Saturday, April 28, 2018

The Challenge of Creating a Safe Environment and a Culture of Accountability


My ideal workplace is one that is rich with empowerment. People don’t need to be told what to do, don’t need to be barked at to get things done. I dream of a workplace where people feel safe to express their thoughts, take risks, and try out new things despite likelihood of failure because they know that the boss got their back.

I can be quite a pushover. My team’s praise is also their criticism. “Mabait si Sir Ed”. “Masyadong mabait si sir Ed”. That’s what I get from people. Both an appreciation and criticism. There is no bundy clock in my office. People come when they think they are needed. They start and quit work for the day when they want to unless there are client commitments that need to be made. I give variable compensation and rewards that allow them to have more take home pay if they work well enough.  I follow Richard Branson’s advice. Take care of your employees and they will take care of your business and your customers. After all my experiences with people, I continue to believe that with a big caveat; you have to define what “take care” means.  The phrase changed for me quite recently to mean take care of their professional growth.

My approach help me keep my high performing and high potential employees. Sadly, I also kept people who find it difficult to rise above mediocrity, What I realized is that you cannot just supply knowledge to fill people’s knowledge gaps. You must make them accountable for applying their learning and make them feel that they are being held to a high standard of performance and behavior.  In the past, when people fail to meet my expectations or fail to deliver, I say “ok lang yan, you’re still learning” sometimes people think it means I allow mediocrity. I’m guilty of allowing people to think that I’m ok with less than good performance. I guess to a certain extent I did and slowed down people’s growth.  I learned that to build a high-performance team, people should know that nothing less is expected of them individually. While I encourage people to communicate, express their ideas and find their own way of doing things, I should not allow delays and excuses, otherwise that’s what I’ll get, “high-performance excuses.”

Here’s a proposal from my own learning.  As leaders we should be clear about what is allowed and what is not. We should be capable of quickly recognizing alignment and point out misalignment. Coach, mentor, manage and eventually, if people continue to fail, manage them out so they can find other workplaces where they have a chance to do better, or do whatever they want.

Creating a safe environment and a culture of accountability should not be exclusive of each other.  We can build it. Building a high performing team means building an organization that attracts people who want to grow and scare-off people who don’t have a sense of direction.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

When You Demand Integrity

I often get to facilitate visioning workshops where management teams or entire organizations determine their organization’s vision, mission and core values.  Whenever we get to identifying core values, there’s always someone or some people proposing Integrity as one of their core values. I have no problem with that. If it is indeed their core values, that’s well and good! I have a very strict criterion for helping companies identify their core values. This criterion is are the leaders of the organization capable of modeling them?

This is what Collins and Porras say about what core values are; “Core values are the essential and enduring tenets of an organization. A small set of timeless guiding principles, core values require no external justification; they have intrinsic value and importance to those inside the organization.” It’s an enduring tenet that the company must align with whether it rewards them or punish them.  In this society and country, demonstrating integrity will both reward and punish you!

There’s a very good reason for demanding integrity from your people. It’s the easiest way to explain compliance, avoiding pilferage, and committing to what people agree to do as they are paid for.  However, integrity can have an empty meaning very fast when leaders of the organization, from the top to the front line can’t model them. They become meaningless slogans.  When an identified core value like integrity loses its meaning in the eyes of the people, the other core values are also put to question and when people are not seeing visible examples of how they are demonstrated, they lose interest in the whole exercise and get their cues from how their leaders act. When they feel they are being cheated, they cheat back, or those who truly have integrity as their personal core value feel misaligned and go away if they can afford it.

90% of the time, when someone recommends integrity to be part of the core values, they change their mind whenever I ask, can you model it? As an organization, can you demonstrate integrity in your decisions and actions? The room would go silent, people will start thinking of a way to justify integrity even when, they don’t pay their taxes right, they bribe government, they get personal commissions from suppliers, or even if they don’t give employees what they’re due according to law. I tell them there is no such thing as limited integrity, or selective integrity. It defies the meaning of the word itself.

In my entire career, I only worked for one company that truly embraced the value of integrity. When that company was bought by global investment company, that value was eliminated, and the character of the company changed drastically. I only have seen a handful of companies who truly demonstrate integrity. Many of those who put it as their core value don’t really show it and you can immediately see how the rest of the core values are just there for posterity and are way away from how people conduct their work and business.


I believe integrity is important. To demand integrity from your people is to model the way in demonstrating it. People follow their leaders. Not what they say but what they do. The easy hint that people are not following what you say is maybe because you don’t follow it yourself. 

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

First, Go the Extra Mile for Yourself

Today, I decided to add an extra kilometer to my daily jog/walk. On my last kilometer, my id started negotiating with my ego.  I started asking myself if an extra kilometer would really make much of a difference. I also threatened myself by saying this could cause me some over-exertion injuries. I’m just glad that my id lost to my superego, so I won, I ran/walked an extra kilometer and a half.

I could have lost that internal conversation had I not recognized that this conversation is happening and that I’m taking a side – that of my superego.  Whenever we face a challenge in our life, those conversations happen, and it is not always clear which is id and which is superego. We often go back and forth, weighing our options and decide which we want more, instant gratification or  the bigger yet delayed rewards.

I’m sharing this with you because I think that as our leadership responsibilities go bigger, we need to equip ourselves to meet those increasing challenges. We can’t do that if we don’t know where we last drew our lines of limitation and decide when and how to cross them.  This reminds me of the safety orientation given by the flight crews before a plane goes up. The flight staff would advise that you put your mask on first before helping another. I think this is a metaphor for leadership. Before you help others, you must make sure that you are in a position or condition to help them. You know what they say, you can’t give what you don’t have.

I’ve been dismissive of my health these past many years and as a result, I gained a lot of weight.  I used to love exercising. Now, I can’t even remember when I started hating it. I started exercising again a few months back after joining the “biggest loser” challenge at work. It was a hard start, but I finally found the love for exercising the I lost a long time ago. Now, my goal for 2018 is to be healthy. I realized I can’t help a lot of people, specially my family if my health limits me. In that journey, I know that I have to tussle with my id some good countless times. I have to be aware when those negotiations happen, so I know where I’m putting my bet on – my superego.


So here’s a call to action; what extra mile are you taking for yourself? Which lines of limitations are you crossing? What are you going to do to draw you closer to your higher future self? It would be hard to take an extra mile for others if you don't go the extra mile for yourself first. Decide what to do and be aware of the pulls. Are your fears pulling you back or are your aspirations pulling you forward? You have to decide which way you want to be pulled. Your growth depends on it.

You know, people are not always comfortable talking about these stuff because they think it's too touchy-feely. However, we need to recognize that managing ourselves is everyone's (yes, you and I!) biggest challenge! Join me on January 16-17 so we can tackle these things that impact on our emotion and decision-making and see how we can achieve self-mastery.  Click below for more details and to register.