Today’s post is the featured article from the October 2012 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. It got me thinking. My good friend, Dr. Beverly Ann Smallwood, made an observation on her Facebook posting the day following the Vice Presidential debates. She simply noted the irony in how millions could watch the same exact factual event and see such different things. How? Perception she noted. There is no question that perception is a powerful force. Perception can also be a deceptive force. Perception drives from perspective ... and perspective is often driven by our circumstances. Not to oversimplify, but I often think how the temperature on any given day can be a great indicator of this. A 45-degree day is a 45-degree day no matter what day it falls. Factually, the temperature is exactly the same ... assuming winds and humidity are the same (just trying to get ahead of those of you who might be splitting hairs on this analysis!). But what we experience could be significantly different. Let's assume one of those days falls in early September and the other one in late January. Each day will feel very different and we are likely to have very different feelings about it. Our circumstances between autumn and winter are different. This drives a different perspective creating a different perception with the same set of facts. This truth doesn't only apply to temperatures. Unnoticed, it can be a fatal flaw for leaders. The problem is that sometimes it is so unnoticeable ... unless we always assume the perception deception is continually in-play. And every leader needs a strategic counter-attack to diminish the blinding capability of this deception. Sometimes this deception is fed from the outside. It happens when we solely surround ourselves with only people who think like we do and have precisely the same viewpoints we do ... whether it relates to a business strategy, political viewpoint or spiritual theological belief. When you never have a counter viewpoint coming at you, you can rest assured it is only a matter of time until you are well on your way to the deception of perception. As the pressures on business performance become increasingly short-term focused, business leaders fall into the trap of this deception. As our political rhetoric becomes louder and more divisive, politicians and every citizen fall into the trap of this deception. And the more intense the perception deception becomes, the louder we shout our viewpoint. It then becomes a vicious spiral downward into greater deception because those with other viewpoints are nowhere to be found. We have repelled every one of them! Every leader needs to be fed with counter viewpoints. These viewpoints don't have to change our stance but they do need to test our perception. More often than not, they will fine-tune our stance. Sometimes this deception is fed from the inside. I firmly believe the value of core values is in the specifics. This is true individually and it is true organizationally. I am also reminded of a quote I have repeated a million times ... if you don't stand for something, you will fall for anything. Having a clear, specific and solid core is critical. Otherwise, your current stance is simply a reflection of the most recent viewpoint you've heard. You are like a rudderless boat tossed in the waves. Yet, it is important to remember that two people with the same core values can have very different viewpoints. It is fully possible to misuse your solid core. The same way we can spin-the-facts, we can likewise spin-our-core ... be it knowingly or, more often than not, unknowingly. Sometimes our motives become corrupted. It may be our pride or our need to be correct that gets in the way. For some, it is simply the arrogance of thinking we have it all figured out. I am not advocating soft cores or weak leadership. In fact, quite the opposite! Ironically, it is the soft core or the weak leader who feels most threatened by opposing viewpoints. It is precisely the deep core of strong leaders which allows them to be fully engaged in trying to understand different perspectives. It is in this engagement that they make authentic connections ... and protect themselves from the deception of their own perception. Weak leaders build themselves up by pulling others down. Unfortunately, through the filter of a perception deception, they will never see it that way. Strong leaders pull others up. It is there they find their core values most alive. PS ... If this does not ring true for you, feel completely free to disagree!!
Today’s post is the featured article from the September 2012 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. What started as a TV series, from 1966 to 1973, became a box office phenomenon in the years to follow. While the filming and story lines became more sophisticated, the theme song never changed. As soon as you hear the name, it is quite possible you immediately hear the song in your head. It's Mission Impossible. It's also quite possible you remember the famous line: This tape will self-destruct in five seconds! And without fail, it always did. In the case of Mission Impossible, self-destruction was a good thing. The self-destruction was, ironically, a form of preservation of the information. It works the opposite when it comes to core values and leadership. Core values become your preservation from self-destruction. The problem, in a world of speed and our sophisticated ability to mechanically measure things, core values are sometimes inconvenient. In my book, GOOD to the CORE, I stated "having core values will cost you." There is no question about it. And individuals who specifically understand their own personal core values know this cost. So do values-based organizations. They also know the value that values bring. One of the most important values of knowing our core may very well be the role they play in working against the construct of self-destruction. While not impossible, the construction of our core ultimately makes it much harder to focus on our own self. It is a bit of a paradox in which we find that knowing our core values is not about us at all. While our core values do define who we are, they actually put into play why and how we show-up for our work and for others. You might need to ponder that for a minute to see if it rings true for you. Yet, I can't remember the last time someone described a personal or organizational core value to me that sounded self-serving. Hence they become our greatest protection from the construct of our own self-destruction. For the seeds of self-destruction are planted in self-focus. Looking into our core keeps us looking out. Self-destruction is different than failure. It is much worse. Failure can sometimes be caused by external forces. Self-destruction is not. In fact, we can self-destruct in the midst of what appears to be incredible success. The stats may very well prove that most self-destruction takes hold in the midst of experiencing success. Probably because success can easily seduce us into self-focus. It is in knowing our core that we can continue looking outward in the midst of success. Another image you likely remember from the Mission Impossible series is the lighting of the fuse. That is where the music begins. Success, without understanding the specifics of our core, is like lighting the fuse of self-destruction. It only becomes a matter of time. My quote in GOOD to the CORE did start with "having core values will cost you." But the quote finished with "but not having them will destroy you." Once the fuse is lit, it is just a timing issue. So why do so many organizations and their leaders virtually remain coreless? First, most are not aware of their condition. They assume they do know their core. Second, without intention, empty words have been positioned as the veneer of their core. Third, it is easier to write-off the value of values because in doing so it demands nothing from us. Fourth, and the case for most, it simply is not easy to define your core. But it is not impossible! As an individual and an organization, your mission (should you choose to accept it) is to specifically define your core. Otherwise, something more important than a tape will self-destruct. It may not be in five-seconds, but it will be just a matter of time.
Today’s post is the featured article from the August 2012 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. Over the last month, thousands of football players have returned to the gridiron. Actually, from youth to the pros in the NFL, they have returned to the practice fields ... to practice. They don't just show up at the first game and hope their incredible athletic ability will carry them through to victory. No. They practice and practice ... and then practice some more. Day-in and day-out. Some would say practice makes perfect. But that is not exactly true. Yet practice does make us better. And over the course of numerous practices the team begins to get in a rhythm. Things start to click! Not perfectly. There is progression, but not without setbacks. There are two steps forward and one step back. Then two sprints forward. A spectacular catch and then a dropped ball. An amazing run followed by a fumble on the tackle. And that's just on the practice field! But the more they practice, the more they move towards being the best they can be. No coach would ever expect a team to be at their best without practice ... and more practice. So why would any CEO ever expect their leadership team could ever go away for an executive retreat, even with the best intentions, to develop a set of organizational core values and come back and have those values immediately embraced and lived? A great coach knows they must inspire their team. But that coach also knows there will be practice after practice. And that coach knows there will be fumbles, dropped passes, interceptions and defeats. There is no question, they're not happy about them. But they don't give-up and just move-on. They keep practicing! They learn and keep-on. And so it goes in developing, communicating, living and holding yourself and then others accountable to both organizational and personal core values. In concept, it is not complicated. In staying the course to make it happen ... well, it gets a little messy. It also takes large doses of patience, persistence, commitment and courage. In his book, Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell analyzes what lies behind the outliers ... those who really excel in their chosen field. In typical Gladwell fashion, he invites you to look from a number of different angles. One of the angles is the impact of 10,000 hours. His premise is that it is not until we have practiced or done something for 10,000 hours that we position ourselves to be the outlier. It certainly holds true for coaches and corporate leaders. And it holds true for building organizational value with core values. It takes hours upon hours of practice to get that rhythm. To win a game. To change a culture. Coaches don't practice because they're terrified of losing. They practice to win. They practice to achieve what's possible. And so it should be for leaders. Core values are not a set of rules or regulations. They are a deep driving inspiration that brings us to life and allows individuals and whole organizations to realize what's possible. It is not a duty. It is the roadmap to opportunity. It is not the mission. It is what drives the mission. But like practice, they come with a cost. Most meaningful investments usually do. Maybe this gives us one angle in explaining why so many organizations struggle with realizing the value of core values. Most organizational leaders never get to the 10,000 hour-mark of intentionally practicing their personal and organizational core values day-in and day-out. We, unintentionally, give up long before then. Or, worse yet, we come back from the leadership retreat expecting to go directly to the game and it will all work out. We need to come back from the leadership retreat and go to the weight room and the practice field ... again and again. And when we do ... slowly, but surely, the chemistry of the environment and eventually the team begins to change. Practice doesn't make perfect. But practice, done well, opens the door for tremendous possibilities. It opens the door for every coach, every player, every leader, and every employee to realize their greatest potential. Our core is that door ... if leaders find the courage and the discipline to open it and step inside. It is there where any leader can eventually find themselves standing on the sidelines coaching the success of others. And, ultimately, it is there that any leader will realize they have been scripting their legacy one practice at a time.
Today’s post is the featured article from the July 2012 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. Recently, a friend got me thinking about this. You might think this is a bunch of "baa" ... but I think there is a simple, yet powerful, leadership lesson to be considered. A lot has been written about "servant leadership" in the last decade. It is a powerful concept that, when followed, enhances the experience of a leader's followers. Yet, I have not seen a lot written about another concept of leadership. Maybe this one is just too simple or seems too ordinary. Not worthy of any "C-suite" ... and certainly not of Wall Street. It is simply this ... Lead like a shepherd. It might be the ultimate form of "servant" leadership. There is no question that the shepherd is there for the sheep. Sheep can't see very well, but they have a very keen sense of hearing. And they know their shepherd's voice. In the midst of their keen sense of hearing, they follow their shepherd's voice. They follow that one voice for one reason ... they know it is a voice they can trust. There is one thing the simple shepherd has that many people in "positions of leadership" do not have. Faithful followers! I am not suggesting the employees of a company are like sheep ... blind and aimlessly wandering. But, like sheep, I am saying that employees do want to be led. They want a voice they can trust. And when employees hear the voice they know they can trust ... you can bet they will follow. There is, however, one big difference between sheep and employees. Employees can also see. This might explain why it might be harder to be a leader than it is to be a shepherd! Shepherds don't care what they look like. They simply care about their sheep. While their role is pretty simple ... their ability to be effective is the difference of life and death to their sheep. It is hard to be sheep when the shepherd (hence the leader) is the one who is blind and aimlessly wandering. It is also dangerous. While it is hard to be a leader ... it is easy to aimlessly wander. I am convinced, more than ever, that any leader who doesn't clearly know their own core is leading a herd who doesn't know their shepherd's voice. We don't need more celebrity leaders. We need more Shepherds. Or, at least, we need more leaders who are willing to do the hard work of knowing their own core. It is there that a leader's voice begins to stand-out in the midst of all the noise.