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Four Superhero Ways to Show Courage in Leadership

Michael Roman - Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Manufacturing Practices, Inc. guest blog by Lee Ellis

What is your greatest fear in your work? What is the one thing that you don’t want others to know about you? Perhaps it’s burying past mistakes or poor decisions, or maybe you’re in a new leadership role where you feel ashamed or ill-equipped about your lack of formal education or work experience. If you don’t handle these nagging, fearful thoughts and feelings, then they will manifest unhealthy leadership attitudes like control and manipulation. 

Unfortunately for many people, the term courage has been limited to the examples that we see in action films or books—the superhero leaping from building to building, jumping out of an airplane to land on a moving train to get the bad guy, or simply using sheer power and strength to overcome obstacles. In reality though, most courageous acts happen in everyday life, but they may never get as much recognition on the movie screen.

Here are some powerful ways to show courage every day in your work –

1. Be open, honest, and transparent

From my experience as a junior ranking prisoner in the Vietnam POW camp*, I was able to observe the leadership of our highest and best officers and occasionally some of the worst. The most consistent theme was courageous transparency. In the POW camps, all the niceties of leadership were immediately stripped away along with the former advantages of power and authority. Higher ranking officers were naturally the ones that the enemy focused on first and the most often. They were subject to torture more often, more isolated, were beaten more often and yet they still had to lead, make policy and then live by the policies they made. They could not hide their interactions with the enemy because it was obvious to everyone; however, they were transparent about it. When they were beaten into submission, they would admit what they had done. The environment was amazingly transparent. There was no pretending, which quickly revealed true character. There was always temptation to take a shortcut or say something to get the enemy off your back. In that process, I saw that courage was the key to leading with honor.

2. Learn to trust and be trusted

Leaders need to take the time to build trust. It’s so important for success in work, and I don’t believe that much emphasis is given on this important principle during formal training and leadership development. Most leaders know that they need to do some teambuilding, but they automatically think that’s singing Kumbaya and hugs; but to create an authentic level of trust, you must get to know each other. One of the best ways to be open and gain trust is taking a personality assessment and sharing the results. A personality assessment** is the common denominator to understanding somebody’s leadership style, his or her strengths, struggles and fears. Knowing that about each other helps to build trust among team members.
 
3. Apply accountability through a core set of values and ground rules

The issue of accountability is huge and doesn’t get enough attention; it’s often absent when clarity is lacking. Accountability and clarity go hand in hand, and those two important concepts require leaders to define a core set of values. Organizational or team values have to be operative and not aspirational. You can have aspirational values, but you need to be clear that that is what they are. For instance, if the value is against gossiping but we still gossip, then it’s not a value; it’s an aspirational value. Having those few core values, then preaching them from the highest to lowest levels so they are inculcated into daily work life, builds a work culture. Values will hold you together and give you the freedom to empower people in ways nothing else will. Teams that build ground rules or rules of engagement for how they will work together can hold each other accountable in positive ways.

4. Make steady, daily progress developing your team or staff

Professional development of others may not seem like a courageous act, but to do it on a consistent basis is a hallmark of great leadership. Leaders have to be developing their people all along the way, all the time, and they need to go first by setting an example of personal growth. This allows the leader to have the credibility to mentor, coach, and make expectations known, all the while clarifying why you do things a certain way and telling stories about how you learned about this value or that leadership principle.

Making the Shift

There are many ways to be a courageous leader, and these are just a few practical ways. But you may notice that the common thread in these examples is shifting your inward focus on fears and inadequacies to an outward focus on doing the right thing to be an example and help others. If you’re focused on building and equipping others to succeed, then courage will eclipse your own personal fears. Choose at least one of these courageous acts of leadership, and commit to applying it in your daily work. What other powerful ways do you show courage every day? Please share your comments – 

LE

Watch my definition of courage and leading with honor in this clip:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQqh-_gYZQY

As president of Leadership Freedom® LLC, a leadership and team development consulting and coaching company, Lee Ellis consults with Fortune 500 senior executives in the areas of hiring, teambuilding, human performance, and succession planning. His media appearances include interviews on networks such as CNN, C-Span, ABC World News, and Fox News Channel. His latest award-winning book about his Vietnam POW experience is entitled Leading with Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton. Learn more at www.leadingwithhonor.com.

 

Leadership Intuition

Michael Roman - Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Guest Blog by Lee Ellis

Several years ago my strategic partner and good friend Hugh Massie, Founder and CEO of DNA Behavior® International, mentioned that he was learning to trust his gut instincts more. That caught my attention since he is a CPA by training and a very results oriented, rational person.

Then as I read Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Blink, I learned about this idea of the “second mind,” as he called it. Gladwell raised the visibility of the power of intuition, but I suspect that it was only for a short time for most people.

Last summer at the National Speakers Association Convention I met a leadership consultant who was building her speaking platform around the idea that leaders (who have mostly been trained like engineers to trust rationality and disregard feelings) needed to learn to use their intuition more to make better decisions. 

Just recently I read another impressive book, THE WAY OF THE SEAL: Think Like an Elite Warrior to Lead and Succeed  and was interested to see that author Mark Divine, a former CPA and Navy SEAL, made instinct (awareness of gut feelings) a major theme of the book. His proposition is that leaders should train like Navy SEALS to intentionally use both rational (conscious mind) and instinctive (drawing from the unconscious mind) inputs to make the best decisions.

Albert Einstein didn’t read Blink, and he certainly wasn’t a Navy SEAL, but evidently he discovered this related theory early on, saying, “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”

I’m seeing a pattern from these different points on the topic of intuition, so let’s explore it a bit deeper.

So what is the gift?

Intuition is about listening to your subconscious mind (gut instincts) to pull forward information and feelings that you’ve accumulated over a lifetime. Warriors have to rely on instinct, using every possible sense from outside and every stirring from inside to stay alive. Having a good visual memory for shapes and landforms is crucial for a military pilot. Being able to store and recall patterns of logic and information is important for an entrepreneur or business person.
 
Emotional memory is probably the strongest memory that we have, and it’s also the one most quickly accessed. Emotional memory is the one we feel in our gut, and it helps us access the gigabytes of memory stored in our subconscious faster than any processor yet made. So, intuition is this stream of awareness that flows from our subconscious to our conscious, but it requires our tuning in to hear the signal.

Can It Be Learned?

The short answer is yes, but the issue is whether you will develop your awareness and then allow intuition to move from your gut to your mind. It’s not a problem when data is tagged with emotions; it’s ready for quick retrieval and usually easy to access. At other times, it’s as simple as stopping to ask yourself, “What is my gut telling me about this—what is my intuition?”

Sometimes data needed for intuition needs help in getting to our awareness, and this situation is where we have to be more intentional about accessing it. It usually means taking time to shut down our rational thinking and reflect usually in a quiet setting away from distractions.  Sounds a lot like meditation and prayer, doesn’t it? I believe it’s very similar and can be the same. Reflecting, waiting, and listening with our feelings for insight is a practice used by wise people throughout the history of civilization, and in our increasingly fast-paced society it’s a lost art. If we ignore or fail to cultivate the intuitive half of our decision-making abilities, we become less than our best as leaders and merely rely on the facts at hand.    

My Experience

I think that I’m a very logical and rational person, but I’ve also been blessed with a gift for patterns and a good memory. In recent years I’ve learned to value what these gifts reveal to me and trust my intuition more. I do have to be careful about not jumping to conclusions with too little rational information, but overall I’m feeling more confident in my decision-making and greater commitment to execution. 

What about you? What has been your experience? How often do you integrate your intuition in your decision-making? Why do you believe that some leaders ignore or don’t develop their intuitive abilities when it would produce better results and greater success? Please share your thoughts and comments.

About Lee Ellis

As president of Leadership Freedom® LLC, a leadership and team development consulting and coaching company, Lee Ellis consults with Fortune 500 senior executives in the areas of hiring, teambuilding, human performance, and succession planning. His media appearances include interviews on networks such as CNN, C-Span, ABC World News, and Fox News Channel. His latest award-winning book about his Vietnam POW experience is entitled Leading with Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton. Learn more at www.leadingwithhonor.com.

More information about the Adams and Jefferson comparison is featured in the Leading with Honor Group Training program. To learn more, go to http://www.freedomstarmedia.com/training.

 

 

Adams & Jefferson Leadership Traits

Michael Roman - Thursday, February 13, 2014

Guest Blog by Lee Ellis

American presidents come and go throughout history, but think about the presidents that you regard as great leaders. Regardless of their political persuasion, do historically successful presidential leaders have common natural talents and traits? 

More specifically, let’s compare presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson*. Both presidents were successful on many points. Here’s a brief look at their accomplishments

John Adams

- Massachusetts Delegate and Leading member of the Continental Congress

- Leading advocate and signer of the Declaration of Independence

- Author, Massachusetts Constitution

- Diplomat to France

- Negotiator and signor of the Paris Peace Accord ending the war with England

- Minister to England

- First U.S. Vice President

- Second U.S. President

- President of the Massachusetts Society of Arts and Sciences

Thomas Jefferson

- Delegate to the Virginia House of Burgesses and the Continental Congress

- Author of the Declaration of Independence

- Governor of Virginia

- Diplomat to France and delegate to the Paris Peace Talks with Adams

- U.S. Secretary of State

- U.S. Vice-President

- U.S. President (2 Terms)

- Founder of the University of Virginia

- Godfather of John Quincy Adams

For most of us in society, we tend to have a list of requirements in our minds about the traits of great leaders. Some of them would be –

- Strong

- Charismatic

- Decisive

- Bold

- Fearless

- Intelligent

- Delegator

- Great Communicator

Then, we translate those same traits into our everyday lives and assume that we must have those same traits to be an effective leader; and if you don’t have those traits, then being a leader isn’t your destiny. Nothing could be further from the truth—we’re all leaders whether we realize it or not.

While Adams and Jefferson each had similar noted achievements, they had very different leadership styles. Through their own personality struggles and challenges, they still found a way to achieve greatness as leaders.

Take a look at these behavioral traits and note the remarkable difference between them**  

John Adams

- Take Charge Personality

Assertive, self-assured, got results

Intolerant of indifference

- Outgoing

A talker and entertainer

Passionate and good sense of humor

- Fast-Paced

Controlling, Never learned to flatter

Cranky, impulsive, tactless

- Spontaneous

Struggled with bringing order to his life

Had difficulty staying  focused on one thing at a time

Thomas Jefferson

- Cooperative

Subtle, soft-spoken

Moved slowly, cautious

- Reserved

Remote, little sense of humor

Rarely revealed his inner feelings

- Patient

Gracious, rarely disagreed with anyone publicly

Avoided dispute and confrontation

- Planned

Always polite, diplomatic

Neat, kept letter perfect records, detailed

Obviously, both leaders had their own unique set of strengths and struggles, but they worked within their traits to emerge as accomplished individuals in their own regard.  

So, what’s the point where your leadership is concerned?

- Know your strengths and struggles, and manage them well

- Lead from a place of humble yet confident authenticity,

- Balance your leadership by bringing others around you with different talent and traits.  

As we remember and honor our nation’s leaders on Presidents Day this month, think about the president that relates closely to your own leadership style and be encouraged to fulfill your own leadership role in society.  

Interesting Fact – Adams and Jefferson died on the same day, July 4th, 1826. Adams was 90 years old, and Jefferson was 83 years old.

About Lee Ellis

As president of Leadership Freedom® LLC, a leadership and team development consulting and coaching company, Lee Ellis consults with Fortune 500 senior executives in the areas of hiring, teambuilding, human performance, and succession planning. His media appearances include interviews on networks such as CNN, C-Span, ABC World News, and Fox News Channel. His latest award-winning book about his Vietnam POW experience is entitled Leading with Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton. Learn more at www.leadingwithhonor.com.

*More information about the Adams and Jefferson comparison is featured in the Leading with Honor Group Training program. To learn more, go to FreedomStarMedia.com/Training.

**Traits described in the book “John Adams” by David McCullough, © 2001 Simon & Schuster, New York

 

Keeping Faith & The American Dream

Michael Roman - Sunday, November 10, 2013

This is not about ERP - A Guest Blog by John Del Vecchio Managing Member of Charlie Foxtrot Entertainment, LLC and a Vietnam Veteran.

On Saturday, November 9, 2013, the Johns Creek Veterans Association held a ceremonial Ground Breaking for its Veterans Walk.  John Del Vechhio made these remarks.

Wayne, John, Robby, Gerry, members of the Johns Creek Veteran Association, and town administrators, thank you for allowing me to participate in this dedication.

What a lovely memorial. I can picture it completed, see citizens coming here, walking through, or sitting, contemplating the plaques, the names, the events, the meanings.

And what a lovely country we live in. What an exceptional country we’ve inherited. Memorials remind us that this has been at great cost.

I would like to tell you some of my thoughts on The American Dream, and on Keeping Faith with those who have gone before us, with those who have sacrificed so much, with those who have made the ultimate sacrifice and from whose hands we’ve taken the torch to hold high.*

I am thinking of friends who did not make it back. Thinking of advice heard many years ago. “There is a reason why you are here and they are not. It is your duty to find the reason, and to live your life in such a way as to make their sacrifice not in vain.”

We have been given days, and years, and decades which others have not. How do we Keep Faith with them?

What responsibility, what duty, do we have--not just those of us who made it back, but we, The American Citizenry—what duty do we have to those who made it possible for us to be here today in this wonderful nation?

Does Keeping Faith mean more than saluting the flag and standing for the national anthem before a ball game? Is saying, “Thank you,” enough? Or does Keeping Faith mean something more?

Does it perhaps mean understanding our Rights and Freedoms as American citizens? Does it perhaps mean being vigilant and protecting those Rights and Freedoms when they are being attacked from without or being eroded from within?

Does it mean overseeing national decisions as to how our current military is used, and ensuring that it is not being abused?

Our troops—soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen and the coast guard, in Viet Nam, in today’s wars, throughout our history—have been the will to defend, the will to pull the trigger. Without that will no nation can survive. Keeping Faith with them requires of our leaders, and of all of us, that we do not waste the will.

Let me back up.

As you know, I am a veteran of the fight opposing Hanoi’s war of expansion which sought communist hegemony over all of Southeast Asia. In 1970 and 1971 I was an Army combat correspondent with the 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile). Our area of tactical responsibility—we referred to this as our Area of Operation or AO—was northern I Corps, below the DMZ, from the South China Sea west through jungled mountains and across the A Shau Valley to the Laotian border. Our mission was to provide security for the civilian population in the densely populated lowlands by engaging a heavily armed, infiltrating force in the sparsely inhabited mountains.

When I was writing The 13th Valley in the latter part of the 1970s, the media was filled with negative stories about American troops. I wanted to tell the story of what I’d seen, of amazing soldiers doing impossible things in this unforgiving terrain. I wished to set the record straight for the 101st. I knew the media definitely had it wrong about my unit—and assumed they were talking about the Marines. I did not know, at the time, about Dai Do. For me that came later…John Kachmar**... (Mr. Del Vecchio presented him with a copy of book)… you’ll find a story of Dai Do beginning on page 115 of Carry Me Home...   The Marines, too, were pretty awesome.

How can we keep faith if we don’t know what these men did; why they fought; what was the cause; who was the enemy, and why did we oppose that enemy? Why did we engage in the fight in the first place? Who are we, We Americans, to go on extended excursions to foreign lands?

To answer to those questions would, of course, take semesters, but allow me to mention a few seldom recalled details about the origin of the war; and let me also mention that knowledge—truthful knowledge, not politically correct propaganda—is a miracle elixir… It lifts the spirits, and ameliorates the suffering of PTSD.

Let’s go back to I Corps—before America showed up. And to Hanoi. In January 1959—more than five years before the Gulf of Tonkin Incident—the politburo of the Communist Party of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Viet Nam [North Viet Nam], met in secret session in Hanoi and declared war on the South. During that month-long meeting three logistic routes from the north to the south were authorized. These were known as Routes 559, 759, and 959, for the month and year of their inception. Trail 959—September 1959—went west from Hanoi into Laos, then south into Cambodia; 759 was a series of sea lanes and landing areas, including the circumnavigation of the Ca Mau peninsula to land men and materiel at the Cambodian port of Sihanoukville; and 559 became the infamous Ho Chi Minh Trail in eastern Laos with spurs crossing the DMZ, running south, down through I Corps, through the A Shau valley and the mountainous jungles west of Hue.

The first waves of communist fighters using these infiltration routes were political terrorists. One should make no mistake—our involvement, though not known at the time by this term, was a War on Terror. By 1960 communist terrorists from the north were assassinating between 50 and 100 South Vietnamese hamlet, district or province officials—including school teachers—each and every month! The terror grew to 100 assassinations and approximately 800 kidnappings per month by 1962. Terrorists terrorize! Hanoi dubbed this policy the ‘Elimination Of Tyrants’ campaign. Tyrants, I guess, meant to them hamlet chiefs and school teachers!

The 1962 numbers for South Viet Nam would be the 2013 equivalent of terrorists killing or kidnapping more than 250,000 American. A quarter million victims! And this was happening before the war “heated up.” At that time U.S. forces in Viet Nam numbered 900 in 1960, 12,000 at the end of 1962.

So were we right to engage in this fight?

Could anyone knowing and understanding what was happening question whether or not our forces were on a humanitarian mission?

The next six years, to Tet of 1968, received the far more, but not necessarily far more accurate, attention from our media.

Some less known but interesting facts and figures: Following the 1968 Communist Tet Offensive, the South Vietnamese citizenry, previously untrusted, was armed. Over the next three years, while US forces were reduced by 58%, communist terror attacks (assassinations, abductions and bombings) on villages and hamlets dropped 30%, small-unit attacks dropped 41%, and battalion-size attacks dropped 98%!

At the same time, rice production increased by nearly 10%, war related civilian injuries dropped 55%, and enemy defections increased to the highest levels of the war. Armed, the South Viet Namese citizenry became an effective force in protecting themselves and their property from an organized terror campaign.

Ahhh… but were we ever told this?

Or had our national focus shifted? In the pursuit of freedom errors and abuses had been made. Our attention was no longer on the pursuit, but only on the errors and abuses.

For those of you who served in later wars, feel free to extrapolate this scenario. Some things have not changed.

Critics of the War in Viet Nam called all tactics into question. You may recall Ted Kennedy condemning U.S. military operations in I Corps, in the A Shau valley, at Dong Ap Bia, at Ripcord and Khe Ta Laou. Seemingly he had forgotten that terrorists were infiltrating via this very route.

His focus, along with that of much of the media, had shifted. Recall the My Lai massacre: from exposure of that incident in 1969, to 1972, 473 nightly TV news stories focused on that one atrocity, yet not a single story was aired about the 6000 communist assassinations of South Vietnamese,  non-military government personnel in 1970 alone.

If we perceive American troops as barbarians—as undisciplined baby killers or drug addicts; or if we are ignorant of the foes atrocious acts and ultimate aims—can we say we have kept faith with those who fell?

Errors and abuses were addressed; American ground forces were withdrawn by early1972; the armed southern population carried the bulk of their own local defense; yet America’s focus remained on “the American atrocity.”

This political momentum led to the abandonment of our allies, and the people of Southeast Asia. The abandonment can be inferred by economic support. The US budget for the war, adjusted for inflation, fell by over 95% from 1969 to 1974. Weapons and ammo in the South became relatively scarce. In comparison, the final communist offensive which toppled the Saigon government employed 500 Soviet tanks, 400 long-range artillery pieces and over 18,000 military trucks moving an army of 400,000 troops down the Truong Son Corridor—that is through western I Corps below the DMZ, past Ripcord and Dong Ap Bia, through the A Shau Valley, and south. 400,000 troops!

U.S. abandonment of the South Viet Nam lead directly to 70,000 executions in the first 90 days of communist control; to the death of millions in Cambodia, to a half million Boat People fleeing the new oppression—many of those dying at sea; to more than a million people being incarcerated in gulag re-education camps; and to the communist ethnic cleansing of Laos.

Keeping Faith means knowing these things. It means remaining vigilant when the propagandists are stressing the errors or abuses that we as a nation have committed; yet simultaneously omitting the good, the honorable and the valorous we accomplished. Even worse, when they ignore the evil which we opposed.

Let me digress.

America the beautiful: it has been miraculous. Exceptional. A beacon… the shining light on the hill guiding those seeking freedom.

This is not genetic. We are the great Melting Pot, a land which has welcomed the diverse, huddled masses… a land which once celebrated the diverse aspects of all cultures, but that also subordinated diversity to unity—e pluribus Unum, Out of Many, One.

So if not genetic, could it be the system established by our Founding Fathers?  A system derived from concepts of the High Renaissance, forged in the rough environs of the new world, and perfected in conflict with tyranny?

Is it not that which we defend; which we proffer others; for which we risk our lives, the lives of our countrymen, the lives of our sons and daughters?

A number of years ago I came across the following thought, but I have rarely seen it repeated.

American Exceptionalism begins with the phrase: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of -------- Property. Yes, property! That was the 1774 wording from the Declaration of Colonial Rights drawn up by the First Continental Congress.

The concept of happiness, as you might suspect, was quite different 240 years ago… you know, back before TV, Movies, X-boxes, NASCAR or Atlanta Falcons. At the time Property and Happiness were almost synonymous. The hot topic of the day was Citizen versus Subject… A citizen could own property; a subject could only use the property of the sovereign, and then only with the sovereign’s permission.

Life, liberty and the pursuit of property: this is the American Dream. The pursuit of property means a person has the unalienable right to earn, to build, and to keep much of the fruits of his labor, ideas and diligence—without them being taxed to the extent they are taken away. This standard exhorts all to go forth and excel; it tells us that from our exertions we can, and should, benefit. The American Dream is not the house with the white picket fence, but the freedom to build, to have, to own and to be secure in that house.

This culture which the founding principles foster—through all the ups and downs and bumps and warts of the centuries—has provided not just the highest standard of living in human history, but the greatest liberty to develop self and family, ideas and ideals, associations and institutions.

Academics have interviewed infantrymen to discover why they fight. Scholars tell us that soldiers fight for their buddies, for the guys next to them, for the team. But they tend to miss the fact that motivation is not singular, nor is it always understood by the individual. The academic view, beyond a doubt, is accurate, but it is also shallow.

Protecting Mom, apple pie, and The American Way against all enemies foreign and domestic are all elements of that motivation. Yet the last may be subconscious. It is certainly more difficult to express. After all—my guys, Mom and apple pie are tangible; the American Spirit and a constitution establishing a government given rights by citizens, versus a regime in which subjects are given rights by a ruling elite—that’s a bit esoteric.

We fought and fight for all these reasons and more; but if we contemplate the sacrifice of so many, if we truly believe they did not die in vain, apple pie (and I love apple pie) comes up short.

So… when we—those of us given years others have not been given—judge ourselves, the criteria must include how true our lives have been to the great founding documents of our nation.

Without knowledge of our founding principles, without an accurate understanding of our foes and why we engaged in battle, we are at peril of losing the way—not simply for ourselves but for future generations. Let this be a challenge—a gauntlet thrown at our feet.

It is the preservation of American Exceptionalism that is worth fighting for, worth living for, worth risking life and limb for. It is the perpetuation of that Exceptionalism—built upon the dreams, aspirations and labors of free citizens—which makes the ultimate sacrifice of so many not in vain.

We have been given days, and years, and decades which others have not. Have we lived our lives in such a manner they would approve?

To those who have not had the years and decades, I wish to say: From your failing hands you threw us the torch to hold high; and you said, “If ye break faith with us who die; We shall not sleep…”*

To you, dear brothers, and dear sisters, I wish to tell you that there are many here, and millions across this beautiful land, who have not and will not break faith with you.

Rest easy. We have your backs.

*From: Flanders Fields by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD

**Kachmar: Marine, 2/4 @ Dai Do; highly decorated; Purple Heart

ED - John Kachmar is the City Manager of Johns Creek, GA

ED - Here is a link to Mr. Del Vecchio's Book - The 13th Valley  http://www.the13thvalley.com/

ED - You may contact Mr. Del Vecchio at johnd@charliefoxtrotfilms.com

 

 

3 Ways Older Leaders Can Renew Their Value

Michael Roman - Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Guest Blog by Lee Ellis

“Old soldiers never die; they just fade away.” As we celebrate Veterans Day this month, it made me think about this quote from General Douglas MacArthur. For the most part, U.S. citizens are very respectful and enthusiastic about honoring the sacrifices of our military veterans. But do veterans (and older leaders) offer more than old stories of past battles and successes?  

Whether you’re a military veteran, a business veteran, an academic veteran, or a veteran in any sector of society, you sense the strong pressure that the world wants to cast off the old as irrelevant in our modern, youth-driven culture. Leaders today that once had influential power and influence are being replaced by seemingly younger, vibrant, more innovative next generation leaders that can do it better, faster, and smarter. Older leaders inevitably begin looking over their shoulder wondering when they’re no longer needed.  

Here’s the challenge for you, older leader—renew your value by sharing your legacy of experiences, battles, successes, and failures. Otherwise, future generations are doomed to repeat what you’ve already learned in your personal and professional life.

Here are three unchanging principles that will renew leadership value for yourself and others –

1. Preparation – Share it and Use it

Think of times in your past when you’ve been most successful. It was likely a time when you created a plan, took the necessary training, and worked hard to fulfill the steps to make it a reality. These experiences created a unique set of training principles that would be invaluable to next generation leaders. Elevate your value by helping prepare them to take your place. Teach them the ethics, character, and tactics of great leadership.

Alternately, you also have to use these skills to plan ahead for your own future. Fall back on your own wisdom and training, and choose to prepare now where you want to be in five to ten years. Otherwise, someone may choose for you.

2. Commitment is Foundational

If you’re a child, spouse, or parent (I think that’s all of us), you know that commitment is critical to the important things in life such as relationships. Likewise in the area of work, as a young leader you soon realized that need to look for an easy way out when a situation got really difficult. If you didn’t choose to stay committed to the goal, you would’ve given up. Your seasoned values and character kept you daily engaged in the battle. Next generation leaders may not have a clue what they will face in their professional futures, but you can help equip them with the right perspective, tactics, and attitude to successfully commit and stay the course.  

And, you should keep those skills on hand for your own future. The types of battles may change in your twilight years, but your experience will provide the level of resilience you need to confidently move forward.

3. Live and Lead with Honor

To live and lead with honor sets one apart in every area of life. Honor is about integrity, decency, principle, morality, character, nobility, respect, dignity, and high values; see one of my interview videos below for my personal definition of honor. In the Bible, the Apostle Paul said, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”* If you think on these things, you’re more likely to live as an honorable person. But, an older leader like you can tell a next generation leader that it’s not as easy as it sounds. Fear is always lurking around the corner, and it will take you out. Just look at the dis-honorable behavior we see in our culture, and it comes from greed which is a manifestation of fear.

The antidote to fear for all leaders is courage—leaning into the pain of your fear to do what you know is right even when it doesn’t feel natural of safe. Your continued growth in courage will inspire everyone around you. If there was ever a time our country needs courage, it’s now. We need courageous leaders and citizens of all ages. You can play a powerful role—take the courage challenge**.

*Source: The Holy Bible, the Book of Philippians, Chapter 4 Verse 8 (New International Version translation)

**Join Lee Ellis’ “Courage Challenge” movement and get free resources. Learn more at www.LeadingWithHonor.com.

Lee Ellis is founder and president of Leadership Freedom® LLC, a leadership and team development consulting company. He consults with Fortune 500 senior executives in the areas of hiring, teambuilding, leadership and human performance development, and succession planning. He is also a speaker and the author of the award-winning book, Leading With Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton, in which he shares his experiences as a Vietnam POW and highlights leadership lessons learned in the camps. For more information, please visit www.leadingwithhonor.com.

 

How to Avoid Two Dangerous Traps in Leadership—Listen and Engage

Michael Roman - Thursday, August 29, 2013

Guest Blog by Lee Ellis

We often read or hear in the media about leaders whose lack of courage reaped painful consequences. But these “spectacular” failures are just the tip of the iceberg. Doubts and fears of a much smaller magnitude have caused legions of leaders to fail in less obvious ways. Although these failures don’t make the newspapers, they nevertheless can suck the energy and life out of the people and organizations they affect. By learning to listen and engage in a healthy way, I believe that many of these less-obvious failures could be avoided.

Learn to Listen

Many leaders fail to listen to the ideas, opinions, and constructive feedback of others. Some go so far as to use intimidation to silence “threatening” ideas. Still others suppress ideas by dominating conversations and not allowing others to speak. These leaders may appear “macho” on the outside, but in reality their fears and insecurities send a loud message that they don’t want anyone to disagree with their view of the world. Unfortunately, most of us know how exhausting and demoralizing it can be to work for a leader whose tender ego must be carefully guarded. Usually there is a graveyard outside this executive’s office that’s filled with the bodies of messengers who had the courage to provide honest feedback.

If you suspect that you are this type of person, let me encourage you to get a “leadership 360 assessment,” so your direct reports, peers, and manager (or board of directors) can give you candid, anonymous feedback. (Now, that will take some real courage on everyone’s part, won’t it!) If the results indicate a problem, don’t rationalize your behaviors or demonize the messengers. Engage the issues and grow into the leader you can be, the one that your followers deserve.

When the truth is courageously communicated, people and organizations flourish. But when doubts and fears hold sway, leaders avoid hard decisions and responsible actions, and instead look for a comfortable way out. At best, team energy drains away and people don’t grow. Too often, fear and doubt cause bad judgment that derails the leader’s influence.

The Leadership Engagement Model

Leaders who lack courage to engage problems usually veer off course in one of two directions: they will either seek to dominate, or they will seek to withdraw (fight or flight; violence or silence.) Both of these counterproductive behaviors have the same root cause: fears and doubts. I’ve found the Leadership Engagement Model™ depicted below to be extremely helpful for improving the cooperation and productivity of teams working cross-functionally, especially if a “silo mentality” is prevalent. It has also been beneficial for strategic partners who have competing interests.

For example, in most medical communities a natural tension exists between the hospital and the physicians and clinics that use the hospital. Typically, one party tries to dominate to get its way, which in turn causes the other party to become distrustful and combative.

Eventually, emotions can get so raw that one party withdraws, or they both do. To halt this vicious cycle, the two sides need to courageously commit to engage in productive dialog, identify common goals, and implement agreed-upon solutions. Meaningful engagement occurs when each party fights for its ideas in a healthy, constructive way, while still being open to the ideas of others. This type of dialog is evidence of humility, courage, and confidence. Doubts and fears are normal. You can’t avoid them, but you can manage them. You can choose to override your feelings and do the right thing. You can choose to lean into the pain for the good of others and yourself. Like the men in the POW camps you’ve read about, you can choose to be a strong leader by being courageous.

In what specific situations might you be dominating or withdrawing (e.g., by attacking or procrastinating) when you should be engaging? What choices do you need to make to engage issues you have been avoiding?

LE

As president of Leadership Freedom® LLC, a leadership and team development consulting and coaching company, Lee Ellis consults with Fortune 500 senior executives in the areas of hiring, teambuilding, human performance, and succession planning. His media appearances include interviews on networks such as CNN, C-Span, ABC World News, and Fox News Channel. His latest award-winning book about his Vietnam POW experience is entitled Leading with Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton. Learn more at www.leadingwithhonor.com.

Leadership Part 6

Michael Roman - Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Guest Blog by Lee Ellis

Here’s the scene. Joe Staff Member is on your team, and you’ve done all of the right things to develop a healthy relationship of accountability; you’ve clarified, mentored, coached, checked in, and supported. For whatever reason, though, Joe still isn’t producing results that match his competency. So, it’s time to take action.

In the five previous blogs on accountability, we’ve been following a process to insure that you—the leader—have done your part to help your team members succeed. You should’ve been giving honest feedback by engaging with Joe along the way, so this shouldn’t be a surprise to him.

As you deliver the news, make sure that you and Joe have a clear picture that accountability is a win in four directions: a win for the organization, a win for you the leader, a win for the team, and a win for the individual. Done right, it’s going to be part of the growth process to help him perform better or find a line of work where his talents and passion are better suited. Just as important, you grow as a leader as you gain experience and confidence in respectfully and firmly holding people accountable for their performance and behaviors in the workplace. 

Here are some practical action steps to follow as you move forward –

Have a mindset about what needs to happen.

The leader who is holding someone accountable for poor performance (or bad behavior) must consider the rational and emotional components. Presenting the facts and specifics is essential and should not be difficult if you’ve made a few performance notes along the way. Dealing with the emotional/feelings part is often the biggest challenge.

Keep in mind that negative feedback always stings—our egos are tender. So, think through how you’re going to say things. If you are by nature not a “feelings” person, then discuss your approach with someone else who is more experienced and more sensitive than you are. Your critique should be fact-based dealing with specific issues and not an attack on the person.

Even those of us who don’t acknowledge feelings much can struggle with telling someone what they don’t want to hear. We must have the courage to deliver the unpleasant message and the consequences—some tough love— that go with unmet expectations. Anything less leads to a dysfunctional relationship and an unhealthy organization.   

1. Plan your approach and get counsel

Good execution starts with good planning.  Here are four steps to remember:

a. Consider your options for consequences.

b. Discuss the situation with your manager.

c. Discuss with your HR rep/consultant.

d. Get your mindset right. Your goal is to be factual, logical, reasonable and firm.

2. Meet with the individual

These specific guidelines will help ensure the best meeting possible:

a. Meet privately in your space and on your terms.

b. Demonstrate a respectful and caring attitude toward the person.

c. Explain the problem and indicate how expectations and agreements were not met.

d. Ask what the person sees as the cause of the problem. Listen carefully, and don’t defend or get into arguments.

- Expect rationalization and don’t fall for it. You’ve done your homework and you don’t want to let them off the hook. Stick to your plan unless there’s some significant problem that you weren’t aware of. 

a. Restate your concerns and underscore that performance (or behavior) has not been acceptable.

b. Lay out next steps for moving ahead (consequences, rules, expectations).

In this step, your goal is to get the person’s attention, re-motivate them, and get them back on track—or get them on a path out of your organization.

3. Follow through

Unfortunately, some adults can still operate as they did in a dysfunctional childhood; they may assume you weren’t really serious and that you’ll forget and let the matter drop. Here are four follow-through reminders –  

a. Stay engaged and walk through the process.

b. Communicate your commitment and firmness

c. Provide encouragement.

d. Be respectful and firm.

Some closing thoughts on accountability

Accountability is really at the heart of leadership, because it’s the best way to insure success for both people and the organization.  As a leader, one of the most helpful guidelines I ever learned (and I have to keep coaching myself on it) was: Don’t procrastinate taking action or let things slide. Always move toward a problem; things never get better on their own. Your role is to initiate action to keep things on track. That’s what accountability is all about.

So how are you doing with accountability? Is there a Joe Staff Member on your team that needs to be addressed?  What wisdom can you share in this forum on ways that you’ve helped grow your people into a “healthy”, accountable organization? 

LE

 —–
Lee Ellis 
is Founder & President of Leadership Freedom LLC® & FreedomStar Media™.
He is a leadership consultant and expert in teambuilding, executive development & assessments
Email | LinkedIn | Web | Blog | Book | Facebook | Twitter

 He is the author of Leading with Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton

Simple Algorithms & ERP

Michael Roman - Wednesday, June 26, 2013

In his book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Daniel H. Pink writes that there are two types of problem solving tasks, algorithmic and heuristic. An algorithmic task is one in which you follow a set of established instructions down a single pathway to one conclusion. A heuristic task is the opposite. Precisely because no algorithm exists for it, you have to experiment with possibilities and devise a novel solution. For example, working as a grocery checkout clerk is mostly algorithmic while a design engineer’s work is mostly heuristic, that being to come up with something new.

I mention this because I remain puzzled at the less than stellar performance most small and mid-sized manufacturing and distribution companies achieve when attempting to implement an ERP System.  Most of these organizations mistakenly approach an ERP Implementation as a heuristic task when our experience shows it to be a simple algorithmic task.  Possible reasons for their ineffective approach are well documented and not surprising:

  • Lack of leadership and commitment from the C- Level Team
  • Improper understanding of the necessary processes
  • Inability to muster necessary resources to address the issues
  • Lack of properly identifying tasks
  • Inadequate deadline setting for completion of activities

Education resolves most of these issues and is at the heart of what Manufacturing Practices, Inc. achieves when assisting with an ERP Implementation project.  After the initial assessment and agreement on the process, Manufacturing Practices implements a simple, proven method for success.  The process starts with education of the Top Management team and development of a statement of goals and an agreed upon approach with the project details.  A statement of the problem by Top Management to the users follows that activity, and then a statement of the goals by Top Management to the users follows that.  The Top Management team then explains why user education is vital to the success of the project.  User education follows the next week and ends with a discussion of the project plans.  The execution of the project plan follows and is monitored during implementation.

The Manufacturing Practices approach has been a successful, replicable, and simple process used by more than 60 implementations and re-implementations of ERP Applications.  The number one reason for this success is that EDUCATION about what an ERP System will do both for and to the company happens before we accept an assignment.

For an in-depth look at what a typical ERP implementation looks like, read my new book, The Turnaround. It is available on Kindle, and here is the link: http://www.amazon.com/The-Turnaround-ebook/dp/B00COOF0DC.

Pain Points

Michael Roman - Monday, June 17, 2013

For the past few months, I have experienced a relentless excruciating pain in my hip, measuring 8.5 (on a scale of 1 to 10) on the pain level chart. My doctor identified the problem with my hip, but was mystified by the amount of pain I was experiencing. Long story short, after stepping back and looking at other issues I am facing, the medical team discovered that my hernia was impinging on nerves in the hip and leg area, however improbable that might sound. Turns out that everything in that part of the body is connected, and after minor surgery last week to repair a hernia, the pain level was reduced from 8.5 to 2.5. The reduced pain has helped me regain my better disposition, and after more surgery next week on the hip, the pain will likely be reduced to little or nothing – and I can smile again.

In past roles as an operations and supply chain manager, I became familiar with the many “pain points” on the job. The biggest headaches were missing data, lack of KPIs, the lack of a frozen production period for completing customer orders, no master production schedule, insufficient information defined for BOMS and routings, and no integrated business management tool.  As a group, we approached these problems individually within each silo of information, as if they were unrelated. Of course, we were not effective in addressing these issues because we failed to realize the interdependence of those silos of information that had little interaction with one another.

All too often, we miss the source of the pain in an organization because the pain is coming from a problem area that we have not considered. ERP systems are designed to help businesses identify problem areas, but in a business with a less than fully functional ERP system, it is difficult to locate the source of the pain. In that instance, users must address the ERP system shortcomings before the company can identify the source of the problem and repair the damage.

Our approach to problem solving at Manufacturing Practices is a simple proven method for success, and it starts with education of the top management team about the most effective use of ERP. We work with them to develop a statement of goals and an agreed-upon approach to project details, and then a statement of the problem and goals is passed on to the users, with an emphasis on education. Education is vital to the success of an ERP project, so user education begins the first week and provides everyone a clear picture of the project plans. When companies fail to properly educate the top management team and the user community, there is little chance of everyone having the same understanding of the importance of the project plan, the KPIs, the necessity of frozen planning periods, and all the rest. Without proper education, companies deploy their ERP System to quiet the loudest voice or the bully in the organization while ignoring the greater good of the organization.

Without proper education, companies miss the boat on a whole series of management reporting that can alert a company to possible failures of important components or systems that may adversely affect customer relationships. Without proper education, management may not have access to important information about supplier performance, supplier quality issues or supplier price performance.  Without proper education, missing customer delivery dates can occur, adversely affecting the customer relationship that might cost the company its future in the marketplace.

So take the steps with your ERP system that can eliminate the pain and lead to a full recovery. Use the system to help you discover those pain points and their relationships to other areas in the organization. If you do it right, you will reduce the overall pain level of your business and be able to smile again – and hopefully, all the way to the bank!

By the way, if you have read our more current blogs, you have noticed a number of LEADERSHIP articles written by Lee Ellis, a dear friend of mine who demonstrated the lessons of leadership at the Hanoi Hilton during his stay in North Vietnam. I asked him to grant me access to his blogs on leadership, which he graciously has done.  You may contact him by emailing contact@freedomstarmedia.com or go to his website http://www.freedomstarmedia.com/ .

On Leaders and Accountability-6

Michael Roman - Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Guest Blog by Lee Ellis

Here’s the scene. Joe Staff Member is on your team, and you’ve done all of the right things to develop a healthy relationship of accountability; you’ve clarified, mentored, coached, checked in, and supported. For whatever reason, though, Joe still isn’t producing results that match his competency. So, it’s time to take action.

In the five previous blogs on accountability we’ve been following a process to insure that you—the leader—have done your part to help your team members succeed. You should’ve been giving honest feedback by engaging with Joe along the way, so this shouldn’t be a surprise to him.

As you deliver the news, make sure that you and Joe have a clear picture that accountability is a win in four directions: a win for the organization, a win for you the leader, a win for the team, and a win for the individual. Done right, it’s going to be part of the growth process to help him perform better or find a line of work where his talents and passion are better suited. Just as important, you grow as a leader as you gain experience and confidence in respectfully and firmly holding people accountable for their performance and behaviors in the workplace. 

 Here are some practical action steps to follow as you move forward –

 Have a mindset about what needs to happen.

 The leader who is holding someone accountable for poor performance (or bad behavior) must consider the rational and emotional components. Presenting the facts and specifics is essential and should not be difficult if you’ve made a few performance notes along the way. Dealing with the emotional/feelings part is often the biggest challenge.

 Keep in mind that negative feedback always stings—our egos are tender. So, think through how you’re going to say things. If you are by nature not a “feelings” person, then discuss your approach with someone else who is more experienced and more sensitive than you are. Your critique should be fact-based dealing with specific issues and not an attack on the person.

 Even those of us who don’t acknowledge feelings much can struggle with telling someone what they don’t want to hear. We must have the courage to deliver the unpleasant message and the consequences—some tough love— that go with unmet expectations. Anything less leads to a dysfunctional relationship and an unhealthy organization.   

 1. Plan your approach and get counsel

 Good execution starts with good planning.  Here are four steps to remember:

a. Consider your options for consequences.

b. Discuss the situation with your manager.

c. Discuss with your HR rep/consultant.

d. Get your mindset right. Your goal is to be factual, logical, reasonable and firm.

 2. Meet with the individual

 These specific guidelines will help ensure the best meeting possible:

a. Meet privately in your space and on your terms.

b. Demonstrate a respectful and caring attitude toward the person.

c. Explain the problem and indicate how expectations and agreements were not met.

d. Ask what the person sees as the cause of the problem. Listen carefully, and don’t defend or get into arguments.

- Expect rationalization and don’t fall for it. You’ve done your homework and you don’t want to let them off the hook. Stick to your plan unless there’s some significant problem that you weren’t aware of.

a. Restate your concerns and underscore that performance (or behavior) has not been acceptable.

b. Lay out next steps for moving ahead (consequences, rules, expectations).

 In this step, your goal is to get the person’s attention, re-motivate them, and get them back on track—or get them on a path out of your organization.

3. Follow through

Unfortunately, some adults can still operate as they did in a dysfunctional childhood; they may assume you weren’t really serious and that you’ll forget and let the matter drop. Here are four follow-through reminders –  

a. Stay engaged and walk through the process.

b. Communicate your commitment and firmness

c. Provide encouragement.

d. Be respectful and firm.

Some closing thoughts on accountability

Accountability is really at the heart of leadership, because it’s the best way to insure success for both people and the organization.  As a leader, one of the most helpful guidelines I ever learned (and I have to keep coaching myself on it) was: Don’t procrastinate taking action or let things slide. Always move toward a problem; things never get better on their own. Your role is to initiate action to keep things on track. That’s what accountability is all about.

So how are you doing with accountability? Is there a Joe Staff Member on your team that needs to be addressed?  What wisdom can you share in this forum on ways that you’ve helped grow your people into a “healthy”, accountable organization? 

LE

——————–
Lee Ellis 
is Founder & President of Leadership Freedom LLC® & FreedomStar Media™.
He is a leadership consultant and expert in teambuilding, executive development & assessments
Email | LinkedIn | Web | Blog | Book | Facebook | Twitter

He is the author of Leading with Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton