• News post

    The Adverse Impact of Bully Coaches

    18 September 2019

    Today my heart ached deeply when a colleague shared a horrific story about an area high school student whose life may have been permanently impacted by harsh and inappropriate comments from the student’s football coach. The team had lost an important game, and during the first team practice following that game, the coach screamed at one particular young athlete, berating him in front of the other players and essentially telling him he was worthless. That’s right… worthless!

    We entrust our children and grandchildren to coaches. They are supposed to be role models, teaching our highly impressionable young people values that will help them succeed, not only on the sports field, but also and more importantly, in the game of life.

    Words matter, and it’s simply not acceptable to allow such toxicity to poison the hearts and souls of our students. Yes, harsh words cut deeply. Such messages regrettably have the potential to lead to the unimaginable when students who are teetering on the ledge of despair decide that life is not worth living because they have been convinced they are worthless.

    As a student athlete, I was blessed to have had a basketball coach who set the bar extraordinarily high. He expected excellence, and he received excellence by teaching us to give our very best. When we delivered, he was our most enthusiastic cheerleader. When we didn’t deliver, we knew that practices would be long, hard and intense. Yet those most difficult practices filled with abundant tough love never included harsh comments that might have impaired the self-worth of any athlete.

    As I am entering the fall season for Gracious Leadership keynote presentations, I have found myself again particularly burdened about the incivility that permeates our country in organizations of all types.

    Just last week I was researching the incidence of bullying in our schools and found the statistics to be astonishing. According to The American Society for the Positive Care of Children, one of three students reported having been bullied by other students, and one of three students confessed to having been a bullier. I shudder in wondering how much higher the bullying statistic would rise if we included the impact of bully coaches and/or other toxic leaders in positions of authority over our children.

    When you and I sit on the sidelines, we promote bully behaviors by permitting them through our silence. As parents, what will we do now to provide boundaries to the bullies of our children who try to explain away their untenable words and actions by masking them as character-building moments? As leaders in the workplace, what will we do now to confront the bullies who reign with terror in our midst?

    Indeed, the time is NOW to find our voices and garner the courage to stop the bullying epidemic in our nation. This call to action happens one person at a time. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. shared profound wisdom when he proclaimed,

    “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

    The stakes are too high to be silent in the face of the damage that is being done every day by bullies and other types of toxic leaders. Whether it’s on a sports field, the playground, in Corporate America or within other types of organizations, just remember that we are teaching by example. Today’s followers will become the leaders of tomorrow, and they are highly likely to live what they learn and then to lead accordingly.

    For a variety of articles regarding the impact of bully coaches and tips on how to deal with them, I invite you to Google “bully coaches.”

  • News post

    Leadership Without a Title

    13 May 2019

    I was recently invited by Betty Collins of Brady Ware and Company to participate in a second episode of her Inspiring Women with Betty Collins podcast which was released on May 13, 2019.

    Listen to the podcast below or find it on your favorite podcasting app via the show’s page.

    Shownotes

    One of the people whom I love, I’ve heard speak, and read her book on leadership, is Janet Smith Meeks. She is so passionate about how we can lead. She wrote a book called Gracious Leadership. You should check it out. It’s really good. She lives it. She wants to change the world for the good. She’s a leader because she influences those around her.

    And I’m am so thrilled to have interviewed her for this episode. This episode is part two of my two part interview with her.

    Here’s a link to her website, and her LinkedIn page.

    This is THE podcast that advances women toward economic, social and political achievement. Hosted by Betty Collins, CPA, and Director at Brady Ware and Company. Betty also serves as the Committee Chair for Empowering Women, and Director of the Brady Ware Women Initiative. Each episode is presented by Brady Ware and Company, committed to empowering women to go their distance in the workplace and at home.

    For more information, go to the Resources page at Brady Ware and Company.

    Remember to follow this podcast on Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts.  And forward our podcast along to other Inspiring Women in your life.

  • News post

    Mixed Messages

    19 April 2019

    Some time ago I attended a banquet with hundreds of energetic participants. In the midst of the keynote address, the fire alarm was activated. An emphatic, automated message directed everyone to “Evacuate the building immediately!” Participants looked at each other with confusion as a property representative quickly proclaimed, “There is no need to leave the facility.”

    The automated alarm brazenly repeated its earlier message to evacuate the building. Seconds later the property representative again said, “Do not leave; this is a false alarm”.

    By this time, some attendees left the event while others opted to stay. The mixed messages led to mixed results as attendees did not know which directive to follow. Thankfully it was soon proven that the automated message had indeed been a false alarm.

    I was one of the many attendees who opted to stay, and I’m so glad I did. The memorable keynote was inspirational; the event was very well executed by its sponsor; and attendees enjoyed wonderful conversation with colleagues… all of which were desired results that could have been derailed due to the mixed messages of evacuate versus stay.

    In the midst of the confusion, it occurred to me that similar situations frequently take place in Corporate America when leaders send mixed messages to their employees. These mixed messages contribute to teams’ falling short of achieving the right results.

    One of the Key Ingredients of Gracious Leadership is that “Gracious Leaders Require Accountability”. Within this chapter, I share my conviction that:

    Accountability starts and stops with leaders as it is the leaders’ responsibility to be crystal clear with employees regarding expectations.

    When leaders send mixed messages to followers regarding the work to be completed, it’s like blindfolding employees, spinning them around, giving them darts and telling them to hit the targets. The desired results are not likely to occur.

    I have found that when employees receive clear messages regarding what is expected of them, they are actually relieved because they know exactly what they are to accomplish. There is no confusion about the work to be done… no evacuate versus stay… no peddle-brake, peddle-brake which can cause employee whiplash in the workplace.

    When expectations are not clearly expressed, leaders should not be surprised when employees are frustrated and teams fail to deliver. In these situations, it is actually the leader who has failed the team because he or she was not purposeful in defining expectations in advance.

    Let me be crystal clear. Mixed messages prevent us from optimizing our most precious and expensive organizational assets … our employees!

    As you communicate with your team every day, I invite you to embrace the reality that accountability really does start and stop with the leader. Avoid mixed messages at all costs and be completely clear with your team members regarding the work you need them to accomplish.

    For more information about accountability tips that are applicable within organizations of all types, please see Chapter 12 in Gracious Leadership: Lead Like You’ve Never Led Before available on Amazon or on my website.

  • News post

    Leadership With a Title

    8 April 2019

    I was recently invited by Betty Collins of Brady Ware and Company to participate in an episode of her Inspiring Women with Betty Collins podcast which was released on April 8, 2019.

    Listen to the podcast below or find it on your favorite podcasting app via the show’s page.

    Shownotes

    Everywhere today you see people are looking for great leadership. When you’re a leader, you can influence. You can change your world around you.

    You can impact people in your life and organizations. You can be part of success because of your leadership and influence. And you can use that title responsibly for yourself as well as for others.

    Leadership, influence, AND the title are all one package deal.

    One of the people whom I love, I’ve heard speak, and read her book on leadership, is Janet Smith Meeks. She is so passionate about how we can lead. She wrote a book called Gracious Leadership. You should check it out. It’s really good. She lives it. She wants to change the world for the good. She’s a leader because she influences those around her.

    And I’m am so thrilled to have interviewed her for this episode. This episode is part one of my two part interview with her.

  • News post

    You Got This!

    19 March 2019

    As a leader, you need to make the most out of every precious minute. Oh, if only all of our days would go according to plan. But, let’s face it: they don’t. On many days, we are presented with unanticipated challenges, or as I prefer to call them, unexpected “opportunities to serve.”

    Just when you set aside time to think strategically or to complete a project with a pressing deadline, your inbox flashes an invitation to a new, “must attend” meeting that starts in thirty minutes. Or you receive an urgent call regarding a Human Resources issue that requires your direct involvement, right now!

    Even when all appears to be running well internally, external factors can change in the blink of an eye. To capitalize upon unexpected opportunities or to minimize disruption from adverse environmental or competitive activities, you act with immediacy, once again sacrificing your much-needed quality time.

    And what about the many little distractions that can also impede your best efforts to be maximally productive?

    How many times have you found that, in the midst of quality time, an employee appears at your office door and inquires, “Do you have a minute?”  The employee proceeds to share what he or she perceives to be a hot topic problem. And then the individual asks, “What do you think we should do?”

    It is at this point that you have a choice. You can either allow your time to be robbed by being a problem solver, or you can begin to reclaim the lost time that is consumed when employees bring you their issues to resolve. If you answer the employees’ questions in the moment, you have fostered upward delegation as you have taught your employees that problems are yours to fix and that they should not seek to resolve their own concerns.

    When employees ask you, “What do you think we should do?”, except in urgent or emergent situations, the better approach is to answer the question with a question. Instead of telling employees what you think they should do, ask them, “What do you think you should do?” In reversing the question, you are signaling to your employees that you believe in them, that you have confidence in them and that you respect them. In essence, you are telling them, “YOU GOT THIS!”

    I have found that through using this approach, employees become more empowered. They take pride in the fact that their leader trusts them to solve their own problems. And they will learn that if they do bring an issue to you, they need to be well-prepared to offer a recommended solution!

    Over time, employees will likely bring fewer problems for you to solve. It is at this juncture that your performance can be vastly enhanced. Yes, through empowering your employees to resolve their concerns, you can have more time to focus on the priority issues and opportunities that truly do merit your attention.  

    No doubt, unanticipated challenges and interruptions are simply a fact of life at work. However, when employees ask you, “What do you think we should do?”, I hope you will teach them “YOU GOT THIS!”

  • News post

    A Legacy of Leadership

    12 December 2018

    Last week America lost one of her most memorable leaders with the passing of President George Herbert Walker Bush.  This War Hero selflessly served his country for decades and left us with a legacy of “how” great leaders are supposed to lead.

    In the celebration of his life, those who knew him well repeatedly described him as gracious, decent and humble. We were told that he knew each of his Secret Service agents as unique individuals. A man with a most demanding schedule, we learned that when he passed an employee who was known to have had an ill child, he took the time to inquire as to the little one’s well-being. And, among many other lessons of leadership he taught us, we learned about President Bush’s gift of building relationships with individuals ranging from front-line employees to world leaders. He knew that through trust-based relationships, more could be accomplished more quickly for the benefit of the greater good.

    George H. W. Bush taught us that leaders must role model simple, yet powerful acts of good manners and kindness.

    The leader of the free world, President Bush was known to be humble as he deflected praise and made it his practice to place the spotlight on others.

    Great leaders are not without controversy, and George H. W. Bush was certainly no exception. He made decisions that, although not popular, reflected his conviction to act in the best interest of our country. Yet, as our nation began to mourn his passing, the controversy and negativity of the past took a back seat to the resounding, harmonic message of “how” great leaders are supposed to lead.

    I believe that the recent focus on the leadership legacy of George H. W. Bush has provided a breath of fresh air in a country that seems to be drowning in a sea of leadership toxicity. In fact, I believe that most Americans are gasping for the life-saving oxygen that gracious, decent and humble leadership can provide.

    I rather suspect that George H. W. Bush left this earth without a full appreciation of the long-lasting, positive impact his leadership example will provide… especially at this point in our history.

    What lessons can we learn from his legacy of leadership? More importantly, what will each of us do differently in our respective organizations to lead in a more gracious, decent and humble manner?

    From non-profit to proprietary organizations and from universities to governmental entities led by elected officials… regrettably, there is currently no shortage of examples in America for how “not” to lead.

    I challenge you to join in the movement to become a fully respectful leader. The time is now, and those who follow you at work, at home and in the community at large are counting on you.

    Let’s carry forth the legacy of President 41 who taught us “how” to lead by becoming gracious, decent and humble leaders…  starting today!

  • News post

    Navigating the White-Water Rapids of Business

    29 October 2018

    Last summer my husband and I spent a week at a Dude Ranch in Colorado. As we prepared for this vacation, I expected to participate in new and different outdoor activities. Little did I know that during this week of adventure, I would learn important lessons about leadership.

    We decided to experience white water rafting in a nearby river. What we didn’t realize was that the river was running wildly as the snow was quickly melting from the beautiful Rocky Mountains. Prior to our departure, we were given a tutorial in safety measures, and we were told to follow our guide’s instructions. We then climbed into the raft and started our journey.

    While the water was indeed running fast, the early experience was quite enjoyable as the water was easy to navigate. I thought to myself, “Not bad… I can handle this.”

    Rocky waters

    The guide then pulled our raft over to shore and became very serious. She shared we were about to hit some very rough rapids. She gave specific instructions on how to traverse the rocky waters. She was emphatic that to ensure our well-being, we were to follow her instructions precisely and to function well as a team.

    We didn’t realize we were heading for a level four rapid.

    As we approached the rocky waters, my anxiety grew. We started down the rapid and while our raft felt incredibly unsafe, we did not capsize as did other rafts within site. However, an elderly man from our raft had gone overboard. The man’s son was rightfully frantic as he feared for his father’s safety.

    Yet in the midst of this “storm,” the guide stayed focused on her game plan. She provided clear instructions to the team. She shared that her first priority was to get eight people safely to dry land and that she would ensure the elderly man would be rescued.

    Preparation, focus and adaptation

    This experience reinforced to me the leader’s role in navigating an organization through white water down cycles that are inevitable within any business.

    Like the guide, a great leader coaches the team comfortably through the good times and anticipates rocky waters before they are encountered. A great leader prepares followers by teaching them to adhere to guidance and to execute flawless teamwork. A great leader remains focused on the game plan but makes “in the moment” adaptations when circumstances change. And, a great leader looks out for the interest of the greater good while also showing extraordinary respect for every stakeholder.

    I learned about leadership from that rafting experience last summer. From the white waters of a Colorado river to the C-suite or boardroom, the leader’s anticipation, team preparation, focus and adaptation are all required to ensure sustainable organizational success in the midst of difficult times.

    And yes, the elderly gentleman was safely reunited with his son and quickly traded his seat in the raft for a welcomed glass of wine.

    Originally published on Ocotber 25, 2018 by Smart Business

  • News post

    Rounding and Three Powerful Questions

    20 August 2018

    I was recently invited by Kelly Borth of Greencrest Marketing to participate in an Ignite Your Business Podcast which was released today, August 20, 2018.

    The podcast entitled “Making the Rounds and Gracious Leadership” is available via:

    Part of our conversation in the podcast relates to the topic of rounding and how effective leadership listening can contribute to highly engaged teams.

    While the word “rounding” has traditionally been utilized within the hospital and health system space, I have found that the use of “strategic rounding” processes can yield a high return within industries and organizations of all types.

    Throughout my career I have employed a broad perspective about “rounding” and the positive impact it can have upon corporate culture. In my opinion, rounding represents any opportunity to build trusting relationships through providing a transparent means for open and honest, two-way communications.

    In short, rounding is one of the best ways that leaders can seek feedback from their most important organizational asset: their people. When leaders make listening to key stakeholders a top priority, the likelihood of realizing peak performance can be optimized because employees who follow these “listening leaders” are more likely to feel valued, appreciated and respected. Leadership listening can be the catalyst that results in real-time relationships of trust between management and the front line.

    To get a firsthand view of your organization’s corporate culture, unannounced rounding provides a great opportunity to meet employees where they are and to ask them important, open-ended questions. Of course, the goal should be to obtain employees’ unfiltered feedback regarding their work environment, customer satisfaction or any other hot topic that might be on their minds.

    I believe the most effective leaders who drive sustainable success understand that one of their most important leadership responsibilities is to listen with purpose and to respond with care. Purposeful leadership listening is so important that I dedicated several chapters to this important topic within Gracious Leadership: Lead Like You’ve Never Led Before.

    Within the chapters entitled “Gracious Leaders Listen with Purpose and Respond with Care” and “Gracious Leaders Seek Feedback”, I introduced the concept of Three Powerful Questions that can be used whether you are involved in unannounced rounding or if you’re hosting employee town hall meetings or other systematic listening venues. I encourage you to take note of these three simple, yet profound questions and begin to incorporate them into your ongoing rounding and other listening processes.

    1. What one thing should we change to make our customers’ experiences better?
    2. What one thing should we change to make your work life better?
    3. Is there anything else you’d like to discuss?

    Time and time again, throughout my career I have been amazed at the unvarnished truth that employees are eager to share. Frontline employees are the people who have the best view of how an organization is living its values (or not!). They’re just waiting for someone to ask them with sincerity and with a commitment to honor thoughtful feedback that is shared.

    Whether your rounding is occurring through what has traditionally been called MBWA (Management by Walking Around) or if you’re hosting a series of stakeholder input sessions in Town Hall Meetings, just remember that the individuals who will feel the best about conversations once they are over are likely to be those individuals who did the most talking!

    To build real-time relationships of trust with your employees, start today by asking the Three Powerful Questions and then open your ears and your hearts to hear with purpose the feedback that your team just can’t wait to share.

     

     

  • News post

    Blind spots and expecting the unexpected

    26 July 2018

    Several months ago, I attended an event to celebrate the professional excellence of Central Ohio executives. When I entered the sparsely lit, underground garage, I decided to be strategic about where I would park to avoid congested traffic following the event. I spotted the perfect space… one that might save a few minutes at the end of a very long day.

    Before I backed my car into the coveted spot, I assessed my surroundings, mentally gave myself the “all clear” sign and proceeded to park. Suddenly I was startled by a loud bang.

    My heart raced, I put the car into park and I exited the vehicle to evaluate the situation. I thought I had been cautious in looking out for potential hazards. However, I had backed into a massive, concrete post that blended with adjacent surroundings and wasn’t visible within my vehicle’s blind spot. Because I had failed to expect the unexpected, the unscathed post won as evidenced by the significant cost incurred to repair my SUV.

    This experience provided an excellent opportunity to ponder different types of blind spots within business and how they can cause a collision course within our careers.

    It is estimated that 30 percent of executives are toxic leaders. They have blind spots. They don’t see that their negative leadership styles prevent their teams from optimizing organizational performance. Other leaders have communication blind spots that directly correlate with a poor ROI on their human capital. Regrettably, the list of leadership blind spots is vast.

    Clear eyes for making deals

    High-cost blind spots can exist when executives are engaged within M&A activities. I recall a time when our corporation was involved in an opportunity for market share gain. The development officers were “over the top” excited about the high-value possibilities expected from this deal. As is often the case with M&A, time was tight with pressing deadlines, the multiple contracts were complex, and in this instance, the work of the proposed entity represented uncharted waters for our company.

    When the deal was done, celebrations ensued, and, within a matter of months, the new business enterprise began to falter. Our multi-disciplinary team had reviewed the proposed contractual language for proper business terms. Amid our haste and naïveté, however, we didn’t slow down long enough to ask ourselves a vital M&A question: “What language needs to be in the contract that is currently missing?”

    Our blind spot of failing to expect the unexpected contributed to a bad business outcome.

    Be purposeful; learn from the past

    As you find yourself in the adrenaline rush of M&A activities, I encourage you to be on the alert for blind spots. Be purposeful in expecting the unexpected. Document your experiences from each successive deal and learn from any mistakes. Don’t take for granted any aspect of the transaction and work closely with all team members, not only to review the “ink on paper” of the proposed contracts, but also to include the “must have” business terms and associated language that can position the new business enterprise for success.

    Originally published on July 26, 2018 by Smart Business

  • News post

    Finding What’s Right in the Workplace

    25 May 2018

    My husband and I were recently checking out a new Mexican restaurant in our hometown. Although the establishment had only been open for a few days, upon our arrival we found a “full house” with a waiting list which, from our perspective, is typically a sign of great food and wonderful service.

    We were not disappointed.

    The environment was festive and fun, and the food was very good. This pleasant experience made us immediately plan our next visit. In short, it was a great evening.

    When we asked for our bill, the server smiled and said that our check had already been settled as a couple who had been sitting nearby had paid for our meal before their departure. What a nice surprise that brought immediate smiles to our faces! We asked the server who they were, and we wondered if perhaps we had worked with them at our prior places of employment. The server did not know them. He simply described them as a nice, young couple who, for whatever reason, wanted to pay for our dinner.

    As I thought about this random act of kindness, I was reminded of all the good that resides within the overwhelming majority of humankind. Every day we primarily hear what is wrong with our world. Just imagine how amazing it would be if we would focus more on all the good that is being done to make a positive difference in the lives of others.

    This unexpected act of kindness also took me back to 1982 when, in the midst of a personal healthcare crisis, hospital employees I did not know showered me with their seemingly small acts of kindness. They not only met my clinical needs; they also cared for me as a whole person. In so doing, they changed my life forever as I soon would enter the healthcare space as my professional calling.

    Like the young couple at the restaurant, such employees are role models for what is right in our world. I had the pleasure of working for many years with ordinary people who were sharing extraordinary acts of kindness with people they did not know. From two housekeepers who bought clothes for a homeless patient to a nurse who came in on his day off to FaceTime with a patient whose husband had died and who was too ill to attend his funeral…. Everyday employees were making a positive difference with long lasting impact.

    As leaders, it is our responsibility to reinforce all that is right in the workplace. Research has shown that organizations whose leaders spend more time reinforcing great work will function at a higher level than corporations whose leaders spend a disproportionate amount of their time on poor performers. Let me be crystal clear. Effective leaders must deal with poor performers. However, they find a way to devote most of their time reinforcing and building upon the results achieved by their best employees. Within Gracious Leadership, I share more on this topic and include tips that leaders can easily put into place to create and sustain an environment of accountability, gratitude and peak performance.

    Yes, someone bought our dinner last week… someone we did not know and whose path we will not likely cross again. At the end of the day, the kindness of this young couple is not to be measured by the value of the meal they generously and unexpectedly provided to us. Their random act of kindness is symbolic of all that’s right with our world. It’s also a small example of the goodness they no doubt hold within their hearts as they seek to make a positive difference.

    What will you do to reinforce all that is right in your workplace? How will you help your employees understand the power they hold through seemingly small acts of kindness that can mean the world to your customers? What will you do to address any poor performers so you will have more time to reinforce and support your very best team members? Please join me in finding what’s right in the workplace… starting today!