I recently had a conversation with a friend who is an executive with a mid-sized software company growing rapidly through acquisition. We discussed the various challenges his leadership team is facing and the approaches they were taking to solve them. His company is struggling to assimilate the cultures of the acquired firms, reduce expenses and create synergies from the combined companies. He admitted they had a solid plan to address the financial side of the issues, but they felt overwhelmed by the more complex people side of the equation. In my experience, many senior leaders like my friend and his peers typically develop a “business response” to their “business problem”, which, on paper, seems logical. Where these plans sometimes fall short is in how leaders miscalculate the unintended consequences for their employees resulting from the decisions that have been made and how these decisions are communicated to the organization.
A few weeks ago I received a thank you note from someone who attended one of my corporate workshops on how to maximize business relationships. The person was thoughtful in sending the note, but I especially appreciated the specific reference to the best practices that resonated with her and how she planned to apply them in her life. The note of gratitude and the lessons it contained have stuck with me and been the catalyst for some deeper thinking about the importance of random acts of praise, kindness and gratitude or “RAPKG” for short.
You are in a staff meeting listening to a work colleague drone on about his success on a recent project, but you know he is actually behind and over budget. What do you do? One of your direct reports has a few self-limiting behaviors that are impeding her career growth and negatively affecting the team, but you don’t want to hurt her feelings. Performance reviews are coming up and you need to rate her work. How will you handle the situation? A colleague lacks self-awareness about the negative reputation he has earned in the company. He doesn’t work for you, but you want to help him get back on track. How will you approach him? One of your company’s senior executives consistently asks for feedback, but you doubt his sincerity. A business problem arises that you know will reflect poorly on decisions made by this leader. Will you have the courage to speak up?
The act of asking for candid feedback is often one of the scariest things we do as professionals, but it does not have to be this way. The feedback we receive from colleagues and clients can help us adjust our approach, fix major issues before they get out of control or stay the course. Feedback can and should be considered a gift, not something to avoid.
I am blessed to be the father of a wonderful teenage son named Alex, who has high functioning autism. Our family has countless stories and experiences describing how Alex has touched our lives and made us better people, but that is not the subject of this post. The words you are about to read are meant to pay homage to the incredible kindness of people who have come into my son’s life this year, the gifts they have given him and the lessons I have drawn from these experiences.
I recall a few years ago when my father came to our house for a visit, which he typically does two or three times a year. He loves to see his grandsons and we talk to him every week by phone, but because of his health it is sometimes difficult for him to travel from his Florida home to Atlanta. I have occasionally written about my dad over the years and the wise counsel and good example I have always received from him. This particular weekend visit was different because of a powerful lesson he helped me teach my then 13 year-old son.
On the Saturday afternoon of my dad’s visit, my son and I were throwing the football outside while my father was taking a short nap in his room. I can always tell when one of my boys has something on his mind so I probed and asked him if there was anything he wanted to share. He responded with, “Dad, remember when we talked about what it means to be successful a few weeks ago? Is Papa successful?”
I first met Pat Falotico, CEO of the Robert K. Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership, in the spring of 2015 through an introduction by a mutual friend. From our first conversation, I was impressed with this accomplished senior executive and her passion for promoting the concept of servant leadership around the world through the writings of Robert K. Greenleaf and the global non-profit that bears his name.
“Transitions are periods of opportunity, a chance to start afresh and to make needed changes in an organization. But they are also periods of acute vulnerability, because you lack established working relationships and a detailed understanding of your new role.” – Michael Watkins, The First 90 Days (HBS Press)
Onboarding has been a relevant business topic and on the radar of most HR leaders inside larger organizations since the mid-90’s when The First 90 Days by author Michael Watkins was released. Many companies followed his challenge to create helpful onboarding experiences for their new hires, particularly in leadership roles. These experiences varied greatly and had mixed results. Some organizations defined onboarding as ‘employee orientation’ and others left it to the new leaders to figure out for themselves, providing little or no organizational support.
I have been leading people since I was a 16 year old in high school working at a restaurant in the town where I grew up. Leadership has always been a passion for me and after years of study, reading dozens of leadership books, listening to mentors and accumulating great experience on the way to a successful career I have come to understand one thing: I can still learn something new about leadership. In my case, the best source of ongoing leadership lessons is my 19 year old son Alex, who has high functioning autism.
“Authenticity–The quality of being genuine or not corrupted from the original. Truthfulness of origins, attributions, commitments, sincerity, and intentions.” Source: Wiktionary
Authenticity. What is it, who is doing it well and how do we make it work for us in the business world? Attempts at building business relationships that lack authenticity can often feel contrived. When approached by people lacking in authenticity, we may likely feel used and simply a vehicle for the other person to achieve their business objectives. This is networking and selling at its worst.
We must own our behavior. Every action we take with regards to relationships in the business world is intentional. On some level, we likely know what we are doing, but may not always consider the impact of our actions or the repercussions on our clients or co-workers. Do we come across as givers or takers? Authentic or fake?