In light of my experience and the continuing scandals – NSA/Prism and Lloyds PPI complaint handling – I have been reflecting-grappling with the leadership, accountability, and integrity. As such I wish to share with you my take on the seven key differences between effective and ineffective leaders.
1. Effective leaders are clear on what matters, communicate what matters, and model the desired values and behaviours. Ineffective leaders are either not clear on what matters or simply not able to able-willing to rule some stuff out. Ineffective leaders suck at communicating what matters. And they don’t live-model-embody the fine sounding values, beliefs, and behaviours that they talk about.
2. Effective leaders name and insist on dealing with the most important issues no matter how unpleasant these issues are. Ineffective leaders find all kinds of reasons and excuses for not dealing with the real issues and instead spend their time on what they are comfortable with.
3. Effective leaders focus on getting a rounded-realistic-fact based picture of reality. And as such they give real thought to who needs to take part in the conversation, and how to create a context that calls forth the ‘truth of each participant’. Please note that feelings are facts! Ineffective leaders are drunk on their own importance and thus push their views, their agenda, on to the favoured few that they invite to the conversation.
4. Effective leaders deal with the thorny issues in a way that tends to build the self-esteem, confidence, learning, and goodwill of their people. Ineffective leaders issue orders, discount the concerns-views of their people, and make threats thus rupture one of the most critical pillars of an effective organisation: relationship and emotional affinity and loyalty.
5. Effective leaders think about the well-being of the wider system – all stakeholders inside and outside the business. Ineffective leaders focus on what matters to them and their favoured constituency.
6. Effective leaders first hold themselves accountable. And by doing so they create the powerful access to holding their people accountable. Ineffective leaders hold others to account but not themselves. And sometimes they don’t even hold others accountable for fear of being confronted with their own lack of accountability.
7. Effective leaders get the critical importance of integrity. As such they put in place powerful ‘instruments’ that will: detect any ‘out of integrity’ ways of showing up in the world; and call the effective leader to get back into integrity quickly and clean up any mess s/he has made. Ineffective leaders don’t get that integrity is essential to ‘workability’ and ‘performance’ and as such there is little fit between what they say and what they do. For ineffective leaders, integrity is optional.
How does this resonate with your experience? Please note the word ‘experience’ and specifically the phrase ‘your experience’.
The shift towards an authentic customer-centred orientation is a huge shift for just about every large organisation. That means organisational change. At the heart of all effective organisational change lies effective communication. Effective communication is radically different, I say distinct, from what passes for communication in the workplace.
If you are going to make the kind of organisational shifts that are necessary to cultivate customer relationships, call forth the best from your employees, and excel at the customer experience game, then I advise you to listen to the wise words of Danny Meyer, in his book Setting The Table:
Communication is at the root of all business strengths and weaknesses. When things go wrong and employees become upset ….. nine times out of ten the justifiable complaint is, “We need to communicate more effectively.” I admit that for many years, I didn’t really know what this meant……… I thought I was a pretty good communicator, but then it dawned on me: communicating has as much to do with the context as it does content. ……. Understanding who need to know what, when people need to know it, and why, and then presenting that information in an entirely comprehensible way is a sine qua non of great leadership…..
People who aren’t alerted in advance about a decision that will affect them may become angry and hurt. They’re confused, out of the loop; they feel as though they’ve been knocked off their lily pads. When team members complain about poor communication, they’re essentially saying, “You did not give me advance warning or input about that decision you made. By the time I learned about it, the decision had already happened to me, and I was unprepared.” Team members will generally go with the flow and be willing to hop over ripples, as long as they know in advance that you are going to toss the rock, when you’ll be tossing it, how big it is, and – mostly – why you are choosing to toss it in the first place. The key is to anticipate the ripple effects of any decision before you implement it, gauging whom it will affect, and to what degree. Poor communication is generally not a matter of miscommunication. More often, it involves taking away people’s feelings of control. Change works only when people believe it is happening for them, not to them. And there’s not much in between…..
‘Integrity’, leadership, communication and performance: the most valuable post you will read this year?
This post is associated with and follows on from the previous post: Want a breakthrough in customer-centricity in 2012? Start with ‘Integrity’. This post clarifies what I wrote in the earlier – some people did not get what I was getting at and I take responsibility for that – and extends ‘Integrity’ into the domain of leadership and business performance. If you are up for being customer-centric and improving the performance of your organisation then you absolutely have to grapple with the domains of ‘Integrity’ and leadership and connect the two together. So let’s take a deeper look at these and how they fit together. This is a long post AND you can get a lot of value out of it if you take the time to really read it and digest it. Some of you are going to find all kind of issues (too long, too boring, too preachy…) with this post. How do I know? Because we ‘resist’ that which ‘confronts’ us and spoils the picture of the world that we are attached to – especially if it means giving up some of our self-serving habits.
When I speak/write ‘Integrity’ I am not pointing at morality and virtue!
If you take a look at the dictionary you find the following definitions for integrity:
- The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness - e.g. he is known to be a man of integrity
- The state of being whole and undivided – e.g. upholding territorial integrity and national sovereignty
- The condition of being unified, unimpaired, or sound in construction – e.g. the structural integrity of the novel
When I use the term ‘Integrity’ I am NOT talking about, not pointing towards, nor interested in the first definition. I am talking about and pointing towards the second and third definitions. Why? Because I am concerned with the domains of ‘workability’ and ‘performance’. Allow me to illustrate this through a personal experience and a concrete example.
Recently I jumped into my Honda Accord and drove fours hours to spend some time with my parents. I noticed that the car was ‘dirty-messy’ on the outside and on the inside. I also noticed that when I pushed the accelerator down hard there was a delay of several seconds before the car responded and when it did the response was sluggish and the engine made a noise that suggested that I was asking it do more work than it was able/ready to do. Finally, I noticed that at certain speeds the steering wheel vibrated suggesting wheel balancing and tracking issues. Whilst I was at my parents I shared my experience of driving the car with my brother (who runs a car business) and asked him to fix the issues and get the car back into ‘Integrity’. After examining the car he replaced the spark plugs, he topped up the fluids, balanced the wheels, took care of the tracking to make sure the wheels were in alignment and cleaned the car – inside and out. When I drove the car back home my driving experience was completely different: instant response from the car when I hit the accelerator, no noise from the engine, no steering wheel vibration, crystal clear windscreen, sparking interior…..
Why the difference in performance of the car as I experienced it? When I was driving to my parents my car had been out of ‘Integrity’. It was not whole and complete. It was not a condition of being unified, unimpaired or sound in construction: the spark plugs were not working, the power transmission was less than it needed to be, the wheels were not balanced, the wheels were not aligned…. When I drove back to my parents my car was in ‘Integrity’: all the components that had to be there for the car to be whole and complete (sound, unimpaired) were there and so the performance of the car was transformed.
Now is the time to address the question: why are you ignoring the first definition of integrity that of moral uprightness? Different people have different ideas about what is moral. Different groups of people have different ideas on what is and is not moral. Morality is simply a social agreement between a group of people: is some groups of people (Christians say) it is moral to eat pork, in others (Muslims say) it is immoral to eat pork; in some groups of people it is moral to make use of all the latest technology (most of us), in others (e.g. the Amish) it is immoral to make use of electricity, phones etc. Now here is the thing to get no matter what we decide is ‘moral’ regarding my car, in the real world having in place faulty spark plugs or unbalanced and misaligned wheels degrades the workability and performance of my car – that is simply what is so in the real world no matter what I, you, they, we believe about it. Get it?
What would be present in your life (including your organisation) if ‘Integrity’ was present?
Werner Erhard has done great work on ‘Integrity’ and I cannot explain it any better than he has written it. So I am going to use his words (I hope that is ok with you Werner and I thank you for putting this into the world):
“What would your life be like, and what would your performance be, if it were true that:
You have done what you said you would do and you did it on time.
You have done what you know to do, you did it the way it was meant to be done, and you did it on time.
You have done what others would expect you to do, even if you never said you would do it, and you did it on time, or you have informed them that you will not meet their expectations.
And you have informed others of your expectations for them and have made explicit requests to those others.
And whenever you realised that you were not going to do any of the foregoing, or not going to do it on time:
You have said so to everyone who might be impacted, and you did so as soon as you realised that you wouldn’t be doing it, or wouldn’t be doing it on time, and
If you were going to be do it in the future you have said by when you would do it, and
You have dealt with the consequences of not doing it on time, or not doing at all, for all those who are impacted by your not doing it on time, or not doing it at all.
In a sentence, you have done what you said you would do or you have said you are not doing it; you have nothing hidden, you are truthful, forthright, straight and honest. And you have cleaned up any mess you have caused for those depending on your word.
And almost unimaginable: what if others operated this way with you?”
‘Integrity’ and communication go together
If you read what Werner has written you get that ‘Integrity’ and communication go together – think of them as two sides of the same coin. Being ‘in Integrity’ means ‘being in communication’. How? Why? We live in relationship with one another and we progress our ‘projects’ (and an organisation exists to progress specific ‘projects’) by making, accepting, declining, renegotiating, fulfilling requests of one another – these requests can be implicit (implied) or explicit as is clearly set out by Werner. Making, accepting, declining, renegotiating, fulfilling requests how is this done? Surely it is done through language – right? That is to say through speaking and listening – whether that is face to face, on the phone, email, SMS…
Let me put it more bluntly when you are part of a group – and we are always part of a group as we exist in relationship – not ‘being in communication’ with the group is being ‘out of Integrity’. That is simply so even if you did not promise to be in communication. Why? Because it our normal functioning to expect the people in our group to ‘be in communication’ – to let us know what is going on. How do you feel when your son or daughter does not let you know what is going on his/her life? How does your mother feel if you turn up and tell her that you have been experiencing a really difficult time for the last year? Does she berate you for not sharing? Does she say that you should have called her and shared your pain? I hope you get what I am saying.
‘Integrity’ and leadership
One of the people who read my last blog on ‘Integrity’ made the comment that his organisation (he is the CEO) relies on a contract manufacturer and fulfillment partner to honor its promises to its customers. He also pointed out that this contract manufacturers is out of ‘Integrity’: this organisation has committed never to be out of stock and to despatch order within one day and it is regularly out of stock and often takes up to five days to despatch orders to my readers customers. Bob (the reader) also stated that whilst the CEO of the contract manufacturer is in ‘Integrity’ the people in his organisation are out of ‘Integrity’ – else the organisation would honour the agreements around stock and fulfillment. My response: bull***t!
What goes with being the CEO (the leader) of an organisation? When I or you step into the CEO role you automatically become responsible for the ‘Integrity’ of the whole organisation! That is what is so. The CEO is the top dog and rightly or wrongly we (customers, partners, employees, suppliers, regulators) expect the CEO to make sure that his organisation works: it does what it says (keeps promises) and says what it does (honesty, authenticity). So the hallmark of effective leadership is taking the stand: I am responsible for the ‘Integrity’ of the organisation that I lead. What goes with this stand? It involves setting up an ‘existence structure’ that regularly gets me present to where the organisation is out of ‘Integrity’ and another (or perhaps the same) ‘existence structure’ for taking action to get the organisation back into ‘Integrity’. Any fool can take responsibility for his own (personal) integrity it takes a special fool to take responsibility for the group of people – family, organisation, community, society.
Does you CEO relate to himself as the person who is responsible for the ‘Integrity’ of the organisation he leads? And when the ‘Integrity’ of the organisation is out does he/she ask the question: who am I being such that the ‘playing field’ that I have created (upon which the organisation plays the game of business) gives rise to the organisation that I lead being out of ‘Integrity’? Or does he/she simply point the finger of blame at other people in or outside the organisation? Why do I say outside of the organisation? Because the CEO is also responsible for the ‘Integrity’ of value chain partners! When I, the customer, order from Amazon I expect Amazon to be accountable for getting what I have bought to me by the promised date. I do not care if Amazon has outsourced part of the value chain to another party e.g. the end delivery to a fulfillment company like Yodel – I hold Amazon responsible!
‘Integrity, leadership, communication and performance – how are they connected?
By now you should be clear that ‘being in Integrity’ can only occur if you are also ‘being in communication’. You should also be clear that ‘being in Integrity’ for the organisation as a whole is related to leadership. And you should know that ‘being in Integrity’ is desirable because when any ‘system’ is not in ‘Integrity’ then workability and performance of that ‘system’ degrades. So I’d sum it up as follows:
- Leaders are responsible for the performance of their organisations;
- Performance (the output) is correlated with the ‘Integrity’ of the organisation (the ‘system’) – ‘Integrity’ gives rise to workability and performance;
- Leadership is fundamentally about being a stand for the ‘Integrity’ of the entire organisation (including value chain partners) and setting up ‘existence structures’ to quickly detect where the organisation is ‘out of Integrity’ and then taking prompt, effective action to put the organisation back ‘into Integrity’; and
- Communication is essential to ‘Integrity’ and so leadership about effective communication – communication that tilts the table towards the organisation being ‘in Integrity’ rather than being ‘out of Integrity.
I have covered a huge amount here. If you take the time to digest it you should get it. And if you get it then you can dispense with a library of books on leadersip, organisation development and business performance. Really you can! You don’t agree with me? OK where have I gone wrong? Please educate me – I am listening and everything that I can do today is because someone took the time to educate me.
In the period of 1950s the concept of the marketing mix was introduced and this led to the birth of the 4Ps: Product, Price, Place, Promotion. This has been extended to include another 3Ps: People, Process, Physical Evidence.
With the birth of the Customer age in the 1990s Robert Lauterborn proposed the 4Cs: Customer, Cost, Convenience, Communication. Whilst this is a move in the right direction it is not enough. To my mind it smacks of the abstract, the intellectual, a machine way of thinking and talking. A move forward yet still within the Newtonian paradigm of the universe (including human beings) as a gigantic clock.
How about embracing the 5Hs: Human, Heart, Honesty, Hospitality and Harmony?
Get that you are dealing with flesh and blood human beings and treat your customers as human beings. Strive to treat them with the best of our humanity: kindness, benevolence, humaneness.
Being human, we notice, even if it is at a subconscious level, when these qualities are present or not. Given the choice we walk towards organisations that have a human look and feel: that are humane and treat us as human beings not machines.
How about starting with a small step that makes a huge difference: speaking with a human, conversational, voice?
As the expression goes “Have a heart!”. What does that mean? In a word it means compassion. The ability and willingness to put yourself in the shoes of your customer. To see life through her eyes, to experience what she is experiencing. It means following the golden rule “Treat your fellow man/woman in the manner in which you would like to be treated if you were in his/her shoes? Go further and embrace the platinum rule “treat your customer as he/she would like to be treated”.
How about following Zappos and making it easy for your customers to reach out and speak with you? To reach out to you – via chat, click to call etc – when she is shopping and needs guidance or reassurance? To reach out to you when she needs help in using your product or service?
How about making it easy for customers to make complaints? How about making it easy to return faulty goods? And so forth.
Let go of the spin and be honest with people in a tactful way.
Human beings stay clear of people who they find to be dishonest. When you are honest I may not like what you say yet I will respect you for being honest. Tell it as it is – upfront – it will save you a lot of pain later on: sooner or later your true colour will show especially in this densely connected world. When I catch you being dishonest (including omitting stuff that you do not want me to know) then I no longer trust you. If I don’t trust you then you are going to have to pay in way or another if you want to do business with me.
Put bluntly put as much focus on the steak – the product, the service, the reality – as you do to the sizzle of advertising and other marketing messages. Another way of saying this is to say ensure that there is a harmony between the sizzle and the steak.
Be a good host, be hospitable – to prospects, new customers, existing customers and customers who have either left or are on their way.
When you are being a good host you take the time and trouble to think of your guests and their needs. You do your best to welcome them, to make them feel at ease, to introduce them to people that they will find interesting or useful. And when the time comes for them to leave, a good host will see them to the door and wish them well and mean it! How about behaving the same way with your prospects, new customers, existing customers etc?
How about inviting your customers into the business? To listen, to share, to collaborate on new product ideas, product development, marketing communications, customer services and so forth? Incidentally, the important part about ‘social media’ is not the media, it is the social. In a social environment your character, your reputation and your manners speak so loudly that few listen to your words. A good host is mindful of this and acts accordingly.
As human beings we love harmony and we strive after it. Harmony is pleasing as it gives us peace of mind. So how about focusing your efforts on creating harmony? What does that mean in practice? Lets take a look at the dictionary definition: “the just adaptation of parts to each other, so as to form a complete, symmetrical or pleasing whole”.
How about a harmony between the promises made and the experience delivered? How about orchestrating harmony between all the silos that impact the customer experience? How about harmony between the short-term and the longer term?
It is my belief that if you don’t get the social part – that is the human desires for beauty, for meaning, for connection, for honesty…. – you are going to be increasingly lost in the 21st century. Maybe I am deluding myself. What do you think?