“Oh, come on. It’s just a little white lie. Why are you making such a big deal out of it?”
“Because it’s a lie, and it’s not so little.”
“Dude, you’re never going to get anywhere with that mindset. Sometimes you just have to stretch the truth. Everyone does it.”
Does everyone lie?
Well, kinda. Research about lies and truth doesn’t tell a reassuring story:
Psychologist Robert Feldman has studied lying for more than a decade. His research isn’t reassuring—60% of people lie during a typical 10-minute conversation and that they average two to three lies during that short timeframe.
USC psychologist Jerald Jellison determined that people are lied to about 200 times a day.
A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that 25 percent of the time, people lied for someone else’s sake.
This (and other) research doesn’t square very well with a survey done by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, The Leadership Challenge authors. They found that the most valued leadership quality is honesty. It led by a mile, signaling that integrity, truthfulness, and authenticity are hallmarks of character-based leaders.
To riff on an old AmEx tag line, honesty, integrity, and authenticiy are attributes no leader should leave home without.
Honesty consists of the unwillingness to lie to others; maturity, which is equally hard to attain, consists of the unwillingness to lie to oneself. ~Sydney J. Harris
If you’re a leader who sees value in truth and honesty, here’s seven things you can do to keep them front and center in leading yourself and others.
7 ways to keep truth front and center
1) Hold yourself and those on your team accountable for full truthfulness instead of what author Ralph Keyes calls “ledger-book” morality.
Ethics are judged on a sliding scale…If we add up truths and lies we’ve told and find more of the former than the latter, we classify ourselves honest…Conceding that his magazine soft-pedaled criticism of advertisers, one publisher concluded, ‘I guess you could say we’re 75 percent honest, which isn’t bad.’~Ralph Keyes
2) Encourage healthy debate and diversity of thought, opinion, and perspective. The most effective leaders encourage differing points of view and are careful not to position those who disagree as being wrong, a loser, or not likeable. They discourage groupthink and refrain from shooting the messenger.
The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth.~Niels Bohr
3) Watch for opinions that masquerade as facts, and correct them when they get conflated.
4) Be transparent. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Hidden agendas serve no one well. Own up, not double down on, being wrong.
Leaders who are candid and predictable—they tell everyone the same thing and don’t continually revise their stories—signal to followers that the rules of the game aren’t changing and that decisions won’t be made arbitrarily. Given that assurance, followers become more willing to stick their necks out, make an extra effort, and put themselves on the line to help their leaders achieve goals. ~ James O’Toole and Warren Bennis
5) Make sharing the truth easy to do. Recognize and reward those who have the courage and candor to speak truthfully.
6) Welcome both/andpolarities and manage the interdependent tensions that exist between them. Dr. Jean Lipman-Blumen says leaders must manage overlapping visions, mutual problems, and common goals and the diverse nature of individuals, groups, and organizations. Difference isn’t an untruth; it’s the new normal.
People with different lifestyles and different backgrounds challenge each other more. Diversity creates dissent, and you need that. Without it, you’re not going to get any deep inquiry or breakthroughs. ~ Paul Block, CEO of Merisant
7) Don’t give yourself a hall pass by believing your little lies are OK while those of others are unacceptable. Practice the South African philosophy of “ubuntu.”
[Ubuntu is] the essence of being human…it embraces hospitality, caring about others, being able to go the extra mile for the sake of others. We believe that a person is a person through another person, that my humanity is caught up, bound up, inextricably with yours. When I dehumanize you, I inexorably dehumanize myself. The solitary human being is a contradiction in terms and therefore you seek to work for the common good because your humanity comes into its own in belonging. ~ Desmond Tutu, social rights activist
Untruths move from the fringe to the mainstream when we allow them to do so. It’s up to us whether or not we allow that to happen.
I always wondered why somebody doesn’t do something about that. Then I realized I was somebody. ~Lily Tomlin
Kinda funny, isn’t it, how we lose sight of things that we shouldn’t?
A few years ago, those of us at BIG did lots of speaking and training on the 7 C’s of leadership, which we defined as character, connection, cognition, capability, compassion, courage, and commitment.
Then life intervened as it so often does. The BIG team moved on to other topics our clients wanted and eventually to working at other places. After my heart nearly pooped out on me, I rethought what I wanted to do with the second act of my life and started The Jane Group.
In thinking about what I want to do in 2019, much of what I plan to speak, write, coach, and teach about is rooted in something from the 7 C’s.
I want to assist people and organizations to welcome differences, reduce bias, shake up the status quo, be inclusive, be kind, be respectful, manage with our head and lead with our heart, and use power the right way.
All those messages boil down to us leading ourselves so we can lead others inclusively and kindly, and that’s where the 7 C’s come in.
Fascinating how things come full circle, isn’t it?
The 7 C’s of being a leader
With lots of the new year still in front of us, now’s a great time to revisit the 7 C approach. The list is succinct enough to be remembered yet goes deep in both hard and soft skills.
An inclusive leader with character walks the talk for both being good and doing well.
He has a moral center, knows right from wrong, and doesn’t have any hidden agendas.
She is a consistent and credible role model for integrity, ethical behavior, authenticity, honesty, and transparency.
He knows what values are important to him, practices them daily, and assures there’s congruence between his values and actions.
She practices tolerance, embraces differences, is inclusive without being judgment, and invites the elephant in the room to dance.
He is determined yet self-disciplined.
She treats those with and those without power the same.
He can be trusted.
An inclusive leader who practices connection makes the time to meaningfully connect with others. She collaborates and values community. He actively listens to what others have to say because understanding their point of view is important to him.
She communicates clearly, assures alignment between her verbal and nonverbal messages; engages in clear and concise two-way exchanges, not one-way monologues; and says just enough to accurately convey her meaning. He knows when to recognize, criticize, celebrate, have fun, and says thank you to someone every day.
An inclusive leader who has cognition is self-aware and actively uses their self-knowledge to relate to others.
He knows his strengths and puts them to good use both for himself and in service to others.
She knows her weaknesses and works to minimize any negative impact they may have.
He seeks feedback, asks clarifying questions, and reflects on what he hears.
She practices simplicity yet knows when to take the deep dive.
He sets boundaries, appreciates what’s mandatory and what’s discretionary, and finds the balance between tradition and innovation.
She’s curious, open-minded, and eager to expand her comfort zone.
He thinks critically, seeks to learn, and is unafraid to challenge the status quo or seek the common-sense solution.
An inclusive leader with capability stretches the limits of their potential and inspires those around them to do the same. She encourages creativity, is adept at change, and maintains balance between stability and innovation. He coaches for competence and knows when to go fast and when to go slow. She is skilled at the fundamentals of conducting business—planning, organizing, directing, and controlling.
He knows when to control and when to empower. She focuses equally on people, principles and profits and never sacrifices one for the other. He holds himself and those around him responsible and accountable.
An inclusive leader who has compassion is unafraid to smile, laugh, care and is fearless in showing love, joy, kindness, and respect.
He is there for others, knowing when to speak with candor and when to be diplomatic.
She seeks out and celebrates both similarities and differences.
He displays empathy without sacrificing accountability and ownership.
She knows when to enforce the rules and when to bend them.
An inclusive leader who has courage takes a stand for what’s good and what’s right, even if doing so is unpopular. She shows grace under pressure. He acknowledges his fears without letting them rule his life. She believes in herself and shows strength of mind and will. He embraces possibility with childlike wonder.
She is confident that she brings value and helps others believe the same about themselves. He dares to be sincere, caring, and authentic.
An inclusive leader who has commitment has conviction, sees things through, holds themselves accountable, and assists others in doing the same.
She pursues mutual understanding and respect even in the presence of opposing opinions.
He assures the work gets done and that relationships are maintained.
She lives up to her potential and strives to make a positive and sustained difference.
So, when people ask me about a “secret sauce” for inclusion, civility, and leadership success, I ask, “How are your 7 C’s?”
Cash is king was the CFO’s favorite go-to line when denying expenditures.
Everyone knew their spending requests for raises, projects, hiring, process innovation expenses, etc. were doomed once the CFO uttered “cash is king.”
What made it doubly hard was that the CEO always agreed with him after a “cash is king” ruling. Arguing was futile, justifications meaningless.
With that orientation, naturally over time, the company’s unwritten mission became make as much money as you can as fast as you can. Company culture changed. Ethical corners were cut. Legal lines were crossed. Cutthroat competition between departments became the norm.
Along the way, compassion, empathy, and character became less and less important. Money was the only yardstick by which success was measured. The work environment became a joyless, soulless place.
Leading with both head and heart
Many have written about the soullessness of economic-focused corporations and the cold, economic logic that defines what’s done. Much is said about their greed and ruthlessness; 82% of employees don’t expect their boss to tell the truth. Employees lose their individualism; 70% of the workforce says they’re disengaged. Some employees feel shame about admitting where they work.
If you are a boss, ask yourself: When you look back at how you’ve treated followers, peers, and superiors, in their eyes, will you have earned the right to be proud of yourself? Or will they believe that you ought to be ashamed of yourself and embarrassed by how you have trampled on others’ dignity day after day? ~Robert I. Sutton
With a little more care, a little more courage, and, above all, a little more soul, our lives can be so easily discovered and celebrated in work, and not, as now, squandered and lost in its shadow. ~David Whyte, The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America
Leading with head and heart in a cash is king world
With work and dedication from character-based leaders, workplaces can keep their soul and employees can have dignity. Some food for thought as you lead yourself and others:
1) Don’t let reasonable self-interest turn into greed. Hang onto generosity, reciprocity, and ethical commitments.
2) Be mindful of the rights, feelings, and interests of others. Research by Jonathan Haidt at New York University shows that employees who are moved by the compassion or kindness of a boss are more loyal.
3) Walk the talk of honesty, integrity, fairness, compassion, charity, and social responsibility.
4) Lead by both/and, not only either/or. Delivering both results and relationships is much more rewarding than focusing only on either results or relationships.
5) Challenge the status quo through constructive dissent, respectful irreverence, and purposeful discomfort.
6) Start with the carrot or the hug, not the stick, when difficulties are encountered.
7) Appreciate the power and possibility of differences. Don’t marginalize those who see things differently. As Robert Kegan, a developmental psychologist, observes, “Successfully functioning in a society with diverse values, traditions and lifestyles requires us to have a relationship to our own reactions rather than be captive of them. To resist our tendencies to make right or true, that which is nearly familiar, and wrong or false, that which is only strange.”
8) Balance getting with giving and doing with being.
9) Make a good difference.
The leader never lies to himself, especially about himself, knows his flaws as well as his assets, and deals with them directly. You are your own raw material. When you know what you consist of and what you want to make of it, then you can invent yourself. ~Warren Bennis
10) Define success by both tangibles and intangibles. Don’t favor one over the other.
11) Display competence, commitment, and character, and hold others accountable for doing the same.
12) Know when to be confident and when to have humility; when to speak up and when to be silent.
13) Keep Aristotle’s twelve virtues as close companions: courage, temperance, generosity, magnificence, magnanimity, right ambition, good temper, friendliness, truthfulness, wit, and justice.
Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become character. Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny. ~unknown
Getting right with competence, commitment, and character starts in our own heads and hearts.
That means the presence or absence of soul in our workplaces begins with each one of us.
Leadership development programs designed to increase emotional intelligence have matured during the last 15 years. So why haven’t we seen a big change in the way executives relate to one other? Because, despite reading books and articles, taking assessments, and attending seminars, leaders keep their old habits.
Emotional Intelligence scores typically climb with titles, but peak with middle management, according to Travis Bradberry, author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0. Any higher up the ladder, and the scores plummet. CEOs rank at the bottom.
Put a stop to passive aggressive behavior
Toxic behaviors from leaders are prevalent from the warehouse to the boardroom. Leaders yell at, embarrass, and publicly criticize subordinates. Tempers flare, anger surfaces, and emotions are unchecked or mismanaged. In toxic work cultures, passive aggressiveness is the rule, not the exception.
This happens for two reasons:
1) One, leaders simply don’t have sufficient desire to be better—i.e., they don’t care.
2) The other is lack of self-awareness.
All models of emotional intelligence start with a foundation of self-awareness. Time spent on coaching needs to focus on building self-awareness because that’s where the gold is.
There are two ways to gain self-awareness:
1) Listen to and honestly examine the stories you are telling yourself in your head. Are they true? How do you know? This simply requires quiet time for self-reflection and to practice mindfulness.
2) Seek feedback from others. This requires you to identify people who feel safe with you, who you would freely invite to tell you how they react to you, and how they think others react to you. It requires honesty and, of course, the right time and environment where the conversation can occur without interruption.
Easy, right? No, of course not.
These steps take time and commitment to change.
If Business is Good, Why Should You Care?
Coming face-to-face with your flaws and defects of character including pride, ego, distrust, and fear and allowing yourself to be vulnerable is self-improvement work that doesn’t come easy.
Additionally, if business is booming, deadlines are met, and stock value is going up, why go through this spending the time to improve, to be self-aware? Why dig deeper when all is well on the surface? Effective leaders dig anyway because they know they always need to up their leadership game, and because doing so will make a positive difference in how they engage with their team, vendors, and clients.
Listen to Your Own Stories
Force ten minutes of quiet time every day. Turn off your cell phones. Close your office door. (I have clients who break out in a cold sweat at the thought of doing so, but I urge you to try it anyway.)
Breathe deeply and slowly. See what surfaces. Let the thoughts roll through your brain like a digital ticker tape. Notice what’s happening and see if you can articulate how that experience feels.
Pay special attention to anything that feels difficult or sparks negative emotions. These feelings point to something larger underneath. When you take the time to look below the surface, you can see a glimpse of the source.
Listen to Stories of Others
Pick one person who you trust to tell you the complete truth about how you look to them. Ask them to find something they believe you do that causes others to disconnect from you, to avoid you, to shut down around you, or to be less the honest. This is tough stuff. It requires both courage to take this feedback and a desire to hear it. If you’re already doing something like this now, keep at it. Do it more.
Following these three simple steps will put you well on your way to better self-awareness, not only as a leader, but also as a person. And that’s good for everyone.
Today’s guest contributor is Kevin McHugh, president of JKM Management Development, a management consulting firm specializing in increasing organizational performance and coaching business leaders to develop emotional awareness, conflict resolution capabilities, and maximize executive effectiveness.
Looking for some good life and leadership lessons to share with your children? If so, turn to Socrates, Confucius, and Da Vinci.
They and other great thinkers who lived hundreds or thousands of years ago still offer surprisingly relevant advice that one generation can pass on to the next.
The search for knowledge and how to lead a meaningful life is nothing new. If parents introduce children to these ideas from the past, they will have a better understanding of how to live, think and make decisions in the world today.
Of course, skeptical young people might doubt that anyone who predates the Internet has much to offer in the 21st century. But they’re wrong.
3 life and leadership lessons from great thinkers of the past
These ideas are relevant whether people are wearing togas or jeans, and they have practical applications that can help all of us. Examples of everyday advice these extraordinary minds left us include:
Ask questions to understand other viewpoints.
When people hear an opinion that differs from their own— whether it’s about politics, religion, or the merits of a favorite entertainer—their immediate reaction is to argue for their side. However, this is where Socrates has a lesson for us. His favorite method for weighing the validity of someone’s argument was not to counter with his own arguments. Instead, he posed questions. Lots and lots of them, asked with the hope of leading to a broader understanding of issues.
Treat others well.
Good manners aren’t just empty gestures you reluctantly agree to because your grandmother expects it. Roughly 2,500 years ago, Confucius stressed the importance of paying attention to rules about politeness and decorum. How you treat others really does make a difference in how they treat you. Confucius’ disciples marveled that he made his point “by being cordial, frank, courteous, temperate, and deferential.”
Nurture your curiosity.
The world is filled with endless topics to study. You should never stop learning. Look to Leonardo da Vinci for inspiration. He was fascinated by just about everything. Da Vinci’s journal pages were practically an encyclopedia of conceptual inventions and observations in the fields of architecture, engineering, astronomy, zoology, biology, geology and hydraulics. And, he even found time to paint.
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We all have a hunger to unravel the mysteries of life, but it’s important to remember that you don’t have to start from square one. A lot of wonderful thinkers have already laid an excellent foundation for us.
Today’s guest contributor is Dean Chavooshian, author of The Pursuit of Wisdom. After earning a degree in Theology/Philosophy, Dean received a Master’s in architecture and worked over 30 years with prominent New York architectural firms and international real estate developers.
One of my personal rules is that my phone is always off when I’m with a client or conducting workshops because I believe they deserve 100 percent of my attention. Calls are returned and emails answered later.
While curled up in my hotel room one evening, I returned calls and answered emails. I saw that an acquaintance had called earlier in the day. She didn’t leave a message, so I did nothing, surmising she’d rung me by mistake.
When I saw her a week later, she was cool and clipped.
“Hey, is everything all right?” I asked, detecting the emotional distance.
“Anything I can do to help?”
“I’m mad at you.”
“Mad at me? Why?”
“You let me down.”
“How did I do that?”
“You didn’t call me back last week. I really needed to talk to you.”
“You didn’t leave a message.”
“That’s not the point.”
“Help me out. What’s the point I’m missing?”
“You saw that I called, right?”
“You should have called me to find out why I called you.”
Her expectation took me back years ago to a former boss. He kept a toy—barrel of monkeys—on his desk. When he gave anyone on his team an assignment, he gave us a plastic monkey and placed one on his desktop, telling us, “Now you know what to do, and I know what I asked you to do. We’re in this together.”
We returned the monkey to him when our assignment was complete. He’d return his monkey and ours to the barrel.
One day in a staff meeting, someone asked him why he kept a monkey when he gave us an assignment.
“It’s a symbol,” he said. “Giving you an assignment doesn’t take me out of the equation. I’m always responsible. I can’t give that responsibility away. I own it. The monkeys remind me of that ownership.”
“Is that something you’ve always done?” Asked a colleague.
“Early in my career, I asked an employee to do a task. He didn’t get it done, but I didn’t follow-up with him either,” replied my boss. “When my boss asked me why the work wasn’t done, I told him I’d asked an employee to do it and that the employee had failed to get it done. My tone obviously implied the issue wasn’t my fault. My boss looked me square in the eye and said, ‘Don’t paint yourself as the victim here. Assigning work to someone never takes the monkey off your back. You own it, no excuses, no blaming.’ I learned a big life lesson that day.”
The boss gave all of us a barrel of monkeys game at the next staffing saying, “Remember, if you need it or want it, own getting it done.”
I still have my barrel of monkeys. It’s a symbol to me, just like it was to that long ago boss.
That acquaintance tried to give me her monkey. She blamed me for not acting when she hadn’t made it clear she wanted action, so I refused to let myself feel guilty.
Unspoken expectations are tricky things.
I think that being a leader who is clear about he/she wants and who owns up and follows up is a double bonus recipe for liking ourselves and for working better with others.