Personal Leadership – A Culture of One

Operational accountabilities are about what has to be done in an organization. Leadership accountabilities, on the other hand, are about how the work gets done. You have to take both into consideration if you want to build a great culture. Culture defines the how.

It is important to regularly assess how your people are achieving operational results, and it is just as important to regularly assess your culture with a Culture Inventory:

  • Are people clear about the values that are espoused – the way we do the work?
  • Are there clearly defined behaviors attached to each of the values so that the expectations of the how are explicit?
  • Are there clearly defined promises between the manager and the employee about what both are agreeing to?
  • Are there clearly defined support agreements, so everyone feels supported?
  • Are there clearly defined consequences – both positive and negative?
  • Is the follow-through clear, so that the agreements remain current and remain useful?

Just as it is good for a regular Culture Inventory, is it important to take a Character Inventory – an assessment of our own personal way we are at work and in the world. Similar to how an organization has a culture – a way of doing things, individuals also have a way.

Much emphasis in organizations is put on the what, and this is true with individuals as well. How many people do you know emphasize the achievements in their life but don’t pay attention to the kind of person they are becoming in the pursuit of these achievements? A Character Inventory assesses the kind of person you are – how you are living your life.

If you want to attract others, you must be attractive. Strong character demands that you shift from being the best in the world to being the best for the world, to strive not for what you can get, but what you can give, to endeavor not for what you can have or what you can do, but for who you can be. A job title, the letters behind your name, the size of your office, or your income are not measures of human worth. No success by the world’s standards will ever be enough to compensate for a lack of strong character.

It’s an act of caring to pause every so often and take an inventory of your character.

  • How are you doing in areas such as compassion, reliability, honesty, courage, prudence, contribution, and maturity?
  • Are you one person in public and another in private?
  • Do you focus as much on what kind of a person you are in the world as much as on what you want to achieve in the world?

Like a business that takes regular stock of its inventory, this is a fact-finding process. There can be blind spots to seeing yourself, so get feedback from the most important people in your life. Being a good person precedes being a good leader in any capacity.

Here’s a list of actions that demonstrate strength of character. See how you measure up with this list, or take the time to write your own list:

Let go of what you want.

Prudence is the common sense – that unfortunately is not so common any more – to live with what you can do without, and the ability to find joy in what is here. Every so often it’s good to surrender something we want, but don’t need. In a world that confuses wants with needs, debt continues to rise as character continues to erode. Practice living below your means, not getting everything you want, and finding freedom in enjoying what you have.

Do something difficult every day.

“Do the hard stuff first,” my mother used to say. The earlier in the day you get the difficult work done, the better you’ll feel about yourself and the rest of your day will improve. Whether it’s having a difficult conversation, getting some exercise, or taking a risk, character is built on the foundation of overcoming the natural tendency to take the course of least resistance.

Clean up after yourself.

Something eats away at your character when you sit in your mess or leave your messes for someone else to look after. And if you really want to experience character, walk through a park close to where you live and clean up garbage left behind by someone else.

Look beyond yourself.

Character means choosing service over self-interest. Character grows in the soil of concern for others and the commitment to act on that concern. We can all find ways to make life better for someone less fortunate than ourselves.

Spend less than you earn.

This is truly one of the best character habits you can develop. Spending less than you earn, whether it’s reflected in your home, your car, or the stuff you buy, is another version of prudence. The space you create in your life by doing so will give you freedom, renewed worth, and contentment that money will never buy.

Practice gratitude.

Gratitude is integral to strong character. It’s the antidote to the entitlement that contaminates character. Be an appreciator, rather than a depreciator, of everything that shows up in your life, including opportunities disguised as problems. What you appreciate, appreciates.

Before you criticize the culture you work in or the leaders of the culture, take a good look in the mirror. Leadership is about PRESENCE, not position. What kind of presence do you bring to your work? What kind of person are you? What is your “way” of being in the world? As a personal leader, you are a culture of one. Make it a daily practice to review your character in relation to your daily life, your friends, your acquaintances, and your work. Keep striving to be a better leader by being a better person. This is the real satisfaction and ultimate goal in life.

Q12 Engagement Survey: Who is Responsible?

The Q12 Talent Engagement Audit

The Gallup Q12 (https://q12.gallup.com) is a survey designed to measure employee engagement. The instrument was the result of hundreds of focus groups and interviews. Researchers found that there were 12 key expectations that when satisfied, form the foundation of strong feelings of engagement. So far more than 90,000 work units and 1.7+ million employees have participated in the Q12 instrument.

Comparisons of engagement scores reveal that those with high Q12 scores exhibit lower turnover, higher sales growth, better productivity, better customer loyalty and other manifestations of superior performance.

The Gallup organization also uses the Q12 as a semi-annual employee engagement Index – a random sampling of employees across the country.

The engagement index slots people into one of three categories:

  • Engaged employees work with passion and feel a profound connection to their organization and their work.
  • Not-Engaged employees are essentially “checked out.” They are sleepwalking through their workday. They are putting in time, but not enough energy or passion into their work (“Quit and stay”).
  • Destructively Disengaged employees aren’t just unhappy at work; they’re busy acting out their unhappiness. Every day, these workers undermine what their engaged co-workers accomplish.

The Q12 Index

  • Do you know what is expected of you at work?
  • Do you have the materials and equipment to do your work right?
  • At work, do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?
  • In the last seven days, have you received recognition or praise for doing good work?
  • Does your supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about you as a person?
  • Is there someone at work who encourages your development?
  • At work, do your opinions seem to count?
  • Does the mission/purpose of your organization make you feel your job is important?
  • Are your associates (fellow employees) committed to doing quality work?
  • Do you have a best friend at work?
  • In the last six months, has someone at work talked to you about your progress?
  • In the last year, have you had opportunities to learn and grow?

The limitation of the Gallup Q12 Employee Engagement Survey (https://q12.gallup.com) is that it only measures half of the equation: the manager’s responsibility to build an engaging relationship with their employees and to foster an engaging workplace culture. The Q12 Talent Engagement Audit below, adapted from Gallup’s Q12, measures the employee’s responsibility to build an engaging organizational culture.

Take an honest inventory of yourself in the following areas to assess your level of personal responsibility and commitment to do your part as an employee to build a workplace culture that is worth working in.

  • Have you clarified with your boss what is expected?
  • Have you clearly and respectfully asked for the resources you need to do your work right?
  • At work, have you created the opportunity to do what you do best every day?
  • In the last seven days, have you given recognition or praise to your colleagues for doing good work? How about to yourself?
  • Does your supervisor, or someone at work, know that you care about them as a person?
  • Is there someone at work who you encourage in their development?
  • Have you earned the credibility so that your opinions seem to count?
  • Does your own personal purpose make you feel your job is important?
  • Are you committed to doing quality work?
  • Have you taken the time to create a good friendship at work?
  • In the last six months, have you taken the responsibility to talk with your boss about your progress?
  • In the last year, have you had created opportunities to learn and grow?

What do you need to continue doing to sustain your commitment to 100% responsibility for the culture you work in?

What do you need to start doing to take more responsibility for the culture you work in?

What support do you need? Who will help hold you accountable?

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The Essential Matters – What Is Your Reason For Being?

Last month I was meeting with a group of very talented managers in a debrief session for an event I facilitated in December. We were discussing, among other things, employee engagement when one of the leaders said that what he learned in my session is that employee engagement can be boiled down to one word: authenticity. When people are authentic, they are engaged. They are committed to their own development and they are committed to bring to bring value to others.

Authenticity is about being the person you were created to be and bringing more of that self to what you do. When you are working in an environment that supports and encourages you to be authentic, you are naturally going to be engaged, empowered, and loyal. Authentic leadership is ultimately about discovering your own authentic nature and then creating a culture that enables others to discover and express theirs. It’s that simple and it’s that complex.

A helpful way to express, in practical terms, what it means to be authentic was shown to me by an authentic leader I worked with last year. The focus of my work with his organization was to help him build a stronger, more aligned, high-performing organizational culture. After the workshop he emailed me a diagram of Ikigai (生き甲斐), a Japanese concept meaning “a reason for being”. Everyone, according to the Japanese, has an Ikigai. Finding it requires a deep and often lengthy search of self and answering three fundamental questions:

  1. What do you love? Pay attention to your energy. Energy is a good indicator of what you love. We are energized by things we love and depleted by things we don’t. Leaders are the stewards of organizational energy. Leaders inspire or demoralize others by how they mobilize, focus, invest, and renew the collective energy of those they serve. To be aware of how your energy affects those around you, it’s important to pay attention to your own energy. How do you feel when you are doing certain things? Is it natural for you or are you trying to imitate somebody? What activities drain you? What activities fill you up? What work would you do if you weren’t paid to do it? What is your passion? What do you love?
  2. What are you good at? You can become good at many things with repetitive actions and thoughts, but this question is asking you to look deeper inside yourself to discover a yearning that is in need of expression. We all have unique talents and gifts. Whether these come easily or not, there is a longing within us to be expressed. It might require developing or it may come naturally. Just as good leadership is about fitting people, not fixing people, when you are doing what you are good at, it fits, not fixes who you are. Discovering what you are good at emerges from asking yourself questions like, “What have you been yearning for? What do you desire intensely to do? What do you do well – that you don’t remember learning? What are your strengths? What are your gifts?”
  3. What does the world need? What is the world asking of you? Where in the world do you feel needed? Perhaps, through your own experiences of grief or compassion you have found a capacity to reach others. Or maybe you see an opportunity to provide a service that is in high demand in the marketplace. Even if you can’t find your passion or your gifts, what the world needs is for you to be at peace with yourself so you can bring peace to the world – a positive, caring attitude to whatever you do. The world needs whatever you can contribute today. Above all, the world needs a generous spirit.

In the upcoming year, set aside some time away from the crushing wave of demands of daily life, to search for and gain some clarity about your Ikigai – your authentic self. Set aside some time every week to reflect, write in a journal, and ask yourself some of these questions. Take a course and explore a hidden passion;  create an authentic community – a coach, mentor, therapist, support group, or confidants – to help guide you to the truth about yourself and what you most desire to bring to the world. Don’t be concerned if you don’t get complete clarity. This is an ongoing, life-long process. What is important is persistent attention. Living authentically is a journey, not a destination.

In the words of Rainer Maria Rilke, the Austrian poet and novelist:

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart.  Try to love the questions themselves.  Do not seek the answers which cannot be given because you would not be able to live them.

And the point is to live everything, live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answers.