Leading and Living with Integrity

Fortunately or unfortunately, it’s good to take advantage of current events to drive home a point. A great colleague of mine, Matt Martin, sent the below email out yesterday morning touching on the recent negative press around Arkansas Razorback’s Head Football Coach Bobby Petrino and used it as a learning opportunity. How bad was the press? I’ll put it this way. It was bad enough that it was trending nationally near the top of the list Thursday night on Twitter.

Integrity is foundational and critical to every leader’s success! Matt’s reminder about acting with integrity is not only appropriate today, but appropriate every day. Matt also forwarded a great piece by Michael Camp on Leading and Living with Integrity. Please see both below.

While Camp talks through a couple definitions of integrity below, one of my new favorites comes from Jeff Neria on my team. She says, “Integrity is the moral courage to make your actions consistent with your knowledge of right and wrong.

Above all as leaders it is important not only to act with integrity, but to teach the importance of integrity to others. Don Soderquist, one of the great former Wal-Mart leaders has said repeatedly, “Mentor your leaders; assume they know nothing about professionalism or integrity. Teach them before they fall and impact others.

Are you living and leading with Integrity? Do you teach the importance of integrity to others?

Matt’s note is below.  You can also follow him on Twitter @samsclubmatt.  Michael Camp’s piece on integrity is below that.

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Team,

With the news around Bobby Petrino surfacing last night, I was reminded of the importance of integrity in leadership. I was also reminded of how quickly trust and credibility can crumble with one lapse of judgment. I was specifically reminded of a document that recently came across my email written from a peer on the Walmart side.

In the attachment (printed below) he talks about how we must protect and guard our integrity and compares it to an eggshell saying “Once an eggshell has even a slight crack, the structure can no longer be depended on to handle the pressure of the environment. It is simply a matter of time before the egg is completely compromised”.

Take a minute to read it and feel free to share with others. Our associates deserve to have leadership they can trust and respect every day and the attachment is a good reminder for us all.

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LEADING AND LIVING WITH INTERITY

By Michael Camp

Someone can easily say they are ‘leading with integrity,’ but the challenge lies in actually following through. I believe the majority of us have been told the importance of being honest since we were children. Unfortunately, some people struggle more than others to live with integrity, no matter how many times they hear it.

What does the word integrity actually mean? Most of us could easily define the word integrity and have a pretty good idea of what that really looks like; or could we?

Integrity is not a characteristic you can demonstrate sometimes, or even 99% of the time. Leading with integrity means demonstrating it ALWAYS! Integrity can be defined most simply as “being honest” or “following moral and ethical principles.” Integrity has also been defined as being when “a person’s behavior is the same whether someone is watching them or not.”

I like to consider integrity to be like an eggshell that must be protected at all times in order to keep the egg (or your integrity) whole. Once an eggshell has even a slight crack, the structure can no longer be depended on to handle the pressure of the environment. It is simply a matter of time before the egg is completely compromised. A leader’s integrity (or eggshell) is the exact same thing. A leader can do the right thing 100 times, but on the 101st time, they choose to deviate from their behavior; therefore, their integrity comes under scrutiny from those around them. Even though we may live a life of integrity during the first 100 situations, if we choose to act incorrectly the 101st time, the way people perceive us can change forever.

If we want people to follow us there MUST be a strong level of trust. Keeping your word and living with integrity are two critical pieces to this process. Trust is not something built overnight; however, it can be lost instantly. The easiest way to come across as not being honest is when we say something but do something completely different. When people choose to follow us, they need to know the words coming out of our mouths are genuine and that we will not deviate from what we said we would do. Some people believe if they always handle the big issues with integrity, the little issues don’t always need to be handled the same way, especially if no one will know. This couldn’t be any further from the truth. A person who leads with integrity will ALWAYS keep their integrity untarnished and will not waiver, regardless of the size of the issue at hand or whether or not people will ever know what they did.

There is nothing worse than listening to someone speak about what they plan to do when we know their actions will not match what they said. This type of dishonest behavior is what usually creates the first crack in what I call the “TRUST FOUNDATION” that the leader – follower relationship is based on.

As a leader today, the challenge is for us to live the true lifestyle of a leader with integrity at work and outside of work. When people see us acting differently in public than we act in the workplace, our genuineness becomes questionable, as does our integrity. Show the people who choose to follow you what kind of leader you are by keeping your word and living with integrity ALWAYS.

I would ask you to take the LEADING AND LIVING WITH INTEGRITY pledge with me……

“This year I will commit to doing whatever it takes to:

Become a leader trusted by my co-workers, my family, my community,

Demonstrate outstanding servant leadership,

As I LEAD and LIVE WITH INTEGRITY to build trust with those whose lives I influence.”

“As Wal-Mart leaders we MUST live in a manner so that when our Associates think of honesty and integrity, they think of us.” – Michael Camp

When I Learned the Most

I had a great opportunity this week to listen to two fantastic CEOs talk about both their businesses and experiences.  One of those was my CEO, Mike Duke (Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.).  The other was Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM.

Rometty is a dynamic figure if you’ve never met her or heard her speak.  She is down to earth, to the point, and fascinating to listen to.

At one point in the conversation, Rometty was talking about the times that she learned the most in her career.

She was straightforward and clear in her answer, “When I took a risk.”  She elaborated that when she tried something completely new like her move from GM to IBM she learned, grew and stretched tremendously. Rometty’s career progression exposed her to a number of facets of business that broadened her perspective and provided her with lots of different experiences.   And between her ‘student of the business’ mindset and hands on approach to driving the business, it’s no wonder why she’s in the role that she is.

Picking up where Rometty left off, Mike Duke commented on his own career progression.  And I’m sure it’s no shock for you to know that the same type of story was revealed.

Duke took advantage of a number of career opportunities to experience different parts of the business.  This was evident both in his early career in retail as well as his later career at Walmart.  Mike came to Wal-Mart via our Logistics Division, which he headed shortly after arriving to replace then Logistics head Lee Scott (who also went on to be Mike’s predecessor as CEO).  Mike then made his way to become the Chief Administrative Officer of the company, led the Wal-Mart Stores US business unit, and then led the International business unit prior to becoming CEO of the whole company.

Mike recanted a story about when he was asked to go lead the International group.  He said that he hadn’t traveled outside the US as much and didn’t have a background in running international operations, which made him a little apprehensive.  But like each role before, he learned quickly and grew significantly with each step.

Mike said it best, “The time I learned the most was when I was put into roles where I had little or no direct knowledge.”  It forces you to listen.  To learn.  To stretch.  To grow.  And again, with all of his experience, just like Rometty, it’s no wonder that he is in the role he’s in today.

Following this conversation, I took a stroll down memory lane and thought back to the times when I learned the most in my career.

And……I’d have to concur with these two leaders.  When did I learn the most?  During the times that I took on assignments or projects that were completely new and foreign to me.

As I’m reminiscing, I’m smiling, because I can vividly remember some major turning points in my life.

One of those was when I was an Assistant Fire Chief and took on all of the budgeting, planning and administrative responsibilities.  What firefighter wants to do that?  We all want to put out fires and rescue people, right?  It was a major stretch for me and I am so thankful for that opportunity when I was in my twenties, because while it was a lot of very quick nerve-racking learning, it evolved my business acumen and set a foundation for my future.

Another was when I was promoted to Director of Business Continuity.  I was in that role only a short while before four hurricanes hit back to back in Florida.  It was a major stretch because it quickly evolved my leadership and broad thinking acumen through a major and highly visible crisis situation.

Another was my move to Sam’s Club.  Moving out of the security/emergency management business was terrifying for me because it’s what I knew best and what I was trained and skilled in.  There was a lot of comfort in it.  But this move to Sam’s Club completely stretched me in different directions that I never expected and grew me in a number of different areas (e.g., systems development, marketing strategy, how to use insights data, etc.).

While these are just a few of the many stretches in my own life, the key is that each of these experiences and exposures builds upon the previous and broadens and strengthens who you are as a person.

Again, I’m thankful for all of these opportunities – but like Rometty and Duke –  each of these opportunities also came with risk.  Mainly – the risk of failure.  Each was a step outside of doing what was comfortable.  Each was a little unnerving at times.  While there were many failures, all of them were learning opportunities.  And while sometimes daunting, I also found that I survived from each experience too…which made me better and stronger for taking that risk.

Likely, if you examine your own career, you’ll find that the same holds true for you too.

Now, each of us are at different places in our lives and have different drivers and motivators.  Some are happy to stay where it’s comfortable and don’t want change.  And that’s cool.

But for several of us, we want to be challenged and stretched.  We want to learn and grow.  We want to evolve.  We want to do more.   If this is where you find yourself, then you should really examine your life and see if taking a risk to step out and do something new is for you.

Whether in your professional or personal life, stepping out into the unknown is when you will learn the most.

I found a quote from an interview that Rometty did last year that perfectly sums up this concept of risk taking and evolution.  She said, “Growth and comfort do not coexist.”   And I must agree.

QUESTON:  When did you learn the most in your career?

Choose to Be #1

A couple weeks ago, my company had our annual Year Beginning Meeting.

For those of you unfamiliar with these types of events, picture a concert venue with 2,000-3,000 of your closest friends from across the nation gathered together to listen to the leadership team share the vision and direction for the new year and get fired up with some good ol’ fashion rah-rah-rah!

I love these meetings!  You can feel the energy and excitement crackle in the air!  But no meeting is complete without some catch phrase or mantra that whips the crowd into a frenzy.

And this year did not disappoint!  

As our senior leaders stood on the stage, they would shout, “WE CHOOSE TO BE…”

And the crowd would shout back, “NUMBER ONE!

Particularly dynamic was our EVP of Operations, Todd Harbaugh.  Todd is a fantastic public speaker and always seems to bring it all home.  His carefully crafted, yet genuine delivery makes you want to break through walls, swim oceans, and run through fire to be your best.

This particular message from Todd drove home the point that we have a choice every day to do our best….or not do our best.

If you think about this logically –‘doing your best’ more often than not has a fairly positive outcome.  NOT doing your best usually has a less than desired result.  So, why would we not want to do our best?  Have you ever woke up at the start of your day and thought, “Man, today I think I am just going to be #2.”  Or “I really don’t want to do my best today.”  No.  If this is who you are, you usually don’t think anything.  You slide by in your day only to wonder later where the day went and why you didn’t get anything accomplished or why you’re not progressing in your career.

Choosing to be #1 is a mindset shift.  It’s a purposeful choice.  You have to be intentional about delivering your best….and then have the moxie and will to follow through on it.

But what does “doing your best” really mean?

Todd further drove this home for the crowd.  Todd shouted, “We Choose to Be…” and the crowd would roar back “NUMBER ONE!”  Then he would continue, “…in Talent Development…” “…in Innovation” and so on .  There were five areas in all.  But with each topic, he explained exactly what he meant and what he expected.

Todd’s message focused on the things that were right for our company.  But what is right for you or your organization?  What should you be #1 in?  After all it’s a choice.

Is it sales?  Creative/artistic design?  Talent development?  Project management?  Innovation?  Customer experience?  Leveraging Influence?  Philanthropy?  Volunteerism?  A special pursuit? A specific skill?

It’s really up to you.  So, here’s the exercise.

Sit down with your favorite writing utensil and a post-it note.

At the top, write, “I CHOOSE TO BE #1 IN:”

Try to come up with 3 areas that you should (or want to) give your best in.  More is okay – but you don’t want too many as you lose focus.  Try not to exceed 5.

Once you’re done, read aloud – “I CHOOSE TO BE #1 IN …..”

Now, don’t be timid.  Say it like you mean it!

Repeat it until you believe it.  After all, the only person you have to convince is yourself.

Now take that note and post it somewhere you’ll see it at the start of your day (e.g., your bathroom mirror, on your coffee machine, on your treadmill, in your office, on your rear view mirror of your car, etc.).  They key is to remind yourself early in your day that you are choosing to be #1 at these things.  And when you see that note, read it out loud – with conviction!

As I said earlier, choosing to be #1 is a mindset shift.  You can’t be flippant about it.  Be intentional.  It will make a difference in your life.

Personally, I CHOOSE TO BE #1 in developing people, serving my customer, and innovating well-thought out solutions.

This works equally well in your personal life.  For me, I CHOOSE TO BE #1 as a husband and father.

WHAT DO YOU CHOOSE?

17 Truths from Above and Below

Inc. Magazine is one of my favorite “pick up and reads” when I have a little down time. I always seem to walk away with a few nuggets that I can tuck in to my own leader’s locker.

And then as I go through varying experiences, I’m able to pull those nuggets right back out of the locker and use them.

In the last 48 hours, I’ve had four different development discussions with mentees and colleagues, each of which centered around awareness of what was happening above and below them.  Meaning – situations that involved their boss, their employees, or both.

Often in these discussions, a number of questions surface – like “Why doesn’t my boss understand me?”, “Why am I being micromanaged?” or “Why won’t my folks listen?” and “Why can’t they just get it done right?

To get to their answers, some times all you have to do is sit and listen and they work it out themselves. Some times they need a little prompting or encouragement. And some times (albeit few) they need to be told that they are causing the problem.

Regardless, the solutions usually revolve around them being more aware of the people they follow and the people they lead. Where you sit on the bus offers you a different perspective as compared to where someone else sits. Taking the time to understand where they are coming from or their perspectives often cures a lot of ills and misconceptions.

These discussions reminded me of an article I read in Inc. Magazine last month by Jeff Haden called 7 Things Your Employees Will Never Tell You. This was a great article chalked full of right-on-spot information. So, I set out to find it for you.

As I searched, I came across another Inc. Magazine article written by Haden a couple days ago that was trending in social media called 10 Things Bosses Never Tell Employees. As I read it, I was like, “This one’s true. Yep that one too. True. True. Oh, that’s just funny – but true.” Haden is a genius! In two brief articles, he provided the answers to many of the questions that were asked during my discussions – as well as many more.

So, my suggestion for you is to check out the two links above to the 17 truths inside Haden’s articles and get a good perspective of what’s going on above you and below you. Then use your new found knowledge to improve your understanding of your own work environment. You’ll also find that in your own role today as both boss and employee that you probably have these very same thoughts yourself.

What are some other things that a boss or employee will never tell you? (but should)

Don’t Spill the Milk

Have you ever had those days or weeks when the momentum of the day has you in a crazy frantic state?  There’s just so much going on that it becomes noisy, confusing, and stressful.  Too much to do.  Too little time in the day.

It’s kind of like taking a cup and filling it up with milk.  At some point, you can’t put any more in to the cup without it overflowing and spilling over on to the floor.  And as my 4-year-old says, “We don’t spill milk on the floor, Daddy” – usually after she’s already spilled it on the floor.

But that proverbial cup is our own capacity to deal with life and the milk is the demands of the day that come at us from all directions.  And when we can’t deal with anymore?  Our cup runs over and spills on to the floor.

The latter is messy.  And even my 4-year-old gets it.

So, what can we do to keep from spilling our milk?  One strategy is to lessen the amount of milk flowing in the first place.  Another would be to consume the milk in the cup faster, so that you can fill it with more.  A third would be to get a bigger cup  (perhaps something with a handle or a backpack attachment).

In this post, we’re going to tackle the milk flowing in because it’s a great starting point.  But how do you do that?  Slow or reduce the demands of life.

 The simplest answer is to create filters to ensure that the right amount of milk is flowing in to the cup.  We call these filters ‘priorities’.

Setting (and adhering) to personal priorities can often make the difference between dealing with outright pandemonium and at least a controlled chaos.

Case in point – over the last couple weeks, I’ve received several emails and questions asking why there haven’t been any new posts on the Leader’s Locker recently.

My answer is simple.  Priorities.

Just like you, my life gets crazy from time to time with demands coming from all directions.  So, I fall back on my personal priorities to help slow the flow so that the things I am focusing on are done well.

This blog is an awesome project, but it is not the most important thing in my life.  So when push comes to shove, my higher priorities take precedence and I reduce the amount of time I spend blogging.

Personally, I use my priorities as a guide to which activities I engage in and where I spend my time.  Example:  I am a huge stickler around attending my children’s special events.  I rarely ever let work or another project keep me from them. 

Why?  Because my kids are a greater priority than my career or other projects.  Obviously, there is a life balance to that because (in the big picture) I have to make a living somehow so that I can buy milk for the ones I love and hold most dear.

So how do I determine my priorities?

For me, understanding priorities really boils down to three things:

1.  Knowing yourself. 

Everyone has different motivators in life.  No one can set your priorities for you, so you need to set them for yourself.  This is a conscious task and shouldn’t be taken lightly.  After all – your priorities dictate your time and your time is valuable. 

Try rattling off your top 5 priorities right now.

Mine are easy – My faith, my wife, my kids, my career, my immediate family/close friends.  I can recite these in a blink of an eye, because I’ve put thought in to them and use them as regular fence posts during my week.

If you have never written down your priorities, find some quiet time and sit down with a blank sheet of paper and work it out.  Start with the top 5.  What is important to you?  Try to think beyond what is important today or tomorrow.  Think in the context of your life.  Think bigger picture.

Once those are written, then determine what is most important.   Work through scenarios in your mind to help you get to the right priority order for you.  Once you get the top 5, subsequent priorities become easier to define and order.  Once done, file your list away or save it on your hard drive to revisit later.

SIDE NOTE:  This is also a good exercise for couples.  It’s good when you’re on the same page about your life priorities!

2.  Establish Reminders. 

It’s important to find ways to remind yourself of your priorities.  This could be notes on your office wall, a note on the bathroom mirror, or something as simple as a picture on your mobile phone or computer desktop. 

One trick I learned from one of my SVPs about a decade ago was to take a business card sized paper and write your priorities on one side and your goals on the other. Laminate it and put it in your wallet.   If you ever find yourself struggling with what to do, take out the card for reference.

The picture here is my first personal card that I made about 9 years ago.  You can tell by the wear and tear that it has been put to good use.  The other side has my 5 and 10 year goals on it.

3. Revisit your priorities. 

Life is dynamic.  Things change often.  And we as individuals change and evolve over time.  Which means our priorities change too.  A given priority may rise or fall in importance, be new to your list, or may fall off your list altogether.

So, it is important to constantly re-evaluate your priorities to ensure you have the proper filters in place to help guide your path.  As you can see from my card above, some of my priorities have shifted over time.  When they do, make a new card.

I suggest purposefully revisiting your priorities at least once a year or at any major life change. 

If you did #1 above, then this is as simple as pulling that list of priorities back out of the file or up on your computer and evaluating if you are in the same place as you were before or not.

Setting personal priorities is critical to limiting the flow in to your life, which helps you deal with the momentum of the day.  The absolute key to success though was mentioned briefly above – adherence

Once your priorities are set, you have to use them to guide how you spend your time.  This means you will have to say ‘no’ to some things and stick to it. 

If not, you’ll always have more than you can handle and your cup will end up running over …and no one wants spilled milk.  Just ask my daughter.

Do you know your priorities?  How do you set them?

When I Do Dumb Things

I am not perfect.

I’ve known this for quite a while.

I have no delusions that I am.

This means that I am going to make mistakes, just like everyone else.

My guess is that you aren’t perfect either.  If you are, you might as well stop reading now because you clearly don’t need any help.

For the rest of us, this means that we are going to make many mistakes in the course of our personal and professional life.  That’s just part of who we are.  What differentiates us from others though is how we deal with those mistakes.  Did we learn from them?  Did we figure out what to do differently?

Personally, I have a process that I go through when I do something dumb to make sure I don’t do it again.
But to make this entertaining, let me tell you about one of my recent dumb episodes.

Yesterday, I was scheduled to update several of our senior leaders on a project I am working on.  As time drew near, I ran from the printer, across the building, up a flight of stairs, and over to the meeting room.   I sat down in the lobby to wait my turn only to be told immediately, “you’re up”.  So I jumped up quickly (my first mistake) and walked in to the room.

I immediately began passing out copies of my PowerPoint, but noticed I was feeling a little light headed (clearly I stood up too quick).  I pushed through the feeling and began my update while walking to the front of the room.

As I approached the front of the room, I realized my light-headedness was becoming worse and I was struggling to catch my breath as I stood in front of my leadership.  I continued my presentation anyway (my second mistake).

At about a minute in, I started seeing black spots.  At this point, I knew that this was not going in a good direction.  While I typically like to stand and deliver, I said, “Just a second.” and grabbed the chair in front of me, sat down, and continued my presentation.  It got better – once I had oxygen.

Could you imagine what would have happened if I hadn’t sat down?  My career trajectory may have become flatter than me laying passed out on the floor.  Stories would be told for years around the water cooler about “that guy”.  I would be a legend…and not in a good way.

When I finished and left the room – I said a quick prayer of thanks for not passing out in front of the senior group and for being able to deliver the message.

I checked in with a couple of the attendees later and they said that they could tell something was up in the beginning, but that the update was fine.

I realized, though, that what I did was dumb and I only have myself to blame.  Was I as effective as I could have been?  No.  Was I distracting in the first few minutes with whatever behavior I was exhibiting? Perhaps.  Could it have been a lot worse?  Definitely!

So what did I do?  In the minutes following the meeting, I walked through my “Gee Jason, that was dumb – don’t do that again” process.

Here’s how it works.  I ask myself three simple questions – Why, What, and How:

  • Why did it occur?
  • What should I have done differently?
  • How will I ensure that I don’t do it again?

So, let’s take my episode as an example and walk through this.

WHY did it occur?  As I thought about it, it all began because I was rushing.  I shouldn’t have been because my presentation was done well ahead of time.  But I was in a hurry, waited until the last minute to go upstairs, and then ran to my meeting.  I sat down and stood up quickly, which made me light headed.  But instead of taking a moment for my head to clear, I pushed ahead – probably because I’m stubborn.

WHAT should I have done differently?  For starters, I should have printed my materials sooner (in the case that something delayed me).  I should have arrived at my meeting with such an important group well before the meeting started.  And I should have stopped at the first sign of trouble and taken a second to catch my breath.

HOW will I ensure that I don’t do it again?  Two things.  First, I will set a reminder to print my materials at least one hour prior to the update meetings.  Second, I will set a calendar planner to arrive at the meeting 15 minutes prior the start.  This should keep the whole episode from happening again.  It is important to be specific in determining your actions for next time.

This is a really quick process to run through and you can use the formula for a multitude of situations.  But the key is being resolved to ensure that you follow the actions you outlined in the HOW – or else you are doomed to repeat yourself.

Now, there is one possible additional step in some circumstances.  If you do something dumb and insult, upset, or disappoint someone – you should ask yourself this additional question, “How do I make it right?”  And then act on that quickly – as in – before the sun sets.

Now, in hindsight, my dumb episode is kind of comical, and I hope you found some humor in it.  But it’s only funny to tell because it had a relatively positive ending.  The important thing is that I learned something from it. And that you learn from the mistakes that you make.

So, how do you learn from your mistakes?  What process do you go through when you do dumb things?

A Conscious Legacy

Last night, I was doing some blog surfing when I came across a blog by a gentleman named Rick Forbus.  In one of his posts, he was recanting the recent loss of his father and the importance of the legacy that he left.

Rick made a great statement in his post, “Leaders are conscious of their legacy.

As the night went on, my mind kept drifting back to this statement.

I think there is real truth and power in this statement.  I have one small tweak though  – “Good leaders are conscious of their legacy.”

And not only are they conscious, but they are also deliberate, passionate, and diligent when it comes to the legacy that they are creating.

They realize that they have the power to build up, grow, nurture, develop, encourage and inspire others; just as much as they have the power to do the opposite.  The question though is, “What will they choose to do with their time?”

One of my favorite leadership quotes is from baseball hero Jackie Robinson who said, A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” 

As stated by Al Duncan, what Jackie meant was “Do something to breakdown a barrier or carve out a path for someone else, not once, but as often as you can.”

Leadership is not about one time; it’s about as many times as possible.

There are many types of legacies that leaders can leave, but what I want to focus on here are four words for those of you aspiring to be good (or even great) leaders.  In thinking about the legacy you will leave, be:

  • Conscious.  Be aware of what you are doing.  Know what your words, body language, and actions really say.  Know how they impact others.  Be self-aware of the message you send – always.  Leaders are always “on”.
  • Deliberate.  Be intentional about growing and developing others.  Seek out opportunities to nurture others – don’t be a passive bystander.   The greatest legacy you will leave behind is that in which you have invested in others.   Purposefully and actively think through how those within your sphere of influence will best be encouraged – and then act on it.
  • Passionate.  Be fanatical in your advocacy and support of other people.  Clear their path, give them the tools, and then get out of the way – and not just once – do it over and over again.  When they don’t think they can do it, lend them your energy and inspire them to new heights.
  • Diligent.   Be tenacious.  Developing others is hard work. It may take you many attempts with some people, but I promise you that the reward of seeing them blossom is absolutely worth it.

Leaving a legacy is not something that happens after you’ve left this earth.  Leaving a legacy is about now.  It’s about the investments that you made yesterday, today, and the one’s you’ll make tomorrow.

So, be conscious – be deliberate – be passionate – and be diligent in the legacy that you are creating in others.

What are you doing about your legacy today?

Calling an Audible

I love American Football.  Besides the competitiveness and game itself, there are so many parallels to life and business.

I was reminded of one this last week; the art of the “audible”.

I found myself in a meeting with several senior executives.  My presentation was ready to go.  But then, as I listened to the pre-meeting conversation, tone, and watched the non-verbal cues, I decided to cut my presentation short and eliminate one of the elements.  I called an audible.  Did this work out for me?  Only time will tell.

For those of you that are unfamiliar, an audible is simply changing the play based upon what you are seeing.

Peyton Manning calling an audible. Source: Indystar

If you’ve ever watch a really skilled quarterback, they are amazing at reading what is in front of them and have a knack at making the changes to best deal with the situation to gain the best possible outcome.

The same is true in business.   You should be very familiar with this concept.  You probably do this often instinctively without thinking about it.  Your environment isn’t what you expected, so you adjust.

However, more often than not, we find ourselves calling audibles at times that we didn’t expect or over situations that we didn’t expect.  This makes us reactionary.  We end up having to rely on our gut, experience, knowledge, instinct, luck, and the ability to pull it all together suddenly to make it all work.  Some people are better at this spontaneous activity than others.  And sometimes it works out for us and sometimes it doesn’t.

What if you weren’t so reactive, but rather – proactive?  Would you improve the odds of your audible being successful?

As I mentioned earlier, there is an “art” to the audible.  So, my answer to the above is yes – you can improve your outcome.

What is this art?  If you study great quarterbacks, you’ll notice that they have a few things in common.

  • They are knowledgeable.  Simply put, they know their business.  They have a wealth of information and experience to pull from.  While this serves well in a reactionary mode, it is even more potent when it is used proactively and you are calculated in making adjustments.
  • They are skilled at reading their environment.  They pay close attention.  They notice every detail.  They are anticipatory.  They are aware of everything that is happening around them.  They understand what changes in their environment mean.
  • They have alternative plans.  They have pre-planned and created alternative scenarios.   Based upon specific changes in the environment, they already know what to do differently – and even better – what to tell the team to do differently.

How do you become good at calling an audible?   Certainly, practice will make you better.  Being knowledgeable and having good alternative plans involves knowing your own business, pre-planning, and knowing when to invoke which alternative plan.

Reading your environment though is a skill you have to develop.  Paying attention to what is happening around you is important.  Listening to tone and words.  Watching non-verbal cues (e.g., body language, eye contact, facial expressions).  Understanding what they all mean.

You can hone this skill by being deliberately attentive.  Try it in the next meeting that you attend.  Read your environment.  When you leave the meeting, take a moment to recap.  Was your read correct?  If not, what did you miss? This is a skill that will serve you well beyond just calling the audible.

As you’ve read through this post, you’ve probably thought of a few times where you’ve had to call an audible.  If you tried to count the number of times you do it, you will probably find that you do it more than you would have thought.

Calling audibles is a natural part of business, especially for leaders.  The goal, however, is to become good at it.

How good are you?  What can you do to become better?

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