The Only Leadership Decision That Really Matters

People Matter

Leaders will always say that the most important part of their company is their people. People-first philosophies abound. Don’t believe it? Look at the plaque on the wall extolling the value of people.

But often the saying on the wall is not reality on the floor. It’s far too common to see people judged strictly on today’s achievements and not by their integrity and compassion for others.

Anthony Tjan’s new book, Good People: The Only Leadership Decision That Really Matters, is about defining goodness as a skill that can be learned and mastered, about the culture that’s created when we focus on people in a completely different way. I recently spoke to him about his philosophy. Anthony is an entrepreneur, strategic advisor, and venture investor.

 

“Practicing goodness isn’t just a pleasantry..it’s our duty.” -Anthony Tjan

 

Understand True Goodness

The “Good People Mantra” is a powerful and simple summation of your philosophy. Would you share it with us?

Of course. The Good People Mantra is about five principles and commitments that define what true goodness really means.  Think of this as a sort of Hippocratic Oath for leaders to follow. It begins with always being people-first.  Make your decisions with this filter in terms of how will the outcome affect my people?  Second, recognize that goodness is really defined in terms of how you can make others feel and become the fullest version of who they are. When you are in their presence do you do that? Or when you are in the presence of someone else do you feel that? Third, goodness is something much bigger than competency – it requires character and values.  Fourth, goodness requires one to be balanced against the tensions and realities that fight against it.  We need to be self-aware of these tensions and ask the right questions to make us better at finding balance. Fifth, do goodness not only when you are morally tested or trying to avoid being bad but, rather, do goodness whenever you are in a position to do so.  Real goodness comes from those who practice being good whenever the situation allows. And recognizing that this is a life-long pursuit and intention.

 

“Truth is ultimately expressed in terms of how we act.” -Anthony Tjan

How to Engage in Conflict Without Casualties

Lead With Compassionate Accountability

 

Do you avoid conflict at all costs?

Did you know the biggest change agents in history from Mother Theresa to Martin Luther King, Jr. were masters at practicing compassion while still engaging in conflict?

 

Many people avoid conflict. I’m not one of them. I’ve never been uncomfortable talking about issues directly. In fact, I am most uncomfortable when an issue is hidden and unresolved. That makes my already difficult sleep nearly impossible. I’d rather say what needs to be said, and try to move forward.

But I have long noted how most organizations, and most people, avoid conflict at almost all costs. And how to deal with conflict is something that I’m very interested in mastering.

That’s why I couldn’t wait to read clinical psychologist Dr. Nate Regier’s new book Conflict without Casualties: A Field Guide for Leading with Compassionate Accountability. He explains why we avoid conflict, the common pitfalls we fall into, and how to engage in constructive dialogue. I found myself immediately applying his lessons the very next day after reading the book. I’m sure you will find our conversation interesting, and the book immensely helpful.

 

“The purpose of conflict is to create.” -Michael Meade

 

Know the Model: Persecutor, Victim, Rescuer

To those not familiar with the internal drama triangle, would you briefly share the model?

The Drama Triangle was developed by Dr. Stephen Karpman, a psychiatrist who spent a lot of time working with dysfunctional relationships. He was also an avid basketball fan. In fact, he was the first person to identify the triangle offense.

In drama, people play one or more of three predictable roles: Persecutor, Victim, or Rescuer. The Persecutor adopts the attitude that, “I’m OK, you are not OK,” therefore it’s OK to attack, blame, or intimidate to get what I want. The Victim adopts the attitude, “I’m not OK, you are OK” so therefore it’s OK for others to mistreat me. Victims give in and become passive in order to avoid conflict. Rescuers adopt the attitude, “I’m OK, you would be OK if you accepted and appreciated my help.” Rescuers make a living solving everyone else’s problems except their own. They practice what we call non-consensual helping, creating dependence to boost their own ego.

 

“We do not see things as they are. We see things as we are.” -Anais Nin

 

Do most people recognize where they usually operate? 

Surprisingly, no. Many people play these roles habitually, influenced by past experience, upbringing, certain relationships and personality structure. We define drama as what happens when people misuse the energy of conflict, with or without awareness, to feel justified about their negative behavior. Since justification is the modus operandi in drama, avoiding self-awareness is key. Plus, there are some powerful myths about conflict that derail people from using that energy productively. The good news is that people can learn to recognize their drama roles and chose different behaviors, more healthy ways to deal with conflict.

 

“Everybody has a plan until they get hit.” -Mike Tyson

 

You point out that there are strengths behind each of these and that they aren’t all negative. Would you share one and explain?

Yes. For example, behind the rescuer is the healthy counterpart – Resourceful. While Rescuing gives people fish, Resourcefulness teaches people how to fish. Both are problem-solvers, but Resourcefulness goes about it with the intent of struggling with others toward mutual benefit, helping raise the overall confidence and competence of the other person in a spirit of dignity.

 

“If you don’t know where you are going, you are bound to end up where you are headed.” -Chinese Proverb

 

Develop Compassionate Accountability

The Quiet Power that Elevates People and Organizations

Awakening Compassion at Work

 

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.

 

Why is compassion at work so important?

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

 

How to Respond to Suffering

Leadership Lessons from Downton Abbey

This is a guest post by friend and mentor Bruce Rhoades, who retired after having run several companies. He often helps me with strategy. I am delighted that he is a regular contributor.

Lessons from Downton Abbey

After six seasons, the popular PBS series Downton Abbey has ended. As the series unfolded, we watched the characters evolve through many changes in their society and personal lives. As the characters changed and matured, there were numerous lessons and wisdom for life demonstrated in the show.

 

“Leadership through visible action is always effective.” -Bruce Rhoades

 

Each of these characters also demonstrated leadership attributes that can be learned from watching them deal with the various situations that confronted them.

Here are a few of the leadership lessons exhibited by the characters:

 

Lesson from Lord Grantham: Often the ‘best man for the job’ is a woman.

 

Robert Crawley, Lord Grantham

  • No strategy will work forever. Watch for environmental and market changes and adapt.
  • Learn to delegate to those who are more suited to new endeavors. Take their advice, trust them and start small.
  • For long-term viability, a leader needs to groom successors and allow others to exercise their talent.
  • A successful leader needs to attract those with complementary skills to his/her own, then allow them to take action.
  • Often the “best man for the job” is a woman.

 

“A successful leader needs to attract those with complementary skills, then allow them to take action.” –Bruce Rhoades

 

 

Cora Crawley, Countess of Grantham

  • Communication, patience and being non-judgmental are necessary to allow others to adapt to change.
  • Sometimes it is most effective to act quietly and consistently in small ways to effect change. Open confrontation elicits defensiveness in others.
  • Open acceptance and acknowledgement of others builds trust and opens communication.
  • Sometimes keeping the peace in the short term provides opportunities for change in the long term.

 

“Keep the peace in the short term to allow change in the long term.” –Bruce Rhoades

 

Mr. Carson, the Butler

  • Giving orders works in the short term but does not create lasting change or personal growth in others.
  • Be respectful of those in your charge, you may need them later to move forward.
  • Failure to acknowledge change weakens your leadership.
  • Expecting perfection limits and stifles the efforts of those around you.
  • Management by intimidation does not create loyalty.

 

“Expecting perfection limits and stifles the efforts of those around you.” –Bruce Rhoades

 

“Management by intimidation does not create loyalty.” –Bruce Rhoades

 

“Failure to acknowledge change weakens your leadership.” –Bruce Rhoades

 

Lady Mary Crawley

  • Wisdom can come from any level in the organization.
  • Arrogance does not foster collaboration, trust or effective leadership.
  • Putting others down does not build you up.
  • For continued success, a leader must acknowledge change and act accordingly.

 

“Wisdom can come from any level in the organization.” –Bruce Rhoades

 

“Putting others down does not build you up.” –Bruce Rhoades

 

Lady Edith Crawley

  • Truthfulness will always yield the best, lasting results.
  • Do not overcomplicate the situation and delay action.
  • Measured risk-taking and action builds confidence.
  • Don’t let the future be dictated by the past.

 

“Measured risk-taking and action builds confidence.” –Bruce Rhoades

 

Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess

  • Deal with the situation, not the person. Acceptance of the person creates trust.
  • Ignoring a changing environment does not solve anything.
  • Know when to let others take the lead.
  • Sometimes a leader needs to give stern, unpopular advice.
  • Humor can reduce tension and create a more open atmosphere.

7 Steps to Improve Your Character Habit

Not too long ago, I had the opportunity to talk with Fred Kiel, the author of Return on Character: The Real Reasons Leaders and Their Companies Win.  His extensive research provides data that proves that character matters.  That same research also indicated that much of the character habits of the world’s best, virtuous leaders are formed in childhood.  Fred offers seven steps to improve your character habits.

Improving Character

It absolutely is possible to improve Return on Character (“ROC”) and raise your character reputation scores.  Your character habits are just that – habits.  And as such, they can be changed.  We all have some personal experience in changing our habits.  Sometimes it’s quite difficult, but it can be done.

We’ve isolated seven steps that work to improve your character habits:

1. Pop the Bubble

The first step you need to take to strengthen your character habits is to get real!  We all live in our own “bubble” – our version of ourselves.  Unfortunately, our view of ourselves is often wrong – we tend to believe our own press.  Everyone rates themselves as having a strong character – we see ourselves as principled people.

“Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.” -Confucius

 

2. Conduct a Cost-Benefit Analysis

Be brutally honest with yourself.  You have acquired your character habits because at some point in your life, they were very beneficial. But in all likelihood, some of the habits learned long ago are now more costly than beneficial.


“Being entirely honest with oneself is a good exercise.” –Sigmund Freud

 

3. Find the Fuel

The only way you’ll go the next step in changing your character is if you believe that the cost of your current habit outweighs the benefit.  You must find the “fuel rod” that will energize you enough to acquire a new habit.

“What keeps me going is goals.” -Muhammad Ali

 

4. Now, Write it Down

The important thing now is to write down what you’ve decided from your cost-benefit analysis.  If you can’t write it down and provide a convincing argument about why you should change, you’re just living in la-la land.  You won’t change anything about your character habits.

“If you do not write it down, you have a wish, not a goal.” -Steve Maraboli

 

5. Focus Your Attention