I ride a road bike for exercise and fun. I have a very steep hill to climb as I finish one of my favorite two-hour routes. This year that hill has given me problems. Last week on this route I got wobbly half way up, had to get out of my pedal clips, and walk the bike up the last third of the hill. Worse yet, I almost got hit by a car for my troubles. I went riding the other day and that hill was in my head the whole way: should I try it again? What can I do differently? Maybe I should take an easier way and try again another time? The weather was wet and cold. I was just starting to get a cold and not feeling very strong. The excuses were piling up in a nice convenient way. What should I do? After all, the only person that cares about the hill is me.
The hill is a metaphor for me. It represents all the things that I do that require finishing …getting up that hill. There are so many people that are great at starting projects. But how many people are great finishers? Here’s the thought process I go through when I struggle with finishing. I’m not perfect at finishing but I know that I’m better than I used to be:
- What are the consequences of not finishing? Sometimes the most courageous thing to do is quit. If we honestly and consciously think that the “hill” is not that important and purposefully choose to NOT finish, it will be a relief and allow us to focus precious time and energy on climbing more important hills.
- If the “hill” is important then we need to make a better plan to finish. Techniques I use are to:
- Constantly visualize the benefits of getting to the top, of finishing.
- Break the journey up the hill into small progressive steps, declaring little victories along the way.
- Practice new techniques that might help you get to the milestones and finish.
- Get help; coaching can make the difference. Too often we try and do it alone.
- Declare your intention to climb “that hill” publicly. It is transparent and scary but can also be motivating.
Today I decided getting up that hill was important to me and I wanted to finish. I practiced a strategy of changing my gears and attacked the hill by breaking up the climb into “thirds” along the way. I got to the top with a few gears and a little “juice” left. It felt great to finish!
Character Move: be mentally tough and honest enough to decide whether to finish. If it is important to finish make a plan of attack and just do it. Don’t give up or take an easier but less rewarding path. What hill will you climb this week?
Be a finisher in the Triangle,
Every day I run into people who say “I wish,” “if only,” and “why can’t,” etc. I catch myself saying the same things sometimes. We might want something different but honestly don’t do a meaningful thing about achieving that more desired state. We get stuck in the “world of wish.” I’ve come to the conclusion that most of us don’t really want to achieve what we wish for and aspire to. Honestly if we dig deep into our feelings and thoughts we don’t really want to, or are afraid to. The idea of just wishing for something different sustains us enough for whatever reason. It’s kind of buying a Lottery Ticket. Maybe it will magically, against ridiculous odds, just happen one day.
However if we’re fortunate, we might find or run into a story like The Boy who Harnassed the Wind and we will become inspired and/or embarrassed by the excuses we make. And frankly many of us sitting on cushy couches need to run into a William Kamkwamba. We need to see him standing on top of that creaky windmill to get off our butts and create something that makes that “wish” real, and by doing so we will ultimately replenish ourselves. Please watch the video below and I encourage you to read the book. William had every reason (way more than most of us in the developed world) to do nothing. But he chose to “do” rather than “wish.”
Character Move: What windmill will we build? What is our wish that needs to be achieved? We don’t have to save a village. But we can all catch the wind; even if it contributes more value for just one person; including and especially ourselves. We can build from there. Read the book or watch the video and then just do it! Forget about “them” achieving your wish for you. “They” can help, but like William we need to start and one day we have built “a windmill.” Just take one meaningful step today…another tomorrow …and another…
Harnessing the Wind in the Triangle,
Gossiping is a negative drag in the workplace. It is almost always hurtful and brings no value to anyone. Email and social media provides even more opportunity for gossiping. Text can be even more harmful than face to face personal attacks. Janet Ott, a coach and one of finest communication teachers I know, gives the following advice regarding gossip. This is an abbreviated version from her March newsletter:
“First, let’s define gossip: I believe it’s anything you say about another person that you would not say to their face.
There are many consequences to our engaging in this verbal exercise. First, the gossip is often negative or even nasty – and that brings everyone’s mood down, even though it can be a juicy social experience! Most importantly, you label yourself as someone who is unsafe, petty. People almost always wonder “What is he/she saying about me when I am not present?” Other fallout in the workplace includes conflict, hurt feelings, and rumors running rampant.”
Ott acknowledges that while, gossiping is human and commonplace it is unacceptable. She offers some guidelines:
- Before you open your mouth – check your intention. The only green light would be using this discussion to get help in identifying a solution to deal with the issue or person. Be honest with yourself.
- There is no trivial comment (verbal or nonverbal) ever made by a leader. Every comment is noticed and given meaning. Never, never speak negatively about any other member of your management team or ANY employee. This includes nonverbal gestures like eye rolling or heavy sighs when the person’s name is mentioned. People will be eager to talk about your negative judgments and they will spread faster than a virus.
- When you hear what sounds like a rumor, gently ask the person if they have “checked it out” with the source or would be willing to do so. Stop feeding the rumor mill.
- If you are with someone or a group and the talk turns to bad-mouthing someone else, politely excuse yourself (…gotta go!) or gently say something like “I’m uncomfortable talking about _______ when they are not here. Let’s change the subject.” Listening to gossip perpetuates it – silence doesn’t count.
Gossiping flies directly in the face of respect as a value. Let’s be self accountable about gossiping. If you and I stop it, the chain is broken.
Character Move: let’s be really observant about gossiping. Let’s see if we can go a week without participating in gossip. Let’s build from there.
No gossiping in the Triangle,
Adam Bryant, New York Times business writer of the weekly Corner Office has written a recently published book by the same name. It is a distillation of 70 CEO interviews. While Bryant’s work has a number of unique angles and observations, the following CEO-like qualities are supported by the values of the Character Triangle:
1. Curiosity …Listening …Respect.
CEOs are the best students. They have what Bryant describes as passionate curiosity. They are relentless in understanding “why” and “how come.” Is there a better way? They learn more every day and practice it!
They also have team smarts. Many people can work well in a team, but are they capable of motivating others in the group? Perhaps more importantly, can they motivate others who do not report to them?
2. Battle-hardened confidence …Self Accountability.
Every one of us has faced adversity. But the best of us can clinically describe how we persevered, overcame the challenge and absorbed battle tested lessons for future application. There is no blame or excuse. The mental toughness comes from taking responsibility and learning. This builds confidence when embraced.
3. Fearless ….Abundance.
CEO qualities involve a thirst for change based on making the organizations one works for better. It involves sincere motives that are driven by a focus on bringing value to the company and others. This is often the harder route, and is based on expanding rather than protecting the status quo. Being fearless and being abundant go hand in hand.
Character Move: pick one thing you can do this week that reinforces one of these attributes. We are all not going to be CEOs but these behaviors are not exclusive to CEOs. We can aspire to them. What is the first one you will do?
Be your own CEO in the Triangle,
GTY stands for Greater Than Yourself. Steve Farber is blazing a path with his thought leadership and writing on the concept and belief that it is vital to help others be greater than ourselves. In fact the greatest leaders, and this is supported by much leadership research, make others greater than themselves. My belief is that we are all leaders and that we are rich with the most valuable inventory in the world …ourselves. When I talk about the value of Abundance in the Character Triangle, the greatest act of abundance is to give of ourselves.
Steve encourages us to think of ourselves as valuable inventory to give away. This includes but is not limited to: what we do well, the meaningful experiences we have had, our life lessons, the people we know, and our admirable qualities and personal values. The richness of who we are is there to fully, frequently, and unconditionally give to others. My belief is that it is our obligation to continually grow and expand, and give ourselves to others. This is an act of abundance, and by extension, love.
- Please think about starting your own GTY project. Who do you think might grow and gain by what you have to offer? Who do you trust and believe in? Who has values similar to your own? These are great candidates who can benefit from all you have to give.
- Go to Steve Farber’s website and explore tools and techniques that can assist you with your GTY project.
- Choose wisely and give with only one condition – that the person or people you choose for your GTY do the same and pay it forward.
Terry Pearce, a well know leadership coach has a quote that is worth reflecting on prior to taking this on.
“There are many people who think they want to be matadors, only to find themselves in the ring with two thousand pounds of bull bearing down on them, and then discover that what they really wanted was to wear tight pants and hear the crowd roar.”
So, before you begin your GTY project be prepared to commit and follow through. I can assure you that reciprocity is not needed, it is one of the most rewarding things you’ve done.
Being greater than yourself in the Triangle,
Those of you who follow the Character Triangle know that respect is one of the vital three values. Constantly and consistently being respectful at work involves relentless attention and practice. Paul Marciano, author of Carrots and Sticks Don’t Work: Build a Culture of Employee Engagement with the Principles of RESPECT, is a renowned organizational psychologist, and has over 40 years of research and practice focusing on leadership. This is what he has to say regarding the application of RESPECT.
There are seven critical ways in which managers can show respect to their employees:
- Recognition. Thanking employees and acknowledging their contributions on a daily basis.
- Empowerment. Providing employees with the tools, resources, training, and information they need to be successful.
- Supportive Feedback. Giving ongoing performance feedback — both positive and corrective.
- Partnering. Fostering a collaborative working environment.
- Expectation Setting. Establishing clear performance goals and holding employees accountable.
- Consideration. Demonstrating thoughtfulness, empathy, and kindness.
- Trust. Demonstrating faith and belief in their employees’ skills, abilities, and decisions.
This is an actionable philosophy that speaks to how employees and managers should treat one another on a regular basis.
I think this checklist, what I refer to as the Respect 7, is a useful template for assessing how well you and I apply the respect principle at work.
Character Move: Let’s self score ourselves on a scale of 1 (poor) to 7 (great) on each of the seven points. How well do we do with our boss, teammates, and if applicable, our direct reports? Why not use an anonymous feedback tool to get real time feedback and data (e.g. use a tool like SurveyMonkey or Rypple)? Build an action plan to shore up our weakest areas. Then, let’s self score our boss. How well does he or she do? What could you do to help them get better at these? How do we communicate that in a constructive and useful manner to them? The very aspect of exploring this self evaluation is a respect-driven (and self accountable) action in its own right.
Scoring respect in the triangle,