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Friday, March 02, 2007

Are You Adding Value and Making a Positive Impact at Work?

How are you conducting yourself at work? Personal conduct flows directly from your character. Your character is radiated to others by what you say and do. What you say and do, and more importantly, what you have said and done in the past forms the basis of how others perceive you. Have you lied or used your power or influence to the detriment of others? Have you put personal relationships or interests above the interests of the organization? Have you used your position to get your way by means that were perceived by others to be unprofessional or unethical? If you answered yes, to any of the above, then you are damaged goods in your organization.

Quote: Unless you have deep roots, you won't bear much fruit – Author Unknown

The workplace demands responsible behaviors from all employees, but especially from its leaders. Leaders must be held accountable to what I call the Leadership Accountability Triangle. The three legs of the triangle are: Process, Communications, and Results. When measuring a leader's performance the three legs should be weighted equally.

One of the legs I will focus on today is Communications. It is irresponsible behavior for project managers and organizational leaders to communicate important topics exclusively using e-mail. When this happens, what they are saying is you and/or your group isn't worth their time.

EMOTIONAL OUTBURST: E-mail is a poor choice to use when relaying important project and/or critical organizational communications. Using e-mail exclusively to relay vital information shows a true lack of leadership and poor management skills.

My opinion is, ditch the e-mail when you need to communicate something important. You aren't so important that you can't take the time to pick up the phone or make a personal visit to communicate an important message. To put this in a real-world light, I have seen multiple situations where departments/divisions were radically reorganized and the leader(s) decided to communicate the change via e-mail. This was a cowardly act, and a horrible example of leadership. I call it Absentee Management by Design.

PERSONAL RANT #1: If you have something important to convey, make a personal visit, or at a minimum pick up the phone. Also, if it isn't worth your time to visit or call, then it probably wasn't that important. If I'm not worth some of your time, your message isn't worth much to me.

Organizations that are successful find ways to communicate effectively and inspire their staff. One way to do this is to create and live by Win/Win Agreements and relationships.

To have a Win/Win relationship you must have:

Desired Results: what will be done and when will it be done (negotiated)

Resources: people, money, organizational

Accountability: performance standards, measures

Consequences: good and bad

Win/Win agreements are about mutual understanding. If you want to understand others, you must listen to them. Not hear them, but listen to them. We can't communicate effectively unless we are listening to each other. If you dictate to me, I stop listening to you. Acknowledge me and validate my feelings, and I will listen to you.

PERSONAL RANT #2: E-mail isn't an effective two-way communication tool. I can't "hear" you and you can't "hear" me because were not talking.

Win/Win agreements require mutual respect. Organizational and personal wisdom are also an important part of crafting effective Win/Win agreements.

I'm sure we can agree (or maybe not) there are lots of "smart" people in our organizations; however smart people don't usually do the hard work. In fact, my experience has been that intelligence rarely equals wisdom. Wisdom is what we must seek when crafting Win/Win agreements. Wise people are your organization's greatest assets; because they are great listeners and are open to new ideas. To quote from, "wisdom is the ability, developed through experience, insight and reflection, to discern truth and exercise good judgment. Wisdom is sometimes conceptualized as an especially well developed form of common sense".

In closing, be wary of what I will call the e-mail preacher. E-mail preachers use the computer as their pulpit to preach their sermons. Remember an effective preacher is a great teacher. Effective teaching doesn't come from a keyboard. It comes from human interaction, a shared learning experience, where there is a feedback loop and an opportunity for face-to-fact dialogue and debate.

PERSONAL NOTE #3: I'm not impressed by the e-mail preachers. If I want to hear a speech (one way conversation) I will attend a political rally.

A visible leader that inspires by example and is available, engaged, and is aligned with the organization's mission and interested in the well-being of his/her subordinates is a rare commodity, but is still sorely needed in today's organizations.

As Stephen Covey says "If you can't inspire others than you are an impediment to progress. Satisfied needs do no motivate. It's only the unsatisfied need that motivates. Next to physical survival, the greatest need of a human being is psychological survival – to be understood, to be affirmed, to validated, to be appreciated".

PERSONAL RANT #4: You can't get validation or inspiration from leaders that communicate important messages via e-mail. Those that aren't seen aren't relevant.

FREE ADVICE TIP # 1: Ensure your behavior is driven by principles not expanding your powerbase. Make commitments, make promises, and then keep them. Acknowledge mistakes quickly and make amends. These are the signs of a true leader. Once done, you can effectively enter into Win/Win agreements.

Lastly, weak leaders, whiners, blame agents, and chronic complainers are commonplace in today's organizations. However, you can choose to take a higher road and make a difference. You can always find something wrong with something or someone; instead, reward somebody for doing something right.

Be an inspiration, not an empty suit or just another talking head.

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