Monday, July 9, 2018

Rise to the Occasion

I attended a  number of seminars recently. There were several speakers in those events , and a lot of them impressed me. Some of them, baffled me.  One speaker started by apologizing in advance for the blunders he will make because he was notified too shortly and didn’t know why he was invited to speak.  He read through most of his prepared speech with some commentaries.  He demonstrated true to his promise that he didn’t have enough time to prepare.  The other speaker started by telling the audience he didn’t know what to talk about and had to be told what to say and that’s exactly what he did.  I don’t know what the intention was for saying what they said. Was it to lower expectation? To surprise the audience with one’s brilliance that after one speaks, the audience will say there was really no need to apologize?  I was confused because I invested my day prepared to learn something from people who know what they are talking about,  only to be apologized to for their lack of preparation or idea about the topic assigned to them.

When I conduct training, I am in the habit of asking questions. Sometimes the group fall into silence when I ask difficult question, but I wait until it becomes too awkward that some participants will volunteer to answer. They often start with a disclaimer by lowering of expectation. They say “try lang po,” which means, I’m not sure if this is the correct answer so don’t fault me for being wrong.
Do you also do that? Do you also try to lower people’s expectations, so they can’t fault you for failing?  As a public speaker, I feel that standing on a platform is a great leadership privilege. An opportunity to influence people towards positive action. I believe that to be given that kind of opportunity demands rising to the occasion and doing one’s best. When one readies the audience by diminishing their expectation rather than excite them about prospect is not a good way to start. One might think I’m nitpicking, but this is more than the lousiness of the advanced apology, it goes back to the psyche that works (not works) in preparation for that platform.

Not all of us are speakers but all of us have the opportunity to lead.  When that opportunity comes, we start our leadership journey by psyching ourselves up, preparing the hell out for it, and engaging our constituents from the very onset. We do not warn them that we are not prepared and that we are just going to try and to ask them in effect to not blame us for failing.  If you are going to lead, tell them you are going to give it your 100% and then give it. No body expects us to be perfect but when we take the platform of leadership, they expect us to give it our best, otherwise, get off!

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.