Tag Archives: integrity

Giving at the Office…A Leader’s Best Gifts

christmasgiftboxGot your Christmas shopping done yet? That’s a common question at this time of year and one that usually causes my eyes to roll up in my head because procrastination is my middle name. Actually my middle name is Mary but you know what I mean. Anyway, the Christmas shopping question tends to push my “get moving” button before I’m actually ready to er, get moving.

Nonetheless, once in gear, I manage to rise to the occasion long enough to consider things that might delight my loved ones and please my friends. After all, it is not the gift itself that is the reward. It is the happiness element that comes with it that makes gift -giving so much fun.

I like the idea of happiness being the real gift and I think it translates well too, when it comes to exchanging gifts at work. Of course, it is always a little more challenging to give meaningful gifts to people at work, but here are a few ideas to consider. They cost nothing. They can have lasting effects. And, to the best of my knowledge, they aren’t fattening.

The Gift of Attention

Give a few minutes of your undivided attention to each of the people you lead, each day.

That means spending the time listening, being curious about their interests, thoughts and opinions and suspending judgment long enough to learn something about them that you might otherwise miss.

The Gift of Inclusion

Take a little time to remind those you lead, why you come to work everyday. Give them the big picture (even if you’ve done it before) and show them how they fit into it as individuals. Yes, I know, it’s the old vision thing again. But, believe me, when people can see where they are going and that there is a place for them on the proverbial bus, that creates some happiness.

The Gift of Challenge

Consider those you lead and give each a challenge for the New Year that will allow them to stretch, grow, and learn more about themselves and what they can do.

I hazard to say that everyone likes a challenge. It gets the juices flowing and allows us to test our boundaries. Giving the gift of challenge suggests faith in each person’s capability and potential. And, its value is that much greater at times when the individual doubts or fears his or her own possibilities.

The Gift of Encouragement

Of course challenge on its own can become onerous if not accompanied by encouragement and the support that goes with it. So, with each gift of challenge, include whatever each person might need to accomplish it, including resources, education, training or a friendly ear. That will ensure, I think, the highest possible opportunity for success and resulting happiness.

The Gift of Truth

Find ways to convey to those you lead that you will always be straight with them no matter what the circumstances. And then make sure you follow through.

Leaders who are truthful, both in good times and bad also give the gift of useful information. Useful information allows people to make good decisions for themselves. Being Truthful with them acknowledges their capability to respond as adults. It is respectful. And, even if the news is not good, it gives them their best opportunity to work through it and find satisfying resolutions.

This of course is not an exhaustive list. They are only the gifts that first come to mind for me. What gifts do you have in mind for those you lead? Please feel free to add to the list!

 

Note: Originally published in December 2009

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Filed under Building Relationships, communication, Leadership, Leadership Development, Leadership Values

Leadership and the Attitude Contagion

catfrownDuring my active career, I used to spend a lot of time travelling for business so hotel stays for me became somewhat commonplace. And, I experienced a variety of attitudes from hotel staff as well.

On one particular trip to Toronto, I stayed in a hotel that was, and is, a rather posh place to hang your hat so I was quite looking forward to the experience.

Even so, on arrival, I felt an unmistakable chill in the air… and it wasn’t the air conditioning. The bellman, a rather tall and portly man, looked distinctly unhappy. In truth, his attitude toward me had a whiff of disdain about it as he unlocked the door to my room and ushered me, unceremoniously, inside. Hmmm, I thought, not a good start.

Once in the room, I realized there was no hair dryer in the bathroom. And so I phoned housekeeping. The Housekeeping department tersely informed me that while they would supply me with a hair dryer, I would only be allowed to keep it in my room for half an hour. Really?

This person didn’t sound happy either. Needless to say nor was I.

In contrast, my husband and I once went on a short road trip to Vancouver, Washington. We stayed at the Heathman Lodge, an upscale hotel built to blend harmoniously with the Pacific Northwest environment.

Here, we were warmly welcomed. The hotel staff was upbeat, positive and friendly. I saw no miserable faces, no reluctance to serve and no disdainful glances.

In the restaurant adjacent to the hotel our experience was even better. The wait staff was more than accommodating. And each morning at breakfast, Cecily greeted us with a cheerful smile. Cecily exuded happiness. She and the others, who all remained cheerful in spite of the busy breakfast period, helped us set our own moods for the day

People were happy. And so was I.

So what’s the message here? Well, there are a number of them but one that stands out for me is this. Attitude is contagious.

If you are a leader, formally designated or otherwise, know that you are probably also a Chief Attitude Officer.

Simply put, that means the atmosphere in your place of work is created largely by the attitude you bring to it. And, as it is unlikely anyone wants to encourage an attitude that creates unhappiness in employees and customers alike, here are a few thoughts about making positivity the contagion of choice:

Know What You Value

Being clear about what is important to us as human beings is critical to creating a kind of internal compass that guides our choices and decisions. In the workplace, knowing what we value and doing work that aligns with those values is equally important. If there is a misalignment of values between the leader and those who follow, then generally, a less than positive working environment is the result and poor attitudes tend to prevail.

Be Consistent

Okay so it’s one thing to be clear about our values. It’s possibly another to demonstrate them consistently. Like it or not, the leader is the role model. If the leader strays from the values being espoused, it is likely that everyone else will too. So, not only do we have to be clear about what they are and believe in them, we have to live by them and demonstrate our ongoing commitment to them as well.

Be Generous

Most businesses and organizations provide service in some form or another. And, even within organizations, everyone serves someone. To me, generosity is the key to success in this.

Generosity is one of those things that spills over from one person to the next. It makes sense then that if a leader’s approach to those who follow is generous in nature, that attitude will transfer to others and serve to lift the mood of everyone who comes in contact with it.

That’s what I think anyway.  What do you think?

 

Note: This is a refreshed version of a post I wrote in 2010

 

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Filed under Building Relationships, Employee engagement, Leadership, Leadership Development, organizational culture

Leadership and the Credibility Factor

What does credibility mean to you?  Here’s my take on it and why I think it’s an important quality for leaders to develop, not just in effecting change initiatives but in everything else they do.

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I’ve been thinking about change lately, mostly about what it is that separates a person who seems to be able to influence change in a positive direction, from a person who might have the authority and the technical skill to do the work, but seems unable to pull it off.

The word credibility comes to mind.  The Thesaurus suggests that credibility is synonymous with trustworthiness, integrity and sincerity. I think that if these basic values are present, the chances of arousing the interest and respect of other people are pretty good. And, I believe too, that change agents come in many forms, manifest themselves in a variety of ways and at a variety of levels.

Thinking about that reinforces for me, the notion that it is credibility not title, position, role or authority that makes the difference between an effective change agent and an ineffective one.

So, if you are with me so far, the big question seems to be ” How do I prove my credibility to others?”

Here’s what I think it takes to earn credibility:

I do what I say I’m going to do… and I do it, when I say I’m going to do it.

Reliability is an important ingredient in establishing credibility.

There’s nothing more infuriating or counter-productive, than when someone makes a commitment to do something and then fails to follow through.

I represent myself honestly and do my best to be candid and open with my colleagues and bosses.

I think that to gain credibility with others we must simply find the courage and confidence to be ourselves and make our contributions without pretense or bravado.

I show that I’m open to learning and trying new things

Nothing puts holes in our credibility more than conveying the impression that we have all the answers. And, it is arrogant to think that we can influence change in others without feeling the need to change something in ourselves as well.

After all, change is a learning experience in itself. If we believe that it is for everyone but us, we are likely not asking the right questions, enough questions, or paying attention to what is going on around us.

I demonstrate respect for the experiences and knowledge of others.

One of the best ways to build credibility is to observe those who have gone before us and learn from their experiences.  If we want to be heard we must first listen.

When I challenge the status quo, I offer feasible and thoughtful alternatives.

To me, presenting a problem without considering a solution is not supporting change.  It is simply complaining.  This doesn’t mean that we have to have a solution for every problem.  But if we want to earn credibility, we have to consider not only the problem, but also the possibilities and questions that will stimulate further exploration.

I own up to being human and making mistakes. And, when I make mistakes, I apologize and then do my best to make amends.

Making excuses for the mistakes we make is simply unproductive and, well, not very attractive either. In general, we do not adversely affect our credibility when we make mistakes. We adversely affect our credibility when we try to cover them up, rationalize them away, blame them on someone else or otherwise pretend  they didn’t happen.

That’s what I think anyway.  What do you think?

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Filed under Building Relationships, Change Management, Leadership, Leadership Development, Leadership Values, Leading Change

The Importance of Integrity in Leadership

In today’s world, we often look for faster ways of getting things done.  The magic of technology makes this possible.  And, there are all kinds of ways to cut through processes when they start getting in the way of progress.  One thing we can never afford to compromise however, is the integrity with which we conduct ourselves.  That’s what this post is about.

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No amount of ability is of the slightest avail without honour… Andrew Carnegie

Good leadership relies on our ability to live our lives with courage, strength of character and honesty. It is harder to do than talk about but without it, leaders can’t thrive for any length of time regardless of how skilled they may be otherwise.

There have been many prominent leaders who have risen to great heights only to fall with a severe thud because they have acted solely out of self-interest.  Sadly and frustratingly, there is a lot of evidence of this.

These people have, or are experiencing, the consequences of a kind of self-absorption, that assumes that power gives them a certain exemption from behaving responsibly and honourably.

What they seem to have ignored, or failed to understand, is that the more powerful we become, the greater is our responsibility to others. And, when leaders go awry of honourable actions, the impact of their 
behaviour is felt very deeply by people who have had little, if anything, to do with decisions made on their behalf. At these times, honour is offered as a sacrifice to greed and trust is destroyed.

Trust is one of those things that often takes a long time to build but only a minute to destroy. As such, it is a thing to be treasured and protected. That’s where strength of character comes in, and where telling the truth and keeping promises become vital.

Okay, so we’re all human and who among us has never told a lie? But, the consequences of deception and lies often have a greater impact than we think when we first venture into the realm of the untruth. It is a lesson that most of us learn eventually.

There is a certain arrogance in believing that the rules of the universe apply to everyone but me. And, believe me, there have been times when I have been very arrogant indeed… always with a poor result.

Maybe this is what happens to business leaders who come to believe in their own importance to the exclusion of everything else.

Skill and talent can take us only so far. To travel the rest of the way, we must make sure we bring with us a large measure of honourable intent, concern for the welfare of others and the willingness and courage to do what is right, even when it means giving up something we want very badly.  That’s what makes it so hard.

One of my favourite movies is “Scent of a Woman”.  In it, Al Pacino’s character makes a declaration that speaks to exactly how difficult it is to live a life with integrity…and exactly why it is so necessary.  I offer it here with no intent to infringe copyright but simply to reinforce the movie’s message and my own.

That’s what I think anyway.  What do you think?

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Filed under Leadership, Leadership Values, organizational culture

Change and the Credibility Factor

This is a refreshed version of a post I wrote just over three years ago.  I’m giving it another airing because, at its core, leadership is about change and exploring new territory.  No leader can do that successfully without having earned the confidence of those s/he leads.  It’s as simple and as complicated as that.

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I’ve been thinking about what it is that separates a person who seems to be able to influence change in a positive direction, from a person who might have the authority and the technical skill to do the work, but seems unable to pull it off.

The word credibility comes to mind.  The Thesaurus suggests that credibility is synonymous with trustworthiness, integrity and sincerity. I think that if these basic values are present, the chances of arousing the interest and respect of other people are pretty good. And, I believe too, that change agents come in many forms, manifest themselves in a variety of ways and at a variety of levels.

Thinking about that reinforces for me, the notion that it is credibility not title, position, role or authority that makes the difference between an effective leader and an ineffective one.

So, if you are with me so far, the big question seems to be ” How do I prove my credibility to others?”

Here’s what I think it takes to earn credibility:

I do what I say I’m going to do… and I do it, when I say I’m going to do it.

Reliability is an important ingredient in establishing credibility.

There’s nothing more infuriating or counter-productive, than when someone makes a commitment to do something and then fails to follow through.

I represent myself honestly and do my best to be candid and open with my colleagues and bosses.

I think that to gain credibility with others we must simply find the courage and confidence to be ourselves and make our contributions without pretense or bravado.

I show that I’m open to learning and trying new things

Nothing puts holes in our credibility as a leader more than conveying the impression that we have all the answers. And, it is arrogant to think that we can influence change in others without feeling the need to change something ourselves.

Change is a learning experience in itself. If we believe that it is for everyone but us, we are likely not asking the right questions, enough questions, or paying attention to what is going on around us.

I demonstrate respect for the experiences and knowledge of others.

One of the best ways to build credibility is to observe those who have gone before us and learn from their experiences.  If we want to be heard we must first listen.

When I challenge the status quo, I offer feasible and thoughtful alternatives.

To me, presenting a problem without considering a solution is not supporting change.  It is simply complaining.  This doesn’t mean that we have to have a solution for every problem.  But if we want to earn credibility, we have to consider not only the problem, but also the possibilities and questions that will stimulate further exploration.

I own up to being human and making mistakes. And, when I make mistakes, I apologize and then do my best to make amends.

Making excuses for the mistakes we make is simply unproductive and, well, not very attractive either. In general, we do not adversely affect our credibility when we make mistakes. We adversely affect our credibility when we try to cover them up, rationalize them away, or otherwise pretend they didn’t happen.

That’s what I think anyway. What do you think?

17 Comments

Filed under communication, Leadership, Leading Change, Organizational Effectiveness

Leadership and The Attitude Contagion

During my active career, I used to spend a lot of time travelling for business so hotel stays for me became somewhat commonplace.  And, I experienced a variety of attitudes from hotel staff as well.

On one particular trip to Toronto, I stayed in a hotel that was, and is, a rather posh place to hang your hat so I was quite looking forward to the experience.

Even so, on arrival, I felt an unmistakable chill in the air… and it wasn’t the air conditioning. The bellman, a rather tall and portly man, looked distinctly unhappy. In truth, his attitude toward me had a whiff of disdain about it as he unlocked the door to my room and ushered me, unceremoniously, inside.  Hmmm, I thought, not a good start.

Once in the room, I realized there was no hair dryer in the bathroom.  And so I phoned housekeeping.   The Housekeeping department tersely informed me that while they would supply me with a hair dryer, I would only be allowed to keep it in my room for half an hour.  Really?

This person didn’t sound happy either.  Needless to say nor was I.

In contrast, my husband and I recently went on a short road trip to Vancouver, Washington.  We stayed at the Heathman Lodge, an upscale hotel built to blend harmoniously with the Pacific Northwest environment.

Here, we were warmly welcomed.  The hotel staff was upbeat, positive and friendly.  I saw no miserable faces, no reluctance to serve and no disdainful glances.

In the restaurant adjacent to the hotel our experience was even better.  The wait staff was more than accommodating.  And each morning at breakfast, Cecily greeted us with a cheerful smile.  Cecily exuded happiness.  She and the others, who all remained cheerful in spite of the busy breakfast period, helped us set our own moods for the day

People were happy.  And so was I.

So what’s the message here?  Well, there are a number of them but one that stands out for me is this.  Attitude is contagious.

If you are a leader, formally designated or otherwise, know that you are probably also a Chief Attitude Officer.

Simply put, that means that the atmosphere in your place of work is created largely by the attitude you bring to it.   And, as it is unlikely that anyone wants to encourage an attitude that creates unhappiness in employees and customers alike, here are a few thoughts about making positivity the contagion of choice:

Know What You Value

Being clear about what is important to us as human beings is critical to creating a kind of internal compass that guides our choices and decisions.  In the workplace, knowing what we value and doing work that aligns with those values is equally important.  If there is a misalignment of values between the leader and those who follow, then generally, a less than positive working environment is the result and poor attitudes tend to prevail.

Be Consistent

Okay so it’s one thing to be clear about our values.  It’s possibly another to demonstrate them consistently.  Like it or not, the leader is the role model.  If the leader strays from the values being espoused, it is likely that everyone else will too.  So, not only do we have to be clear about what they are and believe in them, we have to live by them and demonstrate our ongoing commitment to them as well.

Be Generous

Most businesses and organizations provide service in some form or another. And, even within organizations, everyone serves someone.  To me, generosity is the key to success in this.

Generosity is one of those things that spills over from one person to the next.  It makes sense then that if a leader’s approach to those who follow is generous in nature, that attitude will transfer to others and serve to lift the mood of everyone who comes in contact with it.

It seems simple enough doesn’t it?   But is it?  What do you think?

If you are a leader (a.k.a. Chief Attitude Officer) and believe in the power of generosity, what does it look like for you?  In your organization what values do you see at play?  Where or who do they come from? How do you use them?

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Filed under Building Relationships, communication, Employee engagement, motivating & Inspiring

The Story of a Great Leader

If you were to ask me to describe someone who demonstrated greatness in leadership, I might be tempted to paint the picture of a larger- than- life super hero, perhaps a president, a king, or a captain of industry.

I might not come up with Roberta Guaspari.

No, Roberta would not be the first person that would come to mind when I thought about greatness in leadership.  But nevertheless, Roberta is indeed a great leader.

Roberta Guaspari teaches children to play the violin.  When she first started, she was a single parent to two young boys.  To earn her living she arranged to provide violin lessons in school to the children of East Harlem.  What she had going for her was the love of music; the ability to play and the strong desire to make a difference to children whose opportunities were limited by their circumstances.

She has a passionate vision that is clear to everyone who comes across her or her story.   Her vision is “for kids to have music in their lives”

She believes that her vision is important because music, “empowers these children with the ability to make something beautiful that allows them to believe in themselves and know they’re special” This is her primary purpose, to help children love music, play music and believe in themselves.

Roberta’s primary purpose is not about money or attention for herself.  It is about something bigger than that, much bigger.  She is a great leader because not only can she see a better future for the children she teaches, she helps them get there, even against great odds.

In 1991, Roberta’s music program was cut from the school board budget.   That meant that not only was she out of a job but the children (and their parents), who so depended on her, would lose something that had become vital to their development and future.

Roberta did not back down.

Instead, she kept her focus.  She forged relationships with people who had the power to help.  And they did.  She plucked up her courage and made much larger strides that I suspect even she thought herself capable of. Throughout it all, it seems that she never lost sight of her primary purpose.

Empathy, Vision, Focus, Determination, Courage, …and a violin, This is what makes Roberta Guaspari a great leader.

The violin, notwithstanding, I assert that these qualities are common among great leaders of all descriptions.

  • They have clear, well-articulated visions of the future
  • They lead with great will, humility and focus
  • They build strong relationships with a variety of people
  • They strive to achieve things that are greater than themselves and for the greater good

Of course you  may know that a movie about Roberta’s life and accomplishments was made, starring Meryl Streep.  If you have seen the movie, what do you think?  What have I missed?

What does greatness look like to you?  What do you want for those you lead?

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Filed under Building Relationships, Leadership Values, motivating & Inspiring