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Keeping your priorities straight

01 Nov 08

There are six simple company cultural priorities that I feel very strongly about.

1) Attitude: 

The two things that separate people in the workplace the most are attitude and the ability to convince others of your ideas.  As legendary American football coach Lou Holtz said, attitude is the only thing that you have that is 100% within your control every day – so have a good one! 

When I speak at new hire training sessions, I always say, “if you are not pumped up to be here at the end of this week, quit – don’t make us find you”.  Nothing great has ever been done by people who didn’t want to do it.  There is absolutely no benefit to a bad attitude.

 2) Candor: 

I believe that candor is a tremendous asset to a firm and one that few have because employees don’t believe that their leaders want it.  Great ideas come from candor.  If people believe that you want it (and you are willing to be open with them), you can fully take advantage of their talents. 

A way to get people comfortable is to end meetings with three questions:

  1. what did you think of the pace?

  2. what did you think of the content? and

  3. what did you think of the candor? 

People will stumble at the beginning, but they will open up if you really want them to.

I tell people that if they don’t agree with what is being said, voice their concerns.  It gives me the opportunity to express my views and to understand theirs.  The only unacceptable behavior is to have a meeting end and to state your concerns to someone else outside the room.  Candor helps to make wise decisions in the worst times.

3) Catch someone doing something right: 

I say to all my employees, around the globe, if they see anyone doing something extraordinary to help a customer or our company (a heroic act or creating a process so that we don’t need heroic acts), send me an e-mail, tell me the story, give me their mobile number.  I don’t get to witness all the acts myself, so I push on the leaders to tell me what they are seeing and I encourage people to tell me about their peers.

During the first few years, 70% of the incoming mentioned were from management.  Today, 70% are employees telling me about great things that they saw other employees (often in some other group) do. Having people focus on and recognise the positive contributions of others is incredibly powerful.

4) Leadership rather than management: 

You manage things and lead people.  Leaders have many different types of personalities.  What great leaders have in common, however, is the people who follow them are not motivated by fear or intimidation, they simply don’t want to let the person down.  That right is earned.

A leader earns that right by creating value for the employee at the point of attack (helping them to be successful as opposed to just measuring the results), and caring. Leaders help to aspire and inspire others to reach heights they didn’t realise were achievable. 

5) High (unlimited) expectations: 

Every study on high performance people talks about them having time bound and written goals, yet less than 10% of people have them.  One reason is you can’t miss an unwritten goal.  I recommend setting both three personal and three professional goals that can be measured and accomplished in a specific number of days. I never share my personal goals with others, because I am not trying to prove to others that I can do it. I am only trying to break through self-imposed barriers. 

For my professional goals, I ask what three things I am doing to make an impact. I share these goals with my both my internal customer and my boss.  They may say, “Those two are great, but I wouldn’t do the third”. Great.  No effort wasted. 

Once I have my six goals I do two more critical steps:

  1. I put them away for a day, then read them line by line asking if accomplishing the goal will make me proud of myself.

  2. I take out my planner and write down my goals.  As an example, if I say that I am going to get on a treadmill three times a week for 30 minutes, I write that in my diary.  People often say “I feel much better when I work out”, but then they don’t and claim they don’t have the time.  It’s not a matter of time. It just isn’t a true priority.

6) Embrace change: 

You are getting better or you are getting worse. If you are staying the same, you are getting worse.  As people age, they often don’t want any change.  They want to go to the same restaurants, see the same people, holiday in the same spots, etc.  When you meet older people who are curious, always looking ahead, it is startlingly different.  They age well and are always growing.  Many companies are like the first example, claiming they are risk averse. If you don’t take risks, you just took a risk.  If you don’t make a decision, you just made a decision.  

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