Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Value of Appreciation

"The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated." William James

Undercover Boss is one of my favorite television shows.  For those of you who have not seen the show, it takes a CEO or other high level executive of a large company and places them under cover in their own company.  This gives the executive a better view of what is going on in the organization from a ground level perspective. 

In one of the last episodes the executive of one of the featured companies said that he went undercover to see what could be done to make the company more profitable and efficient.  However, after meeting and working with the people in his organization he quickly recognized that it was more the people and not necessarily the process that makes a company successful. 

During the show there is a segment when the executive speaks directly to the camera and gives his/her observations on how the day went.  During this time, most have an epiphany that their organization is made up of many hard working and dedicated workers whose work goes unheralded.  They have a greater appreciation for the “spokes in the wheel.”  The employees become more than a number.  There’s a face and a story to everyone working in the company. 

In the final segment of the program all of the employees featured during the show are brought to headquarters, not realizing they are going to meet the undercover boss.  In just about every case the undercover boss surprises the employee with either a promotion, money to donate to charity, a family vacation or some other form of appreciation.  When interviewing the employee after meeting with their boss, the one thing  that seems most meaningful to them is how important it is to be appreciated.  More than money or a promotion employees want to feel and know they are appreciated. 

Why is genuine appreciation so important?  It lets your employees know that they are valued and that you really care for them.  Appreciation recognizes the value and contribution of the people in your organization.  Gratitude authentically expressed is critical to the continuous engagement of the employees within a company. 

If you are a leader in your company, do you feel appreciated?  If not, how does it make you feel?  

Saturday, January 22, 2011

What is Leadership anyway?

Every day we hear the word leader being bandied about with no real thought as to the effective meaning of the word.  This causes me to think, what defines leadership? What does it do and how does it behave?  During my research for this post, I looked up some definitions of leadership, and although there were similar components to the definitions, they were very different. 

Merriam-Webster gives us a place to start:
1 : the office or position of a leader
2 : capacity to lead

That’s a pretty flat description.  Let’s see if there’s something a little more  3-dimensional that will help:

ere are just a few from Wikipedia:  Leadership has been described as the “process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task”. Definitions more inclusive of followers have also emerged. Alan Keith of Genentech states that, "Leadership is ultimately about creating a way for people to contribute to making something extraordinary happen." According to Ken "SKC" Ogbonnia, "effective leadership is the ability to successfully integrate and maximize available resources within the internal and external environment for the attainment of organizational or societal goals."

The Business Dictionary defines leadership this way:
“In its essence, leadership in an organizational role involves (1) establishing a clear vision, (2) sharing (communicating) that vision with others so that they will follow willingly, (3) providing the informationknowledge, and methods to realize that vision, and (4) coordinating and balancing the conflicting interests of all members or stakeholders.”

So, do any of these definitions answer our questions about what true leadership is?

In the aftermath of the Tucson shootings, President Obama gave a speech about civility in public discourse.  After this speech, his approval numbers improved by 3-4 points.  Commentators attributed the increase to his speech’s leadership tone and Obama acting presidential.  However, subsequent to his speech, the rhetoric and caustic speech continues.  Does the fact that some of his constituents are not listening mean he is not a leader?  Absolutely not!  He remains the “leader of the free world.”

In sports the player with the best skills and the highest contract is often deemed to be a leader.  In politics a leader is one who won the election.  In business we associate leadership with the person who has the title.  You don’t have to look far to find examples of people with leadership roles and titles who are ill-suited to the work of leadership.

Leadership is not only about having a vision for the future and meeting goals, it is fundamentally about a deep set of beliefs that allows the leader to inspire and motivate individuals to achieve their greatest potential.  Does that deep set of beliefs matter?  Or is it all just a matter of having a platform to lead from and employing a certain skillset that is effective in getting people to follow?

Leadership is a complicated concept that is hard to define.  There seem to be a lot of moving parts to leadership.  Maybe this is why there are so many books, tapes, seminars and workshops on the subject.  We are all still trying to figure it out.

As I contemplate the word leadership and its effect on society, it stimulates me to ask you the following questions:
  • Are we evaluating leaders by the right criteria?
  • Are effective leaders always good leaders?
  • Do people always follow good leaders?  

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Celebrating Martin Luther King

“I Have a Dream.”   These famous words are from one of Martin Luther King’s most piercing and convicting speeches, and it is undoubtedly the most memorable.   The content of the speech still resonates within the hearts of men and women, black and white.  I believe the speech transcends race.

Martin Luther King remains the giant of the civil rights movement, and his life, values and commitment to equality continue to inspire millions.  He laid the foundation for so many to dare to dream and hope for a better future for their families.

As a little boy I have a vague recollection of his death.  All I really remember is my mother saying that they killed Martin!  I did't know what it meant.  I could recall the riots and the tears of people as they responded to the news of his tragic murder.  It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized and understood the magnitude of the event.   

For some at the time the dream died with Martin.  However, because of his vision and his leadership, others picked up where he left off and continued the struggle for equality.  I believe we still have a long way to go with regard to equality, but because of his leadership and sacrifice we are better off than when he died. 

On Monday, January 17th many in our nation will celebrate the life of Martin Luther King.  As I think about his life and his contribution to the civil rights movement, I will celebrate a man of vision, strength, love, patience, compassion and a love for God.  I want to celebrate his commitment to standing up for the rights of every man to be treated fairly, ethically, and with all of the dignity God created in every human being.  He believed that all people should be judged by who they are and what they do.

Because of his sacrifice I have been given so many opportunities to take advantage of all this great country has to offer.  I want to thank him for the fact that I do not have to drink from a “black only” fountain or go to a “black only” restroom.  The further removed we get from his life and times it is easy to forget what it was like to live in the sixties in America.  I do not ever want to forget.

There will never be another Martin Luther King and his life and legacy is worth celebrating!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Home Grown Leadership

While sitting in the living room with my family, I got the bright idea to get up at 8:30 pm and go for coffee.  I wanted to catch them off guard by doing something totally random.  The good news was they were all for it.  So off to Starbucks we went.  For most of you that know me, Starbucks is not my favorite coffee shop—I  am a Peet’s Coffee snob.  Be that as it may, both my son and daughter love Starbucks, and because I love them I was willing to sacrifice my taste buds. 

I wanted to take this opportunity to have what I call a leadership forum.  This is a time where I ask my kids questions about leadership decisions that they face every day at school and when hanging out with their friends.

My daughter shared with us that she saw a friend at school who came up to give her a hug.  She said he smelled of what she thought must be marijuana.  When she asked him about it, he reassured her that he didn’t smoke it.  Then he calmly told her, “I just sell it.”  She was aghast and asked him why.  He said “because I need the money.”  She challenged him on his decision and he just turned and walked away.

This may not seem like a big deal to some, but her choice not to engage further with him or to give in to the pressure to smoke the drug sets her up to be the leader I know she can be. 

The youth of today are under tremendous pressure to follow the crowd.  We often discuss the importance of taking a stand for what you believe in.  We also prepare them for the possibility that their good decisions not to engage in drugs, alcohol and sex may lead to ridicule and rejection by their peers.  Doing the right thing may be costly, but not as costly as going along with the crowd.    

In my opinion, the role of leader in the home has been taken for granted.   Leading in the home is not about barking out orders.  It’s about providing love, support and behavior modeling to our children and to prepare them to make good decisions in life. 

How are you leading your family?  Is it time for you to hold a leadership forum?