Tag: Business Integrity
The weather is finally beginning to cooperate. It is actually looking a lot like summer. That means golf, tennis, or escape to the shore or the mountains for long weekends. It may even mean taking an extended two or three week vacation. Sounds like great fun. The willingness to take time from work to avail oneself of the great weather varies from leader to leader, owner to owner. The two biggest factors are the mindset of the leader and the perceived mindset of those reporting to the leader.
Some leaders take full advantage of their time off, without giving a thought to how others may perceive it. They are confident in their power and authority and do not care how others react. They have achieved a certain level in their career, and with that achievement comes the “right” to take time when they want it. They expect others to carry on in their absence
Others feel the same way about having the right and freedom to take time, but still give thought to the impact on others. They have a higher degree of emotional intelligence and understand what others may be feeling. They understand that it is natural for workers to be jealous of the greater freedom that leaders have, and to perhaps let down in their efforts when the leader is not around. They understand that this does not make the workers bad people or bad employees- it makes them normal. So preparations must be made. People must be given notice so they can plan accordingly. A boss going away should not spring it on the troops the day before he goes. There should be planning, meetings, accountabilities should be set, and the desired level of communication should be created. The leaders who prepare the troops, look at situations through multiple lenses, not just their own and are much more 720thinkers.
If a leader is planning on playing golf every Thursday during the summer, rather than hiding it from his team, he should make it clear that this is his plan. That way the team can plan around that schedule. And the boss can avoid multiple cell phone calls on Thursdays. And of course, the boss must be “present” when he is present. He needs to be engaged. He needs to perform. He needs to hold folks accountable. If he is perceived as being a good boss doing a good job, the workers will not resent his absence when he plays golf. The more he shirks his responsibilities, the more Thursday golf is just part of a feeling of negativity workers may develop.
It comes down to the psyche of the leader vs. the psyche of those being led. If there is mutual trust, there should be no problem with the leader taking time away from the business to enjoy herself. Unfortunately, mutual trust is only one of four possible scenarios.
Take a simple cube divided into four boxes. The vertical side is “Reason to worry” (another way of talking about the employee attitude), with the top boxes being “high” and the bottom boxes being “low.” The more the employees resent the boss taking time, the higher the reason to worry. The horizontal side is “Amount of worry” (the leader’s attitude), with the left side being “low” and the right side being “high.” Obviously, the higher the “reason to worry”, the more work the boss needs to do on the company culture and the employee engagement. Also, the boss may need to increase his “amount of worry” to gain an understanding of why employees feel the way they do.
If a boss or leader wants to enjoy a guilt free summer knowing work will be done and done well in her absence, she needs to develop a high level of mutual trust in the organization. This can be hard work that takes place year round, not just before golf season. Company culture is key to success and trust is key to culture. If workers know a leader is holding up her end and being accountable to them, they should have no problem with her taking time off. If workers feel a leader is bailing on them without regard to their needs or the needs of the company, there will be no trust, no engagement and no longevity. Enjoy the summer after building up to it in a successful manner.
Virtually everything on earth can be improved upon. We all wish we had better weather, better government, better schools, a better economy, and in many cases a better life in general. Business owners that are honest with themselves also wish for things to be better. They certainly wish for better market conditions, better sales, better employees, better customers. But wishing for things to be better is different than believing that conditions need to be fixed.
For something to need to be fixed seems to assume that something is broken. In the “old days”, we were in much more of a “fix it” mindset. Appliance repairmen used to fix toasters, mixers, radios and televisions. It was very more economical to get something fixed than to throw it away and buy a new one. The idea of “fix it” was much more central to our collective mindset. Not any longer. Those repairmen no longer exist. More items are considered expendables. We buy a new one rather than fix an old one. “Fix it” is no longer such a big part of who we are.
There are few in business who view their businesses as needing fixing in any way. Maybe this is because they don’t want to believe their organizations are broken. They are fine- they just need a tweak here and a tweak there. Tweaks are okay- they are not major and we can get to them when we get to them – or not. This is the alternative universe business leaders create to avoid having to do the hard work of fixing. A tweak is minor but a fix is major. And if I need a fix, I have to admit something is broken, and I don’t want to do that.
Few leaders are perfect in every situation- very few. Few have the skills, competencies or even patience to do everything well. Yet they are unwilling to move from tweak to fix. At one time or another everyone needs a fix.
If a sales manager is not up to the job- is not motivating the sales force, holding them accountable, pushing them to achieve success with the best customers or clients- is it a tweak or a fix? What would meeting expectations mean to the company? To the owner? If production managers are not pushing to get the best work out of their workers, is changing things around to get their best a tweak or a fix? If the whole company seems slightly disengaged is getting those folks to a higher level of engagement a tweak or a fix?
Any business, even a small one, is more complicated than it appears. All have processes and procedures, internal relationships that get things done, the passing and sharing of information, collaboration, strategy and tactics that lead to sustainability. It is unrealistic for any business owner to just assume that everything is humming along smoothly. There is a great opening scene in David Lynch’s movie Blue Velvet. The camera pans around a beautiful green backyard, showing what looks like a sunny summer day, a scene of tranquility and happiness. Then the camera begins to focus more tightly on the grass, individual blades of grass, then the dirt, bugs and worms crawling around those blades. The scene goes from one of calm perfection to one of turmoil and dark things beneath the surface. A different lens and a different angle give a totally different view of things.
Many things need fixing. A tweak will not do. A tweak may not even address the true underlying problem. Leaders need to address situations with the intent to fix. A team that is not functioning the way it should is hurting the company. The fix may be changing the team members, re-thinking the goals for the team, or dumping a strategy and building a new one. A process that is inefficient and has obvious gaps, holes or obstacles needs to be overhauled. If not enough new ideas are being generated in accompany a big fix may be required in the company culture.
Admitting the need for a fix is not and should not be embarrassing. It can be a major positive turning point. It can move a business off of a mediocrity track and onto an excellence track. And it can move a leader up a notch on the road to achieving leadership strength.
Everyone needs a fix at some time. Leaders need to take that need seriously. There is more below the surface than can be seen through a single lens. Leaders need to dig around, go below the surface and see what is really going on. When that is done and it is discovered that what appeared to require a tweak needs more than that, don’t stop. Think aggressive treatment or surgery not band aid. It will be worth it, and the results will prove it.
The traits that great leaders exhibit is a very popular topic. Many point to historical figures such as Joan of Arc, Lincoln, Churchill, Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela and pick out the outstanding qualities that make them paradigms. Their unforgettable words and their powerful actions moved nations and led to substantial and significant change.
Most business leaders are not paradigms of leadership in such a grand sense. To be successful, they need to be strong, consistent day to day leaders. They need to think of leadership in terms of the repetitive steps that become habitual, that create attitudes and behaviors that are woven into the fabric of an organization. Business leaders may have very different functional duties, but they all have key roles they need to fill. Below are Six Roles of a Corporate Leader.
An organization’s culture can be the result of design or neglect. Any decent leader wants it to be by design. That doesn’t just happen. Once the desired culture is achieved through hard work, it doesn’t just stay that way. So, the leader has to be the Culture King, promoting it, supporting it, holding people accountable to it and weeding out those who refuse to comply. The Culture King never loses sight of the importance of the desired values and behaviors and is vigilant in protecting them. She needs to reward the desired behaviors and correct those that are not desired. She needs to be the model for the values and she needs to be a dictator to make sure they are observed. The Culture King does indeed know that culture is king.
The leader must recognize that brand is the flip side of culture. Culture is the internal reflection of the brand and brand is the external reflection of the culture. Obviously, they must be aligned. Brand speaks of niche, ideal customer, quality, service and price. But it also tells the public about the company and what is important to it. And brand is reflected in the actions and attitudes of every employee as they interface with customers, vendors and the public. How employees and even ex-employees talk about the company is a reflection of the brand. How the company hires and how the company fires are part of the brand. The leader must be the Brand Champion, zealously polishing the public image by supporting the culture and touting its strengths to all who will listen. That also means zealously presenting the products and services to the marketplace in the way most consistent with that brand. If the brand speaks to caring for customer needs, the Brand Champion better make darn sure that happens.
Every leader needs to continuously monitor the work environments- both physical and mental- to make sure employees have the space they need to perform well. On the physical side, leaders must make sure that workers have the tools they need. These tools may include sufficient workspace, access to daylight or fresh air, spaces where employees can get away from co-workers to get refreshed or to think clearly. It doesn’t mean spacious individual offices. It means respecting human needs.
On the mental side, leaders need to clear space in the culture to allow room for innovation, collaboration, teamwork and transformation. People need to be allowed to grow and to develop. Stretching one’s wings means making mistakes and there has to be a safe way for employees to do that. The leader as Space Creator has a hugely important role in assuring that every employee has the space to expand capabilities. There are those that think of what they do as a job and those that think of what they do as a career. Those in the latter category desire a career path with a chance to move up. An employer should want those folks to succeed. The Space Creator needs to be in close contact with the Culture King to make sure that the culture supports the employee needs for space.
Every employee loves praise. Every employee needs motivation. Every team needs to be lifted up at one time or another. Praise and motivation improve performance. The Cheerleader must be present to keep the employees up, excited and focused. Remember the cheerleaders at high school basketball games- cheering every accomplishment- cheering when the team was ahead, cheering harder when the time was behind? Leadership should fill that role in every company. While the cheerleader role can be delegated, it means more to the employees when it is filled by leadership. The Cheerleader needs to be there when deadlines have to be met, when obstacles have to be overcome, when victories need to be celebrated and when goals need to be achieved.
I credit my friend Richard Binswanger with this great mashup of a word. It speaks to being a proponent of innovation and to sabotaging complacency and ordinariness. It requires pushing innovation at every opportunity, encouraging others to think differently and view life through different lenses. It is not promoting anarchy but rather a certain messiness that results from putting things together in a different way, adding some pieces, subtracting others. The Innovacoteur is not a perfectionist, but one that respects the need for positive change and is not afraid of it. He is mindful of tradition but not bound by it. Sacred cows carry no weight.
The Innovacoteur is not concerned with coloring within the lines. He instead asks, “Why those lines?” “Why those colors?” He challenges employees to find better, smarter ways to work. The Innovacoteur hates stagnation, hates the thought of being a follower rather than a leader. He pushes the company forward, or in some cases drags it. Leaders that choose to ignore this role find themselves looking at the pack as it passes them by.
Leaders need to keep track of milestones. Leaders must remember moments and days of significance. The Archivist must be the keeper of the stories that create cultural heroes and must make sure they are told and re-told so that everyone coming into the organization understands what the culture values and treasures. Long after heroes retire, their stories need to be passed on with pride. These stories should illustrate pursuit of the vision or behaviors supporting core values. The Archivist nurtures the story lines that connect the past and the present to the future. She has to watch her step, because if she leans too heavily on tradition, she will be in conflict with the Innovacoteur who is a bit leery of it.
The Archivist is the font of institutional know-how, recognizing the importance of knowledge management. She recognizes the significance of patterns that are being repeated or circumstances that are out of the ordinary.
All six of the above roles represent a piece of what a leader needs to be to guide an organization successfully into the future. They may not be found in a description of Lincoln, Reagan or Margaret Thatcher. But in the business world they are critically important. Every business leader needs to consider whether they are filling these roles, and if so, how seriously they are taking them. Then they should imagine what a renewed effort to fill them might mean to their organizations. A stronger, more value-centric culture aligned with a focused brand can directly lead to higher profits. A workforce allowed to utilize its strengths and brains, surrounded by motivation and positive energy, leads to better outcomes. And an organization knowing where it came from but not chained to its past, can do great things in the future. The Culture King, Brand Champion, Space Creator, Cheerleader, Innovacoteur and Archivist are all important roles. Leaders need them as part of their repertoire to help their companies achieve sustainability through continuous positive transformation.
When we think about the word “fit” with regard to business, it could be used in several ways. The simplest could refer to actual dimension – fitting physical resources into a given space. The more complex definitions address whether a given business fits into its marketing or brand niche or even in the community in which it resides. These and other measures in between are all important ways “fit” is critical in the business. A previous blog post discussed the need for employees to fit in their roles within a company. This is crucial to productivity and team effectiveness. And employees must align with the company as a whole on vision, values, behaviors, attitude and ethics for the relationship to work.
Typical entrepreneurs starting a business and then gaining traction are not overly concerned with whether each customer or client they are working hard to acquire actually fits the narrow profile of “ideal customer.” The idea is to grab customers whenever and however possible and not look too closely at each one at the time. Twenty first century companies are capturing as much data as they can about each customer, which they will, at some point, examine to discover macro-trends. They may use that data over time to hone their marketing pitches but they are not normally using it to decide whether they should or should not do business with a given customer.
An online retailer may not have any way of knowing if a first time shopper is a good fit. But what about the return shopper who has a track record of buying and returning multiple items and never keeping anything? Or the one who returns items after wearing them saying they don’t fit or are poor quality? Or the one that always takes advantage of the lifetime guarantee?
A service business should know after a single engagement whether a client is one they want to do business with again. A client changing his mind all of the time, or asking for “do overs” can be costly and frustrating.
An established business may choose to jettison clients that don’t fit because they recognize that they are literally not worth their time. Younger, hungry businesses may not be able to look through that lens. Their definition of “fit” may need to mature based on experience.
What about vendors? Does a business need to find a fit with its vendors? To answer that, one has to consider what “fit” looks like. The best vendors meet the company’s needs – timely delivery of goods and services, good quality work, fair payment terms, flexibility when needed. Some even find ways to partner with their customers in win-win programs, some may finance inventory during holiday or other seasons and some may offer support via sales and marketing dollars or resources.
In a start-up or early business stage, a business owner may be willing to use any vendor that provides credit or decent payment terms. This may not be enough to sustain a relationship as a business becomes more successful. If a vendor, even a valued one, is discovered to have very different values or ethics it can cause a problem. Having biased views or treating employees poorly can be another reason to end a relationship. If there is not a values fit, there is at the very least dissonance in the relationship. Business practices, even legitimate ones, can sometimes be difficult to accept. Sudden changes in payment terms or delivery times or supply chain logistics can turn a vendor relationship sour. A business owner needs to define what a good vendor is and then be willing to eliminate those that do not fit the definition.
A company needs to fit into its community. A strip club in a residential neighborhood will not cut it. Nor will a junkyard in the wrong location. Business owners need to be aware of where they can fit in as good corporate citizens and fill a positive role in the community. Fit in this arena is usually based on the use of the property, the community’s regard for the activities of the business and how noticeable those activities are, the amount of tax revenue a business may bring to the locality, the number of jobs the business provides and perhaps most importantly, the image of the business and how that impacts the adjoining residents and businesses. If the activities of a business bring down the value of surrounding real estate, there is not a fit. If the activities of a business subject nearby residents to any safety or health concerns, there is not a fit.
If the community grows up around a business and its composition changes, a given business may no longer fit. The leaders have to recognize that and consider the newer needs of that community.
So, in answer to the question asked in the title of this post, “fit” can be relative. A business may find a fit when common sense is buried or desperation is close to the surface. Humans can convince themselves of anything. Look at the number of football teams that will take a chance on a player that blew up his two previous teams. Somehow, they believe they can make him fit in with them. If owners pause long enough to catalogue what is important to them in their relationships and then weigh every candidate against that list, they can have a relatively clear picture of whether the relationship will work. If they choose to ignore the list for other reasons, it may work for a while, but not long-term.
Fit is important. Ignore it at your risk. If you stretch your values and beliefs to create a fit, it will often come back to bite you. If a business owner is in a mindset of abundance rather than one of scarcity, there will always be more customers, vendors, potential employees and even places to house the business. Find a fit.
One of the biggest mistakes made today in business is that leaders and followers are all to anxious to copy and not complement. The best compliment (yes, this is spelled with an “i” and defined as praise or tribute to) we can offer to our company is perform in a manner that serves to complement (spelled this time with an “e” and defined as match, balance, pair).
If we think we are complimenting the interviewer, boss or the board by copying mannerisms, ideas, actions, we are doing the business and leadership a serious disservice. The sad part is the interviewer, boss or board may believe that being copied is a tribute. It usually is, to one’s ego.
So, what happens when the person in authority chooses to use their authority to wield power and hire those best at copying them, their ideologies and behaviors?
Here’s how copying “compliments” the organization:
What if the person in authority, appreciates their power and wants individuals show up as a complement to organization; to serve in roles that best fits their skills and talents and best serves the mission and objectives of the organization?
Here’s how complementing can “compliment” the organization…
There are many drawbacks to copying others. People hide their talent and their potential to be hired or to fit in, believing that it is better to mimic someone else, rather than be true to their own talents. This certainly not a compliment to anyone and certainly not to the organization.
For organizations and individuals to be successful, it is imperative that we use our competencies and abilities to complement the organization. To bring value upon hire and to continually add value which leads to sustainable growth and true partnering and engagement.
The benefits of using our role to complement the situation greatest compliment we can pay to our organizations. Complement, don’t copy!