O Holy Night!

As leaders, it is important that we connect with others both professionally and personally to certain degrees.  It is your passion for winning; creating; excellence; developing others; just name it; that will energize people willing to follow you.  Your passion comes from what you believe in strongly and resolutely.  I may not agree with your beliefs or share your passion, but if I discover that they are what energize you, then I know better how to communicate with, follow and lead you.  It is with that understanding that I share the following about myself.

One of my favorite Christmas Carols is “O Holy Night”.  I cannot remember the moment that it became my favorite, it just is.  When the Christmas season comes, I anticipate hearing this magnificent carol sung by talented voices.  It is a very moving personal Christmas tradition for me.

As with all traditions sometimes we need to stop and reflect on why it is significant to us and recapture some energy from its meaningfulness.  You may have a CD of “O Holy Night” and you can view the lyrics at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O_Holy_Night.

There is no doubt that the music alone is powerful, and as I read the lyrics, I see something greater.  Each verse has meaningful content, and speaks to the Savior’s significance to the World and to us individually.  The third and final verse sums up the entire purpose of Jesus’ birth, crucifixion, and resurrection, and it follows:  

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

May this Christmas be a time of love toward others and peace in our lives, but do not let it end after the season.  As leaders, we cultivate the environments in our teams, families, and communities.  What type of environment will you cultivate this next year?

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

What Is Your Team Living For?

Memorial Day is a time to remember those brave men and women who have died in our nation’s service.  It is important for each of us to pause and reflect on the sacrifice of life, limb, and property that has been made in the defense of the American society of individual freedom and responsibility and those values that we hold as most important.

For me and everyone I know that has served or continue to serve in the Armed Forces, the decision and commitment to join an organization that’s primary purpose is to go into harm’s way to defend our way of life was not made lightly.  We made this commitment willingly and not blindly, weighing the importance of keeping freedom alive for ourselves and those we know against the known costs and the potential risks.  We did it because we believed that our Country and way of life was something worth fighting for, and even dying for if it came to that.

Among the military, our individual oath to “…support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic…” is the shared Purpose that brings us all together as a team.  It is what we collectively were willing to sacrifice our lives for, and thus, what we were really living for.

Is the Purpose of your organization so clear and compelling that each team member can make their individual decision and commitment to be able to say, “This is something worth living for!”  If so, you have the foundation for an Elite Team!

“We really do not know what we are living for until we can honestly say what we are willing to die for!”

Job Performance is Personal

“My personal decisions do not affect my work.” This is a common workplace attitude in our culture today.  I’ve always found reason to doubt this idea, particularly for leaders.  Leadership involves influencing others to make good decisions, especially when the choices and consequences are difficult.  To attain these leadership skills, you must first be able to lead yourself.  Your values, character, goals and level of commitment will inevitably affect how well you function as leader.  Everyone has flaws, and everyone has personal battles; but to expect someone who is fundamentally unwise in his or her personal life to offer wise leadership in the workplace is wishful thinking at best.

Consider the following example: Tom has been the floor manager of your machine shop for several years.  You have invested valuable time and money training him.  He is responsible for closing down the machine shop each night where you have millions of dollars in equipment.  You depend on Tom, and all your organization’s production capacity depends on being properly secured each evening from theft, fire, or other damage.

Unfortunately, Tom has made a series of bad personal decisions over these years.  He’s earned several citations for speeding and DUI’s.  Lately, he appears agitated and unfocused on the job.  He was unable to report for work Monday because he was incarcerated for 24 hrs.  Your General Manager had to scramble to have a replacement cover Tom’s shift, which made many of the other employees have to shift their plans (family and business) for the next couple of days.  In addition, adjustments had to be made for Tom to attend court appearances and mandatory driver training.

I think you get the picture.  Tom’s personal decisions are affecting your entire team.  Even worse, his demonstrated irresponsibility is a cause for genuine concern for your team and his personal wellbeing.  If you allow him to continue in his current role, you are potentially putting your entire operation at risk.  Your dependence on Tom’s leadership has come to a crossroads.

Obviously, we can’t make work policies to govern personal conduct, but it’s definitely valuable to consider the link. The key is to ensure that you are assembling and promoting team members that already have the values that contribute to your culture.

This is Jason Walker sharing an Elite Team INSIGHT.

Trust and The Pursuit of Excellence

Have you discovered the link between lack of trust and mediocrity?  In my observations of leadership teams across multiple industry sectors, I found a strong correlation between the leadership team members’ depth of trust with one another and the level of performance of their respective teams.  Where trust was strong, performance was high.  Where trust was lacking, performance was mediocre or poor.

When friction originating from mistrust among the leadership team is communicated to or observed by team members, your organization’s values and goals are called into question and they begin to operate under a sense of doubt about exactly what is expected of them.  Sensing the tension, they often fear adding fuel to the fire.  No one wants to be blamed for rising tensions.  As a result, you are less likely to learn of issues that need to be addressed in a timely manner.  In essence, your people are reduced to working around personalities.  My friend, this is a well-worn path to mediocrity.

Does your leadership team understand that their adversaries are not other members of the team?  If any of them are taking actions that undermine one another’s authority or productivity, intervention is absolutely necessary.  If not, their lack of trust will spread like a virus where shadow maneuvering, loss of focus, and unsaid truths lead to damage and loss.

In order to operate as an Elite Team pursuing excellence, leadership teams must feel free and secure to share concerns and disagreements honestly and openly as a team, knowing that each will use the information to improve the team and not undermine each other.  This can only be accomplished when there is a high degree of trust.

Cultivating this environment of trust and cohesion is the leader’s responsibility, but it doesn’t mean they must do it alone.  Enlisting outside objective assistance to help facilitate insight for the team can be most beneficial in strengthening, and sometimes absolutely necessary in restoring trusting relationships, allowing you to Transform into an Elite Team. 

This is Jason Walker sharing an Elite Team INSIGHT.

Basic Respect and Team Value

Skills are secondary to mindset.  As leader, do you recognize your influence on the mindset of your team?  It is the collective mindset of your team that determines the culture.  Do you desire a culture where individuals treat you and the other team members with respect?  A culture where commitments are kept and teamwork is not just the title of a poster?  This doesn’t happen by accident, and it starts with you and your mindset.

Do you recognize that everyone has value and is deserving of basic respect?  You most likely are showing others the respect they deserve, but are you ensuring that your managers are doing likewise?  Your employees view their managers as a direct representative of you and how you treat them.  Team members who feel undervalued or disrespected are less likely to energetically employ their skills, and that means less productivity and cohesion.  In particular, the attitudes of self-motivators will be significantly affected, and they will begin looking for other opportunities to contribute their talents. 

Do you and your managers effectively convey that you value your team members?  Each day, is your greeting to all an authentic “Good Morning,” or a sincere “How are you?”  Or, are the first words someone hears from you, “Did you get the (fill in the blank) task completed yet?”  Remember the basics: make eye contact; address people by name; greet people with a kind look or a smile.  Daily pressures are not an excuse for rudeness. 

Although everyone has value, as leader you also recognize that not every individual can contribute to your team’s current mission, and in some cases, can diminish the team’s effectiveness by draining limited resources and energy.  Every current team member should have a purpose within your organization and contribute to its success; otherwise, why are they on your team?  Handle these situations with the same basic respect for the individual, and protect your team.

It is a leader’s duty to ensure that everyone is shown to be valued and that everyone is contributing value to the team’s success.  You must act intentionally to cultivate your Elite Team. 

This is Jason Walker sharing an Elite Team INSIGHT.

Do Not Let Mediocrity Win!

Have you ever driven a high-performance sports car and then immediately after drove an economy vehicle?  You noticed right away there was a significant difference in the quality and handling and potential power available.  You probably felt a little let down and sensed some disappointment.

If you ever transitioned to a mediocre mob of individuals after being part of a cohesive, high-performance team, you have likely experienced that similar sensation.  There is something special about being a contributing part of a team that delivers results.  Once you have experienced being part of an Elite Team, it’s hard to settle for anything less.

Maybe you have never experienced the thrill and excitement of being part of an Elite Team.  You are longing to be part of something great, something more significant than yourself, or have you given up hope because all around you is mediocrity?  I want to encourage you to pursue excellence with all your might!  I believe you and I were created with a longing and desire for excellence, and we will never be satisfied until it is filled.

A friend of mine, Mark Mattingly, shared the following thought: 

“If mediocrity is the best we have ever seen or experienced, then mediocrity becomes the standard by which we call excellence.” 

If you have ever led or been part of a team that constantly pursued excellence while delivering meaningful impact, then you know the thrill and excitement of an Elite Team and, like me, will not settle for less!  If we do, then mediocrity will creep in and reproduce itself quickly, and our society cannot afford more mediocrity.

This is Jason Walker sharing an Elite Team INSIGHT.