Despite living only a few miles apart for several years, I (David) only knew Chris online. We first met in person when he was sharing tips from his fantastic book The Culture Engine with a group of tech leaders committed to building healthy business cultures. The three of us finally met in person at a gathering of the Colorado Chapter of the National Speakers Association. Chris offers one of the clearest, practical guides to creating a positive corporate culture that you will ever find. If you’ve never built an organizational constitution that transforms values to daily behaviors, give Chris’ book a close look.
Here is Chris Edmonds’ Culture Leadership Charge video episode made exclusively for the 2017 Winning Well Symposium. In this concise video, Chris shares how his culture clients leverage two of the Winning Well principles, results, and relationships, to craft purposeful, positive, productive work cultures.
Winning Well Reflection
“Trust, respect, and dignity in every interaction…” – that sounds like Winning Well to us (not to mention the foundation for a phenomenal culture that achieves lasting transformational results). Well said, Chris!
Click on the image for more information about Chris’ book.
Our 8th Winning Well Principle: Trust the Trenches has so many nuances, all of which I learned the hard way. For me, it wasn’t the delegating, or asking for input, that was the hardest… it was trusting my team enough to be vulnerable. To trust them enough to admit that I’m far from perfect, and having the confidence to know that was okay. I still had vision. And a plan. And we could still win well.
“Because when people see leaders who are real and have real life challenges, they look at those leaders and say, “Wow, she’s not perfect. And I’m not perfect. And we can still win well together.”
The Hardest Way to Trust the Trenches
I had just been promoted to my first executive job in human resources at Verizon. All the players were new. I had a new boss and an entire new C-level suite to impress. And because sometimes life throws you curve balls, I was also going through a divorce and was trying to navigate an unexpected life as a single mom.
I hadn’t told a soul. My best friends at work didn’t know. And my boss certainly had no idea.
So here’s what I imagined would be said about me.
Well, we know we can’t talk about this, but…
“This is probably not the right time for her. Yes she’s high-potential, but with all this personal stuff on her plate…”
“I’m not sure she’ll be able to manage the travel of this high-profile role as a single mom.”
“She’s young. Let’s skip this round with her, and wait to see how she handles her new life circumstances.”
So I did what I thought was best and ignored the unspeakable.
Which might not have been a terrible approach. Except…
My First Project in the New Role
My first assignment in my new role was to build a diversity strategy. I was to gather a “max mix” of managers (think race, age, sexual orientation) from across disciplines and cultures to talk about the very real challenges that were limiting our ability to have an inclusive culture.
And it was working.
We had an amazing team. And great dialogue. Scott, the gay man, came out to us for the first time at work–and that informed our strategy.
Sherika shared a few horrible examples of being overlooked as a woman of color–and that informed our strategy.
John, who weighed 400 lbs., opened our eyes to discrimination we hadn’t even considered–and that informed our strategy.
We were on the cusp of presenting our recommendations to senior leadership, when Sherika burst into my office, and shared her truth from the trenches.
“Karin you are a fraud.”
“All this time we’ve been talking about diversity, and what really matters. Scott came out to you and you applauded. I shared my story, and you raised an enthusiastic, ‘Game on… let’s address that.” And John was close to tears in sharing his deal, and you wrote the travel policy into the plan. And there you sat, TOTALLY QUIET, as we discussed the challenges for single moms.
Our single mother strategy is incomplete. And you know it.
Yeah, we talked about schedules and daycare. But what about the fact that executives like you have to hide who they are for fear of being discounted?”
Sherika was right.
Imagine the Difference
Sherika shared, “Karin, trust goes both ways.”
“Can you imagine what would have happened if you had told us the truth?”
“Hey guys, this discussion of single moms is only half the battle. Yeah, we need daycare, and flexible schedules. But we also need to make it safe for people to show up how they really are at work. Without judgement. I’m a single mom too. I don’t meet the profile we’ve been discussing. AND I’m scared as hell that the minute people find out that I don’t have a husband, all bets are off.”
THAT would inform our diversity strategy.
Trusting the trenches starts with–trusting the trenches to be who you are.
Sherika’s message changed my approach to leadership forever.
To win the trust of your team, you have to trust them to trust you.
Trust the trenches to accept (and even embrace) that you are human being too.
April’s frontline festival is on one of my favorite topics: Employee Engagement. We have a wonderful line-up of posts. We begin with this month’s graphic from Joy and Tom Guthrie of Vizwerx LLC (see below).
Practical Engagement Practices
Jesse Lyn Stoner, of the Seapoint Center, offers her guest post on switch and shift, First Engage Yourself. It’s difficult to engage your employees if you yourself are not engaged. Here are 7 questions to assess your own engagement and suggestions for what you can do. Follow Jesse @JesseLynStoner.
“When people are financially invested, they want a return. When people are emotionally invested, they want to contribute.”
~ Simon Sinek
Mary Jo Asmus, ofAspire-CS.com, offers Where Do you Spend Your Time?. A recipe for failure in a new position: keeping your head down, not reaching out to others. This post offers tips to lead and actually lead your team to get them engaged. Follow Mary Jo @mjasmus.
Chantal Bechervaise, Take it Personel-ly shares specific ways to offer support in her post, Help Employees To Believe In Themselves. Employees need to know that you have faith in their ability to do their jobs well. It also requires commitment to help support employees when times are tough. Follow Chantal @CBechervaise.
Employee Engagement Starts With Leadership
Julie Winkle Giulioni, of juliewinklegiulioni.com shares a sentiment I often feel. It’s not always about doing more to drive engagement, but by what we need to stop. In her post, Stop Driving Employees Nuts, Julie reminds us that employee engagement, motivation, and results are less about introducing new leadership behaviors and more about just stopping the stuff that makes employees crazy. Follow Julie @juliewg.
How important is heart to mental toughness? LaRae Quy, author of Empower The Leader In You, shares 5 Unconventional Ways You Can Lead From Your Heart. Mental toughness is finding a way to continue moving toward our goals, even in tough times. But if our heart is not the driving force behind those goals, failure will be enough to persuade us to give up and try something else. Follow LaRae @LaRaeQuy.
Chip Bell, of ChipBell.com, brings us The Leadership Echo. Leadership is an echo sounded through the actions of those under the leader’s influence. Customers get a peep-hole into the organization’s culture their experience created and delivered by the front line. Follow Chip @ChipRBell.
“On what high-performing companies should be striving to create: A great place for great people to do great work.”
~ Marilyn Carlson, former CEO of Carlson Companies
What are you engaging employees to do? Kate Nasser, of Smart SenseAbilities offers Engaging Employees to Succeed At What – Integrity. When leaders approach me to help them with employee engagement, I immediately ask them: “engage employees to do what?” If you want company-wide success, engage them to engage each other. This is how to build accountability and integrity throughout the company. Follow Kate @KateNasser.
Jennifer Miller, of The People Equation, shares the7 Moods Of Employee Engagement. Leaders need to learn to coax the troublesome types out of their moods in order to create the most productive and engaged work environment. Follow Jennifer @JenniferVMiller.
Michelle Pallas, at Fireside Chat For Leaders, shares a post on a life strategy I believe in deeply. Care Enough To Take The Time To Know People. Go first, get engaged. Show you care, make connections. It doesn’t cost anything to care. It requires energy and focus. Listening with heart and mind. Engage your workforce by taking the time to know them. Follow Michelle @MichellePallas.
Chery Gegelman, of the Simply Understanding Blog offers, Banging Pans & Throwing Fish In Corporate America. An under-performing, under-supported team that was feeling victimized, changed leadership, changed their focus, learned how to play together, built trust, began meeting and then exceeding their goals and a VIP customer said, “I don’t know what you’ve done with the place, it was a tomb, and now it is alive.” Follow Chery @GianaConsulting.
A powerful personal story that shows the impact we can make, when we invest in one person at a time. David Dye, of Trailblaze, shares The Leadership Question I Couldn’t Answer. How do you motivate a former gang member to succeed in school? David shares his surprising answer to that question and how it will help you lead motivated, energized teams. Follow David @davidmdye.
“Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers.”
~ Stephen R. Covey
Brett Faris, of Feed Leaders, shares How To Be Great With People. This is a fun, short post on 3 lessons his golden retriever taught him on how to be great with people. Brett writes with the church leader in mind however believe it is applicable to all business owners. Nothing like taking lessons from a dog. Follow Brett @BrettFaris.
In this case study, Overwhelmed, Linda Fisher Thornton, of Leading In Context explains how a a caring manager is one of the key elements that drives employee engagement. So managers, let’s remove “It’s all important. I’m sure you’ll figure it out” from our vocabularies.