Core Values and Performance

Core Valuescontemplativechristian / Foter / CC BY-SA

We had our annual Vistage CEO Summits this week, and the speakers emphasized an important point about evaluating the people on your team. Both Alex Freytag and Tom Bouwer of Profit Works emphasized the importance of alignment with core values. Most leaders do a pretty good job of evaluating people for performance. If you have an employee who is consistently not performing, it’s usually a pretty easy decision to let them go.

It can be a harder decision when the performance is good, but the person’s core values do not align with the company’s core values. Let’s say that one of your core values is Integrity, and the behavior expected with that core value is to do what you say you are going to do when you say you are going to do it. Let’s also say that one of your best sales people never does what they say they are going to do. They make commitments that they never keep. Their performance (measured in sales results) is good, but there is no alignment with one of your key core values. What do you do?

If you truly believe in the importance of core values, you must address the issue with the sales person. If you do not address their behavior, you have just sent a message to the organization that your core values are not important. You have effectively given everyone permission to violate all of your core values, because they apparently do not matter. Does that message create the culture you want?

What if instead, you address the behavior with the sales person and try to work with them to behave in the manner you expect? Sometimes, that’s all that is needed to motivate change. If not, then you may need to part ways with the person. If the rest of the organization understands how serious you are about your core values, good things will happen. Those who are not comfortable being held accountable to those behaviors will often leave their own. Those who exemplify those core values will thrive and be even more excited about working for your company.

Please consider clearly defining your core values and associated behaviors, and then evaluating your employees on alignment with those core values as well as performance.

Leadership: What’s Love Got to do with it?

Doily Heart
What\'s Love Got to do with Leadership?Suzanne Schroeter / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Valentine’s Day gets everyone thinking about love. While we mostly think of family and significant others at this time of year, I’d like to suggest that you also consider your leadership. What’s love got to do with leadership? A lot, it turns out. (No, I’m not talking about romantic love at work – your HR department likely has rules about that!)

Rather, I’d like to talk about a different type of love. When you close your eyes and think about work, do you get a warm and happy feeling? Or do you feel unhappy and realize you are frowning? If you are a leader who doesn’t love what you do, ask yourself how that may be impacting the rest of your organization. As a leader, you are watched all of the time, whether you like it or not. And if you truly dislike your job, that will become obvious to your employees over time. When they realize their boss hates their job, they might start thinking about reasons to hate their own job. Negativity spreads quickly throughout an organization and can cause significant performance issues such as declining sales, turnover, and more. If you truly dislike your job, you owe it to your organization to figure out how to change it so you actually enjoy what you do.

If you love your job, then how do you feel about your employees? Do you care for them as individuals? Do you show interest in their needs? Is yours a positive culture of support and encouragement? If you have a caring heart, it will show through in your daily interactions with your team. That doesn’t mean you won’t get frustrated with their behavior at times. Just like with family, sometimes we become disappointed with our team. However, if you genuinely care for them, those occasional disappointments will not become significant obstacles to success.

On the other hand, if you really don’t care for your employees, they will sense that, too. Do you think you can possibly get someone’s best effort if they know you really don’t like them? It’s very unlikely. If you truly dislike some of your team, then you can either change your perspective, or replace the people with others who are a better fit for your organization. Neither option is easy, but both are critical to your long-term success.

On this Valentine’s weekend, consider how loving your job and your people can be a key indicator of leadership success.

Indavertent Leadership

Gosling fleet
Inadvertent Leadershipjonasflanken / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

I participate in a small group that meets once a month to share insights and wisdom. This particular group reminds me of stimulating intellectual conversations I used to have with my cousin’s family. Today’s discussion was on the topic of leadership. As the conversation unfolded, I realized that I was an inadvertent leader as a child. I didn’t grow up thinking that I wanted to be a leader. Rather, I was the kid who was entrusted by parents to carry the glass casserole across the street, and to walk other children to school, even though I was not the oldest. I did not give a thought to the fact that I was being perceived as a leader at the ripe young age of 4. I believe I was chosen as a leader because I exhibited responsible behavior and elicited trust from others. Those same qualities have contributed to my success as a leader throughout my career.

Someone else mentioned this morning that they learned how to be a leader from their military training. Others likely learned leadership from books, seminars, or mentors. However you learned to be a leader, the bigger question is how effective is your leadership in your business? The best leaders know when to take charge and lead, and when to step back and be an observer while letting someone else take the lead. When the business moves past your ability to be an effective leader, it is time to either increase your leadership skill or more likely, to bring in someone else to take the business to the next level. Are you an inadvertent leader? Or an intentional leader?

One Day at a Time

January 2015 calendar

I asked someone recently how they were doing, and their response to me was, “Just taking it one day at a time”. They were going through some challenges, and were focused on just slogging through the difficult times and making it safely to the next day. It can be rewarding to see the minor improvements that occur when you overcome large hurdles one small piece at a time. Just be careful not to make the “one day at a time” approach a way of life in business if you are a leader.

As a leader, you should always be focused on the big picture, steering the ship. If you and your team spend too much time in the “one day at a time” mindset, your ship can veer off course. Before you realize it, you have to make major course corrections to get back on course. To prevent those course corrections, I suggest that you schedule time in your calendar to focus on your long term vision. At least once each month, if not more frequently, you should be pulling out your scope to look at the horizon and make sure you are headed in the right direction. Making minor course corrections along the way is much easier and less disruptive than having to completely change everything when you finally realize you are significantly off course.

Why not start off 2015 by putting regular vision time into your calendar? Then you can relax and enjoy success one day at a time.

Monday Morning Quarterback

Raymond James Stadium
Monday Morning QuarterbackLord is Good / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Now that the football season is in full swing, we can see signs of people playing “Monday morning quarterback” about one of Sunday’s games. If you are unfamiliar with that term, it means looking back at what happened and second-guessing decisions that were made during the game. In other words, it is living with regret.

Good football coaches know that it’s not helpful to dwell too long on a game that has been lost. Instead, they concentrate on fixing the few problem areas to make sure everyone has learned from their mistakes and knows what to do the next time they are in that situation. They then quickly get everyone focused on the next game. They understand the importance of a winning attitude.

Too often, we dwell on the deal that got away or the mistake that happened, saying, “If only…” Psychology shows that what you allow your mind to dwell upon becomes reality. If you spend much of your time focusing on why you didn’t get a sale, your mind reinforces the idea that you can’t sell. Focusing on that negative comment becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: If you think you can’t sell, your mind will make sure that’s an accurate assessment! The same thing happens with regret: If you focus on regret, you’ll continue to experience more regret.

Just like a good football coach, a good leader has to get his or her team to stop saying, “If only…” When something doesn’t go well, conduct a quick “lessons learned” session and then focus on the positive impact you are going to make in the next situation. Help your team envision a positive outcome and sit back and watch it come true.

Gratitude and Appreciation

Gratitude changes everything
Gratitude and Appreciationsymphony of love / Foter / CC BY-SA

I’m fortunate to live in Florida, and most days get to drive across a bridge (or several bridges), over Tampa Bay. Sometimes traffic is so bad that I cannot really pay attention to my surroundings. Other times I’ll notice pelicans, seagulls, and even dolphins frolicking in the water occasionally. I can also go out on a pier not far from my home and see manatees in the bay. And I’m thankful that I get to see this beauty on a regular basis.

Those moments make me aware of how frequently I take my surroundings for granted. Do you take your surroundings at work for granted? Do you take the people that work with you or for you for granted? Or do you occasionally come up for air like the dolphins and manatees, and realize the beauty that surrounds you, and let others know that you are thankful they are working with you? Do you regularly acknowledge their presence and contributions?

Similarly, have you ever taken a look at your office as if you were a first time visitor? Even if you don’t have customers coming into your office, what message are you sending to anyone who visits? Your office may be perceived as an extension of you. Does the appearance of your office send a message that you don’t care about yourself or your surroundings? Or is it sending a message that you are aware of your environment and proud and grateful to be a part of it?

Why don’t we make this a week of gratitude and appreciation of our surroundings and for those with whom we work?

The Impact of Leadership

Milliseconds Before Impact
The Impact of LeadershipJosh Kenzer / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

I have been blessed to have met many very influential people during my lifetime. Many are Vistage speakers who have accomplished much and are now giving back to others by sharing their experiences and learning with other CEOs. Others are current CEOs who have overcome huge obstacles to achieve success. Some are professional athletes or celebrities who have influenced fans and followers around the world. Others are local heroes in the community who influence through sacrifice and serving others.

We expect these types of high-profile people to have an impact on others. What is often forgotten is the impact that each and every leader has on those around them. I am certainly not “high profile”, and yet I cannot count the number of times people have come up to me to thank me for the impact I have had on their life. It’s very humbling, as I can’t even recall some of their names or where we may have met. I certainly did not feel at the time of the situation they described that it could be a life-changing experience!
Who are these people I have impacted? Sometimes it’s a former employee or client, and other times it is someone I met only briefly. Sometimes it is someone who heard me speak or read my blog whom I have never met in person.

What did I do to warrant this gratitude? Some of the stories are a result of a kind gesture I made or an encouraging word I shared. Some are because they felt I truly listened to them and gave them an opportunity to be heard. Others are a result of asking just the right question to get them thinking about something differently or seeing additional possibilities they had not yet considered. Sometimes it’s because they felt that I led by example and they recognized that I never asked anyone to do something I would not do myself. Or that I maintained a high level of integrity and consistency in my actions, so they always knew what to expect.

Whatever the case, the impact was significant enough that they wanted to let me know. Hearing those stories motivates me to continue to have that type of positive impact on others. What type of impact are you having on others at your company or in the community? Are you being the kind of leader who will have a positive impact on the lives of others?

Are Your Goals Still Relevant?

Are Your Goals Still Relevant?ekkebus / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

I encourage people to establish annual goals in advance. Sometimes when I ask how they are doing with those goals, they tell me that they are not doing very well, and they are pretty hard on themselves. When I dig down to learn more, I discover that the person has not failed to achieve the goal, but rather the goal is no longer relevant. Something has changed in the environment or situation that has caused that goal to no longer be important in the big scheme of things. Instead of acknowledging that change, the person instead feels like they are failing.

If that sounds familiar, I’d suggest you change your thinking. If you are faced with a goal that is no longer relevant, why not replace that goal with a more relevant goal? Just make sure you are not confusing the urgent with the important, and that the goal still moves you toward your long term vision. (For more on urgency and importance, I’d suggest that you read author Steven Covey.)

Just as most companies no longer utilize 10 year strategic plans because the world is changing too quickly, our goals can also change during the year. Make sure your goals are fluid and relevant…and still a stretch to achieve!

Frustrated Flying – The Customer Experience

Blog Airplane photo

Remember when air travel used to be fun?  I used to arrive at the airport less than 30 minutes before my flight and was easily able to make my flight.  Now we have long lines at security, lots of rules about what you can and cannot take onboard, and have to spend a lot of time waiting in the airport.  I understand the intent behind the changes – things will never be the same after 9/11 – but feel the experience could still be improved in many ways.

Those federal requirements are one thing.  What’s worse is how some of the airlines have made flying even more frustrating.  I recently flew on two different airlines.  They both charge for seat selection, checked bags, and even carry-on items.  The size and weight limitation for personal items, carry-ons and checked bags were different at each airline.  Therefore even though I was traveling just a few days apart, I could not take the same sized personal item or suitcase on both flights.  I had to spend a lot of time planning what to pack in which bag just so I would not have to pay extra when I arrived at the airport.  I would much rather have preferred to spend that time and energy elsewhere!

Have you created the same level of frustration for your customers to do business with you?  Do you have a lot of rules, requirements, and other obstacles that make it hard to do business with your company?  Or are you truly customer-friendly, making the experience simple and enjoyable?

Memorial Day 2014

Memorial Day

Many people only think of Memorial Day as a holiday from work or the unofficial start of summer.  When I was young, I knew Memorial Day as the time we’d open the lake cottage and start our weekly treks to enjoy the lake on weekends.  It was also a time for parades and BBQs.  Flags were everywhere, symbolically honoring those who had fallen.

Each year I see fewer flags, and meet fewer people who spend a few moments giving thanks to those who have given their lives to keep us safe.  Without those brave men and women, we would not enjoy the many freedoms we have today.  Please help your employees to understand the true meaning of holidays such as Memorial Day, and the impact of the ultimate sacrifice made by so many Americans.  Perhaps you can start your weekly staff meeting this week with a moment of silence to honor those service men and women?  Or ask your team to share about any relatives or friends who have lost their lives in service to our country?  Make a difference!