Posts Tagged ‘Leadership’

The Go-GiverOne of the entities I follow on Twitter is @TalentCulture, a source of helpful information across topics such as leadership, talent management, human resources, the social workplace, and HR technology. Between their tweets, tweet chats, radio show, and other web resources, you can find a lot of quality information and interaction with others who share such interests. It is one specific train of thought in a series of recent tweets from @TalentCulture that sparks this blog post.

How many times have you heard of someone positively described as a go-getter? The term is generally used to praise someone who takes initiative, who gets things done, who does more than what is expected, who doesn’t let obstacles stand in the way of achieving some goal, etc. That is why I was a bit surprised earlier this week to see a series of tweets distinguishing a “go-getter” from a “go-giver” with the more positive slant going in favor of the go-giver.

What is the difference between the two? The tweets from the past few days will help distinguish between them.

Some of the characteristics of go-getters according to @TalentCulture tweets on September 1-2 include:

  • people of action;
  • egocentric;
  • get things done;
  • more competitive and inward looking;
  • tend to usurp;
  • most have only one speed and agenda – themselves;
  • goal driven and will not deviate from that;
  • need to know what’s in it for them;
  • the players with the puck/ball and their sight on the goal.

Conversely, go-givers were described in these ways:

  • focus on bringing value to others;
  • seek personal success while benefiting colleagues;
  • tend to be servant leaders;
  • elevate the achievement of others;
  • community-centric;
  • think of the team before themselves;
  • focus on empowering others.

There is a definite difference between the two according to the people who shared the above descriptions.

A few other tweets worth noting include:

  • “Without go-givers, there would be nothing for go-getters to take.”
  • “If I help you ‘go-get’ what you need then I have become a ‘go-giver.'”
  • “It’s completely possible to be a go-getter and still be focused on others.” (Does this view mesh very well with the others above? Do you agree with the claim?)

As someone who has positively identified himself as a go-getter for most of life, I admit it is hard for me to wrap my head around this distinction. It is difficult to see being a go-getter in a more negative light when I know, for example, that I demonstrate daily a concern for others and willingness to give in order to help them achieve their goals while also being very goal oriented and driven to accomplish more than others expect from me. Perhaps I’ll have to read the book and chew on this idea a little more to determine where I stand on the matter. At least the potential distinction is now in mind and I can better analyze my motives and behavior.

What do you think? How does this distinction between a go-getter and a go-giver resonate with you? Which one are you, or do you think you’re a mixture of both? How do you see the distinction playing out among members of your team at work, or even in your household or other organizations you may be a part of? Let me know in a comment.

For more info about the idea of being a go-giver, go to thegogiver.com and the #tchat recap. You’ll find the book on Amazon if you’re interested.

WorkIsnotFamilyYou may have heard a business owner or manager at times say something to the effect of “We’re a family here” when referring to the relationships among employees.  I can’t recall the last time I heard it (thankfully), but I know that I have in years past.  I confess, though, that it simply doesn’t ring true in any business I’ve ever been a part of except the one that my wife and I ran out of our home for a number of years.  I recall hearing such comments and thinking to myself, “No, this isn’t family – only family is family,” yet everyone heard the sentiment, smiled or nodded and went on their way, probably thinking like I did that such sentiment was wishful thinking on the part of management.

For several years, my current company used the Gallup Q12 survey to measure employee engagement.  Many employees shook their head unsure what to do with the survey item “I have a best friend at work.”  While many may have been able to answer affirmatively, many others were befuddled by it and felt nothing wrong with truthfully answering negatively to the item.  They didn’t expect to have a best friend at work.

Except for family-owned businesses that really are made up of relatives, let me say clearly that groups of employees in businesses are not family nor should they feel like they ought to be.  Work relationships may well include some very dear people that become friends for life, but most coworkers – especially in a large business – are colleagues with whom you will never communicate again once you leave that place of business.

And that’s OK.

My company has nearly 50,000 employees.  Is that a family?  No.  It’s a workforce.  I do not know and will never know individually most of my fellow employees.  I know well and thoroughly enjoy the friendship of my closest colleagues.  I have many good working relationships across numerous departments and locations, but the only family I have at work is my youngest son, Jason, who happens to also work for the same company.

The word “family” is special.  It is reserved for those few who are united forever with me because we are, indeed, relatives.  As a Christian, I am also comfortable using the term to refer to the larger body of believers in my family of faith with whom I expect to share eternity.  To use the term “family,” however, for environments where the focus is something as mundane as a temporary career which could change by choice or force in a moment is to cheapen the meaning of the term.

This is not to say that work is not important – far from it.  Many of us spend more waking hours at work with our colleagues than we do at home with our real family.  Having good relationships at work helps make the experience more meaningful and fulfilling and should be a goal of every employee.  Frankly, though, I am quite fine with trying to have a well-oiled machine at work made up of professional colleagues who strive together toward the same goals and who show professionalism and emotional maturity along the way.  That is what the business employs us to do – not to be best buds along the way.

Managers and leaders, please think twice the next time you are tempted to say in a talk or email or elsewhere that your business is a family.  The hearers may not openly disagree with you, but they will probably not believe you, either.  Just work on getting everyone moving in the same direction, working toward the same goals, demonstrating the same core values, showing emotional maturity and professionalism in whatever they do, and you will be doing what the business is intended to do.  Leave the term “family” for that one-of-a-kind institution that we come home to after work.

collaborationI’ve been thinking the past few days about something that’s bothering me.  As someone whose work the last several years has focused primarily on promoting and managing the use of collaborative tools inside the enterprise – specifically SharePoint (2008-2011) and our enterprise social network (2010-present) – I think I’ve finally come to a realization I don’t like.  There is nothing earth-shattering about the conclusion and, in fact, I’ve had the thought before.  This time, however, there are more years of background and experience behind it to give it weight.

First, some background…

We hear regularly about the need to collaborate more in companies.  It’s true that improvement in this area is an ongoing need in many organizations, so I’m not picking on my company here.  Over time, though, it seems that companies attempt to answer the question “How can we collaborate more effectively?” with a series of attempts to throw more tools and portals at the problem rather than address the more likely, weightier hindrances to collaboration which are personal and interpersonal.

In response to recognition that better collaboration is needed, typical responses include: create a task force to study the issue, install a new platform such as SharePoint, install an enterprise social network, upgrade the virtual meeting tools available, create a custom portal that gathers data and resources from various platforms, research other companies’ platforms and tools, etc.  Depending on who is involved with such solutions, the proposed recommendations can be rather predictable.  As someone who spent most of his adult career in IT, I can assure you that if you have mostly IT people studying the problem, their proposed solution will be another software install or development project.  That won’t solve the problem.

While there is great value in having the right tools for collaboration in a company (and I recommend having any of the above that help accomplish the business goals), at what point does leadership inside a company stop and ask “Why are we still not collaborating like we think we should?  We’ve introduced all these tools into the enterprise year after year, yet we find our collaboration lacking.  Why is that?”

May I suggest the following to any company that finds itself in this situation:

You already have all the tools you need to collaborate.  What you lack is the will, leadership and culture to do so.

If people want to collaborate, they can do so with or without the latest tools.  Give me a group of people eager to collaborate but with no technology in hand, and we can do a fantastic job of collaborating with nothing more than time spent communicating with one another while taking notes on pencil and paper.  However, if you give me a group of people unwilling to collaborate or who do not see such collaboration modeled by their leaders or who are not rewarded for such collaboration intrinsically or extrinsically, then no software installation or upgrade in technology is going to change that attitude and make it happen.

For collaboration in an enterprise to become the norm, several things need to be true that have nothing to do with technology:

  • You must have the right people on board.  Let’s face it – not everyone is inclined to be a team player.  If that’s the case, find a role for them where they can be a Lone Ranger, or let them go if they are unwilling to change their attitude and behavior.
  • Collaboration must be modeled from the top down throughout the organization. It can’t just be talked about.  For example, do leaders involve others in the decision-making process, or do they hand down edicts that foster resentment?  Are employees being told (mandated) to collaborate better, or are they being shown how to do so by example, experiencing the benefits first-hand?
  • Time must be allotted in projects for such collaboration to happen.  Anyone who has ever succumbed to the thought “If I want it done right, I’ll just do it myself” isn’t going to be inclined next time around to work with others on a similar task.  That may sometimes appear to be a quicker solution, but it’s rarely the best long-term solution or what’s best for the enterprise.
  • Successes at collaboration must be shared for others to want to share in that same kind of success.  That takes intentionality and time.
  • People need to experience the “What’s in it for me?” results, either via internal satisfaction or external recognition and reward systems built in to ongoing evaluation methods.

Until companies address the people and time matters above, the same problem will continue to be identified year after year – “We need to collaborate better” – and the same worn out and ineffective response of throwing another tool or portal at the people will waste time and money to little avail.

Don’t misunderstand my point.  Having great tools available can facilitate such collaboration.  When tools are used well, they can help reduce the time it takes to complete projects.  The social interactions possible via some tools can result in more innovation and success, but the mere presence of the tools cannot guarantee that success.  Social tools such as enterprise social networks, raise the bar of what is possible in an enterprise that recognizes the value of “working out loud” and collectively solving business problems.  But they must have many champions within the company at all levels to be adopted and used to such potential.

We can do better, but we will only do so when we choose to do so.  Cultures can change, but it takes a while, especially for large organizations.  It will take unrelenting determination from those who understand the value of the desired end result.  People at any level can make a positive difference and be a leader, modeling collaboration.  You don’t have to be in a management role to be that kind of leader.

I’m committed to modeling and promoting a culture of collaboration where I work.  What about you?

Related reading: “Is Social Business All Talk and No Trousers?

Worst BossIn yesterday’s post, I shared the characteristics and practices of The Best Bosses I’ve Ever Had.  Today I will reluctantly spend time reflecting on the worst ones of the bunch and what made them so.  Of course, I won’t name names or give enough background to identify with certainty who I’m talking about.  After 40 years of working, I’ve had many bosses across numerous roles at several companies and organizations.  Heck, I’ve had ten bosses in ten years with my current employer even though I’ve only been in three roles and departments.  Such is corporate life.  I lost count long ago on how many I’ve had over time.  So for those that know me, don’t miss the point of the article by trying to figure out who the “inspiration” for each item below may have been.

It can be assumed that the flip side of the characteristics of my best bosses would make the list of my worst bosses, but I won’t be that easy on myself in writing this.  Some of the items below are the opposites of the “Best Bosses” behaviors, but not all.  I have a different set of people in mind for these points and their characteristics drive the items below.  So let’s get to it.

The worst bosses I’ve ever had:

Are self-centered.  I don’t tolerate very well having to be around those who think predominantly of themselves.  Give me a leader who understands and lives the values of servant leadership any day, but not one who seems to drift along in his/her own little world of “what’s in it for me?” or “look at me!”

Constantly create or respond to one fire drill after another.  This may show itself in unreasonable, last-minute demands of dropping everything and doing something entirely different “by the end of the day.”  It may come as an emergency handed-down by my boss’s boss or someone else higher up, but that is no excuse for perpetuating the issue of allowing last-minute, random questions and events to determine what work gets done.  Management that follows this pattern shows no sign of having, understanding, or following a cohesive strategy for accomplishing the business’s objectives.  Life in such a business is one big ongoing game of Whack-a-Mole.

Distrust their own people.  Why would you hire someone you distrust?  Why would you distrust someone you trusted enough to hire?  Why would you continue to employ someone you distrust?  It all makes no sense to me.  This may be displayed by managers who refuse to delegate responsibilities and corresponding authority to their people to carry out needed tasks.  It may be evidenced by physical signs of keeping employees away from anything of value.  It may come via typical surveillance methods or asking others to spy on anyone suspected of wrongdoing.  It may show in overzealous methods of required documentation or using technology to monitor nearly every minute or keystroke of an employee’s time on the clock.  It may be evidenced by blocking common websites such as social media sites or shopping destinations.  People who distrust never cease to amaze me at the creative ways they devise to try to justify their fears.

Refuse to address personnel issues.  This is maddening and kills the morale of the remainder of the team.  Deal with issues fast, managers, or you may need to be dealt with next – either that or you’ll find yourself losing your good people because of your inability to solve the issues arising from your problem employees.  And please don’t place the burden of dealing with problem employees on their peers.  That isn’t what they are hired, paid or trained to do.

Disrespect their people.  This might be shown in a number of ways, from public condemnation and criticism to unreasonable time demands that encroach on their people’s personal lives, to speaking poorly of their people to others outside their department, to being offensive in word and deed through inappropriate language or physical behavior, or other ways imagined only by minds that I cannot understand.  I could try to play psychologist here and claim that such behavior is a sign of low self-esteem – demeaning others to help one feel better about himself – but I’ll leave that analysis to others more qualified.  Regardless of the reason behind the behavior, it’s wrong.

Fail to lead.  This can happen when someone is unqualified and ill-equipped for the role, unsure of what to do himself, and therefore unable to guide others.  It can come from the wishful thinking that laissez-faire, hands-off leadership will magically bring out the best in others.  It may come from those trying too hard to be friends with their subordinates.  It may come from a boss who is already disengaged himself or who is in disagreement with those above him/her in the org chart.  Businesses need people who know how to lead and who are not afraid to do so using sound principles of leadership – not dehumanizing, authoritarian abuses of power.

Must have everything their way.  Bosses must make the final call on some decisions, but to think that all or nearly all things must be done the manager’s way is surely the wrong approach.  It discounts the knowledge, talents, ideas and innovations engaged employees can bring to the table.  It stifles motivation and devalues the employees.

Micromanage.  Maybe some people need to be micromanaged, but I’m not one of them.  Anyone who tries to do this to me is just annoying.  I doubt I’m different than most employees in this regard.  That said, I concede that short periods of keeping a closer-than-normal eye on an employee may be in order when poor performance is documented and greater accountability is in order.  Still, it seems to me that if a boss spends all of his time peering over the shoulders of others to make sure they’re doing things a certain way, then that boss may not be necessary to the business.

Try to keep employees from advancing.  One of the potential downfalls of doing one’s job really well is that it can sometimes result in employers keeping you in that role even when you want to grow, learn, and experience other roles, be they lateral or vertical changes.  A boss who is concerned with the professional development of employees will go out of his way to encourage such growth and experiences.  Think of it, bosses, as your opportunity to make a positive impact on the lives, careers, and even the families of many people over time – a far greater contribution to the world in the long run that pigeonholing people into roles they are ready to leave.  If you try to “keep them in their place” too long, they may just leave the company for greener pastures, and then you’ve just blown it for the company permanently.

Are rarely available to their employees.  Too many companies end up filling the daily calendar of bosses with back-to-back meetings all day every day.  Not only does this likely keep the boss from doing much that’s actually productive, but it keeps him/her from being available to the very people most likely to want and need his/her presence periodically throughout the day.  Temporarily removing oneself from the area or occasionally closing an office door to focus on a task is understandable and reasonable, but rarely being around or always being behind an uninviting closed door creates an unhealthy barrier between bosses and their people.

Discourage employee engagement.  What I’m thinking of here is when a boss thinks that only he/she can do some things, failing to delegate in the best interests of the business.  The idea that only people at a certain level should make decisions or do certain things creates an “us vs. them” mentality rather than a team approach.  I’ve witnessed this in businesses and volunteer organizations where, oddly, volunteer engagement is discouraged in favor of staff-only decision making and execution.

Withhold vital information from employees.  There are times when company leadership determines that certain information about the business must remain hidden until some specified time at which it is unveiled.  That’s understandable, especially for a publicly-traded business that must follow strict laws.  However, there are times when bosses at their own discretion choose to hide from employees information that the employees may deem very important to their work or career decisions.  Consideration for the employees should take precedence in such situations.

Make you dread going to work.  When your thoughts during your morning shower start the day by dreading going in to work, imagining the potential conflict or irritants awaiting, you know you’ve reached a point where either a major change in the relationship needs to happen, or it’s time to move to a different position.  On the contrary, working for a great boss makes it a pleasure to be there today and for the foreseeable future.  If your non-work time is starting to be filled with negative thoughts, hindering your personal life as well, it’s time for change.

Overall, I have been fortunate with more jobs than not in the kinds of bosses I’ve had for the past 40 years.  There have been scenarios, however, where I have painfully been reminded by experience of the common maxim that people go to a new job because of the work, but they leave a job because of the management.  That is true all too often.  Sadly, the very managers most guilty of the negative behaviors and characteristics mentioned above are also the most clueless about their behavior, its negative impact on people and, ultimately, the impact on the businesses they are employed to serve.

For bosses reading this, I encourage you to look over these traits and the ones listed in yesterday’s post about my best bosses.  Do an honest self-evaluation.  Give yourself kudos for the positive qualities you think you regularly demonstrate.  Make note of the negative ones where you should improve.  If you’re really brave, initiate some 360-degree feedback from subordinates, peers and supervisors for a more complete analysis.  Then pick one or two areas for improvement and make a plan to improve.  Grab an accountability partner to help you in the cause.  Don’t focus only on your weaknesses; that’s unnecessary and depressing.  Acknowledge and celebrate your strengths.  Do this kind of evaluation at least annually and, if you’re in a better place a year from now, you’re doing well.  Keep it up.

For employees reading this, especially if you see more negative than positive qualities in your current boss, you have some decisions to make.  Do you stick it out with a poor boss in order to keep doing work you love, to keep working with great coworkers, or to maintain other benefits of the role?  Do you risk addressing the most important issues with the boss, unsure of what his/her reaction may be?  Do you chance the nuclear option of attempting to go over the boss’s head to his/her supervisor with your concerns?  (Be very careful about doing that.)  You have to make those calls yourself.  I default to the approach of privately addressing the issue with the boss as the most direct and proper method, even if it does have potential negative consequences.

Maybe you have other characteristics you’ve experienced in your worst bosses.  If you have some to add to my list above, feel free to do so in a comment.  I’d love to hear about them.

Here’s hoping for a brighter future with great bosses!