Saturday, June 30, 2012

4 Leadership Lessons from the Founding Fathers

The happy Union of these States is a wonder; their Constitution a miracle; their example the hope of Liberty throughout the world – James Madison

In the book, Resources, by Kenneth L Dodge, he writes of the experiences of the Founding Fathers after the Declaration of Independence was signed. As we know, 56 men signed the Declaration of Independence. Their conviction resulted in untold sufferings for themselves and their families.

Of the 56 men, five were captured by the British and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons in the Revolutionary Army. Another two had sons captured. Nine of the fifty-six fought and died from wounds or hardships of the war. Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader, saw his ships sunk by the British navy. He sold his home and properties to pay his debts and died in poverty.

At the battle of Yorktown, the British General Cornwallis had taken over Thomas Nelson’s home for his headquarters. Nelson quietly ordered General George Washington to open fire on the Nelson home. The home was destroyed and Nelson died bankrupt. John Hart was driven from his wife’s bedside as she lay dying. Their thirteen children fled for their lives. His fields and mill were destroyed. For over a year, he lived in forest and caves, returning home only to find his wife dead and his children vanished. A few weeks later, he died from exhaustion.

In celebration of our independence it is worth noting some leadership lessons from our Founding Fathers that we can benefit from today. Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world, indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” She’s right. Here are four leadership principles our Founders taught us.

The courage of convictions. Our founders clung to and fought for the cause of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Through years of hindsight and the benefit of our modern comforts, it is hard to comprehend their sacrifices.

Leadership today requires a steady conviction in the face of incredible challenges. What will be the hallmark of your leadership? To say that our Founding Fathers were men of conviction would be an understatement, but all great leaders are.

The sanctity of sacrifice.  In the formation of our republic and in signing the Declaration of Independence, the Founders pledged to one another, “our lives, our fortunes, our sacred honor,” The leadership principle of sacrifice is not new. Our Founders understood it well. And to that end we understand that sacrificial leadership is selfless, not self-serving. 

The commitment made 236 years ago reminds us that no great thing worth achieving comes without sacrifice and that causes greater than self are generally the lasting ones. Great leaders understand the power of sacrifice. What causes are you serving?

The fulfillment of faith. To their credit, the Founders understood and valued the practice of faith.  In their wisdom the founders recognized the truth that we are all “created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights” by which we live our lives and practice our faith. It is not a prerequisite of leadership to be a person of faith, but it certainly is an asset.

It is through the practice of our faith that we see the world around us and the people entrusted to our leadership in a more meaningful way. A thoughtful leader seeks to be a blessing and to serve causes greater than self; a wise one remembers the source.

The power of purpose. It was through persecution, hardships, and struggles whereby the Founders rallied and mutually pledged their “reliance on the protection of Divine Providence” in declaring our independence.

The innumerable lessons our Founders taught us transcend political ideology and religious creed. The rally today is for leaders with purpose, backed by the power of their convictions, faith and sacrifice, to make a difference in the world. Thomas Paine said, “Those who expect to reap the blessing of freedom must undertake to support it.” Our Founders were leadership pioneers; let us honor their memory as we celebrate.

Happy 4th!

© 2012 Doug Dickerson

* I welcome your comments! Please share your thoughts in the comment box below.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Making Your Workplace Great(er)

Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers – Stephen Covey

In Reader’ Digest a story is told of a factory worker who refused to sign up for group insurance. The problem was no policy could be issued until all employees signed up. Yet he held out stubbornly. The foreman begged him to sign; the shop foreman pleaded with him; the plant superintendent and general manager begged him to sign. Still he said no.

Finally, the owner of the factory took him aside and said, “Listen, if you don’t sign up, I’ll fire you.” The worker grabbed the paper and signed immediately. “Now,” asked the owner, “why didn’t you sign this thing before?” The man replied, “Because no one explained it as clearly as you did.”

That humorous story reminds us not only of the importance of good communication, but of the importance of a positive workplace environment. Recently in Washington, D.C., the 2012 Gallup Great Workplace Awards were presented. The annual awards recognize the top distinguished organizations based on the most rigorous workplace research ever conducted. 

The award honors organizations whose employee engagements demonstrate they have the most productive and engaged workforces in the world. According to the story, the Gallup Great Workplace Winners span the globe and represent all facets of business from healthcare to hospitality, retail and manufacturing, banks and insurance. 

From the list of the top 27 companies, here is the Top 10: ABC Supply Co., Inc., Adventist Health System, Alegent Health, Atlanta Hotels International, Bon Secours Health System, Central Retails Corporation ltd., Charles Schwab, Compassion International, Fairmont Raffles Hotels International, and Hawaii Pacific Health. It’s quite an impressive list.

Gallup’s Chief Scientist of workplace management and wellbeing James K. Harter said, “Worldwide, there are more than two actively disengaged employees for every engaged employee. The organizations we are honoring are ones that have worked hard to shatter and reverse what is typical and they average nine engaged employees for every actively disengaged employee.” What an eye-opening fact to be sure.

A Mercer survey last year of 30,000 workers worldwide found that between 28% and 56% of employees worldwide wanted to leave their jobs. In the U.S., 32% said they wanted to find new work. Conventional wisdom might suggest that given global economic concerns most employees would rather stick it out with a job rather than do without one. So how can employers bridge the gap between apparent or perceived dissatisfaction and foster a climate that makes their workplace a great place to succeed? Here are three ideas.

Engagement on all levels. As the Gallup awards indicated, the great workplaces are predominately filled with engaged employees. But what does that engagement look like? I believe it is characterized by strong morale, a collaborative work atmosphere, stellar communication, and respect for each individual’s talents and gifts. 

Harter further noted, “Engaged employees are more productive, safer, more customer-centric, and more profitable. They are also 3-5 times more likely to be thriving in their overall lives, experience better days, and have fewer unhealthy days. In short, these winners are improving lives as they improve the overall performance of their companies.” That’s terrific.

Commitment to success. Organizations that thrive in today’s marketplace are characterized by those who have made it their mission to succeed. This takes shape when each individual in the organizational structure makes it their goal to deliver the highest quality possible. When this commitment is made on all levels then the sense of purpose and teamwork takes on a greater meaning.

Legendary football coach Lou Holtz said, “Once you learn how to work with people, you can accomplish anything. To do this, you must subvert your ego in the service of a higher cause. You must never forget that there is no “I” in the word team.” He’s right. Successful organizations are the product of success-minded people. Do you have the commitment of everyone on your team?

The extra -mile mentality. Engagement on all levels and a commitment to success are excellent starting places. But if there is not an “extra-mile” work ethic that captures the imagination of your team then you will be denied “great workplace” status. Going the extra mile may sound like a cliché but being average is not that appealing either. 

What if everyone in your organization adapted an “extra-mile” philosophy? How would it change the culture and the success of your business? Wouldn’t you like to find out? As you embrace this mentality you position yourself for greatness.

Workplace greatness begins with you. Are you game?

© 2012 Doug Dickerson

*Your comments are welcomed! Take a moment and share your thoughts in the comment section below!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Filling the Leadership Void

So much of what we call management consists in making it difficult for people to work. - Peter Drucker

A story is told of a man flying in a hot air balloon who realizes he is lost. He reduces height and spots a man down below. He lowers the balloon and shouts, “Excuse me, can you tell me where I am?”

The man below says, “Yes, you are in a hot air balloon hovering about thirty feet from this field.”  “You must work in information technology,” says the balloonist. “I do,” replies the man, “How did you know?”

“Well,” says the balloonist, “everything you have told me is technically correct, but it is of no use to anyone.”
The man below says, “You must work in management.” “I do,” replies the balloonist, “but how did you know?”

“Well, says the man, “you don’t know where you are or where you are going, but you expect me to be able to help you. You are in the same position you were before we met, but now it’s my fault.”

That humorous story illustrates not just the difference between IT and management, but the stereotypes people have about management. Stephen Covey said, “Effective leadership is putting first things first. Effective management is discipline, carrying it out.” And while Covey’s definition is an applicable one, a recent study reveals that we’ve lost much ground as of late.

In a story by John Eccleston in Personnel Today, he cites research from The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development revealing there is a “reality gap” between how good managers think they are in their roles and how effective they actually are.

The research reveals that three-quarters of employees report a lack of leadership and management skills, and believe that too many managers have an inflated opinion of their management abilities.  The research highlighted contrasts between how managers said they manage their people and the views of their employees.

Six in 10 said they meet each person they manage at least twice a month to talk about their workload, meeting objectives and other work-related issues. However, just 24 percent of employees say they meet their managers with such frequency. In addition, more than 90 percent of managers said that they sometimes or always coach the people that they manage, but only 40 percent of employees agreed.

The glaring disparity between what managers believe they are doing verses what employee’s say they are is revealing. When asked about the disproportion, Ben Willmott, head of public policy at CIPD said, “Too many employees are promoted into people management roles because they have good technical skills, then receive inadequate training and have little idea how their behavior impacts others.” And he is right. So what steps can be taken to bridge the gap between the necessity of good management and strong leadership? Here are a few tips.

Focus on relationships. Whether you are in management in your office or in another form of leadership within your organization- relationships are critical. Relationships are the gateway to successful coaching, mentoring, and staff development.

The mechanics of office management are what they are and can be mundane, but good relationships are the key to team development. Get out from behind the desk and get to know your people. 

Grow leaders. At the end of the day, it’s leadership that matters. Want to be a good manager? Grow as a leader. Want to be the best salesperson? Grow as a leader. The secret to your success and that of your organization is found in leadership development. 

John Maxwell says, “Everything rises and falls on leadership” He’s right. The day you discover the secret of leadership is the day every other dimension of your organization begins to improve. How are you developing the leadership skills of your people? 

Be intentional. Think of all of the required components of the operation of your organization. Careful thought and planning goes into goal setting, staffing and payroll, taxes, budgets, etc., but how much time and emphasis is placed on leadership development? John D. Rockefeller said, “Good leadership consists of showing average people how to do the work of superior people.” 

An average manager becomes superior when shown a better way; the same for average employees. In what ways are you being intentional in the development of your team?

By no means is this an exhaustive list of steps that can be taken, but it’s a start. We do know this, there is a gap between management skills and strong leadership and the gap between the two is taking a toll. It’s time to fill the leadership void.

© 2012 Doug Dickerson

I'd be delighted to hear from you. Email me your thoughts in the comment box below.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

What Meghan Vogel Taught Us About Leadership

A good measure of leadership is to help those who are doing poorly to do well and to help those who are doing well to do even better. – Jim Rohn

Chronicled in countless newspapers across the country including ESPN, we were all inspired by the recent act of kindness of high school junior Meghan Vogel. At the recent Division III girls state track meet at Jesse Owens Stadium in Columbus, Ohio, a high school junior by the name of Meghan Vogel captured the hearts thousands around the country.

In the finals Meghan had won the girls 1,600 meters race. In a personal best, she posted a time of 4:58:31, the first time she had broken the five minute mark.  After an awards ceremony Meghan had time to take a short break to rest and get ready for the 3,200 in which she was seeded seventh.

Three laps into the eight lap race, Vogel was falling off the pace. As she rounded the final turn she could see that another runner, Arden McMath, who hadn’t finished yet either, was struggling and then fell to the track.

When Vogel reached McMath she stopped and helped her up. With an arm around her shoulder and to the cheers of a standing ovation, they finished the race together. And if this act of sportsmanship was not enough already, when they reached the finish line, Vogel made sure that McMath crossed first because she had been ahead of her in the race.

The inspiration we draw from this remarkable story and the act of kindness by Meghan Vogel is a leadership lesson for all of us. What this young lady demonstrated at her track meet are transferable principles that will make you a better leader. Here are a few take-away lessons from Meghan.

How you finish is more important than where you finish. At that point in the race it was already a foregone conclusion that neither of the girls was going to win the race. In the competitive marketplace that is all some are concerned with. Yet, as Vogel demonstrated, where you finish is not nearly as important as how.

How are you running your race? Do you notice when others around you stumble or fall? Are you ready to lend a hand? Audrey Hepburn said, “As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.” That’s wisdom worth practicing.

Kindness matters and people notice. After Meghan stopped to help Arden and continue the race it was up on the video board for all to see. The crowd stood and began to cheer. It was a touching moment and fitting tribute for a selfless act of sportsmanship. 

The late Princess Diana said, “Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.” Your act of kindness may not be on a video screen for the world to see, but as Meghan said, “I just did what I knew what right and what I was supposed to do.” 

Your character shines in the face of adversity.Faced with her own struggle to finish the race, Meghan noticed that a fellow competitor was struggling and falls to the track. If we have learned anything the past few years in leadership and in business, we’ve learned this; times are tough and people are stressed. 

How will you respond in the face of adversity? Arthur Golden said, “Adversity is like a strong wind. It tears away from us all but the things that cannot be torn, so that we see ourselves as we really are.” On the track at Jesse Owens stadium, Meghan Vogel’s character was not discovered, it was revealed. 

Moments of destiny are rarely scripted. For Meghan Vogel and Arden McMath, it was just another day at the track running another set of races. I am sure neither one could have predicted the events that would unfold nor how their lives would connect in such a powerful way. But our moments of destiny are not always appointments we make in advance.

In leadership as in life, the choices we make-those random acts of kindness, our attitude in the face of adversity, in placing our principles above position, are valuable lessons going forward. Meghan taught us well.

© 2012 Doug Dickerson

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Above and Beyond Leadership

The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others – Mahatma Gandhi 

Perhaps you never heard of him and chances are you never saw him play ball. Last week at the age of 78, he passed away. Jack Twyman enjoyed an 11 year career in the NBA and saw action in six trips to the All Star game and two Eastern Conference finals. 

According to a story by Yahoo sports writer Kelly Dwyer, when Twyman retired from the game at the age of 31, with his final year per-minute numbers nearly as stout as they were in his prime, he was the NBA’s second-leading scorer behind Wilt Chamberlin. 

But as Dwyer goes on the reveal, the story behind Twyman’s life and career goes much deeper. His actions and skill on the basketball court earned him a spot in the Hall of Fame; but it’s his exploits off the court that are worth a second look. Twyman acted as the former teammate Maurice Stokes’ caretaker for the last 12 years of Stokes’ life, after the former player suffered significant brain damage during an injury sustained in the final game of the 1957-58 season.  

Stokes’ family was too far away to care for him and workers compensation failed to cover his medical costs. Stokes was left to his own devices and grew more and more destitute. It was during this time that Twyman organized fundraisers for his former teammate, visiting him weekly and essentially acting as his caretaker until Stokes’ passing in 1970.

Dwyer relates that Twyman sometimes worried that his wife and family might become upset because of the amount of time he devoted to Stokes over the 12 years, but his daughter said in an interview that they had come to look forward to Stokes’ Sunday visits from the hospital. Twyman and his wife became co-trustees of the Maurice Stokes Foundation which was set up to defray Stokes’ hospital costs but grew to help other needy NBA veterans as well.

Harry Truman said, “Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better.” And that is exactly what Jack Twyman did. The measure of leadership is not found in how many accolades you receive, the position you hold, or how many awards you have won. Jack Twyman teaches us this much. So what does leadership look like that goes above and beyond the call of duty? Here are a few thoughts for consideration.

Above and beyond leaders take initiative. It was not enough to care that his teammate had suffered this tragic injury; Twyman took it upon himself to do more. With the success of his fundraising efforts many others would be recipients of his great generosity.

Leaders who take uncommon initiative will achieve uncommon results not known by those who settle for a life of mediocrity. It’s the leader who takes initiative and steps out of the security of personal comforts who will change the world.

Above and beyond leaders inspire others. Twyman’s work was not a one-man show. He organized basketball tournaments that drew the likes of Bill Russell, Oscar Robinson and Wilt Chamberlin.  And this is the influence that above and beyond leaders has—inspiring others to causes greater than self. 

When you step up and take initiative in your office or organization by going above and beyond the call of duty you will begin to notice a change in attitudes and perspectives. Others will not be content to simply watch you, but will be inspired to join you. When you embrace the challenge to live a life of above and beyond leadership you can be the spark that causes others to step up in new ways.

Above and beyond leaders live different. Leaders who go above and beyond the call of duty do so because they live differently. By that I mean their mindset is different, their heart is different, and there is a sense of knowing and living out life’s greater purpose. When asked by a reporter about his care for his former teammate, Twyman said, “I did what anyone would have done for a friend.” 

It was said that years after his accident, when Stokes had recovered enough flexibility to type, his first message was: “Dear Jack, How can I ever thank you?” What a powerful expression of gratitude by the man who would live out his last years in the care of a leader who went above and beyond the call of duty.

Have you found your calling?

© 2012 Doug Dickerson