Byron's Babbles

I Don’t Want We’ll See

This week’s Simple Truth #39: “Don’t Ever Make A Promise You Can’t Keep” in Simple Truths of Leadership: 52 Ways To Be A Servant Leader and Build Trust, Making Common Sense Common Practice, Ken Blanchard and Randy Conley reminded me of how upset, even at a very young age, my son would get when my reaction to some request to do something was, “We’ll see.” He would shoot back, “I don’t want we’ll see!” This resulted in me then saying, “No.” Which was probably going to be the answer anyway, but I was just delaying. Conley told us that, “A promise creates an expectation” (p. 103). This really goes beyond using the word “promise.” Just saying “yes” is really a commitment as well. I loved what Conley said: “Only say it if you have a surefire plan to make something happen” (p. 103). Ever been told that something will happen, only to find out it was not? I have had this happen to me in a couple of pretty significant ways in the last couple of years. Let me tell you, I seriously question that individuals integrity, and certainly do not have any trust left.

Back to my son. I’ve always tried to teach him and be an example for if you say you are going to do something, do it. As I write this post I am sitting in the airport waiting for the first leg of flights to Hamburg, Germany for the SMART Factory League 2022 Summit. Early in the year I was asked to chair the event, lead a panel discussion on talent acquisition, development, and retaining of talent, and creating a talent pipeline that meets employer/industry demand now and in the future. I love working globally, but traveling oversees is always a commitment. Once I created my “surefire plan” I then said “yes” to my friends at GIA Global Group. Then proceeded to secure my plane tickets and we went from “we’ll see” to “will do!” And, now I am doing. I can’t wait to get to Hamburg!

I think of my son saying, “I don’t want we’ll see!” often and what a great lesson this was for both of us. It taught me to go ahead and say “no” immediately, rather than prolonging. Additionally, it gave me a chance to model for my son that when the answer was “yes” we always followed through and did whatever we said we were going to do. Interestingly, one of the top traits of great leaders that comes out in leadership development gatherings I do is “follow through.” Whether we call it a promise, saying yes, or committing to something, we must follow through or trust is very quickly lost. So, next time you say “we’ll see” think about whether you really mean it.

Telling The Full Story

“Leaders erode trust when they spin the truth rather than being transparent in their communication” (p. 101). This from Randy Conley in Simple Truth #38: “Tell The Truth. Always. It’s That Simple.” in Simple Truths of Leadership: 52 Ways To Be A Servant Leader and Build Trust, Making Common Sense Common Practice, Ken Blanchard and Randy Conley. Conley also told us that sometimes leaders don’t tell the full story and reminded us that “…telling half truths is telling half lies” (p. 101). I’ve always believed that transparency translates into highly productive and effective organizations and work communities. Encouraged transparency eliminates confusion and builds trust.

Forbes defined transparency as “the practice of being open and honest with others, no matter how challenging it might be. For both personal and professional relationships to thrive, you need to eliminate the stigma that comes with being straightforward.” Organizations which emphasize community create a sense of belonging and foster transparency while reducing feelings of isolation. I don’t like to talk transparency without talking clarity. There are times when every piece of information cannot be shared, but clarity can be given. Transparency serves efforts to operate with greater clarity.

Aligning Behavior With Speech

“Talking about what you are going to do is easy; actually doing it is what builds trust with others” (p.99). Randy Conley said this in Simple Truth #37: “Your Actions Speak So Loudly I Cannot Hear What You Are Saying” in Simple Truths of Leadership: 52 Ways To Be A Servant Leader and Build Trust, Making Common Sense Common Practice, Ken Blanchard and Randy Conley. Walking the talk is so important. I have a picture in my office of penguins that says “Walk the Talk: Take the initiative and lead the way. You can make a difference.” As Randy also told us: “When your behavior aligns with your speech, you are complete, whole, and acting with integrity” (p. 99). I have blogged about this before in Walk The Talk!

“You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.” ~ Henry Ford

When we actually “walk the walk,” we take action and demonstrate what we’re saying by doing the things we talk about. When we take responsibility to come up with solutions to problems, and when we do, we are leading by example. It’s about accountability; a culture of accountability is the best culture to have. It’s about seeing it, owning it, solving it, doing it.

Blind Ambition

“I hope our lives don’t get in the way of his ambition.” This was a line from Staff Sergeant (later Sergeant First Class) Zeke Anderson (Terence Knox) to 2nd Lieutenant (1st Lieutenant from the start of season 2) Myron Goldman (Stephen Caffrey) in the great series Tour of Duty. The show that ran from 1987-1990 (58 episodes) examined politics, faith, teamwork, racism, suicide, fragging, terrorism, civilian deaths, sexuality, drug abuse during the Vietnam War. The episode I was watching last night was about the blind ambition (obsessive ambition) of a superior officer giving orders to do things just to make numbers and himself look good. His huge personal ambition was guiding his actions. His ambition kept him from listening to to Zeke, who new what needed to be done. In the end, many men needlessly died. I have blogged about this recipe for disaster before in Passion at Ambition’s Command.

I was thinking about this episode when reading Simple Truth #36: “People Will Forget What You Said, People Will Forget What You Did, But People Will Never Forget How You Made Them Feel (Maya Angelou)” in Simple Truths of Leadership: 52 Ways To Be A Servant Leader and Build Trust, Making Common Sense Common Practice, Ken Blanchard and Randy Conley. Randy Conley told us that “…if people don’t believe you truly care about them, you won’t earn their trust” (p. 95). By not listening to those on the ground, or street level as I like to call it, the superior officer was not respecting or giving the consideration due those he served. Everything he did and anyone he helped was dependent on what he could get out of it, or what power could be derived. We need to be careful of letting ambition for success as defined by celebrity, power, and greed overpower our purpose for significance that includes caring for and gaining the trust of those we serve.

Remember To Care First

I’ve got a good friend that always says, “if your the smartest person in the room, you need different people in the room.” I always reply that I want to be the dumbest person in the room.” I believe we are saying the same thing – we want to be surrounded by creative and innovative people who have expertise in the space we are working in. in Simple Truth #35: “People Don’t Care How Much You Know Until They Know How Much You Care” in Simple Truths of Leadership: 52 Ways To Be A Servant Leader and Build Trust, Making Common Sense Common Practice, Ken Blanchard and Randy Conley, Randy reminds us, “Demonstrating care and concern for others is the quickest and easiest way to build trust” (p. 93). And, don’t forget, it must be genuine care and concern.

I was reminded of this during an elementary teacher focus group I was conducting this week as part of a strategic planning process I am facilitating for a school corporation. The teachers were very clear about the fact that their principal, “I’m supported”; “Family first, Kelli [principal] really does practice this”; “We are checked in on, Kelli cares about us”; and, “Open door policy, Kelli is accessible.” It was clear these teachers respect their principal. These we’re all great reminders that caring must come first.

What You See Is What You Get

Loved this statement from Randy Conley: “It’s not hard to be authentic; all you have to do is be yourself” (p. 91). He went on to say, “Authentic leaders display humility, admit what they don’t know, walk their talk, own up to their mistakes, and do what they say they will do” (p.91). Can you imagine a world where everyone lived by that credo? Randy Conley told us that many leaders treat relationships like games in Simple Truth #34: “A Relationship With No Trust Is Like A Cell Phone With No Service Or Internet – All You Can Do Is Play Games” in Simple Truths of Leadership: 52 Ways To Be A Servant Leader and Build Trust, Making Common Sense Common Practice, Ken Blanchard and Randy Conley.

In my experience, when a leader is genuine, we know what to expect, and the opportunity to build trust begins. Trust is built through daily and consistent action. Bottom line is, the leader’s integrity becomes predictable. I try to model loving those we serve. An authentic leader is all heart. We must lead with compassion, kindness, and understanding of others. Truly authentic leaders consider what if feels like to walk in others’ shoes. Trust and safety are essential to a sense of belonging, and we all have a need to belong. Without this sense of belonging, we feel that our very survival is threatened. To create this belonging we must display humility, admit what we don’t know, walk our talk, own up to our mistakes, and do what we say we will do.

Fearmongering Leaders

“I’ve observed many leaders manage people through fear and intimidation” (p. 89). Randy Conley said this in Simple Truth #33: “Fear Is The Enemy Of Trust” in Simple Truths of Leadership: 52 Ways To Be A Servant Leader and Build Trust, Making Common Sense Common Practice, Ken Blanchard and Randy Conley. Unfortunately, we have all probably experienced it. Conley also rightly pointed out that this fearmongering can take many forms. Many times this undesirable behavior is triggered by the leaders own fear and inadequacies. Leading from fear can create a toxic culture in which people play safe, avoid mistakes and lay low in effect creating an organization that does not grow due to mediocre performance and unrealized potential. I have experienced leaders leading by fear and it caused a profound impact on whether people in the organization felt connected, cared for and empowered, or pushed aside, constrained to make decisions and held back to voice their opinions. I’ve even experienced people getting yelled at for bringing up something they had observed or heard someone asking. The leader doing the yelling failed to recognize the importance of the perception in the field she was be made aware of. All she did was cause the person getting yelled at to say later, “I’m never giving her a heads-up again.” Clearly, the empress did not want to know she had no close! A team had been created that would do things they knew would fail because they no longer wanted to say anything for fear of being berated. Not a good community to be building.

The other thing I have noticed about fear-based leaders is that the best and brightest don’t advance. One, the bad leader does not want an “A” person to possibly be showing them up, so they advance “C” and “D” people. Instead, projects and promotions go to those who have “drank the Cool-Aid” and embrace the toxic culture and agree with whatever the leader says. Our job as leaders is to make those we serve feel secure. It is also important for us to love those we serve by keeping them safe and supporting them.

Put The Us In Trust

As I continue my summer study of Ulysses S. Grant it has been interesting to compare the polarized political and social order of that time with today’s. We have had many periods of polarized social unrest. As I study Grant’s relationships, it becomes evident how important the “us” in trust is. This is the topic of Simple Truth #32: “There’s No Trust Without Us” in Simple Truths of Leadership: 52 Ways To Be A Servant Leader and Build Trust, Making Common Sense Common Practice, Ken Blanchard and Randy Conley. Conley pointed out that trust is a psychological and emotional construct between two people. Conley said, “There’s no trust without us – you and me, two people willing to take a risk and be vulnerable in front of each other with the expectation that the other won’t take advantage” (p. 87). Think about the greatest relationships you have; that comment by Conley pretty much sums up why those relationships are great.

“I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.” ~ Abraham Lincoln

I love the above quote from Abraham Lincoln. We need to take the initiative to get to know others better and try to build relationships that enable putting the us in trust. Lincoln and Grant became great friends in the very short time they were able to be together. One thing my study has revealed is that the Lincoln/Grant friendship was built completely on trust. The two of them worked hard to nurture trust. Who do you need to work harder at nurturing trust with?

Just You Leadership

“No pretenses, no masks – just you.” ~ Randy Conley in Simple Truths of Leadership: 52 Ways To Be A Servant Leader and Build Trust, Making Common Sense Common Practice, Ken Blanchard and Randy Conley. This is the 31st week of the year and I am on Simple Truth #31: “People Admire Your Strengths, But They Respect Your Honesty Regarding Your Vulnerability.” When we allow ourselves to be seen as less than perfect, others get to really know us beyond title or position. When others see us modeling this, they are more inclined to do the same.

“I think when you’re vulnerable, people realize that you, too, are human. And, perhaps even more importantly, they love your ownership of your personal positive and negative characteristics.”

Colleen Barrett, President Emerita of Southwest Airlines

I was actually discussing this with a group of teachers last week. We were discussing how back in the day, teacher educators would tell you to never let the students know if you didn’t have/know the answer. I hope no one is still giving this terrible advice. From experience, let me assure you that showing some vulnerability with students is valuable. Some of the greatest labs we did in my agricultural science classes were ones that didn’t work. Student would say, “What happened?” I would then say, “I have no idea, but l’ll bet we can figure it out together.” We would proceed to “figuring it out” and a series of learning moments would follow. Let me tell you, Colleen Barrett, president emeritus of Southwest Airlines was right; the students loved that show of vulnerability and it made our relationship stronger. Vulnerability is very powerful when it is authentic. Are you willing to be “just you?”

Leaders Trust First

“In the workplace, it’s your job as a leader to extend trust to your people first. It’s not their job to have blind faith in you simply by virtue of your power or position of power” (p. 81). I loved this from Randy Conley in Simple Truth #30 “Someone Must Make The First Move To Extend Trust. Leaders Go First.” I’ve always said you can’t workshop or activity trust. Trust has to be earned in real time work. We must first give our trust to find out if someone is trustworthy.

I think of this being like the first time I gave my son the keys to one of our vehicles after he got his drivers license and saying have a good time and please be careful. I had to trust that he would take the examples and teachings of his mother and me and put it to use as a good driver and make good choices. By the way, he earned our trust and six years later still has it. But it started with us trusting him and giving him the keys, first. I’ve always liked how Stephen M.R. Covey put it, “The job of a leader is to go first, to extend trust first. Not a blind trust without expectations and accountability, but rather a “smart trust” with clear expectations and strong accountability built into the process. The best leaders always lead out with a decided propensity to trust, as opposed to a propensity not to trust.” How about you? Are you ready to go first?