Author Archives: erin@woodchuckarts.com

Organizational ADD

organizationaladd

With all of the focus on issues facing children today toward Attention Deficit Disorder and the fact that the medical community considers this a real destructive syndrome I wanted to spend a few minutes and talk about organizations that suffer from the same syndrome. Yes organizations suffer from ADD as well…

According to the optometrist network “A child with AD/HD [ A.D.D. OR ADHD ] is usually described as having a short attention span and as being distractible. In actuality, distractibility and inattentiveness are not synonymous. Distractibility refers to the short attention span and the ease with which some children can be pulled off-task. Attention, on the other hand, is a process that has different parts. We focus (pick something on which to pay attention), we select (pick something that needs attention at that moment) and we sustain (pay attention for as long as is needed). We also resist (avoid things that remove our attention from where it needs to be), and we shift (move our attention to something else when needed).”

Many organizations suffer from the same symptoms. How many times have some of your subordinates said, “We suffer from the management of the month club?” Have we taken those comments to heart? I think we should and here is why.

Many organizations are faced with many objectives, grow sales, cut costs, be more efficient, improve quality, improve delivery, etc., etc. We have heard them all. With so many objectives and opportunities facing us today what we really need is laser focus. I had a recent potential client who was looking to add a Purchasing Director while what they really needed was something less in the procurement area and some true leadership at the manufacturing/operational level. They could not see that. My meeting with them allowed them to take all of the ideas I laid out in front of them (operational improvement) and go back and focus on what their needs really were. They did not have a strategy. So, to put someone in the director role was useless because they don’t have a leader who can develop and articulate the strategy. How would he or she be effective because they are so scattered? So the next posting I see is for a Vice President of Operations. Even though I am not engaged with that organization at this point, they were taking every little morsel I was feeding them around global sourcing, transportation efficiencies, potential acquisitions to effect both top line growth and bottom line results going back and digesting them and getting focused. That is where the issues really lie and that is where they need to focus. Look at systemic fixes for your business. Don’t start in the middle because you can’t affect real change in the middle. You must start at the top and get really focused on what is causing the business to not be as effective as it could be. Until you have developed an effective strategy all of the other activities will not yield the results you want.

Now in order for this organization to be successful they have to deploy the strategy. This is where most organizations fail. After they have obtained all of the various inputs the organization must sit down and sift through the opportunities and prioritize exactly what is important to the short term and long term success of that particular business. The important part is how they motivate and empower the organization to actually go out and execute the strategy. This is where the entire strategy can fall apart. This is where leaders in the organization need to make sure whatever actions they carry out support the short term and long term objectives of the strategy and the organization needs to understand what effect these decisions have on the strategy itself. It is easy to move back into the management of the month club at this time but laser focus is important to adhere to the plan. Focus to execute the strategy is paramount here. This is where I have seen most organizational strategies fall apart. The executive team can develop and set the strategies but the organization has to be positioned to execute and our jobs as leaders are now tested. This is why focus is key in execution. What good is a strategy that can’t be executed? The executive leaders have to support the organization developing and gaining focus otherwise we are back to Organizational ADD.

When organizational leaders do not have the proper focus they suffer from organizational ADD. They wonder why they are not effective and their leadership comes into question. They wonder why they don’t see results and exactly why change is slow to come. Developing a strategy is easy if you have the right inputs. Executing that strategy without a comprehensive game plan and flawless execution is where the proper time and support must be spent to avoid reverting back to the organizations old ways.

Thoughts on a Character Deficit in Today’s World

A good friend of mine, Michael Ross, who wrote “Overcoming the Character Deficit—How to Restore America’s Greatness One Decision at a Time,” said it best when he asked, “What happens when we lose sight of the impact of our choices?” Everything we do in our lives has consequences, and the earlier we understand that, the better off we are. How many times have we regretted what we said, or more importantly, what we did?

Michael says in his book “that the word character is a deviation of the Greek word charakter which literally means the “stamp of a coin.” American coins feature great men like Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt. Their characters helped shape and set a high standard for our nation. The penny says honest, perseverant, and humble. The nickel says creative, diplomatic, and competent. The dime says resolve, relationships, and patience. The quarter says courage, fortitude, and honor.” I say, isn’t this the way we all want to be described? Isn’t this the legacy with which we would all like to live? People today don’t think of their characters as being honest and humble or creative, diplomatic and competent, or full of courage, honor, and fortitude. But what if they did? Would this world not be a much better place to live if they did? I am sure the Greatest Generation (described by Tom Brokaw in his writings) would all agree that those words are very important, but somewhat lost in 2015. If they are less important today, why is that, and how powerful might they be if we embraced them? Would we not have fine moral character?

I mention in my first book (The Dysfunctional Organization), the vacuum of leadership in the world today. I mentioned a story about a time I was driving through South Africa with a good friend, who is a South African of British descent, and we were talking of statesmen. The question came up, are there any great statesmen or women in the world today? Of course, being in South Africa, my friend mentioned Nelson Mandela. Now Mandela has a checkered past, especially if you talk to the white population of South Africa. But in my humble opinion, here is what is amazing about Mandela. When F.W. DeKlerk gave up power to Mandela’s party, everyone expected the worst. Everyone expected that power in the hands of Mandela would mean the demise of the nation. Give Nelson Mandela some admiration for realizing he needed white South Africa to help transform black South Africa, and that they had to work together with the minority who had been in power for years—many times oppressively—to make South Africa a great nation. His personal greed or vindictiveness for spending the best years of his life in Robben Island Prison was seldom apparent. This wise gentleman realized that in order to set up a successful future, he had to deal with the past, he had to allow a reasonable transition and that it was better for South Africa if he did. See, statesmen do what is right for their country, not necessarily what is right for them, either socially or politically. In that case, Mandela was a true statesman.

Who might be the others over the past fifty to one hundred years? Maybe Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair? You can certainly throw in Roosevelt and Winston Churchill into that discussion. Much has been written over the past few years of Roosevelt’s slyness and his moxie, and at the same time his valued relationship with Churchill. FDR knew it would be political suicide to support the UK early on in the war, but Churchill was a friend and a staunch ally. They had a pact that when Churchill needed help the most, FDR would pull the string, and that is exactly what happened—and the world was saved from a tyrannical leader, be it Hitler, Stalin or someone else. As they say, the rest is history.

Now, we are not great men or women like these folks, but what will be our legacy? How will we contribute to the world—in albeit a smaller way—but still making this world a better place to live? It is through our character. It is doing the right thing at the right time in the best interest of the most people. It is letting go of the natural tendencies to hold spite, be vindictive, and pay back someone who has done us wrong. It is character that defines who we are.

Michael Ross argues that there is a character deficit in our nation today, and I can’t argue with that. How did we lose our way, and what do we do to fix it? He will tell you that there are serious flaws within our political structure, the way we do business today, our health, our finances, our educational structure, our religious organizations, arts and entertainment, as well as our basic family structure. Now I would find any number of people agreeing with him, but the fact of the matter remains, how do we fix what has already been damaged? Michael will tell us “that each of us is not as important as all of us,” and that we need to take a stand “to bring character back into our lives,” and I agree wholeheartedly with him. The character deficit and understanding of what makes something deficient helps us to remedy it today when you decide to take action and fix it. It is really all about the action we take when we look at character from a mature perspective. It shows us what we need to do to build a strong nations, strong families, and strong relationships, and be effective once again.

The Content of your Character

Relationships are the foundation for success in life. This is the key, no matter what level the relationship is….mentor, coach, business partner, spouse, or friend. Those with strong relationship values have a better chance of succeeding in life because they have created a bigger safety net. For example, when you destroy the relationships with your friends, you will have no friends. You will be isolated and alone. You will look for other things to occupy your time, and typically those things are no good. They could be food, cigarettes, gambling, drugs, or many other vices. We look to fill that void because we are untrusted by our friends. If a student promises not to cheat, but does anyway, he is taking unfair advantage to put himself ahead of others without deserving it. He can ruin his reputation, his academic record, and his job prospects forever. When a businessman makes a promise to customers and doesn’t deliver, he destroys his relationships with his customers. His customers go elsewhere and his business fails. His reputation is always at stake. And remember, all we really have to sell is ourselves…our character.

By breaking your relationships, you break the foundation for success in your life. What is true success? In many cases, true success isn’t measured by us. For example, who is more successful, someone who is famous and makes a great deal of money, or someone who has no fame and makes little money, but is a great parent? Today in school, too much emphasis is being placed on good grades and high test scores—so much so that these things, rather than good character, are how we are defining success. I have always said that the true measure of success is not measured by us, but by others. The more respect and trust someone gives you is one true measure of success. Ask your friends, or be open to your protégés’ telling you what they think of your mentoring ability. Ask them where you might be able to improve, and get better at giving them exactly what they want. Think about the people who you consider to be successful. What do they have that you don’t? They don’t proclaim themselves successful. It is a title that you bestow on others, and how exactly is it measured? Do we measure it by the vehicles they drive, the clothes they wear? Most likely, we make a character judgment–don’t we? That is why character is so important.

Your good character is the most important asset you have. It takes a lifetime to build, but it can be lost in an instant. Once lost, it is difficult to regain. Your true character is revealed when no one else is looking. Often, people decide to act based on short term gain, or an easy fix to a problem, and they end up doing the wrong thing. The old adage “you are what you do” is true. Failure to consider the long term consequences of your acts can be disastrous. By study and focusing on the importance of character, you will be guided to do the right thing by principles, moral strength, and integrity. Nothing is more important for true success in your life. Developing character is our lives journey, and we must work at it daily in order to successful. We will stumble and fall, but when we realize it is about our partners, not us, we will be successful.

So many times in my career I have run into folks who just don’t understand how important a person’s character is. That is really too bad, because in most of those cases, these individuals have not had a proper mentoring relationship in their lives. I know of one case where a father took his son in to run his business and the son, over a period of time, drove the business into bankruptcy through a series of unscrupulous activities, drug issues and other trust-centered issues. The son’s marriage failed, too, because he was always seeking affirmation. He did not realize that what others think of you is more important, as compared to what you think of yourself. How sad to ruin a business (that had one hundred and fifty employees at one time) over your own ego and trust issues. It makes one wonder if all of this could have been prevented had the son had a good mentor to guide him in his life and business ventures. One will never know, but the destruction left behind is really sad…a life and a family ruined.

The late civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. encouraged his followers not to judge people by their appearance, but by the content of their character. A person’s character, be it good or bad, can inspire others to greatness. In business, the role of leadership-caliber character can never be understated. Authentic leaders lead from a strong, personal, moral value that can have a profound effect on their organizations and have a tremendous effect on their ability to mentor others as well. You need to understand how character affects your organization, and how it can attract top performers, and just what overall effect on performance it has on the tangible side.

Be a Farmer, of People


I’ve told this story many times, and still get laughs out of it every time I do. One time, as I was having lunch with a relatively new associate, he asked what I did for a living. I told him I was a farmer. Now after he spit his food out and laughed insatiably for a few minutes, I explained to him what I meant. You see I have always thought of myself as blessed, actually in many different ways…first of all, I have seen the entire world almost on someone else’s dime (business), and this has allowed me to gain a perspective on the world most others can’t quite see or even grasp. I was diagnosed with a couple of auto-immune deficiency diseases early in life, so, I catch a lot of colds and don’t necessarily have the ability to fight the bugs off. Because of this, I believe in one thing most importantly…I am on earth to touch people and make a difference in their lives. These unfortunate circumstances are really fortunate, because they give me a different perspective on life and living. I have often sat down and asked myself why I continue to live while others with the same affliction die. The only rational explanation I can come up with is that the Lord must be looking to get more out of me. So I try to figure out what that means on a daily basis. How can I contribute and make a lasting contribution? So what does that have to do with farming, you may ask?

Webster says a farmer is one who cultivates land or crops or raises animals. What is a person who raises or cultivates people? I can’t tell you the amount of times I have reached out to a complete stranger and struck up a conversation, whether it is on a plane, train, or just blindly on social media. I like to see the shock on peoples’ faces when I do such things. It is comical sometimes. Now sometimes the recipient of my advances is shocked by my forwardness, but in most cases, they reach back out. Why, you have to ask yourself? Are they searching for the elusive golden ring of knowledge, are they looking for friendship, or are they simply looking for some little snippet of knowledge they feel they are lacking to make their lives more complete or fulfilled? I don’t know, I guess that depends on the recipient. A farmer does the same thing. A farmer plants seeds and provide sustenance for his family and many other families. A farmer also fertilizes, cultivates, and comes back to reap the harvest. I believe in patterning myself as a farmer. When it comes to relationships, I believe you first plant a seed and make the relationship fertile enough to grow. You come back to cultivate that growth, and when the time is right, the plant benefits, as well as the farmer. When there is benefit for both parties, it is time for harvest. Harvest time is success for everyone. It benefits all parties because bellies get filled, and both parties can enjoy the fruits of their labor. Both have reached a state of fulfillment, in a sense.

When it comes to building relationships, farming is the perfect activity. Relationships grow that way. When you have cultivated the seeds and come back to water the plant, and the plant produces, there is satisfaction for the farmer. The same is true in building relationships, when you have started the conversation and figured out how to make both parties satisfied. Now, because you really understand all of the needs, you can fill the role of the farmer. The farmer’s goal is to produce the largest, best-tasting, healthiest fruit or vegetable possible. It is just like entering the county fair as proud as can be, because of the farmer’s labor.   It’s the same with the relationship farmer as well.

Now the first question would be, exactly how do you do this? I say you always make it about the other person, never about you. Find a common platform on which to engage. Find some common theme to start the conversation. It can be family, cars, careers, whatever—it just has to be a common interest between the two of you. Many times when you hit that common thread people will really open up—in fact, sometimes you find out more than you really wanted to know, so be careful and listen.

Remembering key details is an easy way of reestablishing relationships, and I have made a habit of trying to remember something about everyone. This especially works well with friends from other countries, as most people do not consider Americans too sincere. I have always tried to immerse myself in another culture whenever I am in a foreign land. Indians are a unique group. I have great friendships with my Indian friends because I have never refused to go to temple with them; I have always tried to understand their culture. One time, while I was in Delhi for a plant opening, we had a ceremony to bless the new manufacturing equipment that had been recently installed in our plant, and they had a priest come into do the blessing. They tied little red strings around my wrists, and I kept mine on until they fell off. A few months later, my friend from India was visiting and he asked me why I kept the bracelet on? I told him that it reminded me of my friends in India. He was speechless. And that is exactly why I kept it on, even though my boss cut his off on the plane home. You see, I think it is an honor to take some small bit of another’s culture and immerse it with ours, as it broadens the respect we have for one another. It certainly does make the world a smaller place. Now, isn’t that farming?

Farmers are the salt of the earth, and such an integral part to our viability and success. Farmers understand conservation and the thought behind replenishing assets. If the land is not taken care of for future generations, there will be no future. So a farmer is one to be admired and someone we need to look up to because of his stature and character; he is always doing what is right for the future, because as we say, if we don’t, we will have no future. Don’t you want to be a farmer?

I am proud to call myself a farmer, although not in the sense you might expect.

Character and Integrity….

Character is who we are. Character in life is what makes people believe in you and believe in what you can do for them as well as believe in themselves. It is the basis of establishing relationships and is essential both for individual success and for our society to function successfully. Society is based on the cooperation of a collection of individuals and each individual must do his or her part every day by living a life full of integrity. Integrity is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness. The more we pay attention to our character and integrity the more successful we will beat developing and sustaining relationships.

Integrity is adhering to a moral code of honesty, courage, strength and truthfulness—being true to your word and true to yourself as well. When you don’t exhibit integrity, other people get hurt. But you hurt yourself even more, because when you think about it, hurting someone else is really hurting you. When you cheat, your “success” is false, and it is not sustainable. When you break a promise, you are showing that your word is meaningless. When you lie, you deceive others and lose their respect. When you lose respect, the relationship sours and the mentoring, coaching, or business relationship starts to unravel and dissolve. All of those examples destroy your reputation and break the trust others have in you. Without your good reputation and trustworthiness, your relationships fail. And often we reflect and ask ourselves, “Why?” You need to be believable and of the utmost character, I have said this many times, and those of you who know me well will be saying, “Here we go again.” I learned early in life to be honest, but not because I was striving for honesty—you see, my memory just isn’t that good. So when I fabricate a story, I can never remember what story I fabricated and just who I might have told it to. So I quickly learned to tell the truth, figuring that that way I won’t get caught in a lie and accidentally hurt my character rating with any of my associates. Many times I have heard the expression” you only have one time to make a first impression”, I would add to that by saying it only takes one time to ruin your credibility. Job to job, relationship to relationship be worried about your character as once it is tarnished it takes a huge effort to restore it.

“No customer is going to tell me how to run my business”

customerserviceCan you imagine these words coming out of a CEO’s mouth?  Well, yes it’s true. A while back I tried working with a global enclosure manufacturer on a partnership, yes, they are today out of business, liquidated some time back and it’s no wonder with an attitude like this headline how they could of survived. Working with them I had asked for a certain employee, which most of our team felt very comfortable with and did a great job to step into a program management role.  It was not his choice to service the account and so the standoff ensued.  When I questioned why they weren’t moving forward, the CEO told me “that no customer was going to tell him how to run his business”.

In all my years of management I have learned a number of things…

The Customer is always right.  Even when he or she is wrong they are right.

It takes much longer and more energy to find a new customer than it does to keep an old one. Your current customers are customers for one reason, they like you or they like something that you do.  Maybe you provide excellent value for the dollars they spend.  Maybe you go out of your way to make them feel important.  Whatever the reason you are obviously doing something right.  That is half the battle, cultivate that relationship and watch it grow….

Loyalty means everything to your business.  I am going to think and take care of people that treat me right before I try something new. Every time, I check in at Delta Airlines, they tell me “thank you for your loyalty”. I used to think what a strange saying but you know, talking loyalty, is like talking close personal friendships.  I want to be a friend and a trusted advisor.  Loyalty is a lot like that, it means the two parties trust each other. I like when someone appreciates me and tells me.  That is human nature to want to be appreciated. Tell your customer, just how important they are and they will keep coming back.  In fact, they will tell other potential customers and make sure they enjoy the same valued experience that the original customer did and you will grow your business.  There is nothing like a good testimonial.

The customer wants to be heard and understood.  Yes, sometime they are obnoxious and bullying but you can usually get the customer to listen to some reason.  Unless you’ve ticked them off so badly they will never recover. Recently, I missed a reservation at a hotel.  It was my fault but I do spend 200 nights a year in a hotel so that is bound to happen 2 or 3 times in my life I suppose.  When I checked into the hotel again the clerk mildly reminded I had missed but she had taken care of it.  I appreciate that.  When I happened to see the hotel manager, he reminded me that I had missed and berated me for not calling to cancel.  He should be sent to charm school.  The clerk, while much less experienced did it in a non-threating way.  The manger on the other hand did it in such a way to cause a potential confrontation. Wonder why he is the manager?

Don’t push the customer into a decision they are uncomfortable in making.  Both parties may regret it later. Hard sells never pay off.  Create the value equation so that your customer wants to buy. When your customer understands the value equation, he or she will be happy with the product or service and tell their friends.

Actually care. Sincerity is always valued. Very seldom do you get the feeling when talking to a customer service agent that they actually care about your plight.  Again, Delta Airlines agents must go through some great training because when you call the Diamond status line they actually sympathize with your plight and do whatever they can to make you as complete as they possibly can. What you as the customer wants…is someone who cares.

Understand your product and understand the value add equation from your customers perspective. The older I get the more I realize the less I know.  I want an expert opinion.  Whether it’s the latest electronic equipment or why these pants or these suits costs so much more than the other I want to understand the value in what I am buying.

Respect them. Treat your customers well and they will treat you well.  Respect then becomes a mutual thing.  If the CEO in the initial discussion would have shown a little respect to me as the customer thing may not have worked out the way they did.  Remember, the customer controls the purse strings.

Deliver the goods. Make sure you deliver what you said you will deliver as it says a lot about your character. I have always preached to my kids that a promise made is a commitment of your character.  If you are going to make a commitment you live up to it regardless of the costs. I admire companies that do the right thing rather than worry about the short term costs.  Customers see that commitment and do give you credit for doing the right thing.

Follow up is so important in building the relationship. I like to believe that the sale lasts forever. I believe in staying in touch so that the next time your customer needs you, you are first in his or hers mind. Use social media to the fullest to remain in the forefront with your customer but let’s not forget about phone calls.  A phone call just saying you are thinking of them and you would like to catch up goes a long way to keeping a relationship alive. Relationships mean everything….Don’t be the CEO of the enclosure company who alienates his customer or you will follow the same fate.

Dysfunction…a deeper cut

thedysfunctionalorganizationAs you know, I literally “wrote the book” on Dysfunctional Organizations.  I am trying to be funny because someone needs to “write the book” and fix these organizations before they implode. Three times this past week I had associates come to me with workplace issues, all of them relate very well to the dysfunctional organization?

Seems the first, who worked in a government role got tied up with a supervisor a couple levels up trying to make an example of him for serving the customer.  Now, I know government and “serving the customer” or making the customer happy don’t quite go together but in his zest to keep customer happy and productive he transferred equipment that should not have been transferred.  Seems like a good reason for discipline, not for termination.  But like any good dysfunctional organization, without regard for his personal life they gave him an opportunity to resign.  How wonderful of them?  His intentions were good but his conformists’ tactics were not.

The second case is a young person in a significant role of responsibility with a large retailer had her function and role changed without any discussion with human resources, any bad reviews or any communication with her boss.  Dysfunctionality it seems happens right at the top. It holds no prejudice.  Reminds me of what I call the Barr syndrome.  Barr was an HR Director that called me and praised me for a 360 degree survey leadership result at 95% because; in his words it led the company.  The company average was 55%, our department average was 31% and my bosses were 13%.  Pretty pathetic, yet in two months I was laid off as vengeance for my bosses 13% score. In the mentioned retailer, there is a lack of communication, lack of understanding and an inability to get the employee to buy in and make the transition simple and easy. All could be avoided with a little discussion in advance.

Another call I got was from an old friend who had taken a position (he was recruited mind you) about nine months ago for an equipment manufacturer and was told last week that “this just isn’t working out’ by the president of his company who by the way recruited him.  Now there were obviously some political undertones here as the subordinates and peers of this friend were not part of the decision making process with the President to hire this gentleman in the first place and were rather uncooperative when he was hired.  But up until that date no one had a conversation with my friend about his performance or about the direction he was taking in managing the companies business.  Again, the level of communication is nonexistent.

Seems to be a trend here, all of these relationships could have been salvaged with a little old fashioned communication.  Why not go out of your way to overly communicate important issues that have great bearing on people’s lives?  Why not give them the benefit of the doubt when mistakes are made to keep good people within the organization? Why not make our organizations functional again so that we can prosper and grow.  Seems simple doesn’t it? But organizations are a collection of people.  And people have a lot of idiosyncrasies. People get jealous; people do not trust all the time, people get vindictive and cause problems.  Our jobs as leaders are to break down those walls and get people to work together for everyone’s good. The best way to start is with open communication.  With the proper communication all of these issues could have been resolved and a much more effective organization would be the result.

Click here to purchase my book on Amazon!

Character and Integrity…some thoughts on both

integrityIf you are my friend or I am your friend it is based on three things… trust, character and integrity. Things don’t always go as planned.  Believe me, I know firsthand but if we can depend on each other like family and we trust one another it makes it so much easier. I think that philosophy is true whether you are my mentor, I am your mentor, you are my coach, I am your coach or we just have a great business relationship.

All of us are not flawless.  We all make mistakes.  Sometimes we do the wrong things and each of us sometimes pays dearly when we do. I have always believed in “honesty is the best policy” not because I am of such high moral standards but perhaps a little simpler explanation.  I am a man and if I lie, I can’t necessarily remember who I lied to. Because I have caught people in lies or stretching the truth and I think it is rather embarrassing if you catch them in it I have made a habit not to lie.  Again remember, we all have flaws, we are imperfect, unfortunately God has not made the perfect human yet but all we have to sell someone else is our honesty, our character and our integrity. That is what our reputations are built upon.

Commitment is a key part of character.  One of the lessons I have taught my children, that when you make a commitment it is etched in stone.  If you say I will help you move on Saturday you had better be there Saturday helping your friend to move.  I believe your word is your bond. If you have no intent on showing up on Saturday then say that but if you commit the only thing that prevents you from living up to your commitment is death, either yours or mine.

What is character?  Webster defines it as “the way someone thinks, feels, and behaves: someone’s personality: a set of qualities that are shared by many people in a group, country, etc.: a set of qualities that make a place or thing different from other places or things.” I think that is the first thing a person sees when they look at you is your character.  Now it’s not fully exposed until you become friends but we all like to hang around with people who are like ourselves and I hope we think of ourselves as having the utmost character.

A good friend of mine, Michael Ross who wrote “Overcoming the Character Deficit—How to Restore America’s Greatness One Decision at a Time…said it best when he asks, “What happens when we lose sight of the impact of our choices?’ Everything we do in our lives have consequences and the earlier we understand that the better off we are.  How many times have we regretted what we said or more importantly what we did?

Michael says in his book “that the word character is a deviation of the Greek word charakterwhich literally means the “stamp of a coin.”  American coins feature great men like Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt.  Their character helped shape and set a high standard for our nation. The penny says honest, perseverant and humble. The nickel says creative, diplomatic and competent. The dime says resolve, relationships and patience. The quarter says courage, fortitude and honor.” I say isn’t this the way we all want to be described?  Isn’t this the legacy that we would all like to live? People today don’t think of their character being honest and humble or creative, diplomatic and competent or full of courage, honor and fortitude.  But what if they did?  Would this not be a much better place to live?  I am sure the Greatest Generation (described by Tom Brokaw in his writings) would all agree that those words are very important but somewhat lost in 2015. If they are less important today, why is that and how powerful might they be if we embraced those concepts today.  Would we not have fine moral character?

I mention in my first book (The Dysfunctional Organization), the vacuum of leadership in the world today.  I wrote of a story, driving through South Africa with a good friend who is a South African of British decent and we were talking of statesmen. The question came up, Are there any Great Statesmen or women in the world today? Of course, being in South Africa, my friend mentioned Nelson Mandela. Now Mandela has a checkered past especially if you talk to the white population of South Africa.  But in my humble opinion here is what is amazing about Mandela.  When F.W. DeKlerk gave up power to Mandela’s party everyone expected the worst. Everyone expected that having power in the hands of Mandela would mean the demise of the nation. Give Nelson Mandela some admiration for realizing he needed white South Africa to help transform Black South Africa and that they had to work together with the minority who had been in power for years, many times oppressively to make South Africa a great nation. His personal greed or vindictiveness for spending the best years of his life in Robben Island Prison was seldom apparent.  This wise gentleman realized that in order to set up a successful future you had to deal with the past.  You had to allow a reasonable transition and that it was better for South Africa.  See statesmen do what is right for their country, not necessarily what is right for them, either socially or politically. In that case, Mandela was a true statesman.

Who might be the others over the past fifty to one hundred years?  Maybe Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair? You can certainly throw in Roosevelt and Winston Churchill into that discussion.  Much has been written over the past few years of Roosevelt’s slyness and his moxie and at the same time his valued relationship with Churchill.  FDR knew it would be political suicide to support the UK early on in the war but Churchill was a friend and a staunch ally.  They had a pact that when Churchill needed help the most FDR would pull the string and that is exactly what happened and the world was saved from a tyrannical leader be it Hitler, Stalin or someone else….As they say the rest is history.

Now we are not great men or women like these folks but what will be our legacy?  How will we contribute to the world in albeit a smaller way but still making this world a better place to live?  It is through our character.  It is doing the right thing at the right time in the best interest of the most people. It is letting go of the natural tendencies to hold spite, be vindictive, and pay back someone who has done us wrong.  It is character…..that defines who we are.

How destructive are the politics in your Organization?

One great example of dysfunction in an organization is office politics and how destructive they can be to a company. In my 30+ years of experience, I have seen leaders destroy businesses by making decisions based on politics; I have never once seen how acting in this political manner can actually benefit an organization. Take a look at our own US Congress; the most political organization of all and also the most ineffective collection of individuals assembled. Look at their approval ratings that have never, in entirety, been lower; why don’t we take a lesson from them?

Now politics should not be part of any organizations MO. If we started to realize how destructive the politics can be in an organization, we would all try and eliminate any part of it. Bickering, jealousy, back-stabbing, and a general distrust for one another exist in many organizations. If we can turn that into an organization full of team work, effectiveness, and efficiency, just imagine how positive that would be. People would be focused on the gains of the corporation rather than individual gain; just think about the results if that could be harnessed into positive energy.

I ran across a posting by Calvin Sun, who wrote this in an article for TechRepublic. He states that there are ten ways to survive office politics.

Live at peace with others
Wouldn’t it be great to appreciate others for their contributions, be it large or small in our minds? Why not try and solicit ideas from those who are less participative and give them credit when their thoughts and ideas are successful. This can build an environment of trust and isn’t that what we need to have an effective team?

Don’t talk out of school
No one appreciates the rumor mill so let’s not be the one to start talking about things that we know little about. Do not be the expert on everything. Do not be the gossip monger. Instead try to mentor and coach others by your example of always pulling for the team and its collective success.

Be helpful
Go out of your way to be helpful. Don’t just show you care about the individuals on your team but actually care. Show some compassion and take the time necessary to build the trust that is required to lead your team. As a leader, why not try mentoring techniques to the less experienced members of your staff, you might be surprised at what you find.

Stay away from gossip
Remember gossip is just that, gossip. In most cases there isn’t a shred of truth in it so let’s not be known for spreading rumors. If we deal with facts folks will start to believe in us and trust us and that will lead to developing strong leadership skills that will cause your team to follow.

Stay out of those talk down the boss sessions
We can always do a better job than the boss. But remember until we walk in his or her shoes we don’t always understand all the detail that went into their decisions. Let’s give them some credit for maybe, just maybe having a little more detail going into their decisions than we give them credit for. Maybe, we don’t know it all. This is difficult but we really never know if our boss had a bad day, got pressure from above him or her to make the decisions they do. I have often found, in my career you really never know who you might be able to trust in an organization and who you can’t. Might just off leaving your opinions of your boss in your vault.

Be a straight arrow
Truth and character prevail here. I have often said the best medicine is truth because if I start to lie or stretch the truth I may not be skilled enough to remember who I told what to. Character is the basis for leadership. Be known for having the highest character. It will serve you well over your career. Truth and character always serve us well.

Address the politics issue openly when appropriate
Your opinions are important but only when someone is ready to listen and take heed. Ina dysfunctional organization that isn’t ready to hear your opinions because they don’t feel they need your opinions or aren’t ready for them they most often are taken the wrong way. Try to be constructive when giving your opinions and don’t get yourself caught up in the political quagmire that is most organizations.

Document things
Most folk’s memories aren’t that good. Keep a journal of your successes and failures. Try to learn from each. You will find that it will be very helpful in your learning and development process.

Set incentives to develop teamwork
Create an environment that rewards people to sharing, appreciating one another ideas and creates harmony amongst the team. Create disincentives for rumors, playing political games and being destructive.

Set an example for your staff
You hold the keys to change. If you are a leader following the above steps will cause your team to follow and think of the dynamics you will create within your organizations. This is what leadership is all about. It isn’t about all of the praise you will get within your organization it’s all about how effective and efficient your team is…

I think these 10 values are important for individuals to keep in the back of their minds. Think of how great the work environment would be if we all made a conscience effort to live by these guidelines? Start to think how you can take these set of rules and form them into your everyday work situations. I think you will find you’ve improved your workplace dramatically and you’ve take another step to become that leader you always thought you could become.

The answer is usually under your nose…

In all of my years of business I have learned some simple solutions that always hold true. One of those things I had learned is that the solution is usually under your nose. I will give you a great example….I was tasked to do a manufacturing plant turn around. The company would be all too familiar so I won’t specifically mention them. The company had installed a new production line and it wasn’t producing anywhere near the production they needed to supply sister plants. There were a lot of mechanical fixes we did to right the ship and the client was prepared to build other production lines elsewhere. How do you start such a task?

The answer, talk to the people who are doing the job. The hourly workers are probably just as frustrated as the management, maybe more. My approach was to spend as much time on the shop floor as possible. Try to understand what the issues were and how frustrated the hourly workers are. Who would know better how to do the job properly than the folks that were doing the job?

Yes, we can bring in the Six Sigma team and all the process improvement gurus we want but the answers were clearly right under our nose when we asked the employees what was wrong with their jobs. Don’t assume the management is perceptive enough to realize just what is going on in their facility. Don’t assume that the folks doing the work have a say in how to do their jobs.

Empowerment is usually something we as managers and leaders are afraid of. Why, you might ask? It’s simple, we give up control and we love control or at least to feel we are in control. If I owned a manufacturing business or any business with employees for that matter I would want to make sure my associates:

Understood our objectives and goals
Get associate buy in and support
They are empowered to make decisions about their jobs
They have input on key decisions that involve their futures
They have some stake of ownership and responsibility for success of the organization