Category Archives: Communication

Who is Accountable?

There has been a lot of talk about “Accountability” in society and in organizations for the past twenty years. In my clients’ companies, leaders and staff often lament over the lack of accountability in their organizations.

So, it seems that something is amiss. But what is it?

I’ve never encountered a vexing problem that was rooted in a single cause, so I won’t pretend to have a simple explanation. I am confidant however that I have eyes to see that many people are operating under a gross misunderstanding of “accountability.”  People talk of “holding others accountable,” but no one, except for God, can hold a person accountable. Rather, people voluntarily submit to accountability. That begs the question:

Who would voluntarily submit to you and under what circumstances?

Hidden within most conversations about accountability is the question of “who has the power to “hold a person accountable?” Most people look to the formal authorities as the keeper of accountability, but relying on the “authorities” is a sign of failure in the community and especially so in the workplace.

High performing teams are flooded with communication about their team and individual performance. Great teams seek feedback from their customers and stakeholders. But that is not all; they are busy giving each other feedback.  Team members hold each other accountable to standards they have all committed to.  People on these teams submit to accountability based on a trusty foundation built from:

  • Credibility: The person giving feedback is a position to speak knowledgeably.
  • Commitment to a common goal:  A strong desire to accomplish the very same thing.
  • Interdependence: The clear belief that they need each other to reach their goal.
  • Love: People submit to accountability when they see that the other person both knows them and cares for them.

Lack in any of these areas makes submitting to others risky.

Perhaps this explains the dearth of accountability that we experience. We don’t need formal authority to “enforce authority.” Instead, we need to clarify our common goals and pursue loving relationship with our neighbors and teammates. Under those conditions, the people around us will certainly be credible witnesses to our triumphs, our failures, and everything between.

Rather than lamenting about the absence of accountability, would should instead build relationships that invite it.

Five Presents From a Leader

It’s often said that leaders are givers – not takers.  Though most of us would reflexively endorse the sentiment, we should ask, “Just what do leaders give?”  The short answer is that they give a lot, and that is pretty much what makes them leaders.  To effectively lead in organizational contexts though, leaders must give five specific presents: Purpose, Position, Pictures, Place, and Pathways.

In this post, I introduce the Five Presents from a Leader, and the in the next five I will explain each one and provide practical tips and tools for how you can give them.

Purpose

A sense of meaning, value, and direction in life is as important as air, food, and water. Work is drudgery when a person thinks their job is to complete a form versus securing another person’s ability to get a great education or ensuring that a family has a worry-free adventure.

Inspiring leaders engage people in meaningful causes, continually communicate the purpose of work, and focus people on why they labor rather than how they labor. That keeps them motivated, hopeful, and engaged.  

Why does your company or team exist?

Position

People follow leaders and their cause.  Leaders who clearly proclaim who they are and what they stand for inspire, create bonds, teach, earn trust and plant the seeds for team culture.  Leaders who lack conviction, hide their beliefs, or remain vague and non-committal don’t gather followers. They may, however, gather a few “compliers,” who do what they are told, but are not motivated and don’t take initiative to either solve problems or make improvements.

When was the last time you declared what you stand for?

Pictures

People simply can’t create what they can’t see, so leaders must paint pictures. Like artists in the park who gather an audience, leaders who captivate followers paint vivid pictures of: their ideal future for the company (vision), what constitutes success (performance), how to be successful (strategies), and their followers’ future (potential).  Concrete, detailed pictures draw people in, stirs-up their imagination, and propels them forward.

Can you give a high-definition description of what success looks like?

Place

Every person on a team needs an important job and a unique, valuable contribution to make. Their job is what they do, and their contribution is the valuable gift they give the team by virtue of who they are. Shrewd leaders of teams articulate each person’s place to the individual and to the team so everyone understands each other’s roles and value.

Can every person on your team articulate their special place— their particular role and value?

Pathways

The shortest distance between two points isn’t always a straight line; sometimes it’s the easiest way, and sometimes it’s the way you know.  People are prone to taking the easiest route.  Often that route is the way they already know because it requires the least mental, physical, and emotional energy.  Wise leaders make it obvious and easy for their followers to do what is needed.  They expend effort upfront to ensure that the pathway is well marked and easy to use so their followers are capable and motivated to perform with excellence.

How have you made pathways to success easy to see and follow?

If you are a leader of any sort, there is no doubt that you are already giving.  You are to be commended.  Now, take stock of how consistently you give these Five Leader Presents to the people in your circle of influence.  In the coming posts, I will offer some advice and tools that you can use to elevate your giving.

New Presentation Skills Program for Leaders

There is no ceiling on the communication skills leaders need. No matter how good you are, better is always better. No matter what your position, more skills for communicating in various situations will make you a better leader. Still some communication skills become critical at different levels of leadership responsibility.

Regrettably, most people enter management with little formal education in the communication disciplines, and fewer still find time in their busy schedules fill those gaps in their training. This is one the reason why “communication problems” is identified as one of the root causes of virtually every assessment of organizational dysfunction.

Because Credo is committed to helping its clients build healthy and production teams, we offer several workshops that help leaders strengthen their communication and the organization. Each of these programs is designed to maximize three things:

  1. The Leader’s Time
    We use online and distance tools as well as classroom learning methods to maximize learning and your investment in training.
  2. Practical Experience
    Experience, combined with feedback, is the best teacher. Our programs include learning assignments that begin before the in-person workshops and continue afterwards as well. This allows participants to practice communication skills in real-life scenario during workshops, and to ensure that participants are focused on improving their skills before and afterwards.
  3. Feedback
    Participants give and get feedback from each other as well as our coach-facilitators during skill building exercises.

Present, Persuade, Perform: Presentation Skills for Leaders

Check out our new program for leaders: Present, Persuade, Perform: Presentation Skills for Leaders.

On Appreciation and Engagement

I have an enviable job; I get to help leaders figure out how to create productive, prosperous workplaces. Yesterday, Amanda Gianotti of Allogram Inc., and I spoke with the Women in Business at the Hunt Valley Business Forum. Our topic was Cultivating the Heart of Appreciation.

It is such a rich topic that we didn’t have time to answer all of our audience’s questions, so I’d like to provide forum for questions and commentary on the topic.

Here are a few of the questions that came-up during and after our presentation. Please let us know what is on your mind.

Q.  If I work with someone who isn’t a great performer, should I still show them appreciation?

A. Yes. Appreciating and rewarding people are not necessarily the same thing, though they can be. Appreciation is about valuing people for who they are and how they were made. Rewards are for motivating.

Everyone is “deficient” in some way(s). It is easy for us to allow our frustration with others to blind us to their value. People who show sincere appreciation for others are able to exercise influence and leadership. Those who don’t have a much harder go of it.

Q. You said that everyone has a language of appreciation; how do I know someone’s language?

A. That’s the million dollar question!  We generally find that people have a primary language and often a secondary language that speaks to them most clearly. A person tends to give what they want. A person who frequently encourages others is likely to have “Words of Affirmation” as their language. If you notice that a person frequently asks how they can help or readily jumps in to serve, he or she likely to understand “Acts of Service,” and that is the language you should speak to them.

What are your questions?

If I Can’t Be Divergent, I’ll be Candor

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Last weekend I went to see Divergent, a movie based on a trilogy written by Veronica Roth.  Most of us read the series and were eager to be disappointed because, well, the movie is never as good as the book.

Our seats hadn’t yet warmed when the conversation began.

Jennifer: Which faction would you be?

Me: Who me, why I’d be Divergent of course.

Gail: No, you can’t be Divergent. You have to belong to one of the factions.

Me: Then I would be Candor.

All: Ahhhh yeah, of course. What else?!

I am candid person; I know that healthy and productive relationships depend upon it. And right now, I am feeling the love.  A few days ago I reunited with a client over lunch. When the conversation turned to my ponderings about my brand, she gave me some welcome and flattering feedback.

What stands out to me is how well you ‘speak truth to power.’ You have the ability to speak the truth in a way that people can hear it. Not everybody can do that, and I really admire you for that.

It was music to my ears and warm fuzzies for my heart, but just how valuable is this kind of Candor? According to Ed Catmull, President of Pixar, it’s brought in about 10.3 billion in the box office from its fourteen films – from Toy Story to the current smash hit Frozen. In an interview with Fast Company, Catmull previews his book Creativity Inc. and attributes much of Pixar’s success to the candor practiced by their “Brain Trust” in quarterly meetings.

A hallmark of a healthy creative culture is that its people feel free to share ideas, opinions, and criticisms. Our decision-making is better when we draw on the collective knowledge and unvarnished opinions of the group. Candor is the key to collaborating effectively. Lack of candor leads to dysfunctional environments.

Dysfunction has its costs: it cuts off communication, impairs decision-making, stifles creativity, kills productivity, and annoys customers. Let me say that again: it really annoys customers.

That’s why I press my clients to say what needs to be said – in healthy, productive ways.

So, I am proud to be from Candor. How about you? What is your faction and are you proud of it?

FACTIONS[1]

p.s.
I still truly believe I am Divergent.  I wouldn’t be Candor if I didn’t tell you that.

 

 

 

 

Three Things Managers Say… but leaders don’t

I believe what people say. More than that, I believe the attitudes they express knowingly or unknowingly. When I enter an organization, I pay close attention to what managers say, and I have learned some of the telltale messages of managers who aren’t leading anyone anywhere. Among the worst messages are those that shutdown communication. When communication is blocked, trust erodes and decisions go uninformed. After that, little else matters.

Some of the worst messages I hear are:

I don’t have time for this…
Wow, what a statement! It doesn’t much matter what comes after this because the thought begins in a pool of arrogance and ends in the denigration of another person. But, what usually follows is the dismissal of thoughtful a) consideration of person-centered concerns or b) exploration of the deeper issues involved in a decision. So what the person is actually saying is: I don’t have the patience to even consider this mamby, pamby drivel you consider important. I know what’s what, and you don’t.

MonkeysI am the only one who…
Lonely victims don’t have followers. Managers who think they are only ones who work hard, get it, or care, might want to remove their hands from their faces. It’s easy to cast ourselves as martyrs when we don’t spend time connecting with the people around us. When we spend time with them, however, we often learn that they are with us in spirit, but that they express their passions differently than us.

Why don’t you just do what I tell you to do?
     …It would make my life easier.
    …Then I wouldn’t have to take so much time explaining things to you.
If you want an easy life or to be freed of the burden of explaining things, then don’t take the responsibility of leadership. Step down and let someone else lead. Leaders edify others and make their lives easier, not the other way around. If we want people to follow us, then we have to help them understand things the way we do or to build a new shared understanding together. In other words, we have to meet them where they are and do the hard work of building a shared reality.

Let’s face it, a lot of us have thoughts like this from time to time. That makes us normal people. If we want to engage hearts, shape minds, and move people to action in service of our goals however, we need to guard our hearts from arrogance. High-headed, self-important people often find themselves perplexed when they are ignored, resisted, and undermined. If you find yourself in in that state, then maybe, just maybe, you have these thoughts too frequently.

What do you want to do about it?