Leading with Love

Tis the Season

Christmas is love. Dog Jack Russell Terrier in a house decorated with a Christmas tree and gifts wishes happy Holiday and Christmas EveLove at Christmas. Even people who aren’t particularly faithful will celebrate Christmas.  We give gifts, we buy gifts for others, we receive gifts from others, we spend a lot of time with family.  And we celebrate Christmas because of the importance of the event and what it means to us; even people who don’t follow it very strongly really understand what Christmas is all about.
At the core, what Christmas is really all about is LOVE!  It’s about how we love others!
And this is the opportunity that it presents to us:  the opportunity to love others.  To put the focus on other people for at least a little bit of time so we can care for them and add value to them.

The Every Day Season

That same attitude we employ during this season is what drives our relationships the rest of the year. To Boldly Lead people follows an essential process.
  1. We CARE for people
  2. So can then CONNECT with them
  3. In order to INFLUENCE them
  4. Setting us up to LEAD them
So it starts with caring. Yet here’s the catch.
You cannot care for anyone you don’t love.

Love in Business – that’s Weird!

Now it may seem odd using that word in the context of leadership and business. Yet it depends greatly on how you define it. If you only think of love in romantic terms then this seems really….weird. And perhaps a little disturbing. And in light of recent events and public revelations of inappropriate behavior it may even seem career killing.
But there is more than one way to love others. In fact, in an article in Psychology Today, author Dr. Neel Burton outlines seven types of love.
  1. Eros – Romantic
  2. Philia – Friendship
  3. Storge – Familial
  4. Agape – universal or charitable
  5. Ludus – playful or uncommitted (think flirting)
  6. Pragma – practical love, born of reason or duty
  7. Philautia – Self-love, i.e., your self-esteem and confidence

Try a Business Related Love

In his book Love is the Killer App, Tim Sanders defines a workplace related love. He calls it BizLove. It would most closely related to Pragma but also Philautia plays a part.
BizLove means that you engage in the sensible sharing of intangibles to promote other people’s growth. In other words, the growth and development of your people is your primary concern.
In order to do that, you must have a good enough self-esteem and confidence that you don’t feel threatened by the growth of others. And it means that you regard caring for others important enough to make it a priority and a daily event.
Look at it this way, Everyone on your team has improved their ability to contribute and applied that to team goals or organizational goals. How does that improve your team? Your organization? How does it increase YOUR value?
[tweetthis]Love creates the circumstances by which we excel, particularly by helping others excel.[/tweetthis]

Love Applied

So here’s a few things that I want you to do during this holiday season to really celebrate what Christmas is all about and share that love. This will set the stage for practicing your BizLove as well.
  1. Do something for someone else who can never pay you back.  Focus on that, look to do that daily; something for someone who can never pay you back.  That’s what love really means; when you don’t expect a reward or a payback, what can you do for others.
  2. Take time out from the gift giving to appreciate the gift of everyone you encounter.  What’s special about the people you spend your time and relationships with?  Tell them.  Tell them what they mean to you and that will make a world of difference to them!
  3. Look around you and appreciate the LOVE that the creator has shown you by surrounding you with blessings!  Even when you don’t necessarily see them.

I hope you have a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Want to help spread the message of love in your organization? Book me to speak at your next gathering. Contact me at psimkins(at)BoldlyLead.com for more details.

Habits Help Define Us

Old Habits - New Habits signpost in a desert road backgroundDid you know that your brain is programmed for efficiency? It will naturally find a way to turn routine actions into habits so the brain can rest more often.

I learned this as I went through Charles Duhigg‘s book The Power of Habit. It’s not a new book – been out for a few years – but my list of books is so large I have to vacillate between older and newer books I read or listen to or simply peruse.

So your brain creates habits out of routine. Sometimes that is good and sometimes not so good. One of the things I got from Duhigg’s book is that the way to defeat a less desirable habit is to break the routine by choosing different actions and rewards. It is something that requires daily effort to establish or destroy habitual behaviors, whether good or bad.

What Are You Doing Today?

John Maxwell says that “The secret of your success is determined by your daily agenda.” In other words, success as a leader means that you are establishing habits through your daily routine and the decisions and priorities you make. Becoming a great leader is a process and not a momentary flash of brilliance.

The more we establish daily practices of leadership behaviors we create routines. These routines then lead to habits. We find ourselves unconsciously doing the right things and adding value to our people.

[tweetthis]Becoming a great leader is a process and not a momentary flash of brilliance.[/tweetthis]

Four Every Day Habits for Leaders

1. Growing 1%

Now here is a real challenge for us. We KNOW we need to be working on our growth yet we tend to relegate it to the “spare moments” of our time. How much spare time do you find yourself with during the workweek? Yeah, me too.

So if finding spare time is not a real possibility, then logically (and emotionally) the only real alternatives are to schedule it in as a priority or do absolutely nothing.

Doing nothing carries substantial penalties.

When we DO work on our growth, it is usually in frantic spurts of energy, unfortunately followed by extended periods of inactivity. The results are less effective because we get it in so rarely and want to therefore get through as much as we can. It overwhelms us and the outcome is that we remember practically nothing. Certainly we didn’t apply it.

Instead of overwhelm, we apply the principle of elephant eating. You have probably heard the old maxim, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!” That’s the secret here. Just focus on activities EVERY DAY that help you grow just 1% a day. Read a few chapters of a non-fiction book, such as a leadership book, or one on relationships, or a biography. Practice a skill you are trying to master. Just focus on the routine of the 1% growth and create the habit.

Just remember it must be intentional and it must be scheduled.

2. Looking for Good

As leaders our instinct is to walk in and find out what’s going wrong and what needs to be fixed. We spend too much time on the problems. We lose sight of all the people who really fix the problems and keep things going.

So instead of going in looking for problems to solve develop the routine of looking for people to compliment. As the saying goes, “catch people doing good.” When they do the right thing at the right time, when they go the extra mile, when they soothe over a customer, when they help a teammate out. Look for the behaviors you want them to repeat. Immediately then make a point of recognizing it according to the individual’s comfort level. Some folks, like me, want to be recognized publicly and loudly for the good things they have done; others prefer a quiet “well done“.

The results of this will be a brighter outlook for you on the day and a boost in morale not just for the individual employee but for those around them as well. Think what it would be like if your employees were all striving for a compliment from you. Sure, you may end up spending an inordinate amount of time complimenting people but if you can think of better things to do with your time then you need to go back to Leadership 101.

3. Meeting One-on-One

Tilt view silhouette of two people meeting one-on-oneLeaders need to be able to care about their people enough to be open to connect with them. Without caring, you can’t connect. Without connecting, you can’t influence. Without influence, you can’t lead.

You learn to care by spending time one-on-one getting to know them better. Ask questions and then….shut up and listen. Ask about their dreams, their family, what they do in their spare time. So each day you meet with one person to listen to them talk about their favorite subject – themselves.

This needs to be a daily habit because leaders need to keep in the know. Things change. We often have to be reminded of what we learned before. They need to know you mean it; that you truly care and it is worth keeping in touch regularly. It doesn’t need to take more than 15-30 minutes of your time each day and yet pays huge dividends.

4. Ridding Yourself of Work

So where will you find the time to work on personal growth, compliment others, and meet with individuals? Simple. Find something in your work load every day that you can hand out to someone else to do.

You see, as leaders most of our wasted time during the day is doing things that someone else could do just as well or possibly even better. In fact, experts estimate we spend 80% of our time doing that. We have held on to them for various reasons; because we enjoy it or because we have always done it or even for the sense of control it gives us.

Spending time doing things others could do takes away from our ability to do things only we can do or should do. Therefore, each day find something to get rid of and lighten your load.

By The Way

One quick note on what you read here.  I attempt to add value to you with what I write.  I choose my topics based on

  • what people tell me
  • what I think I would like to hear
  • what I read
  • what I need to hear myself.  I figure if I need to hear it, perhaps you do too!

If you want me to talk about a topic you haven’t seen or go into more detail about one, drop me a message. Unless you tell me otherwise, I’ll even publicly recognize you for the great idea! Just email me at psimkins(at)BoldlyLead.com.

The Message You Send Through Uneven Enforcement of Company Policy

Another Victim of Social Media?

Applying policy unevenly can have a chilling effect on employee engagementA few days ago, someone had their 15 minutes of fame. It wasn’t planned and no one got hurt – except maybe for her. Company policy got in her way.

If you haven’t heard about it yet, Juli Briskman of Virginia was riding her bicycle down a country roadPresident Trump‘s motorcade came by escorting him from his golf course back to the Whitehouse. In a moment of pent-up frustration Juli raised her left hand and extended her middle finger as the they sped by.

OK. Big deal, right? Probably not the first time, inappropriate as it is. Unfortunately, a quick-witted Whitehouse photographer captured it on camera and posted it on the Internet. It went viral. Tens of thousands have seen it. Briskman saw it and liked it so much she made it her profile picture on Facebook. The picture itself just shows the back of a cyclist with no real identifiable features. Juli Briskman could have gone on with life with no repercussions.


Briskman got concerned that her employer would see it. That would not be good. She was a Marketing Analyst for a government contractor called Akima LLC. So Briskman took the initiative to go to her Human Resources office and inform them that she was the person in that picture that is all over the Internet.

Her boss thanked her for stepping forward and then promptly fired her.

Breaking the Code

See, according to her boss Juli Briskman had violated the Akima LLC Code of Conduct. That code states:

The Akima, LLC Code of Conduct describes the policies of Akima and its subsidiary companies for conducting business in accordance with applicable laws and the highest ethical standards.  Akima expects that a high level of ethical standards and personal integrity will be reflected in all of its business dealings.

Similarly, Akima expects its employees, officers and directors to exercise good judgment and maintain high ethical standards in all activities which affect Akima.  Every Akima employee is held to these standards.

So according to Akima Briskman giving the motorcade the finger was an obscenity and therefore a violation of policy. Akima was concerned about the impact it could have on their core business of contracting with the federal government. So, goodbye.

This is Where it Gets Complicated

Now probably a good number of people right now are saying “good, she deserves it.” At the same time, it opens up a whole bunch of questions worth considering from both a leadership and employee engagement perspective. Here are some of pertinent facts as we know them now:

  • Briskman was off duty and wearing nothing that represented her company.
  • She did not take the picture nor arrange to have it taken
  • Briskman did make it her profile picture on her personal Facebook page (which does not mention her employment)
  • A male co-worker allegedly posted a public message calling someone a pretty obscene name typically assigned to liberals on his Facebook page where he features the company logo in his profile picture. He was reprimanded and deleted the post but not fired.
  • Akima LLC was totally unaware of her involvement until she took the initiative to tell them. It is likely they would have never known.
  • Virginia is an employment at will state, meaning technically an employer can terminate you for any reason at any time.

Questions to Consider

Russian Nesting Dolls are a good example of the questions we deal with on employee engagement and personal livesWith all of that in mind, it raises questions about the reach of organizations into our personal lives. It also raises questions about the message we send when the application of policy appears uneven. Some questions to consider are

  1. Where are the lines where behavior and choices in personal life are of concern to an employer?
  2. What message does it send when an employee shows integrity and suffers consequences as a result?
  3. Why the uneven application of the obscenity policy? Does political alignment play a part? If so, does it show discrimination that someone obviously an extreme conservative is reprimanded but a liberal is terminated?
  4. Is the company’s concern about her behavior potentially affecting their core business a valid one? If it is, could I be terminated for being a Protestant because the company’s biggest client is Catholic?

On the surface they may seem like easy questions to answer. Yet like a Russian Nesting Doll, each time you open one up you discover another inside to be opened.

Similar to Other Recent Stories

It seems the situation is somewhat similar to one that Google dealt with a while back with an outspoken employee. You can read more about that here. The termination, based on what has been reported, appears to be more motivated by discovering an employee has political leanings inconsistent with those of the owner or leaders of the organization; much like the employee at Google. Further possible evidence of that is male employee who was even more profane publicly AND connected it to his company through his profile picture yet was not terminated.

No, the answers are not easy yet they are answers we must seek as we look to keep people engaged in the workplace while also involved in the world around them.

What are your thoughts about this? Are there points I missed? Where are the lines drawn for you? Share your comments here or email me at psimkins(at)BoldlyLead.com.

Navigating the world of leadership and employee engagement can be overwhelming. I can help you get from here to there. Contact me for a free Discovery Strategy Session at 321-355-2442.

Breaking the Habit of Profanity in the Workplace

picture of businesswoman with profanity bubbleI was concerned primarily with profanity. Moments before my first on-air shift at a radio station I confessed my desperate nervousness to my Program Director. “I am scared about saying the wrong thing!” I professed. “What if suddenly I accidentally let a cuss word out or something?

My PD assured me “You should be worried. It’s exactly the right attitude to have. The FCC doesn’t take that well!

At the time, the Federal Communications Commission, who oversees broadcast media, had very strict rules about the use of profanity on the radio waves. A fine for the station and even for you personally was not completely out of the question, depending on severity and frequency.

“I knew that the profanity used up and down my street would not go over the air..so I trained myself to say ‘Holy Cow!’ instead. –Harry Caray, famous Chicago Cubs announcer

Our Words Make a Difference

I don’t remember the Program Director’s talk making me feel any better. I did manage to get through my few years in broadcast radio without letting a swear word slip out on-air. And there was another benefit to his little “pep talk” – it made my very aware of how language and the words we use make a difference.

Therefore, I want to encourage you to restrict the use of profanity overall – in the workplace, at home, in the community. Despite it’s prolific use today in the movies, television, and so forth, it still has a very negative aspect to it.

“All hockey players are bilingual – they speak both English and profanity.” -Gordie Howe

Here are some other reasons profanity doesn’t help

1. It’s Unprofessional

A study conducted by CareerBuilder.com found that 81% of employers believed swearing (profanity) brings an employee’s professionalism into question. A good 64% said it caused them to think less of the employee. Being a professional by its nature demands a certain level of self-control that profanity belies.

2. Words Have Impact

You know the old adage we used to say to the mean kids when we were young. You know,

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me!”

Well, it’s a lie. Study after study has repeatedly shown that it DOES hurt us. Deeply. We might laugh it off as though we are too tough for anything like that to affect us, but it does.

The truth is that there is evidence according to authors Andrew Newberg, M.D. and Mark Robert Waldman that words can literally change your brain. They suggest that just seeing a list of negative words makes you feel worse and disrupts many of the operational centers of your brain. Other research suggests it also changes the attitudes and behaviors of others.

Negative words, therefore, will trigger negative behaviors – not just in others but in ourselves as well.

3. Words Have Emotion

Words alone have minimal impact. It is the emotional context we put behind words that gives or takes away impact. Curse words by design have negative impact and so there is not really a way to say them with a positive impact. Some will try to say positive things that include profanity but the intent will diminish.

Think about it. If someone compliments you by saying “You F—in’ Rock!” does it really make it more positive than to just say “You Rock!“? In fact, if you look at it, the use of the profanity actually lessens the impact rather than enhances it. You focus on the F—in’ and not the rockin’.

4. It Desensitizes

The more profanity is used the less impact it has. On the surface that sounds like a good thing. Great! Curse up a storm and it eventually won’t bother anyone anymore!

Yet it also means it won’t have the impact you intended it to have. While there are some that curse as part of their second nature, overall we use curse words precisely for the impact they have; either to stress the emotions of your words or to intimidate or just to show power.

However, it’s like taking drugs. At first a little has effect but then after a while it takes more and more to have the effect we want.

5. It Impedes Communication

cartoon of man's profanity speech bubbles building a wall between peopleWhen people react negatively to curse words, their impulse is to defend. When they are defensive, they are no longer open to truly hearing what you have to say. Their response will almost always be a negative one; whether they become openly aggressive or opt for a more passive-aggressive stance. Either way, while the use of profanity triggers emotional response, unless your intent is simply to intimidate or cause emotional reaction you won’t reach your communication goals.

6. You Could Be Fired

While you do have freedom of speech guaranteed by the Amendment One of the U.S. Constitution, the Supreme Court of the United States also defined a category of exceptions they called Unprotected Speech. Part of the exceptions are many of the curse words we use. They are considered obscene and inflammatory and therefore are not protected by the First Amendment. It falls in the same realm as fraudulent speech or defamation.

Can be Beneficial

That all being said, most of do curse at least on occasion, me included. For those of who do once in awhile let loose with an expletive or two (or three) are actually finding a little bit of pain release, whether physical or emotional. A study reported at PsychCentral.com actually found it provides an outlet for pent-up emotions. We are less likely to to become violent when we let loose with a few profanities and can actually improve our well-being.

The same study, however, did find that high frequency diminished any of the positive effects. So if you are going to use curse words, be careful of how much and how often.

“Under certain circumstances, urgent circumstances, desperate circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer.” -Mark Twain

So intent matters. Overall, remember that profanity is pretty much meant for negative and not positive impact. Choose the words you say and when you say them for optimal positive impact.

Do you use curse words in the workplace? Do you work with people who do? How do you think it affects work relationships?

Share your thoughts here in the comments or email me at psimkins(at)BoldlyLead.com

Snakebit Corporate Culture

snakebit corporate cultureSome know what it feels like to be in a corporate culture in the groove.  The organization is in the right place at the right time with the right environment that encourages everyone to shine. We like that feeling and hope to feel it again.

What keeps us from having that feeling with many organizations is a corporate culture that destroys instead of builds; It discourages instead of encourages. Consequently it becomes the wrong place and the wrong time. Like venom from a snakebite, it courses through the veins of the organization. The venom causes a breakdown of the people and processes that allow us to succeed. Without eradicating the poison, it overtakes us and immobilizes us.

Avoiding the Poisonous Corporate Culture

Luckily, spotting a bad culture both as an employee and as a leader, is not hard if we step back and take a look. Before you allow your organization to fall prey to the snakebite, look for the presence of any of these symptoms.

Overly Formal Communication Channels

When just about any communication requires a memo or a broadcast email, it’s a good sign that there are some very deep problems. Sometimes, in industries where thorough documentation of processes is required, what would seem to be excessive formal communication is actually required and perhaps even regulated. In most cases, however, overly formal communication is a sign of a lack of trust and micromanagement – killers to a healthy corporate culture.

Too Many Secrets

When people aren’t talking it’s almost certainly because they are hiding something, not because they are so intent on their work. If the employees aren’t talking, you have to start asking questions such as “What are they fearful of?“, “What’s going on that they aren’t sharing?“, and as a leader “What don’t I know?

On the management side there are those who regard information as power. Sharing information is equivalent to sharing power and some don’t want to do that. Or some simply want to leverage what they know.

Information is only truly powerful when it can used to create positive change. The more people know, the more likely they are to be part of that change.

[tweetthis]Information is only truly powerful when it can be used to bring about positive change.[/tweetthis]

Every Decision Waits on a Manager

In a poisonous culture, managers who want to maintain power and control will insist that nothing gets decided or done until they have given their OK.

I once worked for a manager who reminded me frequently to “don’t do anything. Bring it to me and I will handle it.” This despite having hired me because of my extensive experience handling precisely those types of situations. That often meant that something that could have been handled effectively in a few minutes or an hour would sometimes take a day or two. And I got bored quickly because I wasn’t really being challenged, I was carrying out whatever the boss decided whether I agreed with it or not.

Too Many Meetings

employees not listening to bossI have worked with organizations where they had so many meetings on the schedule I actually asked them how they found time to get anything done. This kind of corporate culture bogs down many organizations in, to use an old southern phrase, they are constantly “fixin’ to get ready“.

Meetings can have distinct and useful purposes. Too often, however, we call meetings just to have “status checks”. We gather everyone in a room and one-by-one go around the table. The vast majority will say everything is fine and we have now wasted another 30 minutes to an hour of productive time.

When people have tight deadlines, places to go, family to spend time with, and lives to lead then having a lot of formal meetings becomes an annoyance and a morale killer. Find alternatives that are more efficient and less time consuming; and don’t have a meeting to flesh it out.

Rigid Adherence to Policy

In a previous post, I mentioned about a study done by Jay Hall and Telometrics on the performance of 16,000 executives. In addition to the overall conclusion of a direct correlation between achievement and the ability to care for and connect with people, they also contrasted high performers and low performers. One of their findings was that

  • High performers focus on communication and collaboration and have a very participative style.
  • Low performers don’t communicate well and rely on policy and procedure and have a very bureaucratic style.

Policies were created to define standard responses and consequences to situations. The flaw in that is that people and situations are not so easily defined. The result is that the responses and consequences have a great likelihood of being unevenly applied. People don’t respond well when they feel they are unfairly treated no matter how consistent it is with the policy manual.

This is also why many organizations have tossed the HR policy manual and moved towards a more values-based approach and relying on using storytelling to provide guidelines for expected behaviors.

Aggression Rules the Roost

Aggressive bosses make for poor corporate cultureHave you ever had a boss proclaim “My way or the Highway!“? Then you know what we mean here. When managers and others use aggression they are trying to intimidate others into following their command or giving in. The aggressive manager wants to win at all costs, with no concern whether anyone else wins. In fact, they want you to lose.

These managers are also the ones who usually hog the credit for team success, They are the ones who stare people down, tower over them, and look over their shoulders as they work.

Their impact on morale and engagement is obvious. Most people reacts to aggression with either “fight or flight”. If they fight, even when they win they lose and the aggressive manager will be that much more determined to make sure you lose the next time. If they choose flight, they go passive-aggressive, showing resistance in subtle ways, or they leave.

The Only Line is the Bottom Line

Let’s get this out of the way: there is absolutely nothing wrong with profits. I like profits. The problem is when our profit and loss are the only drivers for our corporate behavior. I mean, did you see “The Wolf of Wall Street“? Then you get the picture of the detriment of a profit first and only mindset.

So many other drivers, when we pay attention to them, have a positive impact on the profit line that we really don’t need to focus on the traditional bottom line – it will take care of itself.

Companies like Copper Leaf Creative and Patheos and others have added additional parameters of success, many ranking customer satisfaction and employee retention above the financial bottom line.

Are you seeing the signs of a poisonous corporate culture in your organization? How do you think it got there? What has been done to turn it around? Leave your comments here or email me at psimkins(at)BoldlyLead.com

Not sure where you are or you know where you are and not sure how to stop it? Call me to arrange a FREE Discovery Strategy Session at 321-355-2442 to discuss ways to stop the poison.