Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Value of Engagement

People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

John Maxwell

I had the opportunity to visit the company of a friend who was the VP of a large service organization. During the visit we toured the warehouse and I was amazed to see how many of his employees responded to him as moved through the building. They all said hello and he acknowledged each of them by name. He told me how long some of them had been working with the company and special stories about their families. It was quite apparent that there was a lot of respect between them. He genuinely cared about his employees. As a result, he led a high performing team which year over year met performance goals.

During lunch we discussed his company and his philosophy on leadership. He expressed that no company can truly be successful without a fully committed and engaged work force. Part of cultivating the engagement is to treat everyone like you want to be treated and to value each employee personally. No one likes to work in anonymity. They want to know that they matter and that you care. They want to feel and be treated like they are genuinely important and that the work they do is important.

As a result of my experience, I have made a conscious effort to engage with every member of my team. I do not do it because I am trying to get more out of them, but because I want them to know that they are important to me and our company. It is about people and building solid working relationships. I am not saying we need to be best buddies with everyone that works with us, but an effort should be made to connect with them on a meaningful level. Above all else people are a company’s greatest asset.

Has there been a time in your career that you felt anonymous at work? How did it impact your performance? Did it leave you feeling disconnected? Maybe you feel like just another number.

Have you ever worked for a company where you felt valued?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Looking Back

"Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others." Jack Welch

As a leader I sometimes wonder what kind of impact, other than profits, I have had on the people I have led. When I received this letter from one of my former hourly employees it encouraged me tremendously. Hearing this employee's observations confirmed that my principles of leadership were finding their mark, and it motivated me to continue to work to strengthen my leadership abilities even further:

Dear Tony,

I wanted to take a moment to say thank you for all of the guidance and encouragement you have given and taught me in the past.

You were and continue to be an inspiration to me and many others that are fortunate to know you.

Over the past few years you have shown me what it takes to be a respected leader. I originally thought it only took a loud voice and some organization to be successful. It couldn’t have been further from reality. You have shown me that it takes respect, encouragement and follow up to be a successful leader.

No matter how busy you were flying around the country or how many meetings you were tied up in you always managed to follow up and keep your word as if I was your only employee.

The greatest thing you taught me was to figure out a difficult situation on my own. You always encouraged me by asking me “what do you think we should do” rather than telling me how to handle it and making me feel rushed. With that type of leadership I felt encouraged and motivated.

Your knowledge and patience has earned the respect you have today from so many people you have affected throughout the country.

I make every effort possible to utilize the many techniques you have taught me and I can only hope that someday I will have just as much respect from my employees as you have from yours.

Many thanks.



It felt so good to know that I was able to play a small part in the development of an individual who is now is a leader in his community.

As a leader I want to encourage you to think about what kind of impact you are having on the people you lead. Are you motivating, inspiring, serving, and respecting the people on your team? I am sure there are individuals whom you have influenced that can say the same thing about your impact on them that my former employee said about my leadership. I hope sharing this letter will inspire you to always be mindful of how you are managing and supervising individuals who work for you as well as those who may be looking at you from afar.

Leadership Essential#2, Respect - check.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Honest Man

“I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man.”
George Washington

My family and I went out for dinner at one of our favorite burrito places. With our meal we asked for water cups instead of sodas, much to the disappointment of our kids. After getting our food we went to fill our cups with water. When my son got to the table with his drink he noticed that he had, out of habit, filled his cup with coke. Without any prodding he quickly went back to the register and told the manager what had happened and that he wanted to pay for the drink. The manager had this stumped and surprised look on his face. He could not believe that this young man would be honest enough to voluntarily pay for something he did not order. A smile gradually appeared on the man’s face and he graciously said to my son, "Thank you for your honesty, the drink is on me."

My son could have easily hidden the fact that he was drinking a soda he had not paid for. The manager could have accepted payment and would have been justified for doing so. However, both responded in a way that exhibited character and a key attribute of a leader, honesty.

In today’s world many of our leaders lack character. They make promises they do not keep. They operate in the world of “quid pro quo.” They refuse to accept responsibility for their actions and the words they say. It’s amazing how we as a country continue to accept leaders with poor character. We must demand more from our leaders whether they are in politics or in business. Why? Because the decisions they make can have a significant negative impact on the people they lead. Wall Street is a prime example. Taking sweetheart mortgage deals, stashing money in freezers, and lying about sexual relationships must be challenged. Until we stop accepting mediocre leadership we will continue to underperform as a nation.

In our home my wife and I have tried to instill into our kids the importance of character. We are so proud of our son for doing what he knew was right and displaying the kind of character that is essential to good leadership. My son could not have enjoyed the coke had he not paid for it.

Leadership Essential #1, Honesty - check.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Oil and Water

After 75 days we do not appear to be any closer to “plugging up that hole.” Every day I watch the news and see the live video feed of the oil leak, I feel sick. People who live and work along the Gulf Coast continue to be on pins and needles as they contemplate their future. I heard one resident of the Gulf say “I go to bed every night thinking about what I am going to do if the problem is not resolved soon.”

Recently the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) closed approximately 90 thousand square miles of water from fishing in the Gulf of Mexico. This leak promises to be the greatest U.S. ecological disaster of our lifetime.

What is going on? Why is it that the leak is still spewing out thousands of gallons of oil with no end in sight? I believe it is due to a lack of leadership. When the leak first occurred there should have been a call for “all hands on deck.” We needed to make sure we had the best and brightest minds in the room. We know that did not happen. Nations with experience with major oil spills were rebuffed when they offered their help. The leak continues. The people of the United States of America are looking for leadership in the midst of this crisis.

Here is my idea of how to address the problem and inspire confidence;

Both BP and the government should develop a national communication plan.
As part of the communication plan, leaders need to outline the current and long-term strategy for addressing the crisis in detail.
They need to explain to the hundreds of thousands of people affected by the disaster how they are going to be compensated for their losses.

All this seems to be a no brainer, but it seems as though when I listen to the news or read about the catastrophe in the Gulf there is no consistency in the communication.

This calamity must be resolved soon; I hate to think about what another 75 days of leaking oil will have on the Gulf and other waterways. To quote one of the Gulf coast residents “It’s not about the money; it’s about a way of life”.

If you were asked to provide a solution, what would it be?