Archive for the ‘ Accountability ’ Category
As I stepped up to the podium to give my Keynote at a recent leadership conference, I begin to second guess my whole topic of conversation. My topic, How Millennials may be the Catalyst for Change, was a very provocative approach to letting the majority of the audience know that Sam Cooke said it best when he said “Change is gonna come”. Millennials have a different take on work and truthfully, they have a big crush on work life balance. They talk about it, they breathe it, they live it, and they just want it really bad. Truthfully, they are just too big to ignore anymore. By 2025, Millennials will make up 75% of the global workforce and as of first quarter this year, make up the largest segment of general workers.
Newly minted Millennials leaders are also in a really precarious situation — they have to be more flexible, agile, and willing to adjust to change than ever before. They have to lead their peers, lead older generations and even deal with this current climate of pushing for more work life balance. Currently, there is a dichotomy in researching human interactions: the research on the workplace is studied separately from an individual’s personal life or home life. As a result, research has yet to focus on the individual as a whole but often view him/her separately as if he/she is somehow neatly segmented into two different worlds. What Millennials are calling for is a fusion of the two. Life isn’t arbitrarily and artificially segmented, so they believe their work life and personal life shouldn’t be either. When asked in a recent focus group, 90% of Ken Blanchard Millennial employees desired a working life that was more in tune with the realities of life. Recently, General Electric (GE) announced it will forego PTO and vacation hours and make the vacations unlimited to the majority of its employees. Roughly, 2% of all employers have this option but GE is the largest. This number will continue to grow exponentially in the coming years, as the shift is currently being made to a flexible workplace.
And that’s not even the scary part. The scary part is that, currently, 51% of Millennials are in formal leadership positions and the majority hasn’t received the proper training to become a leader. Organizations are setting up their new up-and-coming millennial leaders for failure! I spoke with a friend of mine in San Diego who mentioned that her VP of Sales left the company and they were replacing him with the top sales rep in the company. When the change was announced, they threw a huge party on Friday and everyone congratulated him for the promotion. On Monday, he submitted his resignation. He realized over the weekend that he didn’t want to do it. In fact, he said he couldn’t do it. He wasn’t trained to become a leader, didn’t know the skill set needed to transition from a high performing individual contributor to now a leader of his peers, and frankly had no desire to do it. He said, “I’m good at selling, that’s what I do; that’s my strength. Why would you think just because I’m good at selling I can become a high performing leader?” It makes no sense, and employers do it all the time. If you want to keep your young, millennial talent you need to set them up for success by equipping and training them for their next role.
So, I’ve begun to really analyze this question around aspiring leaders to determine the best way to capture how Millennials are transitioning into become leaders in their organization. How do they feel? Do they feel equipped? Are they excited or nervous? If you’d like to contribute to this area of research, you may take this short survey linked here. I will share my findings in a follow up post after the data is analyzed.
A few months back, I asked a group of leaders for a show of hands on who had experienced either oversupervision or undersupervision. Almost every hand went up. But then I asked how many had themselves oversupervised or undersupervised their direct reports. Only one or two hands shyly peeked out from the crowd.
So what’s going on? Well, leaders can sometimes be unaware of what they should and should not be doing. And this lack of awareness separates good leaders from great leaders. Great leaders know that leading is a never-ending journey that can be filled with treacherous obstacles.
So what do you need to know to become a great leader?
“Real courage is when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.”
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
Courage is a well-admired human trait; but when asked what courage is, what do you think of?
Is it a soldier, fighting a battle far from home against a fierce, unknown enemy?
What about a fire-fighting hero running in to save someone from a burning building?
Perhaps your imagination stretches to a fictional hero, rushing in to save the day?
All of these are an example of physical courage – someone’s life is in imminent danger, and our courageous hero puts everything right again.
But forget about your cape-wearing, pants-on the-outside, lycra-clad hero. What about normal, average people? The British have a wonderful phrase for this: “The man on the Clapham Omnibus” – people going about their everyday business.
This could encompass individuals who blow the whistle on corporate corruption, at risk of losing their job; or – an example from one of my favourite books (Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mockingbird”); a Lawyer, who stands up to defend someone who is innocent, even though society condemns them for doing so. Could these people be described as ‘courageous’?
In a word: yes!
The courage demonstrated by holding on to one’s own values – regardless of whether this is on the battlefield, or in the boardroom – is Moral Courage.
Lisa Dungate defines Moral Courage perfectly in her blog on Lions Whiskers, where she explains that: “Moral courage means doing the right thing, even at the risk of inconvenience, ridicule, punishment, loss of job or security or social status”.
Novelist, J.K. Rowling’s Harvard Commencement Speech for the Class of 2008 provides some moving examples. The video of her speech, from TED.com, is 21 minutes long; but at 12 minutes she gives an emotional recollection of her time working at Amnesty International, with people who risked their own lives to speak out about the persecution, abuse, and torture taking place in their home lands.
Everyday moral courage often isn’t this extreme, but that does not mean that it is any easier to practice: moral courage might mean being different or disagreeing publicly.
As difficult as it is – displaying moral courage can earn respect, trust, and admiralty; and by practicing moral courage very day it gradually will become easier.
Let’s take moral courage away from the corporate setting, for a moment; and consider practicing in every day situations:
You don’t need to be being rude; or enforcing your own opinions on others, to demonstrate moral courage.
But, as professionals, how can we use these skills to make values-driven decisions consistently?
The Ivey Business Journal gives examples of moral courage in leadership: In August 2008, when Michael McCain, CEO of Maple Leaf Foods, stood in front of the press to accept responsibility for the contaminated meat scandal that resulted in numerous deaths, he undoubtedly needed courage. Southwest Airlines CEO, James Parker, would have needed courage when he went against the industry job-slashing trend following 9/11 when he courageously announced that he would keep all employees
Why is moral courage important in leadership?
Moral courage is crucial in developing authenticity – it empowers individuals to discover and demonstrate what they stand for – even if this is at the disapproval of others. By developing self leadership through action in moral dilemmas, professionals and leaders can ensure both integrity and impact.
Actions speak louder than words. Leaders at all levels need to act out their expectations, behave honestly and openly, and demonstrate loyalty. They need to establish and maintain open communications, so that those working with them know that their suggestions will be listened to – that they have a voice. People need to know that their leader isn’t going to act on a whim, just because it’s the majority decision. All of these qualities are facilitated by a leader who has courage.
Leaders with moral courage can be trusted by colleagues to do the right thing. It takes courage to tell the boss something that they do not necessarily want to hear; or to redirect an employee; or to make unpopular decisions.
An awareness of the importance of doing the right thing – which is not necessarily the popular thing – can help leaders demonstrate moral courage when they face ethical challenges in the workplace, and uphold ethical working environments and business standards.