Month: November 2014

Legacy

It seems when people set out to leave their mark on the world, it doesn’t often happen the way they envisioned. The mark they leave could even be negative instead of positive. Too much effort to have a large impact often just leaves nothing of value.

On the other hand, when our aspirations are to impact individuals as they come into your life, there is a good chance the effect will go much further. Instead of changing the world wholesale, we can encourage, coach, build up and grow each person we contact. There are those who do so over a period of years, and those lives are better for it.

We appreciate those who seek to consistently support the development of others over the years rather than force sudden changes to add numbers to a personal agenda without the best interest of others in mind. We know the difference, and we know who they are.

Fact or Emotions?

Building trust can only come when we are able to distinguish what is real from what we want to be real. It is always difficult when we have come to a conclusion about something, then are faced with the facts which differ from what we thought was true. The initial conclusions are often based on emotion, and not critical thinking. A reliable motto from my military police and contract security experience is “The first story is often wrong.”

The question is, then what do we do? Do we adjust our thinking to align with reality or continue with our presuppositions and act on them? The only right thing to do is make the adjustment, and admit we were on the wrong track. At times this is done privately if we have not vocalized our thinking, so no one has to know. But if we have made statements based on what we thought, we must then state why we now think differently.

Being unafraid to admit mistakes will go a long way toward being trusted by others, while not being so quick to speak may eliminate the need to correct ourselves publicly. We can always justify our silence by saying we are waiting for the facts to be revealed.

Hard Conversations

There are times when we must confront a person for things they say and do that are harmful to those around them. These times are never easy, but necessary. Even if we can pretty much anticipate their reaction, it’s still not easy. This must be done carefully and with the view in mind of behavior change.

What if they don’t wish to change, or don’t even realize the issue? If the context involves an organization or a group of people who are supposed to be supportive of each other, we must be willing for the person to leave if that is their choice. This also must be considered prior to the conversation.

I admire those who are willing to do the hard thing for the good of the larger group. Not everyone is willing to confront, and are afraid of the consequences. I’m glad there are those who will do what is necessary. That’s part of leadership.

Choosing Leaders

How do we go about choosing leaders? Is it based on education? Is it based on training or background in a certain area? Is it based on whether they are a good communicator?

Some or all those may be considered. They are each valuable to a certain degree. I have known some potential leaders who seem very impatient to be promoted and given responsibility quickly, and they are not satisfied if they are not. The impatience itself tells me they are not ready for the job they want. The problem with our culture is we are not good at “biding our time”. We are too accustomed to instant everything.

I love a description used for church leaders in a book by Lynn Anderson called, “They Smell Like Sheep”. He used the phrase regarding those to be selected as leaders, that they have “walked a long time in the same direction”. This expresses the need to see a consistent character observed in many circumstances over a period of time. Once that is demonstrated, the individual is likely a good choice, provided they desire the position or role.

I recommend using that description to gauge our choices. That means we will have to take enough time to look at that direction.

Taker or Giver?

I have known a few people who seemed to take something from me whenever I was around them. One particular man made me feel I had failed something after a five minute conversation. It took me awhile to figure out what was wrong, but I finally realized I never measured up to his expectations.

Other people (fortunately more of these) give something to you at every encounter. Not that they cater to you or tell you just what you want to hear. They truly want the best for you and somehow convey this to you. They tend to make you believe you are worth something, and will do good things. Contrasted with the former people, these are the ones we want to be around most.

What about you? Do you consider yourself a giver? Perhaps if we run across any takers, we might “give” them something to think about.

Common Sense

A large part of trust comes from and is generated by “common sense”. Most people still understand what common sense is. They are the ones who lead quiet, productive lives that leave little doubt as to their character and credibility. They do the right thing because it is right thing, which needs no further explanation.

However, there is a contingent (who get way too much attention) that do not seem to know what common is, nor do they make any attempt to use it. They say and do things that are against any form of reason, and seem to prefer random and off-the-cuff reactions to reality. For example, before buying property, common sense people would look at it first. So, when a politician says, “We had to pass the bill to find out what’s in it,” it defies all logic and leaves common sense in a fog.

What do we say to those who have taken leave of common sense? How about “thank you for your service, but your services will no longer be needed?”

Bottom Line

What is the “bottom line” of a company or any type of organization? Many times it comes as quantifiable numbers such as return on investment or profits. These are indicators of success, but there is much more to success than what appears on a spreadsheet.

What about human capital? How many combined years in the organization do the employees have? Divide that by the number of workers, and you see the average years they have with you.This may indicate how loyal they are, which also indicates the atmosphere in which they work. Are they happy with their jobs, with their supervisors, with the company leadership? Sometimes attrition rates can speak to these, but also, leaders must be visible and interact with employees to find out what is really felt in the hallways, offices, and production lines.

This also builds trust. They need to know you see them as people worth talking to and worth hearing their concerns.

Productive or Satisfied

Should employees of an organization simply be productive, or is also necessary for them to be satisfied with the place they work? Some employers couldn’t care less about employee satisfaction as long as the work gets done.

However, studies show that workers who are simply productive do only that. They will seldom go out of their way to do anything “above and beyond” the minimum required to keep the job. On the other hand, workers who are satisfied with the atmosphere in the workplace will use any down time to help others or find another task that needs to be done.

Studies also show that productive doesn’t always mean satisfied, yet satisfied workers will more likely also be productive. They key is to treat employees well, while letting them know there is also a certain amount of work that needs to be done. You will then have both.

Correction: Public or Private?

I have been taught in both management courses and in military leadership classes that leaders should reward publicly, and discipline or punish privately. (I will exempt basic training from this because everything there is done before others, and it’s a unique setting.) I believe that is the best way, and have practiced it for many years now. I have also been rewarded privately, and thought it was an odd way to do things.

So, what happens when a person is disciplined or “dressed down” in a public setting? What are the effects of such an approach? First, it is embarrassing to the person on the receiving end. Even if they may deserve this, it seldom has the desired effect, which is better behavior in the future. The issue then becomes a new one: how it was handled. The person may even forget what they did or said to bring about the confrontation, but will remember the manner in which the correction came. That will become the bigger issue.

It may be true that others will be warned that they may receive the same public correction if they misbehave, but is that the atmosphere we would like to create? I have never seen any organization work well under threat or fear. Usually those working under those conditions take the first available opportunity to leave. I would much prefer people going TO something rather than AWAY from me and my lack of leadership ability.

Questions and Answers

Since the recent elections, there is talk now about why the polls weren’t more accurate. It seems to happen each time around; yet every election we seem to forget about the time before, and check almost daily to see who’s ahead, and who is predicted to win and lose.

The basic need to know is human, yet the sooner we learn one simple fact, the better off we will be: we will always have more questions than answers. Don’t misunderstand me. I believe in seeking answers to problems that need to be resolved. I believe in seeking to understand certain things. Yet, when we think we have it all figured out, and find out we don’t, why are we so off-balance? I don’t know how much money is spent on polls, but I know those companies and individuals do not conduct them for free. Someone pays for the surveys, analysis, and reporting.

Predicting human behavior is tricky at best, and will sometimes work and sometimes not. While being mindful of things that could happen, I would much rather focus mostly on what is, and less on what may be.