Trust and Respect Require More Than Training

troops yellow ribbonAfter a six-year $287 million campaign to make US Army soldiers more optimistic, happy, and resilient, the results are less than stellar.

USA Today reported that twelve months of data through early 2015 found that 52% of soldiers scored poorly in optimism and 48% have little satisfaction in or commitment to their jobs.

One of the most concerning trends to me is that 39% of soldiers don’t trust their immediate supervisors or fellow soldiers; they don’t feel respected or valued.

The Army’s positive psychology program began in 2009 in response to rising suicide and mental illness among enlisted troops. The program was controversial from the start. A panel of scientists showed that the program demonstrated little to no evidence of preventing mental illness. This 2012 article raised serious questions about the program’s ability to address these issues.

It is very good that military leadership recognizes the importance of positive mental health of troops. And, it is clear that this particular program has had very little positive impact on soldiers’ well-being.

The psychological impact of combat, frequent deployments, and defense cuts on soldiers’ engagement and optimism is easy to comprehend. I don’t believe that any single program or training can offset those sobering effects.

The good news? There are ways to create consistent civility, performance, and satisfaction in the workplace. Any workplace.

What can have a significant positive impact on the well-being of team members – be they soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen, employees in your company, etc. – is how they are treated by their leaders and their peers.

All trust is local. All relationships are local. By “local” I mean “within arms reach.” The folks you interact with regularly, face to face or virtually (email, video link, etc.) are where your most frequent experiences occur. Those experiences either enhance trust and positive relationships or they erode them. Those experiences are rarely neutral!

How you are treated by your leaders and peers, moment to moment, in daily interactions, has a huge impact on your feeling of being in on things, of being trusted, respected, and valued for your efforts and your accomplishments.

There are numerous examples of inspiring leaders in our military today. US Navy Captain D. Michael Abrashoff changed the culture of the USS Benfold through grassroots leadership. Abrashoff created a crew of inspired problem solvers by creating a meaningful purpose, trusting talented crew members, and building buy-in with his “it’s your ship” mantra.

All military organizations have values defined. The US Army’s values are clearly spelled out. What is missing in many organizations around the globe is demonstrated alignment to their values, in every interaction, every day. Those values need to be defined in behavioral terms then measured, monitored, and rewarded.

A training program can boost awareness and build skills, but the program alone can’t change day to day behaviors. That requires commitment on the part of leaders to model the values, praise aligned behavior, and redirect mis-aligned behavior, consistently.

Our active and veteran service members give their best daily. They’re not getting OUR best, in the form of proactive care, treatment, and support.

We must do better.

What do you think? Do you agree that trust and relationships are “local”? Share your insights on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Purpose of Leadership

Businessman Making Presentation To Office ColleaguesWhat is the leader’s reason for being? I see quotes and posts from all corners of the globe on this topic.

I’ve been lucky enough over the years to engage a number of leadership thinkers on this idea. The range of responses is wide!

Some suggest that the purpose of leadership is to deliver results through others. Others see the leader’s purpose as developing more leaders. Even others see the leader’s primary responsibility is to make the vision come to fruition.

I believe that effective leaders do all these things and more.

What is missing for me in most of these responses, though, is the answer to this vital question: “To what end?” Who or what is changed when “leadership” happens? Who is being served when “leadership” efforts are applied?

If the outcomes of leadership efforts primarily serve the leader (in the form of bonuses, credit, promotions, etc.), others enjoy fewer (or no) benefits from those efforts.

If leadership activities discount or erode employee contributions or value, that inhibits employee engagement. Team members who feel discounted or taken advantage of won’t serve customers kindly or respectfully, nor will they willingly apply their skills in service to team or company strategies and goals.

In 25 years of consulting with leaders, I’ve never observed self-serving leaders positively impact my “big three” – employee engagement, customer service, or results and profits. They might get short term results, but over the long term, each of the big three are negatively impacted.

Can a single, all-encompassing purpose statement for leadership be crafted? Here’s my best thinking at this point in time.

In The Culture Engine, I present a template for creating an effective organizational purpose statement. Let’s refine that template for leaders. We need a succinct declaration that explains what effective leaders do, for whom, and “to what end” – how employees and customers are positively served by leadership efforts.

What do effective leaders do? They set performance targets. They demand cooperative interaction. They validate efforts. They celebrate accomplishments and team work. They listen and learn. They refine policies and procedures to make employees’ jobs easier. They hold themselves and all others accountable for performance and values expectations.

Whom do effective leaders serve? Their primary customers are their team members. Their secondary customers are those who purchase the team’s (or company’s) products and services.

To what end do effective leaders serve? They inspire aligned contributions by all team members in a trusting, respectful work environment.

By combining these answers into a crisp statement, we arrive at this purpose of leadership:

“Effective leaders set high standards for performance and values, validate efforts and contributions, and ensure cooperative interaction and performance in a trusting, respectful work environment.”

Does this statement align with how your most effective leaders behaved? What is my leadership purpose statement missing? Share your insights on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

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The music heard on my podcasts is from one of my songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © 2005 Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). I play all instruments on these recordings.


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Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Poor Practices Doom Workplace Inspiration

frustrated young business manI’ve been helping leaders create high performing, values-aligned organizations for over 17 years.

My first blog post – on April 17, 2010 (I was slow coming to the blogosphere!) – outlined the foundation of my proven culture refinement process: crafting clear performance expectations and clear values expectations, then holding everyone accountable for both.

This is my 263rd weekly blog post – and 178th weekly podcast. All of those efforts have promoted one big idea – that leaders must be as intentional about values as they are about performance.

My latest book, The Culture Engine, describes how leaders can create workplace inspiration with an organizational constitution. It’s all about clear expectations then ensuring accountability for both performance and values.

The benefits of aligning practices to an organizational constitution are astounding. Clients see 40 percent gains in employee engagement, 40 percent gains in customer service, and 35 percent gains in results and profits, all within 18 months of starting their culture refinement.

The increased interest in organizational culture enables some cool conversations. In one recent exchange, a journalist asked my opinion regarding employee engagement policies in organizations. My answer was that if an organization has policies that encourage employee engagement, that’s great – but that daily practices are much more important than policies alone.

Why? Practices – the daily plans, decisions, and actions by leaders and team members in an organization – either create workplace trust, dignity, and respect in every interaction or they don’t.

Companies should have policies that outline desired interaction quality – respectful treatment no matter what. But aligning practices to those desired behaviors is what creates workplace inspiration and trust.

Policies alone create awareness of desired behaviors. They don’t, however, guarantee aligned behaviors.

To ensure practices are aligned with policies, leaders must be role models and champions of employee engagement and workplace inspiration. To be a proactive champion is not a passive responsibility. It requires intention, time, energy, modeling, coaching, and redirecting by leaders to align plans, decisions, and actions to those policies, in every interaction, every day.

I don’t think organizations intentionally craft policies that erode employee engagement or workplace inspiration, but many policies do exactly that!

Most organizations and their leaders focus exclusively on results. It’s all they know. Their role models (bosses from their past and present) focused primarily on results. The metrics and dashboards in their organization measure and reward exclusively results. Policies reinforce this focus: set goals, then measure progress towards those goals.

Don’t misunderstand me: results are important! But when leaders put 100% of their focus on results, people will get those results in ways that may not be kind, considerate, or always ethical.

There is a better way. Our best bosses created a safe, inspiring work environment by making values as important as results. They gave us clear values expectations as well as clear performance expectations – and held us accountable for both.

How we behave to get desired results is as important as the results themselves.

Companies that are intentional about performance and values see the gains I note above – huge growth in employee engagement, customer service, and results.

Too few companies are intentional about values. Leaders think that people will behave nicely. Yet people behave badly (some worse than others) when the only thing that is measured, monitored and rewarded is results.

Policies that encourage employee engagement are a good start. The hard work comes after the policies are published, when every leader and team member aligns to practices that not only deliver on results, but do so in ways that treat everyone with dignity, trust, and respect.

How clear are values expectations in your organization? To what degree are team leaders and team members held accountable for both performance and values in your organization? Share your insights on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Love Your Life & Love Your Job

do what you love to doDoes your job bring you joy? Do you experience the pure pleasure of serving others beautifully, work well done, and cooperative interaction with team members, every day? Do you relish the learning and discovery your work provides?

Or is work a source of consternation for you, with more politics than pleasure, more battles than beauty?

Does your life bring you joy? Do you experience the pure pleasure of serving others beautifully, work well done, and cooperative interaction with family members, friends, and neighbors, every day?

Or, not exactly?

Current research on happiness (Happy Planet Index) and engagement (Towers Watson Global Workforce Study) indicates that people around the globe don’t experience well-being consistently at work or in their personal lives. When we see a person who is legitimately thrilled at their work experience, we often wonder what they’ve been drinking or smoking!

For example, a recent thundersnow event in Plymouth, MA, caused the Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore to express unbridled joy at getting those rare strikes on video. Cantore’s immense enthusiasm at the occurrence showed how much he loves his work!

I’m not suggesting that you need to spend every waking hour jumping for joy. But if you’re not genuinely inspired by your life and your work, you are likely eroding your well-being and life satisfaction.

I don’t suggest that you quit your job or disconnect from your family, friends, or neighbors, either. That’s not going to move you forward.

I do suggest that you choose to refine your daily life to include activities that are aligned with your purpose and values, and that serve others well.

By adding engaging activities – slowly but intentionally – you increase your personal joy, service, and alignment. Even an hour a week will boost your positive well-being.

How shall you start? First, identify activities that meet three criteria: you love doing them, they genuinely serve others, and they’re not against local laws (!).

Second, identify current and possible avenues that would enable you to engage in those “high impact” activities.

Those activities might include things like:

  • If you love learning and love books, create a book club. At work, try a monthly lunch meeting to review business books that might increase knowledge, efficiency, and teamwork.
  • Volunteer at a local non-profit. Stock shelves at a food bank or serve meals at a homeless shelter.
  • Start up a weekly music showcase at your local coffee house. Seek out musicians who would love to share their passions with a live audience.
  • Volunteer at local events that inspire you. I was just at South By Southwest in Austin, TX. That three-week event requires 14,000 volunteers to help it run smoothly!

Third, don’t just think about engaging in these activities. DO them. Add at least an hour per week of your unique “high impact” activities, starting NOW.

You don’t need anyone’s permission to refine your life and work. Take the time to engage in activities you love and that serve others well – it’ll do you GOOD.

What activities do you love to do and also serve others well? How will you include “high impact” activities in your busy week? Share your insights on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

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The music heard on these podcasts is from one of my songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © 2005 Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). I play all instruments on these recordings.


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Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Authenticity Factor

Keep it real concept.To what degree are you genuine and authentic with your work colleagues – bosses, peers, and team members – in daily interactions?

Dictionary.com defines authentic as “not false or copied; genuine; real.”

If we ponder how our great bosses behaved with us, it is extremely likely that they were real. They demonstrated authentic care and service to us.

They interacted with no hidden agendas. There was no smoke and mirrors; there was simply honest discussion, transparent decision-making, and in-depth engagement.

Our great bosses kept their commitments, delivering on their promises. If they were unable to keep their commitments, they told us why, well in advance of the deadline. They also explained how they were trying to get back on track, as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, leaders that demonstrate authentic care are not the norm. For example, TinyHR’s 2014 engagement and culture survey found that 49% of employees are not satisfied with their direct supervisor.

In my work with clients around the globe, I hear about team member’s frustrations with their leaders all the time. These frustrations are often founded on the leader’s lack of consistent authenticity. Employees tell me, “I don’t know which boss is going to show up each day – Jekyll or Hyde.” Or “She says one thing then turns around and does the exact opposite. We see it every day.”

If leaders don’t demonstrate behavioral integrity – keeping their promises and modeling the organization’s espoused values – they erode team members’ commitment and contribution. Tony Simons’ excellent book, The Integrity Dividend, found that employee’s commitment goes up with observed behavioral integrity from their leaders. That causes employees to apply discretionary energy in service to their organization’s customers and goals.

The benefit? For one hotel chain, $250,000 annual profit growth for every 1/4 point gain on a 10 point scale!

There is another benefit to the leader’s authenticity. When leaders demonstrate authentic care, team members are much more likely to demonstrate authentic care with each other.

The coach of the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs, Gregg Popovich, is a player’s coach – team members love to play for him. He’s authentic and genuine. One way his genuineness plays out is that Popovich often devotes a portion of team meetings to the culture and history of team members.

Last June, in the midst of preparations for the championship series with the Miami Heat, Popovich opened a meeting by leading a team discussion about Mabo Day. Point guard Patty Mills – an indigenous Australian native – was surprised and honored by the coach’s actions.

Popovich believes that knowing one another’s stories off the court binds team members together on the court. “It builds camaraderie. They feel connected and engaged and do better work.”

Authenticity matters. Genuine care matters. Be real, be honest, be available, be present. Only then can you build positive relationships, serve others consistently, and inspire aligned behavior and contribution.

How did your great bosses demonstrate authentic care? How well do you know your colleagues’ history and stories? Share your insights on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Want hands-on guidance for boosting productivity while reducing drama at work? Join me in Denver for my Culture Leadership Roundtable. This series, based on my book, The Culture Engine, meets one-morning-a-month starting in April.

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Subscribe!Podcast – Listen to this post now with the player below. Subscribe via RSS or iTunes.

The music heard on these podcasts is from one of my songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © 2005 Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). I play all instruments on these recordings.


Don’t miss any of Chris’ posts, podcasts, or updates – Subscribe Now!

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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