A business that delivers reliable results is the sum of reliable teams, and reliable teams are the sum of reliable individuals. So, building reliable business results really starts with a leader coaching each team member to deliver reliable individual results.
“Personal reliability is a cornerstone of leadership.” -Lee Colan
Personal reliability is a cornerstone of leadership. Ken May began working at FedEx while he was in college. He started at the bottom sorting packages. He gradually worked his way up, becoming the Senior Vice President of North American Operations. He then became CEO of FedEx Kinko’s and is currently CEO of Topgolf. When asked about his career climb, May is quick to say, “I just work hard at whatever I do. I don’t complain. I don’t blame. I just work hard. I’m grateful for my job, my organization and my customers. I try to never promise what I can’t deliver.”
May knows that he can’t expect anything from his employees that he isn’t willing to model. His employees know they have a boss, a friend and an example in May. He, in turn, has a loyal workforce. As May has been heard to say, “Personal reliability at the top is the beginning of a successful organization, a dedicated workforce and loyal customers.”
3 Levels of Leadership
Leadership is an inside job. It starts inside with your personal leadership traits, such as integrity, trust, competence, authenticity – all of which are aspects of personal reliability. In fact, our company logo is a group of three stacked L’s representing the three levels of leadership: personal, team and organizational. You cannot expect your team to be reliable (or any other trait for that matter) if you are not being reliable. Since reliability, like leadership, is built from the inside out, the most important question a leader should ask is, “How reliable am I?”
“Reliability, like leadership, is build from the inside out.” -Lee Colan
Reliability is something every leader wants more of from his or her team. Your challenge is to coach for reliable individual performance as the building block of a reliable and profitable business. Reliability is a customer magnet, whereas unreliability is a customer deterrent.
“Reliability is a customer magnet, whereas unreliability is a customer deterrent.” -Lee Colan
When a customer needs something done by a set date, or a service performed in a specific manner, he’s seeking someone who can provide that service with certainty. Many companies have built their reputations by providing that certainty for customers. For example, FedEx realized it could corner the market by promising to get your letter to its destination overnight, without fail. The company created an entire niche that never existed before. McDonald’s has built its iconic brand based on a promise of a reliable experience, regardless of which location.
Ultimately, excellent leaders help good employees become even better people. They help their employees build better lives for themselves and others while producing better business results.
“Excellent leaders help good employees become even better people.” -Lee Colan
There are five habits that excellent coaches use to create the reliability advantage. The five habits give your team the biggest boost if applied in sequence. However, you must use your knowledge of your team to determine when to accelerate through or spend more time on a specific habit. The root meaning of the verb “to coach” means to bring a person from where they are to where they want to be. Consider the role of a football coach. He sets clear expectations for his team with a game plan to win. He asks players if they have any questions to ensure they are clear about their respective roles on the team. He also asks them questions like, “How can you improve your performance or overcome a certain obstacle?” Then during the game, he involves them in changing the game plan, if necessary, based on what they are seeing on the field. The coach also observes and measures each player’s performance (e.g., number of tackles, yards gained, etc.). Finally, the coach gives constructive feedback and recognition so his players can elevate their performance in the next game.
These are the same five habits that excellent leaders employ to coach their teams. First, excellent leaders explain expectations. They realize it is necessary but not sufficient, in and of itself, to boost performance. Excellent leaders take the time to ensure alignment with their teams before moving forward. Second, excellent leaders also ask questions. A leader might ask to clarify a problem or ask for ideas and suggestions. Asking questions ignites employee engagement. Third, excellent coaches involve team members in creating solutions to improve their work. This enlists ownership because we are committed to things we help create. Fourth, excellent leaders diligently measure results to boost team accountability. The fifth and final coaching habit is to appreciate people. This builds commitment to sustain and improve results. Using each of these habits in concert elevates team reliability.
Someone once told me that if you treat everyone as if they are suffering in some way, you will be right most of the time.
Throughout my life, I’ve remembered the wisdom in this advice. Some leaders have told me that work is a place where you focus on business results and anything else is a waste of time. How short-sighted and wrong.
Suffering in the workplace is a reality and a natural part of life. It’s an unquantified drain on productivity. It can prevent people from doing their best.
Monica C. Worline, Ph.D., is founder and CEO of EnlivenWork, an innovation organization that teaches compassionate leadership. She is a research scientist at Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, and she is the executive director of CompassionLab, the world’s leading research collaboratory focused on compassion at work. Monica holds a lectureship at the Ross School of Business, University of Michigan, and is an affiliate faculty member at the Center for Positive Organizations. She and her colleague Jane E. Dutton, Ph.D., are co-authors of the new book Awakening Compassion at Work: The Quiet Power that Elevates People and Organizations.
I recently spoke with her about compassion at work.
“The purpose of human life is to serve and to show compassion and the will to help others.” –Albert Schweitzer
Compassion at work isn’t something we typically think about, but we should. Tell us more about your research and findings about compassion at work.
It’s true, Skip, we do need to think more about compassion at work—especially if we care about generating great business results—because over the past fifteen years, my co-author Jane Dutton and I have been doing research that demonstrates that compassion is central to human-based capabilities in organizations. As a CEO yourself, I’m sure you are aware that there is an epidemic of disengagement and despair at work. By some measures, up to 70 percent of people don’t feel like anyone cares about them when they go to work every day. That leaves them emotionally out in the cold. They may physically show up, but psychologically they’re checked out. Compassion is an overlooked, undervalued essential asset in today’s workplace.
Up to 70% of people don’t feel anyone cares about them at work.
In our bookAwakening Compassion at Work, we offer a full business case for compassion as a source of strategic advantage for organizations. This is something many business leaders haven’t considered, but there is now reliable evidence from a variety of disciplines of research to support that compassion fuels the capability for high-quality service delivery, better innovation, collaboration, and adaptation to change. Compassion at work helps an organization retain its most talented people and its most valuable clients—that’s why it is so important for leaders like yourself. But on the human side of work, let me be quick to add that many people still carry around the myth that suffering should be kept outside of the workplace, and it’s really important to challenge that myth. The reality is that work is suffused with suffering—both brought in from home and created within the workplace—and compassion is the answer to helping to heal this suffering. But left unacknowledged and unaddressed, suffering robs workplaces of humanity, dignity, and motivation.
“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” –Dalai Lama
This is a guest post by Paul Keijzer, CEO and Managing Partner of Engage Consulting. His focus is on transforming top teams across Asia’s emerging markets. Paul provides an excellent summary of the roles of the critical players to create effective employee engagement.
Employee Engagement is Not Just for HR
There’s no questioning the fact that everyone’s involvement is crucial for employee engagement to be successful. Much of the past has been targeted at getting the HR department to successfully drive employee engagement and the subsequent results to the company’s bottom line. Now that the business world has more or less agreed that employee engagement across all levels triggers the greatest business results, let’s take a look at the roles that everyone has to play to make employee engagement a success – and I guarantee you, it’s not just the HR department.
1. The Employee
No matter where you work, the fact is that unless you, as an employee, want to be engaged, no amount of engagement programs and tools are going to increase your engagement levels. Employee engagement is a two-way street and employees must play their part. The key responsibilities of any employee for employee engagement are:
Make Yourself “Engageable”
Being engageable is a mindset which involves positivity, a can do attitude, avoiding office politics and a few more key characteristics. Put yourself in this mindset to get you the opportunities you want.
Understand What Drives and Frustrates You
If you know what drives and frustrates you, the company will be able to help engage you – provided that you share this information.
Pro-Actively Resolve Issues
Nobody is perfect and neither is any organization. If and when your boss makes a mistake regarding your engagement, inform them quickly and provide a solution.
“Unless you want to be engaged, no programs and tools will work.” -@Paul_Keijzer
People don’t leave companies, they leave managers. Take it one step further and it becomes, “People aren’t engaged by companies, it’s their line managers who do the engaging.” Some steps that line managers can take are:
Managers must remove barriers which can stop an employee from reaching their desired goal. Meeting weekly to discuss hurdles and accomplishments is a great way to do this.
Encourage Efforts and Reward Results
Rewards set standards for colleagues and promote healthy competition. Of course, every effort and result shouldn’t be rewarded equally; that would defy the purpose.
Identify What Drives Your Team
If employees are expected to share their drives and frustrations, line managers better be providing a listening channel.
“Companies do not engage people, line managers do.” -@Paul_Keijzer
You may wonder how someone who’s supposed to be looking at the overall success of the organization can affect how people work on a daily basis. This is how any CEO can positively impact employee engagement:
Not too long ago, I was asked to give a talk about organizational culture and why it matters. Before I walked up to the podium, one of the attendees cornered me. He wanted me to know his strongly-held position. In an emphatic tone, he nearly shouted:
“Skip, cash matters, not culture, not character, not creativity! Cash is the only thing you can spend.”
How fortunate that my slides started with financials so I could demonstrate the power of culture change. But, what I wish I had was the book that crossed my desk a few weeks ago: Return on Character: The Real Reasons Leaders and Their Companies Win. In the most comprehensive study of its kind, Fred Kiel reveals the research that proves that good character wins. We discussed his findings at length and I know many organizational leaders will want to study the results.
“Character is the tree. Reputation is its shadow.” -Lincoln
Tell us just briefly about your study and its methodology. Where did you get the idea, how many CEO’s were involved, etc.?
In 2005 I and my co-author, Doug Lennick, published a book entitled Moral Intelligence in which we claimed that highly principled leaders obtained better long-term business results than leaders who were not so principled. The book has done very well, but shortly after it was published we received some pushback. One person said, “Fred, I know you like all of this soft stuff. But let me give you a little lesson in economics. The business model is what creates value. If a business is profitable and makes a lot of money, all that culture stuff will come along with it. And if it doesn’t, that’s not a big deal as long as management stays legal. What you talk about is just icing on the cake. It’s nice but not necessary. And, besides you don’t have any hard data to back up your claim.”
This really got to me. He was right about me not having any data to back up our claim that character matters – and that became the call to action for our study.
Over the next seven years we signed up 121 CEOs and their senior teams to participate. Eighty-four completed the study, so we have complete data sets on these 84 CEOs, their senior teams, and their organizations. Over 8,500 randomly selected employees completed our surveys about these CEOs and their teams. We have nearly one million separate data points in our research base. This is the largest study of this kind to date.
4 Universal Character Habits
How do you define character in the Return on Character (ROC) matrix?
We scoured the cultural anthropology research and discovered that humans all over the world share many common practices and beliefs. Parents all over the world teach their children to tell the truth, keep promises, own up to mistakes, forgive others, and to care for people – at least in their tribe. We added to this understanding the recent findings from the neurosciences and genetics to come up with our definition of character as it applies to leaders.
The ROC Matrix shows the four universal principles and the character habits that are aligned with these principles.
Copyright Fred Kiel; Used by Permission
Lincoln said, “Character is the tree. Reputation is its shadow.” Likewise, the habits we all have for how we treat other people is our character reputation. That’s what we measured in our research – a leader’s reputation for how he or she treats people.
Probing the Leader’s Childhood
In several places in the book, you delve into the CEO’s childhood and upbringing. Why? What did you find? Why is the CEO’s life story so important?
If you took the resumes and employment histories of high character CEOs and compared them to low character CEOs, you’d be hard pressed to see much difference. Both groups are competitive, driven to succeed, rational, high energy, and often wicked smart – they know how to command a room and nail an interview.
Where we started to see significant differences was when we surveyed their employees and asked about their behaviors around the 4 universal character habits – integrity, responsibility, forgiveness and compassion. So that begs the question – how did each group come by their different postures around these habits? Where did they get their beliefs about how the world worked and how to succeed in that world?
Turns out the clues are in their childhoods and upbringing.