During my service as a county commissioner, I was confronted with decisions that demanded ethical scrutiny. If you serve in any capacity of local government, elected, appointed, hired, or volunteer, you surely face similar decisions. As a trainer at Strategic Government Resources, I developed the following template entitled “The HEART Ethical Decision Making Process” to help public servants navigate those decisions.
When processing a decision, ask the following questions:
Is the decision Honest?
• Is my decision legal and ethical?
• Do I have to “cover my tracks” in any way?
• Do I feel the need to “sugar coat” my answers?
• Does my decision treat all parties affected by the decision equally?
Is the decision Ethically aligned with my organization’s Code of Ethics?
• Am I able to make this decision without compromising my organization’s code of ethics?
• Do I have to “stretch the truth” in order to make it work?
• Can I direct someone to policy or precedent that reinforces my decision?
Is the decision Appropriate as a solution or response?
• Is there a more suitable solution?
• Have I consulted with others?
• Am I being objective?
• Would I consider the response appropriate if I were in the same situation as others affected by the decision?
• I may have two or more right decisions. Which one will most likely gain public trust?
Am I willing to take Responsibility for the decision?
• If asked, would I be able to say with confidence the decision was mine?
• Am I considering a “scapegoat” in case the decision is not popular?
• Am I confident the decision enhances the reputation of my organization?
Is the decision Transparent?
• Am I willing to share the decision openly?
• Do I feel the need to include phrases like, “Please don’t tell anyone,” or “I hope I don’t get caught!”?
• Is the decision likely to build the public’s trust?
The list above is certainly not exhaustive. We welcome your comments and observations. If you incorporate the process into your code of ethics or ethics training, please let us know.
Harvard Business Review tells about an interesting lottery that researchers ran. Half the participants were randomly assigned a lottery number. The remaining half were given a blank piece of paper and asked to make up their own number for their lottery ticket. Just before drawing the winning number, the researchers offered to buy back the tickets. The question researchers wanted to answer is, “How much more do you have to pay someone who ‘wrote their own number’ versus someone who was handed a number randomly?”
The answer? Researchers have always found that they have to pay at least five times more to those who wrote their own number.
What does this have to do with strategic visions? The experiment demonstrates what we may know, but refuse to admit to ourselves. It may seem counterintuitive, but if you really want your strategic vision to become a reality, the key is to involve everyone in helping to create it. Kouzes and Posner say that extraordinary leaders “inspire a shared vision.” I believe the key word is: shared. Here are some ideas to really make the vision a shared vision.
- Involve everyone at the beginning of the process. The further along the process has gone, the less leverage a front-line employee has to influence it, and he/she knows that. So, if you genuinely want their input, design the process so that you get it at the beginning.
- Listen to the ideas that come from the outside. Innovation always comes from the edge, not the center. Sure, it may come with some barbs and criticisms, but like a beautiful rose comes with a few thorns, great innovations inherently indict the status quo. Don’t sweat it.
- Provide “check-in points” from time to time. Don’t let employees feel like you listened and then conveniently forgot what they said. Go back to them from time to time during the process. Give them updates. Ask, “Is this what you meant?” Remember: We are up on what we are in on. What seems like a tedious process will result in a much greater level of employee engagement.
- It’s ready when it’s like looking in a mirror—for them! How do you know when you have a great strategic vision? When you share it with your people, they recognize the reflection of their own hopes and aspirations.
Remember that in the experiment, the researchers had to pay five times as much for numbers that people wrote for themselves. If you want people to work harder at fulfilling the strategic vision, give them the chance to help create it. Then they really will own it and work to fulfill it.
Just how early do you need to be an early adopter?
The pace of change is breathtaking. You can fall behind in a heartbeat. And somebody, somewhere, is trying to move ahead of you right now. And someone else is trying to move ahead of the someone who is trying to move ahead of you.
Now, some early adopting may turn out to be a mistake. Some “creative destruction” can end up being bad.
But, maybe being in the “laggard” category is a greater risk than embracing the “early adopter” stance.
So, let’s revisit the idea of “early adopter” activity. Yes, there are people ahead of the early adopters. But, these are rare. It is hard enough (plenty hard!) to be an early adopter, but easier to be an early adopter than to be the creator/innovator.
Here’s a visual from this blog’s main page:
In the diffusion of innovation theory, the minority group (comprising about 14 percent) of population which, after innovators, is first to try new ideas, processes, goods and services. Early adopters generally rely on their on intuition and vision, choose carefully, and have above-average education level. For any new product to be successful, it must attract innovators and early adopters, so that its acceptance or ‘diffusion’ moves on to early majority, late majority, and then on to laggards.
Just look at the categories:
Early Adopters (13.5%)
Early Majority (34%)
Late Majority (34%)
Which of these five would you like to be known as: Laggards? Late majority? It seems that the closer you get to the “innovator” end of the spectrum, the better chance you have to survive the next round of creative destruction coming your way.
So, here’s the issue. Will you be the creator of the creative destruction you deal with? Or, will you let others from outside force it on you?
We’re back to the wisdom, the challenge we’ve heard over and over again, over the last few years.
Change! Change fast! Change faster than the next guy! Change now!!!
Staying the same may not be a very good strategy. To quote just the brilliant title from Marshall Goldsmith, “What got you here… won’t get you there!”
Professional Speaker & Writer
Co-founder, First Friday Book Synopsis
A couple of weeks ago, I found one of my all-time favorite leadership books, which had been packed up in a box for almost two years. I have read and re-read this book so many times that even with it packed away, I could distinctly remember several parts of it. Finding it was like a reunion with an old friend. Good books are like good friends—you remember a lot about them even when you aren’t with them, but when you’re with them, you realize that there’s so much more to them than what you remembered! That’s what it was like for me as I reacquainted myself with this book.
I’m talking about Leadership is an Art by Max DePree. This book, originally published in 1989, is rich with leadership insights and was foundational in shaping my own philosophy of effective leadership. DePree was the longtime CEO of Herman Miller Furniture Company, widely recognized for its innovation and quality. It’s a company with soul, so not surprisingly, when DePree writes, he speaks less about the mechanics of leadership and more about the soul of leadership. He raises some issues that many others ignore. If you want to be a great leader, it’s not the only leadership book you should read, but it’s one you shouldn’t skip.
DePree talks about the importance of creating the right kind of culture for employees to be successful. He doesn’t neglect the importance of structural environment, but says that managerial environment is even more important. But how do you create the right kind of managerial environment?
He suggests that if you understand what questions employees are asking themselves about their job, you will know what kind of culture you need to create. Here’s a list of questions that DePree says employees are asking themselves:
- Does what I do count?
- Does what I do make a difference to anybody?
- Why should I come here? (Especially on Mondays!)
- Can I be somebody here?
- Is there for me any rhyme or reason here?
- Can I “own” this place?
- Does coming here add any richness to my life?
- Is this a place where I can learn something?
- Is there anybody here I can trust?
- Is this place open to my influence?
What he’s really getting at is the matter of employee engagement. And since we continue to hear that only about 20% of American employees are fully engaged in their jobs today, perhaps one of the solutions is for managers to start building a “Managerial Culture” in which employees could answer these questions positively. I’m pretty sure that not only would it result in employees being more engaged, efficiency and production would rise as well.
We had just completed a series of once-a-month leadership workshops that lasted for a year with the top leaders of a city, and my colleague and I were reflecting upon it. What had gone well? What had not? What had we learned? Etc. In the midst of the discussion, I asked the question, “Who do you think benefited the most from these workshops?” Without hesitation, he replied, “The leader.”
I completely agree. That’s not to say that everyone else didn’t benefit from it. Based both on the monthly evaluations and personal conversations with the participants, it would seem from all appearances that the employees who attended the workshops received a lot of value from them. However, as is the case with all leadership development programs, no one benefited more from it than the leader of the organization. Really. Why is this true?
- It makes people feel the organization is investing in them. This program invested about 36 hours in helping them become better leaders. That’s almost a week of work over a period of a year. People who feel that the organization (a.k.a. “the leader”) cares enough about them to invest in their development feel more connected to the goals and values of both the leader and the organization. Inevitably, that fosters loyalty.
- Organizations become what they talk about. The great thing about having leaders engaged in leadership development is that they begin to talk more about leadership; and those conversations, informed by cutting edge leadership principles, help raise the leadership quotient for everyone.
- Leaders set the example. This leader did what all great leaders should do. He participated. He didn’t just provide training for everyone else, while conveniently excusing himself. He set the example both by his presence and his participation. Providing the program and participating fully in it cements into people’s minds, “My boss walks the talk. She sets the example.”
- Great leaders create an environment where relationships, collaboration, and innovation can flourish. It’s not really a fringe benefit to leadership development programs. It’s a key component. When established and emerging leaders from across the organization spend time together, this is what happens. Relationships are formed and strengthened, collaboration happens and innovation bursts into flames.
- People love leaders who are visible. Aside from experiencing personal growth, the leader who provides and participates in this kind of program accomplishes something else. He/she captures the chance to be visible and available to others. Think of the time that it would require for that leader to spend one-on-one time with 50 to 75 employees every month talking about how each one could become a better leader! Talk about busy!
I love to teach the SGR course Hiring the Right People. I am fascinated by the topic and thoroughly enjoy helping participants interview within the boundaries of the law. Sadly, many applicants never make it past resume and/or application submission. Why? Because they do not meticulously scrutinize their resumes, applications, cover letters, etc., prior to submission. Here are some tips for applicants. These tips will also help those who review resumes and applications:
- Watch spelling and grammar errors – Nothing says, “I do not care if I get this job or not” like a spelling or grammatical error. In local government, a misspelled word or grammatical error can be highly detrimental. If you cannot properly execute a resume, how do you expect me to think you can properly execute a business document?
- Copy and paste sparingly – Copying and pasting or using the same cover letter for all applications is a mistake. This practice communicates, “I just need a job. Any job.” This may be challenging since some organizations hide their identity until they cull the first round of candidates. In that case, use statements like, “It sounds like you are searching for an accomplished professional with a passion for customer service.” Restating back what you hear the employer saying communicates, “I thoroughly read the job posting.”
- Provide only what is requested – If the job posting asks for a cover letter and resume, then send a cover letter and resume. Do not attach certifications, photographs, etc. You may think you are helping your cause; but in reality, you are setting your application up for a one-way ticket to the discard pile. If you can’t follow instructions before you work for me, there’s no chance you will work for me.
- Evaluate your email address – While Sogoodlooking@myemail.com may cause your friends to say, “Love your email address,” most employers will say, “Not interested!” This is especially true if you are applying for a professional position. If available, choose an email address that includes your name, or initials, and is as simple as possible. Long emails can fall victim to clerical error.
- Watch your subject line and signature – Do not use subject lines in email submissions like, “Call me!!!!” or “You don’t need to look any further!” If you are willing to be so casual with someone you don’t know, I cringe when thinking about how you will address clients I do know. Use the same rule of thumb when closing an email or cover letter. Do not incorporate symbols, emoticons, favorite quotes, etc. If you get the job, you can customize email within the framework of company policy.
We could spend hours on this topic, but that gets the conversation started. We welcome your insights and questions.
“It’s better to have grade-B strategy and grade-A execution than the other way around.” – Michael Porter
Do you deliver on what you promise? Do you deliver on what you intend to deliver? With excellence, on schedule, in a full customer and fellow-worker pleasing kind of way?
In other words, do you execute? Do you turn your plan into genuinely satisfying reality?
Do you remember when Apple rolled out its new map apps? Disaster! And it wasn’t just that the maps app was a disaster. It was that Apple had failed to execute. And that violated our expectations about Apple.
Warning: don’t ever violate people’s expectations. Surpass them—good! Violate them—very, very bad…
I order from Amazon all the time. Nearly every time that I order, I get my stuff quickly. (Yes, I’ve paid for Amazon Prime). In fact, Amazon is so good that I am disappointed when something does not go right. At this moment, I am waiting for a used book to arrive that I bought through the Amazon web site from one of the “outside party” sellers. It is not yet late, but it is getting close. I am so accustomed to Amazon delivering on time, usually “earlier than promised”, that this is almost maddening.
But, note what I am saying — I have full confidence in Amazon. And if it arrives actually later than the promised date, I will leave a comment saying, “This seller did not execute.” And the next purchaser will be a little more beware.
But, I cut Amazon plenty of slack because they almost never let me down. This is not their norm. Execution done right is their norm.
So, what is execution? From Merriam-Webster: to carry out fully; to put completely into effect.
In other words:
This is what I am telling you I will do…
I did exactly that (or more than that — never less than that), to your full satisfaction, on the schedule I promised.
This is execution. And the larger your organization, the more critical it is that every piece of the organization executes fully, on schedule, to make the final outcome one that fulfills the promise.
So, if you make promises, if you make plans, and you do not deliver on that plan— you failed to execute. And, to put it mildly, if you fail to execute, that’s the ball game. In fact, that is the very word used to describe a lost ball game. Frequently, when a football player is interviewed after a loss, that player will say, “We had a great plan. But we failed to execute.”
STRATEGY: DECIDING WHAT TO DO.
EXECUTION: GETTING IT DONE.
Of the two, execution is far more difficult to achieve.
Professional Speaker & Writer
Co-founder, First Friday Book Synopsis
“In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.” – Albert Schweitzer
Albert Schweitzer was a medical missionary during the mid-20th Century who won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1952. While not without critics and controversy, he was a man who believed in giving back to humanity out of gratitude.
I started thinking about the role that this concept plays in the life of a leader. What is it like when the leader feels his/her fire is going out? Who are the people who rekindle it? Whose fire are you re-kindling? And what role does gratitude play in your life as a leader?
It may be tempting to project an image that we are somehow above losing our passion, but that’s a dangerous game to play, and that’s exactly what it is — a game. Leaders, be authentic and transparent. And be comfortable with appropriate levels of self-disclosure with others. To not do so can be disillusioning for them because they may wonder how they can ever be the leader you are since they are very aware of their own need to refuel from time to time. It can also rob someone of the opportunity to be that person who re-ignites your flame.
Schweitzer’s words remind me of several things that I need to do on a regular basis as a leader:
- I need to surround myself with encouraging people whose passion feeds mine (and vice versa). That’s not the same as insulating yourself from negative people. I’m not sure that insulation is wise or possible. Keeping your fire going does not depend so much on the absence of the negative as it does the presence of the positive.
- I need to be the kind of person who actively seeks the opportunity to re-ignite the fire in other people. In their book Encouraging the Heart, Kouzes and Posner stress and re-stress the point: Do all you can to enlarge the lives of others—and your life will be enlarged in the process.
- I need to be grateful for those times and those people who have rekindled my spirit. Maybe they knew it at the time, and maybe they didn’t. Whatever the case may be, it’s important to express my gratitude to them and to live every day with gratitude. If you don’t think gratitude will make a difference in your effectiveness as a leader, just ask yourself: Do I want to follow a leader who is characterized by gratitude or ingratitude?
Sounds pretty simple, right? It is! So let’s get started today!
I hate moving. It’s such a hassle. You have to pack while throwing things away and sorting the others. Then, you seal up all the items just to unpack and sort things again in the new destination.
Strategic Government Resources moved to a new office location this week (image to the left). It’s very spacious, and there are new facilities that we didn’t have before—definitely an upgrade in every sense of the word.
As I was settling into my new office space (which I love, by the way), I sat back and wondered, “What would have happened if we didn’t take the plunge and decided to stay in our old office location?” Sure, we wouldn’t have to go through the hassle of moving, but we also wouldn’t have enjoyed the new space that is now available to us.
I completely understand why organizations don’t like trying new things to adapt with new technology, culture, or circumstances. It’s a pain in the beginning. You have to get people on board with a new way of thinking, train them to do those things, and endure the inevitable learning curves along the way.
But instead of thinking about the “growing pains” of reaching that new level, think of the rewards that will come once your organization gets to that new level.
For me, it was a better office space with more perks. For you, it could be reaching out to a new demographic in your community that is usually forgotten or earning a distinguished award for your organization’s innovation.
Change successfully happens when you stop focusing on the negative and embrace the positive. Sell your fellow employees about the great outcome that will occur from the change, rather than the hiccups that will occur along the way.
That way, when those hiccups do occur (and they will), everyone will still have the final result in mind as motivation.
There’s something to be said for taking a question and rolling it over and over in your mind for a long period of time without being in a hurry to settle on the answer. Sometimes I can be tempted to answer a question quickly—too quickly, perhaps, because I want to move on to the next issue. It’s the way I am wired, and there’s a place for that. But sometimes it’s better to let the question linger and to throw it into the mix of what you’re reading, who you are talking to, and what you are doing until you accumulate enough information that you can sort it out and see the reoccurring themes.
For a long time, I’ve been thinking on this question: “How do leaders improve?” I often hear people say, “We need more leaders.” Almost inevitably, they are not in a position to simply go find more (a.k.a. “better”) leaders. For various reasons, what they really need is for the people that they have to be better at leading. They need their leaders to improve.
Admittedly, I am still processing this question, and maybe I always will be; but at the moment, I’ve landed on four things that I believe are essential, not just helpful, for leaders to improve.
- Information. Whether it’s in the form of a book, classrooms, videos, or through casual conversation, information is catalytic. Some sentence, some model, some analysis, some idea creates a spark in a growing leader, and he/she thinks, “I never thought of it like that.” Game on!
- Coaching/Mentoring. Everyone needs a coach, and everyone needs a mentor. They serve different roles, but to really improve, we need both. Most organizations need to take coaching/mentoring much more seriously if they really want their leaders to improve.
- Experience. At the end of the day, leadership is like swimming. You can’t learn it from reading a book. It seems obvious, right? However, I see a lot of organizations that want to develop leaders, but they rarely give them a chance to lead because, “They might make a mistake.” You think? Of course! All the potential in the world means nothing unless given an opportunity.
- Self-reflection. This presumes that a leader is self-motivated to improve. However, I have noticed that a leader can be motivated, and yet without practicing this important discipline, his/her growth will be minimal. A person has to look back at how he/she performed in each leadership situation and relentlessly critique it, not unlike the way a professional athlete watches game film.
What are your thoughts about developing leaders? What have you seen that is essential to helping leaders really improve? I would love to hear from you!