AHA! (Ask, Hear, Act)

Employees want to know that what they are spending their time producing, creating, designing, delivering, . . . has meaning. Employees want to know their work is significant to their manager, leadership, team, and the broader organization. They also want to know that, in the process of their work, they are learning and experiencing that which will help their continued development and growth.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is helpful in understanding at a very basic level, human motivation.  Inspiring engaged employees means affecting people at the highest point in the hierarchy – self-actualization. This is the place where people are seeking to become all they are capable.  Leaders in pursuit of more engaged employees  can use any of these probing questions in group or one-on-one situations:

  • How can I better support you?
  • What can I do to help you?
  • How can I enable your success?
  • What else should be considered?
  • What suggestions do you have for my continued improvement?

It takes courage, humility, and discipline to graciously ask, hear, and act on what employees’ share.  There’s much to be gained for everyone in this process. However, if this type of inquiry is new for you, proceed thoughtfully. The winning formula to inspiring employees to be more engaged requires leaders to ask questions and respond timely and meaningfully.

The Cs In SuCCess

. . . Heart and Hard Work

All too often, we bare witness to people washing-out simply because they didn’t spend enough time on their personal foundation. Or as I like to say, they had a lapse of judgment that was rooted in a character flaw. The hard truth is it takes more than degrees, certificates, networks, and intellect to have sustaining power, emotional agility and the kind of mental fortitude that you can thrive no matter the circumstances. The strength or weakness of your character will make or break you – professionally and personally.

Our daily news feed is filled with stories of politicians, clergy, athletes, entertainers, business and community leaders… loosing position and income, derailing careers and their lives because of seemingly minor transgressions of exaggerated truths, distorting facts, disregard for governing policies and laws, and contrary dispositions. That’s a nice way for saying they lied, stole, cheated,. . . Thorny character traits come with the skin we live in. Everyone is vulnerable. Derailment and distractions due to underdeveloped character happens to regular folk – regularly. Most of us can name at least one person in our circle of family, friends, and colleagues that fell from grace (personally and professionally) due to a poor choice rooted in a character flaw.

Reflecting on my 30 years of navigating these types of issues in the workplace, I observed a diverse group of people ranging in age, profession and years of experience. They represent every gender and ethnic group. These folk live in North America, Europe, Latin America, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. There are two interesting similarities in this group: (1) All are Homo sapiens; and (2) Each possessed underdeveloped character traits that enabled life and career derailing decisions. Anyone who isn’t committed to continual character development can fall prey to its unyielding power.

Investments in education and technical training are essential to having qualifying skills. Competence is the price of admission and only half of the ticket. Equally important and the other half is your character. Competence is what gets you hired; character is what sustains you.  Attributes like integrity, courage, compassion, contribution, responsibility, fidelity, accountability, empathy, deference, discernment, forgiveness, humility, honor, self-control, respect, justice . . .

Don’t believe for a second that organizations only care about results. How you got those results is discussed and for a multitude of reasons, you haven’t been brought into the conversation. In fact, you may receive high praise, one or multiple promotions before anyone approaches you with how. . .  Hopefully your response won’t be a career staller or worse, a deal breaker. In the words of Stephen Covey, “The development of character offers you enduring effectiveness.” If you really want career longevity and long-term success, you must do the work on yourself that goes below the surface. This is the heart & hard work that creates authenticity. Balance your professional development investments to be equal parts competency development + character development. The combined investment will leave you richer at every level.

CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT enables you to skillfully manage an ineffective boss or rude colleague. It equips you to remain level-headed in the midst of chaos. CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT urges you to resist your ego when it threatens. It will empower you to acknowledge when you are wrong and will convict you to self-correct. It will keep you humble, gracious, and grateful. CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT fuels your emotional intelligence and compels you to inspire and serve. It equips you with an understanding of your worth and empowers you with insight to know when it is time to walk away. CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT will help you distinguish valuable feedback from BS and respectfully disagree. It equips you to nurture healthy relationships – especially with those not like yourself. CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT readies you with the grit required to take a stand, push beyond difficulties and propel yourself forward. It empowers you to give others praise and recognition. CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT prepares you to challenge groupthink when it is demeaning, compromising, threatening…or just plain wrong. It will keep you from compromising your integrity.  CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT enables you to speak truth when a lie is more comfortable or convenient.  CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT qualifies you to live authentically.

Character Development Tips

Review and edit your circle. These are the people who are closest to your heart. They are your confidants and those you trust with the issues of your life. You must be able to rely on them to check you; tell you when you are wrong; give visibility to your blind spots.

With every project; every assignment, ask the people you work with (in a 1:1 setting), what can I do to be better? Think: Start, Stop, Continue. Whatever you do, don’t settle for “your great” or “nothing”. NOBODY is great all the time. Let them know you really want to hear – whatever it is. When people start to share, quiet yourself to hear with your heart and head. Only ask questions in the moment that will provide you clarity. Say thank you and put your improvement plan in motion!

 Ask your partner, spouse, children what you could do to be more supportive, more loving of them. And like #2, don’t settle for “your great” or “nothing”. As they share, don’t shut it down by being defensive. Show maturity and wisdom by listening with an open heart and mind. And when they are done, hug and kiss them while you are saying thank you. Put your improvement plan in motion!

      Seek professional help if you haven’t been able to figure it out.

        Practice Meditation.

If you believe in the power of prayer, pray for a heart to see yourself clearly; the insight that will help you change; and the courage to transform.

Create a daily ritual of reflecting on your words, actions, thoughts, and decisions. Put your improvement plan in motion.

         Celebrate your successes.

The Leader Within

The Leader Within Self Assessment_Page_1
Click “The Leader Within Self-Assessment” for Questionnaire

“Sharpen The Saw” — Habit 7 from Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People focuses on self-improvement and the ongoing process of personal transformation. Continually examining self and how I show up in the world is exhausting. But it is necessary to effectively lead: families, organizations, and ourselves. In fact, the starting point for learning how to lead effectively is self-leadership. Ken Blanchard shares that “you can’t lead others if you can’t lead yourself, and you can’t lead yourself without the right tools.”

The Leader Within Self-Assessment  is a very practical tool that helps to identify the thoughts, behaviors and habits that require pruning, eliminating and those to learn.  It’s simple, complete the sentence: As a leader I . . . The descriptions accurately or not describe how you think and behave. Celebrate your YES responses and keep up the great work. For the NO response(s), consider what you need to change in your heart and head that will affect the change in your words and actions. Resist the urge to edit with responses like “maybe/sometimes/most of the time”. Challenge yourself to respond with the kind of integrity that is compelling i.e., yes or no.  NOTE: For a real challenge, self-assess twice: once for yourself as family leader and once for yourself as an organization leader.

The daily grind provides no shortage of opportunities for honest self-evaluation. The world is our classroom and our relationships and interactions create the impetus for us to learn. Our goal as leaders is to keep ourselves operating at higher levels where we are most effective and most powerful. The struggle is real, but the results are profoundly meaningful.


The Leader Within Self-Assessment




Leaders Leading. . .

Leading others is the most challenging role one could assume. In addition to possessing industry and technical knowledge, your ultimate task is to influence people to believe in you, the company and organization enough that they will give their best effort. The affects of great leadership are so profound that it grows businesses, changes industries, influences economies and transforms the lives and families of those being led. There’s a higher purpose in being a Leader that creates incredibly high stakes!

Being a great or even good Leader requires a continuous quest for self-improvement. The process of leadership is so complex that Leaders have to be able to flex and anticipate shifts for their organizations to remain relevant (businessnewsdaily.com). To this end, Leaders have to be avid learners. Contrary to what some believe, leadership is a learned observable skill. And certainly, every leader has strengths, weaknesses and the ability to improve (hbr.org).shutterstock_105254732-2

This might be the age of selfies and likes. But don’t get it twisted. When it comes to leadership, what matters is what you say and how you say it; what you do and
how you do it; AND how you prepare, support and enable others. The extent to
which your leadership results reflect a real contribution to people performing better in their existing roles or being prepared for the next role, speaks volumes about your leadership. Substance still matters in this arena (cio.com). Employee studies focused on culture, retention, employee engagement, and leadership continue to site that
people quit their bosses not their jobs.”

As we are counting down to the New Year and relishing in those moments of deep introspection, consider your leadership disposition. Get clear about what you must do to be a better leader. There are a multitude of actions one can take to improve. There’s a short list of suggestions attached.  Engage human resources or talent development specialists for developmental recommendations specific to your needs. Commit to action. Create opportunities to understand what’s working what’s not working and why (inc.com).

Leaders aren’t expected to be perfect. But with the lengthy list of what is expected: humility, collaboration, decisive, empathetic, respectful, trusting, engaging, inspirational, relatable, accountable, problem solver, bold, strategic, tactical, honest, inclusive, kind, resourceful, authentic, empowering, proactive, forward-thinking, teacher, coach, competent, agile, team builder, compassionate, thoughtful, accessible, responsive, timely, gracious, knowledgeable, vulnerable, networked, balanced, self-motivated, calm, confident, clear, concise, articulate, self-less, influencer, self-aware, results oriented, fearless, role model (OMG – breath!) . . ., suggests that Leaders have an obligation to be action oriented about serving-up the very best of themselves (forbes.com/video).

Development Ideas For Improving YOUR Leadership Skills in 2016

  • Leverage formal tools to enhance your self-awareness and gain relevant insights about your modus operandi. With the appropriate guidance these resources can be helpful: Multi-Rater Feedback Surveys and Personality Assessments (i.e., Myers Briggs Type Indicator, Predictive Index, DiSC Profiles, Personalysis Profile…).
  • Broaden your reading list to include books, articles, websites that challenge and inform. The Leadership Challenge 5th Edition, Kouzes & Posner is an excellent book with practical insights.
  • Deal with those life issues that are ailing you. There’s a spillover affect that becomes a distraction and compromises your effectiveness. Commit to counseling if needed.
  • Establish metrics on how you will improve the diversity and inclusion on your team – the team culture and the gender and ethnic makeup. Deal with your biases that are inhibiting progress in this area. Conscious or unconscious, we all have them. The social ills of our world don’t stop at the office entrance. Engage HR/People resources. Challenge them to challenge your leadership (hbr.org).
  • Rethink your team interactions. Seek opportunities to develop, inform, build trust, collaborate, and celebrate team members.
  • Broaden your relationships and network to include people 2-3 levels below you that are more inclined to tell you the unadulterated truth. Brace yourself for what you might learn. But know this – it takes courage to hear what others think about your leadership and for you to act on the learning. Go for it!
  • Lend your talents to nonprofit organization(s) with the aim of contributing your knowledge and skills while enhancing your leadership disposition (blueavocado.org).
  • Participate in formal leadership development experiences like forums, conferences, webinars, seminars, and course work. Don’t rule out the possibility of a Coach.


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