Be The Change


Many people wish things were different. It’s easy to point fingers at policies, practices or people that we feel need some improvement. Most people like to use the words “Me” or “I” when there’s something good to take credit for, but how often do you hear someone use those same words when it’s time to take responsibility for something that needs to be corrected? Seriously, next time you’re in a meeting (we all sit through plenty of them), listen closely to the speaker. Take mental note of how often the person that’s speaking takes personal responsibility for any of the weaknesses of the organization. Keep a second scorecard for how many times this person shares the credit for any successes in the organization. I promise you that both scorecards will be near zero. 

“He suggested I try and model the behavior…”

I remember vividly a time while I was in college that I was fed up with the general sloppiness of my college roommates. I went on a short rant about it to an older, wiser friend of mine. Over the course of our conversation he asked me if I exhibited the same behaviors that I had observed and was perturbed by. Honestly, I hadn’t thought about it… He suggested I try and model the behavior I wished to see before addressing anything through conversation and see if it made an impact. Within a couple weeks, our household was very different and no difficult conversations needed to take place. There is power in change. True change for the better does one of two things: It either inspires people around us to also change, or it makes clear those that are unwilling to change and further action can be determined at that point in time. 

“It’s quite within the realm of possibility for YOU to be the catalyst of change”

How does this apply to business? Change starts with individuals. Transformation of a culture within a business does require the change to come from the uppermost ranking managers. However, perhaps there’s a culture of general inconsideration in your office, or a competitive environment that is unhealthy (some friendly competition is quite healthy in the workplace). It’s quite within the realm of possibility for YOU to be the catalyst of change. Pointing the finger, or placing blame tends to be the easier (albeit ineffective) way to address issues in the workplace. The less common (yet more effective) way to spur change is to start with you. I have now served in many leadership capacities – as office manager, project manager, plant manager, business manager and now General Manager. In my role, I have the option to mandate rules, policies, etc. (and don’t get me wrong, policies & procedures are healthy and necessary in the proper context). However,  I have found that the most effective way to change a culture is to model the behavior I wish to see. – JT3

GIVE CREDIT, TAKE RESPONSIBILITY


Leaders talk in terms of “we”, not “I” – unless it is to take full responsibility for a mistake or failure. There have been far too many managers that have chosen to take credit for work done by great people that worked for them. Note the difference in context for leader vs. manager – they are very different.

I witnessed a true leader in action today. The CEO of a company I know well was in the midst of correcting a problem made by others within his ranks. A government agency called the company to the table to discuss some fairly egregious offenses. The CEO could have sent some of his most competent and capable people, but he didn’t… He appeared himself and apologized – sincerely. He then told his employees that accompanied him that the problem originated with him (even though people that had worked for him committed the offense without his knowledge) because there was a culture created that he had chosen not to deal with sooner because the business had otherwise been successful. He took full responsility and he fully accepted the consequences… Like a leader should.

In stark contrast, I had an experience with a company I worked for that never set well with me. I spent a little over a full year recruiting talent to assist in landing a very large contract. Once the talented team was assembled, we spent another year building the business around the contract that we landed together – it was a “David & Goliath” story. It was a contract formerly held by a multi-billion dollar company, now held by a multi-million dollar company. This team did some of the most amazing work that I’ve ever witnessed. This particular project was so impressive that it increased the company’s total revenue by 40% in one year by landing a contract that was supposedly “unattainable”.  There was massive amounts of press coverage and publicized “ribbon cutting” events. This was the type of victory for a relatively small company that could have propelled them for years, maybe decades. Unfortunately, the top tiers of management at this company never rewarded the team that accomplished such a feat. They never even recognized the team – formally or informally. None of the press coverage ever mentioned the team, but the acting CEO took all the credit. Shortly thereafter, a new CEO re-publicized the event and also took the credit. The behavior by management was one of the primary reasons I departed from this company after almost a decade and a half of employment. I was most concerned about the way the people on the team I worked with were treated – the victories were not shared with them, but any of the challenges along the way were dealt with harshly. Not indicative of true leadership.

So what does giving credit and taking responsibility have to do with integrity? Integrity is honesty. When leader’s look to place instead of accept blame, they are not being honest – perhaps because they are blind to the truth. Leaders are always responsible. When leaders take instead of share credit – again, not honest. Without good people, there is no one to lead, therefore no victories to take credit for. Give credit, take responsibility – you and your people will be better for it. – JT3

Integrity in Business

I was once managed by someone I truly respected. To this very day, I respect and appreciate the role this person played in my life. He was a friend, a mentor and a role model to whom I probably owe my career to at least some degree. In addition to being one of the most capable manufacturing operations leaders I have ever come across,  he was a high school basketball coach and he knew how to mold and shape people’s character. He helped develop you as a person, not just as a professional. Our relationship was reciprocal in the sense that I was his right-hand man and he trusted me implicitly. If he wasn’t around, he left me in charge and knew things would operate as they should.

“You’ll never be a good manager….. Because you won’t lie.”

I remember many conversations we had over the years, most of which I took to heart. I applied the concepts and they made me a better leader, and in many cases, a better person. However, there was one conversation we had that has always stood out to me. I was in his office for one of our frequent “coaching” sessions in which he was the coach, and I the recipient. He stated to me “Grasshopper…” (Yes, he actually called me this – and it was in fondness). “you’ll never be a good manager….. Because you won’t lie”. He proceeded to tell me that white lies, omissions and other more palatable ways of describing deceit were not only necessary, but acceptable. On this subject, I inherently disagreed. My definition of honesty does not allow for bold lies, big lies, small lies, white lies, lies by omission or any other type of lie that falls within today’s “grey area” between honesty and deceit. In this particular instance, we agreed to disagree and I simply left it at “I guess we’ll have to see”. This moment didn’t lead to an extended period of discord, or even a heated argument… It actually helped me. This was a pivotal moment in my development as a future manager and leader as it provided a moment of clarity. It helped me realize that no matter how much I respected or appreciated someone as a leader or a mentor, I still had to establish and hold to values that would both allow me to succeed and keep a clear conscience.

“A firm adherence to a code…”

There are three definitions on the merriam-webster.com website for the word “Integrity” of which I will quote the first and third. The first is “a firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values” and the third is “the quality or state of being complete or undivided”. To me, Integrity is who you are. My very best friend in the world (a friend so close my son’s middle name was chosen because of him) is a man whom I believe has the most incorruptible character of any man I’ve personally met. He once stated to me “who you are at home is who you really are”. I will state that my character is shaped by my faith, but I will also state that you do not need to have a certain faith to have strong character. I have chosen to build my career around an undivided and sound adherence to being completely honest. I will not say I have never or will never make a mistake, but there will always be a sincere effort to be transparent and honest.

“…INTEGRITY IS WHO YOU ARE…”

I’ve now served in a management or leadership capacity in both business and personal life for well over a decade. I’ve managed, closed and built various manufacturing plants and have been a leader and mentor to dozens, maybe hundreds of men and women. I start every new team with this message: “I have one rule. It’s Integrity. Never lie to me, never hide anything from me and we have trust. I will do the same for you. As long as we have trust, we can successfully work with one another”. I am upfront about the fact that there will occasionally be questions I am asked that I am not able to answer due to confidentiality, political reasons, etc. but that I will state honestly in that moment that I cannot answer the question. I can specifically recall two times in the last 15 years of my career in which I felt I was dishonest with someone. Both times I went back to each respective person and made things right. The gentleman I spoke of earlier is still a good friend of mine, but in regards to my inability to lie and that it would adversely affect my effectiveness as a manager? He was wrong. I’ve been successful in life and I’m proud of my career but MOST IMPORTANTLY, I have a clear conscience thanks to Integrity. – JT3