Communicating Values In Word & Deed

“Identifying and applying ethical values is an important step to creating a highly moral climate.” (Johnson, 2012, p. 334) 

Values are so important because they are a part of the organization’s core ideology—the “central identity or character” of the organization (p. 334).  While many aspects of the organization are often changing and growing, the values should remain the same and serve as an ethical compass for the organization by guiding employee behavior. 

As leaders, we set the tone for our employee’s behavior.  “Leaders are the ethics officers of their organizations, casting light or shadow in large part through the example they set” (Johnson, 2012, p. 318).  Essentially, leaders need to serve as ethical role models to their followers by embodying the organizational values through word and deed. 

As was previously discussed in our blog post about Character, the second C of leadership, leaders must be “clear about their personal values and beliefs…[and] keep people and projects on course by behaving consistently with these values and setting an example for how they expect others to act (Kouzes & Posner, 2006, p. 3).  Nothing undermines an organization’s values quicker than a hypocritical leader.  If I claim that “teamwork” is one of our values, but I regularly take all of the credit and blame others for my mistakes, others will quickly recognize that my true value is “self-serving.”

In contrast, leaders should embody the organizational values in such a way that by following in their example, their employees should also act with the organization’s values in mind.  Successful implementation of ethical values means employees “learn to govern their own behavior by following these same principles” (Johnson, 2012, p. 329).

While walking the talk in this way is incredibly important, it is surprisingly not enough in this instance.  Leaders must also talk the talk.  Words without action may be meaningless, but action without words can easily be overlooked in the busy, sometimes hectic, marketplace.  Therefore, as the ethics officers for their organizations, leaders must continually communicate the organization’s values to their employees.  This involves: (a) discussing the values with one’s team so everyone is clear on what they are and what they mean; (b) highlighting how new initiatives and goals reflect the organization’s values; (c) linking performance reviews to the values; and (d) mentioning them in everyday conversations.

For example, if one your organizational values is “innovation,” you could introduce the implementation of a new sales software system as such, “As part of our dedication to thinking outside the box and trying new things to propel us forward, we will be implementing a new software system to help us keep track of our sales records.  As we implement the program, please let us know what works, what is challenging, and any solutions or ideas you have for even better application and implementation.”  Doing so explains the decision to use the new software in light of the organization’s value around innovation and also invites the employees to engage in innovation by suggesting new and better ways to use the program.

Overall, what is most important to note is that communicating the values cannot be once and done.  They cannot be mentioned one time and then be hung on the wall to die.  Instead, communication must be on-going.  Employees need to be reminded of the importance of organizational values and their ethical responsibilities through the leader’s words and actions on a consistent basis.

References:

  • Johnson, C.E. (2012). Meeting the ethical challenges of leadership: Casting light or shadow (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  • Kouzes, J. & Posner, B. (2003). Student leadership practices inventory.  San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Communication – The Fifth C of Leadership

The Inta-Greated Model of LeadershipEvery day leaders influence others by persuading, giving presentations, listening, explaining, and providing feedback – in other words, by Communicating.  The importance of our fifth C, Communication, is further evidenced by the close ties communication has to the other Cs.  For example, leaders need to present the vision to others and persuade them to support the vision in order to be a Catalyst.  Being a good listener and providing quality feedback are also two important communication skills for effective Compassion.  And finally, good communication provides individuals with the knowledge and Courage (our sixth C) to make decisions. Given this realization, it is no wonder James C. Humes, presidential speech writer, remarked that

“The art of communication is the language of leadership.” 

Therefore, any individual who wants to be a good leader must invest the time and energy into becoming a good communicator.

Whether dealing with an individual, team, or organization, persuasion is the primary way leaders seek to convince others about the importance of the vision.  For that reason, extensive research has been done around the persuasive process.  In regard to effective persuasion, Conger (1998) begins by making this challenging statement: “If you are like most business people…you use logic, persistence, and personal enthusiasm to get others to buy a good idea.  The reality is that following this process is one surefire way to fail.” (p. 86)  Instead, Conger redefines persuasion as a “learning and negotiating process” (p. 86).  At first, this distinction may seem difficult to accept, but Conger makes a convincing case.

What becomes clear is that Conger (1998) is not saying that data, logic, and passion are bad; rather, they are not enough.  He goes on to outline the four critical steps for persuasion: (1) building credibility in the eyes of one’s audience; (2) framing one’s goals to include the audiences’ values and goals; (3) using vivid language and strong evidence; and (4) establishing an emotional connection with the audience.  It is also important to note, however, that communication is not all about talking – listening is just as – if not more – important. 

Leadership expert Stephen Covey (2004) puts it this way: “The key to…having power and influence with people can be summed up in one sentence: Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”   Some effective listening behaviors include: (a) “echoing,” paraphrasing back to the individual what he or she just said as a way to check for understanding; (b) “letting people talk,” fighting one’s tendency to jump into the conversation and possibly cut someone off; and (c) “demonstrating aware listening” by making eye contact with the speaker (Berg, 2012, p. 4).  The importance of listening and persuasion is also reflected in the servant-leader model.

Listening and persuasion are two of Spears’ (2002) ten characteristics of the servant-leader.  Spears describes a good servant-leader as one who “seeks to listen receptively to what is being said (and not said!)” (p. 5).  What makes his discussion of listening unique, however, is his emphasis on the importance of listening to oneself as a personal leadership tool.  “Listening also encompasses getting in touch with one’s own inner voice and seeking to understand what one’s body, spirit, and mind are communicating…it is essential to the growth of the servant-leader” (p. 5).  Also, in regard to persuasion, Spears emphasizes that leaders rely primarily on influence rather than positional authority and threats.  “The servant-leader seeks to convince others, rather than to coerce compliance” (p. 6).

And then, after a leader has taken the time to understand his or her personal composition, put together a team based on strengths, cultivated his or her moral authority, developed an inspiring vision, invested time and effort into the development of those around him or her, persuaded people regarding the importance of the vision and listened to their differing perspectives, he or she has set the stage for courageous action.

[As was discussed in a previous blog post, here at Inta-Great, we define leadership as “a service-oriented relationship by which change occurs as a leader influences others toward a common vision.”  In order to be effective at influencing others in the pursuit of that vision, we propose that leaders follow the Inta-Greated Leadership Model which consists of the “Seven Cs of Leadership:” (1) Composition; (2) Character; (3) Catalyst; (4) Compassion; (5) Communication; (6) Courage; and (7) Celebration.  Embodying the Seven Cs is what allows leaders to have an impact at the personal, team, and organizational levels and ultimately results in real transformation and sustainable results.]

Referenced Works:

  • Berg, B. L. (2012). Qualitative research methods for the social sciences (8th ed.) Boston: Pearson Education.
  • Conger, J.A. (1998). The necessary art of persuasion. Harvard Business Review,76(3), 84-95.
  • Covey, S. R. (2004). The 7 habits of highly effective people: Restoring the character ethic (6th ed). New York: Free Press
  • Spears, L. C. (2002). Tracing the past, present, and future of servant-leadership. In L. C. Spears, & M. Lawrence. (Eds.), Focus on leadership: Servant-leadership for the 21st century. (pp. 1-16). New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Catalyst – The Third C of Leadership

Harry S. Truman once said,

“Men make history and not the other way around.  In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still.  Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better.” 

These history making leaders have a vision for a better future, rally people around the vision, and work with those people to achieve the vision.  In other words, they act as Catalysts.  Therefore, Catalyst, the third C, refers to the leader’s ability to inspire aligned action toward a compelling vision. 

Kouzes and Posner (2006) state that leaders must “inspire a shared vision” by “envisioning the future” and then “enlist others in that common vision by appealing to shared aspirations” (p. 4).  Organizational change expert John Kotter (1995) declares that every successful transformation effort he has researched involved the leaders developing a clear and inspiring vision for the future.  Kanter (2005) puts it this way, “A raw idea…must be shaped into a theme that makes the idea come alive.  Ideas don’t launch productive changes until they become a theme around which others begin to improvise, a vision that raises aspirations” (p. 4).  And, Senge (1990) emphasizes that, “The practice of shared vision involves the skills of unearthing shared ‘pictures of the future’ that foster genuine commitment and enrollment rather than compliance” (p. 488).  And finally, Gill (2003) writes, “A vision is a desired future state: this is the basis for directing the change effort” (p. 312).

In regard to the transformational and servant leadership theories, vision plays a prominent role in both of them.  To begin, the servant-leader characteristics of “conceptualization” and “foresight” emphasize the importance of vision.  Conceptualization is the ability “to dream great dreams,” and foresight is described as “closely related to conceptualization” because of its focus on future possibilities (Spears, 2002, p. 7).  Next, the inspirational motivation factor of transformational leadership involves leaders creating excitement and enthusiasm around the vision through the use of symbols, emotional appeals, and simple messages (Northouse, 2010).  This link between the vision and motivation is one of the main reasons why it is so important to leadership.

Motivation expert Kenneth W. Thomas (2009) explains, “the purpose and vision, then, provided a target that could align the efforts of different people to solve problems and cooperate….the compelling vision was a strong motivational force that inspired people” (p. 23).  It is important to note, however, that when it comes to creating a vision or purpose statement, research has shown that not all visions are equally effective.

According to Thomas (2009), workers are rarely inspired by purposes that are focused on making a profit or other economic considerations.  Instead, the vision or purpose statement should connect to workers’ need for recognition, responsibility, and the opportunity to fulfill one’s potential.  For example, Chick-fil-A’s mission statement, “Be America’s Best Quick-Service Restaurant” hits on all of these needs.  The focus on being known as the best speaks to one’s need for recognition and fulfilled potential, and it makes the employees responsible to America for their service.  In the end, however, having a vision is not enough.  Leaders need to utilize the rest of the Cs in order to go about achieving the vision.

[As was discussed in a previous blog post, here at Inta-Great, we define leadership as “a service-oriented relationship by which change occurs as a leader influences others toward a common vision.”  In order to be effective at influencing others in the pursuit of that vision, we propose that leaders follow the Inta-Greated Leadership Model which consists of the “Seven Cs of Leadership:” (1) Composition; (2) Character; (3) Catalyst; (4) Compassion; (5) Communication; (6) Courage; and (7) Celebration.  Embodying the Seven Cs is what allows leaders to have an impact at the personal, team, and organizational levels and ultimately results in real transformation and sustainable results.]

Referenced Works:

  • Gill R., (2003). Change management or change leadership. Journal of Change Management 3(4), 307-318.
  • Kanter, R. M. (2005). Leadership for change: Enduring skills for change masters.  Teaching Note, Harvard Business School Publishing, 1-15.
  • Kotter, J.P. (1995). Leading change: Why transformational efforts fail. Harvard Business Review, 73(2), 1-9.
  • Kouzes, J. & Posner, B. (2003). Student leadership practices inventory.  San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
  • Northouse, P. G. (2010). Leadership: Theory and practice (5th ed). Los Angeles: Sage.
  • Senge, P.M. (2003). The fifth discipline: The art and practice of the learning organization. In J. S. Ott. Classic reading in organizational behavior (pp. 484-491). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning.
  • Spears, L. C. (2002). Tracing the past, present, and future of servant-leadership. In L. C. Spears, & M. Lawrence. (Eds.), Focus on leadership: Servant-leadership for the 21st century. (pp. 1-16). New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
  • Thomas, K.W. (2009).  Intrinsic motivation at work: What really drives employee engagement. San Francisco: Barrett-Koehler.

The Inta-Greated Leadership Model

Leadership is often discussed but rarely understood.  A complicated discipline – it represents a mix of psychology, sociology, anthropology, communications, business, and political science theory – it is not easy nor for the faint hearted.  Instead, leadership is a calling that requires dedication, perseverance, and humility.  For those who persevere, however, leadership is greatly rewarding as leaders play a key role in creating, changing, and cultivating culture.  But first, being an effective leader requires that an individual understand what leadership really is.

To many, leadership equates to management.  And yet this is not the case.  Management is focused on tasks and details and comes from a place of positional authority.  In contrast, leadership is focused on vision and serving others from a relationship built on influence.  Anyone with a title can demand a certain level of compliance from their subordinates; however, a true leader is one who not only inspires compliance but greatness.  I grew up playing sports, and in that context we used to call it “giving 110%” or “running through walls.”  At worst, management will result in people giving up when faced with a wall; at best, those people might figure out a way around the wall.  Leadership alone is what inspires and enables people to run through walls.

The question becomes then, “How do I enable and inspire others to run through walls?”  The simple answer of “being a leader” is not enough.  What does it mean to be a leader?  After studying many different leadership theories and perspectives, here at Inta-Great, we have come to believe there is a fundamental difference between providing a definition of leadership and providing a model of leadership.  While a definition is simply about explaining a phenomenon, models are about what specific behaviors, actions, and character traits are effective or ineffective.  Definitions describe; models prescribe. With that in mind, we’ve developed the following definition and model of leadership.

At Inta-Great, we define leadership as “a service-oriented relationship by which change occurs as a leader influences others toward a common vision.”

And, in order to be effective at influencing others in the pursuit of that vision, we propose that leaders follow the Inta-Greated Leadership Model consisting of the “Seven Cs of Leadership:” (1) Composition; understanding the unique personalities, strengths, and motivators of themselves and the team; (2) Character; cultivating credibility and moral authority; (3) Catalyst; inspiring and aligning action toward a common vision; (4) Compassion; coaching and empowering people to do the best they can; (5) Communication; persuading, presenting, listening, and negotiating; (6) Courage; seizing opportunities despite the inherent risk and uncertainties; and (7) Celebration; showing gratitude and celebrating success.

We believe that embodying the Seven Cs is what allows leaders to have an impact at the personal, team, and organizational levels ultimately resulting in real personal and cultural transformation and sustainable results.  Please see a visual representation of the Inta-Greated Leadership Model as Figure 1.1 below.

The Inta-Greated Model of Leadership

Free from fads, fluff, and feel-good teaching, the Inta-Greated Leadership Model is based on proven leadership principles.  To illustrate this, we will be publishing a series of blog posts in the near future that will discuss how each of the Seven Cs connect to the leadership literature.  We hope that you join us as we explore the research and evidence supporting each of the Seven Cs and the impact they are capable of having at the personal, team, and organizational levels.  And, as always, we wish you the best of luck as you continue on your leadership journey.

The Three Cs of Decision Making

“…but above all else leaders are made or broken by the quality of their decisions” (Garvin & Roberto, 2001, p.2).  Leaders are faced with many decisions on a daily basis.  Some are made in an individual context, – Should I go to this lunch meeting? Or, how should I respond to this email? – and some are made in a team context – Should we invest in developing this new product?  Should we expand into this new market?  Should we merge with this organization?  However, regardless of the size or context of the decision, what remains the same is that leaders will be judged on the quality and outcomes of their decisions.

Because of this, it is important for leaders to study how to make quality decisions, especially decisions where a group or team is involved.  So, when you are faced with such a situation, remember to implement the “three Cs” of decision making: (1) conflict, (2) consideration, and (3) closure.

Conflict refers to the importance of cultivating conflict by encouraging people to speak their minds even if it means challenging the leader’s opinion or the group’s consensus (Garvin & Roberto, 2001).  There is a difference between negative conflict and constructive conflict.  Negative conflict attacks individuals whereas constructive conflict questions ideas and assumptions.  When a group of people are able to focus on the ideas on the table and not the individuals who presented the ideas, it is possible to identify opportunities and threats that may not have been evident before.  And, creating space for people to speak their mind, even when it contradicts with popular opinion, or your opinion, is also the first step to practicing consideration.

As a leader, the second step to practicing consideration is to make sure people feel as though you have listened to and considered their point of view – even if it is not the solution you ultimately choose.  Research has shown again and again that participants feel validated and more willing to support the outcome of the decision-making process when they feel as though they were given a legitimate opportunity to express their opinion on the matter.  You can give them this opportunity by asking questions, probing for deeper explanations, and making eye contact when others present their positions.

While the discussion generated through conflict and consideration is valuable, at some point, the discussion must come to an end.  For that reason, it is important for you to make a final decision and communicate it to the group, thus indicating closure. When communicating this final decision, you should outline a few reasons why you chose this course of action.  This will not only reinforce the participants’ experience of consideration, it will also cut down on office gossip as it prevents people from guessing your motives.

When taken together, the “three Cs” are meant to facilitate the generation of multiple ideas and alternatives and produce a well-thought-out solution.  The goal of using the three Cs is not to persuade the group to adopt your point of view, but rather, on identifying the best course of action (Garvin & Roberto, 2001).  To this end, the use of the three Cs encourages critical thinking and the challenging of one another’s ideas, but not the attack of one another.  “The implicit assumption is that a consummate solution will emerge from a test of strength among competing ideas rather than dueling positions” (p. 3).

Overall, while embracing this process is a good first step toward making quality decisions, you must also be on guard against practices which threaten to derail the decision-making process.  Such practices are otherwise known as heuristics, and we will discuss them more in a future post.  In the meantime, when working with your leadership teams, remember to focus on the three Cs of decision making: conflict, consideration, and closure. 

Referenced Works:

  • Garvin, D.A. & Roberto, M.A. (2001). What you don’t know about making decisions. Harvard Business Review, 79(8), 108-116.

Courage, Failure, & Leadership

cour·age
noun \ˈkər-ij, ˈkə-rij\
Definition of COURAGE
: mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty
–  Definition from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary

When it comes to defining courage, the key phrase is: “and withstand.”  Courage is not about fearlessness.  It is about being afraid and moving forward anyway.  It is about pursuing a passion—a purpose—that is greater than one’s fear.

In his book, Next Generation Leader, Andy Stanley identifies courage as one of the “five essentials for those who will shape the future.”  I’ve struggled with this emphasis on courage because courage seemed to be more of a personality trait than a skill.  And, requiring a leader to have a certain personality trait reminded me of the outdated “Great Man” leadership theories.  These theories essentially said that leaders are born, not made, and all great leaders share a certain set of personality traits.  Contrastingly, at Inta-Great, we subscribe to the transformational and serving leadership theories—theories that focus on skills and competencies leaders can learn and develop.

However, after moving along in my leadership journey, and watching others on theirs, I have come to realize that Andy Stanley is right.  Courage is essential to leadership.  But what I have also come to realize is that courage is less of a personality trait you are born with and more of an attitude that is cultivated.  [Look for another post about how to cultivate courage in the near future.]

So, why is courage so important to leadership?  As it was defined earlier, courage involves persevering in the face of “danger, fear, or difficulty.”  Danger, fear, and difficulty tend to result from ambiguity and uncertainness about the future.  And, if there is one area leaders specialize in, it is ambiguity and uncertainty.  At Inta-Great we define leadership as, “A service-oriented relationship by which change occurs as a leader influences a group of individuals toward a common purpose.”  One of the key words in this definition is “change.”

Leaders influence change toward a common purpose.  Change is inherently difficult, and sometimes frightening.  It involves leaving the realm of “what is” for “what could be.”  Leaders are not content to relax, put their feet up, and pat themselves on the back.  Instead, they are leaning forward, looking toward the future, and thinking about how things could be even better—and yet, thinking about it is not enough.

How many people at your workplace have opinions about what should change in the organization?  Probably a lot.  Most people have ideas about how communication could be improved, what new products should be developed, what management should be doing, etc.  But, they are not doing anything about it.  Contrastingly, leaders at all levels are those who not only see the opportunities, but seize the opportunities—taking steps toward making change happen despite the inherent risk and uncertainty.  This requires courage.

Sometimes taking the risk pays off.  The leader is successful and achieves what he or she sets out to achieve.  And, in some ways this is what one is taught when studying leadership.  If you follow this approach—if you utilize these essentials of leadership, or these four factors of transformational leadership, etc.—you will be successful.  But sometimes this doesn’t happen.  Sometimes a leader will do everything right—cast a great vision for the future, empower those around him or her, etc.—and he or she will fail.  What happens then?

Recently, my mentor, a successful and engaging woman, set out on a new path.  She felt led to pursue what many called an impossible goal.  She knew it was going to be an uphill battle, but her vision of what could be and her passion to serve others gave her the courage to try anyway.  And try she did.  She gave 110%, made some great progress, inspired many along her way, but in the end, she failed.  She did not achieve her goal.

So once again, she, and other leaders who have failed or will fail, must tap into the power of courage.  This time, courage will be needed to pick oneself up, identify one’s next goal, and begin working toward it.  As Mary Anne Radmacher has said, “Courage doesn’t always roar.  Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.”

While everyone needs time to “lick their wounds” so to speak, leaders refuse to let failure define them.  Instead, they use it to strengthen them.  Leaders know that failures are great learning opportunities.  They know that failure experiences are hard, but they help the leader cultivate wisdom for next time.  Sometimes failure is a necessary perquisite for success.  This is the risk the leader is willing to take.

Why is the leader willing to take such a risk?  As we’ve already discussed, the passion and purpose the leader is pursuing is a strong motivator.  But, there is something else.  The best leaders understand that failure, while it hurts in the moment, is a passing thing.  Regret is not.  The regret that comes from not trying—from missed opportunities—can last a lifetime.  So, even more than failure, leaders fear regret.  They understand the adage, “You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don’t try.”

So, while my mentor may not have achieved her goal, she can rest in knowing that tomorrow, or next month, or next year, or twenty years from now, she will never have to look back at her life and wonder “What if…”  “What if I would have taken that risk?”  “What if I would have left my comfort zone?”  Instead, she will know that she worked hard, made a lot of progress, inspired many individuals, and paved the way for those who will come after her.

And now, in some ways she has an even bigger opportunity than those who achieve their goals—for it is during times of trial and darkness that one’s true character really shines.  By refusing to let this experience define her, she will go on to impact even more.  I know for me, she remains a source of inspiration and a great lesson in courage and leadership.  Finally, it is my hope, that others will be inspired by her story to act courageously.  For as we have seen, courage is essential to leadership. 

-Written by Valerie Faust, Director of Blossom & Flourish and Training & Development Consultant