An interesting read about Benjamin Franklin’s method for changing habits and encouraging character growth.
2013– a new year and the perfect time for a new start.
This concept is nothing new. For as long as most of us can remember, people have been using this time of year to set their “New Year’s Resolutions.” However, for most people, those resolutions are broken as quickly as they are made. Anyone with a gym membership will tell you gym traffic typically doubles during the month of January before slowing down to its usual flow around mid-February. So why are we so bad at following through with our New Year Resolutions?
Most of our resolutions tend be made in the moment with lots of emotion but with little consideration and little planning. For example, we look into the mirror on January 1st, see the results of our holiday merry-making, and adamantly declare–“I NEED to lose weight! I will start working out!” This example highlights another problem with many new year’s resolutions–they tend to be reactive and not proactive.
The many problems begin shortly after we join the gym. We don’t actually know what exercises we should be doing–are we just trying to lose weight or build muscle? Or maybe we should be trying to tone muscle. Then, real life hits, and suddenly it is hard to fit going to the gym into our busy schedules. And finally, we haven’t actually made any changes to our eating habits, so even though we are going to the gym a bit more often, we’re not seeing the results we want–and before you know it those problems add up and we stop going to the gym altogether. Have you ever experienced anything like this in your own personal or work life, and what can we do about it???
Most resolutions fail because they are not linked to a broader vision. Instead of standing alone, personal and organizational goals should support our personal or organizational vision. Therefore, identifying the vision becomes the first step. We’ve already discussed the “Key Aspects of a Great Vision” before, so we won’t go into all the details about it here. But, we will remind you that quite simply, vision paints a picture of the future state you/your organization wants to achieve. It defines what success looks like. If we go back to the weight loss example, a strong vision statement would be, “Living a healthy lifestyle that includes a regular work-out program and a nutritional diet.”
But sometimes, having a big vision can seem overwhelming to a leader. We have these big dreams—how are we ever going to achieve them?
The answer is simple; we need a plan. The key lies in translating the vision into multiple, smaller goals. When we do this, it is very important to write these goals (or resolutions) down. Writing them down creates personal accountability, because now, we have a list that we can go back to and measure ourselves against. However, don’t just take my word for it…
According to Dave Kohl, professor emeritus at Virginia Tech (as quoted in Five):
- 80% of Americans say they don’t have goals.
- 16% of Americans have goals, but they don’t write them down.
- < 4% of Americans actually write their goals down.
- < 1 % of Americans write down their goals on an ongoing basis.
- People who regularly write down their goals earn 9x as much over their lifetimes than those who don’t.
So, don’t wait. Make this the year you get serious about your resolutions. Take the time and identify your vision and break it down into smaller goals to achieve that vision. Then, write those goals down. You’ll be amazed at the difference consideration and planning can make.
- Zadra, Dan. (2009). Five: Where will you be five years from today?. Seattle: Compendium, Inc.
We know it’s been a while since we posted some “Words of Wisdom” on the Inta-Great blog, so we decided to give you 15 of our favorites at once!
- “The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done and the self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” -Theodore Roosevelt
- “Chance favors the prepared mind.” – Louis Pasteur
- “Experience is not what happens to you; it is what you do with what happens to you. Don’t waste your pain; use it to help others.” – Rick Warren
- “About the only thing that comes to us without effort is old age.” – Gloria Pitzer
- “Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.’” – Mary Anne Radmacher
- “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead
- “Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become character.
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”
- “When you find yourself in a hole, the best thing you can do is stop digging.” – Warren Buffett
- “We’ve been put on this earth to invest in other people. That’s when you get the greatest joy and satisfaction in life–when you invest in other people.” – Kathy Coder, President of Inta-Great
- “Research shows convincingly that EQ (Emotional Intelligence) is more important than IQ in almost every role and many times more important in leadership roles.” – Stephen R. Covey
- “With practice & patience you can do anything you set your mind to.”
- “Most leaders spend time trying to get others to think highly of them, when instead they should try to get their people to think more highly of themselves. It’s wonderful when the people believe in their leader. It’s more wonderful when the leader believes in their people! You can’t hold a man down without staying down with him.” – Booker T. Washington
- “You do not lead by hitting people over the head — that’s assault, not leadership.”
– Dwight D. Eisenhower
- “Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.” -Thomas Jefferson
- “Make something of yourself. Try your best to get to the top, if that’s where you want to go, but know that the more people you try to take with you, the faster you’ll get there, and the longer you’ll stay there.” – James A. Autry
Thanksgiving has come and gone, and we at Inta-Great hope you had a wonderful holiday filled with family, friends, and maybe even some time to relax and rejuvenate.
We also hope you had some time over the holiday vacation to reflect on what and who you are thankful for—in both your personal and work life. So here’s our question, did you let anyone know what you are thankful for? Did you let anyone know you are thankful for him/her?
Thanksgiving serves as a good reminder about how important it is to express gratitude. Good leaders are appreciative. They understand that an encouraging word and a sincere “thank you” can help motivate others and create a positive work environment. After thirty years of research,leadership experts Kouzes and Posner concluded in their latest book, The Truth About Leadership, that:
“the highest performing managers and leaders are the most open and caring…They are more positive and passionate, more loving and compassionate, and more grateful and encouraging than their lower performing counterparts.”
Why does being grateful and encouraging make such a difference? It’s quite simple really. We all work harder and smarter for people we like, and we tend to like people who appreciate and encourage us. This is often clear in our personal lives. Most of us would not settle for a spouse or significant other who did not appreciate our efforts or encourage our personal development—and the data shows us that most of us will not settle for a boss who does not appreciate our efforts or encourage our personal development either. A Gallup poll of more one million employed U.S. workers concluded that the number one reason people quit their jobs is a bad boss or immediate supervisor. And, a separate study by Florida State University found one of the main reasons someone is labeled as a “bad boss” is for “failing to give credit where credit is due.”
Not only do people work harder for bosses they like, they are also more willing to take smart risks. Recently, we wrote an article about the importance of courage and risk-taking when it comes to leadership. As a leader and manager, you should strive to cultivate leaders at all levels of your organization, and this means giving employees the freedom to take risks. Innovation will not take place if your employees are afraid to leave their comfort zone. Knowing they work for a positive and encouraging boss makes employees feel safe enough to be courageous and innovative.
That is why it so important for leaders to not only be appreciative, but to express their gratitude as well. Don’t let this overwhelm you. Expressing gratitude doesn’t mean you have to develop a new, complex HR policy about employee recognition, it just means you have to say “Thank you.” Kouzes and Posner put it this way, “recognitions don’t need to come in the form of elaborate events or expensive awards. In fact, the more personal they are, the more impact they can have.”
So, if you haven’t already, take a moment and reflect on who and what you are thankful for this year. Maybe you’re thankful for the many ways your spouse has supported you this year. Maybe you’re thankful for how your employee managed that high profile project. Maybe you’re thankful for the dedication and loyalty someone has shown to the organization. Perhaps you’re thankful for someone’s positive attitude and enthusiasm Maybe it’s even something “little” like everyone pitching in to keep the office kitchen clean.
Then, once you’ve identified who and what you’re thankful for, let them know it. Send them an email. Add a personalized thank you note to those Christmas/Holiday cards you hand out every year. Or better yet, tell them in person. For many leaders, end-of-year or mid-year employee performance reviews are coming up—those are great opportunities to let your employees know you appreciate them. In the end, we promise you’ll be thankful that you did.
- Kouzes, J.M. and B. Z. Posner. (2010). The truth about leadership: The no-fads, heart-of-the-matter facts you need to know. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
- The best way to give thanks at work (management.fortune.cnn.com)
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
As we’ve discussed, motivation has become a buzzword in the business community. And, now that we’ve looked at some of the major motivational theories out there–Herzberg’s motivator-hygiene theory, path-goal theory, and McClelland’s learned needs theory–we can further explore the important role they play in organizational leadership– especially transformational leadership.
At a high level, motivation is an important leadership skill. Motivation is defined as “(1) what energizes human behavior, (2) what directs or channels such behavior, and (3) how this behavior is maintained or sustained” (Steers, Porter, & Bigley, 1996, p. 8), or more simply, the “reason(s) I do what I do.” As such, understanding the motivational process is important to effective leadership. If one defines leadership as, “an influence relationship among leaders and followers who intend real changes that reflect their mutual purposes” (Rost, 1993, p. 102), motivation becomes one of the ways the leader can influence his or her followers. To put it more clearly, motivation plays a key role in how the leader can energize, direct, and maintain followers’ behavior toward real changes and mutual purposes.
More specifically, Bass (1990, p. 13) defines transformational leadership as occurring “when leaders broaden and elevate the interests of their employees, when they generate awareness and acceptance of the purposes and mission of the group, and when they stir their employees to look beyond their own self-interest for the good of the group.” In addition to this definition, there are four factors of transformational leadership: (a) idealized influence, (b) inspirational motivation, (c) intellectual stimulation, and (d) individualized consideration (Northouse, 2010). While motivation plays a role in all four of these areas, the three theories we have discussed play a prominent role in inspirational motivation, individualized consideration, and intellectual consideration.
Inspirational motivation involves leaders creating excitement and enthusiasm around the vision and high expectations through the use of symbols, emotional appeals, and simple messages (Northouse, 2010). 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). When it comes to creating a vision or purpose statement, research has shown that not all purposes are equally effective.
According to Thomas (2009), workers are rarely inspired by purposes that are focused on making a profit or other economic considerations. This finding is consistent with Herzberg’s Motivator-Hygiene theory. Herzberg found that “concerns such as pay, security and work conditions…are less capable of energizing workers to higher levels of performance” (Hill, 2008, p. 174). Instead, if Herzberg’s theory is followed, the vision or purpose statement should connect to workers’ need for recognition, responsibility, and the opportunity 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 addition to playing a big role in inspirational motivation, motivational theory is also important to the individualized consideration factor of transformational leadership.
Individualized consideration consists of “… focusing on the development and mentoring of individual followers and attending to their specific needs” (Powell, 2011, p. 5). Here there is an emphasis on the uniqueness of the individual. This factor speaks to how important it is for the leader to take the time to get to know his or her followers on an individual basis and learn their strengths and what motivates them. For example, if one utilizes McClelland’s learned needs theory, one should identify which of the four needs the individual is primarily motivated by (power, achievement, autonomy, affiliation). Path-Goal Theory also requires this focus on individuals’ needs.
“To apply path-goal theory, a leader must carefully assess the subordinates and their tasks, and then choose an appropriate leadership style to match those characteristics” (Northouse, 2010, p. 135). In addition to this connection to individualized consideration, path-goal theory plays a key role in intellectual stimulation as well.
Intellectual stimulation involves supporting “…followers as they try new approaches and develop innovative ways of dealing with organizational issues” (Northouse, 2010, p. 179). It includes removing obstacles which are preventing growth and progress from taking place (at both the individual and organizational level). Or, in the words of path-goal theory, “The leader should help subordinates define their goals and the paths they want to take…when obstacles arise…[it] may mean helping the subordinate around the obstacle, or it may mean removing the obstacle” (p. 132).
Overall, motivation is a complicated topic that plays a critical role in effective leadership, specifically in the inspirational motivation, intellectual consideration, and individualized consideration factors of transformational leadership.
- Bass, B. M. (1990). From transactional to transformational leadership: Learning to share the vision. Organizational Dynamics, 18(3), 19-31.
- Hill, A. (2008). Just Business: Christian ethics for the marketplace. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity.
- Northouse, P. G. (2010). Leadership: Theory and practice (5th ed). Los Angeles: Sage.
- Powell, G. N. (2011). The gender and leadership wars. Organizational Dynamics, 40, 1-9.
- Rost, J. C. (1993). Leadership for the twenty-first century. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers.
- Steers, R.M., Porter, L.W., Bigley, G.A. (1996). Motivation and leadership at work. (6th ed.) New York: McGraw-Hill.
- Thomas, K.W. (2009). Intrinsic motivation at work: What really drives employee engagement. San Francisco: Barrett-Koehler.
Change is an integral part of any type of growth. If any organization is to grow, leadership must recognize that change is inevitable, and then set up a process to help people embrace it. Too often, employees experience what they perceive to be random attempts at change with no thought-out plan. It is these impulsive and unsuccessful change attempts which lead to an organizational culture of skepticism and negativity. To prevent such a culture from taking root in their organizations, leaders need to: (a) be aware that most people dislike change, (b) solicit input from the employees, and (c) communicate and celebrate the change.
When trying to implement a change, the first thing leaders need to understand is that most people reject change. In fact, up to 80% of people in an organization can be labeled as reactive thinkers. Reactive thinkers tend to resist change, avoid responsibility, fear taking risks, and have low confidence (Oakley and Krug, 1991). Therefore, change efforts must begin by changing the mindset of these individuals. As Oakley and Krug emphasize, one of leadership’s main responsibilities is to bring out the best in those they lead. Attitude is critical to performance, and one of the key issues behind attitude is one’s self-esteem. One way to help improve employee self-esteem is by soliciting their input during the change process.
Some leaders have the “it’s my way or the highway” mentality – they believe they can impose their ideas onto other people. And yet, as Oakley and Krug point out, this philosophy does not work for implementing long-term change (1991). Instead of only telling people what to do, leaders should strive to engage employees in the change process. Leaders can do this by asking for employee feedback, questions, and ideas to make the change more successful. This experience not only increases employees’ self-esteem and confidence, it also helps employees feel a sense of ownership for the change initiative.
Engaging people throughout the change process facilitates organizational “buy-in.” Without such commitment it will be impossible to move change forward. Another way to develop buy-in is by building trust with one’s employees. It is only when people trust a leader that they will be willing to follow him or her into the unknown territory of change.
One way of building trust is through constant, clear, and honest communication. The first step in the communication process is to develop a clear vision around why the change needs to take place and what it will look like. Unless change is clear in the leader’s mind, it will be impossible for him or her to communicate a compelling vision to others (the same is true for leadership teams).
Once the leader is clear on the vision, he/she needs to communicate it. Leaders can communicate the vision by delivering speeches, sending emails, posting the vision statement on the wall, participating in discussions – but most importantly – by “living out” the message. As Kotter (1995) says, “Communication comes in both word and deeds, and the latter are often the most powerful form” (p.65).
This consistent communication in word and deed will reinforce the change process as will celebrating successes. Many times leaders are so bogged down with trying to achieve results, they do not take the time, energy, and resources to acknowledge success. For employees, the perception of never being recognized can erode their desire to engage in change as engaging usually takes great effort. One way to combat this is by celebrating short-term wins and recognizing, perhaps even rewarding, employees for their involvement in the change process (1995).
Overall, leaders need to remember that change does not happen overnight. Instead, it is a long and deliberate process that requires engaging one’s employees, communicating a clear vision, and celebrating successes along the way. When used together, these actions will help employees open their minds and be more receptive to new ideas and change in order to help the organization grow.
- Kotter, J. (March, 1995). Leading change: why transformation efforts fail. Harvard Business Review.
- Oakely, E., Krug, D. (1991). Enlightened leadership. New York, New York: Simon and Schuster.
In honor of President’s Day, we’ve put together our top ten favorite presidential quotes about leadership:
- “A man who has never lost himself in a cause bigger than himself has missed one of life’s mountaintop experiences. Only in losing himself does he find himself.” – Richard Nixon
- “You ain’t learnin’ nothin’ when you’re talkin’.” – Lyndon B. Johnson
- “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” – Theodore Roosevelt
- “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?” – Abraham Lincoln
- “Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your reputation, for ‘tis better to be alone than in bad company.” – George Washington
- “Whenever you are to do a thing, though it can never be known but to yourself, ask yourself how you would act were all the world looking at you, and act accordingly.” – Thomas Jefferson
- “I not only use all the brains that I have, but all that I can borrow.” – Woodrow Wilson
- “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” – Abraham Lincoln
- “Any man worth his salt will stick up for what he believes right, but it takes a slightly better man to acknowledge instantly and without reservation that he is in error.” – Andrew Jackson
- “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams
And because we just couldn’t keep it to ten, here’s a Bonus:
11. “The test of leadership is not to put greatness into humanity, but to elicit it, for the
greatness is already there.” – James Buchanan
As we discussed in our, “What is My Calling?” leadership lesson, becoming a leader requires the courage to look inside oneself, identify one’s strengths and talents, and explore how to offer those strengths and talents to others. However, recognizing one’s own calling is only the first step, truly great leaders are able to recognize the potential in those they serve and help them discover the leader they are meant to be as well.
This begs the question, “How do I identify my strengths and talents–let alone others’?”
StrengthsFinder 2.0 is a great resource to help you do just that. In 2001,Gallup introduced StrengthsFinder as part of the management book “Now, Discover Your Strengths.” The book ignited a global conversation, and StrengthsFinder helped millions discover their top five talents. In StrengthsFinder 2.0, Gallup unveils the new and improved version of its popular online assessment which identifies an individual’s top 5 strengths out of 34 strength themes.
New years tend to bring new resolutions. Are you trying to implement some changes inside your organization? If so, remember, consistent communication reinforces the change process. What some more information? Here’s a link to an overview of John Kotter’s classic article, “Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail.”