Sunday, November 17, 2013

3 Steps to Building an Accountable Organization

"He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else."  Benjamin Franklin

Today we hear a lot about accountability, but it appears that holding people responsible for their behavior and their actions is a lost art.  Accountability, too many times, seems like a corporate buzzword. True accountability is when you are held responsible for your actions and the decisions you make.

Accountability may not be as easy as 1-2-3, but here are 3 steps that can result in an accountable organization.

1.  Provide Clear Expectations - You cannot hold someone accountable if they do not know what they are being accountable for. The clearer the goals and expectations, the less time you will spend managing poor performance or misaligned expectations.

2.  Monitor and Measure - Setting clear goals with the appropriate metrics allows employees to know how they are doing and whether they are meeting expectations. You need information if you are going to measure their performance. It also allows them to know how they are doing against stated goals. This is also a good time to provide constructive feedback.

3.  Don't Compromise - If there are consequences for not meeting expectations, you must, for the good of the organization, hold people strictly accountable for the results.  However, if they are consistently meeting expectations, they should be rewarded for their performance.

Lastly, before you can hold anyone accountable you must hold yourself accountable. 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Hate or Hazing

It really bothers me when I hear the way some commentators or sports figures talk about leadership. Just because a player can hit a lot of home runs or throw a football sixty yards from his knees does not make him a leader. When I see players in the news for a DUI or for getting into a bar fight and then hear all of his teammates talking about his leadership on the field it just drives me crazy!

Leaders lead both on and off the field, in and out of the clubhouse. For those of us who work for a company, we must demonstrate leadership both at work and at home. I think some who call themselves leaders believe leadership is like a hat you can put on or take off.

Currently, there is a scandal going on with the Miami Dolphins in which one of the so-called leaders on the team is accused of hazing a fellow teammate. This same person doing the hazing was elected to serve on the team's leadership counsel. REALLY! This person that is accused of the hazing has a history of misconduct and yet, someone thought he had the qualifications to serve on the counsel. What's worse is that he has the support of the majority of his teammates.

With all of this being played out in the media, what is the message being sent to our young people, especially ones playing organized sports? It's ok to haze a teammate, spew all kinds of racial epithets all in the name of toughening a player up. Is that the message we want to send?

Some say this has been going on, and is going on right now on many NFL teams. I DO NOT CARE!  Don't get me wrong, I am not talking about harmless traditions like having a rookie carry a veteran's equipment or buy donuts for the team. What I am talking about is the malicious and downright evil abuse of a person. I do not see how using racial name calling is going to make a person better or tougher.

What if the person who was being hazed hauled off and knocked the teammate out and hurt them where they were unable to play football? Or worse yet, what if the player got sick and tired of the abuse and went to his car and pulled a gun and shot the bully? 

Would he be justified? NO!  What would happen is that the media would start the whirlwind of trying to figure out how this happened and would begin to speculate as to what would motivate a player to shoot one of his teammates.

Well who is to blame? I blame the league and the team who allowed this type of behavior to take place. I blame them for a lack of leadership. I blame them for not going after this behavior with the same vigor as helmet to helmet hits or "Bounty Gate." From what I am hearing from current and former players, the teams and the league know this is going on.

For those of you who condone this type of behavior, let me ask you this question, how would you react if someone called you a vile name? What if the person said they would slap your mother or kill you? If you can honestly say that it would be okay with you...let me stop there.

I normally don't vent like this, but I just could not hold back. Bullying must stop! If you are a leader on a team or working in a company and you witness this type of behavior, step up and be a real leader and demand that it stops!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Employees vs. Profits

“I wish I was older so I could retire.”
“The company just isn’t what it used to be.”
“The company has lost the vision of the founder.”

These were just a few comments that I read in a string of Facebook posts.  The company that the employees were referring to will remain nameless. The name isn’t as important as the sentiments of the employees.

This once great company, although still profitable, has lost its way.  Some might say, “As long as it is profitable what’s the issue?”

I have spoken with current employees of the company, and they say it is not the same as it once was. It is all about the numbers and no longer about customer service or proper treatment of employees.  IF YOU DON’T LIKE IT LEAVE. YOU SHOULD BE HAPPY JUST TO HAVE A JOB!

Although these statements may be true, using them as a tool to silence employees is not the way any of us would want to be treated.

That’s the issue.

It’s my opinion that most employees understand the importance of profits and are willing to work hard to produce them. However, they also know that in order for any company to succeed, it needs a solid team of employees who are aligned with the goals of the company in order for the organization to achieve them.

Most employees want to be proud of the company they work for, and they also want to feel that they are a valued part of their company’s success.  When leadership is focused primarily on profits and productivity as most important, employees, instead, get the message that the company does not care about them.

Examples of poor leadership are all around us. Many of us can point to numerous individuals who demonstrate extraordinarily poor leadership. With the current up and down state of the economy, there is a lot of pressure on companies to perform at a very high level. Let me be clear, there is nothing wrong with profits, they sustain jobs and fuel growth. However, if a company is to remain sustainable, it will need a team of individuals who are engaged with the vision and mission of the organization.

If you are a leader of a company, what do you think current and former employees say about your organization?

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The New Age of Leadership

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit the new offices of two up and coming entrepreneurs. A sister and brother combination who, while having coffee together one day, came up with the idea of starting a software company. Their idea is to bring all social media, email, voice mail and text together in a usable platform that will not only increase productivity, but will allow for collaborative work groups to be more innovative and efficient.

Their company is not the real reason for this post, but it is their vision and leadership I find inspiring. It was this vision that led them to create a company that now has 8 employees and is continuing to grow. Their leadership has captured the attention of several large technology firms in the Silicon Valley.

Oh, did I mention that one of them is 18 and the other is 21 years old?

If our country is to regain our position as a world leader in innovation, it will be through the efforts of the next generation of leaders. I am encouraged because they see the results of the dreadfully poor leadership in Washington and want to take a different path. 

These two incredible young people have set a course in leadership that will take them and their team to the top.  It's not often that you see such strong leadership characteristics in the youth of today. The foundation of their leadership was established by the love and support of their parents who are tremendous leaders in their own right.

At the end of my time touring their office and meeting their team, I left inspired and charged up to focus on the new opportunities to enhance my leadership skills.

In this time in our country's history we need true leaders to take their place on the world stage and lead with strength and humility, (these characteristics are not in conflict).

How are you leading? What can you do to be a better leader?  

Thursday, October 10, 2013

It Starts With You

How's business?  Are you meeting your objectives? No?

When things are not going as planned, look at yourself. As a leader, if you are not getting the results you want, it is easy to look around and point a finger at someone else. If you are not getting the outcomes you are looking for, ask yourself:

Have I made my expectations clear?
Am I holding my team accountable for the actions they have committed to?
Do I have the right people in place who are capable of doing the job?
Am I holding myself accountable for the results?

Once you can answer these questions honestly, you can implement a strategy that will allow you to re-calibrate your team for success.

Ultimately, you, as the leader, are accountable for the results. It's part of being a leader.

I always say, "When we win, the team gets the credit, and when we lose, I take the blame."  That's leadership.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Delusional Leadership

-Because there is a lack vision, there is no direction- 

As I looked in his eyes I asked him the question, "How do you rate yourself as a leader on a scale from 1-10?”

His answer?  “About an 8.”

Now, I know you have no idea of whom I am referring to, and it is just as well. The important point is that this is a person who has seen his business decline dramatically, and he has no answers for the slide. The question I asked was to help him personally analyze his leadership with respect to the overall performance of his company. As we continued to talk, it became quite apparent that he did not believe his leadership was the reason for the poor performance.

This is what I call delusional leadership. This is when a leader has lost touch with his team and a connection to his business.  In this case, he did not even see a need to change how he saw himself as a leader. This is delusional thinking.

He attributed the poor performance to others and to bad luck. However, upon closer inspection and introspection, we find that the real reason for the decline of the business is a lack of vision and a lack of accountability from the top to the bottom.

After digging a little deeper, he realized that the quality of his leadership was and is the reason for his company's poor performance. His commitment to addressing his weaknesses as a leader is the key to the future success of his company. 

Great leaders are always assessing their leadership performance and seek out constructive feedback from others to help them to continue to grow. They have to be honest with themselves and personally hold themselves accountable for the results.

How about you? What steps are you taking to grow your leadership? Are you getting the results you are looking for?

If not, it is time that you take a hard look at how you are leading and seek out trusted counsel from others whose leadership and character you trust.

-If you don't know where you are going, how do you know when you get there?-

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

It's About People

I was watching a popular business program on TV, and they were profiling the CEO of a well-known and successful restaurant chain. The interviewer asked the CEO where he saw himself and the company in five years. He answered that it’s not where he sees himself, but where he sees his team and his company.

His answer was refreshing because the temptation for many high level executives is to accept the accolades and bask in the light of their own brilliance. For many, it is so easy to get caught up in believing their own press. Some believe that the success of the business is due solely to their business intelligence. Although it may be one of the reasons for the success of the company, it is critical to remember that people are the backbone of any successful organization.

In that same interview, the CEO also stated that another ingredient that made the restaurants so successful is their commitment to identifying the next leader(s) in the company. The leadership believes that developing bench strength within the organization will result in a sustainable business model that values people first, then profits. One way this is done is through frequent leadership visits to a certain percentage of their restaurants where they make it a point to sit down not only with the managers of the restaurants, but also with each of the hourly employees. They ask them about their supervisors and how they interact with the team. They also ask how the business can improve. This ground level, in-the-field intelligence not only helps the company, but, in the long run, also helps to foster loyalty within the ranks of the restaurant staff.

As leaders it's important for us to really support our people, making sure that we are connecting with them on a regular basis.  One on One interaction, whenever possible, is key to employee engagement.
Leadership like this causes employees to feel valued and to take ownership as clear stakeholders in the success of the business. When employees take ownership in the business, the result is happy customers, happy employees, and increased profitability.

As a leader you will be tempted to go it alone, but never lose sight of the fact that the most important asset you have is your team. It’s about people.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Unexpected Leadership

My wife had just viewed a video and could not wait to share it with me.  It was a video about a female college softball player who had never hit a home run in a game . . .that was until one special day against her team’s conference rival.  In a game her team needed to stay in the hunt for a championship, she came up to bat with 2 players on base. With one mighty swing she hit the ball farther than she ever had and she looked up in time to see the ball go over the fence. In her excitement, she missed touching first base and quickly turned back to touch it. Her sudden pivot back toward first proved to be too much for her knee and with a torn ACL, she collapsed on the ground, writhing in pain.

As the runners came around and touched home plate celebrating, she still was on the ground.  It became clear that although she had hit a home run, she would not receive credit unless she circled the bases.  Her team could not help her in any way, because the rules state that she would be called out and her run would not count.

Then the unthinkable happened; one of the opposing players went up to the umpire and asked if she could help her?  The umpire said yes.  And with the help of another team mate the two opposing players picked her up and carried her around the bases stopping at only long enough to allow her to touch each base with her good foot.

After surrounding the bases the two players put her gently down on home plate, and the girl with the one good leg was mobbed by her teammates for hitting a 3-run homer that proved to be the game-winner.

When asked why they offered to carry her? One of the players said she had done it because her opponent deserved it, and it was the right thing to do.

Not only did the players display character, but tremendous leadership. By doing what was right in the face of the temptation to sit back and watch was going to happen, they, without thought for themselves, did what many others could not, or would not, do with the game on the line. I believe both girls are champions!

Our political leaders could learn a lot from these young girls. Doing what is right—because it is right—even if it means working with the other side, is what real leaders do.

You can watch the whole story for yourself right here.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Everyone's a Leader

Many times when I speak to people about leadership, they say, “I am not a leader.” I then ask them the following questions, and if they say yes to any one of them, then I say YOU ARE A LEADER:

Are you married? Then you are a leader. It does not matter if you are if you are the husband or wife. You are leading in some way, no matter how small.

Do you have kids? Then you are a leader. Your children will look to you for direction and in many cases their lives will be shaped by what they see in yours.

Do you work? Then you are a leader.  Whether you are an employee, a supervisor, or a manager, you are leading those employees who work alongside you or who report to you. I believe that the front desk receptionist is also a leader. People are influenced by his or her attitude and character, and some will emulate what they see.

Do you have friends? Then you are a leader.  Your friends are looking at you and your influence is being felt. You can influence them in many ways, so don’t take your leadership lightly.

The question then becomes ‘what type of leader are you?’ There are good and bad leaders. I am sure for every good leader you can name, you can equally name bad ones.

Leaders influence and, as result, people will follow.

So, what kind of leader are you, or what kind of leader do you want to become?

Monday, August 12, 2013

Stretch Yourself

One of my pet peeves is when people just do enough just to get by. I think they cheat themselves and others when they don't stretch themselves to be their best.

When I worked for Owens Corning, the management team would get together to develop our operating plan for our respective regions for the following year. Part of the operating plan was to develop goals that would support our plan. During this process, a manager would invariably develop goals that would not challenge his/her team.  We called it "baking the plan," which meant that achieving those goals was a sure thing.

When this happened, the rest of the management team would challenge the manager to develop "stretch goals." These are goals that are designed to provoke managers to push not only themselves, but also their teams to raise the bar on their performance.

Leaders challenge others to be their best. If left alone, many will only do what they are told or only what they think there are able to do.

Good leaders always look for ways to encourage and challenge their teams to rise above mediocrity.

Good leaders demand that their teams stretch their abilities to achieve results they never thought they could achieve.

In weight training a good trainer will get you to do just one more push up and lift that weight just one more time.  In order to achieve excellence in anything you will need to stretch yourself beyond your self-imposed limits, and when you do, the achievement will be so much more satisfying.

Don't just get by, STRETCH YOURSELF!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Leadership - Cool Under Pressure

It was 6:30 AM. I had just gotten out of bed and was having breakfast when I got a call from a sub-contractor who was doing some work for me. With panic in his voice, he said, "I don't know what to do." I asked him what was going on. He said the job had gone wrong, and he thought we needed to call the job off. I said, "Hold on, and I will be right there." When I arrived on the job and assessed the situation, I said, "It will be alright," and I calmed him and the rest of the crew down.

One of my guys looked at me and said, "That's why he's the boss. When he says it will be alright, it's all right."

Once we were able to decide on a course of action, I said, "Let's get it done." The very important job then went off without a hitch.  My team just needed me to keep a cool head and to be the stabilizer.

What they did not know was that I was concerned. This was a very important job with a lot of eyes on it, and I needed to get it done and done right! However, in order to get the job accomplished, I needed to calm the team down and to show confidence and decisiveness (never let them see you sweat).

I remember the San Francisco 49ers’ Joe Montana, the multiple Super Bowl winning quarterback whose nickname was "Cool Joe" because of how cool he was under pressure. His leadership, his ability to make good decisions, and his gift for instilling confidence in his team in the midst of adversity made him and his team World Champions!

The reason I could be cool under pressure is because of my team and my trust in their skills and abilities to meet the challenge and to get the job done.

Your ability to stay cool and calm and to trust your team during tough times is a winning combination  that will lead your team to victory.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Delegate, Don't Dump!

Have you ever had a manager come to you on a Friday evening and gave you a last minute project that had to be done before you could leave for the weekend and then he walked out the door to enjoy his? Maybe you have had a manager that assigned you tasks that belong to her. Well, leading is not dumping. I don't know how many times I have heard the complaint, "I feel like I'm being dumped on," or "Why do I have to do their job?" or “I have been given an assignment with little or no instruction on how to get it done.”

When leaders dump instead of delegate, it demonstrates disrespect for the contributions of the team, and it can lead to dissatisfaction and frustration.  Most good, hard-working people don't mind helping or pitching in to help get a job done for the good of the entire team and organization. Good leaders will never assign a task without first explaining what they want done and without making sure you have the ability to get it done.

Good leaders delegate, they don’t dump!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Leaders who don't lead

I think all of us have either worked for or have observed individuals in leadership positions who don' t lead. Some are reluctant leaders, some are leaders who have been placed in leadership because there was no one else to fill the role. Some individuals have been placed in leadership because they have "time and grade."  I consider this sad because in many cases their failed leadership can have  a negative impact on the people they are to lead.

The  inspiration for this post originated from a conversation I had with a friend who shared a story about a great employee who was literally torn down by a manager who said to her "I thought this team would be a disappointment and I was right."  What this manager failed to remember is that she selected the team she was complaining about. The problem, as I see it, is twofold.

One, she lacked ability to train her team properly in how to do their respective jobs.

Two, the problem is not with her people, but her inability to set the right expectations.

Ultimately, when a team fails, it is not the team that has failed, but the person who is leading.  Leaders who don't lead fall behind, and they can take a lot of good people with them.

Sometimes the ones in the front should be in the back, and the ones in the back should be brought forward.  True leaders lead!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

A House Divided Cannot Stand

As a husband and father, I take my leadership role very seriously. I believe that I have the responsibility to lead our household, not as a dictator or an autocrat,  but by serving my family through love, understanding and compassion. It is not about my family serving me.  (No slippers at the door or an iced cold one while I kick back and wait for dinner to be prepared.) Sometimes it may mean that I make dinner or help out with some other task that isn't ordinarily mine.

My wife and I complement each other, each one helping where help is needed and working together for the good of each other and the whole family. For the sake of organization, we have mutually agreed that I should take the leadership of our home. This does not mean that my wife is subservient or that she does not have a leadership role. It just means that for any organization to function, there must be order, and that we each have different roles that enable us to best work together.

In today's society, it seems as though there is a lack of organization, communication, direction, and agreement in the home between husband and wife. This often leads to frustration and a lack of clarity and cohesion for entire families.  The world serves up many influences that can divide families, making it tremendously important for husband and wife to stand united with each other and with their children to take care of one another and support one another. In our family, it is our Christian faith that provides the solid foundation for our unity.

As a leader, I believe my role is to provide a vision for our family, and to support and serve my family. I am also charged with mentoring  my children and with loving each and every one in my family unconditionally.  It is not always easy, and it can be downright inconvenient and frustrating at times, but I believe it is all worth it.

Whether you have a single parent household or a two parent household, your leadership is desperately needed. The effect of your leadership will be felt in your neighborhood, your city, and beyond, possibly for years to come. The question is, will it have a positive or a negative effect?

I don't know about you, but I think household leadership is one of the most important forms of leadership in our society today, and it is being tested like never before.  Are you up to the test?

A house divided cannot stand (Mark 3:25).

Sunday, June 30, 2013

A Lasting Impression

While at Peet's Coffee recently, a man I didn't recognize came up to me out of the blue and said "I remember you! You are the guy that snatched a baby off the roof of a car!"

About 7-8 years ago, on another day at Peet's, I was in the process of putting a little sugar in my coffee when I heard a group of people suddenly yell, "Oh No!" Curious, I looked out the window just in time to see a young mother beginning to back out of her parking space into the street—with her baby still in the car seat on the roof of the car!

There were a lot of people outside watching this happen, but no one moved to do anything. Without thinking, bad knees and all, I raced outside to grab the car seat off the roof ( I don't think I have ever run that fast before or since). The woman looked at me in horror to see me with her baby's car seat in my hands. When I looked down into the car seat all I could see were two little feet sticking out of a blanket, the baby blissfully unaware of any danger.

The mother stopped the car, got out, took the car seat out of my hands, strapped it in the car and took off without saying a word. I don't think she was ungrateful.  I think she was choked with fear over what could have happened and mortified by the thought that she had forgotten her baby on the roof of her car. It didn't help that her nearly disastrous mistake had been witnessed by 15-20 people.

Looking back, it was striking that so many people who were a lot closer than I was, failed to act.  I think most of them were just caught off guard.

There are so many opportunities in front of us every day to do good.  When the time comes and your opportunity is in front of you, will you ACT? You never know how or when your actions might avert disaster or, at the very least, leave a lasting impression.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Someone is Always Looking

What started out as a place to go after picking my daughter up from school and while waiting for my wife to get off work, has grown to be a family tradition.

Peet’s Coffee and Tea in Pleasant Hill is our family’s place to hang out. Most days you will find me sitting at one of the tables drinking a steaming cup of the best coffee made (my opinion).  After all the years of coming to this location, I have become friends with many of the baristas.

For the past three years, our family has been meeting at Peet’s every Wednesday afternoon to have our favorite drinks after eating at Daphne's Greek cafe. You see, Wednesday is the day for $1.49 Street Pitas, so it’s the perfect day for a mid-week dinner out together. I could eat ten of the savory taco-style meat sensations, but I limit myself to two. We often bring our computers and sit down and write, do homework, or just play video games. Most times, we just sit back and talk. However, there are times when we are engaged in conversation with each other and with other customers.

It's just a great day and we all look forward to it. Sometimes we are the last customers in the store and help shut it down at 8:30pm.

Recently, I had a conversation with several people who also frequent the store, and they expressed how much it means to see our family every Wednesday. They said they could not believe how much our family likes hanging out with each other and that it is inspiring to them.

At the beginning, we did not set out to do something to inspire other people. We hang out together because we love to! It has been a pleasant surprise to find how many people our simple time together has touched.

When you think your life and the things you do don't matter, remember that someone is always looking.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Colored String

She entered the coffee shop, walking slowly with the help of her cane carrying a plastic box full of assorted colored string and other craft materials.  She may call the string some other fancy name, but it looks like string to me.  She picks out a spot to sit and then gets her drink.  After organizing herself at the table, her drink at her right and her plastic box in front of her she proceeds to knit together the string in a painstaking and artistic fashion to what soon becomes a “friendship bracelet”.  While making the bracelet several customers walk by and ask her what she is doing.  A conversation ensues and in some cases they purchase one of the bracelets.  I have seen her do this on numerous occasions and I am fascinated by how many conversations are started because of this colored string.

You may say, “So what, she makes and sells bracelets.”  It’s not the bracelets, it is her attitude. She has a passion for making the bracelets and has just as much fun sharing her talent for making them.  This beautiful lady lost her job and is now working part-time and found a way to make a little extra money by selling 49'er, Raider, Cal football, and other themed bracelets.

It is amazing how colored string can have such an impact in people’s lives.  This little lady with the box of string, a small drink, and a passion for making others happy is making a significant and positive impact in the lives of the people she comes in contact with. What a woman!

She has made a positive impact in my life!  

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Broken Leadership

Can leadership be broken?  I think it can.  Can it be fixed?  I think it can.

What will it take?

Let me share with you a little story of a small company with big problems.  While working with the owner of the company, we were looking at employee files.  I noticed something strange.  In a short period of just a few years over 15 employees in this small company of 5, had left the company for various reasons.  I was shocked!  I asked him what he thought was the reason for so many departures?  He began to rattle off the myriad of reasons.  His leadership was broken

I stopped him and asked, what was the one constant in all of the involuntary and voluntary terminations?   He reluctantly said, “ME.”  He realized that he hired all of them and let them underperform without holding them accountable. Because he did not set the right expectations, he paid the price, a loss of business and loss of credibility with the remaining employees.

He asked, “How do I correct the problem?”

I said, “It starts with you.  You have to take a step back and think about what type of leader you want to be and what type of company you want to have.”  Once he was able to come to terms with his leadership style and his vision for his company, then he could begin to attract the type of team members he wanted to join his organization.

Over the past year he has continued to make changes and now has a team that will allow for the type of growth they all can buy into.  Leadership always starts with you!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Little Things Mean So Much!

Little things mean so much. While having lunch with some former employees, they reminded me of the little things that I was able to do for our team.  They remembered the pancake breakfasts I used to make, the Jamba Juice days, and the massage days for the entire staff.

These little things were my way to show my appreciation to my team for all of their hard work.  They shared with me that in their current employment there are few times where their work is recognized.  They shared that all that is needed is a little acknowledgement for their efforts. They said that a little pat on the back, a little “attaboy” or “attagirl” goes such a long way to keep team members fully engaged.

As a leader, it is important to acknowledge your team’s work, not in a manipulative way, but in an honest and pure way. These expressions of acknowledgment show how much you appreciate their contribution to the growth and success of the company.  When people feel unnoticed and unappreciated, they feel like they don’t matter.

Remember:  Sometimes little things aren’t so little after all.