Integrity

On Leadership and Telling the Truth: Three Foundational Ways to Avoid Lying

Crossed Fingers

Unlike the torturous battles our leaders faced in the Vietnam POW camps, most of the battles we face as leaders aren’t physically painful.

But the emotional and mental battles to get results may seem equally challenging.

Leading Under Duress 

So, do you want to know the guiding force that kept my comrades and me unified while the enemy was trying to systematically divide and disable us?

It was the bond brought by our efforts to live up to the Military Code of Conduct, six articles articulated on a single page. Though most of us had memorized this code in our early training, we couldn’t have imagined what a critical role it would later play in our daily lives.

In my recent book, Leading with Honor, I shared that when we faced the cruelty of isolation, hunger, torture, and constant threats, this code was a powerful reminder to choose the harder right and serve with honor.

Ironically, now living in freedom, we see a growing stream of headlines and stories about dis-honorable behavior from every occupation and industry.

How can you fight to survive and win in your domain while honorably influencing others to lead and work in a spirit of unity?

Leadership Honor Code

To address this concern, our team at Leading with Honor developed an Honor Code that all leaders can use as a foundation for honorable leadership. It consists of seven articles that will help guide and unify your team or organization.

On the surface they may sound elementary and even easy, but if you are honest, you know how difficult it can be to live up to these simple principles.

Honor Code – Article 1

Think about the impact of leaders adopting this code and then courageously living these commitments.

Let’s take an in-depth look at Article 1:

Tell the truth even when it’s difficult. Avoid duplicity and deceitful behavior.

In its basic form, truth is foundational for science and law; without absolute truth in these disciplines, we couldn’t maintain or achieve more as a society. In less structured parts of society such as relationships, politics, business development, and others, we know that the absence of truth can lead to chaos and the decline of freedom and justice.

Clearly, duplicity, guile and deceit chip away at our freedom, as individuals, organizations, and as a society.

Most people grow as adults wanting to be known as honorable and trustworthy, even though ironically we naturally learn to lie as young “innocent” children without being taught.

After leading and managing people for more than 40 years, I can assure you that lying or misrepresenting the facts is always right beneath the surface. Usually it’s fear or pride that makes it raise its ugly head.

The Lie Generators

Having an awareness of this short list of common “lie generators” will help us guard our character.

  • Fear of Negative Consequences. Consider the many headlines of politicians, businessmen, religious leaders, doctors, lawyers, judges, teachers, coaches, pro athletes, media personalities and literally every role in society that lie when caught in a transgression.
  • Fear of Not Looking Good or Good Enough. Insecure people will lie to enhance or protect their image. There has been a lot of talk about this issue in the media recently, but the tendency to stretch or shade the truth is a commonly used protective strategy. The root issue is pride.
  • Fear of Losing. Using lies to promote oneself and smear others has become an accepted tactic in many areas of our society—especially politics. Where is the honor?
  • Ideological Spin. This problem uses a half-truth or lie to advance a cause. Our communist captors boldly declared that, “Truth is that which most benefits the party.” And on that basis, they routinely tortured POWs to sign false propaganda lies.

I’m sure you can think of many other situations where truth is trampled for expediency, but truth is resilient and eventually we reap what we sow.

Regardless of the daily opportunities to misrepresent the truth or lie, we must all remain vigilant and choose the truth to get the best results for us, our teams and our society.

Living The Honor Code

Here are three things you can do to promote Article 1 of the Honor Code –  

  1. Set the example by telling the truth even when it’s hard.
  2. Talk to others about why the truth is so critical to trust and organizational effectiveness.
  3. Bring out the truth to expose those who are telling lies.

What are your thoughts? What has been your experience? Please share them in this forum.

**********
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——————–
Lee Ellis

Lee Ellis is Founder & President of Leadership Freedom LLC & FreedomStar Media
He is a leadership consultant in teambuilding, executive development & assessments
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His latest book is called Leading with Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton.

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Good Reputation

Why Great Leaders Value Reputation Before Revenue

Good Reputation

In 1996, I walked away from my first million-dollar client. Anyone looking at my company’s profit and loss statements would have questioned my sanity. We were less than a year old at the time, and this was by far our highest-profile customer.

I made this seemingly crazy decision because I value my company’s reputation over its revenue.

On Practical Decision-Making

Many leaders rely on Excel spreadsheets to drive their decision-making. They think something is only worth doing if the numbers add up and the price is right. My company, on the other hand, uses a set of five core principles to gauge every business decision it makes:

  • Employees come first, always.
  • Work as a team; win as a team.
  • Reputation comes before revenue.
  • Commit to safety.
  • Make it happen!

So, What Comes First?

Our big client didn’t share any of these values with us. Further, he was overly harsh with my team members and set unrealistic expectations. Our weekly status meetings with him became sources of dread because it didn’t matter how well the previous week went; it was never good enough.

The entire office’s morale suffered, and I had to make a decision:

Do I put my principles first, or do I put my revenue first?

I quickly realized that if I put revenue first, there didn’t seem to be much of a point in having principles. If I sacrificed our core values in the name of profit, how could my team ever respect me or our values again?

The decision became easy — we walked away.

Money Is Fleeting; Reputation Is Forever

As leaders, we’re often tempted to compromise things — be it ethics, principles, or happiness — to maximize short-term profits. While compromise might immediately boost our portfolios, it doesn’t necessarily help build our reputations.

I’d argue that a company’s reputation is all that really matters, and having a good one is the only way to ensure long-term success. It’s the reason my company has so many great clients today, and it’s the reason they constantly refer new business to us.

This is a philosophy that was instilled in me during my youth in the Midwest. We had a folksier way to sum it up, though: “Pigs get fat, and hogs get slaughtered.” Everyone has a right to a living, but greed yields guaranteed downfalls — and I’m not interested in being a hog.

Thinking in the Long Term

The benefits of this approach aren’t just lasting. By removing immediate profits as sole drivers of business decisions, you’ll no longer be tempted to veer your company off course to accommodate difficult clients with deep pockets.

This will solidify your brand as a stable, upstanding, and moral institution — and that reputation alone will drive your growth today and tomorrow.

The great corporate scandals of the world (think Enron) typically involve companies that value short-term revenues over all other considerations. And what does that earn them? Bankruptcy, bad press, and possibly prison time.

Putting Principles Into Practice

Having personal principles is one thing, but having company-wide shared principles that guide every level of decision-making — from the corner office to the reception desk — is something that requires practice, patience, and communication.

Here are a few tips to help you instill this reputation-centric mindset into your company:

  • Provide Mentorship and Coaching

Look for opportunities to mentor, coach, and train your employees to make sure they have clear understandings of your company’s core values. Show them what it looks like, and feels like, to do the best quality work in your industry while maximizing your company’s reputation.

  • Ask Great Questions

There’s a management style called “inspect what you expect” that involves asking your employees quality questions to ensure the things you want completed are, in fact, being completed.

It’s a low-impact form of oversight that’s more trusting and less stressful than full-on micromanagement — and it will help you determine what’s going on outside the walls of your office.

  • Align Expectations

Meet with every employee and client to make sure they understand what your company is all about and how you got to where you are. Also provide them with a list of your core values, as well as specific examples of those values in action.

This will give everyone a clear understanding of what to expect, and it will also show employees how to exceed expectations.

  • Make Happiness Your Success Metric

Don’t look at your bottom line to assess whether your company had a good year. Instead, look at the quality of your work, the happiness of your employees, the contentment of your clients, and the state of your recurring revenue.

Don’t let that one difficult, deep-pocketed client turn your business into something it isn’t. If you stay true to the values near and dear to your heart, the right clients will find you.

**********
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——————–

Steve Randazzo

Steve Randazzo is the founder and president of Pro Motion Inc.
He has been serving 30+ years of experience in Experiential Marketing
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IDEA

You, The Truth and Nothing But Your Leadership!

IDEA

Is there anything new under the leadership sun?

With the wealth of information available to us about leadership—the sheer numbers of which have been well-covered in other L2L blog posts and myriad other sources—it would seem easy to answer this question in the affirmative.

In fact, this post is yet another example and becomes inexorably part of the statistic.

Recognizing that, in writing this, it is impossible to avoid falling into that trap, I still want to caution all of us not to jump too easily toward an answer we believe is nothing more than a blinding flash of the obvious. We also shouldn’t assume away the question as rhetorical or disregard the question as some sort of trick.

Grappling with the Answer

Leadership certainly appears to be among the most overused terms of the 21st Century, so much so that it begins to suffer the death of a thousand qualifications—rendering the term almost meaningless.

As I’ve written elsewhere:

“This isn’t all that surprising. With the rarity of real leaders, the preponderance of imaginary leaders-in-position and the sheer amount of new information mentioned earlier, most now tune out at a mere mention of the word Leadership.”

We can get so overwhelmed in trying to understand what leadership “is” or “looks like” that we either get lost in the shuffle or simply start shuffling along with the lost. The natural but dangerous side effect of this is that we never begin defining, describing or developing it on a personal level. Continuing a thought from the previous quote:

“[We’ve] already heard it all and have “had it up to here” with all the talk about leadership, so little effort is ever applied to defining it personally and little consensus is ever reached on how it should be defined organizationally.”

Recognizing Reality

Yet, as you search farther backward to examine the etymology of leadership or further inward to get at the essence of leadership, it really comes down to a personal recognition of two things:

  1. The limitless capacity of “born-in” potential as human becomings
  2. The limiting tendency of “made-in” performance as human beings

We are all born with unlimited potential for learning, changing, growing and leading, but there are myriad tendencies that inhibit our capacity for improving performance.

These include our orientations toward awareness, acceptance, action and achievement.

But the most interesting thing about the debate around whether leaders are born or made is that they both relate to a person, not to an impersonal idea or abstract concept. In fact, when questions of leadership are raised, they are either raised by a person or about a person.

Your Leadership Platform

And the questions are considered legitimate only because people have intrinsic value. And herein lays the secret…the hidden TRUTH to anything new in leadership.

If you really want to create something new when it comes to leadership, try building (or refurbishing) your own leadership platform.

In fact, I’ve become convinced that the only way something new in leadership can truly emerge is when individuals—unique in time past, present and future—start answering the questions they are asking. If we really want to understand what Leadership looks like, we need to look in the mirror.

We need to honestly describe or define who we are as a leader, and be open to accept feedback from what others observe and feel when they evaluate our leadership.

This is not easy, however, because as Ravi Zacharias puts it, in any interplay between a person and information, the first test is not the veracity of the information, but the truthfulness of the person.

Avoiding the Pitfalls

It’s easy to think that the “person” mentioned in the last statement is the one providing the feedback. While it may be true that some will not provide honest feedback due to their own hang-up’s, I’ve found that most will give you straight talk, but only if they believe you:

  1. are genuinely interested in them and what they have to say,
  2. have demonstrated that you are serious about getting better at who you are and what you do as a leader, and
  3. will never hide, hurl, blame or retaliate—otherwise known as defensive misattribution of failure—when the uncomfortable information is presented.

Indeed! There are a lot of conditions to whether or not you’ll get at the “new information” about your leadership that is yet to be written or revealed. But there is an even bigger danger lurking in the shadows, poised to jump out and stop-you-up-short when it comes to truly learning, changing or growing as a leader: defensive misattribution of success.

The defensive misattribution of success occurs when personal leadership success (e.g., “how I got this job in the first place” or “why I’m the boss and you’re not”) is attributed inappropriately to the very behaviors that are causing incredible damage through the persecution of people, process and profit, ultimately deteriorating long-term organizational performance.

Understanding the Implications

Robert Cooke and Janet Szumal, Human Synergistics International, include a great organization-level expansion and exposition for this unfortunate reality in their Chapter 9 contribution to the Handbook of Organizational Culture and Climate (Ashkanasy, Vilderom, Peterson; 2000). They contend that the defensive mis-attribution of success occurs when organizational success is attributed to a Defensive culture when instead it is substantial resources and/or minimal demands that account for the success currently enjoyed by the organization.

“Organizations with strong franchises, munificent environments, extensive patents and copyrights, and/or massive financial resources are likely to perform adequately, at least in the short-term and possibly even over the long term, if environmental pressures for innovation, adaptation, or flexibility remain minimal.”

In such cases, they say that managers can “get away with” creating an Aggressive/Defensive and/or Passive/Defensive organizational culture. Worse yet, it is almost guaranteed—thanks to attribution theory and self-serving biases—that these managers will credit the Defensive culture that they created (or inadvertently allowed to emerge) as being the source of their organization’s effectiveness.

Sadly, this holds back anything new when it comes to the real creative potential of leadership and keeps the organization locked in yesterday. Cooke and Szumal conclude this section of the book as follows:

“Although the impact of culture may be overshadowed by the impacts of resources and demands, Constructive norms would nevertheless enhance the performance of these organizations, increase their adaptability, and protect them from being blind-sided by forceful and unanticipated environmental changes.”

Breaking Free to Newness

The good news for all of us is that there is a way out. There is a means by which we can find newness in leadership. It is a simple but difficult journey for all who endeavor, but it will produce the kind of performance that all of us are after.

All that is required is you, the truth and nothing but your leadership.

**********
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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders
———————–
Richard Dillard, PMP, SSBB, ABD 7.1

Richard S. Dillard is an Author, Speaker and Performance Solutions Executive
He is invested in building personal and organizational Leadership Platforms
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Leadership and Conflict: Deal With It Now or Pay For It Later

No one likes conflict (no one normal, at least). The feeling your body gets when it knows you have to address the awkward situations, the humongous elephant in the living room, or the long dreaded “talk.”

Dealing with conflict can sap the energy out of you, increase your stress, decrease your performance and your productivity.

In some cases, experiencing conflict can make you feel down right ill.

Labels and Leadership

It’s funny how some people are labeled or referred to as conflict – when in reality no one (in their right mind) would say they are conflict chasers. So now that I’ve merely reinforced what you already knew about conflict (that it stinks); why in the world am I writing about the importance of dealing with it?

My answer is simple; dealing with conflict is a mandatory part of leadership.

The Danger of Not Dealing with Conflict

Conflict can be like a virus; it will continue to aggressively spread as long as it is unattended to or passively addressed. As leaders we cannot afford to take passive approaches to dealing with conflict, nor can we avoid conflict and escape it’s impact.

As a good friend said recently,  “Let’s face it, awkward conversations are awkward. There’s never a time when they will not be awkward.”

This is often the approach many take when it comes to dealing with conflict;  I call this the “wait for the right time approach.” With this type of thinking, we convince ourselves that we’re trying to do what’s best by being considerate of the situation. Look I’m not saying be inconsiderate and ignore opportunities to best handle situations.  What I am saying is handle the situation! And handle it as quickly and diligently as possible.

When conflict is left unattended or avoided, it usually spreads its influence,  increases its intensity,  and deepens its complexity. Much like forest fires, un-addressed conflict will continue to cause more damage while becoming more difficult to handle.

Seeing Conflict from a Leader’s Perspective

While there are serious dangers to un-addressed or avoided conflict; a leader must also see conflict in the way that few are able to see it; as a necessary part of progress and growth. Leaders must remember that although conflict should not go unattended or avoided, it should also not be prevented.

Let me clarify: Conflict for conflict sake should be prevented and avoided at all cost because there is nothing of value in that.

However,  conflict for the sake of going through the healthy friction necessary for developing clarity and cohesiveness is essential to any team or organization. I have seen leaders and groups suffer because they did not understand this concept. They would have conflict, not deal with it, experience the consequences of doing nothing, and as a result try to prevent future conflicts from happening (which usually created conflicts anyway).

As a leader you must be able to recognize healthy conflict and unhealthy conflict AND be committed to addressing them appropriately and in a timely manner.

Practical/ Unorthodox Ways of Dealing with Conflict

1. On the count of 3. 1…2…3…GO!

If you find yourself avoiding and constantly putting it off. Don’t give yourself time to thinking about it..do it! Schedule a text message to request a time to speak with the person or better yet, just hit send now! Or pick up the phone and just dial their number and don’t give yourself time think about it (you’ll have enough thinking to do when they pick up). While there could a right time, there’s rarely ever a perfect time.

2. Create a Healthy Culture for Awkward Conversations

Have team members learn and practice critically critiquing team ideals and approaches together. Recognize and encourage individuals who ask the tough questions and constructively test the status quo of thinking. Pass on the mantra, “An awkward conversation will always be awkard…get use to never getting use to it.”

3. Allow Passion a Voice in the Room

Often people who engage in conflict are aggressive and passionate about their thoughts and views. Recognize passionate people’s passion, tell them that you value what they have to say because you value that they care.

Often this can reduce tension in the room because overly passionate people often don’t think people hear them or care about the issue as much as they do. This will help them see that you’re not enemies, but teammates fighting for the same cause

4. Address Conflict In a Solution Oriented Manner

Too often people say they’ve addressed conflict among team members or people by mentioning the issue publicly in an announcement to the group. This is talking about conflict not addressing conflict.

The goal is not to say, “I said something about it” but to see the conflict resolved to the best of your abilities.

Usually this means first addressing individuals on an one on one basis where dialog can take place.  In the context there should be more questions than statements being made to the individual with the goal of getting as much context about the situation as possible. Keep details of conversations confidential which allow people to really talk.

Address and correct accordingly, but leave the room valuing the individual no less as a result of your talk. This approach shows your personal care and your professionalism, which will help individuals see the importance and the benefit of addressing issues well.

Remember, dealing with conflict is one of the non-negotiables of leadership. Deal with them now, so you don’t have to pay for them later. I only prefer to pay for things that I actually want; I can assure you that conflicts are not on my wish list.

So I choose to deal with them instead!

So how do you deal with conflict as a leader? Do you tend to avoid it at all cost? Or do you tend to deal with it quickly? What are some ways that you can learn to better deal with conflict in the workplace that will yield better performance by everyone? I would love to hear your thoughts!

******

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———————–
Dr. Tommy Shavers

Dr. Tommy Shavers is President of Tommy Speak LLC. and Unus Solutions Inc.
His lenses are Teamwork, Leadership, and Communication
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