact, the most dangerous people on the team are the ones with high competency and bad character, because they have the most potential for doing harm to the team and the mission.

In my opinion, the second most dangerous person on a team is the one who is highly competent but has bad chemistry with the leader or with their teammates. That bad chemistry can do damage to the leaders capacity to lead and to the capacity of the team members to work effectively together.

We don’t always have convenient opportunities to subtract problem employees from our teams, so career transitions are critical opportunities to be intentional about shaping the quality of our teams. Next time you have the opportunity to add or subtract from your team, the Five C’s can be a helpful decision making tool.

For Discussion:

  1. How have you seen bad character or bad chemistry erode the effectiveness of good teams?
  2. What other qualities do you look for in your teammates?

 

Hi, friends.

One thing we all need to pay attention to in 2017 is how we are going to grow our organizations- financially, intellectually, physically, relationally, and strategically. Even in a tough economy (and ESPECIALLY in a tough economy), we must invest wisely WITH the capital we have IN the capital we have. Wise executives remember that the most strategic capital we have is our LEADERSHIP capital. It’s hard to replace if it leaves, and it’s hard to recover after it’s been neglected.

In tough economic times, one of the first things to go is investment in people. But we all know that’s foolish and short-sighted. One of the most high payoff investments you can make while you’re waiting for economic recovery is consistent, regular investment in growing your LEADERSHIP capital. Better leadership skills means better communication, less conflict, more motivation and employee engagement, better time management and less stress. All of those together mean maximum productivity with your limited resources, and an edge on your competition.

I’m investing heavily in the best resources available to provide your organization with the maximum value for your leadership development dollars. Times are tough, and I’m carrying my share of the burden by making leadership capital investment financially feasible for your organization.

Bottom line: Consistent investment in your leaders costs you a lot less than the outcomes of neglecting your leadership development.

Let me show you how economical it can be to get the most out of your organization’s leadership capital. Call or email me to set up a free consultation, and let’s discuss partnering together to meet your leadership development needs.

Here’s to a very productive 2017!

Jay Pullins

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A young man called me recently in a bit of a panic. His company had just announced that they were “right-sizing,” an un-clever way of saying they were laying people off. They were also instituting a hiring freeze. He was also told his supervisor’s supervisor was laid off, effective immediately.

His supervisor was very negative about the situation, predicting that he was next to go, the workload was going to double with his boss gone, this was just the first round of cuts, all of the usual gloom and doom.

The young man on the phone was wondering what he should do. Should he start looking for another job? Should he complain to someone about the impending workload increase? Here’s what I told him.

First of all, distance yourself from the negativity. Do what you can to NOT be seen as part of the group with the negative attitude (unless you want to be tagged for the next round of layoffs).

Second, be on the lookout for opportunities. When there are layoffs, hiring freezes, etc., the senior leaders may be scrambling to figure out how they’re going to do more with less. This may require combining roles and creating new, creative positions in the organization. They also have to figure out who’s going to fill them. And you can be sure they’re looking around at those they kept on the team. Do you think they’re going to be interested in the folks walking around with negative attitudes?

In rough times, senior leaders are looking across their organizations for the people with the most leadership potential to help them lead the organization through the difficulties. This is the time to demonstrate a constructive attitude by asking, “How can I help,” everywhere you go, with everyone you meet.

This is NOT the time to participate in urinating contests over petty issues with people in other departments. There may be opportunities their bosses are looking for leaders to fill in their departments too. And they’re looking for team players.

Even when we’re the one being laid off, people are watching to see whether we handle the situation with dignity and respect, or whether adversity will show something else about our character. And your supervisors will often have an influence on your future job opportunities. I wrestled with this one myself a few years ago when I was laid off from a job that I loved. Months later, a board member told me, “In my thirty five-year career, I’ve never seen someone handle being let go with as much dignity as you have.” He’s still a friend and advocate for me to this day.

After my phone conversation with the young man, I had another thought. Isn’t positivity the attitude that great leaders carry with them every day? Why would we wait for difficulties before we start having a “How can I help” attitude?

I’m not saying we should be phony about scary work situations. Layoffs are a scary deal, and it’s hard to watch good people lose their jobs. But if we’re consistently having trouble keeping a positive attitude, even in the scary times, we should do some soul searching about why that is. Leaders who sustain greatness, as well as success, over the long haul give much more than they take. They look around for opportunities to use their talents and energy to move the organization forward, during the good times and the bad, no matter where they are on the org chart.

For discussion:

  1. What kind of attitude are you modeling in your work place? Are you looking for opportunities to help your leaders and co-workers, or are you doing the minimum to get by?
  1. During the hard times, are you one to roll up your sleeves and offer help in solving problems, or do you highlight yourself as part of the problem by complaining?

Great leaders know themselves well enough to know, and have the humility to admit, that they don’t have all of the skills they need to be at their best for those they lead, and they care enough to make the effort to improve.

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Great Leaders Stand

September 20, 2016 — 5 Comments

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It’s concerning to watch the trend among football players who feel it’s appropriate to take a knee in protest when our National Anthem is played before their sporting events. This week I was discouraged to see in the news that a few high school football players in my city decided to follow the example of the athletes they look up to.

I’ll be the first to defend their right to do this. Many of my friends, relatives and I spent careers and beyond sacrificing so that they could have that right.

I’m not even concerned about the slap in the face that these protests represent to those who defended these so-called “professional” athletes’ freedom. The warriors who fought for those rights can take the slap in the face.

But I wouldn’t blame these athletes’ bosses for exercising their freedom to fire them for demonstrating toxic leadership and pathetic sportsmanship. And I wouldn’t blame their fans for exercising their freedom to find a different team to support that models character, sportsmanship, and courageous leadership.

For 26 years, I put on my own team’s uniform and stepped onto the field in the company of heroes. We stood at attention and saluted our flag with pride. We weren’t naive about the problems in our country, and they were many. And we didn’t always agree with our country’s policies. Why did we do this? Because our country needs leaders who will defend what’s good, leaders who unify rather than divide, leaders who model for others what is admirable. We didn’t think about how we could bring attention to ourselves. We asked how we could unify and encourage our team, and make our families proud of us. That’s what great leaders do.

I understand that these athletes believe they are creating awareness of an important problem in our country. But they are actually drawing more attention to themselves than to a cause, exactly the opposite of what a sportsman should be focused on before a game.

Awareness of the problems in our country is not what is lacking. We all know that the problem of a few bad apples in the police force is one piece of a very complex problem in our country. But the same could be said for some bad apples in the Air Force and in the NFL. The problem is a lack of personal responsibility for modeling the character we want to see in others. And taking a knee in disrespect for our country is not helping anyone. To leaders who choose disrespect as their solution, I ask: Is this really the way you want to lead the young people who look up to you? Do you really want to be remembered for your role in chipping away at the already eroding unity we’re experiencing in this country?

OK, that was a lot of challenge. Let me offer some encouragement. Great leaders wake up in the morning asking how they can help others today, how they can unify and encourage their teams and those who look up to them, and how they can model the good they want to see in others.

In contrast to passive aggressive, toxic leadership behavior, check out this news story about a Michigan high school football team who suited up their water boy who has Down Syndrome and set him up to score a touchdown during their game. (Caution: It may choke you up.)

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In my years in the military I’ve had friends who were members of elite fighting forces, like Navy Seals and Para-Rescue Jumpers. They were members of small elite groups that very few people could qualify to be a part of. They had specialized skills and an incredible level of commitment to their specialties. Very few of us could keep up with them if we had to. The demands of their job required that only the most capable could be part of their group. I’ve known really great people who tried to join them but just did not make the cut.

I’ve also known commanders of very large Air Force and Army units. Their organizations were made up of people at various levels of proficiency. They commanded organizations that were designed for almost everyone, not just for the elite. So their leadership style had to be quite different. They had to figure out the proper pace to move the organization so that everyone could keep up. The motto was often, “No man (or woman) left behind.” In my opinion, this is the greater of the two leadership challenges, and requires a more people-savvy leader.

While some organizations require leadership of extremely talented specialists, most of our organizations require us to lead a variety of everyday people and grow their skills on the job. And most leaders must learn to bring everyone along with them (with the exception of an occasional person who just needs to be let go). They learn the art of moving at a pace where teams can stay together and everyone can keep up.

Here are some advantages of an inclusive style of leadership.

First, great leaders consider how they can leverage their leadership to develop more leaders. Inclusive leaders help others reach their full potential and maximize their contribution to the organization. Besides just being a good way to treat people, it has very practical benefits.

Inclusive leadership builds engagement and loyalty to the leader and to the organization. And employee engagement and loyalty are proven to result in increased productivity and profitability. Our people want to be developed and grow in their capacity. That won’t happen if they’re left behind in our dust.

Inclusive leadership helps retain our best employees and grow our organizations’ leadership bench, giving us more options for promotions and succession planning. It also reduces the high cost of unnecessary employee turnover.

Inclusive leaders also make a greater contribution to society by producing more leaders and a more capable workforce. A stronger workforce is great for our economy, and producing better leaders is good for marriages, families, communities and our country.

Let’s improve our own capacities as leaders to set a challenging but reasonable pace for our organizations, learn to train and coach our people and increase their capacity, motivate people to excel at what they bring to the table, and celebrate and reward accomplishment of clear, reasonable goals.

For discussion:

  1. Are your people able to keep up with the demands of your organization? Are they able to maintain healthy work habits while still being held accountable to meeting organizational goals?
  1. Do you model a healthy pace for those you lead?

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It’s been fascinating, particularly lately, watching how Americans react to legislation and policies enacted on behalf of groups who want to protect their right to not be bothered, insulted, ridiculed or otherwise treated poorly.

We want the right to deny service to someone if we don’t agree with their life choices. We want the right to demand services from people even if it makes them uncomfortable. We want the right to keep someone out of a public restroom if we don’t trust them. We demand the right to share public restrooms with people even if it makes them uncomfortable. We want to deny people the right to say or write bad things about us. And we want the right to say or write anything we want about those we don’t like.

It seems to me, at the end of the day, we’re fighting for the right to be treated with kindness, dignity and respect, but only if it’s not mandated that we must do the same for others.

Just today I read an article that was going viral on social media. A gentleman was making a case that certain legislation was necessary because he and people like himself were being ridiculed for their life choices. He was absolutely right that the way he and others had been treated was horrible. What he was really wanting was kindness, and he deserves it, as we all do. The problem is no government or business can mandate kindness, short of rescinding most of our human rights.

To make the idea of a kindness mandate more absurd, many people are responding to one group or another’s unkind words and actions with hate mail and death threats. Just read the comments section at the end of most online news articles today. And even more absurd still, who are we demanding mandates for kind behavior from? Politicians! Not exactly known as beacons of dignity and respect (though I know many who are).

Friends, character cannot be mandated, but it can be taught. But it is taught by modeling it for others. In fact, the only way cultures of dignity, kindness and respect are going to be cultivated around us is if leaders model it for others.

If we expect to be treated with dignity, kindness and respect in our culture, here are some things we must NOT do:

We must not refuse to serve people just because we disagree with them. Why? Because that’s unkind.

We must not demand that people serve us if it makes them uncomfortable. Why? Because that’s unkind too.

We must not write slanderous or condescending things about people on the Internet. Why? Because that’s unkind.

We must not demand that people give in to our every whim for convenience, in the name of defending our rights. Why? Because that would be unkind.

We must not boycott or picket places that don’t share our values. Why? Because it’s unkind.

We must not respond to cruelty with cruelty, insult with insult. Guess why.

If you’re doing those things, thankfully you still have every right to. But the truth is, you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem, regardless of your religion, race, or orientation.

I’m not saying we should not stand up for our rights. I am saying we don’t need to hurt others or sacrifice character to do it. Remember, leaders create culture. So if we want to create a culture of dignity, kindness and respect, we’re first going to have to learn to turn the other cheek, repaying rudeness with kindness. There are always going to be cruel people on the Internet, in public restrooms, and in picket lines. Just don’t be one of them. Let’s be leaders who are kinder than that. Let’s stop demanding character from people who don’t have it to give. Just demonstrate character every day, and eventually we’ll find it drawn to us.

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