3 Awesome Attributes for Leaders

Happy Tuesday!  Today’s is an awesome day!  Isn’t it!?

Recently, I was talking with some colleagues about leader behaviors.  When I asked what attributes they valued the most, I found their responses intriguing.  Not surprising, but interesting.

While there are certainly many important attributes that are critical to a leader’s success, the three we pared it down to were well worthy of a mention.  A leader that does these three well will find themselves in a good place with their teams and colleagues.

What were they?

#1:  ACCESSIBILITY – People want access to their leaders.  This takes different forms depending upon the roles.  Good leaders are characterized by utilizing the “open door” mentality. This doesn’t mean that people can demand any specific time and or amount of time from their leaders, but it does mean that their leaders are available to them within reason.  It also means that team members feel comfortable knowing that their leader will be there for them when it really counts and that they will spend an appropriate amount of time addressing their needs and/or issues. 

Leader Actions:  For you leaders (again) your actions may vary by your role and circumstances, however, the key is ensuring that you set the expectations and ground rules for what accessibility looks like.  It could be, “I hold open office hours MWF from 8-10am”.  Or weekly recurring meetings with direct reports.  Or allow unscheduled in-person drive-bys.  Or quick response via email, text, IM, or whatever medium.  The key?  Make sure your people know how they can access you.

#2:  APPROACHABILITY – People want their leaders to be friendly, cordial, easy to talk to, and open to what they have to say.  This isn’t the same as accessible.  Just because you’re door’s open doesn’t mean that people will walk through.  They need to feel like it’s okay to walk through.  Unfortunately, I’ve actually heard someone say, “I’m not their friend, I’m their boss.”  Clearly this person misses the point.  It’s not so much about being BFFs as much as it is about people feeling like you’re open and engaged.  Approachability leads to greater communication, greater engagement, and greater morale.

Leader Actions:  The number one action you can take to be more approachable is to LISTEN.  Active listening tells people that you’re interested in what they have to   say.  Ask good follow up questions.  Mind your body posture and non-verbal cues – make sure they are sending the signal that you are invested in the person that is talking.  Don’t clock watch.  Be in the moment with that team member. Don’t be immediately dismissive of their ideas. Listen.  Don’t always be so serious.  Praise in public.  One of my favorite leaders always saidDon’t give some of the credit away, give it ALL away.   Smile and laugh WITH your team.

#3:  AUTHENTICTY – The most important attribute that people wanted from their leaders is for them to just be the ‘real deal’.  People have an uncanny way of seeing through facades – they may not always see it directly, but they can feel it.  They can tell when you’re not being yourself.  Even when well intentioned, not being yourself comes across as fake, disingenuous, and untrustworthy.   People want their leaders to be genuine and natural.  Trust is an earned relationship and one that works both ways.  Authenticity is a key to building a trusting relationship.

Leaders Actions:  Simply put – Be yourself.  Be real.  Be genuine.  Don’t put on fronts and facades.  Don’t make yourself out to be something you’re not.  Be a straight shooter and honest with others but always in a respectful manner.  Serve others.  Be humble.

Again, while there are many more attributes that are useful and necessary – these three felt right on spot.  And not just for formal leaders – but for the informal leaders as well.

Especially now, when the business environment is swirling with change, people need to anchor on their leaders.  And they need their leaders to be accessible, approachable, and authentic.

What leadership attributes to you see as critical?

4 Business Lessons from Girls’ Softball

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I am (usually) the first to admit when I am wrong…

…and I had one of those moments very recently.

Stick with me here while I set this up.

This last weekend, my 11 year-old niece played in one of the USSSA girls’ fast-pitch softball World Series tournaments.  My family and I packed up and drove to the tournament to cheer her on.   And while I am always happy to see my niece play and spend time with the family, I must admit – in the interest of full transparency – I wasn’t that excited about watching young girls play softball ALL SATURDAY LONG.  It’s not that I’m down on girls’ softball – it’s just that I couldn’t see myself spending ALL DAY there.

Fortunately for me – my ignorance didn’t get in the way of me witnessing something truly great!

Let me lay this out for you quickly and simply.

My niece’s team played a total of thirteen 90+ minute games in this tournament, six of which were on Saturday alone.  In this double-elimination set up, they found themselves fighting through the loser’s bracket after an early loss.  The 12-girl team also found themselves down one pitcher due to injury.  Consequently, they played the entire tournament with only two pitchers,  one of whom was my niece, Destiny.

NOW at this point in the story – let me tell you that if you’ve ever thought that young girls’ sports aren’t exciting – take it from me.  You’re wrong.  I was.  And I’m not too big to admit it. To say that this experience was humbling would be an understatement.

First, it completely terrifies me how fast an 11-year-old girl can pitch a softball – underhand.

Second, these girls that are 4-foot-nothing can HIT! …and field!  (For those of you unfamiliar with softball/baseball terms I simply said “they can play!”)

I was in complete awe of the skill at this age.  The most shocking thing, however, was that they just kept going and going – pitch after pitch – play after play – game after game.  Most adults I know would have wimped out long before these girls did.

The six back to back Saturday games spanned 14 hours in temperatures that had a heat index of around 100⁰F.

I found myself cheering on each individual player much like I would my favorite professional or collegiate athletes.  Listening to their parents – I was drawn in to their personal stories, which made it more fun.  It was like watching (a very long) awesome lifetime movie unfold before my eyes.

Throughout the tournament, these girls scored a total of 123 runs while only allowing 33.  Wow!

Their hard work paid off! In the end, they found themselves in the championship game.  The only trouble was that they were going to have to beat the other team twice in a row to clinch the championship title (because of the double elimination rule), but the other team would only have to beat them once.

As they went head to head, Destiny’s team blew the other team away in the first game.  They carried that momentum into game two – and were up 6-0 at the end of the third inning.  Unfortunately, the girls were worn out (as you had to play more games in the losers’ bracket) and the other team made a late rally in the final innings to beat them.

They left the tournament in second place as far as the USSSA was concerned.  But in my heart and the hearts of the parents and family – they are champions!

Proud Uncle Side Note:  My niece won the MVP Pitching award for best tournament pitcher.  I’m so proud! 🙂

So what does this have to do with business?

Tons.  Here are FOUR KEY LESSONS I walked away with.

ONE:  Cheer on your teammates…even when they make mistakes.  While I witnessed several great plays throughout the game, I also observed a host of errors too.  Nobody’s perfect. But whether success or failure – the girls were the first to genuinely cheer each other on – time and time again.  They clearly had each other’s backs and continually lifted each other’s spirits.

 Business Application:  How do you encourage your teammates?  In the workplace, our teammates need us to genuinely cheer them on.  Lift them up.  Encourage their efforts.  Share in their successes.  And help them get past their failures quickly.  They need us to have their back – and vice versa.

TWO:  Don’t judge a book by its cover.  The second base player that they affectionately referred to as ‘Tic-Tac’ was of course the shortest and youngest on the team.  The first time I saw her step up to bat I thought, “oh boy – this isn’t going to be good” and even looked away.  And then I heard that solid ‘crack’!  You know – the sound when the bat connects perfectly with the ball.  I whipped my head around to see the ball flying into deep right field.  I was in shock.  As I watched Tic-Tac for the rest of the series – I discovered that she was a softball monster!  She was a regular deep hitter, fielded the ball superbly, and caught several fly balls on the run.  I certainly misjudged her.

Business Application:  How do you learn about others?  We judge people we don’t really know all of the time.  Sometimes it’s by brief first impressions, other’s opinions, or just general assumptions we make about them.  However, I challenge you not to succumb to an uninformed opinion.  Get to know people for who they are, the true capabilities they possess, and the experiences and knowledge they can share.  Who knows – you may have a power player on your hands and you don’t even know it.

THREE:  There’s no crying in softball!  Oh wait – yes there is!  I saw it. BUT – through tears of frustration, exhaustion, and sometimes pain, I watched these 10-11 year old girls fight on.  It was inspiring! In the very last game – after pitching all day – my niece stood on the pitchers’ mound in the final innings.  She was brought in to relieve her worn-out partner.  And as tears streamed down her face from being exhausted herself, she kept throwing pitch after pitch.  Talk about digging deep!  It was a testament to sheer determination of will that all of these girls continued on.

Business Application:  How strong is your resolve? Perseverance is critical to accomplishing any great task, especially when you’re up against tough odds.  When it gets tough, double down on your resolve.  It is these moments that define individuals and teams.

FOUR:  Always be a good sport.  One of the things I was most impressed with was that the girls exhibited what I would call stellar sportsmanship.  Every time someone was hurt (on either team) the girls took a knee immediately out of respect.  At the end of every game – win or lose – the girls would meet the other team at the pitcher’s mound join hands and pray together.  They always congratulated the other team.  And in the final championship game – they showed their grace as they cheered the other team on as they received their first place award.

Business Application:  How do you demonstrate business sportsmanship?   One of my favorite life lessons You can’t always control what happens to you (even when you try your best), but you can control your own reaction to it.  Business sportsmanship is displayed through our attitudes, integrity, and ethical/moral behavior.  Always choose the higher road – regardless of what happens to you.

Sports always provides great parallels for business.  There were actually several more lessons from this day that would be business applicable.  But beyond the four I shared above, I want to call out my own very personal learning with which I started the story – don’t knock it until you try it.  I was clearly wrong about girls’ softball.  It is pretty awesome!

The thing that caught my attention through all of this and that should catch yours is that these lessons came from the behaviors displayed by a group of strong and determined young ladies.  They certainly set the bar high for us adults.  And if they can do it, we can do it!

What business lessons have you learned from kids’ activities?

“Hold on Tight” Customer Service

Pay Attention!

You can learn anything, anywhere, anytime, but you have to be paying attention.  Case in point.

I was on a whirlwind trip this last week and found myself at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport with my team. 

We had just dropped off the rental car and caught a rental car bus over to the terminal.  Once we were inside the terminal, I got that sinking feeling in my stomach when I realized that I didn’t have my backpack with me, which also meant that I didn’t have my wallet, ID, etc.  It was in the bus!  I left my carry-on bag with one of my peers and took off running back to the parking area to see if the bus was still there.

It was.  I ran across the street and jumped on the empty bus and looked around frantically.  No backpack.  I ran to the front of the bus only to realize it was a different bus driver.  Which meant – it was a different bus.

Clearly seeing that I was only slightly panicked, he asked me how he could help.  I quickly explained that my backpack was on board the bus that was just here before him.  He asked me if I had told anyone.  I replied, “I’m telling you.” Again, slightly panicked.

Without batting an eye, he said, “Hold on tight.  I think I can catch him.”  And with that, he shut the doors, put it in drive and took off. I stood behind him and grabbed the overhead bar for support.  For a brief moment, it reminded me of something out of a movie and expected dramatic theme music to start playing.  In case you’re wondering – we were the only ones on the bus.

As we sped past the departure drop off area, he grabbed the mic to his radio and started calling for his dispatch and the other bus.  While dispatch replied, the other bus didn’t answer.  Dispatch then began calling for the other bus, but still no reply.

Then we came to a fork in the road.  He asked me a quick question about whether or not there were passengers for other terminals on our bus.  My “I don’t know” response didn’t help.  But that was okay, because he replied, “Okay…then if I were him, I’d go this way.”  And he jerked the bus to the right.  Up and around the terminal we went.

As we leveled out in the arrival area, we approached a line of buses.  He said, “I believe this is your bus.” and pointed to the one directly in front.  As I jumped off his bus, he said, “I’ll wait here.”  I shouted my thanks as I ran to the bus in front.

I leaped on to the bus in front to discover my backpack sitting there all by its lonesome.  I startled my old driver as I let out a triumphant “Yes!”  He asked me if he could help me.  I told him that I had left my backpack, but everything was okay now.  I’m sure I left him a little baffled as to what had just happened and how I got there.

I climbed off the bus and held up my bag to the awesome driver to show success.  He gave me a smile, a wave, and then drove off.  I waved my thanks to him.

As I walked back to my party, I couldn’t help but think how great of customer service this driver displayed.  He didn’t have to help me.  I’m sure it wasn’t in his job description.  But he did it nonetheless.

Besides not leaving my bag on the rental car bus, here are 3 things I learned that day about exceeding expectations with a “hold on tight” level of customer service.

  1. 1.      Take Immediate Action – when a customer presents you with a crisis or problem they expect you to deal with it – don’t wait You can be anyone’s superhero.  Don’t pass the problem off to someone else.  Take ownership.  You’re action shows them that you are committed to solving their issue.  It shows that you are committed to them
  2. 2.      Include Others – if you don’t know how to solve a customer’s problem or need help – get it Use the resources available to you to find the right people or incorporate others in to the solution.  Leverage them to help. 
  3. 3.      See It Through – Once on the path to solving an issue – see it through to the end.  Like the driver said to me when he found my bus, “I’ll wait here”.   He did this to make sure that what he did solved my problem.  If it hadn’t, I imagine we would have been off on another adventure.  Even if you do pass it to someone else – follow up.

Exceeding a customer’s expectations doesn’t happen by accident.  It takes action.  Take every opportunity to go above and beyond!  There were so many examples of this in my story.  From the initial “hold on tight” all the way through to the “I’ll wait here”. 

I don’t know the name of my driver, but I’ll always remember the impact he made on me by providing awesome customer service!  And this is what we should want for our customers – to remember us and our company this way.

Be known for providing awesome customer service.  And as leaders, be known for teaching awesome customer service!

What “hold on tight” customer service have you provided lately?

Reach Out!

I was able to witness something awesome recently.  At the Walmart Shareholders Meeting this year, there was a brief moment that they were celebrating a young man named Tim Kerfoot from Canada that was named the International Associate of the Year.  Tim works at a distribution center.  Tim is also wheel chair bound.

Why was he the International Associate of the Year?  Well, when you listen to him (video below), it will take you about half a second to realize that this guy radiates positive energy and motivates others to be excellent.

Here is a man that has faced a huge adversity, could easily give up, or be ticked off at the world because of his lot in life, but you would never know it.  This doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have troubles or struggles, it just means that he chooses not to let them dictate his attitude.  – which is absolutely awesome.

In fact, while they were recognizing him he said something that I thought was incredibly profound.  He said, “In the midst of a challenge, find people around you that can support you through it.  And then…..find people around you that you can support.

Think about that for a moment.  

What a great leadership lesson!

In the first half his statement, he basically says, when you need help – seek out those that can help you.  Ask for it.  Don’t go it alone.  Rely on others.  Get support.  Reach out!

This is such a fail point for so many leaders.  Often we think that we need to define ‘being strong’ as ‘doing it ourselves’ and ‘not showing weakness’.  There is nothing further from the truth!  We – you and Ineed other people.  That’s how we’re wired as human beings.  There is no shame in asking for help. In fact, it may show greater leadership maturity if you do.   And quite frankly, we need other people to offset our own flaws, lift us up when we’re down, and strengthen us when we’re weak.  I’m sure that you’ve heard the old adage that a single stick is easily broken, but a bundle of sticks cannot be broken.   We need each other in order to succeed.

But, the coolest thing about what Tim said followed next.

“…then….find people around you that you can support.”  Wow!  This is POWERFUL! This simple statement brings the first half full circle.  It’s not just about asking for help when WE need it.  It’s about helping others when THEY need it.  This is very symbiotic and brings the whole concept of reaching out full circle.  When I hear this I picture someone reaching down in to the pit to help pull us out, but just as we’re about to be pulled out, we reach back and extend our hand to someone else.

Something important to point out here is that he used the word “FIND”.  This is an action word that we should pay close attention to.  When it comes to helping others, we shouldn’t wait for them to come to us.  We should FIND PEOPLE AROUND US THAT WE CAN SUPPORT.  Good leader’s don’t sit back and wait.  They take action to proactively and positively impact the lives of others.  This requires us to sharpen our skills of discernment and be aware and sensitive to what is happening around us.

REACH OUT – when you need help.

AND

REACH OUT – to help others.

As leaders, I challenge you to do both!  Both are healthy.  And if you are the kind of person that reaches out to help others more often than you ask for help, I guarantee you that someone will always be there for you when you need it.

Tim also made another neat statement.  He said, “Life is better with a team, with family and with friends.”  I couldn’t agree more.

With an outlook on life like this, it’s no wonder that Tim Kerfoot from DC 3059 in Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada was Walmart’s International Associate of the Year.  Way to go Tim!

I’ve attached Tim’s acceptance video below.

Who needs you to reach out to them today?

Suck It Up, Get a Helmet, and Drive On!

It’s been just over a month since the last Leader’s Locker post, but for good reason.  It’s not because I’ve been lazy or had no desire to post, this last few weeks have just turned out to be pretty crazy busy.

Crazy busy to the point that these old adages have been floating around in my head for days.  You likely know them well enough to complete them…

When it rains….

When life gives you lemons….

When the going get’s tough…

What doesn’t kill you….

Did you get them all?  Apparently, when it pours your supposed to make lemonade and get going so you can be stronger!  Right?

My favorite saying though was one that I used often when I worked in Emergency Management when things got really crazy – Suck it up, get a helmet, and drive on.”

So what do you do as a leader when it’s raining heavily in your life and the demands are coming at you faster than you can count them?

Here are 4 things to consider:

  • Project Confidence!  When the ground shakes and the skies grow dark, the troops look to their leader for strength and direction.  If you appear rattled it can have a devastating impact on the morale of the team.  They need you to be calm, even-keel, and steadfast.  This is the time to lead and provide direction – regardless of how bad it gets.  If you get rattled, they get more rattled.  If you get scared, they get more scared.  If you stand strong and are unwavering in the face of a tough situation, you may be the one thing that keeps them going.  They look to you.  They need you.
 
  • Lean in to it!  Have you ever stood in a strong wind?  What happens if you lean backwards?  The wind either pushes you backwards or knocks you over.  BUT, if you lean forward, what happens?  You can usually endure whatever the wind dishes out at you (unless you’re in a tornado – then it’s just plain bad unless your name happens to be Dorothy).

So what can we learn from leaning forward?  When things get crazy – lean in to it so the situation or demands don’t knock you off of your feet.  Approach the challenge head on, get a good look at it, and quickly determine how you’re going to approach what’s coming.

  • Prioritize!  The faster the demands come in a short period of time, the higher the stress, the more likely that you are going to miss something – which is why triage becomes an important activity.  Looking at all the tasks and asking – What is it?  How important?  How long will it take to accomplish?  Where does it rank in all of the other things I need to get done?  This means that you may have to decide to delay some things and/or not to do some things at all, but at least you are making a conscious and calculated decision as to what demands your precious time and where you spend your energy.

Quite frankly, this is why I haven’t posted in a few weeks.  It’s not that I don’t love blogging, rather it’s that I had to prioritize increasing family and work responsibilities over blogging.  ….and sometimes that’s just the way it goes.

  • Fight the good fight!  This is where the phrase – ‘suck it up, get a helmet, and drive on’ comes in.  Some times you just need to double down on your resolve and dig deeper to get things done.  And as a leader, you often need to take people with you, which means you need to ratchet up the energy throughout the tough times.  Not only will you need the energy to stand on your feet, set priorities, and make decisions, but you’ll need it to feed your people.  Your example, your direction, and your ability to inspire will be key to charging your troops’ batteries to keep them going (in the right direction) when the chips are down and demands are crazy.   They will literally feed off of your energy – so you need to make sure that your energy output is at the right level.  Perseverance and tenacity are key words that comes to mind here.  This is the time that your true leadership colors are on display.

The good thing about crazy busy times?  They don’t last forever.  Sometimes it may seem like it – but eventually the craziness subsides.   And I know that I can handle anything for a short period of time.  And so can you.

So when the  raining turns in to pouring – suck it up, get a helmet, and drive on.  Be the leader that your people need you to be.

 

What do you do when times get crazy?

There Is Hope!

Yesterday, I had the privilege of attending the Mi Futuro mentoring program graduation. 

For those of you unfamiliar, Mi Futuro (which means My Future in Spanish) is an 8th Grade mentoring program that was started three years ago spawned from an idea shared by a couple Walmart Associates.  Volunteer mentors from  Walmart/Sam’s Club spend one hour a month with a group of handpicked students over the course of their school year.   They discuss topics ranging from goal setting, to public speaking, to high school prep, to college prep and beyond.  The goal is encourage the students to think broader and more positively about their future.

This is the third school year we’ve done this.  And the program has grown extensively, much to some Associate leaders’ vision and dedication.   The first class started with one school and 26 students.  This year, there were 8 participating schools with 13 mentoring groups and over 300 students participating in the program.

Initially, the program was targeted at Hispanic students that showed promise, but were at risk (whether due to family situations, social influences, etc.).  The program now represents total school demographics, but still targets those same promising students that are at risk.

Next year, the goal is to reach over 1,500 students and have over 50 schools represented across the United States.

The reason I write all of this comes down to a couple statements made by students during the program.

First, the self awareness of these students was a little surprising to me.  While talking about the program and her future, one of the students said, “I don’t want to get lost in the crowd.”  Then she continued on to talk about her dreams and how she was going to succeed.  Her determination was admirable!  It was a proud moment for every mentor in the room.

Second, and perhaps more impactful, was a statement made by one of the students from the first year of the program.  We had three students from the first year (now sophomores in high school) talk about the impact of the program on them and the lessons learned from their two years of seniority over the kids in the audience.  This student, who was the least formally dressed of the three, who started every sentence with “I guess…” said something incredibly profound.  He said, “I will be the first to go to college from my family.”  Then he said, “I want my little brother to follow in my footsteps.

This statement took my breath away and made tears well up in my eyes.  Here is a sophomore in high school that was mentored and is now mentoring and setting an example for his little brother.   This is what it is all about.

In that moment, it was clear that this precious investment of time that the mentors provide these students is making a difference.

Often when we talk about mentoring at work we’re thinking about either our own professional development and/or how we are developing others in their positions or skills (which is important!).  Rarely though do I hear about people developing our next generation on a continuous basis.

But, as we get older, we realize how fast the time goes and we start to see the bigger picture.  If we don’t take the time to mentor, develop, grow, shape, and inspire our future generation what will the future hold for our society?

The good news?  There is hope!  I saw it and heard it yesterday.

My challenge to you is to find time to invest in the upcoming generation on a continuous basis.   Whether it’s Mi Futuro (for you Walmart/Sam’s Club associates), the Boys and Girls Club, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, a church youth program, or some other youth program – INVEST in the future of a child.  If we all joined in this investment just imagine what the future could hold.  There is great hope in our future!

Will you rise to the challenge?

4 Steps to Doing the Right Thing

Do you do the right thing?

I want to revisit where we were last time – talking about Integrity.  This is a timeless topic, but in recent days is timelier than ever before.

Before we get to far away from it, I also want to revisit the example we were using previously in talking about the University of Arkansas Head Football Coach situation.  While I don’t want to draw too much attention to this situation I do want to take a different look at it – this time through the lens of the actions and decisions of the Athletic Director Jeff Long.

While the coach’s actions brought about a very public ethical dilemma, Long’s response/reaction mitigated a lot of the negative that the coach had created and may have created an even greater positive focus on the integrity of the program that will have long lasting positive effects. 

He showed that the university valued ethical behavior over a winning coach, which is a lesson in and of itself not only the players, students, coaches, faculty, and fans, but for us as well.

How often do we focus on the results over how we achieved the results?  This plays out in business all the time.  Our job as leaders with integrity is to ensure our people understand the importance of the ‘how’.

Most interestingly for me was the ‘how’ in the way that Jeff Long tackled this ethical dilemma.  I’ve categorized these in to four distinct areas of action that were taken.

  • Acknowledge.  Houston, we have a problem.  Have you ever tried to avoid a negative situation because you know that it’s going to be painful and energy consuming?  I have.  But when it comes to ethical dilemmas we really can’t just sit on the fence and wait for things to blow over.  We need to deal with it.

When confronted initially with the situation, the first thing that Long did was acknowledge it.  While this was a very public situation for the university, he didn’t try to hide it. Instead, he stood in front of reporters and told them what he knew.  More importantly, he also said that he didn’t know everything and didn’t succumb to the requests to speculate. 

  • Set Expectations.  Okay…so we know have a problem.  Now what?  You need to define what needs to happen next.  And whether that is simply for your own benefit to organize or to publicly let others know what your plan of action is, definition is important because it gives you structure for dealing with the situation.  Jeff Long did this very well. Once he acknowledged the situation, he said, “Here is what I’m going to do next.”  He didn’t paint himself in to a corner either by setting artificial timelines.  He simply said, “Here is what we are going to do.”  And more important than setting the expectation for himself and the public, he followed through on what he said, which improved his credibility significantly.
  • Consult.  Do I need to shoulder all of this responsibility myself?  Absolutely not.  While I don’t possess a PhD in human psychology, I have a hard time believing that humans are built to handle tough decisions alone.  We have a safety net of people that make up our social sphere that help guide us along the way.  This may be your parents, or a sibling, best friend, pastor, boss, career mentor, legal resource, counselor, or other source.  The fact is, gaining other perspectives on tough decisions is a great idea.  I know that I use a network of trusted people in my life to help give me perspective all of the time.

In his statement, Long stated that he sought counsel and perspective from others.  Undoubtedly, there were very different perspectives presented, but in the end, he had to take in all of the information, filter, and then make the best possible decision.  The same is true for all of us.

  • Decide and Act.   Making tough decisions isn’t easy.  Acting upon them is sometimes even harder.  As I looked at these two actions, I thought about splitting them out in to their own points.  But as I looked closer, I believe that you can’t separate them because they are absolutely interconnected. 

As a leader, you can’t decide and then not act. If you don’t act then you really didn’t do anything, now did you?  Leaders make and act on tough decisions.  Don’t forget that.  If you can’t, then being in a leadership position may not be for you.

At the end of the day, Long made a very tough decision.  He made the right decision (in my opinion).  But he didn’t stop at the decision.  He followed through with action.  He terminated the coach, he started a search for a new coach, and then hired a new coach.

One other side note and observation that I wanted to cover is the compassion that Long exhibited in the handling of the situation.  Not only was he sensitive to all that were impacted in the words that he used and privacy he maintained,  but his tone, demeanor, and delivery conveyed that he really cared about all of those involved (including the coach).  Following the above steps in a sterile manner may get you through the situation, but what people will remember is your sincerity and how you made them feel about it.

Every ethical decision that you come to in life may not be hyper-complex.  Some may be much more black and white and easy to quickly determine.  However, I’m confident that you will experience at least one or more difficult, complex, ‘gray’ decisions to make in your life.

Having a framework to approach and deal with these situations will be very important to your success.  Just remember to be sincere and compassionate as you face these challenges.

As leaders, we all have tough decisions to make.  Many may not be as public or complex as the one that Jeff Long faced, but tough decisions nonetheless.  While none of us are perfect, having the right tools in our toolbox will help us when those tough decisions come along.

My questions for you are:

  • Will you step up when it’s your time? 
  • Will you make the right decision when no one else is looking? 
  • Will you act with integrity? 
  • Will you teach integrity to those that look up to you?

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

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