Monthly Archives: May 2014

I. Do What Is Right

Directions (5)Early in my executive career, I was the CFO of a construction company.  The company picnic was held on a Sunday the second year I was there.  I missed the picnic so I could teach a Sunday School class.  The owner called me into his office on Monday and asked why I wasn’t at the picnic.  When I explained my obligation to him, he responded that if I wanted to advance in the company I would have to always put the company first.  I told him that the company was not my first priority in life.  I then said that I would always get my work done but being true to my commitments would be my first priority.  A month later, he fired me and hired his brother-in-law.

Even though I was the sole supporter of my wife and five children, I never regretted that decision.  It took ten months to find a new job, but I never regretted my decision to be true to my sense of right.  As my mother taught me, “Do what is right, let the consequence follow.”  I cannot claim to always have done what is right, but I know that when I have followed my mother’s counsel, I have been content with my decisions. 

The lesson of this story is that everyone must establish what is most important for themselves – their principles.  If you compromise those principles, you lose your moral ground, which makes each successive compromise easier.  Eventually, you lose all integrity.

Integrity can be defined as a firm adherence to a code of moral values;  incorruptible.  It is the stuff of which great men and women are made.  It is absolutely essential for an exceptional leader.  As President and General Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity.  Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.”   

Some might say that putting a career before everything else is a good thing, both for the individual and the employer.  My response is that when a job becomes more important than one’s principles, the sense of right and wrong is distorted.  This distortion is what has allowed so many perpetrators of corporate fraud to justify their actions.  After all, they were being true to their highest priority – getting ahead in their career.

From the employer’s perspective, if the employee has put his or her life on the altar of their job, consider what they might be cable of if they ever feel like they are not being treated fairly.  They will have no virtuous principles to temper their decisions.

In the last 15 years, we have seen massive fraud in financial markets.  The size of fraud in government, sports, entertainment and non-profit organizations is typically not as large but it is just as prevalent, and the impact on employees is the same.  The root cause is all the same – the lack of integrity.

It would be well to remember the words of Richard Herlin, partner at the CPA firm of Deloitte, “There’s nothing – no issue, opportunity, client, boss, or fee – that should compromise your integrity or divert your moral compass.”

When a manager compromises his integrity or diverts her moral compass, the problem has a ripple effect in the organization.  In addition to the potential problems created for the company by a manager himself, there are two typical responses from the employees.  The honest employees will begin to look for a new job because they have lost trust in their manager.  The less honest employees are likely to follow the actions modeled by their boss.  Dishonesty, lack of trust and turnover combine to do tremendous damage to the organization. 

A good leader will be true to her moral compass.  He will never compromise his integrity.  She will do what is right.  The employees of good managers will usually respond in kind and the organization will prosper. 


Ten Best Practices of Exceptional Leaders

sunsetI am a CPA.  Yes, a bean-counter who is supposed to spend his life in the Nerdery, balancing debits and credits, footing and cross-footing.  My brother Russ likes to say, “There is nothing wrong with an accountant that a personality wouldn’t fix.”

Nevertheless, even an accountant can see how a company really makes money if he keeps his antennae up.  Money is not made in the back room balancing the general ledger.  The profitability of a business is dependent on the physical, intellectual and emotional abilities of each employee and the collective workforce.  After all, a business can only exist if there are people to operate it and a business can only thrive if it keeps its best employees.

This concept should not come as a surprise to anyone who has run a successful business.  However, an executive of a very profitable company once told me, “This would be a great business if it weren’t for the people.”  Lucky for that company, there were other managers that did not share his opinion.  They understood that it was the people that make a great business.

The key people in making a great business are the leaders.  Leaders set the tone of the company and establish the corporate culture.  Exceptional leaders are those who model the behavior they want rather than just preaching about it.  Leadership is the first criteria of The Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, an award established by Congress to recognize U.S. organizations for their achievements in quality and performance.

Being a leader doesn’t require a title.  I have known receptionists who are leaders in the companies they work for because of how well they treat employees and customers.  Following that thought to its logical conclusion, every employee can be a leader.  These blog posts, however, are focused on leaders and managers who have the responsibility of directing the work of fellow employees. 

Having worked in management positions for over 30 years in oil refining, construction, consulting, electrical generation, manufacturing, agriculture and health care, I can unequivocally state that any company can improve the bottom line when leadership values the employees and fosters a culture that nurtures talent.  It does not matter what type of business, every successful business is dependent on good employees who are led by good leaders.  The Baldrige Award criteria support this observation.

Not only are companies that take care of their employees more productive and profitable, they are a better place to work for both employees and their bosses.  Considering that we spend about a quarter of our working lives, about 80,000 hours, at the workplace, an enjoyable workplace should be important to everyone. 

Volumes have been written on workplace productivity and thousands of studies have been done on hundreds of management theories.  Sorting through them all to find the key elements would be a monumental task and would overload the typical reader.  In my opinion, the following Ten Best Practices of Exceptional Leaders probably captures 90% of what has been proven and, what is more important, the reader will intuitively know what is true through their own experience.

10 Best Practices of Exceptional Leaders

  1. Do What Is Right
  2. Be Positive
  3. Keep Your Ego in Check
  4. Eliminate Contention in Your Workforce
  5. Promote a Fertile Work Environment
  6. Train Employees and Encourage Learning
  7. Nurture Your Employees
  8. Reward Your Employees Fairly
  9. Create a Safe and Pleasant Workplace
  10. Discipline With Clarity and Compassion

These best practices are not intended to replace a Human Resource manual or the corporate attorney.  Their purpose is to focus employees and their managers on how to improve their workplace. 

Each of these practices will be explored in depth in subsequent articles.  The articles will teach how and why leaders who lead with the heart can dramatically improve the work environment.

When managers ignore these practices, they are punished with high turnover, negative budget variances and increased workplace stress.  On the other hand, when managers employ these practices, the workplace is rewarded with more satisfaction, productivity and profitability.  

Introductory Post

RAC2My name is Roger Allred and I am a professional speaker and an advisor/coach.  During my 30+ year career, I have studied how leaders create profitable and productive organizations.  I am also a CPA and as I have consulted with leaders in many different industries, I have studied the personal attributes of exceptional leaders.  You can read Credentials on this website as support for what I have written.

I created this blog to provide meaningful content to those who are trying to be exceptional leaders.  My management experience has taught me that exceptional leaders are those who make their respective organizations exceptional – business, government, non-profit, clubs, churches, athletic teams and families.  They do this by helping other team members to maximize their creativity  and contribution to the organization.

My blog posts will focus on the attributes and best practices of exceptional leaders in all organizations and at all levels of management.  My intent is to present concepts, provide evidence of their effectiveness and encourage leaders to lead with their heart  to help their team reach the top.

Please contact me if you would like to discuss how I might help you.