Listen With Your Mouth

Several years ago our family was out to dinner with some friends. At one point during the meal their daughter said, “Hey everybody, Look!” When we all looked, we saw that she had put her earbuds in her nose and right when she had all our attention, she opened her mouth and we could hear music coming out of her mouth like a speaker. It was hilarious. But that’s not what I mean by listening with your mouth.

Listening with your mouth is more like the question I left you with last week, “What’s your story?” You listen with your mouth when you use your mouth to encourage the other person to speak or to speak more.

How to H.E.A.R.

There is an acronym that can help to remember the key elements or steps to good listening. I included this in a post in January of last year. The acronym is HEAR. Two of the four elements, interestingly, involve our mouths.

H is for hush. We have two ears and one mouth. But, we often use them in reverse proportion. We often talk more than we listen. The first step in Hearing someone and certainly in listening is to close our mouths. We can’t listen when we’re talking. Hush also refers to quieting some of the internal barriers to listening like prejudice against a person or idea.

E is for Empathize. Put our autobiographical responses on hold until we’ve heard the other person’s story from their point of view. There is a difference between Sympathy – sharing the speaker’s feelings (we’re not trying to do this) and Empathy – understand the speaker’s feelings (we are trying to do this) (E can also be for “Evaluate” when listening must be critical)

A is for Ask. I wrote more about this in a later post. But, questions are the most useful communication tools we have. The first rule of good listening responses is when in doubt, ask. The presidents association of New York once estimated that good questions increase our comprehension and retention by about 15%.

R is for Reflect. I also devoted another post to this. But, good listening responses reflect the speaker’s meaning like a mirror. How? Repeat and rephrase what you hear. It’s the most basic kind of feedback. You’re simply feeding back the speakers meaning to check for understanding. It is often easier to react than to reflect.

Initiating the Story

When you want to know someone’s story you have to get them talking. How do you do that? You could start with, “What about this weather?” I grew up part of my young life in Michigan where an apt reply would by, “Yeah, but wait 15 minutes and it will change” followed by the laughter of shared experience. While that gets the person talking, it doesn’t get you into their story.
You may want to try some of these conversation [story] starters:

  • “What are the top three things on your bucket list?”
  • “If you could ask for a miracle, what would it be?”
  • “What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?”
  • “Who has been the most influential person in your life?”
  • “What’s the most memorable lesson you learned from your parents?”

You can find 220 more possibilities here.

Going Deeper into the Story

Listening to someone tell their story is like viewing a picture. At one point in the conversation the picture may be like a sepia toned, old, faded snapshot. A little more information may add color and clarity to the picture. Still more information gives the picture 3 dimensions until at some point the picture begins to move. Even more information and you’ve stepped behind the eyes of your storyteller and are seeing the world through them. That’s Super Power Listening.

How do you get the additional information? With your mouth. Use questions to tease out the color, depth, movement, and emotion of the story. But make sure your questions are open ended. For example, instead of asking, “Were you angry?” which requires only a yes or no answer, ask “How did you feel?” That invites the speaker to volunteer more about their emotions.

Examples of other open ended questions include:

  • “Can you tell me more about that?”
  • “Why did you/they do that?”
  • “What’s next?”
  • “What’s the most important thing about that?”
  • “How did they feel about that?”

You see, it’s not only possible to listen with your mouth, if you want to get to SuperPower Listening, it’s necessary.

How to Develop Leaders – Be a Thermostat

You know the difference between a thermometer and a thermostat. The one in the picture has both. On the left is the thermometer. It tells you what the temperature is in the room. The one on the right is the thermostat setting. It tells you what the temperature will be. People can be like either one. Thermometers tell you it’s too hot or it’s too cold, or this or that is right or wrong. Thermostats behave in such a way as to make the temperature right. When it comes to developing people, the leader has to be a thermostat. The leader creates the climate for growth and development.

Look at nature. Plants require good soil, water, and sunlight depending on the species. Here’s another example from nature. One of the most popular aquarium fish is the shark. The reason for this is that sharks adapt to their environment. If you catch a small shark and confine it, it will stay a size proportionate to the aquarium in which it lives. Sharks can be six inches long and fully mature. but turn them loose in the ocean and they grow to their normal size.

The same is true of potential leaders. Some are put into an organization when they are still small and the confining environment ensures that they stay small and underdeveloped. Only leaders can control the environment of their organization. They can be the change agents who create a climate conducive to growth. Here are four ways to create that environment

Model the Leadership you want

People don’t usually do what they know. Either they do what they’ve always done, or they do what they see. As a leader, the visibility and consistency of your style has to be strong enough to overcome the 7 last words of the dead organization, “This is how we’ve always done it.” (the other way of saying that is, “We’ve never done it that way before.”) Model the leadership style you want to see.

Look for the leader inside the person

Like a miner, willing to sift through dirt to find gold, keep on the lookout for these 10 nuggets:

  1. Positiveness – they see work and people in a positive way
  2. Servanthood – they are willing to play team ball and follow
  3. Growth Potential – they are hungry for personal/professional growth
  4. Follow-through – they finish the job
  5. Loyalty – they put the good of the team above their own interests
  6. Resiliency – they bounce back quickly from defeat
  7. Integrity – they are consistent in what they say and what they do
  8. Big Picture Mindset – they see the needs of more than just their team
  9. Discipline – they do what’s needed regardless of mood
  10.  Gratitude – they have an overall attitude of gratitude

That last one along with servanthood demonstrate another essential quality – Humility. Humility is not putting yourself down. It’s recognizing the value of others and shining a light on that. When someone steps on others to go up the organization or is always shining the light on themselves, they will never realize their potential as leaders. You can’t lead when people don’t want to work with you.

Provide growth opportunities

Some plants need more water than others. Some need more sunlight. Some plants can’t grow in certain climate zones. For example, we miss lilacs because we live in the central valley of California. We have palm trees which we couldn’t have when we lived in Minnesota, but we can’t have the kind of lilacs we had in Illinois. They won’t thrive here. In a similar way there is no one formula for what growth opportunities your potential leaders need.

I mentioned in my post on “The Law of Addition” that I helped develop a training program for a large Healthcare system in California. We focused the training on three approaches: Education (online, classroom, certifications), Exposure (giving people the opportunity to see leadership in action at the next level), and Experience (giving people a stretch task associated with their next level). The key is tailoring those to the needs of each individual leader you are trying to develop.

Reward production over position

People get caught up in titles and position and in “lanes.” Don’t let them. The truth is a title doesn’t guarantee someone will produce. On the other hand, some of your best producers may not have a corresponding title. When you pay attention to and respond to productivity over title, you may just find that your next VP of Operations is currently an Administrative Assistant in HR. Look for the people who have the qualities mentioned above and who get things done. When people know you value productivity over titles that creates an atmosphere of growth.

The thermostat picture I put with this post shows the ideal situation. The temperature and the thermostat setting are the same. Be a Thermostat.

Celebrating 100!

This is the 100th post for Engager Dynamics! Whoo Whoo … celebrate good times, c’mon!” I love that song! Anyway, it’s the 100th post since I’ve been numbering them like I currently do. I write my posts in Evernote then copy and paste them into my website engagerdynamics.com with wordpress. WordPress automatically posts them to LinkedIn and I paste the link into my facebook profile manually since facebook stopped allowing automatic postings awhile ago. I recently created a facebook business page for Engager Dynamics and am working on improving that. I said “at least since I’ve been numbering them the way I do” because WordPress tells me I’ve actually posted 107 times. That’s because I posted a few extras in the middle of the week that I numbered with an “a” after the main post number.

What’s It All About?

I’ve been providing contracted services to clients in multiple industries for over 20 years. In some of those engagements we provided staff who were supervised by the client’s leadership team. It was particularly clear in those situations how strongly lack of engagement negatively impacted the business. I’ve observed that same negative impact within organizations I’ve worked for as well as within partner organizations. Those who really engage are rare and that bothers me. So, I decided to add value by sharing some important truths I’ve learned along the way and that’s what got me started with this blog.

I normally post every Monday morning before 6 AM on the west coast. In my second post, nearly two years ago, I defined what I mean by Engager Dynamics. In short, this blog is about the things we can do to connect or engage with people at work in ways that improve relationships and organizational outcomes. The posts fall into four main categories;

  1. Engager Dynamics (the core actions that lead to engagement)
  2. Leadership (topics a little more broadly about leadership)
  3. Habit Formation (how to make a habit of doing the good stuff)
  4.  Listening (a skill so critical it deserves its own category)

You can find the last 15 posts in each category listed on my “Posts by Category” page. Some of them overlap and there is another category on that page called “Words.” I call myself a word nerd, and this category captures posts where I share a specific word definition or two regardless of the main topic.

What’s Next?

Over the last few years I’ve developed a training that has been well received by several clients. The training focuses on the specific actions leaders can take to engage with their people. I’ve been refining the training lately and recently did an informal poll of readers to see which title would be more interesting. I had two choices 1. “Best.Boss.Ever. – How to Be the Best Boss Your People Will Ever Have” or 2. “The 12 Transformational Laws of Engagement.” Just over 70% preferred number 2.

The next question is delivery method. In addition to offering the training in person, I’d like to make it available more widely. I wonder how people might prefer to receive it. I could present it in an e-book, or as an audio file series, or as a series of videos. What do you think? If you were interested in a teaching on “The 12 Transformational Laws of Engagement,” how would you prefer to receive it? Thanks in advance for letting me know.

12 Great Leadership Quotes

This month’s posts have focused on Leading others (a series called “How to Become a Person of Influence). I thought it might be fun to end the month with a list of great leadership quotes from past leaders. Enjoy reading through these. When you’re done, please reply back to me and let me know which was your favorite and why.

  1. “You don’t lead by pointing and telling people some place to go. You lead by going to that place and making a case.” – Ken Kesey
  2. “The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.” – Ronald Reagan
  3. “Don’t follow the crowd, let the crowd follow you.” – Margaret Thatcher
  4. “A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
  5. “Too many kings can ruin an army.” – Homer
  6. “Position doesn’t make anybody a leader. Being in charge doesn’t make the wrong person right.” – Tim Berry
  7. “The art of leadership is saying no, not yes. It is very easy to say yes.” – Tony Blair
  8. “Leaders aren’t born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that’s the price we’ll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal.” – Vince Lombardi
  9. “You can do what I cannot do. I can do what you cannot do. Together, we can do great things.” – Mother Teresa
  10. “Try not to become a man of success, but a man of value.” – Albert Einstein
  11. “No man is good enough to govern another man without that other’s consent.” – Abraham Lincoln
  12. “If It’s Lonely At The Top, You’re Not Doing Something Right.” – John C. Maxwell

So? Which of those quotes resonated with you most? Or, which did you like best? Please let me know which one and I’d love it if you’d take a second to say why. Thanks in advance!

Trust But/And/Or Verify?

During the time leading up to the signing of the INF Treaty in December of 1987, President Ronald Reagan learned a Russian proverb, Doveryai, no proveryai meaning, “Trust but Verify.” He learned it because he knew the Russians liked referring to proverbs and he said it at every nuclear disarmament meeting with the Soviet leader. When he said it again on December 8, 1987 at the signing ceremony, Gorbachev said, “You repeat that at every meeting.” Reagan answered, “I like it.” Mr. Gorbachev had a quote of his own. He quoted Ralph Waldo Emerson, who had been popular in the USSR when Gorbachev was in college, saying “The reward of a thing well done is to have done it.”

Which is it? Trust or Verify?

You can’t do both. Think about the definitions of each word and you’ll see they are mutually exclusive. “Trust” means “to believe in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.” On the other hand, “Verify” means “to prove or ascertain the truth or correctness of, as by examination, research, or comparison.” When you trust someone you act on your faith in their reliability, truthfulness, ability or strength. When you verify, your action is to check on the reliability, truthfulness, ability or strength of that person. Trust builds relationships, verification assures outcomes. That’s the heart of the matter. Verifying can be interpreted as “Micro-managing” and can destroy trust.

There are some times and some industries where the outcomes are too critical not to verify. Some of those industries include Healthcare, Aviation, Utilities, etc. You can see how verification in these industries would be essential. In settings where verification is just part of the work, it doesn’t have a negative effect on relationships. On the other hand, most of us don’t work in those types of industries.

What Difference Does Trust Make?

“If every business learned to create a profound sense of trust through everything they do, not only would their bottom line improve but it would create a culture that attracts great talent and opportunities. Consciously creating trust is good for business, good for people and good for the world.” Masami Sato, Founder, B1G1

That quote comes from an online endorsement for a book titled Trust is the New Currency, by Sheila Holt and Fredrick Sandvall. According to the title of Stepen M.R. Covey’s book trust matters, The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything. Then there’s Nan Russell’s book, Trust, Inc. How to Create a Business Culture that will Ignite Passion, Engagement, and Innovation.

One of John Maxwell’s 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership is “The Law of Solid Ground.” It says that leadership is built on the foundation of trust. In fact, he says, trust is necessary in all good relationships.

Trust is very important. We trust airlines and surgeons because they verify. We trust our bosses because they trust us. One of the ways trust is built is by giving it. When you are the boss and the outcomes are not life threatening, try giving trust to your people.  You will find they usually become even more trustworthy.

Action!

The set was ready. Costumes were amazing. Props, lights, mics, cameras were all ready. The actors were in place to begin shooting the first scene of director Phil Martin’s expected new blockbuster film. The anticipation was electric when Mr. Martin called out, “Action,” but nothing happened. Johnny Jones, the lead in the film, just walked off the set, went over to the catering table, picked up a muffin and asked one of the grips how his costume looked. “Cut!” Mr. Martin was livid. Wondering if they had cast the right actor for the lead role, he stormed over to Johnny Jones to find out what was going on.

The story is fictional (in case you couldn’t tell). Could you imagine something like that happening? That kind of thing happens all the time. Individuals and Teams spend hours dreaming and thousands of dollars (or more) planning, making preparations, and strategizing but never do anything. Why? Fear mostly. Fear is the great paralyze-r and the great demoralize-r.

What are we Afraid of?

Here’s a list of four great fears:

  1. Being taken advantage of – if I take action someone else might use my work for their own benefit. I might not get credit for my ideas and effort. I will lose out.
  2. Rejection – what if I make a mistake? The ultimate rejection is being fired. I can’t afford to lose this job.
  3. Loss of security – this is way outside my comfort zone. I’m not sure what to do next if I take this step.
  4. Criticism – I need my peers (or boss) to recognize my value. What if they don’t agree with my action? They might think I’m a liability.

If you recognize yourself in any of those fears, you’re not alone. These are the primary fears of each of the four primary personality types and we all fall into at least one of them.

In my fictional story about the actor Johnny Jones, the conversation would have gone on between he and Mr. Martin about Jones “just not feeling ready.” He has a combination of the fear of rejection and criticism.

Just Do It

Nike made this their slogan for an incredibly successful ad campaign. It was so successful because of how it resonated with people across the board. The slogan challenged us to take action in the face of our fears. It made us dream of being successful.

Conrad Hilton, founder of the Hilton Hotel chain, said, “Success seems to be connected with action. Successful people keep moving. They make mistakes but don’t quit.” Of course we’ll make mistakes. I’ve recently been working with a group who have a history of decision paralysis for fear of making a mistake (read, “getting in trouble”). The message to them is that it’s better to act. If you make a decision that leaders disagree with, learn and keep going.

Edward Muzio, author and CEO of Group Harmonics, titled a recent Huffpost article “Fail Forward Fast [Get over being right and get on with getting on with it]”

When a plane departs on a flight, the destination and route are set. All the appropriate planning has taken place, so the pilot powers up the engines and takes off. Did you know that during the course of that flight the plane will be off course 90 percent of the time? Weather conditions, turbulence, and other factors cause it to veer off so the pilot is constantly course correcting throughout the journey.

The U.S. Marines talk about the 70% solution. They know that, in battle, quick and decisive are more powerful than fully informed most of the time. They work hard to streamline their intelligence gathering and decision making timelines but choose to act even when only 70% certain of the situation. Victory usually ensues.

Whatever it is you’re mulling over, whether you’re waiting for more information or a better time, Buy it, sell it, quit it, join it, call it, write it …. Do it! Take Action.

Trust Me!

Yikes! Would you trust him? I’m not sure I would. Although, she seems to be on the board of her own free will and there appear to be at least four successful attempts so far. Still, one wrong move and she’s a goner. The stakes are as high as they get in this relationship. Fortunately, the stakes aren’t nearly that high in most of our relationships. Yet, it seems there is less trust in many of our relationships, especially at work, than there is between these two.

I’ve written on Trust in previous posts. I wrote about the Engager Dynamic called Trust. Later I wrote about How to make a Habit of Trust. Trust is so critical to work that I’m compelled to write about it again. In his book The Speed of Trust, Stephen M.R. Covey says that the true equation for Results is (Strategy x Execution) x Trust = Results. In that equation low trust is like a tax that diminishes your results and high trust is like a dividend that increases your results. It’s that important.

Credibility Gap

Covey writes about Four Core elements of Self-Trust which he says is all about credibility. The elements are Integrity, Intent, Capabilities, and Results. In my experience the question of Intent seems crucial. The new COO of an organization recently distributed his written leadership philosophy. It contained the statement, “We judge ourselves by our intent. Others judge us by our behavior.”

Intent is someone’s planned or desired outcome. Behavior is the manifestation of one’s Agenda and Motive which, hopefully, fully and accurately represent their intent. The COO’s point is that all anyone has to go on when deciding on your credibility is your behavior. They can only discern your intent by what they see you do. Covey makes the great point that often trust is depleted simply because of a poorly executed good intent. The intentions were noble but the behavior failed to accurately reflect the intention. When that happens people interpret the intent by the poorly executed behavior. At best they are confused. At worst they become suspicious of your intent and trust evaporates.

Several weeks ago, I was on a conference call with some corporate leaders. In the room with me were 8 – 10 other team members on speaker phone. One of the corporate leaders congratulated me for a particular accomplishment. I had done none of the actual work to achieve the celebrated outcome so my intent was to give credit where credit was due and I quickly named off the people in the room who had actually achieved that result, except one. I still don’t know how I left that person’s name out but that was a poorly executed good intent.  Later, I apologized but I can never get that moment back.

Prevention

On Covey’s list of the core elements of credibility, intent is the least obvious to the observer. Integrity, capabilities, and results are much easier to see from the outside. It’s the questions about intent, especially for a boss, that cause so much energy to be wasted on suspicion and CYA when trust is low. If someone doesn’t trust their bosses intentions, they will be less productive because they’re wasting time and energy trying to figure out what s/he is up to and planning their next move like a chess player.

There are at least two things you can do to prevent misunderstanding about your intentions. First, declare your intentions. When you take an action or make a decision, let people know what your intentions are for that action. That way, when they recognize the outcome you intended, your credibility goes up.

The second thing you can do is to invite feedback. Don’t assume people will come to you and let you know they are confused about your intentions. Establish yourself as an open person by inviting and then graciously receiving feedback. Do that enough times and people will come to you voluntarily with their feedback. That’s how I found out I had left the person off the list on that conference call. They came to me after the call and told me. They only did that because they knew I was open to feedback.

Cure

By the way, those two steps are also helpful in repairing trust that has been broken. It most likely will have to be in the reverse order, though. Invite feedback when you believe trust is low. You may have to examine and adjust your intent, motive, or agenda to regain credibility. If so, say so. Otherwise explain your intent and make restitution for any harm poor execution may have caused.

Covey’s “Waves of Trust” are a ripple effect starting with one’s personal credibility, which impacts relationship trust, organizational trust, market trust, and finally societal trust. We have a crisis of trust all around us. Don’t let it prevail in your organization. Take steps to establish your credibility. As Ghandi said, “be the change you want to see in the world.”

Stay In Your Lane

When I was in Junior High and High School, I ran track. Back then races were measured in yards and I did the 100, the 220, the 440 relay and the Long Jump. When you do sprints, you learn pretty quickly that you have to stay in your lane. In fact, if you veer out of your lane, you will be disqualified from the race because it’s very dangerous to be running as fast as you can and have someone bump into you or clip your heel.

Another place where it’s important to stay in your lane is traffic. In fact, you will often see road signs telling you to stay in your lane. There is road construction right now on the highway that goes through our town and they’ve painted solid white lane lines through part of it to remind drivers to stay in their lanes through that part. It involves a lane shift and accidents can happen if people change lanes through there.

What Are They Afraid Of?

I understand, in Track and Field and traffic, why people should stay in their lanes. But what about in organizations? I’ve heard the same admonishment given to people who voiced an idea about something that wasn’t necessarily in their “lane.” The phrase, “Stay in your lane,” is defined in the urban and in the slang dictionary as: “mind your own business, don’t veer over into my (personal) affairs.” Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary says,”The phrase stay in your lane is used as a term of admonishment or advice against those who express thoughts or opinions on a subject about which they are viewed as having insufficient knowledge or ability.”

In organizations, we hire people to perform certain job functions. We need those functions done well so we hire people with related skills and experience. We expect them to focus their time and energy on those functions for which we hired them. When they get out of that “lane,” we fear their primary job function will suffer. We also fear their ideas or advice may be detrimental to the organization if it’s not their area of expertise.

Are You More Than Your Lane?

I guess I don’t want a mechanic giving me advice on taking care of my heart. But, wait, what if that mechanic had recently experienced a heart attack and was sharing with me some things they learned from their cardiologist, helpful changes they’ve made in their own life? Would that change your openness to their advice? It would mine.

I believe, when we require people to “stay in their lanes,” we short change the organization. Everyone who works there is far more, and brings far more to the table than just what is in their “lane.” Their past work experiences, their education, their life experience outside of work all bring potential value to the work at hand. Even their temperament type and their approach to work can add value across lanes.

In one organization that is trying to adopt a culture of freely collaborating across disciplines (lanes), a unique group recently formed on its own to solve a problem. The safety manager (a process guy), the compliance director (responsible for assuring the service meets all contractual and regulatory requirements), and the administrative assistant to the compliance director (a real project manager type), had an idea about how to fix a problem that had plagued the organization for 3 years.

After receiving the green light from the leadership, they went to work. Within a couple weeks this collaborative team took the organization from 35% validated performance to 100% validated performance. They were able to do it because they worked together, outside their lanes, and took an innovative approach to solving the problem.

So, in track and field and in traffic, definitely stay in your lane. In your organization, consider the value of allowing cross lane collaboration. You just might see amazing results.

Love ’em or Lose ’em

Believe it or not, the last eight posts have been around one theme. In the notes where I write and store the posts, I have them titled a little differently from the title with which I published them. I have an additional “tag” on the title. The tag is “Love ’em or Lose ’em.” For example, eight weeks ago the post was called “Are we there yet?” In my notes, it’s called “Love ’em or Lose ’em – Are We There Yet?” That tag comes from the title of a book I really like called, Love ’em or Lose ’em: Getting Good People to Stay by Sharon Jordan-Evans and Beverly Kaye.

The book is about what the authors learned from their research into what causes talented people to stay with an organization rather than decide to leave. Guess what? Simply put, It’s the relationship they have with their direct manager, their boss. That’s what I’ve been writing about, “How to be the best Boss your people will ever have.”

The Last Eight

Here are the last eight posts in order from oldest to most recent along with a single word describing what each post is about:

Are We There Yet? – is about Patience
I See You. – is about Kindness
Where Credit is Due. – is about Humility
Not Just Another Lady. – is about Respectfulness
More than Just Me. – is about Selflessness
Don’t Drink the Poison. – is about Forgiveness
TBH. – is about Honesty
Flipflops. – is about Commitment

I mentioned in several of the posts that one of the definitions, for example “Kindness – giving attention, appreciation, and encouragement,” came from James C. Hunter’s book, The Servant: A Simple Story About the True Essence of Leadership. In his book, Hunter argues that each of these characteristics is essential to the character of true leadership.

Where Did That Come From?

Hunter got his list of character traits from another source. Patience and Kindness are straightforward. Humility combines three phrases from that source, “not envious, not boastful, not proud.” Respectfulness is his way of rephrasing “not rude.” Selflessness interprets “not self-seeking,” while Forgiveness covers “not easily angered” and “keeps no record of wrongs.” Honesty is his way of rephrasing, “does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.” Finally Commitment takes in the largest number of phrases from the source, “always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres, never fails.”

Do you recognize the source? This is a quote from the New Testament, specifically 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. You may have heard it read at weddings. First Corinthinas 13 is commonly referred to in literature and among Christians as “The Love Chapter.”

That’s the tie-in with Love ’em or Lose ’em. Now, people sometimes get squeamish when you talk about love in the workplace. But, when you read the list above, do you see anything there to be squeamish about? No? Who wouldn’t want to work for someone like that? Check out this post and see how Southwest Airlines thinks about love.

Love is like the belt that holds all the other Engager Dynamics together. It’s caring about the other person beyond what they can do for you. You care about them as a person. That’s the strongest connector I know.

Flip Flops

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This time I’m not talking about the casual shoes for the beach. I’m talking about the term politicians use to accuse their opponents of being wishy washy on issues. “So-and-so is a flip-flopper,” they say. “Last year he held this position. Now he wants you to believe he’s on your side.” Have you ever heard that? Of course you have. As I write this post, the 2020 Presidential race is gearing up so we’re in for lots of this and more.

Can’t I Change My Mind?

Several years ago, the leader of an organization I was working with decided to change a policy that impacted how work was done for the entire organization. Not everyone was happy about it but that’s to be expected. People don’t generally embrace change with enthusiasm at first. After a few weeks of preparation for the the implementation, the leader changed his mind. He sent out a communication explaining that he had received additional information that caused him to re-think his decision. That new information led him to believe the change would not bring about what he had hoped to accomplish with the new policy, so he changed his mind.

The people in that organization were happy they didn’t have to change the way they did things. Beyond that, though, their respect for the leader grew. In that situation they didn’t see him as a “flip flopper,” they saw him as a transparent, thoughtful leader who was humble enough to acknowledge he was wrong in light of new information. The trick is not doing this very often. You don’t want to get mired in analysis paralysis. A leader most often needs to make a decision with no better than an 80% solution. That’s usually enough, though, because things change once you start down the path and you have to course correct along the way to reach the goal. But, make sure your 80% is solid information.

Commitment

What’s at stake here is confidence. People want leaders who are committed to something and stick with it. Commitment inspires employee confidence in the leader, the organization, the future. The difference between the leader who changed his mind and a flip-flopper is the perception of motive. The flip-flopping politician, for example, seems to be changing their position based on whatever direction the wind of public opinion is blowing. The people perceive it as self-serving and manipulative. The leader who changed his mind, on the other hand, is perceived as having the best interests of the organization and it’s people at heart. It’s easy to see how one inspires confidence while the other does the opposite.

In a piece of ancient poetry, the biblical psalmists asks God essentially “Who is righteous?” The answer includes the following statement, “… [the one] who keeps an oath even when it hurts, and does not change his mind.” (Psalm 15) James C. Hunter, in his book on leadership, defines “commitment” as “sticking to your choices.” Organizations thrive when leaders make informed choices and stick to them.