Sunday, July 22, 2007

Be Mindful of Others

This is the 3rd in a series addressing the key elements of a leadership philosophy. I call them the “7 BEs of a Leader.” Before assuming a new leadership position, Army pre-command training includes time to create one’s personal leadership philosophy. This is a great exercise, one that I have done deliberately many times. I have found that articulating my beliefs, my core values, and what exactly makes me tick are critical elements to share with my subordinates. Doing so, from the beginning, eliminates uncertainty – with subordinates and those whom I serve (customers, stakeholders, etc.) - and helps define the culture and leadership climate that I seek to create. It, like me, is a work in progress. So let me know what you think.

Leaders genuinely care about the welfare of their subordinates and know that people are what leadership is all about. They put the needs of others before their own. They serve others through empowerment, development, and encouragement. They listen and demonstrate characteristics like compassion and empathy. They know that people have good days and bad – just like they do.

Being mindful of others includes the following key leader tasks:

· Counsel subordinates regularly.
· Care enough to learn the first names of your subordinates and their family members. Not a strength of yours? Work on it! Learn the names and background of the janitor in your building, the attendant at your parking garage, and the FEDEX guy.
· Invest time and money in the professional development of your team. Help them take their leadership skills to the next level. Help them be successful.
· Accept the fact that work is probably not the number one priority of your workforce. Care enough to determine what those higher priorities might be.
· Offer commendations in public but discipline in private.
· Be generous with awards.
· Listen - to your workforce and to your customers. On the advice of author Stephen R. Covey (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) – “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
· Write a note of praise and encouragement to a teammate.
· Invest in those things that are important to subordinates (and will keep them motivated to stick around – and to excel in what you ask of them) such as training, pay and benefits, fitness, flexible work schedules, child care, etc.

One of my first leadership lessons at West Point was that leaders treat everyone equally. But this should not imply that it is acceptable to treat everyone equally bad. I know of several military leaders whose subordinates live in fear of them. One such commander, a friend of mine, never understood what it meant to be mindful of others. He regularly criticized and belittled his teammates in public and created an organizational climate of abuse and distrust. That is hardly the environment that inspires others to give their best or, in battle, to give their lives. No surprise – my friend was relieved of command in Iraq.

So what do you know about the hopes and dreams of your workers? I like to remind people that most soldiers do not join the Army to be lowly privates. They have goals to some day be leading the unit in which they serve. The same goes for our secretaries, staffs, and new hires. Don’t think they believe they have peaked. They have aspirations for so much more – and it is our job to help them get there. So what are you doing to help them achieve those goals? What sort of investments are you making to enable their success?

To be mindful of others is a daily walk in humility. The higher we go in leadership, the greater are the numbers who exist to take care of us. Leaders must turn this around – to serve and not be served, to build and encourage others and not beat them down, to put others first.

Leaders must use the golden rule to guide the way we treat other people. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” A workplace and a leadership climate governed by the golden rule will have no place for things like sexism, racism, discrimination or intolerance. Leaders must set and live this standard and hold others accountable. This is not political correctness but rather the living of the biblical wisdom that has guided relationships for nearly two thousand years. Be mindful of others.

That’s Leader Business.

1 comment:

Steve Harper said...

Outstanding BLOG post my friend. I just completed reading two books that you might find particularly interesting. Vital Friends by Tom Rath and The Starfish and The Spider by Rod Beckstrom. Both books talk about the criticality of leaders engaging one's team, department, entire workforce. That engagement on a personal level often becomes a big factor as to how leaders get things done, maximize company productivity, lower absentism and ultimately keep good people long-term.

Great job on your post. Your writing style is both engaging and interesting and I always look forward to your new BLOG post.

Ripple On My Friend!