Building a Foundation for Character with Organizational Guiding Principals

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Guiding principles, or values, lay the foundation of character for every organization. A wide variety of people make up organizations, coming from different backgrounds, and bringing different personal and cultural values to the group. An organization’s guiding principles establish what things are important for the organization. Successful organizations establish and ingrain compliance with their guiding principles through training. Using a daily or weekly meeting is an easy way to train employees about the organizations principles.

Let’s say the organization has three guiding principles; loyalty, quality customer service, and finding winning solutions for everyone. Supervisors hold meetings every Monday with their staff. In addition to the regular items, modified_meeting_torimiddelstadt_uaf-school-of-managementthe supervisor includes one of the guiding principles on the first Monday of the month. The supervisor provides the company’s definition of the principles and facilitates a discussion about ways employees can incorporate behaviors into their work lives to live up to the principle. This week they discuss loyalty. The conversation includes loyalty to the company, the smaller group, customers, and shareholders. The meeting breaks and employees go about their work.

During the week the leader moves about the work area looking for opportunities to recognize behaviors that comply with loyalty issues discussed during the weekly meeting. The leader notices a technician on the phone who appears to be talking with a customer. He tells the customer how much he appreciates his loyalty by sticking with company. He explains that he cannot do the repair work for free but will research a discount because of his loyalty.

During the next Monday meeting, the supervisor continues the discussion on loyalty. He starts the conversation by telling the story of the technician who found a way to stay true to the company while rewarding customer loyalty. Next he goes around the room asking others for stories of things they did during the previous week to live the principle of loyalty. Not everyone had a story, but all participated in the conversation. He also facilitated a conversation about how their views of loyalty changed during the week as they focused on different ways to be loyal to all the company stakeholders. The conversation was lively. Eventually the supervisor had to cut them off so they could conduct the business of the company.

The following week, the leader may start the loyalty discussion by telling a story of an experience he had where the principle was the focus of the situation. He opens the floor for others to tell stories. One way to ensure there will be some discussion is to have a chat with one or two employees during the week ending by asking them to share their story at the next weekly meeting.

On the fourth Monday, the group engages in a conversation wrapping what they have learned about loyalty. Again there should be time to allow story telling of application of the principle, but the conversation should shift to lessons learned and how to apply them. Using these steps allows people to be taught about an idea, followed with examples of how to use the idea and concludes by them practicing what they learned. The discussion allows corrections to be made so everyone becomes better and also recognizes behaviors meeting expectations for the particular guiding principle.

On the first Monday of the next month the supervisor introduces the next guiding principle, quality customer service. He follows the same format during the month when they learned about loyalty. The employees are told about quality customer service. They are shown examples of quality customer service. They try and report on their efforts. They are praised for success and coached to improve when they fall short of the standard. The process is repeated the next month for the finding winning solutions principle.

Change up things after going through the guiding principles once . Ask one of the employees in the group to lead themodified_geese-flying_john-johnson conversation when you return to the first guiding principle. Allow that employee to discuss and introduce the guiding principle. She could lead the conversations about how others engaged in behaviors exemplifying the principle. Repeating the process instills a deeper understanding of each principle and allows employees to further ingrain that principle into their daily lives. As new employees come on board, they learn not only how things are done, but why.

Creating organizational change is difficult. Helping employees improve their understanding of an organization’s guiding principles is one step leading to change. As employees begin to live the principles of the organization, the culture changes. Reinforcing each lesson through reflection of behaviors supporting compliance with organizational principles ensures lasting change. Employees see how small changes improve working conditions and organizational cohesion. Focusing attention on a guiding principle at daily or weekly meetings results in easily training teams about each principle. Try it at your next group meeting.

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Photo Credits

All photos from Flickr.com with Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Granite wall by Wolfgang Tonschmidt, cropped by author

Group meeting by Tori Middelstadt at UAF School of Management, modified by author

Geese by John Johnson, modified by author

Depth on the Leadership Bench

Everyone recognized Sally and Bill were great leaders. Sally led of her group for six years. Bill ran his group for two years under Sally’s leadership. Sally groomed Bill in the preceding year to replace her. After she moved on, Bill easily assumed the leadership position and started looking for his replacement.teambench-fraser-mummery Developing employees into leaders prepares organizations for both attrition and unexpected opportunities. Both Bill and Sally understood the importance of developing their next leaders for continued organizational growth and sustainment of excellence.

Many supervisors are managers rather than leaders. They are not entirely to blame. Often they were never taught how to be leaders. Why should anyone expect them to be able to teach others how to lead. Managers manage resources; leaders lead people. If an organization only views their employees as resources, they manage rather than lead them. The result is poor performance, crisis after crisis, failure to complete projects, customer dissatisfaction, and lack of growth. Failing to groom today’s managers to become leaders begins a downward spiral in leadership. Supervisors who are not exposed to leadership principals cannot pass them down to their rising stars and the bench becomes weaker.

Organizations choosing to develop leaders sometimes loose rising stars to other organizations because of the lessons they learned. Often those leaders stay even when offered more money or other incentives. They recognize organizations that value leadership through training have more to offer than money. When one star moves on, the boss turns to the bench to replace the loss. Organizations that teach leadership never have a shortage of qualified leaders. They are always looking two or three levels down selecting and training their future leaders. They have depth on the bench so the loss of one quality person does not cripple the rest of the organization. These organizations recognize developing future leaders is the most important thing they do.

leaderropes-nelohotsumaOne up and coming leader recognized the importance of developing young leaders. He examined everything the new guys and gals needed to know. He recognized it would take hundreds of hours to teach them everything. He faced a choice to move forward teaching a little at a time, or to become overwhelmed by the size of the task and quit. He decided to start small, directing three of his proteges to read an article on leadership. The following week he brought them to lunch to discuss what they learned and what ways they could apply those lessons to their own activities.

At the end of the meeting, the manager handed out three copies of the latest book on leadership theory. He challenged them all to read it in a month and gave them a date for their next lunch together. He assigned one of the younger rising stars to facilitate the next discussion. Over the course of the month, the manager met with the young woman to check her reading progress. He taught her how to facilitate the discussion at the next meeting. She did a great job resulting in the other two employees begging for a chance to run the next session. Before long, the manager’s leader development program was recognized across the organization as a model for success. Soon the leader and his followers each were selected for other leadership assignments. The big boss looked at the bench and picked someone to replace each of them and continue the cycle one little step at a time.

Leadership development can be as simple or complected as one wants to make it. Starting slowly allows the organization and its current leaders to find what works. Whether you train your people or not, some stay and some accept other opportunities. Training your future leaders today ensures your bench has depth for the future. When one person leaves, you can bet there will be someone waiting to step up to the challenge knowing they will have the training and support necessary to succeed. In order to experience continued organizational growth and sustainment of excellence, organizations must develop their next level leaders’ skills to develop depth on their bench.

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Photo Credits:

1BN Boxing Team-Fraser Mummery from http://www.flickr.com/photos/73014677@N05/8491853894/in/photolist-dWoYj3-nP6dus-eTVQZn-nFA2Z9-88jr2T-8TLXPF-dUdUqs-9LsNd7-dU8iYa-dUdQwC-n5kvSj-8YcqLU-a1YCNe-dU8cMD-4n4HcF-4CPZhg-eaFCpK-dPgkkg-fCdH6m-fEfvJu-nFFVgg-5KAmwB-8ktTwC-e36jea-hE5oza-49HGS-fAzYDB-4CUy9J-bempLr-8kqWBn-nP7dAM-f7HJ24-8RF5To-rv5yd-dU8jjk-a2QE3r-8tihQC-GYc1M-9uwcTm-dUdQ5Y-oL3fTH-dU8hia-8ku5Rw-8kqUgt-ahCwjp-aVheZ-dM7t9r-Bo2Y4E-fCWz4n-deEtb9 cropped by author

 

Both photos used under Creative Commons license

Positive Peers

OldWatch.C.Guthier   In the last year I have had the honor of attending several retirement ceremonies for people I consider to be friends and great leaders. As I listened to my friends’ remarks during their retirement speeches, I realized how important peer leaders are to those who strive for continuous improvement and change. With the proper spirit of competition, support and cooperation, quality peers encourage you to become better than you are. It is easy to point to a current or former boss who provided a few words of wisdom, spent some time mentoring you or introducing you to some powerful people as sources of inspiration. Often we overlook the inspiration provided by those we work with and against every day. John Maxwell has long endorsed the 360 degree leader. Many have written about competition improving results. In many ways peer leaders may be more important in our personal growth as leaders than our bosses.

One common area peers are recognized as improving other organizational leaders is through competition. The peer may be your equal in another organization in the same industry courting the same customers, or within your organization leading a similar group. Their accomplishments provide inspiration to improve your own performance. Keeping up with or staying ahead of the competition, especially a friendly competition, encourages people to evaluate what the competition does well, which practices we can adapt and adopt, and identify improvements for performance ahead of them. Such continuous improvements start the momentum Gary Collins talks about in his book, Good to Great.Peers

Another area peers help fellow leaders improve is by providing support. Support may come in a variety of ways and reasons. You may find a former competitor now works for your organization and understands the importance of your success because it translates into success for everyone. Your peer may have moved on to another organization working in a completely different field; however provides support because of your past relationship. Other members of your network maybe able to point you to an expert or service that meets your needs. Sometime their support results in a mutual benefit, many times there is no directly benefit.

Your peers may find they need your cooperation to accomplish their mission or you need theirs. Cooperation requires trust and confidence in the skills of the other. Completing a project together improves relationships and greases the wheels for future ventures. When two or more people or groups of people work to develop something new, and all the players do their part, the completed product often exceeds the quality for the same product produced by an individual. You have a good idea to make something work. Your peer adds to the idea and makes it better. Through cooperation both win and the organization completes its mission.

Developing a network of peer leaders helps you improve in many ways. Associating with other successful leaders improves your attitude, expands your sphere of influence, increases available resources and inspires you to accomplish more than you could on your own. Developing positive relationships with others allows each to provide support and cooperation today, yet compete against each other tomorrow. Developing positive relationships with peer leaders is its own reward. Acrimonious relationships make for a lonely retirement. Positive relationships fill your life with good friends and good times. The next time the guy running the shop across the hall knocks on the door looking for help, or stops to brag about his latest accomplishment, take the opportunity to improve yourself and become a better leader.

Thanks to those of you who have helped make me a better leader and a better person.


 

Photo Credits:

Watch photo:  Christian Guthier from flickr.com Creative Commons License

Soccer photo: author

Suggested Reading:

The 360 Degree Leader by John Maxwell,

Good to Great by John Collins

They’ve Got You Now…

At the end of Heartbreak Ridge, GSG Highway turns to CPL Jones and says something like “They don’t need me anymore, besides they got you now.” This is truly an impressive quote on many levels. Many would argue that the main character in this movie is an ideal mentor or role model, but others would argue he is the very definition of as a Level 5 Leader. One of the benefits of this discussion and analysis is that the Gunny is a fictional character and not a real person, but tDSC00585he military is full of commissioned and non-commissioned officers who are less than perfect yet meet the definition of a Level 5 Leader. This article seeks to identify why the military successfully develops so many leaders who meet this definition.

Before looking at the reasons the military generates so many great leaders, a review of Level 5 Leadership in in order. At least two authors have discussed five levels of leadership, Jim Collins and John Maxwell. Collins’ five levels appear to receive the most attention, but a comparison between both author’s writings demonstrate similar ideas for each level.

Level 5 Leaders build enduring greatness by placing the needs of the organization above their own. They blend humility with personal will-power influencing others to accomplish great things. They do the things that need doing establishing demanding standards. They do not expect perfection but rather demand excellence & continuous improvement. They bask in the reflected glory of the spotlight of success focused on those they lead. They create sustainable leadership development programs ensuring organizational success long after they leave. Level 5 Leaders are well respected attracting others who want to follow them.

While purely fictional, the actions of Gunny Highway are exaggerated but typical of many military leaders. They are humble about their achievements by acknowledging the fact they could have only achieved success through the efforts of their followers. They set high standards and expect others to meet them not occasionally, but every day. They accomplish those things that need doing whether pleasant or distasteful. They demand their followers achieve excellence and continuously improve their performance. They provide junior leaders opportunities to lead, allowing them to make mistakes, hold them accountable and permit them to try again until they succeed. These actions set an example for those future leaders to follow when promoted.

Gunny Highway’s first impression of Jones and the other members of the platoon was unfavorable. He established high standards and through his will-power influenced them to achieve those standards and succeed. The platoon went from being the laughing stock of the post to a well-respected organization capable of meeting any challenge presented. He developed other leaders such as Jones and his Lieutenant who tripped when presented problems, but learned the value of adapting, improvising and overcoming to achieve success.

At the end of the day, it was Highway and his platoon were not favorable. Previous leaders allowed them to slack off becoming regarded as a bunch of out-of-control misfits who could never succeed let along achieve excellence. Highway know one day their lives could be at stake and pushed them to achieve and exceed military standards. After an emergency deployment to rescue stranded Americans it was Highway’s platoon on the top of the hill after enduring several battles and receiving the accolades of their commander. In true Level 5 fashion, Gunny denied having accomplished much, but rather thrust his followers into the spotlight. He was humble, demonstrated tremendous will-power, set high standards, developed others, expected continuous improvement from previous excellent results and set up his unit for continued greatness for years after his retirement. Who knows, in 20 years Gunny Jones could be the one leading the charge, achieving success and passing the glory onto a well-mentored Corporal when the Commanding General teleports to that forward position. Hooah!