Personal Responsibility – Everything is Your Choice

Personal Responsibility – Your Choice

A sense of personal responsibility seems to be a thing of the past, here and in many other places in the world.  We want a label for every behavior and every sniffle.  If it’s a ‘thing’ then we don’t have to take responsibility for it.

Its not my fault I’m late for work, I have ‘snooze syndrome’.  Its not my fault I get angry in traffic, I’m afflicted with road rage.  Its not my fault I can’t grow my business, the economy is bad.  Its not my fault I can’t find good people, the economy is good.

“Man must cease attributing his problems to his environment and learn again to exercise  . . . personal responsibility”    – Albert Schweitzer

What does responsibility mean anyway?  We often confuse it with commitment.  Lets look at the word itself: ‘response + ability’ = means literally the ability to choose your response.  The operative word in that description is “choose”.

According to Stephen Covey, “Highly proactive people recognize that responsibility.  They do not blame circumstances, conditions, or conditioning for their behavior. Until a person can say deeply and honestly, ‘I am what I am today because of the choices I made yesterday,’ that person cannot say, ‘I choose otherwise’.”

When we place blame outside of ourselves for our disturbance, our life situation and ultimately our happiness, we become numb and unaware of ourselves. We don’t even have to make the effort to come up with our own disturbance anymore, just go home and turn on any news channel – they’ll tell you what you should be upset about today and who to blame for it.

Anonymous quote: “I never met a man who was just late…”

This lack of responsibility is even rewarded in our court system.  I read a news story about a woman who successfully sued a clothing store because it failed to prevent a small child from running around the store, and she tripped over him.  Near the end of the article, it casually mentioned that it was her child.  Seriously?

So what does it mean to take responsibility, to choose my response? The first step is the simple awareness and acceptance that you are responsible for creating all aspects of your life and your businesses.  Accepting this personal responsibility is choosing to accept that we have the “ability” and the choice, to “respond”.  Only by first accepting responsibility can we change the outcome, change ourselves, and change the world.

Responsibility – The big 3 – you’re responsible for:

  1. everything you do;
  2. everything you don’t do;
  3. how you respond to everything else

That third one is the challenge for most people.  Think of a situation where you last got upset or had an emotional response to something.  Go ahead, I’ll wait.   Got it?  OK good, now imagine that instead of becoming angry, frustrated, sad etc..  you could choose to just accept that the thing had happened, and maintained a neutral or even positive attitude about it?  I know, you’re thinking that’s impossible.  I’m just asking you to consider the possibility right now that you could chose to have a neutral response, or no response at all, you don’t have to do it, just consider the possibility.  How would that feel?  Would you feel empowered? What if you carried that possibility and the empowerment with you every day?  How would that impact your quality of life? How would it impact your relationships?  These are questions for you to consider slowly and thoughtfully.

The empowerment of choices can even be fun, and opens your eyes to new ideas and opportunities you hadn’t even given yourself the space to consider before.  Once you can take responsibility for your choices, and react neutrally if they don’t work out, you are free to do anything.  If a choice doesn’t work out, great! You can just be free to try another one without any attachment to the one that didn’t work out how you imagined, or have any negative feelings about the result.

What if having true happiness and contentment in your life was simply a choice?  What if you didn’t have to make more money, work harder, get a better house, better job, better car, better spouse?

What if we could just choose to be happy and content?

You can.  Its not easy, but its possible.  The first step is acceptance.  Acceptance of what is, and acceptance of your ability to choose your response.

The second step is to begin to separate the things you are reacting to, the things – out there – from your emotional responses which all happen inside you.  Recognize that the car, house, job etc.. are all things out there.  The reaction you feel is inside of you, not out there.

The third step is to consider that the things – out there – are not what is causing your disturbance.  What if it was actually the other way around?  What if your inner unresolved issue is what is creating these so called external upsets?  What if ownership of the disturbance creates a golden opportunity to heal the true source of the upset that exists only within one’s self?  That is a subject for another blog. . . if you can’t wait until then, get in touch.

Does Communication Impact Your Business Results?

CommunicationHow Does Communication Impact Your Business Results?

Leaders and business owners often look at communication as a ‘soft skill’ that they don’t have time to develop. They simply don’t recognize the bottom line cost of poor communication. In a survey of 400 corporations, an estimated $37 billion is lost due to poor communication and misunderstanding.  But leaders who DO focus on effective communication strategies in their business have 47% higher returns to shareholders, lower turnover and more highly engaged employees, according to the Holmes Report.

And these are the impacts of simple transactional communication. According to Judith Glaser, author of “Conversational Intelligence” there are three levels of communication. The higher levels of communication are based largely on development of trust. When we trust, and focus on solutions, we feel free to share and develop our ideas.  If we don’t create an environment of trust and collaboration, the people with the best ideas will leave and go to companies that do.

“The single biggest illusion about communication, is that it has taken place”
– Judith Glaser

For entrepreneurs, effective communication can be the difference between failure and success. If you want your company to succeed, here are 5 ways to improve:

1. Email is for the exchange of information

There are many great tools for productivity and disseminating information to your team. Don’t confuse these tools with communication.  Generating ideas, fast decision-making and team collaboration take real face to face interaction in an environment that supports sharing and trust.

2. Ensure your team knows the company brand purpose & vision

Every single employee at the Ritz Carlton knows the company’s vision, mission, cultural values and credo. Those values are baked into the daily operations of the company, so it is easy for employees to connect their actions to the higher purpose. If your team does not know where you’re going, they can’t follow you. If they don’t see the connection between what they are doing daily, and the overall goals and direction of the company, they become disengaged and unmotivated.

3. Stay flat

In a flat company team members are free to communicate with anyone, without fear of stepping on toes or reprisals. As the business leader, do your best to keep an open door policy.  Set aside specific hours to close the door to work on projects or have private conversations.  Fluid communications allows for much greater flow and exchange of ideas, delivering better results in less time.

4. Make communication part of your rhythm

Set up regular schedules for meetings and conversations.  Have regular weekly or even daily huddle team meetings. Have regular weekly phone calls with the sales team if they are in the field. Even if you don’t think you have much to talk about, once you get the conversation started, you’ll often be surprised at what happens. Even if you are a company of 2 people, regular communication makes a difference.

5. Communication is a two way street

Introduce the WIFLE (What I Feel Like Expressing) process to your team. Your employees need to feel heard.  They need to be given permission to express what is on their mind, without interruption, judgment or reprisal. Regular use of the technique can cut meeting time in half and uncover problems and opportunities you didn’t even know existed.
If you need to learn more about how to do a WIFLE, just let me know.

How to get your team engaged & motivated

How to Get Your Team Engaged

Is your team engaged, enthusiastic, motivated, and committed; except for the 8 hours they work for you?

You can hire people, you can fire people, and you can tell them what to do. What you can’t do is make them like what they do. Some business leaders are content with having an unhappy team.  If they just do their job, then their mental state is superfluous. This line of thinking is not only wrong, but it is entirely counterproductive to the continued survival of a business. Gallup has run some excellent reports that demonstrate the performance difference between engaged and disengaged employees. They identified many benefits that engaged employees bring to the table: motivation, innovation, and a willingness to take on more responsibility within the company. So how can you keep your team engaged?

That level of team engagement contrasts greatly with employees who don’t even want to be there. They do their jobs, but they never put in more than the bare minimum of effort. Don’t expect them to ever go outside of what their job description requires.  If there is a chance for them to skip out on work without getting fired, they’ll take it. Obviously, you don’t want to have a team that consists of these people. But without the right knowledge of how to motivate a team, you’ll find yourself unable to inspire your employees to go above and beyond the basic requirements.

A great company cannot exist or grow without great employees, and there are steps you can take to mold them into the people you want to have working for you. These tips are proven methods of getting your employees engaged in what they do, and anybody can learn to apply them.

1) Keep Your Team Engaged: Be a team, not a dictatorship

Every ship needs a strong captain, but that doesn’t mean that you should spend every second reminding your employee who’s the boss. Your employees look to you for guidance, but they also want to feel as though they are part of a team, and you will pitch in when needed to get the job done. It’s very tempting to just give orders, or worse, rattle off long lists of directives that you just don’t want to do. If you give the directive and then pitch in to reach the goal, you’ll show your employees that they are all part of a team, and they sink or swim together.

2) Keep Your Team Engaged: Give them a chance to shine

It is true that some people are placidly content with being a cog in the wheel. I’m sure you know of at least one person who is sitting in a job they are relatively indifferent to just so they can collect a pension in twenty years. Those that fit that mold will gravitate towards jobs that give few chances to stand out and plenty of job security. For those who want to achieve more, they will never settle for a job pushing pencils all day. These more ambitious employees are always looking for a way to prove to you that they are capable of so much more than low-level work. Denying them this opportunity will either push them to greener pastures, or if they can’t/won’t quit, cause them to become disillusioned with what they do.
If you find somebody who wants to prove themselves, let them. But give them room to fail as well, give them the objective, then let them figure out how to accomplish it.  An employee who shows the initiative and drive to better themselves is a person that will bring your business an incredible amount of value. Don’t waste this potential.

3) Keep Your Team Engaged: Don’t take them for granted – show your gratitude

This goes beyond a simple “thank you”, although those two words can have quite a bit of power in themselves. If your employees feel like their contributions are not recognized or rewarded, then they will feel little incentive to go above and beyond in what they do. How you show this gratitude is as important as the action itself, because a perceived token gesture is even more insulting than a lack of a reward at all. Put another way, if somebody comes up with a million-dollar idea and you give them a monogrammed lanyard as a gift, don’t expect that person to stick around. Rewarding achievement is the flip side to punishing failure, and a balance between both is necessary to craft the ideal team.

As intuitive as these three traits seem, you probably know from personal experience that a lot of managers don’t quite know how to implement these strategies effectively.

If you find yourself having difficulty reaching your employees, get in touch to find out how my Engage and Grow program can turn your employees into high performing leaders within your company. Start with a free employee engagement assessment survey.

Freedom of Speech

Freedom of speech is one of the pillars of our constitution.  What about freedom of listening? Effective communication relies more on good listening than it does on speech.  Both are key to the overall development and progress of your team. Without effective communication, your team and your business will lag behind in many areas, be less productive and less happy working for you.

If you want to improve communication skills for clarity and effectiveness, here are some vital tips for you to follow:

1. Listen Carefully

Let’s admit it, we all struggle with this.  Yet there is one very simple way to ensure you are truly listening.  Stop the voice in your head.  You know the one.  While you are listening to someone else speak, its constantly chattering to you about your retorts, answers, opinions, corrections and responses to what they are saying.  Stop it.  Stop planning what you are going to say back to them, and just listen.  When it starts up again, stop it again.  Focus all of the energy you can muster on listening intently on what they are saying, with the only objective being to really fully understand what the other person is trying to communicate and what they are feeling.

2. Body Language

Freedom of speech also includes body language.  Often, we don’t realize the significance of our body language, yet it is 70% of our communication. After all, actions speak louder than words. Your facial expressions, eye contact and gestures reveal everything, even though you do not utter a single word.

Exercise to improve your posture. Stand straight and smile to stimulate positive feelings. Always maintain eye contact when talking to someone.  Use open body gestures. Watch your facial expressions and the tone of your voice. At the same time, educate yourself about different non-verbal communication signals in different countries, cultures and societies. For example, a handshake is considered rude in some countries, whereas is it a common practice in the US.

3. Read and Write

In order to improve your verbal communication, read and write as much as you can. Read books, the newspaper, online news and articles, blogs or anything you want to boost your vocabulary and improve your writing skills.  Listen to audio books while you are driving or getting ready for your day in the morning.

4. Ask Questions

Asking questions helps clarifying things. It shows that you have interest in having a conversation by keeping them engaged. It shows you are truly listening with the intent of fully understanding what the person is trying to communicate.  It also helps overcome the fear of small talk in situations where you don’t know people.

5. Manage Stress

Stress is a major impediment to effective communication. Learn to manage it. Use humor in your conversations, keep calm, or be passionate.  Be healthy, exercise, go for walks, take breaks from your day and drink lots of water.

The ability to communicate  and listen clearly, concisely and coherently takes years of practice. Practicing these skills will not only improve your communication skills, but also improve your business results, and the quality of your life.

Do you inspire your team?

Inspire your team

Do You Inspire Your Team?

My experience shows me that a very small percentage of company presidents, managers and supervisors truly inspire their staff. They might build solid teams, set clear expectations and reach most of their goals, but they fail to inspire their people to reach and become better.

But if you’re building effective teams and getting adequate results, does inspiration really matter that much?

The answer depends on what you want out of your organization. If you are satisfied with your current results and don’t mind replacing your best people every few years, I would put down this article and get back to managing your staff.

However, if you want to create a remarkable culture that exceeds expectations, keep reading.

The importance of inspiration

In his book, “The 8th Habit–From Effectiveness to Greatness,” Stephen Covey points out that “Leadership is communicating to people their worth and potential so clearly that they come to see it in themselves.” In other words, he believes leadership is primarily about inspiring others to reach their full potential.

OK, so inspiring your team is an important part of leadership, but why is it such an essential component in creating an outstanding company?

There are three key reasons.

First, if you are able to effectively inspire the most valuable members of your team, you will keep them from leaving. Because it is their nature to continuously look for ways to improve, they get bored with the status quo–no matter how satisfying it seems to everyone else. In addition, you will need these team members to assume leadership roles in the future as you grow. Promoting average employees to key leadership roles because your best employees have left eventually will lead to low morale and anemic growth.

Second, as you face difficult times–which every great company does–it will be your best employees that help you push through to the next level. You will need their enthusiasm, ideas and brainpower when trying to determine the best way to deal with difficult challenges. These people will not put in the extra hours for a leadership team that isn’t helping them to develop new skills and improve. However, they will do whatever it takes for those leaders who are inspiring and supporting them to reach their full potential.

Third, you need these people to help your organization think “outside of the box.” The truth is that remarkable companies need remarkable solutions in today’s ultra-competitive marketplace. These answers are seldom found in the operations manual. They require a higher level of critical thinking; and the kind of dedication you get from a talented employee who feels that your leadership is exactly what he/she needs to excel. Chances are slim you will get this effort from employees who just finished updating their resumes.

How do you inspire your team? It’s not easy, but through disciplined effort, most leaders can learn to inspire their staff. The best way to get started is to focus on the following simple steps:

— Clearly communicate your company’s vision to your team every single day. Most people will put in the extra effort if they know where they are going.  If they don’t know where you’re going, they cant help you get there.

— Identify the potential leaders on your team and focus your efforts on these individuals. I am not suggesting that you ignore the rest of your staff, but, I am recommending that you dedicate the majority of your time to cultivating the individuals who will help take your organization to the next level.  Its easy to miss this one, since these team members are doing such a great job.

— Find out what these key employees want. That is, help them to identify their own vision. Once you know what it is, provide them with opportunities to develop the skills necessary to realize their vision.

In today’s work environment, most leaders feel overwhelmed. The need to produce immediate results forces them–or us, since I am right there with you–to focus on the now, instead of considering the future.

My challenge to you is to be clear about where you are going and remember that, every time you inspire a member of your staff, you likely have improved productivity, increased effort and helped to build the future of your remarkable company.

Get in touch to learn more about how to inspire your team.

How To Create An Accountable Team, Part 2

I got such positive response to my last post on creating an accountable team that I decided to turn it into a series, so, welcome to part 2!

So why put into action an accountability strategy in your business?  What are the keys to putting it in place, what are the benefits and the risks?

First, creating an accountable team – one that holds themselves accountable for their results individually actually creates a congruent whole for everyone – an environment where what is best for the individual is also what is best for the company – how does that sound?

One of the keys to accountability is consequences – clear and significant consequences must exist, both positive, that you earn or receive, and negative, things that you won’t receive, based on results.

Benefits of An Accountable Team

A team that is accountable, knows what they are accountable for, so team roles are more clear and expectations are enhanced.  Gaps and overlaps are reduced, so tasks don’t fall on the floor, and you can staff efficiently.  Accountability creates room for developing decision-making skills and personal growth, and provides a context for goal setting.  It enables people to let go of what they are not responsible for, increasing their commitment to what they are responsible, and to their measured results.

Risks of Accountability

Building accountability with your team does have risks.  Because accountability requires public commitment – you and your team have to say out loud, and in writing, what you are committed to accomplishing and by when.  That commitment comes with consequences – if you are not truly committed to your results you will eventually experience personal loss – when excuses are no longer an option, it can feel defeating to not achieve the results you’re expecting.

Accountability means changing cultural for many organizations – those changes will require a change to expectations and relationships with other team members.  Excuses and reasons for why something didn’t get done, blaming managers, blaming other team members, blaming customers simply can no longer be part of the organizational conversation. This shift will naturally create friction with the hierarchy – as managers are expected to be accountable as well.

The Dark Side

Like any form of power accountability is open to misuse.  An unfair bargain can be developed where the unfairness is made non-discussible.  People can set unreasonable negative consequences for themselves or their subordinates.  Incomplete accountability agreements can be made to operate exclusively in a top-down fashion rendering the concept of accountability meaningless.  Be aware of these issues as you develop your culture of accountability.

The Leadership Challenge

As you create your new accountable team culture, be sure to follow these guidelines:

  • Leaders seek commitment, they do not settle for compliance
  • Leaders focus on results, not activities
  • Leaders learn and help others to learn from mistakes
  • Leaders encourage and challenge, they don’t over-control
  • Leaders reward courage not caution

Next time:  the Accountability Agreement and Lame Excuses Why an Accountability Strategy Wont work.

Questions on how? Get in touch.