Author Archives: Michael Boyes

I’m Losing Money, Now What?

For most of us, revenue is in the tank and we don’t know what is coming.  So, we are certain that our economic situation is bleak and uncertain about everything else. That is leaving a lot of people dancing awkwardly on the verge of panic.

Does that sound about right to you?

It does is if your business mission is to make money. If that is your school of thought, then you can stop reading now.

It Sounds All Wrong To Me

If your mission is to serve, to deliver an experience, to provide some benefit, then there is so much more for you.

Get Perspective

At some point in the not too distant future, the COVID-19 crisis will pass. Two world wars had their grips on the country, depressions and recessions brought us down, and social revolutions have turned us upside down. They passed. business, community, families, and friendships have endured.

Focus On Your Mission  

There is a reason we call it MISSION

Now is not the time to focus on money; it is time to focus on your mission. If your mission is to serve, then serve. If your mission is to advise, then advise. If your mission is to keep people productive (that’s you IT people), then keep people productive. And do it for as long as you possibly and responsibly can. That is why your business exists.  

Your Mission is your Future

Your mission is your purpose. It’s your reason for being. If you really believe in your mission, then you have to pursue it. Persevere.

Mission Motivates

Continue to remind yourself and your employees of your purpose. It will renew your sense of meaningfulness and give you the energy to face your challenges. Few, if any, things motivate better than a sense of purpose.

Mission Drives Innovation

Once you grab hold of your mission, you can innovate new ways of moving forward.  Let the challenges of today stimulate your creativity and problem-solving skills.  Your delivery channels, revenue models, and work methods are just the way you have pursued your mission in the past.  Imagine other ways; experiment; take risks. That is how you will learn forward.

Mission Focus Builds Loyalty

When this is all over, your customers and your employees will remember what you did for them. They will understand that you are “in-it” for a greater purpose and bond with you because of it.

My mission is to help leaders build healthy, productive workplaces.  To renew people, purpose, and productivity in the world of work.  And that is what I intend to do.

Call us if you need some help. It’s our mission to help you, and we are darn good at it.

(443) 275-8570

Leadership Present: Purpose

Without meaningful work, we sense significant loss and emptiness. People who are cut off from work because of physical, or other reasons, quickly discover how much they need work to thrive emotionally, physically, and spiritually.
~ Timothy Keller

I’ve met a lot of people who insist that they only work because they HAVE to earn a living, but that’s not true. People work because they need to work. We are meant to work. It gives us purpose. It gives us meaning in life. 

In the final years of his life, my father lamented that he was “useless.” He wanted to be productive— to be of help to other people— and it depressed him that he wasn’t. My father was not alone. A lot of people suffer through jobs that seem meaningless. Likewise, their managers suffer through dejected employees. People without purpose make miserable employees: they are directionless, unmotivated, unsatisfied, and distracted by anything that is not job-related. Responsibility for this tragedy falls at the feet of managers.

Managers organize and assign work, while leaders give people purpose and unleash human potential. With purpose, people:

  • work intelligently to solve tough problems rather than return them to their manager.
  • believe they are doing what they are meant to do, are satisfied, and experience a sense of integrity.
  • understand the importance of their work, dedicate themselves to it, become absorbed in it, and energetically attack it.

In other words, people who experience meaning in their work are more engaged in it. Consequently, the company enjoys higher productivity, quality, customer service, customer loyalty, and profitability. While those coveted outcomes go up, the unwanted outcomes go down. Absenteeism, lateness, turnover, and employee grievances all dwindle when employees experience purposefulness.

As “purposeful work” promotes everything employers and employees want, it’s leaders’ duty to ensure that jobs are meaningful and that employees grasp the meaningfulness of their work.

Here are seven ways for leaders to do that:

  1. Communicate the purpose of every role in the job description, and hire people who want to fulfill that mission. Focusing job descriptions on responsibilities and tasks only makes jobs and people small. It promotes myopia and invites people to behave like automatons. Instead, focus on the “why” and hire people who are inspired by the “why” rather than people who can do the “what” and “how.”
  • Gladly explain “why.”  People need to understand the purpose of work in order to be motivated to do it and to make good judgments about how to do it. Especially when delegating non-routine work, explain the “why.” When communicating decisions, communicate the rationale you used.
  • Show people how their work supports the mission of the team and of the company.  But don’t just do it once; do it continuously. GE turned this practice into a commercial and scored bonus points with employees and customers when they gave manufacturing employees tours of the completed planes they helped to build.
  • Show them how their work helps people. Some people are more motivated to be helpful than others, but virtually everyone finds work more meaningful and motivating when they know it is helping others.
  • Personally, connect “back-office” employees with internal and external customers to help them understand how their work is used and the importance of specification and standards.
  • Refer to your mission, vision, and values for guidance when solving problems and making decisions (in teams and individually).
  • Ensure that people are in jobs that match their values and where they get to “do what they do best.”

Purposeful Work is one just of five presents that leaders give to their followers, but in my estimation, it is the most important.  Managers are wise to remember that every person was created to live an abundant, purposeful life full of love, wonder, curiosity, and work.  Managers who connect and weave together purpose, love, and learning with work earn tremendous influence with people. They earn the title of “leader.”

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 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 are 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.

How Adam Got Engaged

Few companies have found the holy grail of management: High Employee Engagement. In the average company, about 32 percent of employees are actively engaged in their work, and about 20 percent actively disrupt operations. But for those who figure it out, the rewards are unmistakable. Companies who score Continue reading

The Google Boogle: Diversity without Difference

Google is back in the headlines for botching its diversity initiatives. I expect that they will be there for a long time. That’s because their thinking is all “boogled” up.

In August, James Damore’s screed on Google’s botched diversity efforts went viral. Soon thereafter, he was fired for violating an unspecified company policy. Seeking to clarify their action, Google said that Damore was “spreading false assumptions about genders.”

Now Mr. Damore is suing Google for discriminating against people who are “perceived to have conservative political beliefs.” At the same time, Google is facing two lawsuits for paying women less than men. It seems that the US Department of Labor found evidence of an “extreme” gender pay gap. How ironic!

Diversity is a sensitive and complicated issue. So it’s not surprising to learn that Google “presumably” pays women less while aggressively enforcing norms against politically incorrect speech. It seems to me, however, that Google’s woes are due as much to “boogled” thinking as to the complexity of the issue.

James Damore points out a number of well-documented differences between men and women in areas such as openness to feelings, neuroticism, and math scores. Despite the body of research supporting Damore’s observations, Google labeled Damore’s observations: “false assumptions.” Meanwhile, Google has affirmative action goals for women, but pays them less when they get there. So, Google denies differences between men and women, promotes women as “diverse,” and pays them less. Perhaps this is as crazy as it sounds-or maybe Google is just interested in anatomical diversity.

Instead of dealing with the plain truth, Google exercises convoluted thinking that can only lead to failure. How can they reconcile policies that give favor to women on the basis of their differences while denying that they are different than men? We can neither honor people nor capitalize on our diversity by acting like we are all the same. James Damore is right. Google is oblivious to their biases. Their irrational attachment to liberal orthodoxy is bound to frustrate them from attaining an otherwise noble pursuit. They are all “boogled”-up.

It’s a shame. Mr. Damore handed Google a chance to practice what it preaches. He gave them an opportunity to demonstrate openness to different ways of thinking and to learn from people who disagree with them. By firing him rather than engaging him, Google made Damore an outcast and invited their people to label him ignorant, backwards, and sexist.

They didn’t just miss an opportunity, they contradicted an espoused value and failed to address the real flaws in Damore’s arguments.

Because of their greater warmth, openness to feelings, and concern for relationships, women make highly desirable Google team members. Programming and engineering are stereotypically introverted activities, but they are also creative endeavors. Since creativity thrives in collaborative teams, women can be strong candidates for leading greater creativity and innovation in Google. While it is true that there once was a large gap in math test scores between the sexes, women have all but closed that gap. At the end of things, Mr. Damore had his facts right, but his analysis was flawed as was his judgment. That is the picture Google should have seen, but they didn’t. Instead, they saw a sexist who threatened their diversity canon.

Google is a diversity mess; it’s a ball of contradictions protected by liberal dogma. They would do well to break from the pack and face reality. If not with the pack, where should they be?

Diversity matters when and because people are different. Men and women think and behave differently due to variances in their genetic code and their life experiences. So, awareness of the systematic differences among people in personality, abilities, perspectives, culture, assumptions, communication styles, etc. is fundamental to any diversity initiative. It is also necessary to equip people with effective communication and relational skills so they can build real relationships and address differences person to person. Forums and procedures for relational reconciliation without the threat of punishment are also important. People behave defensively when they fear punitive action, so why not create reconciliation offices rather than grievance offices?

Each of these things: acceptance of truth, knowledge of differences, interpersonal savvy, and a concern for reconciliation are vital to realizing the hopeful vision of a diverse workforce. Still, they are not enough. Without love for your teammates, it all fails. No knowledge or skill imbues compassion, let alone the desire to honor others. Only love does that, and that is the truth.

I’d like to see how Google handles that!