I happen to be in Indiana this week, just outside of Indianapolis, and sure enough last night as expected featured a whole lot of fireworks and celebration, as my American friends celebrated their independence.
Why do we celebrate, and why is it important? We celebrate accomplishment and achievement, and it is important because it allows us to acknowledge something is complete and that we are on the “other side.” Celebration is critical, and too often in business we can tend to focus on what we haven’t done and we don’t always take the time to honor and celebrate our people and give them the time and space they need to celebrate.
Regular celebration should be embedded as part of our corporate rhythms. We need to create time and space to acknowledge and celebrate our team members achievements. Celebration can be tied to various levels of achievement measured against the goals. Specifically, let’s imagine that we start a particular quarterly goal for growth or some other Key Performance Indicator (KPI). The accompanying celebration should match the level of success in achieving that goal. If the celebration is a BBQ, the matching celebration may be hot dogs for lunch, if we achieve 75%. If we achieve 90%, the celebration could be a chicken and rib BBQ, but if we achieve 100%, it’s steak and lobster.
How do you celebrate success with your teams? If we are not careful, we can focus too much on financial reward, which although appreciated, is not the only way to celebrate. People respond well to financial remuneration, but acknowledgement of other types such as group celebration and other kinds of rewards also work well.
Cameron’s Call to Action
- Do you have some concrete plans to celebrate success between now and the end of the year? If not, make sure you are clear first on your measurable goals and performance indicators.
- Be absolutely sure that everyone understands the measurable goals and targets, and that they fully understand their respective roles in achieving them.
- Develop a theme for celebration and how and when you will celebrate according to the level of success in achieving.
- Continually remind people of the targets and how they will be celebrated corporately – then follow through.
Recently I was on site with senior leads from a national not for profit entity, for a multi-day event. Two of the key figures that were there included the Board Chair, and the National Director (executive lead). There is an interesting scenario that unfolded, that went something like this:
Through the course of a range of activities, I happened to be approached by another official who presented me with a situation for which he wanted to be granted an exception to policy. Of course I informed this individual that the decision was not mine to make (I am just a consultant). I informed the official that I would discuss with the National Director to give her a heads up, since I would be speaking with her in just a few minutes. I did just that – mentioned it to the National Director, who said she wanted to defer the decision to the Board Chair.
Naturally, the next step I undertook was to speak with the Board Chair, whom I happened to connect with in person, just about an hour later. He gave me his perspective, which was that there would not be an exception made, based on the information at hand, but that the situation could be monitored and a possible exception considered at a later date. He asked me to do him the favor of going back to the official who originally made the request, to pass on the decision. I did this, informing the official that no exception would be made at this time.
Within the hour I happened to again be in close proximity to the National Director, and so I wanted to undertake to provide her with the decision – and as I approached her, she was just entering a conversation with the official and let him know she would approve the exception – this, after I had informed the official that the response was no. What a scenario this ended up being – here I was, the outside consultant attempting to help bring clarity even though not my decision, and what I found was a major lack of alignment.
This was excellent information and intelligence for me, as I have been coaching and consulting to this entity’s Board Chair and National Director for several months. I now had firsthand experience with a scenario in which they two of them were not aligned when a senior official needed them to be aligned. It made them look uncoordinated and unsure regarding decision making, relative roles and responsibilities and their communication rhythms during a critical decision. The National Director had two hours earlier deferred the decision, and then went ahead and made the decision.
To be clear, we were not talking about something that is going to have a long term negative impact in terms of the actual decision point, but what we are talking about is that an official within now knows that the Board Chair and National Director are not well aligned, and that the Director after deferring the decision was able to be pressed for a decision that did not agree with the Chair’s decision, after she said she would defer to him. At the end of the day, it has nothing to do with the decision itself or whether it was right or wrong, but has everything to do with lack of coordination and alignment.
Cameron’s Call to Action
- Consider your internal alignment with your senior leaders – are you clear regarding relative roles and responsibilities, including decision making? If there is confusion, you need to get clarity amongst yourselves. The only way to be absolutely clear is to be absolutely clear! And write it down so it’s not forgotten.
- Discuss and develop ways to remain connected on key critical decision points where you know service users or senior officials could be approaching more than one of you at a time on an issue, especially if they don’t get the response they want in the first instance. Make a commitment to check in with each other to ensure you are not tripping over each other.
- If and when you do err in your clarity (this happens), leading to confusion for another official, stakeholder or service user, go back and debrief and clarify quickly with that individual who they approach for what and when. Also instruct them on what to do if you and another senior lead whose responsibilities and decision making authorities overlap, and they get two different responses from you.
- Remember, being misaligned not only negatively impacts functioning and efficiency, but makes you look incompetent, and when you lose credibility with your team, you have an uphill climb that was not necessary in the first place.
Yesterday was day one of a five day training course my colleague and I are delivering this week to police and firefighters in a Canadian city. We always have a lot of fun teaching this transformative leadership course to first responders. One of the main topics throughout the week is building mental toughness, which of course first responders need to have especially when faced with combat or other threatening situations. We put a lot of focus on skill building and helping first responders build mental toughness during this week long training.
There is a story that my colleague always tells when we do this training, specifically when we are teaching about how our self-talk relates to our mental toughness and our performance. The story is about a sniper he knew for years, from a Canadian municipal police force. This particular sniper was extremely talented, and as a result of his talent and success, was invited to participate in an international sharp shooter competition. This individual performed very well as expected, and made it to the final round with an opportunity to win the competition.
The sniper’s own account of the story is that in the final round he had three shots – three opportunities to hit the bull’s eye. Naturally at the height of the competition he was nervous, and as he got ready for his first shot he said to himself over and over again, “don’t miss.” Indeed, he missed that first shot. He then collected his thoughts and remembered that the brain does not register the word “don’t” in a moment like that, but rather his brain fully recognized and registered the word “miss.” He quickly realized that rather than his self-talk being in the negative, he needed to shift it to the positive, which of course was, “hit the bull’s eye.” The next two shots were dead on.
It’s an important reminder that how we say things is so critical. In my business life I draw a lot on things I learned from years of parenting. Similar to the story above, what a difference when I would tell my children at a young age, “yes, you can have a cookie from the cookie jar, tomorrow after school,” rather than, “no, you cannot have a cookie before bed tonight.” There is so much power in the reframe and how we choose to say things. Sometimes to get better outcomes for ourselves or better responses from those we are trying to support or influence, we just need to shift our language.
Cameron’s Call to Action
- Ask yourself, “how is my self-talk these days?” Is there an opportunity for you to shift your focus and your internal voice into a more positive frame? Remember, we speak to ourselves at a rate of between 300 and 1000 words per minute. Look for ways to improve your self-talk today.
- Consider where there are colleagues, staff, competitors or buyers that you are currently struggling to influence in the way you are hoping to. What kind of language are you using? Perhaps there is an opportunity to shift. Strategize about a way to change your key message or messages, without actually changing what you want the impact to be. Watch to see how different the response can be when you shift the way you say it.
Later today I will head off on a flight to London, on route to Brussels. My task will be to deliver two presentations on Thursday, including an opening plenary at an international conference.
A little over a month ago, I received notice from the conference organizers that the Queen of Belgium, Queen Mathilde will be attending my opening keynote, and as such there will be a whole bunch of pomp and circumstance and protocols that we will have to honor. Having never presented to a member of a Royal Family, I must admit there is something unique and novel about the experience I will have.
Whenever we are confronted with a situation where we are in the presence of individuals seen in society as being powerful, rich, famous or important, it conjures up a range of responses. I would be lying to say that there isn’t an added sense of pressure and desire to “do well” when speaking with Queen Mathilde sitting in the front row with her entourage. So, am I “fit for a queen?” Are you fit for a queen? How do you respond and react in the presence of importance or power?
I recall as a child always thinking it was bizarre, the way in which people would idolize rock stars or other celebrities. I have met some important people in my life, and have enjoyed telling about it. However, I have simply never been one to gawk in awe at someone of apparent stature based on wealth, fame or position.
In the world of business, there are lots of strata’s and hierarchy’s that we find ourselves interacting with. How do you treat others in positions of power or perceived power? I learned a long time ago, that we must all treat each other as equals. In the world of business, I look at every client as an equal, regardless of how important they are in the social network of society. This applies to the way I work with the President of a massive international corporation and the way I work with the new up and coming entrepreneur who is initially just trying to survive. Certainly I may pay additional attention to the key decision maker in a business transaction, and I would also defer to others who have greater knowledge and experience on issues. However, I approach every situation considering myself to be equal to all others, and all others equal to me.
There is a tremendous amount of freedom, confidence and power that comes with taking the stance of being equal, even to the individual you are negotiating with or presenting to. So, am I fit for a queen? Yes, in fact I am, and I expect she will be enriched, challenged and better off having heard my presentation later this week, as if she chooses to, she will learn something from my knowledge, experience and expertise.
After all, she doesn’t have to be there. I have been asked to speak about how to successfully scale up large initiatives on a national level. I was asked to do this because I have had success doing this in the Canadian context. Are you fit for a queen? Well that all depends on how you choose to look at it and the mindset you choose to take in your business and leadership endeavors.
Cameron’s Call to Action
- If you struggle to see yourself as an equal with others in the business world and therefore become intimidated, own this and make a conscious decision to change your perception. It is just a perception, and it’s one that could be getting in the way of your effectiveness.
- Identify at least two or three relationships that could benefit from you walking in equality, rather than taking the “one down” all the time. Then, step it up and start leading, negotiating and acting like an equal, because you are.
- Identify at least two or three relationships where you have tended to see yourself as greater as a way to make yourself more powerful. Take steps to speak to these individuals in a way that shows that you believe they are equal and not lesser than you. Watch how transformative it can be to treat others in this way.
I start this week with a sincere thank you to John Adams the Daddy Blogger, who appeared as our guest blogger for last Tuesday’s Focal Point.
Last week I received news that a friend, colleague and mentor of mine named Paula, had died of cancer. She is a woman who fought a battle with cancer for the last three years, almost to the date. It was a difficult journey, but every time I saw her I was reminded about how much she has meant to me in my life and career.
This loss has caused me to ponder the importance of having significant people and mentors. Paula was a colleague, as we co-led a $110M national multi-site project across Canada, from 2009 through 2013. We faced a lot of challenges together and the highly successful project is now being replicated in many places across Canada and around the world.
In addition to being a colleague, Paula was a mentor. She was many years my senior, and although technically she was accountable to me for her deliverables, I considered her a person who could run circles around me. I have learned many times over that one way to ensure success is to surround myself with people who are far smarter and can do things far better than I can. This was indeed the case with Paula. In that way, she was a mentor. I watched her carefully, and when I was faced with the most difficult of challenges and issues, she was always there to assist. There may only be 2 or 3 others from my entire career that I could consider to be mentors in the same category as Paula was.
We all need mentors, and the loss of Paula has caused me to realize that at the moment I am short on mentors. This means I need to get intentional again. I have a coach (or two), but neither of them happen to also be mentors at the moment, notwithstanding that a coach can also be a mentor.
Learning takes place in a lot of forms, but I truly believe that one absolutely critical part of learning requires having access to mentors to assist us in our growth and development. Paula, you were a critical part of my learning and development both personally and professionally, and I will miss you greatly.
Cameron’s Call to Action
- Have you got at least one active mentor right now? If not, where can you benefit from development? From that, become intentional about seeking out a mentor that you can establish and formalize a relationship with.
- Who have your mentors been? Make a list of who your top three mentors have been and what you have learned most from them. Then, make a personal connection with them to thank them and to remind them about the significant contributions they have made towards your success.
- Are you mentoring? A cup can only get filled up if you pour something out from it from time to time. You need to be mentoring. Mentoring is not the same as supervising, but rather is modeling and walking with someone through various issues and challenges. Be sure to make yourself available, and be intentional about investing in someone through mentoring. You will be better for it.