Monday, April 29, 2013

The World Needs More Love

When I started out in early 2009 to share a few “lessons and stories of leadership and life,” I had no idea that now 89 essays later (yes this is #90!) I would still have a number of things to share, and maybe none more timely and important than this topic today. Over the years I have often jokingly shared in a moment of business strife , or petty personal turbulence, that “the world needs more love” ; trying in my own way to nudge the listeners of the moment to try to choose a more hopeful, maybe even a more loving solution to the issue at hand. Well surrounded and at moments engulfed in the violent madness of our times, this “quippy” admonition seems timely and very important.

It was two weeks ago that I landed in Boston, the morning of the marathon, to attend a 3 day global leadership conference. Our hotel was about a mile from the finish line and we had a member of our team running in the marathon that fateful Monday and a few of us were planning on going over to watch him finish. Due to some “required “rehearsals that afternoon, I stayed back at the hotel while a few members of our team headed over to the finish line. At 2:50pm that afternoon, everything changed with the twin explosions and the senseless injury and death brought on to so many innocent bystanders. Standing in the hotel lobby a mile away, I watched with the world the news headlines as sirens streamed by heading to the bomb site. Quickly armed police came to our hotel and everything went into a lockdown mode. Surprisingly quickly we were able to contact our friends who were over near the finish line. All were physically ok but it would take hours before they could work their way back to our hotel. Obviously so many others were not nearly so fortunate and over the past two weeks the violent and senseless madness of the Tsarnaev brothers has been evident to the world.

With that said, if you actually take a close look at the headlines over just the past two weeks, they are filled with violence and madness all across our world. Now it is so easy for me to say that “the world needs more love”, but I feel strongly that we are going in exactly the wrong direction. Regardless of creed, nationality, age, sex, or belief system, the world does not need more hatred or violence! It does not need more cynicism or critique! It does not need more maiming or killing of innocent children! It does not need more weapons or war! It DOES need more love!

Over the past 89 essays I have tried to keep my personal political and spiritual views on the sidelines knowing how divisive those topics can be. Instead I have tried to share my ideas and suggestions in ways that would, or at least could, appeal to a broad set of readers regardless of orientation or nationality. It’s actually very interesting to see that of the almost 15000 readers so far, there is a wide audience of readers from countries so varied as Ukraine, Iran, The Netherlands and Canada. It’s in that spirit that I want to quote a previous essay (The Golden Rule at Dulles Airport.) In looking over religions spanning across countries and continents, there is a strong common thread that we should treat others as we wish to be treated. Reflect on the commonality across so many traditions!

The Universality of the Golden Rule in the World Religions

Christianity All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye so to them; for this is the law and the prophets.
Matthew 7:1
Confucianism Do not do to others what you would not like yourself. Then there will be no resentment against you, either in the family or in the state.
Analects 12:2
Buddhism Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.
Udana-Varga 5,1
Hinduism This is the sum of duty; do naught onto others what you would not have them do unto you.
Mahabharata 5,1517
Islam No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself.
Judaism What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellowman. This is the entire Law; all the rest is commentary.
Talmud, Shabbat 3id
Taoism Regard your neighbor’s gain as your gain, and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss.
Tai Shang Kan Yin P’ien
Zoroastrianism That nature alone is good which refrains from doing another whatsoever is not good for itself.
Dadisten-I-dinik, 94,5

Now maybe my simple admonition might seem a touch na├»ve and that the idea that “the world needs more love” should be obvious to all. It is certainly clear from the headlines of our time that we need to work harder on this idea, actually working to turn this concept/idea/belief into real action; actually choosing paths and actions of love not hate rather than being the innocent bystanders on the sidelines of this race we call life.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Praise in Public, Coach in Private

Across a business career that now spans well over 27 years, I have had the chance to experience and learn a wide variety of lessons from a wide range of inspirations. In some instances it took me years to realize the power and impact of a key lesson (as described in a recent essay “Execution is THE Strategy) and in some situations I have been applying and sharing a lesson that I learned years ago, the source of which is now lost in the fog of time. Thus let me preface this essay to say that I am certain I owe the following idea to some historic boss, teacher, or peer and I officially apologize for not being able to more appropriately credit the source today.

As you can easily see from this blog, I believe deeply in the power and importance of Leadership and am always working on my craft in this area. It’s an honor and a privilege to lead teams and so often leaders literally blow it by thinking they can “drive” organizations to do their will, execute their strategies, and follow their directives. In my experience successful, engaged organizations are ones where the leaders follow the three simple principles of leadership; to educate the minds, inspire the hearts, and direct the hands and feet of their teams. (Learn more about these principles in the essay “Three Impact Points of Leadership”) it’s in this context that this simple of idea, to “Praise in Public, Coach in Private” comes to life.

There are so many “leadership moments” that occur every day in a leaders work life that it is impossible to pre-plan your message/tone/approach for every high impact moment. Certainly there are key meetings, presentations, speeches, etc. where pre-planning is a must; being intentional about your content, your context and your approach is not optional! It IS a requirement of leadership. My comments today are about all of those unplanned, unrehearsed moments that are high impact situations without the benefit of pre-planning. In my experience keeping the idea of “Praise in Public, Coach in Private” close at hand will serve all leaders well.

Praise in Public: in situations where you encounter positive outcomes or positive actions from your team, don’t shy away from praising the individual or the team publically. Whether live, on a conf call, or on a group email, let the team know WHAT you like in the situation and maybe more importantly WHY you like it! Let it out, don’t hold it in! Your team wants and NEEDS to know what you value and what great performance looks like. Across my years in business I have never been in a situation where I have felt an organization had too much praise, or had “become soft” because of excessive praise. Across all the engagement surveys and team input sessions, the lack of feedback from senior leadership was MUCH more common an issue.

Coach in Private: in situations opposite from the above, where the results and/or the approach to the work did not meet expectations try to avoid public environments for pinpointed/direct/negative feedback. If you really want that individual/team to learn from the moment, the last thing you want them thinking about is their embarrassment in front of their friends and peers. Equally for high performing associates who “got this one wrong”, you as the leader owe it to them to quietly and privately dive into the situation to see where they or maybe YOU got it wrong as well. Berating high performers publically is a typical first step for those associate to actually listen when headhunters call.

While it seems simple enough, I can promise you it is often hard to put into practice. Recently I participated in a board meeting where the leader became energized on a specific issue brought up by one of his direct reports. Rather than deciding to “Coach in Private”, he dove into the individual with a growing stream of critique and reproach. Not only did the other board members feel left out and ignored the individual in question (a high performer in the company) ultimately shut down and the discussion literally stopped. Was there learning? Was there insight? Was there progress?

Now I know there will be moments where all of us will struggle to bring this idea to life consistently. We will be tempted to “Coach in Public” and maybe “Praise in Private” or more likely to not praise at all. Keep the simple idea of “Praise in Public, Coach in Private” present as you go through your busy lives of leadership, and I am confident that not only will you be a more effective leader, your organization/team will be more energized, engaged, and your results will be more successful.