Posts Tagged ‘integrity’

Seek Inspiration!

November 19, 2015

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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

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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

 

Culture Counts

October 1, 2013

PopeFrancis

There’s no escaping an over weighted factor in organizations: culture. It drives and  limits the potency of any enterprise or community.

Culture reflects the prevailing norms and values of people. It’s that consistent vibe that permeates what people say and do. It can be authentic, cooperative, transparent, kind, innovative, and results-focused. Or, perhaps it is competitive, selfish, and false. Fostering culture is a leadership function.

Two examples of people in very different contexts offer some insights on this vital topic.

Ramon Nunez, CEO of LiveHive, a software maker identifies four principles he relies on in his company. First, trust. Second, interdependence. Third, integrity. Fourth, customer-focused value. His sequence of factors is important. He says, “If you can’t trust your team members, there’s something wrong…either the team has to change or how you work needs to change.” In a challenging performance context, Nunez intends to build strength and sustainability. He is one of 16 children in a Mexican family and migrated to the U.S. as a teen. His perspective and business success offer an exciting story.

Pope Francis, the new leader of the Roman Catholic Church, has garnered notice for his explicit cultural messages through his words and actions. Instead of imperious and self-promoting, he’s gentle and modest. In contrast to single-minded and certain, he suggests an open mind and naiveté. In his critical role as a spiritual and institutional leader, authority seems to originate from sincerity and humbleness. Frank Bruni’s recent editorial in the New York Times captures a rich portrait of Pope Francis and contrasts it with prevailing American culture. Instead of commanding, Pope Francis invites. Bruni calls this a “radical whisper.”

While culture is often set from the top – it’s possible for anyone to contribute. Your example, on a big factor, can influence your colleagues in important ways.

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

Fresh Air and Trust

May 13, 2012

If there were public ratings of your trustworthiness…How would you do? Does it matter?

“Trust is like fresh air; we only notice it when it becomes scarce or polluted,” write Graham Dietz and Nicole Gillespie, business-school professors in the U.K. and Australia.

Most of us consider being trustworthy an important character trait. Some consider trust naïve or foolish. However, even for the less virtuous, there’s a case to be made for it.  Trusted leaders create more value, and employees who feel trusted are empowered and deliver better performance.

Teaching Trustworthiness

Dietz and Gillespie suggest we can teach people to be trustworthy. According to these experts, trust is complex but begins with an assessment of others’ trustworthiness. They say it is comprised of three factors: ability, benevolent motives and integrity. If someone has “enough” of these three attributes we begin to rely on them in ways that can pose risks to ourselves. Judgment is made through our own personal exchanges, knowledge from others, or referent cues like a job title, role, and affiliations. 

Scandals, when corruption or some malfeasance is made public, come in many forms: bribes, obfuscation, falsification, cronyism, intentional duping, nepotism and known incompetence. Trustworthiness can be undervalued and undermined by organizational culture because of modeled behavior, financial pressures and mis-use of power.

Scandals Create Skeptics

Regrettably, scandals in the highly regulated private sector and nearly unregulated nonprofit sector suggest trust and trustworthiness are not broadly shared priorities.

Recent private examples include Olympus, Siemens, Goldman Sachs, and JP Morgan Chase. Nonprofit examples are easy to identify, too. Like, the Central Asia Institute (think Three Cups of Tea), Princeton Review (the Feds want $50M returned), Angel Food Ministries, Feed the Children, and the Catholic Church (child sexual abuse).

Like false sincerity, it’s possible to do the same with trustworthiness.  Real motives and incompetence can be masked by managing communications.  Once caught, people and organizations have become quite skillful in delivering the right public apology, displays of faux-contrition and micro-qualifications (e.g.; “I did not have sex with that woman.”)

Identifying and challenging great fakes requires the ability to interpret intentions, navigation of multiple expectations and needs, and a careful review of how organizational climates promote or preclude trust.

A Trust Barometer

For more than a decade, the Edelman Trust Barometer has measured informed public opinion in 23 countries regarding trust in government, business, the nonprofit sector and media. In 2011, the U.S. tumbled, in its composite score, now above only the U.K. and Russia.

Edelman, a full service global public relations firm, suggests the “Fortress Framework” era is over. This “old” scheme refers to protecting brand, controlling information, standing alone and a sole focus on profit. They say the new trust architecture requires transparency, engagement and social benefit.

Trust Matters

When it comes to issues of trust, skepticism may be a healthy response to reality.Trust and trustworthiness do matter, particularly because complex work requires collaborators, partners, allies and multiple stakeholders. No doubt, without trust chances for success wane.

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. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See : www.pwkinc.com

Making Progress: Costs and Risks

April 17, 2011

 

Before effective treatments were known for pneumonia and whooping cough, children died frequently in hospital wards. Every morning, hospitalized children would wake and ask about missing  friends: “Where did Charlie go?” The nurses’ common refrain was “He went home.” It was understood that home meant they’d died. The only way to preserve hope was to deny reality.

This poignant story is in Margaret Heffernan’s book, Willful Blindness. Across multiple sectors, cultures, and over time, she provides some thoughtful insights.   

 Shortcuts Are Costly

The Holocaust, Enron and MCI meltdowns, Madoff’s rip-off, Wall Street malfeasance, slavery and the Catholic Church’s sidestep of abusive priests  were all  man-made disasters. Why? Each reflected huge moral shortcuts. Harm was known but many preferred to ignore it. Daring to question an institution or a person can mean a loss of security. It is risk-taking.

 While denial can be a great coping strategy, it ought to be stricken from the quiver of accountable managers and leaders. It makes people and organizations “sick.” It has big costs. If your aim is creating change, there are many “uncomfortable truths” that require attention. To improve organizational performance and support growth, acknowledgement and action are essential.

 Big Progress

Big change can happen. The Marshall Plan is a historical example. It recast a large multi-country region and it’s future through the right work by and with important allies. George Kennan, a diplomat and architect of the Plan wrote about his agony and frustration in this change work. The effort to birth a great and bold plan was very, very difficult.

 More recent examples of important and intentional development efforts are creation of the European Union and reconciliation in South Africa . Step one is a close look at reality —  to understand and define  the current status. Sighting a feasible way forward depends on it. Heffernan writes that “unanimous decisions are incomplete…there is too much power…obedience…and conformity.” She counsels , if just one solution is visible, look again.

 The New Normal & Best Tactics

The high stress created by information overload, an excruciating fast pace, tremendous competition and/or an urgent mission does not excuse distance from moral reflection.  The preceding description of context is the new normal. And, it is present in any workplace or community. An analysis of the perilous implications from past ignorances can inform better tactics. Consider these :

  •  Look for what you cannot see. Many have said we didn’t foresee the catastrophe of 9/11 happening because were  weren’t looking for it. The information about it was present but we didn’t pay attention to it. Intentionally work to distinguish the trivial from the serious.
  •  Trust your intuition. It is well known that one indicator of useful critical thinking is discomfort. Your intuition provides inklings and suspicions – give it credit.
  •  Act sooner rather than later.  Before the stakes get big and stakeholders are deeply invested is the best time to raise questions. A failure to intervene early can feed the momentum of bad choices.

 Look, test, then act. People , organizations, communities  are desperate for leadership. Demonstrating integrity, the courage to meet the demands of reality, is directly connected to effectiveness.  Securing progress and sustainable results means you see both the risks of denial and the power of the truth.

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

See, Speak, Hear No Evil

April 5, 2011

In frustrated whispers we’ve all heard these truthful asides:

“I work in a goat rodeo.” “He simply cannot do the work.”  “The grantees have so few skills…” “This place is in such disarray.”

The facts are many people navigate multiple, parallel realities at work. It’s the reason Dilbert’s cartoons are so popular. So often, they’re accurate. And too often, the social dynamics of inter-personal relationships limit the potential of both individual satisfaction and organizational performance.

 The foibles and follies of dealing with people and their behavioral inconsistencies make our work lives interesting and difficult. In Robert Kurzban’s  new book, Why Everyone (Else) Is A Hypocrite, he explains why hypocrisy is the natural state of the human mind. As an evolutionary psychologist, he writes that people have “modular minds,” specialized units in the brain have been designed through natural selection. These units are focused on one outcome: survival.

Parallel Realities and Image

Behavior examples of modularity include strategic ignorance, self-deception and hypocrisy. Strategic ignorance, like the other behaviors, can create big problems at work (and in your personal life). At work everyone  faces  many decisions all day long. These are choices that often translate to who will you hurt or help. Too often, people intentionally avoid moral decisions about fairness. The upfront cost of avoidance is less, very often, than the cost of creating opposition. Through  side-stepping, or passive inaction, people  prefer to “act” as though they “hear no evil and see no evil.” 

Despite the moral implications and however irresponsible — these behaviors can be explained as obviously practical options. Unfortunately, these choices model behavior that gets replicated.  It’s how we generate unhealthy culture which enables dysfunction in teams and organizations. Denial of this context just perpetuates it. With tragic consequences, the   “Emperor (who) has no clothes” can live a very long  life.

 Bigger Than Self

Sociality is a vital part of human life. Because of this, competition inside organizations needs discrete attention. It also means reframing the challenges and opportunities for your team and your organization is central to collective impact.  Finding common understandings, assumptions and shared goals are critical. Establishing expectations for values like transparency, candor, authenticity, urgency and distributed knowledge is part of the recipe. In the end, modeling these values matters most. If people and organizations persist simply with the multiple realities provided by our modular minds the inevitable focus is self-survival. However, high performance requires a different, collective intention.

Recognize  and Reconcile

What specific actions can a manager take with this common challenge?

First: Ask many more questions. Set a target for yourself. Make it a goal – every day – to ask   three more questions in each meeting or exchange with staff.  Commit to discovery. This will help you uncover perspectives, see common themes and identify prevailing realities.  Seek counter-points and ask opinions from those who are willing to share more than the proverbial company line. Recognizing how others view their work and the situation is an important step in your reality.

Second: Work toward reconciliation of multiple perspectives. Commit to dialogue that airs a range of opinion. Act as a convener. Aim for the imperative – how it should be. Help others see their assumptions and biases. Actively build bridges and find points of coordination so others see the value of alignment and integration. Make it acceptable and safe to speak truthfully. Demonstrate trust by lauding people who are willing to offer constructive critique.

Renowned organization effectiveness expert and author Jim Collins echoes this perspective: “Level 5 leaders are ambitious first and foremost for the cause, the organization, the work – not themselves – and they have a fierce resolve to do whatever it takes to make good on that ambition.” It is possible to build a vibrant culture that aggressively serves a mission (or margin).  Eventually the whispers will wane. 

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

A Leadership Checklist

January 3, 2011

A big income or job title does not magically confer leadership, neither does elected office or a governance appointment. Responding to and creating change is the work of leaders. Social complexity, power dynamics, emerging knowledge, and technology combined with urgent needs create a context where effective leadership is an increasingly difficult assignment.

Leadership development, from unskilled to masterful, reflects a process of maturation. Anyone can get “stuck” at any time. It’s also true some people lead better in some situations than others. However, a fast way forward is an explicit checklist to review as you lead.

Here are seven gentle reminders to do (along with a bit of the counter-factual don’t) that will help you be more effective.

1. Specify Clear Purpose(s).
Defining purpose is integrally linked with setting direction. It is the why of where we are going. Big ideas like excellence, capacity, quality of life, and performance can be manipulated and interpreted in many ways.   Be crystal clear about your intended outcomes.  Specify what result(s) you are after and how success is defined. This enables others to engage in shared work, too.  Don’t offer a confused agenda.  It’s problematic and will continue to plague the work. Beware of substituting a declared purpose, however compelling, for strategy. They’re not interchangeable.

 
2. Seek Visual Acuity.
Constant discovery is an ally. Asking questions and uncovering perspective, facts, and experiences are essential to correcting and improving your sight. The people and organizations that are most “dangerous” are those that insist on being blind about their blind spots. Most political contexts encourage people to share just the “story” you want to hear. Don’t pursue “ blind insistence.” Most of us want to be “right” and like our own (or other) mental models that affirm. Without exception, though, we all have issues or items we can’t see…We also may have some we don’t want to see. Co-option is a common way to ensure cover and conformity.

3. Keep Open Ears (Heart & Mind).
Listening skills are vital to a capable leader. Be sure you listen – inside and outside the organization, committee or task force. Use your ears, heart and mind in listening. Seek out ethical, experienced people who are willing to be candid with you. Any group you lead has foibles, flaws, preferences, comforts and agendas. Talent is comprised of competencies and attributes. Assemble the best you can on both dimensions. Tolerating unethical behavior is a huge error – even great skills never compensate for it. Don’t allow deafness to be an elective disability. Choosing not to hear critique, alternative view point, or considering better, different expertise is foolish.

4. Choose Risks.
Any decision has risk to it. Calculated and intentional risk is essential to creating change. Understand who is helped and hurt by your choices and why. Take responsibility for movement and progress. Site an ambitious new possibility and articulate its benefits. Choose improvement and change. Don’t avoid decisions. It’s irresponsible. Keeping the status quo is inconsistent with leading.

5. Engage Your Conscience.
Leaders interact in a social context. This means they are both in front of and behind others. Humans, like most animals, instinctively prefer the “cover” of a group. Far too often being “in” is better than out – even when “in” is wrong. Use a moral compass that serves the common good. Persuade others why self interest is just far too small an agenda. Be conscious of your own motives and that of others. Don’t ignore values like justice, candor, integrity, compassion and sustainability. Social conformity is how political cultures thrive and block change. It’s why bullying and corruption are far too common.

6. Acknowledge Errors.
Most days most people make errors. They can be simple and unintended or not. Whether a poor word choice, the tone of voice, a decision about strategy, resource allocation, or staff selection — we all make errors. Assumptions get all of us in “trouble.” Although slightly different, misunderstandings can happen easily. Build reflective skills to recognize and quickly correct errors.  Don’t avoid disclosure and authentic apologies. They are important to credibility. Sharing your vulnerabilities and flaws are critical to trust.

 
7. Pursue Learning Daily.
Our own willingness to learn (and change) affects the potential to lead others. Learning is a high standard.  Human development requires a complex chain from new awareness, to knowledge, skills and different actions.  Identify your own “learning agenda,” then pursue it with vigor. Without explicit attention and commitment, learning won’t happen.  Routinely seek constructive feedback from “critical” friends and colleagues. Be sure there are people near you who care enough (about you/your work) to provide far more than praise. Don’t let current habits and ego prevail. You’re not growing if you’re not learning.

Leading change isn’t easy.
Start this year with a handy to-do checklist and beware of the don’ts!

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

Leadership for Great Culture

September 14, 2010

When Nelson Mandela and his colleagues secured hard-won positions of leadership he challenged “selfish thinking.” He suggested that “restraint and generosity” guide decisions and the use of power. We all know he offered wisdom and exemplary leadership in a very difficult and complex circumstance. When in power he did not make the mistake of ego: serving self. He was able to transcend this temptation and do the right thing for the common good. He surprised his opposition by rising above the self interests of his constituency to advocate reconciliation over revenge.

 Politics or Performance

Power is about the access to and use of resources. How power “plays” is a key dynamic in any organization. The norms and values that guide power define a leadership culture. In a healthy nonprofit organization, power is used for a specific change mission.  Capable leaders extend influence beyond the organization’s viability. They serve a vulnerable population or serious challenge to quality of life.  Regrettably, this isn’t always the agenda.   Dysfunctional leaders use their power for politics: control and self interest. If you’re willing to look, it is easy is to see whether a leadership culture is focused on politics or performance.

Denial, Avoidance, Blindness

The choice to look away from what exists is denial and avoidance. It happens when a leader  manages relationships and self interest rather than organizational performance.  When someone says, “You can talk to me – but I am not changing my mind.”  Although a  subtle difference, “inattention blindness” is  the  inability to see what’s right in front of us.  It happens when  the desperate circumstances of many become so common they are ignored. It happens when the leadership culture is all politics. When there is no rudder, no conscience, no accountability and lots of ego —anything  goes.

 I believe great leaders step past denial, avoidance, blindness. They face into the wind and are  accountable. They agree with Arne Duncan, the US Secretary of Education, who recently said: “The truth is always hard to swallow, but it can only make us better, stronger, and smarter. That’s what accountability is all about — facing the truth and taking responsibility.”

 Power  as a Tool

Power  that focuses on domination  is oppressive in many ways. It can generate then perpetuate hardships and injustice.  It often  occurs by individuals and groups through gender, age, or racial affiliation. Far too often it occurs by people in jobs whose purpose is to serve. While some  may not find the courage to name it, many people are  offended and perplexed by the examples  these leaders offer. It can severely hamper organization performance. 

When Mandela assumed a recognized position, he  walked past  ego and challenged others about theirs.  He chose  mission over self-interest and competence over cronies.  His altitude didn’t influence his attitude or behavior. His example begs a  question: What surprise can you offer ?

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


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