Posts Tagged ‘courage’

Seek Inspiration!

November 19, 2015

authenticstamp

People inspire and sometimes, disappoint. I’ve been especially touched by these examples*:

  • A seasoned foundation executive who eschews misuse of power, develops new talent and prefers evidence to gossip. She shows me quiet confidence.
  • A couple who saw my need and quickly offered to share their home. They show me generosity.
  • A vibrant corporate retiree deeply informed by the chaos of war he experienced at a too-young age. This man  consistently offers kindness, insight, tolerance, wisdom and vision that transcends the urgent now. He encourages me to consider multiple perspectives.
  • A capable professional and fierce mother who fought relentlessly to develop a unique treatment that saved her child’s life. She shows me endurance.
  • An experienced civic leader with terrific inter-personal skills and great respect for others closes his notes with “peace.” He offers me calm in choppy waters.
  • A gracious lady recalls a deep misunderstanding that decades ago broke a vibrant relationship and sent her regrets. She demonstrates integrity.
  • A random victim of a merciless beating who was left for dead and endured years of difficult rehabilitation to simply walk and talk again. This man has  forgiven those who hurt him and altered his life. Now, he provides savvy advice, kind encouragement and important leadership to his family, church and community. He shows me resilience.
  • A  principled lawyer challenges corruption. She demonstrates resolve by speaking truth to power.

Costly Disappointments

With sadness, I could share a long rift of situations where people have deeply disappointed. People with ignorant, rigid, inflexible perspectives that play “keep away,” discard others and are self-absorbed. Those who provide examples of insecure and fearful actions that exclude talented, ethical resources. Those who manipulate, deceive and support unjust practices that assure the status quo and perpetuate politics. People who assure their friends get big favors. On any given workday, we each see and live these disappointments. These attitudes and actions represent enormous opportunity cost.

Internal Compass

We know authentic leaders make choices that inspire. They are learners, not knowers. They assure that power serves: others and those most vulnerable. They rebound. These characteristics are what endure and what engenders credibility. These features attract others. These are the people who support progress. It’s this conduct that supports high functioning partnerships, teams, coalitions and networks.

The attitudes and behaviors we can most influence are our own. Authentic leaders are driven by an internal compass that reflects key values. Although I make mistakes, I know my intentions: competence, candor, courage and compassion.

Who inspires you?

Lisa Wyatt, Ed.D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See: www.pwkinc.com *This post recognizes, with gratitude, MS, Ks, TSK, KA, TP, TC, PJW, TM.

 

Courage

August 18, 2015

Thuli2

Her official title is public protector.

Her work is a hybrid: “governmental watchdog and public prosecutor.” She has a tough job that relies on vast technical knowledge and vital personal attributes like integrity, transparency, candor. The challenge is tackling corruption at the highest levels of power.

Thulisile Madonsela fills  a role created to help safeguard democracy by the post-apartheid 1996 South African Constitution. To date, the protector’s office has addressed low-level government corruption, but last year a deep investigory report was prepared on activities of  President Zuma.

Prior to the report release, Madonsela (who was appointed by Zuma in 2009) was threatened with arrest. She was accused of being a covert CIA agent, having political motivations, racism and other charges. Regardless, she published the report that identifies both misappropriated funds and ethics violations.

Madonsela said, “The work here has exposed fault lines in our democracy. It has people talking about what kind of democracy we have – and what of democracy we deserve.” Described as being “exceedingly self-possessed” and “deliberative,” she is the first woman in South African history to hold this post. Prior to her appointment the office handled 19,000 cases annually, five years later the volume is nearly 40,000. The president has been repeatedly been the  subject of  investigations, eluding rape, racketeering, money-laundering and fraud charges. For now, the Zuma case is unresolved.

Madonsela’s mother was a maid and father an electrician. She defied her father’s direction to become a nurse. Known as a rigorous student, she secured scholarships for her education. As a young lawyer she helped draft South Africa’s Bill of Rights. Although deeply concerned about her country’s external image, she has said “Somebody had to raise the accountability question.”

Lisa Wyatt, Ed.D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See: www.pwkinc.com

 

Courageous Convictions

April 23, 2015

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In 1964, Dr. Irwin Schatz, was a new cardiologist who had completed medical school just a few years prior. He read the December   issue of the journal Archives of Internal Medicine and was outraged.

An article that described a syphilis experiment on uneducated African American men who lived in Tuskegee, Alabama was so startling he said, “I couldn’t believe what I had read… but the message was unmistakable.”

Researchers in the Tuskegee Clinical Study deliberately withheld treatment for a group of poor, Black sharecroppers. Of the 600 men enrolled in the study about two-thirds had already contracted syphilis. Although penicillin was known as a proven treatment for the disease, uninformed participants were told they had “bad blood” and the antibiotic was withheld. Those conducting the study aimed to observe the evolution of the disease in untreated human subjects.

For Schatz, this raised huge concerns about the denial of treatment, racial discrimination and morality. He wondered how doctors trained not to harm others could intentionally deny care. Dr. Schatz wrote a short, strong letter to the study’s author. He directly challenged the moral judgment of the Public Health Service and doctors associated with the effort.

At the time, Schatz was a young professional criticizing an investigation overseen by leading figures in America’s public health system. In 2009, he was honored for actions that were, “to say the very least, potentially harmful to his career.”

The Tuskegee Study is well known, now, as one of the first U.S. examples of flagrantly unethical and unacceptable human research. It was conducted over a period of 40 years and mirrored the medical experiment atrocities by Nazis during WW II. In the 1970s, Schatz’s letter was discovered. An investigation by the New York Times found the letter was received, shared with senior management, and its merit promptly dismissed.  His brief communication framed a vital national debate over patient’s rights and standards for human subjects. It also exposed the deeply destructive implications of racism.

“His style was that you just do the right thing and move on, then you do the right thing again and just move on,” said his son.

Dr. Schatz, 83, died a few weeks ago. His legacy offers us a great example: leadership requires courageous action grounded in clear convictions.

Lisa Wyatt, Ed.D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See: www.pwkinc.com

House of Cards

April 12, 2015

CardHouse

Tell the truth. This is the advice your parents gave you when you were five. They insisted on it or there were consequences. It’s a good idea, regardless of your age, because it has everything to do with progress. It does, however, require courage.

Like temperature is to fever, truth is to organizational health.  We see this all the time  where people gather in organizations and communities. Safe space for truth is “permitted” by powerful people and the routine level of tolerance becomes a norm.

Skillful leaders interrogate reality and engage multiple opinions, they value insights beyond or different from their own. They recognize arguments by detractors, minority opinions and others’ experience. They know these are all vital to informed decisions and learning. They are aware of their own blind spots. Many people in key jobs don’t proceed this way. They require loyalty, no matter how foolish or nonsensical the party line and exclude or otherwise squash any deviance.

Marketing or Reality

The essential problem with this is that experienced people know the variations in the truth fall in two big camps: marketing and reality. The former weighs politics far more than the latter which is aimed at performance. Marketing or the “official truth” is a constructed notion that all is well. It is the party line that ignores the smoldering fires. It only allows heroes and never recognizes wrongs, errors, mischief or corruption. You find out about truth later when there’s a big spill, investigative journalism, a lawsuit or gossip. Marketing doesn’t expect anyone to think.

The common clever ways to manage information for advantage include: withholding, obfuscating, avoiding, reframing or twisting the script. Depending on core values, people cope with this in different ways. It has certain ethical dimensions.  Unfortunately, when people change the story to suit their own purposes there is real cost. Feeding a narrative that’s at odds with the facts has consequence. Research shows when issues get ignored then there is erosion in staff confidence, compliance, productivity, safety and legal concerns, as well as damage to brand, vendor relations, trust and other factors.

In contrast, grounded truth reflects ugly reality, unpleasant news and a whole picture that includes flaws, bumps and deficits. Looking at the truth means thinking must happen. When we and others start thinking then we can co-create great efforts to fix what needs a fix.

Messengers & Silent Good People

Very capable, honest people can get hurt in the space between marketing and truth. To deflect substance, dysfunctional organizations take aim at the messenger versus the message. Instead, there ought to be someone asking: What about these serious concerns?

Martin Luther King said: “We will have to repent not merely for our vitriolic words and actions of bad people…but for the appalling silence of good people.” When reality isn’t permitted, then threats and opportunities, and simple information sharing and integration aren’t either. We know it is a foundational error to have inadequate situational analysis. Without it, the rest of your edifice gets shaky. So, if strategy is weak from the get go and trust takes a beating, there’s big trouble. In their absence, you are likely to add bad execution to weak strategy. The net is a virtual house of cards.

You are a lot older than five. So,  tell the truth and welcome it warmly from others.

Lisa Wyatt, Ed.D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See: www.pwkinc.com

Courageous Colleagues and Best Bosses

June 24, 2014

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I’ve had the chance to work with and learn from some really amazing people. I bet you have, too. Some of those who come to mind were bosses, some clients and others are valued colleagues.

Here are a few signs from those that make my “best” list and why:

1. He holds people accountable for bad behavior.

There are rules of engagement, reinforcement and enforcement. This person sets and carries culture. On his team and in their workplace “anything goes” isn’t allowed. He isn’t afraid to be the police, an example or the coach.

2. She is consistent in messaging, whether or not people want to hear the content.

This person will not whisper tailored private messages to curry favor. She acts in a way that unites and encourages. She is intentional about challenging the status quo because it will yield progress.

3. He never makes negative comments about others in conversation.

In contrast, he makes a point of finding ways to teach. He cites good examples and praises others. He is self-aware and confident so it’s not necessary to put others down.

4. She sometimes shares personal items about herself.

She is humble and able to make personal connections with people. She isn’t hiding who she is…She is genuine.

5. He is consistently honest.

While embellishing or comments framed a particular way to save feelings are common, people who serve their colleagues and teams create trust through reliable, candid, active communications.

6. She is accessible and has face-to-face meetings to resolve conflicts.

She manages priorities but dictates no hierarchy in getting her audience. Her intentions and actions have integrity. She’s willing to acknowledge differences and work with multiple perspectives.

7. He makes a decision and protects his people in public if it fails to work.

Someone you can trust has confidence and takes reasoned risks. This person will not send other’s into harm’s way. He is willing to own choices and consequences.

8. She actively seeks excellence and develops others.

Envy isn’t part of her playbook. She motivates others by engaging people’s talent, knowledge and experience. She finds ways for them to mature and supports transitions. She manages across and down. Her sole focus isn’t self and her own boss.

9. He keeps commitments.

Follow through is vital for credibility and he knows it. There’s no waffling or excuses. He does what he says he will do.

10. She asks lots of questions and spends time listening.

A learning leader is curious and inquires often. She believes others have a contribution to make. And, she knows understanding context is relevant to being effective.

These 10 examples profile behavior that indicate character – most reflect courage. It is the willingness to be afraid but to act anyway. Like you, my life has provided me with the chance to observe hundreds of people over many years. These days I can generally rely on a brief experience and some intuition to identify a brave leader.

Make courage your first virtue – it will serve you, others and your organization’s mission well.

Lisa Wyatt, Ed.D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See: www.pwkinc.com

Behave Magnificently

November 5, 2013

 zinn

Howard Zinn was an impressive person. He was an academic historian, author and social activist. He is well known for his best-selling  book: A People’s History of the United States. The People’s History is distinct because it offers a brilliant alternate perspective – from those oppressed.

Although his parents were Jewish immigrants and factory workers with limited education, Zinn earned a doctorate from Columbia. He authored more than 20 important books and was a professor at Boston University for decades. I recently discovered a tiny slice of Zinn’s life that’s instructive.

As a tenured professor At Spelman College, Zinn was fired in 1963 for siding with students in the struggle against segregation. More than 40 years later, that same College awarded him an honorary doctorate. Zinn gave Spelman’s commencement speech in 2005, titled “Against Discouragement.” In that speech, he shared: “The lesson of history is that you must not despair, that if you are right, and you persist, things will change. The government may try to deceive the people, and the newspapers and television may do the same, but the truth has a way of coming out. The truth has a power greater than a hundred lies.”

A reflective historian, Zinn provided a panoramic view of people and their actions. He also wrote: “To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, and kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act.”

Undeterred by prevailing culture,  Zinn died in 2010. He was a leader who has made enduring contributions. He cultivated authenticity, resilience and meaningful work. Zinn once noted, “Historically, the most terrible things – war, genocide, slavery – have resulted not from disobedience but from obedience.” His example encourages us to intentionally challenge the status quo. Leadership has very little to do with maintaining it.

Lisa Wyatt, Ed.D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See: www.pwkinc.com

Dare To Be Different

April 15, 2013

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At 21, he worked at a poultry processing plan during college. After experience in nearly every role in operations, he was named general manager and supervised 500 people. Knowing what people did gave him a platform to understand their routines, challenges and risks.

“Leadership is getting people to exceed their own expectations,” says G.J. Hart, CEO, California Pizza Kitchen.The high-performing CPK chief focuses lots of attention on talent development. Earlier this year, he shared six leadership steps he relies on with the New York Times.

(1) Be the best you can be. You can’t lead anybody if you can’t lead yourself. Know what you need to work on.

(2) Dream big. Identify big possibilities and get started, now.

(3) Lead with your heart first. People respond to authenticity.

(4) Trust your team and help them grow.

(5) Do the right thing – always. Integrity will prevail.

(6) Serve the people on your team. Put the cause before yourself.

Hart, a Dutch immigrant, says his own style has evolved. Today, he’s more patient and tolerant. His most important tip? Courage.
“Any leadership role is about stepping out…having the courage to be different, because you have to be different to be a leader.”

-Lisa Wyatt, Ed.D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See: http://www.pwkinc.com

Feedback Fosters Growth

January 3, 2013

bestopenhands

How would you feel if someone had great information that could help you be more effective in your work but they kept it from you? Would you be: resentful, concerned, distrustful, irritated?

Some months ago, we asked a renowned colleague for his perceptions of a key presentation we had done. He gave my business partner and me some surprising information that nobody has indicated before – ever. It was very useful; we were grateful.

Different from Gossip or Rumor
Feedback is a gift. It is different from gossip, rumor or nagging. Feedback comes from a credible source, has authentic other-centered intent and makes a constructive contribution that’s actionable. It is a particular kind of qualified opinion.

Far too many manager-leaders avoid offering feedback because it is hard to be a messenger of less than good news. It can be uncomfortable and create tension. However, when motivated people get a chance to “fix” something they are generally very appreciative.

Feedback: When & How
Most of the time, feedback has a positive outcome. However, it’s best delivered under certain conditions. Delivery must be from a reliable source in a functional relationship, offered one:one privately and never during a crisis. Feedback should be invited and occur in a context of accountability. Sometimes, feedback is wasted. Typically, this reflects a bad reception by the recipient. Reception challenges happen most often when people are unwilling to listen, the content doesn’t fit with their self image, there’s resistance, denial or no intention for change. It’s always wise to request permission before speaking.

Seek and Discover
In dynamic circumstances, we all must adapt to ensure effectiveness. This means the development of new skills and knowledge are not an unusual event but an on-going expectation we should hold for ourselves. To capture the idea of perpetual learning, Stephen Covey used the expression “sharpen your saw.” We need to model the courage it takes to ask: “How did you experience me?”

Choose When Thoughtfully
In an uncomfortable situation, a colleague took a good idea we’d entrusted to him in confidence. The “thief” took the concept, secured funding, and implemented it poorly. He has avoided us since. We suspect he’s embarrassed. This man never acknowledged his larceny. Others are unlikely to hold him accountable for his lack of integrity.

We’ve considered a face:face conversation. While several of the “tests” for providing feedback are met, the context suggests any additional effort is unlikely to be productive. Why? His reception challenges are among those noted above. There’s no accountability. Further, any comment, uninvited is likely to be considered shaming. Shaming rarely leads to any substantive change. Regrettably, this guy appears to confuse posing and a deep desire to “fit in” with leadership.

Hunger Every Night
Most people go to bed every night with hunger – for recognition. One of the best ways to support people, build true allies and develop your organization is feedback. It indicates you notice the efforts others are making. It supports accountability, employs interdependence and ensures the benefits of synergy. Your colleagues and others have great information that can improve your work.

Get and Give
I once heard former Kellogg Company CEO and US Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez comment on feedback: “For me, it’s like spinach. I don’t always like the way it tastes, but I know it’s very good for me.”

An organization or community rich in feedback supports learning and performance. Make this New Year resolution: Routinely invite feedback. When you’re a credible source and there’s potential for reception – offer it.

-Lisa Wyatt, Ed. D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillip Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See : http://www.pwkinc.com

The Leadership Olympics: A Gold Medal Model

September 24, 2012

 

 

 

Do you know who taught U.S. Senator John  McCain “a thing or two about courage?”

A woman, who last week, was the most recent recipient of a Congressional Gold Medal.

In the misty vapors of big politics, the Medal is an undeniable signal of approval.

Manage Fear

McCain, who spent six horrible years in a North Vietnamese prison camp, quoted Aung San Suu Kyi’s famous dictum in an emotional tribute to her:” It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.”

Since the American Revolution, our Congress has commissioned gold medals as its highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions that will endure long past the achievement.The Medal requires an Act of Congress. It honors an individual – although not necessarily a US citizen.

Price Tag

The Gold Medal has often been awarded to those who serve the common good. Past winners include Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Jonas Salk and Rosa Parks. Notably, selfless heroism reflects the pinnacle of leadership but it always has a price tag.

In 1988, the brutal rule of a strongman who murdered protesters launched Myanmar’s difficult struggle for freedom. A remarkable woman, Suu Kyi committed more than two decades to challenging a repressive regime. She endured 15 years of house arrest in a shunning which completely restricted her speech and physical mobility. Although offered freedom in exchange for exile, she would not leave her people and their dreams of democracy.

Growth & Sustainability

In organizations and in communities, deficits in leadership affect sustainability.  First, because of intricate and growing interdependencies, weak or corrupt leaders have intolerable implications beyond their own sphere of influence. Second, because none of us has a grip on the macro trends that will deliver challenges we don’t anticipate. What is sure? The costs of poor leadership are failure, implosion, and decay while others, in a competitive world, make progress.

Aung San Suu Kyi gave up decades of her life for others. The NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote recently “few leaders now dare to throw caution and polls to the wind and tell people the truth about anything hard or controversial…Many won’t even give up a news cycle.”  His analysis underscores the patterns of political behavior that are deeply true and relevant: it is the fear of losing power that corrupts. He, like many others, thinks leaders are at their best when they dare to lead without fearing politics.

Courage Wins

So, how do any of us “honor The Lady from Myanmar in a way that really matters?”  Friedman suggests imitation. If you were fearless, what would you do?

Lisa Wyatt, Ed. D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillip Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See : www.pwkinc.com

Looking at Leadership

November 13, 2011

 

It’s not always easy to quickly and clearly distinguish managing from leading. They are different, but talented people can do both. A conscious commitment to work on specific competencies can yield growth.

While there’s some overlap, there are unique factors, too. Management nearly always references a supervising role with organizational accountabilities. Leadership is far broader in its application and is independent of a job title.

Leadership is the ability to influence others. It can reflect multiple dimensions. Someone holding a management position should, but may not exhibit leadership. In many organizations, this is often the case. When leadership is absent the opportunity cost is large for several reasons: lackluster results and a poor example that gets imitated. Organizations perform better when key staff can both manage and lead.

INSEAD’s 12 Factors

If you’re intentional about leadership development, here’s just one valid way to think about skills and knowledge. INSEAD, a highly regarded and leading educator, created the GELI (Global Executive Leadership Inventory). GELI relies on a 360-degree assessment from others. It has twelve factors:

 1. Envisioning. Articulates a compelling vision, mission, strategy.

2. Empowering. Enables others via delegation and sharing the right information well.

3. Energizing. Supports and motivates others.

4. Design & Aligning. Can “see” parameters and points of intersection for action.

5. Feedback. Can advise in the development of others.

6.Team Building. Guides others, shows courage, offers counsel to cooperative efforts.

7. Outside Orientation. Reads and interprets external data for internal application.

8. Global Mindset. Liaisons across cultures, assists parts with the whole.

9. Tenacity. Takes risks and shows consistent courage.

10. Emotional Intelligence. Fosters trust through example. Demonstrates self-awareness, respect, understanding.

11. Life Balance. Pursues multiple interests and passions beyond work.

12. Resilience. Seeks challenge and accountability, handles stress and pressure.

If your colleagues and “customers” completed a survey instrument – How would you rate? Where are your strengths and weaknesses? We can often learn a great deal by looking in the mirror, first.

Lisa Wyatt, Ed. D. is a strategy architect and partner in Phillip Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems change with clients worldwide. She is also an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See : www.pwkinc.com


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