First, I want to say thank you for investing some time into this subject matter. Integrity is a term that is common in many arenas.
Purpose: My purpose is to provide readers with information, insight, links, and more to help add to their leadership toolkit. There is a lot of jargon thrown around these days about what makes a good leader. I think one key fundamental value that is overlooked is integrity. Integrity is defined by Meridian Webster at
Process: My intention is for this forum to be a place for people to voice ideas on integrity. I also strive for people to share not only real life examples of when integrity was properly utilized as a model for good behavior but also examples of when ignoring integrity led to harsh consequences or failure. The purpose of the latter is to be a learning tool of what not to do. As leaders we are constantly having to adapt and change. I want people to be able to open up with confidence for feedback when situations arise. We all have a wealth of knowledge to share. This can be through statements, memes, stories, quotes, or anything that can constructively make someone into a stronger leader. The world is constantly changing. We need to reflect on what it takes to build strong bonds with those we lead.
I believe without integrity the bond between a leader and follower is easily broken. Here are a couple memes to highlight a few basic integrity tips.
Both of these highlight integrity yet give two different viewpoints. The big idea is that in order to act with integrity, one needs to have a firm grasp of their values. It also means putting self-interest aside for the better of the whole.
In looking at the business realm, the term “ethics” is used a lot. Ethics has a reputation for being a norm or expectation that is a guideline from an outside source. For example, society believes telling the truth is ethical. If someone tells the truth because it is expected that is acting ethically. Someone telling the truth because it is a core trait can be described as acting with integrity.
Who is welcome: Anyone looking to add value to the page. This is a positive space. The more the merrier. I challenge people to look to expand the people involved to add viewpoints on topics. Also, there is too much information these days for a few people to wade through. I look for this page to be like a vast library full of books as opposed to a personal collection that suits a small number of people. We can all learn from each other.
Reflection: I believe one needs to act with integrity as a result of self-accountability. I propose people share personal reflection on what integrity means to them. This will help others to apply those ideas to themselves. For example, one core value I try to demonstrate in my leadership approach is fairness. I believe fairness if often most apparent when it is absent. We think back to when we were kids in school how there was the “teachers pet” that seemed to get special treatment. This leads to dissention and friction. I believe this concept of favoritism is inherent in most group settings, but a leader needs to do his or her best to minimize this idea. This idea is usually held by those who are not meeting expectations or do not want to take accountability for their actions. It is a way to justify their shortcomings. A leader needs to hold all those they lead to the same standard. If two people act in the same way, the result should be the same. This allows the leader to gain respect from the followers.
Goal: The end goal is for people to build a solid foundation of integrity. This will require people to keep an open mind to the views and opinions of others. We manage people that have views different from us. By learning to work with people who disagree with us or have a different opinion it will allow us to use those same skills in the workplace. Almost every industry has a leadership structure to some degree. Presidents, vice presidents, managers, teachers, owners, captains, and of course parents are all valued as a part of this process. The idea is there is no wrong answer or idea. I welcome people sharing their success stories to inspire others to never stop growing.
A workplace is a dynamic place. It is full of life, potential, conflict, failures, successes, relationships, ambition, and more. Sometimes one big idea can make or break a company. Likewise, one toxic leader can lead to horrible workplace morale. One great leader can drive employees to excel. The key is how open a leader is to input from those in the organization. Employees may put a lot of time and effort into formulating an idea. This may be on company time or personal time. A leader’s opinion can mean the world to an employee. Most of us leaders have many balls in the air at one time. Our time and focus can be demanded by multiple people or tasks. To foster a productive culture, a leader needs to be sure to give employees time to voice ideas. This should be sincere and not just to get an employee off their back. One moment of insincerity can crush an employee. This can also be seen or told to other employees that also are negatively impacted. This can lead to more time cleaning up the mess than would have been needed to listen. Also, it can mean employees leave the company if they do not feel their opinion is valued.
The leadership community is full of thoughts on how diversity is needed in a workplace. This is intended to bring in a mix of ideas and thinking. Also, psychological safety is getting a lot of attention. The idea is that employees feel open and comfortable talking with leaders. Additionally, a leader is beginning to be seen not as one who has to have all the answers or ideas, but know where or with whom to find them. Employees may bring forth new ideas due to the following reasons(or more):
Desire for advancement
Rewards like money or recognition.
Most employees bring forth ideas for positive reasons. They want to make a positive change. Some employees may want a simple “atta boy” or compliment. Regardless of the reason, it is highly important that there is an open channel of communication. While one idea from an employee may seem like a waste of time, the next idea can be pure gold. The key is for a leader to be able to wade through the noise to find the gems. The only way to really find those great ideas is to invest in finding them. The key is, that we need to listen. Below is a post that sheds some light on the importance of listening(Ury, 2015).
I think there is so many important lessons in here for leaders. While the focus of this talk is about mediation and negotiations, the human affect of listening is applicable to when we listen to our employees.
Our world is constantly changing. New product are coming forth to dethrone established ones. New technology is changing our work world every day. A leader could spend all day reading up on new ideas or products and still only get a small portion of what is out there. One way to simplify things is to set an environment where employees have the desire to look for the next best thing. It is a lot easier to listen to an employee give a 5 minute synopsis of a new product or method than do all the research. Additionally, employees may be able to apply a new viewpoint or knowledge base to come up with something that has not yet been developed. A leader needs to make employees feel their contributions are appreciated. Otherwise, the employees may shut down and just keep doing the norm. This allows competition to make progress while the company in question is standing still.
The reason it is hard for a leader to remain open to ideas is it takes time. This alone is a reason to close out employees. Another reason is a leader may believe he or she has all the answers. Additionally, a leader may think an employee does not possess the skills to come up with a great idea. Likewise, a leader may be set in looking for results where they have been found in the past. All these impair a leader’s ability to foster growth. It may work for a few select employees that adapt to a leader’s style, but others may be stifled. A leader needs to understand that a great idea may come from the most unlikely places. Also, recommendations for ways to improve operations are likely to come from those performing the operations.
This concept is very in depth. I could probably do multiple posts on this behavior from a leader (and likely there will be some in the future). In keeping with my comparison of behaviors to values, I believe this behavior undermines approachability. Some people can only take hearing no or being blown off so much. Also, if a leader makes it seem like he or she is too busy, is unwilling to hear employees out, is content with the status quo, or more, an employee with a great idea may just move on to what is next instead of coming forth. Now, this does not mean every idea needs to be acted upon. It simply mean a leader should keep an open ear at the right time. It does not mean that every idea needs to be drawn into a full discussion, but at least that the leader gives the employee enough time to feel the proposal has been presented. This may take 5-10 minutes for some or an hour for others. The leader needs to find a way to show appreciation while letting the employee down. The leader also can evaluate if there is someone else the idea can be bounced off of. Even this solution can leave the employee feeling a sense of satisfaction or content. One big piece of approachability if showing genuine care. If a leader keeps working on what he or she was working on instead of giving the employee proper attention, it may also drive the employee away. This means setting down the phone or pausing reading emails. This of course is a balancing act. I am not saying sacrifice efficiency and time management. I am simply saying give an employee a moment. What seems like a small moment to a leader can mean the world to an employee.
Another value that is likely violated by a leader keeping a close mind is collaboration. It may take some back and forth between the employee and the leader to tweak the idea. The employee may not be bringing the polished product or idea, but after some work the idea or product may shine. If we think about the show Shark Tank, sometimes a product with the feedback of experts turns into a success. Likewise, if we think about the dozens of cooking shows out there, sometimes one critique from an expert may lead to a renown dish being born. We need to understand that some ideas we are presented are in the infancy stage. Sometimes giving an employee the feedback that the decision is not “no”, but “not yet”. This may lead them to take more time developing the idea. This can mean seeking feedback from the leader or potentially others. below is a great video
I liked the ideas of how there is a red zone and a green zone. If we talk with our employees, they will likely enjoy being in a green zone more than the red zone. This blog is not focused on being defensive, but I found the collaboration piece to be so critical(and I found the video entertaining). Letting employees feel open to sharing ideas will enhance the collaboration the employee will want and that will also transfer onto other employees.
I propose that as leaders we need to take more time to listen. We need to pause and let others speak. This will lead them to feel empowered and be open to listening to use. I also propose we work more on collaboration and give and take instead of rushing to a yes or a no. Our time is valuable. However, missing a great idea or offending a quality employee can be more costly. When we think back to when we were starting out working our way up the ranks, it was likely there was someone open to hearing our ideas. It may have been what allowed us to get where we are. We need to do the same to pave the way for those that will follow us or will support us. It is a lot easier to gain leaders by using tact, appreciation, and patience than rushing to the next item at hand. We need to slow down and give our attention so we can be the leader our employees need us to be.
Ury, William. January 7, 2015. The power of listening. Tedx San Diego. YouTube.
As leaders, we will have to deal with times when employees mess up. We also have to find ways to get employees to buy in to change or protocols. When these moments come and we give an employee a directive, it is easy to use a statement like “I’m the boss” or ” Do…. Or else”. This often involves using power and/or title to get results. This may work in an isolated situation, but it usually comes at a cost. This behavior can lead to a loss of respect from employees. It can also lead to employees not keeping an open mind to change. Now, there are going to come times where a leader will need to use power and position to make tough calls. This may come when there is no general consensus. It may also come during times when a decision is needed quickly. However, this approach seems to be coming less effective. It also can lead to dissention among the employees. Most leadership thinking is moving away from this Authoritarian mindset approach. However, there are still leaders that believe this behavior is effective.
In looking at this behavior, most of us understand that if we force our will upon someone, it will not sit well with the person. I personally have had to use this approach less than a handful of times in my years as a leader. I had to when using discretion and understanding did not work. It came when there was an employee unwilling to change regardless of the reasons change was needed. Employees also respond different to punishment. Some believe punishment is justified. Others believe punishment is not. As always, it depends on the situation. When I think about why employees mess up, I like to consider intent. Any mistake needs to be rectified. However, the approach should fit the cause. It also depends on the employees willingness to accept accountability. Below is a basic chart I put together. This can be questioned and I welcome that.
Of course, this is a simple guide. The key to this is if the leader believes the situation is isolated or has potential for a repeat offense. If the employee is likely to repeat the offense, monitoring the situation may not be enough. The penalty should fit the crime. The reason for bringing up awareness is leaders are partially or fully at fault if an employee is unaware of what is needed. This is where the “it’s not my fault” comes into play. If the employee truly did not know, a punishment is likely to alienate the employee and could lead them to lose faith in the leader or quit. Regardless of the action, the communication should be a back and forth discussion and not a one way directive. The employee needs the opportunity to be heard. It may not change the outcome, but at least it gives the leader a chance to see where the employee’s head is at, how manageable they are, and evaluate could the situation have been avoided with more knowledge or a different circumstance.
There are many values that I could have chosen to discuss. The first is humility. The leader needs to put themselves on the same level as the employee. If the employee sees the action as top down, it can create friction with the leader. If the leader puts his or herself on the same level as the employee, the employee is more likely to keep an open mind. Instead of giving the reason “because I am the boss” it is something like “It is what is best for our team” or “this is what the organization needs”. Instead of “Do… Or else” it can be something like “the cost to the organization and those involved is high”. The humility factor will often allow the leader to be more open to back and forth conversation. This will give a higher chance of the employee taking to what is needed. Also, if a leader is focused more on using force, it takes the accountability factor away from the employee. The employee is simply changing because they have to and not because they see why they should. For a very basic example, it is like a child that does not clean his or her room. If a parent always uses punishment to respond, the child will change due to fear and not have growth. If the parent uses an explanation of why a room needs to be cleaned (or a certain level of guilt) the child may be more prone to clean his or her room. If this does not work, a level of punishment may then be needed. This goes a long with the saying “If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to treat everything as if it were a nail.” (Abraham Maslow , 1966). This means that if one only looks to use punishment, he or she will only see a criminal.
Another value that is at work is decency. This is like humility, but outward focused. The key here is wanting to treat the employee with care and compassion while getting the point across. Some people take joy in coming down hard on employees or have no regard for the cost. These individuals often get a bad reputation. It often also leads to employees not having respect. Another key to this value is making the employee understand mistakes happen, but to work to avoid them. There needs to be a certain level of understanding. We may be in such a rush to fix the problem that we skip getting an understanding of why the problem happened in the first place. This can lead to repeat behavior and/or mishandling the situation. An employee would rather deal with someone talking “to” them than talking “at” them. This is a sign of mutual respect. I found the below video from a Tedx event (at my school) that instead of decency talks about workplace rudeness and incivility.
I personally found a lot of this informative. I liked the 5 and 10 standard for greeting. I also liked the idea of “touch points” and that we have on average 400 per day. I believe one toxic touchpoint can have a far bigger impact than one positive touchpoint. If we think of the leadership behavior I discussed, I believe incivility is a great description.
So, if punishment is harmful, what should we do? I found a great video on changing behavior. Below is very conceptual, but very applicable.
There were a lot of important takeaways I got from this. I appreciated the bad news(warnings and punishment) curve. This makes sense why punishment may only affect a certain group of people. I see this in work. Some people are unaffected by punishment or do not see the purpose. I also appreciated the idea of using others to foster change. For example, if someone is always late, say “Joe, the rest of the team was on time today, but you were late”. This is far likely to work better than “Joe, you need to start showing up on time”. I think these concepts can be applied on multiple levels. I think there are multiple ways to rethink punishment after reviewing the video.
The big takeaway I want to put forth is using position, power, threats, and more are likely to have more negative affects than positive. This does not mean ignore bad behavior. It simply means the way we approach bad behavior has to change. As leaders, I want you to think about if you use your title or power when an alternative option is possible. Also, I propose you think about how humility and decency can have more effective impacts than fear, incivility, and threats. Times are changing. The Authoritarian leadership style is fading away. Transformational and Servant leadership styles are gaining momentum. We need to look at our employees less as criminals and more as someone needing nurturing. I am not saying there is not a time for punishment. There is. However, reserve that time for when a severe impact is needed. For those of you who have been on the receiving end of this from a leader, I have the below image.
Porath, Christine. October 24, 2018. Why being respectful to your coworkers is good for business. Tedx UniveristyofNevada January 2018. YouTube.
Most of us leaders have heard the term “yes man(woman)” to explain someone who agrees with another just for the sake of agreement. This can be caused due to fear of negative repercussions from leader or group, lack of knowledge to establish own thoughts, fear of disrupting norm or consensus, and more. The idea is that the individual is not voicing one’s thoughts due to the environment set by the leader. This leads someone to go along with others instead of speaking up. This has developed the name “Groupthink”. This implies as the name states that the group is thinking as one unit instead of separate individuals. Oxford Languages defines Groupthink as
the practice of thinking or making decisions as a group in a way that discourages creativity or individual responsibility.”there’s always a danger of groupthink when two leaders are so alike”
This idea has been around for years but in an unofficial way. When we were kids and our parents said “If your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?” they were discussing Groupthink. This is different than two people truly sharing the same opinion. We may have heard the term “two heads are better than one” to explain that a second opinion is better than making a decision alone. The idea is that both people will share thoughts and opinions to add value to the decision. As individuals, we all will have different thoughts and opinions of what is right or best. The goal of each person sharing his or her view is it should cause the others to think through all possible options. It is does not mean for someone to cause an agreement for attention or more. It should be constructive. The sharing of ideas should lead to a better decision being made. The problem in Groupthink comes when people agree and do not raise items to be discussed. This can make a leader believe the idea presented is generally accepted or best.
A common example of this is during the planning for the Bay of Pigs invasion. When John F Kennedy was putting forth ideas, all his experts went along with him providing minimal counterarguments. Following the botched invasion, the experts began coming forward with ideas they had withheld. Some said they failed to share the ideas for concern due to fear of disagreement with the group. A very basic example of this would be there are 5 people standing outside in a group. The leader of the group says “The Sky is green”. The other 4 people knowing the sky is blue withhold their opinions and just go along with the idea that the sky is green.
These two examples are very straight forward. In a business setting, the correct path may not be clear. It may take discussion, data, and some work to get to the best choice. When we think about a meeting room, the leader is normally sitting at the head of the table. The leader should seek to obtain fresh views from others. If the leader strictly looks to those that support his or her opinion and/or undervalue or ignore the views of those that conflict, employees may begin to not voice their opinion for sake of self preservation. This is where the leader is shaping the culture. This can be direct or indirect. It can be a leader belittling someone that has an opposing view outright. It may be the leader insults an idea and says its stupid instead of thanking the person for their view. It may be the leader excludes the individual from groups or events as a punishment. It can even be something as simple as not giving the person proper time to explain his or her idea. All of these can have an effect of promoting Groupthink. Groupthink is not always obvious. It can be subtle. The below video(Medina,2018) is from a young man who shows a real life example of Groupthink and how he saw it was holding him back.
I highly appreciated this example as we have been a part of it as kids. When we think of what values promoting Groupthink violates, the first is openness. Groupthink is rooted in people not wanting to be open. Our staff should know that even if we do not agree with their opinion or idea, we still want them to share it. Some of the best business ideas have came from unlikely places. Employees also need to feel they have a voice. Openness is critical for leaders to have support from their followers. A follower will lose faith and trust in the leader if there is not a feeling of mutual consideration. Leaders not have to only preach openness, but also demonstrate openness. If an employee has a concern, the employee has to feel the concern was listened to. Otherwise, they will feel their voice is “falling upon deaf ears”. The problem with this is the employee will begin shutting down. This leads to the morale of the employee declining. Often times it is beneficial for a leader to explain why an idea or opinion is not acted upon. By sharing feedback to the employee, it shows the leader was taking the conversation seriously.
Originality is another value that is violated when Groupthink is promoted. If an employee believes that new thought is not needed, the employee will look to think like the leader or others. Originality requires courage. It usually is a win big or lose big approach. We need to let staff know that ideas will be discussed among all involved. If an idea is accepted, the team as a whole owns the outcome. If something doesn’t work out, we should not pass the blame. Originality can be applied to a product, service, operating process, new market or client, or more. All ideas serve a purpose, even if the purpose is to discuss something that should not be done.
Combatting Groupthink is hard. It is so easy to overlook when Groupthink is involved. We are comfortable with conformity. We like strength in numbers. The good thing is, more companies are identifying progress is made when a conscious decision to remove Groupthink is made. The below video discusses how putting someone in a role of Devils Advocate doesn’t work. It seems like a simple option, but Adam Grant gives logical reasons it doesn’t.
I think this video is dead on that the best way to combat Groupthink is to truly find an opposing view. This is different than creating an argument just for the sake of creating one. Not all ideas that have a strong following are bad. This allows for an idea to be questioned to bring in different ideas. If it is a good idea, it should prevail.
We need to understand when Groupthink exists. Combatting it takes effort. Groupthink arises for many reasons. We find comfort in numbers. This applies to the leader as well as the followers. A leader needs to not only say that openness and originality are valued, but also show acceptance for views from all angles. We do not need to agree with a view to accept it. In my opinion, Groupthink is gradual. It takes time to train people what to conform to. It also is rooted in fear. If people feel fear from above or the side, they will feel pressure to conform. We need to state we want different views, but also show a sincere interest when they arise. We cannot simply pay lip service or the other will see through it. We need to take a posture that is non-confrontational and drives people to ask why. The result will be so beneficial to the process and the morale of the company.
Medina, Andres. Jul 12, 2018. How Breaking Away From Groupthink Changed My Life. TedxYouth@ChristmasHillPark. YouTube.
When you were young, did you ever have a time where you got punished for something you did and when your sibling did it, they were not punished? It could have been something like not cleaning your room, not doing homework, staying out past curfew, or more. When we think of a child having a temper tantrum, we can imagine the words “that’s not fair”. Fast forward to the present. We may have some employees at work that are problems and others that are superstars. Lets say both are 15 minutes late to work. If we allow the superstar’s tardiness to slide while the problem child gets in trouble, it is a classic moment of “that’s not fair”. Likewise, if we give one person a write up while the other gets a warning for the same behavior, it also is a moment of “that’s not fair”. It is easy to give leniency to those that excel and be harder on those that struggle. However, that can start a variety of problems. Also, it leads to people losing respect for our leadership and questioning our motives. All these lead to our followers questioning our integrity. First, lets discuss a few problems that may arise.
One problem that is created in the workplace environment by a leader being inconsistent with policy enforcement is it leads to employees being confused about what is acceptable. We see all the time when one employee is allowed to bend the rules then other employees also begin to bend the rules. This is different from when employees act without the leader knowing. I had a prior blog that discussed employees using profanity. Lets say employee A uses profanity in the presence of the leader. They use the “”F” word while talking. The leader laughs it off or ignores the action. Employee B may see this and believe using the “F” word is ok to say. A few days down the road, Employee B uses the “F” word and is reprimanded. Employee B may feel that the leader is being hypocritical as this behavior was allowed in another setting. Employee B may feel he or she has been treated unjustly. This “muddies the water” about what is allowed. It also will likely cause resentment from Employee B towards the leader. It can also create resentment from Employee B towards Employee A.
Another problem that gets created is employees may believe they are above the rules. This can lead to continued bad behavior from the employee. It can also mean the employee gradually begins performing other bad behaviors. In the above profanity example, Employee A may believe since he or she was allowed to use the “F” word, he or she can use other bad words. It may also allow employee A to believe he or she can use the “F” word more often. This happens when the employee lacks integrity to act in an appropriate manner. However, the cause is the leader allowing the bad behavior to go on.
A third problem starts when a leader performs a negative behavior and then holds an employee responsible for the same behavior. I have discussed many times a leaders needs to set the example. If a leader is seen violating a policy, it may lead employees to also not follow a policy. For example, with the profanity case, lets say Leader A is regularly using profanity. This gives employees the idea it is ok. If Leader A sees Employee A using profanity and tries to enforce the policy, Employee A may flip it back on the leader saying its not right for the leader to do it yet when an employee does he or she gets in trouble. While the employee may be correct in his or her logic, the leader may not see it that way and discipline the employee. This can quickly lead to employees losing respect for the leader. This can also create problems if an employee is terminated for bad behavior. If there is evidence of the leader performing the bad behavior, the employee can use it for his or her case. This hypocrisy can be extremely detrimental to the workplace culture.
A fourth problem that can arise is overall dissention among followers. If a leader is inconsistent in both action and/or discipline, the followers may talk among themselves and begin to stop following the leader. This can be a small group or an entire workforce. If we think about the swearing example, if the leader mishandles the situation either with two employees using profanity or if the leader uses it and then disciplines an employee for it, the followers may start to undermine the leader. When we think of the idea of mutiny on a ship, this is a classic example. The followers begin to band together and then take action. Now, mutiny in a workplace is hard. However, it can mean that the leader begins to lose control and then a level of chaos ensues. This may start with rumbling among followers or up front resistance. This all could be avoided by the leader being consistent with policy enforcement.
A final problem that can arise is other leaders may be affected as well. If employees begin to act out of place, it may require other leaders to take action. This can be prevalent in shift work. If one shift is behaving badly and a new leader comes in, the leader may get bombarded with problems to fix. Another thing that can happen is an employee is given breaks by one leader. Another leader comes in and sees the bad behavior. The second leader wants to do what is right and correct the action. The second leader often becomes the “bad guy” for acting in line with what needs to be done. In this case, the fault does not lie with the employee behaving within a system, but instead with the first manager creating a bad system. Imagine two policeman. One allows speeding for some reason. A driver knows this and speeds regularly, even when the first policeman is around. The second policeman comes into the picture. The driver is used to being able to speed. The second police officer pules over the driver. The driver says “The other officer has always let me speed. What’s the big deal?”. The second officer gives the driver a ticket. In this example, if the first officer had behaved correctly, the second officer may not have had to deal with the problem.
When we evaluate what values are violates, fairness is an obvious choice. There is a double standard coming from the leader. Most of us want to work in a fair environment. We want to obtain fairness from those above us, below us, and our peers. When fairness does not exist, it means the balance is out of whack. One person benefits while the other is penalized. Fairness is contagious. Also, if there is fairness, the group is more likely to accept the result. Below is a great video on fairness.
I found this video not only to provide some joy in watching the monkeys, but enlightening that the idea of fairness presides in multiple animal kingdoms. I believe this video nails a lot of key concepts on fairness.
Another value that is violated by this behavior is clarity. As I mentioned, if the standards are vague, people will not know how to act. This can come from being directly involved in a situation or being on the sidelines. We can train an employee without end. However, if the application is off the training will be for not. Below is a video that gives a great depiction of clarity. When our staff is not sure of how to act. They get into a fog.
We want our workers to keep moving forward. By providing clarity, it allows them to keep their foot on the gas. When there is no question of the right action, it removes them having to pause to think what is best.
As leaders, the followers will look to us for guidance. The followers will also look to us to resolve issues. We need to be fair and equitable when enforcing policy. A policy is only as effective as it is applied and followed. Leaders need to be on the same page with policies. One misstep by a leader may or may not create a situation. The more missteps that are taken, the more likely it is one of the problems listed will occur.
Brosnan, Sarah. Dec 21, 2020. Why monkeys (and humans) are wired for fairness. Tedx via YouTube.
If one looks at talks in the leadership community, there is a lot of buzz about the power of being a leader compared to a manager. Often it is discussed why being a manager and leader are different. I believe the two are important, dependent on the setting. For those who may not yet have seen a comparison of what a manager is verse what a leader is in today’s leadership thinking world, I will provide some reflection on when the two mindsets are best. In order for one to lead with integrity, there should be a clear view of what leadership is and what management is.
I found a great video that shows both a clear definition of both as well as skills required for both(Bridges, 2018).
I enjoyed many parts of this, but I most like the idea that one “leads people” and another “manages things”. For our daily work, we normally have to do both. If we are able to lead our people well, it makes managing things easier. Below are some examples and ideas for managers and leaders.
Power comes from title, position, or control of resources.
May have knowledge through formal education like degrees or on the job experience.
Looks to maintain order and status quo
Followers are those below on hierarchy.
Believes environment and culture should be maintained(Don’t rock the boat)
Feels most comfortable associating with other managers.
Power comes from character and ability to relate to others.
Looks to bring new ideas and knowledge forth.
Looks to question order and status quo.
Followers can come from below, the side, or above in organization.
Questions environment and culture and how well it relates to followers.
Feels most comfortable associating with followers.
Now, with these two roles being identified, the question is, which is best? The answer is: It depends.
I believe there is a time where one must take more of a manager mindset and others where one must take more of a leadership mindset. It is important for one to consider the following criteria when evaluating which option should take a higher priority:
Growth stage the company the individual works for is in.
Level of outside regulations that apply to the company.
Tenure and levels of hierarchy of the staff within the organization.
Industry the company operates within.
Vision of company from top leaders.
I will discuss my opinion for each item. It is important to consider that every situation is unique. One needs to continuously reassess which is needed.
If a company is in it’s early stages of development, a leader is likely needed. This is due to needing to create a structure and base for the company. It is also to have fresh ideas of where the company needs to go. Additionally, a leader will be needed to help bring unity and a sense of togetherness to the organization. Change will need to be more pronounced until success arrives.
As a company approaches the maturity rate, managers will likely be more successful. This is due to the foundation already being laid. It also is due to the change that is needed is likely more incremental. There is often a developed sense of community already. A manager will look to maintain that order to not disrupt the balance and create dissension with those who have been around awhile.
As a company moves past the maturity stage, the company will need to evolve to stay current. This is where a leader and manager will have to coincide. It will take both to understand what led the company to success in the first place, but also will need pressure to make big changes to prevent decline.
Level of Outside Regulations
A leader will thrive most in an organization that has very low outside regulations. The regulations can impede on how much change can be fostered. Low regulations also often allow for leniency when mistakes are made. This allows leaders to take more risks with decisions. A few extreme examples of this are music, art, and writing. These environments thrive most when there is high creativity.
In a high outside regulation environment, a manager often will perform best. This is due to the ability of the manager to maintain a focus on following the regulations. This is done to avoid fines, loss of license, penalties, or closure. A manager will look to consider regulations before acting. This means decisions are thoroughly thought out and assessed. Managers will look to stay within the lines and use protocol as a base. A few examples of this are law, banking, and medicine. These yearn for practice over theory.
Tenure and levels of hierarchy of Staff
For companies where most of the staff are new or if the company has a high turnover rate, a leader will often prevail. A leader will also prevail in organizations that are flat or has minimal hierarchy. A leader will strive to continuously make new bonds. A leader will also look to understand why the turnover is so high. A leader will look to the new staff as opportunity instead of a threat. For new staff, a leader will seek feedback on what change is needed. A leader will likely seek out the best new idea from outside instead of within when times get tough.
For companies that have a high amount of veteran staff, a manager will likely prevail. The manager will look to the veterans to mold new staff when they start. The veteran employees will often have achieved success by following the norm and will be set in “the way things have been done”. These same employees are likely managers as well. A manager will often thrive in high levels of hierarchy as it creates a sense of power from title. These employees will often question why change is needed and will look to continue the relationships built with other veteran employees. Managers will seek refuge with veteran employees when times get tough. Managers will additionally want to maintain the hierarchy to reward those who have put in their time.
Industry(market) the company operates within
This concept is similar to level of outside regulation but also holds some different traits. A leader will thrive in industries that have high competition. A leader will also thrive in industries where products are constantly changing. This is due to a leader continuously looking for ways to improve the product and process. If we look at tech and the tech industry, a company needs to always be finding a new product or they will become obsolete. A leader will also thrive in industries that work over a vast geographic terrain. This is due to the ability for the leader to mold the operations to the unique environments.
A manager will thrive in industries that have low competition. This is due to the idea that a manager will look to build a standard process instead of looking to be constantly changing to match competitors. A manager will thrive in industries that looks for minimal product change. A manager will look to make small modifications for improvement but stay away from sweeping change to products. A manager will be most comfortable within a limited geographic terrain. This is due to a manager being able to apply fixed and established leadership styles and not have to learn about the culture and environment of new areas. A manager will likely look to find staff and leaders through methods that have worked before.
Vision of the company
I saved the vision of the company for last not because it is least important, but it is likely the most “gray”. A vision can be highly volatile from company to company. Visions of companies within the same market, industry, employee tenure pool, and with similar regulatory environments can be quite different.
Leaders will thrive in companies that look to constantly be changing the vision or have a vague vision. Leaders will look to the vision for loose guidance and evaluate how the vision can be changed or improved. Leaders will thrive in companies that have a vision of inspiration or direct vision of change. This will lead leaders to find new ways to accomplish vision. Leaders will look to what fits the change they want regardless of what the company norms are.
Managers will thrive in companies that have clear and unwavering vision. The manager will look to the vision as a cornerstone for decisions. Managers will also do well in companies that have a vision rooted in performance or order. This gives the managers a more clear idea of what to move towards. Managers will also enjoy working in companies where the vision is regiment and constantly reminding employees to uphold the vision.
These are some guide rules for if a manager or leader mindset is best. The key is that it is likely a little of both will be best. Change is always needed. The question is how much change is needed. Order is needed to provide employees guidelines, safety, stability, and more. I found a video that I believe accomplishes more than comparing a manager to a leader. It compares a boss to a leader (Canfield, 2018).
There will be situations where a manager style company may need a leader to step up and vice versa. I think the idea of the authoritarian leader is what most experts are trying to break. We are living in a society that is becoming more people focused. If we look back 20 years, a boss gave an order and an employee followed it. One wanted to get promoted so they could give the orders. That idea does not work today. A leader needs to be a lot softer and understanding than before. Some may look to managers to provide organization and knowledge.
I look for you to decide are you more of a manager or leader. There is no wrong answer. Do you look to adapt your mindset to your organization or look to adapt the ways your organization operates to your mindset. As leaders, we need to be always taking into account the mindset of our followers. This likely is a reflection of our mindset. We need to keep rethinking which mindset are we promoting. Are we pushing for change and new ideas or order and maintaining the status quo? We also need to evaluate do we see conflict as an opportunity or a problem. Times are changing. Ideas are changing. We also will need to change to stay in line with what society and cultures require from us. There comes a time for us to step forward and a time for us to step back.
Bridges, Jennifer. October 8, 2018. Leadership vs Management, What’s the Difference? YouTube.
So far on my blogs, I have given a lot of examples of how behavior and values of an individual should be aligned to be acting with integrity. There is a conflict when our values differ from another’s values. This can be a significant value or behavior or a discrete difference. So far, I have given examples of integrity related to an individual. This deals with when an individual acts in line with or contradictory to his or her values. This likely will follow one from job to job. A successful leader is reliant on a strong following. This is different than someone getting leadership merely from title. When we think of a large organization, usually a direct supervisor or manager has a more significant impact on an individual than a director, owner, or corporate leader. The latter play a part, but the leader one sees all the time has more opportunities to make an impact; positive or negative. A problem may come when one individual’s values differ from another. The individual may believe he or is she is acting with integrity due to following one’s values, but the other person may believe the individual lacks integrity because the behaviors do not match the other’s behaviors. This creates a dilemma for the leader. Who’s values matter more? I have a Ted talk I found to hit this idea right on the mark(Galef, 2016).
I want to propose that over the last 25 years, this has become more prevalent in politics. I am not looking to get into a big debate on this idea, but use it as an example. For that reason, I will stick with generic criteria. A political figure (state, federal, local, etc) may follow their own agendas after election. This may match or not match what they campaigned on. Regardless, the politician may believe he or she is doing the “right thing”. Of course, this opinion will vary from person to person. For example, lets say Politician A believes in idea XYZ. For simplicity, we will assume the Politician also campaigned in support of idea XYZ. He or she may be acting with self integrity if the behavior matches the individual value. Civilian A also believes in idea XYZ. As a result, Civilian A may believe that politician A is acting with integrity. Civilian B is strongly against idea XYZ. Civilian B likely will have a view that Politician A lacks integrity. This difference between Civilian A and Civilian B shows that the same action can have different impacts. We see this in business as well. This can create a lot of stress or uncertainty for a leader. This becomes especially difficult if a personal value contradicts company culture. The question becomes, which value should a leader follow, self or others?
We all come from different walks of life. We have different backgrounds, beliefs, life experiences, religious beliefs, ideas for a company’s future, and more. The bigger the group, the higher probability for a difference in values, big or small. This is often why a decision by a leader(s) will not have absolute acceptance. This also is the reason we have different types on leadership. In a dictatorship, a leader can follow one’s own values. This can have a high amount of opposition. In a true democracy, the idea is that the majority view will win out. The reason I bring this up is I suggest in a dictatorship, a leader is more prone to follow self values. In a democracy, a leader is more likely to follow others values. I propose that it is important for an individual to have a very firm grasp of the environment the business or entity possesses. This is not an all or nothing. As we know, there are “dictators” that keep public interest as a focus and “democratic” leaders that pursue self interest once in charge. This can be applied to any group. Below is a post (Daskal, 2018) that supports the idea that leadership that benefits others first starts at the leader being true to oneself. I found this talk incredible.
The reason I bring this concept up is integrity is tricky in a business setting. We make decisions every day that impact others. There likely is no clear decision that will make everyone happy. Sometimes we have to sacrifice the interest of individuals for the sake of the business. At other times, we may have to sacrifice the interst of others for the sake of the business. For example, lets say a new version of the iPhone and/or Samsung Galaxy is coming out. For simplicity, lets say each costs $1,000. A business has 1,000 employees. Situation A: a leader made a decision strictly pursue the interest of others and buys every employee a new phone free of charge. This would cost the company $1,000,000 dollars. This would make everyone “happy” at a high cost. Situation B: a CEO buys his or herself a new phone. This would cost the company $1,000. This would make one person happy at a much lower cost. The sheer cost per unit is exactly the same. So, what does the leader do? The correct answer is likely somewhere between Situation A and B.
The sheer purpose of this blog is to draw awareness to the fact that integrity is complicated. Unless we work for ourselves with no other employees, there is going to be this dilemma. There will be times where we have to make tough choices that may upset others. It is easy to follow our own values, but that likely will upset a higher amount of people. We may want to merely follow the values of others, but the cost for a business may be high. The right answer for what to do will vary from company to company and person to person. Awareness is the key. For any company with 5 or more people, I could probably provide an example of where there is no clear right or wrong. The right answer is the one that yields the highest net “profit” for the company(that’s the accountant in me).
When you come to a cross roads on a decision, think to yourself what values are involved for yourself and others. Think about the long-term consequences. I have to make decisions every day. Some big and some small. I tell myself that I need to not lose sight of my values, but consider what is the best decision will yield the highest satisfactory rate at the lowest cost. We cannot only pursue self-interest or we will lose followers. We cannot only pursue the interest of others or we will sacrifice so much of ourselves that we will be miserable. There needs to be balance. Imagine a peanut butter and jelly sandwich(bread and allergies aside). For some of us, the right answer may be 50/50 peanut butter to jelly. Others may benefit most from a 75% peanut butter and 25% jelly. Conversely, some may benefit from 75% jelly and 25% peanut butter. If we use just peanut butter, that is not a PB&J just PB so it does not meet the requirements of a solid sandwich. There will be times where we have to favor self interest. There will be other times where we need to favor others. I pray you make the right decision when the time comes. If not, I hope the cost is minimal. Like with any blog, I welcome feedback on this idea. Can you think of ideas where only self-interest or others interest should be considered? What times have you struggled with which should win out? Pursuing integrity is tough, but with proper consideration of self and others the decision is more likely to be correct. For when they go wrong, here is a little advice.
Via Power of Positivity on Facebook, April 15, 2021.
Galef, Julia. February, 2016. Why you think you’re right-even if your wrong. TedxPSU. YouTube.
In a work environment, there will always be times where people disagree. This can be on a specific matter, opinion, action plan, company direction, or more. Since the dawn of time, people have disagreed. What can be very destructive to a work environment is someone who undermines others. This usually involves an element of lying, but not always. Sometimes a person withholds something from someone and then shares it with others. For example, lets say there is a work meeting. The leader or an employee gives a recommendation for a solution to a problem. He or she asks “does anyone have another idea or have a problem with this recommendation?” and everyone is silent. The person is legitimately looking for feedback and no one speaks up. Then following the meeting, someone says “I can’t believe we are doing this. It would have been so much better for us to ……”. In this case, the person had the chance to speak up and chose not to. The person is undermining the person and the group that agreed on a plan. This is how problems start.
We know there are some work environments where people are not comfortable coming forward. A leader may ask for feedback, but if feedback is given than it is always shot down. That idea will be discussed in a later blog For this purpose, I want to discuss when there is an individual that intentionally starts problems instead of bringing up matters for discussion. There is strength in diversity as it fosters new ideas and thinking. A leader needs to create an environment that is receptive to feedback and discussion. I want us to imagine the environment is open to feedback and yet the person undermines others anyways. This can be very toxic to the community. Usually people who do this look for company. They try to seek agreement and support. The hard thing is, this often is done in a way that is not constructive. Sometimes leaders are blindsided by a culmination of dissent that started with one person being deceptive.
We know that a strong team and work environment needs conflict to foster creative thinking. Groupthink sometimes keeps the right choice from coming to the surface. Undermining others is an attempt to bring up a different idea without giving it the opportunity to be discussed. People may do this for the following reasons:
Lack of support
Lack of a voice
Lack of knowledge
Lack of training
Lack of Trust
Lack of confidence in self
Inability to communicate idea
Need for attention
Inability to accept unwanted decision
Trauma or residual feelings from prior event, either at current company or prior company.
Changing mind after having opportunity t voice ideas.
In looking at items 1-4, these are likely due to the environment or leadership. Item 5 may be due to the environment or the person. The remaining reasons likely rest with the individual. Most companies have some sort of policy for “insubordination”. This is to create a sense of order. This is related to someone directly violating an order or directive of a superior. This idea is a portion of undermining others, but not all of it. Someone can also undermine peers, subordinates, regulatory officials, or even customers. Insubordination is normally very direct. Undermining others is normally discrete. It starts small and then grows. It is like a virus. One person gets infected, then another, and then another until there is a need for it to be addressed. The reason this behavior is so costly is usually it does not give those responsible to opportunity to address the matter correctly.
Lets say a company is having an issue with employees using their cell phones for non work matters. I discussed this in Behavior vs Value #34. For this discussion, lets imagine a management team comes together to address this matter. There are formal and informal meetings giving everyone the opportunity to present ideas and solutions. A proposal is offered and everyone is given the chance to share changes. It is finalized and put into place. Shortly after, an employee begins talking about how the policy is ridiculous and should never have been put in place. For conversation purposes, lets say it is the start of the NFL season. The person “needs” to check his or her fantasy football team to stay on top of it. Also, the same employee needs to use his or her phone to text a new partner to flirt or make plans. Neither of these are related to work. The employee begins bashing the policy and trying to get others to join the revolt. This leads to a slow trend of the policy being ignored. As a result, work efficiency declines, those following the policy complain, and customer service falls. The policy was established to benefit the business as a whole and yet one person believed self-interest was more important. Instead of meeting with a supervisor to discuss concerns, the person undermines the policy. This is just one realistic example of an individual undermining others. It is a result of an individual choice that seeks to disrupt the environment.
When we look at the values this violates, it is a direct violation of respect of others. It sometimes involves insulting those that supported a decision or idea that is being undermined. The purposed is to discredit those in opposition. This sometimes does not give the other person the chance to defend their case. It also shows a lack of respect for the process. In the example above, the person was given the chance to voice concerns. The employee could have brought forth ideas to be discussed. Perhaps breaks could be extended or amount increased to allow for employees to handle personal matters. Another idea that could have been discussed is a transition period to allow for employees to gradually adjust to the change. It undermines respect for oneself due to this behavior can cause others to question the character of the person doing the undermining. If the person is undermining Employee A while talking with Employee B, Employee B may be concerned the individual is undermining Employee B as well. Also, it can make someone seem like a “poor loser”. This likely happens when someone makes a case he or she is committed to and does not accept the result.
Another value that is violated is professionalism. Most organizations are becoming more open to the sharing of ideas. The key is that it is in a controlled manner. It also allows for there to be a protocol for how a decision is arrived at. This can be democratically like having a vote or a leader taking into account all views/opinions and then making an informed decision. If we think of a court room, both sides present their case, discuss evidence, equally interrogate witnesses, and then give a closing comment. The judge or jury makes the ultimate decision. Now, imagine during the trial people from the audience are allowed to talk at will among each other or with the lawyers. People are allowed to lie in an attempt to deceive the judge or jury. This would lead to chaos. That same concept can be applied to a business setting.
I have been approached by subordinates where other subordinates are being disruptive. This can be blatantly not following a policy when others are not around, speaking ill of co-workers or superiors, applying policies inconsistently, giving inaccurate data for why something is the way it is, or of course speaking out against someone or something in an improper manner. These sometimes are hard as it is one person’s word against another. It also is hard if there is not concrete evidence like surveillance, documentation of discussions like emails/texts, or multiple witnesses. These make it hard for a leader to address a matter and also can lead to others also acting like the guilty party. I see this behavior becoming more common these days than it used to be.
The proper action to counter this behavior is difficult. Sometimes confronting the person will work. However, if the person denies the allegations without evidence than it may not fix the problem. Discipline may work, but if the person has created a following the person can become a martyr. Revising policy may work, but only as long as it is enforceable. Another option is having an open forum like a meeting or town hall for the individual and others to talk. This can be time-intensive and also lead to people sharing unsupported views, irrelevant data, or bringing up distractions. The upside to this is it allows people to have their voice heard. The answer is it may take a few different approaches to solve the problem. Below is a video that sheds additional light on how to deal with someone who as an individual undermines others.
I found these recommendations useful. I also believe that positive conflict should be addressed. By looking for ways to promote conflict, it may help those who feel they are just not being heard. The speaker below discusses dysfunctional conflict. This is likely created by someone who is undermining others. I found it interesting he also brought up disagreements in the legal system.
I found the three steps to conflict being key. When someone undermines a decision, it gets in the middle of a clean end. It likely means that the effort put forth to come to a conclusion will be wasted.
Order is necessary for a business. It does not mean that everyone has to agree, but that people behave in a proper way. Undermining others can be toxic. We need to first get to the bottom of why someone is undermining decisions. We should give them a chance to voice their side. As leaders, we need to be very careful to not undermine others. This can create a slippery slope where others do the same. It starts with us. We need to be secure that if things do not go our way that in time it will either show us why the decision was wrong or give us another shot to voice our opinion if things go bad. We need to lead by example and not turn a blind eye to those that seek to disrupt the process. A solution needs to be found so they either change their behavior or vacate the organization, of course the first being preferred. However, remember to take the high road and do not fight fire with fire.
Camberato, Joe. July 23, 2019. How To Deal With Employees Who Undermine Your Authority. YouTube.
We have probably heard the lines “it’s not my fault”, “I didn’t know(when they have been told)”, “It’s not a big deal” or more. In a workplace, these can be frustrating to managers. We want to work with people to guide them so they can correct their behaviors. As in past blogs, this is assuming that managers have informed employees of what was expected, there is a clear expectation for behavior, and/or the person was properly trained. This also is assuming there is clear evidence of wrongdoing. In my blog immediately preceding this, I shared a great Ted talk from Jocko Willink where there was a situation and instead of blaming others, he took ownership of the situation. As Operations Manager, I report directly to the owner. There have been a lot of times I have had to bear responsibility for situations I had no idea were happening. I did so understanding that responsibility flows uphill. For this discussion, I want to discuss when a leader goes to speak to someone about a behavior that needs to be corrected and the employee just keeps making excuses or passing blame.
In a blog Behavior vs. Value # 12, I discuss how employees violate company policy. This of course usually means the employee needs to be spoken with to correct the action. There also are times where employees act unprofessional or are a detriment to the work environment. This concept has been directly or indirectly discussed in multiple prior blog posts. I want to address when happens when leaders try to help the person and help is deflected. There are many defense mechanisms someone may use when they are “in trouble”. One may be the play the victim. In this case, the person may use tactics to try to get sympathy or leniency. Another may be minimalizing the situation. They may say something like “It’s no big deal”. These both require a different approach from someone deflecting. I personally find Deflection to be more common and harder to manage. I see this defense mechanism also usually means the person is not open to change. The big question is, why is this behavior a violation of integrity? Below is a Ted talk on blaming others and why we blame others.
When someone plays the victim, it may be a conscious or unconscious move. They may truly be emotionally distraught or found in the past it works. For example, lets say a person is speeding. If they become irate, start crying, begin beating themselves up, or something else, they may be intentionally or unintentionally using it as a way to get out of the ticket. For minimalizing, they may say “I was only going …… over the speed limit” or “The road was not that busy so I thought it was not a big deal to go a few over”. While these are still excuses, the person is taking ownership of the fault. Deflection would mean someone uses the saying “Everyone else was speeding”, “I am late for work because of traffic”, I got in a fight with my spouse so my mind was elsewhere”, or something similar. In these situations, the person passes blame to someone or something else. It likely means they do not believe they did anything wrong. I have seen normally trying to explain to someone who is deflecting what they did wrong or why it was wrong is rarely effective. They just come back with another excuse. Usually these people need hard evidence to be presented to get them to be open to change. Even discipline will likely lead to them blaming the boss for something “they didn’t do”. This undermines the system. It also means repeat behavior is likely. If we think of why someone does not have a job, they may say “there is no work out there”, “there is nothing that pays enough” or “I have someone else to pay for things, so I do not need to work.” Sometimes it gets down to they could find some form of work if they want, but they are not wanting to take what they can. The excuses are easier.
As mentioned earlier, the obvious value that is violated is ownership or accountability. The whole reason this behavior happens is someone does not want to take the blame. It is easier to blame someone else. Sometimes this happens even without us knowing. It is hard to do. One may be afraid of consequences, afraid of losing respect in the face of others, have a personality attribute of passing blame, or something else. It is hard to say “I was wrong”. This plays into the humility element. Someone may want to preserve their reputation instead of taking blame. We know blame has to go around. The downfall is that passing the blame can lead to others losing respect for the individual(especially if they get affected). When I have to discuss with an employee a situation, I would say those that are most concerned with consequences or image are the first to pass blame. There also is a certain element of honesty that comes into play. If someone is legitimately at fault for a behavior and they blame someone else, it is in essence a lie. Usually, the person knows it is a lie. Again, sometimes they may lash out and pass blame and then once reality sets in stick with the original claim.
The biggest way we can fight this problem is to hold ourselves accountable. This is the case even when it is not our “fault”. We need to look at what we could have done different to prevent the problem. I found the below video interesting as it not only deals with different concepts on ability, but shows how someone who takes accountability can succeed.
I found this talk interesting as it was from a TexYouth talk. It was amazing to see how someone years younger than me could shed light on something I have dealt with all the time. Of course, it is also exciting that she leg pressed more than I ever have. It is easy for us to put blame on leaders, other employees, the system, or “fate”. We need to see that we can sometimes be the solution. If we act differently than we can help ourselves or others. We need to understand why people say “it is not my fault”. Once we look deeper, we may get a good solution. Deflection is a natural part of human nature. We need to see this not as a curse, but as a symptom. We can work with people to battle it. Sometimes as leaders we need to take the fault for others to allow them to grow. We need to “take the bullet” so others can improve. The key is not letting up once we take the bullet. We need to work to grow others. We need to see failure as a learning tool and not a punishment.
Mitchell, Desyre. June 28, 2018. Don’t blame me, but blame me, TEDxChallengeEarlyCollegeHS. YouTube.
For those of you who have been following my blog or are now going back through my blog posts, you are seeing a pattern in my posts. They are structured, methodical, and in depth. I wanted to take a break to expand on something I realized from my Behavioral vs. Value post #13 (Here is link if needed). Recently, I had a discussion with someone who had never heard of a Ted Talk. It was someone who was very educated, well-read, and anxious to learn. They did a lot of reading of online journals, books, and other print items. I brought up how I had never seen a Ted Talk until I began my MBA program. During my undergrad, I was bombarded with PowerPoint slide presentations, outdated videos, lectures that seemed to be as painful for the speaker as the audience, and more. Before I started my MBA program, I had no idea we had such a great forum in the Biggest Little City(Reno). Now, I wish I could go back and be a part of it. As I look for videos from Tedx, I am amazed at where these events have been held. Some are large forums while some are smaller and comfortable. The key is that no matter the size of the forum, quality of the video or audio, or the popularity of the speaker, every post has a quality idea that we can learn from. In keeping in line with my blog principle, I wanted to share a Ted Talk from University of Nevada Reno(Sabini, 2018).
During my current MBA program, I have had an instructor who has used Ted Talks as an excellent tool to share ideas. Coincidentally, he was/is a cornerstone of the Ted Talk events at University of Nevada, Reno (Thank you Doctor). Below is a TedX University of Nevada Reno talk (Willink, 2017) I was shown that made a huge change to me as a leader. It is a little graphic and intense, but highly constructive.
I believe as leaders we need to show Extreme Ownership or our employees will not support us. I have lapses where I fall to blaming others. I am working on it to be better every day. When we think of leaders who are described as having integrity, I believe it is likely they exert Extreme Ownership.
I found it incredible that these talks were done 30 minutes from where I live. I may have walked by the young man from the first video at a grocery store, been standing next to him at a bar, or passed by him on campus. I have never personally met him. I had never heard of Jocko Willink before I saw his speech but was moved with his tenacity, passion, and of course accountability. I have been in positions like him at work where we can take ownership or blame others. It shows that we have so much knowledge to be shared. We been through some tough times over the last year. I had to work through Covid-19 closures. I did not have the “opportunity” to be at home with free time. As I delve more into Tedx talks, I see that someone could dedicate 20 minutes every morning to watching a talk and learn so much. I bring this up as my blog is intended to help cultivate new thoughts and ideas on leadership and integrity. It is intended to be not only a way to provide information, but receive information. I welcome new sources of information or new ideas.
As I have been doing posts on integrity, I have tried to use Ted Talks as support for my posts. It is what I am familiar with. The reason I do this is I believe it is easy to get lost in all the information on social media these days. If you do a search in YouTube about a subject, you will get some highly qualified videos and some not so quality videos. I usually use “Ted Talk” in my search for a video on an idea. I am finding that videos can be so useful for those looking for raw information. They are a way to be entertained while receiving knowledge. It also can be daunting to find the right video. When we think of decades ago going to a library, we would have books sorted by genre, numerically sorted, and there was a librarian to help us find just the right book. The printed word is starting to fade away. I am not familiar with a video organization system like libraries have(aside from Google). It seems like luck to put the right search words in. If you have a way to sort through the millions of videos, please share with me. If not, perhaps this is a business opportunity for a young entrepreneur.
As leaders, we encounter new problems every day. Our workforce is becoming more diverse. Training is just as important as before. When I think back to my undergrad, we did not have to ability to quickly stream a video. I recently had a presentation for my work where the presenter showed clips of the tv show “Everyone loves Raymond”. The videos did not appeal to me as I saw them as a diversion from the subject matter, but perhaps there was someone that valued these and it recaptured his or her attention. I am seeing that there are so many powerful tools for us to use as leaders. Tedx talks are just one example of how to bring a breath of fresh air to a presentation. I have found that using videos to supplement a presentation has been so powerful. I have spoken with people at my work how working Ted Talks into training can have a huge positive impact. Have you found the same to be true? Is there a new tool that you did not have when younger that today really creates value? Finally, have you been to a Tedx event? If so, what did you think of it? Please share your experiences so we can continue educating others on how to be better leaders. I shared the below out of appreciation for all you leaders working to grow and learn like I am.
Sabini, Joe. Feb 15, 2018. Simplifying Humility And Integrity. Tedx University of Nevada. YouTube
There has been a lot of changes in the ideas about groupthink and herd syndrome over the last decade. This is the idea that someone goes a long with everyone else to fit in. When we were young and in grade school or high school, we may have thought we were supposed to dress a certain way to fit in. There may have been an idea that certain speech or music was “cool” so people may have faked liking it when others were around. There are also some schools that have a lot of structure like dress code, code of conduct, and more than standardizes certain behaviors. I had a dress code for grade school and high school. It had its pros and cons. When we look at college campuses, there usually is a higher level of individuality than in high school. There may be a larger focus on being true to oneself than fitting in. When I got to college, it was almost foreign to wake up and have to be concerned about what to wear. When we get into a work environment, we likely get the same experience as in high school. There may be norms that are tempting to follow. It can be in things like dress, speech, mannerisms, and the like. It also can be in the way we think. In looking back in time, we were supposed to go along with what was expected. If a boss had an idea, it was safer to agree than disagree. If our coworkers behaved a certain way, it was dangerous to go against the current. There is a movement away from this behavior. Originality in thinking is becoming more welcome. We learn now in the education forum that we offer more by thinking outside the box. This allows us to voice our true opinions(while being professional) and understanding that we do not have to all be the same. However, when it comes to attitude and social behavior, those that conform to the norms seem to be accepted more than those that do not. Someone may believe being quirky and “odd” makes them an outsider. Someone may believe that if they are always overly chipper that it will make those around them also chipper. This can have the reverse affect. I propose we want someone to be themselves over putting on an act. I found the below video from (Gelfand, 2018) that discusses “social norms” and why we have them.
I thought the idea of tight and loose cultures was remarkable. I think we can apply the idea of tight and loose cultures in countries to business cultures. I believe in a business setting we are moving more towards loose cultures. We may not be as far on the loose scale as other industries, but I see the shift. When we think of dress for professions like accounting, banking, law, or medicine, the dress used to be very standard. Doctors may have had the standard white coat and a pair of dress trousers. Some doctors are now wearing scrubs just like nurses or PA’s. For business, the standard used to be black or blue suit, white shirt, and a tie. Now we are seeing a wide array of types of suits, shirt/tie combinations, or even businesses moving more towards business casual. There is a loosening of behaviors.
When we talk to someone going on a date, we may be used to saying the line “be yourself” or “keep an open mind”. A sad reality is from a young age we are taught to go against this in group settings. Now, I am not saying we should act without regard for others. People still need to be considerate of others. However, they need to also not be afraid to be real. We can sometimes get a sense from someone that they are “overacting/underacting” or “putting on a fake face”. This means they are reforming how they act to appease others. While it may be believed that this makes others feel better, it can have the reverse affect. It may lead us to not trust them. If they are covering their personality, what else are they hiding. This is a clear violation of integrity. We are not behaving in a way that we believe we should. We behave how we believe others want us to behave. When we think of a party, the center of attention is normally the one who acts spontaneous or without any reservations. In most reality shows, the ones who get a lot of attention are the ones who speak their mind and do not hold back. If we really think about it, why are we drawn to these people over the one who is reserved or quiet?
If someone is being open and true, we do not have to guess what they are thinking. This can be what they think about a situation, us, or even just an idea. We may not agree with them, but at least we have a certain level of trust. This plays into the two values I want to discuss. Openness and honesty are a cornerstone of a relationship. Whether it is a romantic relationship, friendship, business partners, or any other relationship, we want to feel someone is being straight with us. The same holds true for a work environment. There can be a lot of tension when we do not believe someone is being straight with us or is holding back. It is not only with what they are thinking, but also how they think about us or others. This tension can get in the way of people being able to work together or share ideas. This can likewise intrude on open conversations about business matters. We may have had that awkward silence during a meeting when we ask for someone’s opinion and they withhold it. This deals with openness. Likewise, we can sometimes tell when someone is saying something and there is no conviction in what they are saying. This deals with honesty. These two values are critical to have open dialogue. Of course, we may know that person who wants to do all the talking(that is for a later blog). This deals with when we want other people to share and they do not. This can be a result of a culture. It also may be that someone does not have the confidence in his or herself to share. It may be ingrained in them. We also may know that person who is always bubbly and seems to never be in a bad mood. These people are often easy to get a long with. However, there are people that seem to force being positive. These people are not easy to get along with.
As leaders, we need to work with our staff to help them know we welcome their true self. This is a tough challenge. For some we will be battling years of influence. Imagine someone from the United States trying to drive in England for the first time. Using the other side of the road can be daunting. The same holds true for someone who has either continuously held in behaviors or behaved in a way to suit others. Below is a video that highlights some ideas of why non-conformity can be powerful when properly applied.
Now, there are some norms that I argue are being lost and shouldn’t be. For example, manners like “please” and “thank you” are dying away. Holding the door open for a lady or calling an elder “sir” or “mam” are becoming abnormal. Some behaviors like smoking cigarettes that was once a norm is now seen as abnormal. Smoking marijuana used to be heavily frowned upon but now is getting acceptance. The big takeaway I give you is when you feel the urge to behave a certain way just because it is the “norm”, question why. If it will hurt someone else, hurt oneself, having a negative consequence, or something similar, of course thing hard about changing a norm. If it is beneficial to you and others and it is simply confidence or conformity, perhaps consider alternatives. I am not saying break rules, be rude, or have a complete disregard for others. I am not. I am simply proposing to identify moments when you are conforming just for the sake of conformity. Also, I recommend evaluating when people are acting in a way they may not want to and question why. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Social norms are changing. However, the norms of some are not. Keep an open mind on why they do what they do. Perhaps the change is too much for them to bear. Be understanding. Walk next to them as they change. Do not push or pull them to force change.
Gelfand, Michele. November 30, 2018. The Secret Life of Social Norms. Tedx Palo Alto Salon. YouTube