<br><h3> Chapter One </h3> <b>LESSON 1</b> <p> "Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing." <b>—Abraham Lincoln <p> <p> IT ALL STARTS WITH CHARACTER</b> <p> <i>What you do when you think no one is watching may be the best definition of character. Character defines who you are and forms the basis for your leadership. Without it, leadership is impossible; with it, leadership can flourish.</i> <p> <p> Character is ingrained within us. It is taught to us by our parents, teachers, and coaches; we learn from them. Leaders demonstrate character by insisting on values, abiding by principles, and upholding both in their daily lives. Employees look to managers not only for guidance, but for example. Insisting on good character means everyone must model that behavior. Sure, it's easy to say, but it can be hard to implement in the real world. Good character may get you hired, but it is what you do with your character that matters. <p> So much of what we admire about our leaders comes down to their character. It is not their degree of affability that matters, as does the degree of respect. People of character command respect because they have earned it. One of the salient features of Level 5 leaders, as depicted in Jim Collins's book, <i>Good to Great</i>, is their ability to put the organization first. Employees like that; it means that someone is thinking about the big picture as well as their role in it. Every organization is peopled with men and women who put others first. It is a matter of identifying them and putting them in positions where they can succeed, and in the process help others to succeed. That action breeds organizational character. <p> <p> <b>Character Counts</b> <p> Insisting on good character means everyone must model that behavior. Good character may get you hired, but it is what you do with your character that matters. Employees caught up in scandals at corrupt companies may have been wholly innocent but many paid for the crimes of their superiors either through layoffs, loss of pension, or loss of personal reputation. If a manager cuts corners, for example, fudging an expense report, employees will take note. Pretty soon, a climate of "everyone does it" creeps in, and the organization loses not only integrity, but credibility inside and outside. <p> <i>Define responsibility.</i> Never assume that people know what their responsibilities are; tell them and then ask them to define such responsibilities in their own words. Responsibility for achieving objectives may be clear, but managers need to check whether employees know the code of conduct that defines civility and rights in the workplace but also they need to insist on behaviors conducive to good order. That means, managers can ask for, and insist upon, courtesy, cooperation, and collaboration as part of the job. Never accept the bad attitude, and never call it that term. When a person is out of line, define the behavior, such as acting surly, being uncooperative, or failing to work with others. Those are not attitudes—they are defined behaviors for which a person is responsible. <p> <i>Hold the right people accountable.</i> When people do something well, we like to reward them—at least good companies do. But when people slip up, accountability sometimes defers to the low person on the totem pole. For example, at Abu Ghraib prison camp, it was the noncommissioned officers and enlisted personnel who were punished first. Senior officers with line authority for the prison system, with the exception of Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, were not initially held accountable. That sets a bad precedent, not only with our troops but for other nations looking at our military judicial system. It threatens to undermine the exceptional work the Army has done in investigating wrongdoing and owning up to the problem. (It must be noted that a few more senior officers were later charged with either tolerating the culture of abuse or covering it up.) <p> <i>Insist on actions, not words.</i> Every organization professes to be ethical; even organized crime has some rules. But, as the adage goes, it is not what you say that matters, it is what you do. Take, for instance, the superstar performer who always makes the numbers and scores the big wins. If that person behaves as a jerk toward others, all too often managers will turn a blind eye. After all, they say, let's cut him some slack. What the superstar gets away with would never be tolerated by lesser performers. Eventually, the superstar's gains become short-lived because the workplace becomes so fouled by his negligent behaviors that good people find a way out, leaving only marginal players behind. Pretty soon the whole department stinks, and eventually sinks. There may be justice in that demise, but at what cost? Good people leave, performance plummets, and the organization suffers losses in reputation, revenue, and investor confidence. It would be better to pull the flagrant superstar aside with a warning to correct negative behavior supported by behavioral coaching or else face termination. When employees see superstars let go because they are abusive, it sends a strong signal that the company values ethics over dollars and cents. <p> <i>Put people in tough situations.</i> If you want people to grow and develop, you give them tough assignments. An extreme example is the U.S. Navy Seals. Their training is physically and mentally exhausting; candidates who want to qualify are pushed to the breaking point. It is certainly not for everyone, but if you want to develop a cadre of troops who can jump out helicopters at night in hostile territory to chase bad guys, you want people who are steeled to adversity. From a management perspective, grooming people for leadership means giving them opportunities to develop their skills, not in classrooms, but in real work situations. Then watch what they do and how they do. In addition to looking for results, examine how they worked with their team. Did they work with people or in spite of them? You want leaders who can bring people together for common cause. That, again, is character. <p> <i>Reward good actions.</i> One of the best places to see where good deeds are rewarded is on high school or collegiate sports teams. Look at who the players have elected as their captains. The players are not always the most talented athletes, but they are the most outward-directed. They are the ones who lead by example. Specifically, you will find them first to practice, last to leave. What they are doing at practice is essential to team unity. Often, they are tutoring fellow players in the art of the game, or more often, in the art of getting along with a coach, a teacher, or a fellow player. They are team leaders respected by their teammates. Managers may find such employees on their own teams. When they do, they are wise to put them in positions where their example can influence others. Better yet, good managers promote such people into positions of higher responsibility so their positive actions can have even greater impact. <p> <i>Send the scoundrels packing.</i> People who make managerial mistakes need education and coaching; folks who knowingly make ethical breeches should be sent packing right away. That sends a clear message that such behavior is never tolerated. If you let it slide—or at least, do not exact consequences in the form of demanding amends, bad things will continue to happen until something really bad occurs. <p> <p> <b>Why Character Matters</b> <p> Character is a virtue, however, and if it does not show up on the bottom line, it nonetheless provides the basis for sustainability. If you manage for the short term, how you treat employees or corporate assets is less important. But if you operate for the long term, the caliber of the people you recruit, retain, and reward says much about the character of your organization. These are the men and women who will make the decisions that will develop products and services that offer value to customers who want to buy and shareholders who want to own. Character then does matter. Revealing it is essential to your future. <p> <p> <b>LESSON 2</b> <p> "An army of asses led by a lion is vastly superior to an army of lions led by an ass." <p> <b>—GEORGE WASHINGTON <p> KNOWING WHAT YOU KNOW (AND DON'T KNOW)</b> <p> <p> <i>Let's face it, if you ain't got no brains, you ain't gonna be able to lead anyone anywhere. Pure and simple. Good leaders are those wise enough to know their range and their limits.</i> <p> <p> A friend of mine called me the other day with a story about some advice he had given a client, which the client had declined to follow. My friend was wondering two things: (1) Had he given the right advice? (2) What could he do with this experience? The good news is that there were no damages. The client was happy in his decision to forgo my pal's advice, and the client's company still has faith in my friend. Personally, I feel my friend's advice was most sound; it was in keeping with standard practice, as well as consistent with the company's culture. The executive was being inconsistent. But so what else is new? What is refreshing is my friend's willingness to reflect on the situation and seek ways to learn from it. Such reflection is all too rare in our corporate culture, so when you find examples of it, there is cause for good cheer. <p> <p> <b>What Have You Learned?</b> <p> Inventors are natural self-learners. Their livelihood depends on finding possibilities where others have either hit a roadblock, or, more likely, never looked. By probing and questioning, or taking apart, they hit on solutions. They may make a sketch, or a prototype. But good inventors do not stop there. They keep at it. It is amusing to look at first drawings of famous inventions from the fax machine to the telegraph, the photocopier to the computer; few of them are recognizable in finished production. Although improvements come from others, it is the inventor himself who keeps pushing, and in the process learning new possibilities for this product, as well as others. <p> A client of mine once told me that he had a boss who said a job was never finished until you had determined what you had learned. There is a tendency to dig into projects gone bad, but conduct too little examination of things gone right. In both examples, rarely did all go wrong or right. There are lessons to be learned from each situation. This is not navel gazing, it's a form of self-learning. Managers can encourage self-learning in a number of ways. <p> <i>Set the standard.</i> Management is about setting expectations and following through on them. If you want to encourage a process of self-learning, practice it at staff meetings. The focus of study is not an individual, but the team. Set aside time on a regular basis, perhaps once a month, to talk about what the team has accomplished, what it has done well, and what it could do better. Focus strictly on collective behavior, not individuals. Then close with suggestions for how to do it better the next time. <p> <i>Perk up your ears.</i> Listen to the hallway. When a team is clicking, there is a buzz of energy in the air. You can hear it in the way people speak; their talk is upbeat. You can discern it in their mannerisms; they exude confidence. When things are going poorly, exactly the opposite applies. People are bad-mouthing themselves as well as others. Managers have to be attuned to these signs and act when necessary. When things are going swimmingly, you just want to make sure they keep on keepin' on, as the old song goes. When things are floundering, you want to throw out the life vests and pull people to shore and find out what you can do to help them. By listening, you take the first steps toward learning what is happening. <p> <i>Watch for blind spots.</i> Just as drivers cannot see around obstacles, neither can managers. We are blind sometimes to our own strengths as well as our weaknesses. Three-sixty degree evaluations, where peers, bosses, and subordinates are asked to evaluate performance, illuminate blind spots. What the manager does with the information gleaned from the evaluation is critical. To ignore it is to be bull-headed and blind. To act on it is a sign that you want to learn to cast a light on the shadows. Word to the wise: Choose one behavior at a time to improve; such focus increases the odds of success. <p> <p> <b>Learning from Everyone</b> <p> Self-learning by its very nature is focused on the individual. That's as good as it goes, but the self-discovery process must be open to the suggestions of others. For example, if you are a sales director for a toy company and a product launch stumbles at the gate, you would be wise to get up from behind your desk and start asking questions immediately. Was there advertising? Did our marketing focus on the right target? Do we have enough toys on the shelf to meet demand, or stimulate demand? If the sales director spends time looking at his computer instead of getting out into the field as well as lobbying headquarters, then the launch will die. There will be plenty to learn, of course, starting with the assumption that the sales director did not do enough. <p> Self-learning is a form of reflection. As such, it is a powerful tool that provokes perspective on two fronts. First, self-learning forces you to ask questions about your team, your boss, and your organization. Second, self-learning, as the phrase implies, challenges assumptions of yourself. None of us are as good as we think we are, nor are we as deficient as situations may dictate. But the willingness to look candidly into the guts of your performance takes real courage. In an age when competitive pressures are not only outside the organization, but often stronger within it, any sign of weakness may appear like blood in the water to a shark. However, self-learning is not about bloodletting. It's about examining yourself and your actions with a commitment to do better the next time. Those who reflect have a better chance of learning than those who never stop to gaze in the proverbial mirror unless it's to admire their own reflection. <p> <p> <b>Taking a Hard Look at Yourself</b> <p> There is growing evidence that the challenges of the past decade, toughened economic conditions, the crisis in corporate governance, the threat of global terrorism, and the rapid pace of virtually every product cycle mean that so many global companies, as well as many smaller ones, are conducting some deep soul searching as to whether they have what it takes to succeed. There is real fear in the boardrooms, as well as on the shop floor. Executive fear revolves around whether they have the people in place to take the company forward. Are these people educated and trained, but also savvy and creative enough to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century? Fear on the shop floor (as well as in the cubicle) is more personal—am I qualified to hold my job, or will I even have a job? <p> These fears are not unique to our generation. They have been with business forever. What may be different now is the scope of competition (global), as well as the pace of change (instantaneous). At the same time you don't stand still, you push hard for change so that you can change partners down the line. There is virtue in realism and here are some ways to nurture it. <p> <i>(Continues...)</i> <p> <p> <!-- copyright notice --> <br></pre> <blockquote><hr noshade size='1'><font size='-2'> Excerpted from <b>Lead by Example</b> by <b>John Baldoni</b> Copyright © 2009 by John Baldoni. Excerpted by permission of AMACOM. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.<br>Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.