the power of thank you

Posted on 7:49 PM by dave

"I'm going to buy some of the folks downstairs some Dairy Queen on my way back into the office.  Do you want anything?"  I asked.

"Yes, I'd love a treat but why are you buying the folks downstairs some?" 

I could tell that my supervisor's tone was genuinely curious and not malicious but I was a taken a bit off guard.

"Well, they've helped me out a lot with entering orders and taking care of some of my customers recently and I just wanted to tell them 'Thank you',"  I replied with appreciation saturating my words.  

However, I could sense my intention was causing my boss and friend some uneasiness as I attempted to state my case for this benevolent act.

"Oh, I see.  Well, that's their job," he said matter-of-factly.  "You shouldn't feel obligated to tell them 'Thank you.'  That's what we hired them to do." 

He maintained a friendly tone but I could hear the tension in his voice.

"Okay," I tried to respond as upbeat as possible although I was quite aggravated with his answer, "Do you still want me to pick you up something?"

This was not the last conversation like this that I would have with this supervisor.  Furthermore, he was not the first or last manager that possessed this same attitude towards his team.

It's funny to me that my supervisor said, "You shouldn't feel obligated," because what I felt was nothing like obligation.  What I did feel was a sense of gratitude for all the ways my fellow team members supported me and made my responsibilities within our organization easier because of their sacrifice.

The simple power of a genuine "Thank you" is an important conduit into building long term camaraderie on any team.

Not only did I buy them ice cream that day... I did it again and again and again.  I even went so far as to sit down next to them some days and thank them for helping me.  Then, get this, I would talk to them and listen to their daily struggles and routine.  I would laugh with them.  I would share frustrations with them.

Something mysterious happened when I embraced this simple, yet effective, posture of gratitude... they asked me how they could help me!  It was crazy!  Over the following months and years, they sought me out and willingly aided me with very little hesitation... even with some very difficult tasks.  They were even willing to go above and beyond their normal role of responsibilities to assist me.  Conversely, they rarely volunteered to help my supervisor who viewed their role to help him as a requirement rather than a request.  Let's be honest, anytime we ask for help, it is a request.  If we demand help, we may get what we want from that person but at the expense of cultivating a meaningful partnership.

We must see our team not as hired help but as valuable, contributing equals within our organization regardless of their title.

Titles are given and we should hold them with an open hand.  The recognition that everyone is a human within our organization from the janitor to the receptionist to the sales manager to the CEO is a foundational requirement that we must adopt to create a culture of cohesive togetherness.  For in our discovery of the humanity within our organization, we find this reality to be present and true: each person has a soul that yearns to know that they are noticed and that they are appreciated-- this is the power of thank you.

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leading with moral authority

Posted on 9:00 AM by dave

To be honest, the first time I heard this phrase meaningfully contextualized was in a podcast by Andy Stanley during a teaching series called "Letters to the Next President."  Up to that point in my life, I had never properly wrapped words around this type of behavior yet it is one that I often found myself drawn to emulate.

The first time I witnessed someone lead with moral authority it felt so... foreign.  I wasn't sure if I should make them stop or just continue to stand there all slack jawed with my mouth on the ground.  I am sure that I had observed others lead this way previously but none of them had the impact in my life that Russ did.

Russ was quite the character too.  His life story plays out like a well written cinematic adventure of highs, lows, women, sex, drugs, rehab, A.A., success, failure... I could literally keep going on and on.  I wasn't drawn to him as a role model because of the wild life that he once led.  I was drawn to him because of how he led those under his supervision.

Russ led with moral authority.  That is to say, he did what he said that he would do.  Furthermore, he did not expect anyone else to do what he wasn't willing to do himself.
This radically impacted how I have chosen to lead others for the past 20 years.

The first time I met Russ he was in dingy, dirty clothes sitting on a bench in the clubhouse of the golf course that I was hoping would be my answer to summer employment.  He had been painting the walls of the golf shop and had seemingly been involved in some minor carpentry as well due to the faint smell of saw dust in the air.  My suspicions were later confirmed during our conversation.

I had aspirations of being hired as a lifeguard that summer.  Russ was the person that I was to meet with for my interview although he was the golf professional and had very little to do with the pool.  Little did I know that Russ was not interviewing me for the pool but was looking for help with the golf shop.  

This encounter changed everything.

In the five years that I mentored under Russ, he was always willing to do the hard work;  he was always willing to be the first to get his hands dirty.  In fact, if there was ever a question of where to find him is was rarely that he was out playing on the golf course or sitting at his desk.  Very typically you could find him strapping golf clubs onto a cart, cleaning out the carts after golfers were done playing, taking out the trash, or walking  to get more hand carts (which most people run at his pace).  When more soda or beer was needed on the course, Russ would get it and then stock it.  When the grille became the golf shop personnel's responsibility, Russ was the first one to become a short order chef.  

Russ led with moral authority.

We live in a culture where the supervisors and leaders no longer need to get their hands dirty nor do they need to do the "little" jobs.  However, if we want to lead the next generation of leaders we must be willing to inform them of our authority by our actions and not just our words.  We must be willing to say, "I will not lead you anywhere I am not willing to go myself."  We must be willing to kneel down and serve our servants if we are going to be given the authority to lead others.

We live in a world where "Do as I say and not as I do" is extremely pervasive.  No longer do leaders need to be held accountable for their actions when they don't follow through.  This must not continue.  We must be willing to actually do what we say we are going to do.  The next generation of leaders can sniff out a fake, a phony from miles away.  We will only be fooling ourselves if we give in to the lie that we don't need to lead from a place of authenticity and transparency with the ability to follow through on our words with action.

I know that this might freak some people out but if we are to have any impact or any lasting influence on the leaders that we lead, we must be willing to be honest about who we are and our own inadequacies.  Then, only then, will we find ourselves surrounded by people willing to follow us in spite of our shortcomings.

We must become people of influence who are leading with moral authority.

One last thought-- Russ had a post card framed on his desk that read, "In golf, as in life, it is the follow through that counts."  May that be true of us.

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the empowering leader

Posted on 11:00 AM by dave

David was a good sales leader.  He had his finger on the pulse of the industry that he had faithfully served for over 20 years.  David knew all the right people to talk to and knew how to get the job done.  David could rally his team toward a common purpose by effectively promoting the corporate goals and quotas.  David was the ideal manager.

But David did not have a lot of supporters.

Maybe you've had someone like this within your organization.  They thrive in the business dialogue.  In fact, every conversation has something to do with numbers, quotas, deadlines.  One glimpse of sharing a personal story is met with some remark about dedication to the team.  They understand the direction of the company and listen to their team but something seems to be missing.  

They suffer from a risk issue.  They do not know how to effectively advocate for their team and lack the authority to empower others thus crippling their own influence.  They are the disempowering leader.

They support their team but do not champion their team.  They too manifest intelligence and education but do not embody understanding and discernment as leaders.

The main challenge that David faced in his leadership ability is the lack of championing his team.  This can typically be due to fear of losing rank or title.  Leaders with this deficiency believe a fallacy that allowing others the freedom to express themselves will jeopardize their own influence.  Quite often the opposite is true.  If our team does not sense that we would be willing to risk FOR them then they will become skeptical and disenfranchised.  The leader MUST be willing to risk for the team if the team is going to be willing to risk for the leader.

Mark did this extremely well.

Utilizing his understanding of his team, Mark risked his position and authority so that his team's voice was heard.  Why?  Because he told them he would and he empathized with their needs and concerns.  This lead to an unbreakable bond between leader and team that resembled a family-like cohesiveness.  The team was then willing to move forward with the organizational goals because they believed in their leader, even though they were mostly opposed to the overall corporate direction.

Tim, from my "connected leader" post, also exhibited this leadership quality. 

During times of dramatic corporate restructuring, he initiated weekly conference calls to keep in touch with his team and created an environment of authenticity and honesty.  Through his own transparency, he invited everyone to be heard and then initiated conversations on behalf of his team with the top decision makers.  He was willing to champion the team's causes.

Tim and Mark were empowering leaders.

Let's be honest, the potential downside as a leader is that we may lose our currently leadership role. That's reality.  Organizational decision makers do not typically like to be challenged on directional goals.  So we must ask ourselves- what might happen if we risk for our team?  Well, the bigger question to deal with is this: what would happen if we didn't take that risk?  How would our team support us in the future?

A leader is only as strong as their team.  If the team begins to suspect that the leader is no longer willing to fight FOR them then they will find someone else who will... and usually with another organization. 

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