Those that join the military learn quickly about unit discipline. All of the toughness and craziness of basic training is designed to get soldiers to respond to certain situations that the drill instructors know they will face, and to respond in a disciplined, planned manner. In business, employees do not get that sort of training. So when the wheels start coming off the wagon, how will they respond?
Tough questions. How would your organization answer them? Any thoughts you might have?
Every company wants to put its best foot forward, be it in the public eye, or in individual sales situations. Talk is around the strengths, the unique features, all of the things that make the company great. As we know, there is a fine line between extolling existing virtues and puffery. Puffery sometimes isn’t bad. But extreme puffery moves toward bluster and that evolves into hubris. Often times, this change is so subtle that there is very little awareness of the damage.
Hubris is dangerous. Selling on hubris is detrimental in many ways. Picture a small business that lands a big sale or big account based on the CEO overselling both product and service capabilities. The great news is they got the contract- the bad news is they got the contract and have no way to deliver on it. Suppose the company drops all other work in process to service this one piece of business that can move the company into the big leagues. What does that do to existing customer relationships? What does it do to the culture of the company when everyone is forced to drop what they are doing and focus- in a very rushed, maybe frantic manner- on something they haven’t done before. They may not have the necessary experience or expertise, which means creating a solution that is not proven, or spending a huge amount of time on research to build a solution. Or it may mean that the company has to bring on more people quickly to service the account, without properly vetting them and integrating them into the culture.
Be careful of bluster. It is only a step away from the cliff. As you slip over the cliff, you may be reconsidering whether it was worth it, but by then it is too late.
As everyone knows, the economy has not been great, especially for middle market and small business. Leaders are constantly looking for ways to fix what they perceive as broken in order to get over the next hurdle. Rather than doing that, it will serve organizations much more if everyone takes a step back, pauses, and reflects on what they are doing well. Appreciating the positive, encouraging even small successes while identifying and building on strengths could reap better results than constant attempts at “fixes.”
People don’t want to be “fixed”, they would prefer to grow and develop. Displaying core values through behaviors that support them make the culture and the brand strong, The employees that exemplify those values through their behaviors are the heroes who need to be emulated and replicated. Let those who are the cultural champions lead the charge, and watch what gets “fixed” along the way.
Founders and leaders of companies may find it easy to work for the love of it. Their time spent creating an idea that becomes a company is full of passion and love. They have a strong sense of pride and investment in the organization. It is like they have given birth to something that they want to nurture, cherish and grow to become something great. What if they could pass on that same sense ownership to their employees?
Consider Bobby Jones who was the most successful amateur golfer ever to compete at a national and international level. When asked why he never went pro, he answered, ”for the love of the game.” How powerful would it be to have a full staff complement of employees want to sign up for something that gives them meaning and purpose? We can look at the individuals that join the Peace Corps or VISTA and want to capture their passion. We can stand in awe of the doctors that go to the front lines of war with Doctors Without Borders; and the lawyers fighting the death penalty for convicted felons. They have passion for what they do. They are joining established organizations because in their gut, the organization represents who they want to be.
Company leaders ideally want to hire people who can be that passionate about their work. It is not an easy task. It is easier if the leader exhibits the passion, paints the vision, sets the example and shares the values that will enable a prospective employee to get it intellectually and then feel it. As the organization grows, every person doing the hiring needs to be able to do the same thing. And it can’t be phony- it is not just for the purpose of an interview. Every company needs to live it, breathe it and reinforce it continuously. It can be done. It takes work, it takes awareness, it takes mindfulness.
People want believe in something. They want their time spent at work to be meaningful. Help them make it so. Is your passion shared by your employees? If not, are you willing to do what it takes to get them there? Are you willing to build a culture of employees who work for the love of It?
Leaders are people too. They react to triggers, they get their buttons pushed just like everyone else. But one of the competencies that a leader is supposed to have is the ability to ignore it when those buttons are pushed. They are supposed to know that bad decisions happen when they are purely emotional, based on anger or some immediate unexpected event that provokes them.
Organizations expect their leaders to be able to make smart decisions under all circumstances. Decisions need to be rational, whether they are based on a lot of data points or one view. Leaders need to always remember that their decisions are signals to their employees and to those outside the organization who may be impacted by them. That, in decision making there is a thought process at work and there is consistency with the vision and mission of the organization.
Leaders who are reactive and who shoot from the hip might like to think of themselves as “cowboys” in the heroic sense, while they be petrifying everyone around them. Leaders need to give their teams a sense of security, of predictability, and of caring- caring that the decisions will be made with their well-being in mind.
Knee jerk reactions are the antithesis of the above. They create employees who are afraid to be in front of the boss and afraid of what the boss may do when others are in front of him or her. And fear does not fit in a strong culture
If you are leader with a quick trigger, learn to count to 100, giving you time to think before you act. You will make better, more consistent decisions and you will get better results all around. What are your thoughts?