Archives for June 2011
There is a leadership admonition that says – they won’t believe the message if they don’t believe the messenger. Leaders are believable when they do what they say they will do and when their behavior is consistent with what they say is important to them. Leaders who know what their non-negotiable values are, what’s important to them, and what inspires them have a far easier time being seen as believable.
Clarifying personal values is easy for some … it’s the resolve to behave consistently in times of uncertainty and ambiguity where leaders get in trouble. In my consulting practice I’ve found that a lack of resolve is the number one reason why perfectly thought through strategic plans never achieve their intended results, and why some leaders say one thing and do another.
Whenever a leader is confronted with conflict and or situations that threaten to compromise their core values, there are only three healthy options leaders have for enhancing their credibility in these situations. They are:
1. Resolve to take meaningful and intentional steps to produce a positive outcome and to discover what shared values are present
2. Resign themselves to the situation remaining the same – and do so without being a victim
3. Remove themselves from the situation
Each option is a courageous act for leaders and requires clarity and commitment about their core values.
To determine how clear a leader is as to their values I ask them to articulate for me what their core values are. It’s always interesting to see if they can do so from memory and with conviction. I then ask them to give me two examples of how their values showed up on their calendar over the last week. If they don’t show up on their calendar then the values espoused aren’t really core values, or a tremendous amount of energy is being expended to behave in ways misaligned with their core values. In either case there is a deeper conversation to be had.
This morning over breakfast I realized my friend Robert was accomplishing something truly extraordinary…he wouldn’t call what he does extraordinary, but I do.
Robert is a chapter advisor for his fraternity; a fraternity he’s been a member of for close to thirty years. Long gone are the days of seeing his fraternity solely as a place to party and imbibe in the fruits of college life. Yes, it does still fill that need, but now at forty-seven he sees his fraternity, and his role as a chapter advisor, as more of an incubator for personal discipline, responsibility for a larger good, and loyalty. And he does so with seventy eighteen to twenty-two year olds!
Some of my friends see Robert as cantankerous, opinionated, and best appreciated in small doses. For me that’s his charm, but especially because underneath the tough and no nonsense private investigator veneer runs a deep commitment to making the world a better place. And he’s doing just that.
This morning I learned that Robert was acknowledged by the University of Washington as the Student Advisor of the Year, and that his fraternity presented him with the Chapter Advisor of the Year award at their annual meeting. This reward isn’t awarded every year…only when someone warrants it!
As a management consultant, I’m fascinated by how ordinary people go about creating something extraordinary. Since Robert is creating something extraordinary for seventy young men I asked him what advice he would give to other chapter advisors. Here’s Robert’s list for chapter advisors as well as for anyone yearning to make a difference:
1. Let everyone know that the endeavor they are engaged in is not simply a glorified social club – it is a relationship that lasts a lifetime and carries with it a noble responsibility.
2. Don’t be afraid to show your shortcomings…be authentic and real.
3. Be present…you have to show up frequently not just for meetings.
4. Set high expectations…scholastically as well as personally.
5. Focus on the big picture…the well being of your brothers as well as your fraternity.
6. Role model credibility and loyalty…in every interaction role model the character necessary after college for both personal and professional success.
7. Make a difference…parents send kids to school in order to make a positive difference in their lives. Instill a willingness in to make a difference in the lives of everyone living in the house…if not make an exit from the house.
8. Remind every house member that they are never allowed to complain or be a victim…especially if they’re not doing something to fix the issue.
9. Cultivate a belief that mediocrity is a choice and never settle for the ordinary.
10. Make conscious choices…ask every house member what they want to be known for. Do they want to be part of the most successful fraternity on three continents? Or, do they want to be a member of a fraternity that is declining? Do they want to maintain the status quo? Or do they want to create something remarkable? Remind them that it’s their choice!
11. Be comfortable making mistakes… that’s the most powerful way to learn
The real story here is not what you can learn from Robert about leading seventy young frat kids. The real story is that everyday, in every walk of life, there are ordinary folks trying to achieve something important. For Robert, that’s giving back to his fraternity and seventy young men.
What is it for you?
Let’s face it. One of the most difficult questions a senior executive can ask is: where are we headed as an organization? This question has always been hard to answer, but in today’s world of work the factors complicating strategic direction have multiplied.
If you want to get clear about where you’re going I suggest you start with the following ten questions. They’re simple yes or no questions and will give you a glimpse into the level of strategic clarity you and your organization have.
1. Everyone in a key management position would cite the same strategy. Y/N
2. The strategy could be expressed and understood in two or three sentences. Y/N
3. The strategy guides day-to-day operating decisions. Y/N
4. The strategy is the basis for the organizations planning procedures. Y/N
5. All employees are aware of the organization’s basic business goals. Y/N
6. The implicit and explicit beliefs of the organization support the organization’s direction. Y/N
7. The strategy is the guiding factor in times of crisis or marketplace surprise. Y/N
8. Key decisions are made by using the strategy as a test bed. Y/N
9. Strategy is a proactive process, not a reaction to the marketplace. Y/N
10. There are formal meetings to set, debate, refine, and monitor strategy. Y/N
Add up your yes and no responses, and score the test using the key below.
9 to 10 yeses: Your organization gets an A+. Your strategy is probably clear and well-defined, and it is used as a framework for the daily operations of the organization.
7 to 8 yeses: Not bad, but room for improvement. There’s probably an operating strategy, but it may get shunted aside or ignored in crisis, with personal changes, or from inertia.
5 to 6 yeses: At best there is a mist that sometimes clears momentarily to reveal your direction. Strategy is left for special occasions and does not help in running the organization.
0 to 4 yeses: Your organization is in a hand to mouth situation, it’s purely reacting to its environment, and does not seriously attempt to develop a strategic view.
After you score the test I’d like to know the following:
What’s your score?
What are you doing well and why?
Where are you feeling challenged and why?
Tune in tomorrow for the Strategy Implementation Test
Test is reprinted with permission Dr. Alan Weiss