Today’s post is the featured article from the May 2013 issue of The Front Porch Newsletter. If you would like to automatically receive The Front Porch e-newsletter on the last Thursday of each month just click here to sign-up for your complimentary subscription They were the perfect companions for Dorothy ... the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Lion. They were great friends throughout her journey. You might say they were not only who she needed ... they were also precisely what she needed. What I didn't realize, until today, was that Dorothy's friends were also a perfect formula. In some ways, I might even say they were actually three-in-one. While I loved all three of them, the Lion was my favorite. You might have had your favorite too! I was reminded of the Lion as I was recently thinking about courage. The issue of courage was on my mind because, if I've said it once I've said it a hundred times, "having courage is a critical element of any executive building a culture based on intentional core values." I thought, for any leader, that building value with values takes patience, persistence ... and especially courage. But I must admit ... I was wrong! Or at least I had it backwards. Building and leading a culture built on intentional personal and organizational core values doesn't take courage ... it gives courage! That's why Dorothy's friends were the perfect formula ... and why she met them in the perfect order. You may have realized this all along, but my eyes were recently opened to this when I decided to seek-out a precise definition of courage. One definition described it this way: The quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear. It is a pretty simple formula. Mind + Spirit = Courage You could say that the Scarecrow's brain and the Tin Man's heart were critical elements in enabling the Lion to find courage. If you think back to the movie, you might recall numerous scenes where the Scarecrow and the Tin Man were looking after the Lion ... trying to encourage him! In the end, it would be the sum of all three that would provide precisely what Dorothy needed. It seems that the yellow brick road was a pathway ... a roadmap ... that every effective leader needs to follow. Just follow the yellow-brick road! Notice it doesn't say lead down the yellow brick road. It says follow. To find what Dorothy was searching for, she first needed to personally "discover" the experience by following down the path that would reveal it to her. It makes for a very practical analogy of what every insightful leader must do. Unlike, many other organizational frameworks that executive teams bestow upon their "troops" ... this one must first be personally lived. Dorothy had to walk the path with her friends. She couldn't stand back giving directions and wait for everyone to come back with the solution. When it comes to intentionally building a culture based on meaningful values ... the leader has to allow themselves to be vulnerable and willing to personally walk the path. Fully utilizing their brain and their heart they will discover at their core exactly what they know they need. They will find who they are ... and in doing, so courage will find them. Like Dorothy and her friends, every leader will face what seems to be overwhelming odds. Evil, temptation and others in power with misguided motives will make the journey more difficult. But, with what the brain and the heart provide, the leader will persevere with courage. Ironically, Dorothy discovered she had what she needed all along. So does every leader. It is already at their core simply waiting to be discovered. As I sit deep into the writing of ROI: Return on Integrity (release March 2014) I am more convinced than ever that the most impactful, untapped, strategic resource at any leader's disposal is already within them ... and within the organizations they lead. But, like Dorothy, they have to be vulnerable enough to personally take the first step down a long and winding road. The Yellow Brick Road was unlike any complicated organizational development methodology. And notice how Dorothy didn't ask about the proof of others who had gone down this path before her. She just took the first step forward without comparative metrics and measurements ... simply reminding herself ... just follow the Yellow Brick Road. Follow the Yellow Brick Road! While it wasn't complicated, it certainly wasn't easy. Neither is the path to building value with core values. It starts with each C-level leader taking the first vulnerable step ... followed by using their brain and heart to discover their personal and organizational core. Once discovered, there will be no reason to look for courage. As each leader personally follows the path, an ever-increasing sense of courage will find them. Ironically, it is there, that every leader finds it was their vulnerable willingness to personally follow ... that gives them exactly what they need to truly lead.
Today’s post is the featured article from the April 2013 issue of The Front Porch Newsletter. If you would like to automatically receive The Front Porch e-newsletter on the last Thursday of each month just click here to sign-up for your complimentary subscription When was the last time you received truly genuine service? I'm not talking about the mechanical or scripted service that has become so common in places where service exists at all. You know when you have been "servicized" by someone. They are following the process, the methodology ... the script. Genuine service is not a process. It is a human connection. Even if it's for only a moment ... it is a moment of truth. And it is about fully being in that moment. I recently experienced some incredible service while speaking for a national conference at the "W" Hotel at Lake Shore Drive in Chicago. I had arrived quite early to set-up and get settled long before the participants arrived. Over the course of the next 30-minutes, four of the "W" staff created a moment of truth with incredible service. Each introduced themselves and, with eye-to-eye connection, told me their role and sincerely inquired if they could do anything to help me. I had a couple requests to which they seemed glad I did. Not only did my request not feel like an inconvenience, they made me feel like it gave them the opportunity to do what they wanted to do ... to serve me. A culture of genuine service costs an organization nothing. Yet it changes everything ... for everyone. I remember, in high school, I worked for a grocery store in Memphis called Pic-Pac. There were days I really enjoyed showing up. But, I must admit, there were days I really didn't want to show-up at all. I could easily sense the days I didn't want to be there and always had a plan to alter that perspective. I intentionally made an extra effort to smile, give eye-to-eye contact and serve every customer that was coming through my check-out line. It never failed ... within 30-minutes of punching the clock I was thoroughly enjoying being there. Genuine service serves the server as well as the served. You might say it goes full circle. A process or methodology to "servicize" someone rarely goes anywhere ... or serves anyone. Genuine service is not a step. It is an expression. It is a desire that is expressed from the core of the server. The most sophisticated methodology of service, executed well, will always fall flat when it is disconnected from the core of the server. Genuine service is a matter of our core. Not a core process, but a core value. The more aware and connected an individual becomes to their core values, the more likely they are to create an authentic experience of service. Our core values become the driver for each moment of truth. Each serviceable situation becomes an opportunity to express something that is at our core. Yet, we can't express what we are specifically unaware of. Unfortunately, it seems, most people don't know the specifics of their core values. It is, therefore, no surprise that I continually hear people complaining about the lack of service they receive "these days" ... or the expression of complete wonder when they happen to stumble upon genuine service as if it were a precious stone of some kind. Service is precious, but it shouldn't be rare. Genuine service is not what you do to someone. It is about what you do with someone. It can only originate from who you are. Processes, procedures, a fake smile and artificial energy will never create genuine service. It will, at best, create an efficient, yet not effective, transaction. We are wired for service if we connect the wires. Processes and methodologies get better by working on processes and methodologies. Genuine service only happens by working on the core ... your personal core. I can't tell you that the incredible service I received at the "W" hotel was the result of each staff member being connected to their core. I wish I had called them out on it. I know it was somewhat part of a process because each staff member approached me in precisely the same way. What I do know, had it been wired directly to their core, it would have gone from incredible to incredibly genuine. And that would have been ... priceless! It's time to wire-up for genuine service. It serves everyone well when we do.
Today’s post is the featured article from the March 2013 issue of The Front Porch Newsletter. If you would like to automatically receive The Front Porch e-newsletter on the last Thursday of each month just click here to sign-up for your complimentary subscription There has been a lot written about trust in the last decade. It is probably a systemic reflection of the lack of trust that has evolved. You might say there is some rust in our trust. Some great wisdom has been shared in these recent writings. I especially gained valuable insight in the works by Stephen M.R. Covey (The Speed of Trust) and my good friend, Joe Healey (Radical Trust). Stephen's subtitle reveals the value of his work ... The One Thing that Changes Everything. Likewise, Joe's subtitle does the same ... How Today's Great Leaders Convert People to Partners. Both works reflect the imperative nature of trust. Just over a decade ago, I wrote a cover story article titled Searching to Find Trust Again. A lot had happened in the months just preceding writing that article. There had been Enron, Worldcom and the related implosion of Arthur Andersen. We had witnessed the unthinkable on September 11th and the largest US airline declaring bankruptcy for the first time. In the same preceding months, news broke from the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston of a sex-abuse scandal that would spread beyond anyone's imagination. So many examples coming week after week that would so visibly erode the very nature of trust. You might say we were getting RUSTworthy. As I wrote that article, my hope would be that there was a point where you could draw a line in the sand and begin to search for trust again. My prayers would be that there were mistakes made and powerful lessons learned on many fronts. I suppose those have been the hopes and prayers of many generations. The narrative of the decade to follow would not bring fulfillment to my hopes and prayers but it would not diminish them either. It just made me think there was something more than trust. It wasn't until I started writing GOOD to the CORE, years later, that I fell into the answer. It would be this issue of core values ... personal and organizational. Every event that has diminished trust can be traced to the rusting of the core. That is if the core ever existed to begin with. I would fully agree with Covey's potent formula of character + competency = trust. I believe this is true on both an individual and organizational level. Yet, it is precisely core values that drive this formula on all levels. Core values make your metal rust-proof. And where there is no rust ... you will generally find trust. Left unnoticed, rust will attack the constructive design of any metal. Unless it grabs your immediate attention (and you respond with immediate corrective action), it creates a destructive path of no return. We can't just desire trust. Nor can we demand it. We can certainly give it away ... but there is no such gift that rust won't eventually destroy. We have to deeply desire to work on the fabric of trust. And it is work. It is inspiring work, but it is work. Core values are the work of great leaders. I am fully convinced when leaders deeply embrace the hard work of core values you will rarely find rust. I also find that it takes a bold and courageous leader ... who is willing to lose everything for the sake of intentionally defined core values! There you will find an organization that gains everything. For leaders, I had typically thought of this as a process of discovery. But recently, I went back and re-read my own article on Searching to find Trust Again. It was there I realized, for many leaders, it isn't a process of discovery at all. It is a process of re-discovery! My daughters, Kelly and Julie, will graduate from college in June and December respectively. That means when I wrote this article they were only in the fifth and fourth grades. As part of writing the article, I decided to do a little "trust" experiment with them. I simply asked them to make a list of descriptions of a great friend ... the kind of friend you could really trust. Their combined elementary school list amazed me: 1. Keeps secrets (i.e. respects confidentiality) 2. Helps me when I'm hurting or don't understand something 3. Doesn't leave me behind 4. Doesn't lie 5. Helps people who don't have many friends 6. Cheerful 7. Giving 8. Kind-hearted 9. Loving 10. Listens to what you have to say Like a carefully refined metal, trustworthiness is fired into us. For we have always known ... we started that way! As a leader, the important question is ... will you end that way? Rust finds metal ... not vice-versa. Leaders who personally do the work of rediscovery, and lead their organizations to do the same, will soon discover they have nurtured trust in a genuine way. Rust will simply have to find another home.
Today’s post is the featured article from the February 2013 issue of The Front Porch Newsletter. If you would like to automatically receive The Front Porch e-newsletter on the last Thursday of each month just click here to sign-up for your complimentary subscription Maybe there is some truth to practice-makes-perfect. Or at least it makes it better. It certainly rings true when it comes to core values. Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers, noted that we master a skill after 10,000 hours of practicing the skill. Core values take practice. Core values are not a skill. They are much deeper and richer than a skill. Skills are what we do. Core values are who we are. Our core values have the potential to transform our entire individual experience ... and our collective experience in an organization. But it doesn't happen just because we consider ourselves value-based. And it doesn't happen just because we sit in a room and brainstorm a list (either individually for our own life ... or as the leadership team of an organization). It doesn't happen because we put them in our day-planner, or in Outlook, or frame them on a wall. It happens because we practice. Core values only become realized through intentional practice. And it would appear that it takes a lot of practice! Some research would say we develop a new habit after 21 days of continually repeating the motions of the desired habit. If that were the case, then core values could actually be the "flavor-of-the-month" and it would have sticking power. In fact, we would have an extra 9 days of additional assurance that the habit would be formed. We could only wish it was so easy. Core values are not habits. But ultimately they do drive action. Once our values are clear we can begin to brainstorm what they look like in action in our current situation ... at work, at home and in our community. Our core values are not designed to change from one arena to another arena in our life. We only get one core ... and it goes with us everywhere we go. Each arena, however, gives us a chance to express our core values in a unique way. Once our core values come into focus, it becomes important for us to creatively think about what those values might look like in action. Once we can picture the action, then we have a template on which to begin to practice. It is unlikely that we will immediately get it right. That is why it is called practice. That is why actors and athletes and musicians all practice ... so they can get it right for when it really counts. In a conversation with Jerry Poras (coauthor with Jim Collins on Built to Last) I think he appropriately pointed out that we really know our core values when we come to a decision point in a crisis or very difficult situation ... and up to that point it is simply a theory. I immediately agreed but then added ... I just think that moment is a horrible time to figure out what those core values are. He agreed! We practice day-in and day-out for that moment. In the meantime, as we practice, core values begin to transform our day-to-day actions ... and the transformation of our day-to-day actions begins to transform who we are. In turn, thousands of amazing simple moments are created along the way. It is the collective nature of these individual moments that begin to transform the culture of an organization. Each moment becomes the practice ... the practice for a major moment. The practice for that major crisis ... which ultimately, from a values perspective, becomes no crisis at all. It is just another moment. There is no difficult decision ... for our well-practiced values clarify the decision for us. Practice is rarely glamorous. But it is necessary. I am sure, however, that any actor, any athlete, or any musician will tell you there have been some magical moments they have experienced "in practice." It is where relationships are built and break-throughs are realized. It is this concept of "practice" that might well explain why most organizational core value initiatives never take-hold. Or why they become a passing flavor-of-the-month. It does no good to name something that you aren't committed to persistently practice. This starts with the highest levels of leadership and permeates throughout the organization. Practice may not make perfect ... but it sure goes a long way in creating a "value-able" experience. Core values do create value when they are practiced. This is a "no-cut" sport ... for those willing to practice. For those who are not ... they eliminate themselves from what is possible. Let your practice begin! If, at first, you drop the ball ... just pick it up. Have patience with yourself. It's only the first hour. We have plenty of time ... in fact, another 9,999 hours to go before you will likely master it! And it is there where your persistence will make the difference.
Today’s post is the featured article from the January 2013 issue of The Front Porch Newsletter. If you would like to automatically receive The Front Porch e-newsletter on the last Thursday of each month just click here to sign-up for your complimentary subscription Sometimes you choose a focus. And sometimes a focus chooses you. I have never understood this more fully than when it comes to my focus on core values. As in building value with core values. I'm not sure I would have actually chosen core values as a focus. In some cases you don't have a choice. You simply have a response. And it is quite different than choosing ... for a response is a reaction to having been chosen. It might sound a little vague or confusing. Sometimes it can be. And sometimes it's not. Usually "the choice" finds you right where you are ... and simply waits for your response. For me, it wasn't just another lunch along my journey of living my dream in the world of professional speaking. I suppose it could have been. Instead, it was one of those defining moments. I'm not sure Mac Andersen (founder of Simple Truths) or I had intended it to be. Most defining moments aren't intended. They eventually just become apparent. As a publisher, Mac had decided he wanted Simple Truths to do a book on "building value with core values." He asked me if I would consider authoring such a book with them. He thought I was a good fit ... which felt like a nice compliment whether it was intended or not. That was until I eventually said "yes" and sat in front of a blank computer screen to start writing. The journey didn't begin there. It was just where I took my first step. And I didn't respond there ... because I had no idea a "choice" was in-play. Not to choose, but to be chosen. I just began to type ... and focus. Focus can lead to clarity ... and sometimes clarity reveals to you that some things are not real clear. As in the "black and white" kind of clear. Yet a persistent intuition pushes you forward into a complete fog as you are very slowly ushered towards a reality that a "choice" will soon be waiting your response. And so it has been with my increasing laser focus on core values. As drafts and more drafts turned into an edited manuscript and eventually a book titled GOOD to the CORE, I had to individually come to grips with the question I had asked my readers ... do you believe? In other words, do you believe core values really build value? I thought it was a question that deserved an honest answer. Ironically, I realized the answer resided within me ... not within the question. And the answer to the question resides in every leader as well. It is not a choice. It is a response that this question awaits. And regardless of how you respond ... it changes everything. Unfortunately, many in leadership positions never answer the question. Possibly because they have never been asked. My response to the question was YES. And my "yes" led me to an evolving clarity that core values not only build value ... but they are a leader's most powerful resource in creating a community that is fully engaged and wired to genuinely serve. There is no question more deeply awaiting a leader's response than this question: Do you believe core values build value? I suppose, in the end, no response proves to be a response. I would suggest ... not a good one. Last week, I stared at another blank computer screen. This screen looked exactly the same as the blank screen I faced as I began writing GOOD to the CORE. Yet it was different. This screen was the beginning of ROI: Return on Integrity. That screen wasn't just the beginning of a new book. It marked the beginning of inspiring a movement of leaders building value with core values. Then, again, maybe it wasn't the beginning of anything. Just the next step in responding to "the choice." Core values are not optional for leaders. They are a leader's greatest responsibility. And they are the seeds of a leader's greatest potential. They are the choice ... that demands a response. After multiple deeply honest discussions on the topic of core values and outlining the ROI book, some things have become clearer. ROI won't be a "white paper" for followers, in positions of leadership, to find the documented proof that values build value. It will, rather, be a roadmap for real leaders committed to responding ... and in doing so ... creating the proof for others to follow. The time has come for leaders to embrace the courage they need to respond ... to lead in a valuable way!