There was much that disturbed all of America about the debt ceiling debate. But perhaps what distressed many of us the most was the feeling that making the decision that was best for the country was secondary to the “my way or the highway” mentality that permeated much of the debate. Additionally, dialogue over issues seemed to be overshadowed by personal attack. Those of us who have been part of functional families and organizations know that individuality and the ability to express needs, wants, and feelings is important. We also know that “we-ness” allows for the “me” to express itself, but that agreeing to disagree is ok too. What is not ok is when the “me” becomes “look out for number one” ONLY and the agenda between members becomes poisoned by manipulation and distrust.
The US culture is fiercely autonomous and independent. These values are fundamental to the creativity and industrious nature of the famous “American way.” To move a company (or country for that matter) forward, success is more around applying the spirit of inclusiveness and expansion. This philosophy is different than everyone agreeing and seeing everything the same way. It can and should accommodate individualism. It is also much different than, “My way is the only right way because I believe it is so, and screw everyone else.”
- Self assess how much room you have for the view of others in your work place.
- How effective are people at constructively attacking issues instead of each other (or other departments)?
- What tools like STP* are in place to help that dialogue?
- How often is the focus on “me” versus “we”? Listen to the words that people use in their communication? Is it for the greater good?
We don’t want to raise the debt limits in our companies if we can avoid it. But I believe we could all benefit from raising the respect limit!
Raising the Respect Limit in the Triangle,
* STP – Situation – Target – Proposal
Before we head out for summer vacation it is prudent to check the tires and alignment on our vehicle. It is also a good time to check the metaphorical equivalent for a good journey at work. Like four good tires, there are four primary areas that I believe determine whether people are able to optimize their contribution at work (and that includes you, me, and people who work for us):
- Pay and Recognition. Are you and I getting compensated fairly? Are we being sufficiently recognized for the work we do? Do people honestly care and value us for our individual contributions? How do we know? There are a lot of components to answering this question well. It is much broader than base pay. Ideally we feel great about total compensation AND the amount we get recognized.
- Knowledge and Information. Do you and I have the right information to do our work well? How are we measured? How do we stack up to those metrics? Do we have access to the data we need to do our job well? We need to discern between data and insight. Ideally we have insight-rich feedback systems guiding us.
- Education and Learning. Are we trained to do our job well? Does the management and information systems allow us to continuously learn? Are we getting better at our job? How do we honestly know? How much coaching and development are we seeking? … And getting?
- Engagement and Involvement. Do we have an opportunity to improve processes we’re responsible for? Are you and I actively participating in making things better? Have we made things better? What evidence do we have to prove it? Does our input to improving processes we are responsible for and impacted by really count?
You and I have a responsibility to assess whether we score high on ALL of these four areas. If any one area gets out of balance or alignment things can go badly; at worse we end up having a “blow out.” We have a responsibility to take action to elevate our score in each area. This means not being passive. We are self accountable for our work environment.
Character Move: the big four are what I call the “People Contribution System” and are part of an overall leadership framework called the “Rubis Leadership System”™. Take a moment during your summer vacation to ask yourself tough questions, while self assessing where you are on the big four. Please remember that it is important to score highly in EACH area. Put a plan in place to get the right balance. If not, a wholesale tire change may be necessary.
Time for a tire check in The Triangle,
I make it a point if at all possible, to never to pass a kid’s lemonade stand without stopping to buy. Why? Because these kids have are trying to provide something of value with their time and talent. They find a good street corner on a hot day, make a product that’s refreshing, offer it with a huge anticipatory smile, and that’s worth paying for. Hopefully a positive lemonade stand experience for these rookie entrepreneurs translates into more as they grow into adulthood. (Btw… I don’t always drink the lemonade…)
This reminds me that every day you and I pass “lemonade stands” at work. Obviously they are not lemonade stands but what would happen if:
- We always stopped to say good morning to the first person we met coming in the door, asked sincerely as to how they were, and listened to their response?
- Carefully watched and held the door or elevator open for people coming in behind us?
- Said good morning to people as we came in to our work area and broadly smiled as we did so?
- Wrote a hand written (not email) thank you or recognition note to someone who helped us or someone we observed doing something great? We could easily do this while we waited for our computer to boot up… i.e. before our email overtook us!
- Made a point of identifying on our daily agenda someone we were going to help or coach that day?
- Concluded each day thanking someone?
People tell me the pressure of applying the Character Triangle with consistency can be daunting. Of course as human beings we can and will stray from the principles from time to time. I am more interested in promoting the relentless journey of purposefully practicing the principles than expecting personal perfection from myself or others. However, the one thing I know for sure is that the small stuff ends up being the big stuff.
The above behavioral examples at one level are trivial. They will not on their own make or break a business model. However if we make a point of attending to the small stuff, the bigger things have a better foundation for connecting with the same principles.
- Don’t pass literal or metaphorical lemonade stands without “buying”!
- Set the stage each day at work, as we travel between the front door and our office/cube/station.
- Be present, smile, say thank you, and acknowledge in our first 30 minutes and the “table will be set” for the rest of the day.
- Wrap every day with a genuine thank you.
- Do it all over again until it becomes a positive habit.
No Lemons in the Triangle,