5 Top Leadership Articles for the Week of March 6, 2017

Each week I read a number of leadership articles from various online resources and share them across social media. Here are the five leadership articles readers found most valuable last week. I have added my comment about each article and would like to hear what you think, too.

Why Integrity is the Foundation of a Peak Performance Leader by Chris McGoff at SmartBrief

When you hear the word “integrity,” what comes to mind? Most people think integrity is a moral issue. Integrity is not a moral matter. It is not about right and wrong. “Having integrity” is about honoring your word as your life. When a person of integrity gives their word or makes a commitment, they follow through, with no exceptions. When integrity is present, it is one of the most powerful characteristics in any person or organization; however, when absent, one of the most damaging.

My Comment: Credibility is your leadership currency. If people can’t believe you, if they can’t trust you, you’re finished. However, when your people can trust you and rely on you to consistently do what you say, you’ve bought yourself some leeway for personality and style differences.

I appreciate how McGoff articulates the difference between the moral dimension of integrity and the very practical role it plays in your influence, dialogue, and leadership. I’m surprised at how often managers at every level (including C-suite folks) bungle their integrity. Often it is unwillingness to disappoint someone, so they say things they shouldn’t, or else they don’t inform people when they’ve changed their mind. Either way, McGoff’s advice is spot on: “Say no or renegotiate if there is uncertainty. Only say ‘yes’ when you mean it. If you say ‘yes,’ do it.

How to Create Line of Sight for Your Employees by David Grossman

To drive engagement, help employees personalize strategy and understand how they fit in

I wrote recently about research from a myriad of sources that shows that employees overall don’t understand company strategy. Said another way, they don’t get how they fit in. And that’s a missed opportunity.

This “fit” is often called line of sight. Put simply, line of sight means that employees can see the connection between their goals and the organization’s goals.

The benefits are many – to ensure that employee’s best efforts are helping achieve the organization’s goals, as well as to help them know that the work they’re doing matters. Employees want to know they’re making a contribution to the larger whole, which helps drive engagement.

My Comment: In Winning Well, we invite you to ask employees at every level of the organization: “What does success look like?” In high-performing organizations, everyone can provide the same answer. They know what the ‘win’ looks like for their role, their team, and the entire company. When you provide people that level of clarity, it helps them to fully engage.

Grossman uses a twist on the stonemason metaphor to help you identify if your people are building a wall or a castle. So much depends on connecting every what to a meaningful and compelling why. It’s one of your most important leadership responsibilities.

Design Your Workplace Culture to Go Beyond Engagement and Fuel Trust by Glenn Lopis at Forbes.com

The 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer doesn’t mince words: “trust is in crisis.” Across the board and around the world, the general population’s trust in our biggest institutions – including business – is down.

So it’s no wonder that by far the top things organizations ask me to solve for when they seek my leadership expertise are trust and engagement. I’ve learned from years of research that what they’re actually seeking is to create an environment of greater intimacy. The lack of trust and engagement happens because leaders are not intimate enough with the workplace and the people who touch the business.

My Comment: Trust and credibility are a definite theme this week. Lopis emphasizes something I stress regularly for my clients that are concerned about employee engagement: engagement is a product of good leadership. If you try to focus on moving the engagement needle directly, you end up gaming the score and irritating your employees. Focus on a culture of trust, of clear expectations, connect whats to whys, help people to grow, encourage them, and help people to succeed in meeting their goals – that’s the path to real engagement.

What Incoming Leaders Should Know About Employee Personalities by Naphtali Hoff

One of the greatest challenges that confronted me when I assumed the role of head of school was the contrast in personalities between my predecessor and me. In many ways, we were polar opposites, including our general effect, how we interacted with others and in the amount of quiet, private time (with the door closed) that we wanted or needed to function effectively in our jobs.

At the time, I really didn’t appreciate this issue. To me, I was who I was and I assumed that everyone else would simply get used to dealing with a new boss. In hindsight, I feel that I could and should have taken more time to understand my personality and, by extension, leadership profile and how that may affect those around me, especially when they were used to something very different.

My Comment: I’ll never forget the time, early in my career, when I first learned that some people don’t mean everything they say. These extroverts who processed information aloud rather than processing internally had confounded me. Looking back, of course, I have to chuckle. I have since come to the conclusion that some of the very best managers and leaders are those who have the greatest understanding of human beings and all the many flavors of our personalities. The least effective are those who assume and expect that everyone thinks and reacts as they do. If that is you, start with Hoff’s summary. It’s one lens through which to view the kaleidoscope of human personality. Remember: just as there are people who are your headache…you are also someone else’s headache.

A Leadership Lesson from the Concert Stage by S. Chris Edmonds

What can an out-of-tune mandolin at a band concert tell us about the quality of our work environment and the degree of trust between and among team members?

I use a recent working-musician experience to help shed light on how critically important it is for leaders to pay attention to the health of team members’ relationships at work — and fix issues before they become gaping holes.

My Comment: I recently had a client who was extraordinarily frustrated because a remote executive in another state had made a decision about how my client should cut staff, reassign work, and reduce costs. My client was frustrated because this remote executive was looking at one spreadsheet and, according to the number he had in front of him, my client’s office was a high-expense operation.

The part he was missing is that my client’s office was also the highest grossing and most profitable by every metric the company has. Moreover, the executive had never visited, did not know the operation, the people, or anything about it beyond a one-dimensional set of numbers. Following through with his uninformed suggestions would gut their performance. Fortunately, my client had built enough relationships with other senior executives that they were able to get the other information in front of this decision-maker and he relented (reluctantly).

Edmonds takes a look (through the lens of an out-of-tune mandolin) at a similar occurrence when you focus too much on the score and don’t pay attention to the fundamentals that got you there – namely, healthy relationships.

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