Deliver on the Promise of Servant Leadership

working togetherThe quality of many work environments around the globe isn’t very good. Some would say it sucks. The frustration and stress most employees experience at work quashes hope, discretionary energy, well being, cooperation, and performance.

The data is undeniable. Only 21 percent of employees feel strongly valued at work (TinyPulse). 72 percent of employees report that the most important factor in their job satisfaction is “respectful treatment of all employees at all levels” – yet only 33 percent experience that respect (SHRM). Employees are leaving their jobs at the fastest rate since 2007 (US Department of Labor).

Data alone doesn’t tell the story. Human experiences can.

Here’s a powerful example. Two friends changed jobs in the last year. Both are talented, engaged actors on this stage we call earth. Their experiences, skills, and industries are quite different, but both were ecstatic about the promise of working for a great boss and a great company.

In both cases, these friends were hired by someone they respected and were excited to work for. Within months, however, the bubble burst. Their great bosses left their respective companies, leaving my friends in a dysfunctional work environment with poor leadership.

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Why did their bosses leave? Politics. Favoritism. Promises made and not kept. Values conflicts. My friends are doing the best they can under trying circumstances – to say the least.

Who has the responsibility and authority to create a powerful, positive, productive work culture . . . to ensure all employees are treated with respect . . . and to ensure employees feel strongly valued at work?

Leaders do.

And, many leaders don’t. They don’t know how to manage their work culture. They’ve never been asked to do that.

When leaders do embrace this responsibility and fully implement a culture of trust, respect, and dignity, amazing things happen. Engagement thrives. Service quality skyrockets. Results and profits jump 30 percent and more.

Our world desperately needs servant leaders – in our organizations, in our neighborhoods, in our political system, in our court system – basically, everywhere. Servant leaders create environments where values – how people treat each other – are as important as results.

There are servant leaders all around us. We read about and appreciate servant leaders of global organizations like Sir Richard Branson of the Virgin Group and Garry Ridge of the WD-40 Companies. We know less about local servant leaders like my friend, Umair, here in Colorado.

There is a movement afoot to formalize what effective leadership looks and sounds like – to inspire leaders across the globe to embrace the promise of servant leadership. Check out the True Leader Creed, a recent effort created by valued friends. If you agree with what the creed requires, sign it – and live it.

We need less divisiveness, less dismissiveness, and less demeaning words and actions from leaders today. We need servant leaders that create respectful workplaces and meaningful work that serves others. Servant leaders praise, encourage, inspire, and hold others accountable for being our best selves.

The road we’re on isn’t a great one. We need a new direction. Sign the creed. Be of service and of grace. Inspire people to amazing performance.

You’ll have a lot more fun – and you’ll attract and retain talented, engaged employees.

Does your boss today model servant leadership? How good is the quality of your team’s work environment? Share your insights on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Photo © Steven Pepple – Adobe Stock. All rights reserved.

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The music heard on my podcasts is from one of my songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © 2005-2016 Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). I played all instruments, recorded all tracks, and mastered the final product for your listening pleasure.


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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.”

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Manage Change with Heart and Soul

ASCAP_Logo_Primary_wTagline_BlackIn my previous post I looked at two successful but struggling organizations – one struggling with the implementation of a “manager-less” organizational structure.

Implementing change is not easy. Simply announcing the change and “hoping” everyone buys into it rarely works. Let’s look at an organization that is changing fast and well.

Change done really well includes involvement of key stakeholders, alignment by team leaders and team members to the plan, and action – testing new methods and structures to serve better. You’ll see all of those in play in this story.

ASCAP is a 102-year-old member-owned performance rights organization (PRO) which grants performance licenses and collects performance royalties for music publishers and creators. (Full disclosure: I’m an ASCAP member.)

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The music industry is undergoing tremendous change. How can a PRO protect and promote members’ works in the digital age?

A year ago, Elizabeth Matthews was hired as the CEO of ASCAP. She and her team are implementing a six-year strategic plan to keep ASCAP relevant in the digital age and evolve to serve their members as effectively as possible. Matthews and her team are aligned, communicating, and moving fast.

One of the most significant and visible changes that ASCAP implemented last year was to make available to the public the percentage shares ASCAP songwriter/publisher members hold in co-written songs and the shares of co-rights holders in those songs. Making such details available amounts to sacrilege in the music industry, yet it is the right thing to do.

Matthews said that ASCAP’s goal is to ensure “people in the outside world know exactly what rights are available for licensing and our membership has confidence that they understand the rules in place under which they get paid.”

ASCAP’s evolution has been in the works since 2013. A team of outside consultants worked with ASCAP for a year to help develop their plan for the future. To learn what key stakeholders thought, interviews were conducted with the licensee (user) community, foreign performance rights organizations, music publishers, and music creators. In December 2014 the ASCAP board approved the six-year transformation plan. Matthews was appointed CEO the next month.

Within weeks, Matthews set up a transformation management office with a key executive and a talented team driving the process. At the same time, executive leadership was evolving. Some retired, some accepted new offers. This can have a negative impact on a change initiative – yet Matthews saw the silver lining. “As a not-for-profit membership organization with a key mission to drive advocacy, education, and a community for creators, people who work here . . . think of it almost as a calling,” she explained. “The hardest thing to drive in a change management situation is alignment of employees around purpose. Luckily I have that here!”

Her senior leadership team now includes executives from the music industry, from the startup environment, from technology, from investment banking, and more. She knew this team needed a wide range of experiences. If she could rally them together, they’d be focused on innovation (in a 100-year-old industry!).

There’s a new chief of strategy and a new product team to help develop initiatives around data tools, analytics, automation, and forecasting. New technology will help licensees, publishers, and creators understand and leverage more information, effectively. A licensee, publisher, or creator will “be able to find the information they’re looking for 24/7.”

Matthews notes, “By charter, ASCAP is here to protect creators’ rights. We’re owned by them. You can work at a lot of cool places that are about big data – but we’re big data with a heart.”

This is how you implement change – by involving all players, by engaging all leaders in the transformation, by testing new ideas quickly, and by investing in purpose, productivity, and passion.

What’s the most effective change initiative you’ve experienced in your career? What did leaders do to engage, inform, and involve you? Share your insights on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

ASCAP logo © ASCAP. All rights reserved.

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The music heard on my podcasts is from one of my songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © 2005-2016 Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). I played all instruments, recorded all tracks, and mastered the final product for your listening pleasure.


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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.”

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The One Thing Great Bosses Pay Attention To

SCE-CultureLabX-041416I love speaking about the power of positive workplace cultures. I had the chance to present to the Denver chapter of CultureLabX recently.

As I was building my slide deck for this presentation, adding updated research and examples of terrific cultures, I came to an uncomfortable conclusion. More on that in a moment.

I’m very careful about what organizations I recommend. A company culture can turn from great to grotesque if senior leaders aren’t diligent about the quality of their work environment every single day. An effective, inspiring, productive work environment requires constant tending and nurturing by leaders.

In my book, The Culture Engine, I feature a number of companies with high performing, values-aligned cultures. Two of those companies have experienced rough waters recently. My uncomfortable conclusion? I can’t recommend those two companies anymore.

Let me explain.

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The first is Southwest Airlines. They are a very good company. They continue to outperform nearly all of their competitors. Their culture remains strong; their employees love working for Southwest. Many customers wouldn’t fly on any other airline. The company’s employee rating on Glassdoor.com – 4.2 out of 5.0 points – is exceptional.

I fly Southwest at times.

The issue I have with Southwest Airlines is that they have been fined twice in the last two years by the FAA for maintenance violations. In addition the airline faces a $12 million fine over improper aircraft repairs dating back to 2006.

A culture that allows less-than-excellent maintenance to occur does not earn my recommendation.

The second is Zappos. Zappos is a very good company, as well. They have a very unique culture and have been a top performer since before Amazon acquired them in 2009. They had been recognized as one of Fortune’s “Best Companies to Work For” for eight years in a row. This year, they missed the list.

In addition, nearly 30 percent of employees have left the company (in part due to a buyout offer) in the past year.

Why? Three years ago CEO Tony Hsieh implemented an organization structure called “holacracy.” In essence, holacracy is a system that replaces hierarchies and managers with self-managing teams. The problem? Employees don’t have confidence in the direction of the company anymore.

Zappos’ Glassdoor.com rating is 3.8, down from the mid-4’s a few years ago. Reading through comments of recent employee reviews one finds the holacracy experiment getting poor marks.

“A multi-million dollar company isn’t a high school economics project. It needs strong leaders and a clear direction to succeed.”

“No managers has really shaken things up – and not for the better.”

“Have a little more forethought about obvious questions that will arise from new initiatives. Morale is low because specific concerns have not been addressed.”

A culture that frustrates employees with a poorly implemented new structure and little clear direction does not earn my recommendation.

How can leaders gauge the quality of their work culture? What should leaders pay attention to?

The one thing great bosses pay attention to is the quality of their organization’s work culture. They invest time and energy every day in learning what’s working and what’s not. They spend 70 percent of their time listening to team leaders and employees.

That knowledge allows great bosses to quickly refine a dumb policy that pits people against each other or to promptly praise a team’s innovative response to a challenge or to redirect a leader who isn’t serving his or her team members effectively.

Great bosses listen, learn, and refine the practices of their workplace culture daily to ensure that everyone – employees, customers, leaders, vendors, etc. – is treated with trust, respect, and dignity in every interaction.

Don’t leave your team or company’s culture to chance. Pay attention to what’s working and what’s not. Nurture your desired culture with a servant purpose, values defined in behavioral terms, and clear goals.

How well do your leaders nurture a powerful, positive work culture? Share your insights on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Photo of me presenting at Denver’s CultureLabX © Patrice Lynn. All rights reserved.

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The music heard on my podcasts is from one of my songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © 2005-2016 Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). I played all instruments, recorded all tracks, and mastered the final product for your listening pleasure.


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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Four bad workplace behaviors you need to stop tolerating now

Boss yelling at his employees at a briefingIn the middle of a busy afternoon, two senior leaders engaged in a screaming match in the office.

They cursed and yelled at each other in full view of 30 employees.

Their behavior was disrespectful and appalling. It was uncomfortable and embarrassing to watch.

I asked the company president about the argument. He said, “I know. It happens all the time.” I asked, “Why do you tolerate that bad behavior?” He replied, “I told them to stop.”

I stated the obvious: “Telling them to stop has not caused them to stop. You’re tolerating incivility and disrespect, which erodes performance, engagement, and service.” The president knew all that. He was frustrated and didn’t know how to make his senior leaders behave.

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Bad behavior in our workplaces is all too common. Workplace civility expert Christine Porath has found that 98 percent of employees she has interviewed over the past twenty years have experienced uncivil behavior at work. In 2011, half of respondents said they were treated badly at least once a week.

You get what you tolerate. If you enable bad behavior – by ignoring it, by demanding it stop then doing nothing when it continues, by modeling bad behavior yourself at times, etc. – bad behavior occurs more frequently.

If you demand civility – ensuring everyone is treated with trust, respect, and dignity in every interaction – civil behavior occurs more frequently.

Here are the “top four” bad workplace behaviors that you need to quash, right now. They are listed from the “somewhat benign” to the “most damning.”

Demeaning, Discounting, and Dismissing – The three “D’s” happen so often and so casually at work, it seems like they’re not that big of a problem. However, the three “D’s” are gateway behaviors to much worse (as we’ll see in a moment). This combination has no beneficial impact on the players, the work, or the business. The three “D’s” are always used to “prove” that the deliverer is smarter, better, more capable, etc. then the receiver. In positive workplaces, ideas can be debated loudly and assertively AND people are treated civilly and kindly, no matter what.

Lying – This one is often known as “lying, cheating, stealing.” What happens when people lie, when they take credit for others’ work, when they say they’re done but haven’t started, when they “bend the rules” to accommodate their desires? They get found out – their lie is exposed to the light of day. Lying to protect a colleague is still lying. Telling an untruth – no matter how small – erodes confidence and performance.

Tantrums – Now we’re getting to mad skills, meaning “one is highly skilled at demonstrating one’s anger!” Throwing a hissy fit is selfish and self-serving. It makes the issue all about the tantrum-thrower rather than about root cause: missed promises or lies or a lack of skills, etc. Yelling, cursing, throwing things, slamming doors – we’ve seen it all. These actions mask the underlying problem(s). If left unaddressed, everyone who works with the tantrum-thrower is forced to accommodate the brute’s whims, walking on eggshells every day.

Bullying – this is by far the most harmful of bad workplace behaviors. The Workplace Bullying Institute defines bullying as abusive conduct that is threatening, intimidating, and humiliating. Their 2014 study found that 27 percent of American workers have current or past direct experience with abusive conduct at work. 72 percent are aware of workplace bullying. The most troublesome finding? 72 percent of employers deny, discount, rationalize or defend bullying. Bullying in any form destroys workplace trust, respect, and dignity.

These four bad behaviors ruin any chance of a positive, productive culture. Don’t tolerate them – quash them.

Which of these bad behaviors is present in your workplace? How have leaders addressed them? Share your insights on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Photo © berc – Adobe Stock. All rights reserved.

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The music heard on my podcasts is from one of my songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © 2005-2016 Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). I played all instruments, recorded all tracks, and mastered the final product for your listening pleasure.


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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What’s Your Organization’s Values Operating System?

Trust Concept in BusinessWhat values does your organization hold dear?

Every organization has values, just as every human has values. Some organizations have values that encourage an “I win, you lose” dynamic. Some embrace a “service to others” environment. Some emphasize “results, results, results” while others embrace a family and teamwork dynamic.

We see a wide range of values demonstrated in organizations, large and small, around the globe. Values are the foundation of an organization’s culture – for better or worse.

The challenge is that most leaders – senior executives, directors, small business owners, team leaders, regional heads, etc. – do not pay attention to the health and quality of their organization’s culture.

They’ve never been asked to do that. They may not know how. The vital metrics that leaders are typically held accountable for are performance metrics. It is rare for leaders to be held accountable for the quality of their work environment or for happy, engaged employees.

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Yet where employees are happy – treated with trust, respect, and dignity in every interaction – productivity grows.

For example, Parnassus Investments’ Workplace Fund – a mutual fund that invests in large American firms with outstanding workplace cultures – outperformed the S&P Index during the recent global recession with a 10.81% return compared to the S&P’s 3.97% return!

Focusing exclusively on results or profits can be a slippery slope, as Volkswagen and Turing Pharmaceuticals discovered last year. What is fascinating is that both of these organizations have published formalized values. Volkswagen’s values specifically note “environmental protection.” Turing Pharmaceuticals’ code of conduct specifically notes “treating each other and customers and patients with the respect they deserve.”

In Volkswagen’s case, the behavior of engineers to install software to cheat on emissions testing is clearly in violation of their values. In Turing Pharmaceuticals’ case, the code of conduct document is dated January 27, 2016. I cannot find references to a code of conduct in the company previous to that date. It seems that last year’s pricing debacle prompted the creation of this code.

The absence of formalized values in an organization – or the absence of accountability for published values – can be interpreted to mean that any path – including lying, cheating, or stealing – is OK.

You don’t “assume” that everyone in your organization knows their performance standards and delivers them without any discussions, do you? Performance clarity and accountability requires formalized goals and targets, with dashboards and metrics monitored closely, every day.

You must not “assume” that everyone in your organization knows how you want them to treat other people at work, either. Values clarity and accountability requires formalized values and behaviors, with interaction quality monitored closely, every day.

To ensure citizenship is as important as performance, you need a values operating system – a VOS – in the form of an organizational constitution that is lived and demonstrated by everyone in your organization daily.

An organizational constitution is a formal statement of your company’s present day service purpose, values and behaviors, strategies, and goals. This statement defines what contributions are needed and what citizenship is needed from every player, every day.

Most organizations have strategies and goals defined; these represent your company’s performance standards and expectations. Very few have values defined in observable, tangible, measurable terms – which is the only way you can build a values operating system in your organization.

Crafting and communicating your VOS – through your organizational constitution – is the easy part. The more complex part is aligning all plans, decisions, and actions to your VOS.

When employees are treated with trust, respect, and dignity in every interaction, they’ll treat your customers like gold. They’ll proactively solve problems. They’ll demonstrate pride in their work. And – they’ll deliver performance gains of 30 percent or more.

Don’t wait. Formalize your values operating system with an organizational constitution and align behavior to it every day.

What is your organization’s values operating system like today? Does it inspire cooperative interaction and proactive problem solving or not so much? Share your insights on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Photo © Olivier Le Moal – Adobe Stock. All rights reserved.

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

The music heard on my podcasts is from one of my songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © 2005-2016 Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). I played all instruments, recorded all tracks, and mastered the final product for your listening pleasure.


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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