Monthly Archives: June 2014

V. Promote a fertile work environment

group (1)Most of us know the Golden Rule or, if you are a philosopher, the Ethic of Reciprocity.  “Do to others as you want them to do to you.”  Or, speak to others as you want them to speak to you.  Or, help others like you want them to help you.  You don’t have to be a philosopher, however, to understand that working well with others is a good way to have others want to work with you.  A workplace where all employees, including managers, treat each other as they would like to be treated is a fertile work environment, where productivity and employee satisfaction grows.

Sadly, it is the nature and disposition of almost all people that as soon as they get a little authority – the title of boss, manager or team leader – they will immediately begin to use compulsion to get what they want, and they forget something as basic to success as the Golden Rule.  They substitute the Golden Rule for a twisted version.  “He who has the gold, makes the rule.”

While it is reasonable that the person who funds the payroll should have the right to lawfully control the workplace, it is equally reasonable to assume that the way employees are treated will have an impact on productivity.  No matter how much money one makes.  No matter how intelligent one is.  No matter how much professional success one achieves.  Autocratic management styles are not healthy, except in some military type situations where unquestioning obedience is necessary to save lives.  This is not to say that autocrats can’t be successful.  They can be, but just not as successful as they could be and not for as long as they should be.

In fact, my own training as an auditor reinforced this autocratic style.  Our motto was, “In God we trust, all others we audit.”  That might work for someone whose job it is to check for compliance but it certainly is not appropriate for a manager.  Remember that auditors are the ones who join the war effort after the battle is over in order to count the dead and bayonet the wounded.  Healthy work environments are led by those who inspire, not by those that question employees’ every move and motive.

We all know from experience that good managers with successful teams spend their time teaching rather than criticizing.  A good manager always assumes the best in people which promotes creativity, innovation and motivation.  A good manager also inspires his staff by helping them understand how their business contributes to the well- being of the community.  This fertile work environment also helps grow profitability.

Patrick Lencioni, a bestselling business researcher and author, states the following in his book, The Advantage: “In this world of ubiquitous information and nanosecond technology exchange, it’s harder than it has ever been in history to maintain a competitive advantage based on intelligence or knowledge…..I have become absolutely convinced that the seminal difference between successful companies and mediocre or unsuccessful ones has little to do with what they know or how smart they are; it has everything to do with how healthy they are.  I have found that some of the humbler underdogs are more apt to shed their preconceived notions about running a business and allow themselves to gain advantage around a different set of principles. The key ingredient for improvement and success is not access to knowledge; it is really about the health of the environment.”

In other words – health trumps intelligence. The most important skill of a leader is helping everyone to work cooperatively together; creating a synergism that utilizes the collective intelligence, insight, inspiration, creativity and innovation of the entire workforce.

A healthy workplace is led by managers whose leadership style can be described as collegial, collaborative and considerate.  A healthy workplace is where honest disagreements are freely discussed without fear of retribution.  Finally, a healthy workplace is where mistakes are made and resolved without exaggerating the problem and “horriblizing” the offender.  Even when termination is necessary, it is done without animosity.

Living the Golden Rule at work might seem too “touchy-feely” for some, but so what!  When you treat your employees with the same dignity and respect that you expect, the workplace is healthier, happier and more productive – more fertile; and the business is much more likely to thrive.



Attitude

bloomA parent’s attitude sets the tone in the home.  Constantly saying, “I have to” do this or that is a sign of someone looking for sympathy for their victimhood.  There are only two things you have to do – die and pay for your sins; everything else is optional.    

No one has everything go their way.  But, as Grandma Allred used to say, “Bloom where you are planted.”  In other words, “make the best of the situation.”  Complaining is corrosive.  It only serves to create a negative attitude in ourselves and anyone else who listens, including the kids.   We choose to do what we want to do or what we feel is correct.  So, why whine about it? 

If we want to be happy and help our children to see the best in life, we must have a positive attitude.  Life will truly be difficult from time to time, but that is just how mortal life is.  I always told our kids, “Attitude determines altitude.”

Parents must realize that there comes a day when they can’t force their children to behave.  Children can do whatever they want unless they are physically restrained, and there aren’t enough teenager prisons to handle them all.  This is common knowledge for anyone who has had a teenager, but we like to fool ourselves into believing that we are in control.  The only one in control is God.  We have to look to him to execute justice and make things “fair.”  What we can do is model a positive attitude and show our children the good things that come to good people.



IV. Eliminate contention in your workplace

bus-22114_640Apparently, many non-mechanics are spending way too much time under the bus. At least that is what I must assume after being in so many workplaces and hearing, “She threw me under the bus.” Being “thrown under a bus” is just a figurative way of saying that someone is putting another in a difficult situation to make themselves look better. This type of office politics is motivated by unhealthy competitiveness and egotism.

The act of throwing a colleague under the bus to gain recognition is a bad idea for at least three reasons. First, doing deliberate harm to another person reveals a deep character flaw. The astute manager will see that someone who is willing to damage the reputation of a co-worker in order to elevate their own status is not the kind of person who should be considered for a leadership role.

Second, it destroys the trust that others have in the thrower, which decreases the pleasure of working together. No one wants to have to constantly watch their back for fear of being the next throwing victim.

Third, it has a devastating impact on the workplace culture. Cooperation among employees suffers, product/service quality diminishes, the workplace becomes a battlefield with wounded warriors, valuable employees leave to find a more healthy work environment, recruitment becomes more difficult and, of course, the bottom line suffers.

When managers tacitly encourage this type of one-upmanship through their own inaction, silly squabbles turn into war. In the book, The Anatomy of Peace, the Arbinger Institute observes, “Most wars between individuals are of the ‘cold’ rather than the ‘hot’ variety—lingering resentment, for example, grudges long held, resources clutched rather than shared, help not offered. These are the acts of war that most threaten our homes and workplaces.”

The ‘hot’ war acts include verbal abuse, physical abuse and sabotage. They are usually dealt with promptly because they can’t be ignored and can create the basis for an employee lawsuit. The ‘cold’ war acts cited by Arbinger are more subtle but can be equally devastating to a company. Since they are subtle, they can only be eliminated by creating a corporate culture where peers police each other and leaders set the example.

When managers create an environment of inclusion that fosters friendships, the company becomes a desired employer where employees never want to leave. The Gallup organization, which does opinion polls, has developed an employee questionnaire called the Gallup Q12. This twelve question survey determines the level of employee engagement and has been administered to millions of employees. It is interesting to note that six of the twelve questions are about how the employee connects with others at work, including the question, “Do you have a best friend at work?” Personal connection is a significant determinate of employee engagement. It is almost impossible to develop personal connection in an environment of cliques, attention-grabbing and vindictiveness.

Conventional wisdom is that great teams happen when team members try to be “the very best” engineer, plumber, salesperson, etc. at the company. Most managers would agree that they want their employees to be “the best.” However, when a person is focusing on being “the very best,” they are focusing only on themselves, their personal achievements and being better than everyone else. This narcissism creates contention and competition, which diminishes cooperation.

The most productive team is one where each team member does his/her job in a way that helps others to do their jobs, in order for the team to achieve the company objectives. Leaders will improve morale and productivity by helping employees to work together as “the best team.” In other words, everyone is on the bus and no one has been thrown under it.



Theories of Parenting

Copy of BrycegunBefore I was married I had three theories about raising children.  Now I have three children and no theories.

John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester      (1647-1680) 

Having children is a great way to refute naive opinions of how to properly raise a child.  Children are people and people are different.  Each situation is different.  Therefore, there is no patently correct answer to every child or every situation.  However, there are some underlying truths that never change.  These must be the bedrock of our approach to unique people in unique situations.  I am convinced that the following are the foundation upon which we must build our family, if we are to be successful in creating a legacy of a happy family.

  1. Eliminate pride in our relationships.  Most loving parents intuitively know how to raise their children.  The problems arise when we stop listening to our hearts and start satisfying our own pride and selfishness.  Most marriages fail and most parents lose touch with their kids because of pride and selfishness.  Rather than trying to solve a problem in a loving manner, many times we harden our hearts and act in a way that only serves to protect our ego.  I can write authoritatively on this subject because I do it with greater frequency that I care to admit.
  1. Understand the importance of a father and mother role model.  Thankfully, mothers usually act in the best interest of their children.  Many children do not have an attentive father, because he is absent or he is involved in other activities that he considers to be more important.  This role needs to be filled by someone, even if it is an uncle, church leader, Scoutmaster, family friend, etc. Having a good father and mother role model will increase the likelihood that the child will have the perspective necessary to be a successful spouse, parent and person.
  1. Teach our children with love.  Nothing is more important than love in any human relationship.  Loving our children comes naturally to most parents.  To love is not to compromise the truth, nor to spoil or coddle, nor to condone inappropriate behavior.  We follow the example of Jesus Christ when we love the sinner but condemn the sin.

The important thing to remember is to convert the love we feel into what we do and say.  Our children will tolerate a lot of our mistakes if they know that we love them.  We have all seen wayward children return to goodness after realizing that their parents still loved them in spite of their bad behavior.  They usually do not come back if the parents do not reach out to them with love.

“The home is the first and most effective place for children to learn the lessons of life: truth, honor, virtue, self-control; the value of education, honest work, and the purpose and privilege of life. Nothing can take the place of home in rearing and teaching children, and no other success can compensate for failure in the home”   –  David O. McKay

If our homes are truly the university of life for our children, we must be prepared and willing to teach.  If success in our home is the most important success in life, we must devote as much time as is necessary to achieve the desired result.

This article was also published on FamilyShare.com

III. Keep Your Ego in Check

man-mirror0A lot can be learned from the ancient Greeks about ego and success.  Even though the gods in Greek mythology were often quite capricious and vengeful, the myths teach valuable leadership principles.  Apparently, human nature hasn’t changed all that much in the past 2,500 years.

Narcissus was a handsome young man who reveled in rejecting those who fell in love with him because of his beauty.  He tangled with the wrong gal when he rejected the nymph, Echo.  She prayed to Aphrodite who cursed Narcissus to fall in love with his own image.  He wasted away with love of himself while staring at his reflection in a pond.

Although there is a bit of narcissism in all successful people, it becomes pathological when our egos demand constant attention, admiration and reinforcement from others.  All too often, leaders of countries, non-profit organizations, businesses and the K-Mart shoe department become narcissists and everyone in their organization and their customers suffer as a result.

Some business executives have been so successful that they begin to think that anything they touch will turn to gold.  There are certainly some upsides to having the golden touch, but as King Midas discovered, the downside can be devastating.  Dionysus, the god of wine, granted the wish of King Midas that everything he touched would turn to gold.  He immediately tested his golden touch and to his delight, everything did turn to gold.  Not fully understanding all of the ramifications of his newly acquired power, King Midas touched his daughter and she also turned into gold.  His golden touch gave him all the gold he could want, but cost him human contact.  

It is extremely damaging to an organization when executives begin to think of themselves as Greek gods and never stop to question their decisions, their opinions nor their virtue.  Like Midas, everything they touch seems to turn to gold so they begin to think that they can do no wrong.  The reality is that no executive is God, and when narcissism causes them to ignore reality, they are naturally prone to mistakes and to offense. 

It is fair to observe that there are many toxic individuals who own or manage very successful organizations.  Therefore, one does not have to be an exceptional manager to get promoted or to make a lot of money.  Having worked for and with such individuals, these are the downsides I have observed.

  • People might respect their intelligence or talent but they do not respect the individual.
  • There are few people they can trust – for good reason.
  • They generally feel isolated from others in the organization.
  • Their organizations have high turnover.
  • There are very few people available for leadership roles – because the good ones have left.
  • They often make catastrophic mistakes because they assume they know it all.
  • Their lives are out of balance.

Any enterprise will be more successful when leaders realize that they are not Greek gods and descend from Mt. Olympus to mingle with the mortals.  The next ten best practices will make mingling more effective and will help prepare others for executive positions.

Ten best practices that make mingling with mortals more meaningful

  1. Seek and respect the opinions of everyone, from the janitor to the Executive VP by looking for opportunities to collaborate with those who work for you.
  2. Model the behavior you expect in others.
  3. Focus equally on the welfare of the customers and the employees.
  4. Plead for people to find ways to refine or correct your thinking.
  5. Avoid inflammatory language, which means to speak with precision.
  6. Keep discussions as light-hearted as possible without trivializing the importance of the work at hand.
  7. Let people know that you are there to serve in your capacity, just as they are in theirs.
  8. Be clear in your directions and expectations.
  9. Teach by explaining the rationale of decisions.
  10. Listen, listen, listen.

According to the August 2013 Harvard Business Review article Connect, Then Lead  by Cuddy, Kohut and Neffinger, “A growing body of  research suggests that the way to influence – and to lead – is to begin with warmth.  It facilitates trust and the communication and absorption of ideas.”  They also cite a study by Zenger and Folkman where only 27 of 51,836 leaders were rated in the bottom quartile of likability and the top quartile of leadership effectiveness. In other words, you have a 1 in 2,000 chance of being a good leader if you are a jerk.

Robert K. Greenleaf, the author of one of the seminal works on effective leadership, The Servant as Leader, wrote, “The first and most important choice a leader makes is the choice to serve, without which one’s capacity to lead is severely limited.”  Being smart or experienced or decisive are all great leadership qualities but the attitude of service is the most crucial for lasting success.

A leader who has developed the attitude of service has something more precious than a golden touch.  He or she leads with moral authority, which is the authority granted to a leader by those who are being led.  Therefore, the followers are more inclined to do the right thing for the right reason, which is naturally self-perpetuating.  That leader has the potential to build a lasting legacy, without the havoc that typically accompanies the leader who has not learned how to check his ego at the door.



Fatherhood

Copy of rogerfamThere is no title that I cherish more than “DAD.”  Being a father to our nine children has been one of the greatest joys of my life.  My wife and my children are my treasure.  I loved my own father and I am sorry that he did not live long enough to give me more of his experience, and to get to know my children.

The role of a father in raising children to be good people and solid citizens cannot be overemphasized.  Crime statistics and successful individuals both attest to this truth.  My wife Sue says, “My observation of those I know is that when the father is a leader and strong influence in the home, the children do better and have fewer problems.”

I believe that the titles of Mother and Father are sacred.  Consider how our God instructs us to address him, “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.”  The role of a father is too important to trivialize it by treating one’s father as just another one of the guys.

I am very honored and touched by the following poem written by our son, Landon Allred.

With unsure steps I walk this path,
And see the steps of one
Who’s felt before these tests of faith,
And, with faith, overcome.

Though not as yet to glory’s rest,
With trials yet to bear.
He struggles still, he falls and yet,
Is strengthened by the wear.

So anxiously I watch his steps.
God gave him as my guide.
And one day, at Christ’s throne I’ll stand,
My father at my side.



II. Be Positive

smiley

“Here’s a little song I wrote.
You might want to sing it note for note.
Don’t worry, be happy.
In every life we have some trouble
When you worry you make it double.
Don’t worry, be happy
Don’t worry, be happy now.”

That song, by Bobby McFerrin, will probably never be the anthem of corporate America. Is it too far-fetched, however, to agree that a happy workplace is a productive workplace? Some might say that this simplistic notion would only be adopted in the quality control department at the local medical marijuana dispensary – and then forget about the productivity! Work is about working; not about having a good time, they say. But, are working and being happy necessarily mutually exclusive?

They should not be, according to Shawn Achor, winner of over a dozen distinguished teaching awards at Harvard University and author of The Happiness Advantage. These are his words:

“Conventional wisdom holds that if we work hard we will be more successful, and if we are more successful, then we’ll be happy. If we can just find that great job, win that next promotion, lose those five pounds, happiness will follow. But recent discoveries in the field of positive psychology have shown that this formula is actually backward: Happiness fuels success, not the other way around. When we are positive, our brains become more engaged, creative, motivated, energetic, resilient, and productive at work. This isn’t just an empty mantra. This discovery has been repeatedly borne out by rigorous research in psychology and neuroscience, management studies, and the bottom lines of organizations around the globe. For instance:

• Doctors put in a positive mood before making a diagnosis show almost three times more intelligence and creativity than doctors in a neutral state, and they make accurate diagnoses 19% faster.
• Optimistic sales people outsell their pessimistic counterparts by 56%.
• Happy workers have higher levels of productivity, produce higher sales, perform better in leadership positions, and receive higher performance ratings and higher pay. They also enjoy more job security and are less likely to take sick days, to quit, or to become burned out.
• Happy, engaged workers have been shown receive up to 25% higher job performance ratings than their unhappy colleagues, which translates into a better bottom line.
• On average, business units in the top quartile on the employee engagement produced 1 to 4 percentage points higher profitability.”

Hopefully, those hard facts and statistics give the average executive license to ease up a little and find a way to make his/her own workplace more enjoyable. In fact, the statistics show that a manager who can’t help his/her employees to “be happy now” is costing the company a boatload of profit.

In my 35 year career, I have worked for some very positive bosses, and for some whose negativity was toxic.  When I had a positive boss, my productivity and creativity increased dramatically.  I felt confident that my work was appreciated and that I could try to improve on existing practices without fear of punishment.  Even when I did something wrong, it was much easier to accept criticism from a positive boss and to improve my performance. Working for a toxic boss is stifling and demoralizing.  I left those situations as soon as possible. Because of my personal experience with positive bosses, I have attempted to be as positive with my employees as I know how.  The rewards, both in terms of productivity and loyalty have been remarkable. Happiness is an advantage.

While being successful in business requires a lot more than just being able to whistle while you work, the leader who maintains a positive attitude has a very positive impact on the workforce and workplace productivity. There are some relatively easy things that a manager can do to promote a positive attitude in the workplace. It might sound silly, but you can start by smiling when you see people on and off the job. Learn the names of the employees and greet them by name when you can. A quick trip around the workplace in the morning to say “Good Morning” to everyone is a great way to start the day for everyone. Look for ways to compliment the people who work for you. These are all simple things but they mean a lot when you take the time to set a happy tone in your workplace.

Finally, find joy in your journey. You spend much of your life at work. Why not enjoy it? Be happy now.



Parents as Leaders

28Petra“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.” 

Pericles (495 – 429 BC)

Most people were raised by parents who did just fine with us even though they never read a child rearing book.  I believe that is because much of child rearing is intuitive for those who want to be a good parent.  Most child rearing books are written by psychologists.  Since I am a CPA by training, you will not find any psychological theory in these posts, but you will find my intuitive theories and what I have learned raising our nine children to adulthood.

My posts are not intended to be a manual on how to get inside your kids’ heads.  We all know that every one of us is unique.  Methods that help one child might not help the next.  Therefore, the wise parent will listen to others ideas and decide what is best for each individual child.

I’m not always correct, as my kids frequently point out but, hopefully, you will find practical advice as to what seems to work and what doesn’t.  I just want to share some ideas and experiences about life with you readers.

Since our professions, service organizations, sporting events, etc. are obviously less important than our families, we must devote sufficient time and effort to make sure that we are taking care of things at home.  Too many fathers have the misconception that their responsibility is to earn money so that the family can have the essentials, and luxuries, of life.  Some think it is Mom’s responsibility to raise the kids while Dad participates in other activities. 

A father’s role is so much more important than just buying Play Stations and funding a college education. The societal problems and temptations of our day require a more involved father.  Fathers must talk to, play with, educate, discipline, enjoy and love their children.  The lack of a father-figure will cause society to lose our children in even greater numbers than ever before because of the destructive forces all around us.  By the time the specter of losing a child becomes evident, it might be too late to make a course correction.

Subsequent posts will deal with how parents, but especially fathers, can protect and provide for their families while providing the leadership that children so desperately need.