Like many of us, you have been thinking a great deal the last few weeks about what kind of 2019 you want to have and the goals you wish to achieve. This is a typical and necessary exercise for all leaders, but I wish to challenge all of us to open the aperture a bit and expand our thinking about where we will invest time in the coming year. The business objectives, projects and the endless meetings will always be there and require our attention and effort, but how about the other important areas of our lives?
“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?
“When it comes to life, the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.” – G. K. Chesterton
I remember at a very young age the constant urging of my parents to always say “thank you” in response to any kindness or friendly words shared in my direction. For many years, I saw this advice from my parents as simply good manners and what people were supposed to do. In my mid-teen years, I was mature enough to observe the heartfelt sincerity my parents always showed when they said “thank you” to others, offered prayers of thanks or expressed appreciation for the simple blessings in their lives…and how different it was from my perfunctory use of the words. They really meant it and I began to understand that their use of “thank you” transcended mere courtesy and it clearly meant something much more meaningful and powerful to them. What I observed my parents practicing so well was the beginning of my deeper understanding of the word gratitude.
“Meetings are notoriously one of organizational life’s most insufferable realities. U.S. companies spend more than $37 billion dollars a year on them. Employees in American companies spend more than one-third of their time in them. And 71% of senior managers view them as unproductive.”
-Ron Carucci, Harvard Business Review (February 16, 2018)
Let’s admit it. If given a choice, we would likely opt for dental surgery over some of the work meetings we are forced to attend each week. I have listened to my business clients express their frustration about meetings for over two decades and here is a brief sampling of comments I have heard:
One of the specialty offerings of my firm is the advanced coaching and consulting we offer to companies, business leaders and their teams around the concept of maximizing business relationships and optimizing client engagement. This is a vast area of study and I could fill a book (coming in late 2018!) with the various approaches and proven best practices I have found to be most helpful for my business clients. One of the biggest areas of interest for my clients is their desire for the essential tactics and simple engagement approaches that are critical for building effective business relationships both inside and outside their organizations.
My first and greatest mentor in life was (and is) my father Steve. He was a master of building business relationships and was well-respected and trusted by all who knew him throughout his long career. I remember well the advice he gave me 30 years ago, soon after I graduated from UGA and was about to begin my career. He told me to think about three basic approaches when I was encountering new professionals as I began my first post-college job:
- Be helpful/Serve their needs
- Be sincerely curious
- Always add value
Over my 25+ years in business, I have had the good fortune to serve on a number of non-profit boards and am grateful for the enriching experiences, people I have met and worthy causes I have served. One of the benefits I’ve gleaned from years of community service are lessons about how to effectively serve on a non-profit board. This post seeks to summarize these lessons into an easy-to-follow road map that will hopefully enrich your board service experience and help add value to the organizations you serve.
As they ascend the corporate ladder, many leaders do a curious thing … they stop networking. This can have a significant long-term negative impact on a career. I have observed this phenomenon over much of my professional life, most recently in conversations with a number of senior business leaders who have unexpectedly found themselves in career transition. Many spend the first few months of the job search rebuilding networks they failed to maintain while employed. However, the need for leaders to maintain effective, dynamic networks goes well beyond a possible date with destiny in the ranks of the unemployed.
There is no shame in losing your job – it will likely happen to many of us at some point in our careers. Look at it as an exciting opportunity to take stock of your life and a rare chance to be more intentional about the next move in your career. In my current role as an executive coach for senior leaders, through my past role as a partner with a respected national executive search firm, and previously in my role as head of recruiting for a billion-dollar restaurant company, I have had the opportunity to interview thousands of job seekers around the country. These conversations have helped me develop an actionable list of best practices for those seeking new roles, which I hope you find useful.
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.