Do You Have the Courage to Be Great?

Do you have the courage to be great?It’s easy to look at Fortune’s “Most Admired Companies” or the “100 Best Companies to Work for” list and think, “That’s what I want to build.”

Why wouldn’t you? Can you imagine the talent trying to work for those organizations anytime there is a vacancy? I’m sure it is a who’s who list of the best and the brightest.

However, I’m not sure most leaders have the courage to do what it takes to build and maintain the organizational health necessary to make these lists. Our organization has worked with hundreds of business leaders around the world. One thing is consistent across different continents and cultures: true courage is rare.

In some ways, this seems obvious. It is, of course why we admire the companies on that list so much. Those organizations are not common. Where we often fail to make the connection is in the implications about the leadership of those organizations. The leadership being practiced in those organizations is uncommon too – by definition. If they were common, we would not celebrate them.

So what is the secret? In my 20 years of experience, I’ve determined it comes down to one thing: courage. The organizations’ leaders must have the courage to stand by the values and behaviors they claim to want in the organization, the courage to be held accountable and to hold others accountable, and the courage to remove those from the organization not willing to model and support those values and behaviors – NO EXCEPTIONS. There can be no individual so important to the organization he or she is above the organizations’ values

If it sounds strong, it is. If it sounds difficult, it is. If it sounds uncommon, it is.

That’s why we celebrate the best places to work.

How have you seen this play out in organizations you’ve been a part of?

Recruiting – It’s Not Rocket Science, But It’s Close

Whether you have been a hiring manager or job candidate, everyone has a recruiting war story.  As a hiring manager, you are searching for the elusive dream candidate.  As a candidate, you feel like you are being strung along by one company after another.  It can often feel like the recruiter, whether internal or external, is simply throwing mud against the wall so they can get the job requisition closed and move on.

Why is it that most organizations seem to struggle to attract the kind of talent they want?  It doesn’t have to be that way.  Here are 4 things to start doing now to improve your ability to make the right match.

First, know your brand.  Brand is not only client facing, but you also have a brand as an employer.  Begin by trying to determine your existing employer brand.  Then define what you would like it be in a way that reinforces the values and culture of the organization.  When going through this exercise, it is important that you look honestly at the values and culture of the organization in practice.  If there is a gap between what really goes on and what the organization claims to hold as its values and culture, then the organization’s leadership must own it and begin to fix it.  If they refuse to confront reality, odds are you’re employer brand has become toxic in the marketplace.  You might get applicants, but they will either leave once they realize they were sold a lie or even worse, they will stay because no one else will hire them. People want to feel good about their employer and its brand.  If there is a disconnect here, you’ll only attract the people everyone else rejected.

Once the brand is established, the next component is taking your mind off the job and defining the ideal candidate based upon people who have succeeded in the role.  I know this sounds very simple, but I can’t tell you how much time people spend on defining the job rather than the person they want to fill it.  If the position is important enough to fill, it’s worth spending time with a team of 2-3 key stakeholders to think about the most successful people you’ve had in that role and list out the qualities that you believe made those folks successful.  Again, it seems like a simple exercise, but most folks fail to do it.

Finally, be sure you have a defined screening and interviewing process.  Most managers dread the interview process.  It can be time consuming, and they have a department to keep running.  However, this is another situation where some time invested on the front end will save many hours on the back end.  Work with the internal HR group or an HR consultant to make sure you have a defined success plan for recruiting.  This is no different than the planning done for the sales team, product development, or operations.  The plan should have a process for pre-screening applicants, the stages of your interview process, interview questions, and assessments that look deeply at the candidates core values, ability to solve problems, coachability, and personality to help you make sure you are getting the right match.  I cannot undersell the value of good assessment tools.  It is really the things good assessments will show you that will reveal whether or not a candidate will be a good fit.

Sounds great, right? Who has time to do all that?  Besides, it is usually outside the hiring manager’s realm of expertise.  That’s OK.  That’s what your HR team should be doing for you.  This is where a good recruiter can save you time and ultimately money.  If you think recruiters are expensive, what is the cost of the loss of productivity while the manager is playing the role of recruiter?  Worse yet, what is the cost of a hiring the wrong person?  If you are having rapid growth or have a seasonal business, you may want to look at putting a recruiting specialist on staff.  Otherwise, outsource it.  If you’ve “tried recruiters” before and had a bad experience, you didn’t have the right one.

While recruiting is not easy, it’s not rocket science either.  By managing your brand, defining the ideal candidate, define the recruiting process, and leveraging either internal or external HR resources, you can greatly improve your mission success rate.  After all, each new hire is like a mini-merger, and as with all relationships, they are much easier to get into than out of.

Creating Clarity – The Work of Leadership

Creating clarity is some of the true work of leadership in any organization.  If the members of the organization are the least bit uncertain about the purpose, the primary focus, the organizational objective, or especially the behaviors expected in the organization then the organization will struggle.

In this segment from the weekly Small Business Samaritan Radio Program, Chris and Judi explore this concept with SBS founder, Phillip Saxton.

The Small Business Samaritan Radio Program can be heard weekly from 12p to 1p on Saturdays and 5p to 6p on Sundays on Wall Street Radio BIZ 1190 AM in Atlanta, Georgia.

Effective Teams – SBS STAR Radio

Effective Teams Essential Number 1 – Trust

Healthy organizations are dependent upon effective teams.  This sounds easy enough, but how do you build effective teams.

In this segment, Chris and Judi continue their conversation with Philip Saxton about organizational health and how to build effective teams. This is the foundation of organizational health.

This program originally aired on BIZ 1190 AM in Atlanta, Georgia on August 24th, 2013.

It Brings Down Planes and Organizations

The statement that culture eats strategy for lunch (or breakfast – depending on your source), has been attributed to the late, great Peter Drucker.

In Good to Great, Collins develops the analogy of an organizational fly wheel.  He writes about the amount of focus, time and effort that goes into getting the organizational fly wheel turning.  Now imagine that fly wheel as the culture of your organization.

How does this bring down planes?

In a cockpit, much coordination and communication is required.  The captain is dependent upon a first officer, cabin crew, and sometimes a navigator to make sure the plane reaches its intended destination safely.  If you have read any of the other Cirrus Business Group posts, you know how much emphasis we place on creating professional trust in the culture of an organization.  An airplane cockpit is an environment dependent upon trust – trust in the crew, the mechanics, the airframe, and the air traffic controllers.  It is impossible for the captain to see everything that is going on from all the necessary perspectives at any given time. To get the plane safely to the destination (the strategy) there must be a culture of trust and an appreciation for pointing out errors or new information among the flight crew and supporting parties.  In other words, although the captain has the ultimate say, the rest of the crew better feel that it is their duty to put the lives of the passengers above titles and egos and speak up.  The captain must be willing and grateful to receive this information.  The more dynamic the environment, the better this team must perform.

It will likely be some time (and we may never know) whether or not the high power distance culture of Korea caused the recent Asiana flight 214 crash, but let’s assume that the flight crew was not incompetent.  When I heard the news report, my mind immediate went back to the observations Malcolm Gladwell made about the 1997 Korean Air flight 801 crash.  In high power distance cultures, there is a general feeling that the person with authority or in control must be right regardless of your own perception or understanding because he or she is in charge.  It is considered a high insult to question authority in front of others.  Even questioning authority in private can have long-term ramifications.  So, subordinates keep quiet.  Even if it means the approach glide slope is too steep or will miss the end of the runway.

How does this bring down organizations?

You may already be ahead of me here because of my brilliant airplane analogy  but in the spirit of clarity here we go.  Most “leaders” take pride in saying that “they hire people smarter than themselves”.  However, these same leaders often create a culture that discourages those very people from raising difficult questions or pointing out inconvenient facts.

All of this undermines trust.

There is a reason there is more than one person in a cockpit and the support of air traffic control from the ground.  It takes a well functioning team to get an airplane to its destination safely.  Your organization is no different.

Have you been encouraging a high power-distance culture by undermining organizational trust?

When was the last time you had someone on your management team disagree with you…to your face?  How long has it been since you had a healthy, heated debate in a meeting?  What was your reaction?  If it was anything other than gratitude for the passion and debate, you are creating a high power distance culture.

I am not encouraging insubordination.  I am encouraging you to promote honest, passionate debate around issues, strategy, new team member hires, and the other things that have the potential to crash an organization.

If you have been guilty of undermining trust in your organization, you need to call your team together, acknowledge the issue, and ask their forgiveness.  You also need to ask them to hold you accountable going forward.

While they will likely receive the acknowledgement and conversation well, don’t expect the culture of trust to change in your organization overnight.  Culture has inertia.  However, if you will persist and your team sees consistent effort and reinforcement on your part, it can be done.

You hired them for their knowledge and insight.  Without a culture that reinforces trust, you are wasting your money.

Creating Accountability in Your Organization

Many organizations struggle with accountability.  Chris Reese shares some basic concepts from Patrick Lencioni and The Table Group that get to the true issues of creating accountability in an organization.

Click on the link below to view this video blog on our YouTube channel.

Creating Accountability

Before You Begin – Part 1

Many people dream of owning their own business. Some have a vision down inside they’ve replayed and worked on for years, and some are just tired of working for “The Man”. They want to call their own shots.

Owning your own business is much like raising children. (or sometimes running a daycare, but that’s another article.) There will be moments of great joy and pride, and there will be moments of frustration or even anger. And just like child rearing, if you guide and nurture them right, it’s hard to beat the moment when they come into their own, and you get to say, “that’s my child.”

Over the next several articles, I’m going to share with you some wisdom I’ve gathered over the years. These are not absolutes, but can save you from much self-inflicted frustration.

One of the first things to consider as you decide on when to launch into the great entrepreneurial sea is your own financial position. How will you pay the household bills until your business can afford to pay you? Does your spouse earn enough money to cover living expenses? How much money do you have saved? I’m not talking about just enough money to go through the mechanics of starting your business, I’m talking about how long you could fund your business and pay your bills without a paycheck from your business.

As entrepreneurs, we are naturally optimistic. However, the old adage of “hope for the best and plan for the worst” is certainly worth following here. There will be enough stress getting your business off the ground. You certainly don’t need to add stress that could have been prevented.

If you are the sole breadwinner and looking to jump in fulltime to your new endeavor, my recommendation is at least 12 months of expenses in savings. This is over and above what you need to start your business.

If you are not there financially, consider whether or not you can start your business part time while you still keep your job.

This is also a time to consider what sacrifices are worth making for the dream of owning your own business. Where can you cut the family budget to make it on one income or make the savings last longer? These are some of the things that make for great stories once your business is successful.