The Power of Truth Telling At Work

Do you have a personal pit crew to fuel your career?

Is it possible to take worry-free, unplugged vacations?

Would you rate your peer relationships as outstanding?

 

Mindy Mackenzie is a speaker and advisor who has served as the Chief Performance Officer of Beam, Inc. She has served in various senior HR leadership and organizational development roles at Jim Beam, Walmart and Campbell Soup Company. Her new book, The Courage Solution: The Power of Truth Telling with Your Boss, Peers, and Team, is filled with practical advice and tips to improve communication with your colleagues.

Mindy’s perspective provides a roadmap for success in relationships at work. I recently asked her to talk about her current work.

 

“Peace is possible, truth at all costs.” -Martin Luther

 

A Crisis of Truth

Courage SolutionYou see a crisis in the corporate world that’s rooted in a lack of courage and truth telling. Tell us more about that and the rationale behind your new book.

I wrote this book in answer to a crisis. And the crisis, from my experience, is that the thing that companies and individuals need most they often get least – and that’s the truth. And I saw it again and again and again even though I worked for three fantastic companies (Walmart, Campbell Soup and Jim Beam). So there was this crisis. The crisis was the absence of truth. Why? Because people didn’t have the courage to tell it. People were afraid of the consequences. So I wrote this book to show them how to tell the truth diplomatically but effectively. I learned that myself through trial and error to the point that I earned the nickname the Velvet Hammer.

 

“Live truth instead of professing it.” -Elbert Hubbard

 

Is “truth telling” getting more difficult these days?

Truth telling is always challenging because people like to be liked and agreed with. And telling the truth many times runs counter to that – so you have to know how to do it right. But let me pan back for a moment and make a broad statement. I think truth is the commodity in shortest supply in the corporate world, and it may be the most essential commodity of all. Why don’t people tell the truth? They are afraid of the consequences. I wrote this book to cure them of that fear. Because without the truth, no company or individual can survive, let alone thrive.

 

“Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.” -Thomas Jefferson

 

Why You Need a Personal Pit Crew

What’s a personal pit crew and why do you recommend one?

A pit crew is an external group of people committed to your success in your work and in your life. The analogy to a race car driver is apt because while they are driving the car, they have an entire team of people dedicated to helping them stay on the track going as fast as possible. Same with navigating a career. Going it alone is a bad strategy. You need to have a small group of people you trust and respect that you can go to for advice, support and practical help. The most successful business professionals I know all have their own pit crews, even if they don’t label it that.

 

Career Tip: Have a pit crew, a team dedicated to helping you stay on track.

 

Name It to Claim It

Would you share more about your advice “name it to claim it?”

If you want to achieve something or advance in your career, it helps immeasurably to be clear about your destination. Spending the time to get clear and know what you want and why is a massive accelerator to attaining it. That’s the “naming it” part. So when you are asked, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” for example, you will have a ready, well-thought-out answer. When you know what you want, you can then engage others in helping you to get there. To claim it.

 

Take Worry Free Vacations

Many people will read your chapter on vacations and say, “Worry-free, relaxing, unplugged vacation? Impossible!” How do you respond to those who say it’s impossible?

I say it only feels impossible because you’ve never done it and likely have never seen anyone around you do it. But that doesn’t mean it is impossible for you – it just means it is scary, uncomfortable and foreign. But if you want the big pay-off – which is to truly relax, refresh your energy and perspective, have unfettered fun (which is aided by not having any responsibilities) and come back to work feeling great – then you choose to be courageous and work through your discomfort. Taking the steps laid out in the chapter really work. You just have to be brave enough to try.

 

“Truth is so rare that it is delightful to tell it.” -Emily Dickinson

 

Develop Extraordinary Relationships

Redesign Your Life

 

Everything Can Be Redesigned

What do you think of when you think of design?

You may think about one of those designer shows on TV that completely redecorates a living space. Perhaps you think of designing consumer products with packaging that enhances a brand. I think of Steve Jobs and his famous quote: “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” –Steve Jobs

 

“Design is how it works.” –Steve Jobs

 

Design isn’t just for products. It’s also for lives. Designing a life that serves others is a worthy goal.

And, if something isn’t serving us well, we can redesign it and everything changes.

BJ Miller has a unique perspective on redesign that caught my attention. He wants to redesign dying. As a palliative care physician and long term patient, his ideas are both personal and professional. His story is compelling. While climbing a commuter train with some buddies in college, he was electrocuted, severely burned, and lost three limbs. Today, he specializes in end-of-life care at the Zen Hospice Project in San Francisco. His purpose is to serve others by helping them die with dignity and grace, with no regrets or undue suffering.

 

“Design is a solution to a problem. Art is a question to a problem.” –John Maeda

 

Hospitals were not designed as a place to live and die. Healthcare providers mean well, but when someone dies in a sterile hospital setting among the beeping of the background noise and the bright fluorescent lights, the body is wheeled away, and there remains a numbness. It feels like the world should stop for a moment because a life was lost, but instead the room is quickly prepped for the next patient.

 

“We have a monumental opportunity before us…to redesign how it is we die.” –BJ Miller

 

With planning, end of life can bring us closer through compassion. There is not a magic reset button for end of life; there are no do-overs. In this TED Talk, B.J. Miller lays out real life examples of human connection through our senses. When one of the residents dies at the Zen Hospice Project, the body is wheeled through the garden. Songs and stories are shared while flower petals are placed on the body. Mourning is guided in with warmth.

It’s a beautiful redesign of the inevitable.

 

“Design in the absence of content is not design, it’s decoration.” -Jeffrey Zeldman

 

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Review Your Goals and Start Your Own Redesign Plan

The approach reminded me that any aspect of life could be redesigned.

No matter what area of your life needs redesigning, you have the incredible opportunity to start again. It doesn’t even have to be major. There are times when acting on the small things makes all the difference. Here’s to your redesign plan!

 

“Everything is designed. Few things are designed well.” –Brian Reed

 

How Great Companies Fuel Innovation Through Diversity

The Power of Diversity

I’m a passionate believer in diverse teams. Throughout my life and career, I have seen the benefits from multiple perspectives examining a problem together. If everyone thinks exactly the same way, with the same background, you end up with a narrow solution. A lack of diversity increases the likelihood of strategic blind spots.

 

“If we cannot now end our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity.” –J.F.K.

 

That’s why I read with great interest David Livermore’s new book, Driven by Difference: How Great Companies Fuel Innovation Through Diversity. David Livermore has written ten books on global leadership and cultural intelligence. He is president of the Cultural Intelligence Center and a visiting scholar at Nanyang Business School in Singapore.

 

“A lack of diversity increases the likelihood of strategic blind spots.” -Skip Prichard

 

The Goal of Diversity is Not Enough

In your book, you argue that diversity, as a goal, is not good enough. Would you elaborate on this?

I applaud any effort to hire a more diverse workforce. But if that’s all you do, you set everyone up for failure. “Different” perspectives, values, and strategies for getting work done easily lead to misunderstanding, frustration, and gridlock. Diversity needs to be managed with a culturally intelligent strategy for how to effectively use the diverse perspectives to drive innovation and improve employee engagement.

 

“The more diverse the team, the less likely participants will offer their input and perspectives.” –David Livermore

 

The Link Between Innovation and Diversity

You say that diversity by itself does not ensure innovation, but it does when combined with high CQ. What is CQ? What’s the link between innovation and diversity? 

Driven by DifferenceCQ, or cultural intelligence, is the capability to work effectively with people from different cultural backgrounds. It’s measured using a CQ Assessment, which predicts how effectively one will work in situations characterized by cultural diversity.

Our research finds that diverse teams comprised of individuals with low CQ underperform homogenous teams with low CQ. However, diverse teams comprised of individuals with high CQ outperform homogenous teams on several measurements including innovation.

Therefore, CQ becomes the moderating link between diversity and innovation. With higher levels of cultural intelligence, team members can effectively retain and use the differences among them that enhance creativity while minimizing the differences that create interference.

 

“Distraction is one of the biggest roadblocks to innovation.” –David Livermore

 

Prevent Diversity Fatigue

What’s diversity fatigue and how do companies prevent it?

Diversity fatigue is how I refer to the growing weariness felt by many staff when they hear they have to go through diversity training. Even individuals from underrepresented groups often place little hope or interest in diversity initiatives in the workplace. Research recently cited in the Harvard Business Review found that diversity programs did little to convince ethnic minorities that companies would treat them any more fairly than companies without the programs.

 

“The culturally intelligent are aware of how cultural differences influence the way team members approach a task.” –David Livermore

 

There are a variety of factors that contribute to diversity fatigue, several of which I explore more fully at the beginning of Driven by Difference. But the key to addressing this is for companies to take a more strategic approach to diversity. They need to address diversity the way they address other business opportunities and challenges—assess the situation, create a strategy, and form metrics for measuring accountability. If profits are slipping, companies don’t plan a “Profits Slipping Awareness Day” and then hope the awareness translates into better returns. It’s all hands on deck with everyone accountable. And then managers and teams need to be equipped with the skills to effectively use their differences to drive innovation.

 

“Smart, empowered teams are the best way to come up with successful products.” –David Livermore

 

In one chapter, you talk about focus and how the more personalities and cultures you have working together, the easier it is to lose focus. What’s the best way to experience the benefits of diverse thinking while also keeping focus?

It comes from clearly defining the goal (a key to retaining focus) while asking your diverse colleagues how they understand the goal. The goal may seem straightforward, such as reducing costs or improving efficiencies. However, the assumptions about how to most effectively reduce cost may be strongly influenced by one’s cultural values and assumptions. Focus comes from not quickly moving beyond the seemingly basic task of clarifying expectations and instead, using a diversity of expectations to more successfully achieve more innovative outcomes.

 

“Diversity: the art of thinking independently together.” –Malcolm Forbes

 

How to Build Trust With Diverse Colleagues

12 Traits That Inspire Deep Loyalty

Your Team Will Go Through Brick Walls

Have you ever had a leader that inspires deep loyalty in you?

It’s that rare individual who not only inspires, but has an unwavering belief in you.  You don’t want to let this person down.  You go the extra mile because you want to prove you can do it.

 

“A leader must inspire or his team will expire.” -Orrin Woodward

 

 

You have certainly experienced the opposite.  The person who wears the title of leader, but you are unwilling to do more than the minimum.

What is it about a leader that makes you want to go through brick walls?  What can you do to become that person and inspire your team?

A leader who inspires performance is one who:

1. Believes

A leader who believes in you fuels the success engine.  When you put your belief in someone, he will generally rise to the challenge. Your belief acts as an inoculation against doubt.

“A leader who believes in you fuels the success engine.” -Skip Prichard

 

2. Cheerleads

A leader who is an encouraging force inspires. Cheer someone along and that person will want to win.

Leadership Tip: Double your encouragement and it’s likely to still not be enough.

 

3. Praises

Publicly or privately, when you praise someone, watch what happens. I’m talking genuine praise at just the right level and delivered at just the right time. Too much and it loses its power, but it’s next to impossible to hit a “too much” level.

“A ruler should be slow to punish and swift to reward.” -Ovid

 

4. Communicates

When you practice open, honest and direct communication, you increase trust. A lack of communication is the cause of more problems in an organization than you can imagine.

“Good communication is as stimulating as black coffee, and just as hard to sleep after.” – Anne Morrow Lindbergh

 

5. Teaches

When you teach concepts and share examples, it makes a difference in your organization and in your people. The best leaders are teachers. Not always obviously or in your face, but everyone is learning because the leader is teaching.

Leadership Tip: the best leaders are teachers.

 

6. Models

When you model the way, it inspires everyone around you. You simply cannot say one thing and do another. Do what you say you will do. Don’t ask your followers to do one thing while you are doing another.

“Consistently doing what you say you will do is the foundation of integrity.” -Skip Prichard

 

7. Promotes

When you promote and advocate on someone’s behalf, it creates loyalty. That person knows you have her back and that you are advocating on her behalf. Publicly sharing successes and attributing someone’s good work makes a difference.