FranklinCovey Consultant Blogs | Todd Wangsgard | Stephen R Covey
This is the second installment t of a three-part series on trust by Dr. Todd Wangsgard, featured in the Texas/Oklahoma FranklinCovey blog.
Actions speak louder than words.
Years ago Dr. Stephen R. Covey, author of The7 Habits of Highly Effective People, (and father to Speed of Trust author Stephen M.R. Covey) found himself teaching a workshop in Oregon where a participant related to him during a break some of the challenges he was facing due to his past indiscretions. Dr. Covey was careful to bring out the principle that:
You can’t talk your way out of a problem you’ve behaved your way into.
Years later in his research, SMRC noted that while it is true you can’t talk your way out of a problem you’ve behaved your way into, it is true that:
You can behave your way out of a problem you’ve behaved your way into.
Once the leader establishes and continues to build personal credibility through the Four Cores (see my Part 1 blog posting, Leadership and Trust – Keyword: “Confidence”), it is critical to examine and practice the behaviors that will allow him or her to build trust in relationships with individuals – personally and professionally.
Let’s look at the headlines.
Without divulging specifics on these stories, let’s uncover what business headlines from the past few days suggest to us about the importance of trusting behaviors:
- Fast food CEO has big plans to flip its ranking
- Auto manufacturer changes body style to appeal to customers
- Board of private company opens the books to dispel rumors
- Company makes good on broken promises
Each of these speaks to the behaviors that are being demonstrated in order to build or rebuild trust. Those include at least five from SMRC’s 13 High Trust Behaviors list, such as Listen First, Get Better, Create Transparency, Confront Reality, and Right Wrongs.
Simply put, trustworthy leaders lead out when it comes to behaving in ways that builds confidence and they inspire others within their ranks to do likewise. And just because you may have slipped and lost the trust of someone significant, it is often easier than you thought to rebuild that trust by quickly identifying the key behaviors that were/are missing and behaving your way back into the other person’s good graces.
In FrankilinCovey’s Leadership: Great Leaders, Great Teams, Great Results curriculum, Dr. Stephen R. Covey describes the new Mind-Set, Skill-Set and Tool-Set that are required to lead into the 21st Century. In an opening video he uses as an example of the 4-minute mile mental barrier that Roger Bannister broke in 1954, leading to a quick succession of others who ran even faster. He describes the added height that high-jumpers attained by adopting the “Fosbury Flop” method, over the more traditional scissor kick. He reminds us of the quantum leap in height achieved by pole vaulters when fiberglass material was introduced, replacing bamboo or aluminum poles.
This morning, I experienced a personal Tool-Set shift that has me convinced.
I should back up a little and remind readers of the Mind-Set and Skill-Set shift I experienced about a year and a half ago when I decided that drafting behind other cyclists definitely makes a difference in the speeds and distances an individual can achieve. (See post “Diary of a Draft Dodger.”) Lately I’ve been training quite intensely for my first Ironman triathlon. It seems anymore my life is defined by what happens on May 7th – a day that could be my last. (Surely, I jest, but some days it feels that daunting.)
I’ve never competed with a wet suit during the swim event of triathlon. I haven’t worn one for two main reasons: I didn’t have one and didn’t want to plunk down the cash, and the water in my first two triathlons wasn’t unbearably cold. However, in mid-Spring at Sand Hollow Reservoir in St. George, Utah, the water is expected to be a chilly 56 degrees. I bought a wet suit.
This morning was my first test swim in my new Quintana Roo full body swim skin. Normally, I swim a straight mile two times a week. I had planned to swim a mile today, but wasn’t sure what impact trying on the new suit would have. It is tight, so I figured there may be some fatigue associated with the tension – sorta like having a big rubber band stretched around your body that potentially limits motion.
My typical mile time is not fast – usually right around 31 minutes. Yeah, not terribly fast. This morning, as soon as I entered my second lap, I could tell something was different. Either I was telling myself I was going faster, and it was all in my head, or I was literally gliding through the water at a pace quicker than normal. I couldn’t help but notice how buoyant the suit made me. Oh sure, others had told me of the benefits (just like I had been told how great drafting was), but I was skeptical.
Bottom line: by the time I finished my 35 ¼ laps, I finished FIVE MINUTES FASTER THAN MY AVERAGE!!! I couldn’t believe it. That’s a 16% improvement in speed! Sure, I thought I may have miscounted the laps, but I hadn’t. It’s easy to miscount if you’re daydreaming, but this morning I was being particularly carefully to mentally register each lap to 35.
Needless to say, my confidence in May 7th got a pleasant boost. I’m actually excited to make the plunge into the frigid open water of Sand Hollow. And, yes, I openly acknowledge the very real benefits that come from the Tool-Set shift of using a wet suit.
What tools are you denying yourself, because what you’ve done has always “worked?” Where are you possibly settling for mediocrity in your performance, but don’t even know it? Where could you desperately use a 16%+ increase in efficiency, productivity, or performance?
Upon leaving my client earlier this afternoon, I found myself in the middle of a long 2-hour drive back to the Baltimore airport, growing hungrier by the minute since I had not yet eaten lunch. I randomly pulled off an exit in the middle of Maryland that displayed a Chik-fil-A sign – one of my favorite fast food outlets. The road to the restaurant wound around for a couple of miles before I came upon my destination. I decided to go in and stretch my legs, visit the restroom, and order at the counter. The cashier no sooner gave me my order when it occurred to me; I had no idea where I was.
I sheepishly told the woman helping me that I had a rather unusual question. Then I asked her, “Where exactly am I?”
“Hagerstown, Maryland!” she promptly replied.
There I was, making good time on my trek to the terminal. The rainy, foggy weather wasn’t creating any insurmountable travel issues. In checking my iPhone along the way, my flight appeared to be on time. And now I had lunch. Everything was good, right? Everything, except the fact that I didn’t know where I was.
Dr. Stephen R. Covey once commented on what a shame it is in life for one to be climbing the ladder of success, quickly arriving at the top, only to discover the proverbial ladder is leaning against the wrong wall. My situation was a little different, however. I knew where I was headed. I knew that my overall path would get me there. However, I took a brief detour to satisfy a need, and in the process got “lost.”
Here’s what I learned from this experience:
- It’s okay to make a wrong turn every once in a while, as long as you aren’t too proud to ask for directions. Feedback is your lifeline; do everything you can to create feedback systems at all levels in your organization.
- Everyone’s path to success will be slightly – if not dramatically – different. All roads lead to BWI. Be deliberate about drafting and living by YOUR mission.
- Constantly evaluating your progress will ensure you learn from your mistakes and allow you to more quickly realign your efforts with your mission. Be relentless about your weekly and daily planning routine.
Arguably the best take-away from this experience is knowing, I’ve got a friend in Hagerstown! Perhaps deliberately getting lost should be part of every journey…
Dr. Covey has done it again.
In their most recent FranklinCovey publication Great Work Great Career, Dr. Stephen R. Covey and Chief Learning Officer Jennifer Colosimo combine to offer relevant and timely thinking on “creating one’s ultimate job and making an extraordinary contribution,” as suggested by the book’s subtitle.
The authors encourage the reader to define what a “great career” means to him or her – to reflect on the level of loyalty, trust, and contribution one currently experiences in the workplace. They cite some profound examples of individuals who have achieved an obvious level of greatness (borrowing from Leading at the Speed of Trust workshop content) such as Dr. Fiona Wood, “Australia’s most trusted person.” Their brand of storytelling draws the reader in and makes the message more relatable and interesting.
They introduce a Venn diagram or model to suggest that one’s unique contribution is only discovered in the intersection of one’s talents, passion, conscience, and the need or opportunity that exists externally. They offer practical tools to help the reader “Know Your Strengths,” “Discover Your Cause,” plan a “Need-Opportunity Presentation,” and draft a “Contribution Statement.”
The closing section, “Build Your Own Village,” offers timely advice on connecting with others who mutually support one another – good ol’ fashioned networking. But here the authors bring networking into the 21st century by addressing the need for individuals to create professional blogs, participate in online social networking, and to “carve out” one’s space on the Internet.
In their closing thoughts, the authors suggest that by applying the tools and methods outlined, the reader doesn’t “look for a job; you look for a significant problem to solve or an exciting opportunity to leverage. You look for a profession you love and that people will pay you to do. You are not a ‘job description with legs,’ but a thinking, creative human being with unique and irreplaceable talents.”
I put this book down more energized and excited to “define my contribution” than ever before. I had written a contribution statement and walked hundreds of clients through the process. But now my contribution statement literally stares me in the face, taped up on my desk lamp, off to one side of my computer monitor – a constant reminder of my motivating professional causes.
If this book and its message don’t light a fire under you, there wasn’t a spark to begin with!
Two weeks ago I flew half way across the country with my bicycle (an entirely painful experience I may share later) to join my brother, brother-in-law, and close friend on a 105-mile ride across three mountain passes. I thoroughly enjoy cycling. For years my favorite version of cycling was mountain biking on single-track trails over stumps, rocks, and roots. I enjoy the climb every bit as much as the descent. It’s only after having purchased a decent road bike two years ago and making a recent foray into the world of triathlon that my interest has expanded to include road cycling. This particular ride would bring my summer total to well over 700 miles.
While I’ve always been somewhat intrigued by world-stage cycling events and personalities, such as the Tour de France and cycling phenom Lance Armstrong, I’ve never followed the sport very closely. In my naiveté, I would often question the need for all that expensive gear and technology or secretly mock the brash colors and tight-fitting clothing. I certainly had my doubts that riding in a pack or “peloton” really had any benefit. Does “drafting,” or riding closely behind another cyclist, really make that big of a difference? After all, until September 12, 2009, I had always ridden alone.
I’m ashamed to admit, after teaching the principles behind The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People for the past 13 years that I would have been so skeptical about the power of synergy in such a simple and powerful application.
As a group, our collective experience with drafting was mixed. My brother-in-law is a seasoned “roadie” (the affectionate name for road cyclists). He drafts almost once a week with other cyclists in his neighborhood. My good friend had tried it a few times and was eager to draft on a longer ride. My brother and I were first-timers to the art of riding somebody’s back tire. As we began our first and flattest 10-mile segment of the roughly 6-hour tour, we each took turns leading the group, with the point person falling back about every 3 to 4 minutes. The rider in front, or “pole” rider, puts out the same effort required to ride alone. As for everyone else…
What a rush!
I can honestly say, I have been missing out on a lot of cycling synergy. The experience was so real and yet so simple! By my rough, unscientific estimate, each individual expends around 20% less effort to ride as a group than he would while riding alone. The “pull” that each trailing rider experiences in the draft is real and measurable. Sadly, I had even taught the example of geese in flight to illustrate synergy – the same application of aerodynamics – without having tried it myself (riding, rather than flying, of course).
I firmly resolved, at the end of our ride, to not only look for other riders I might join back in the Midwest, but to also look for more creative ways of “drafting” with co-workers, friends, neighbors, and family. What mental barriers or incorrect/incomplete paradigms may be preventing me from synergizing in ways that are natural and simple?
Have you noticed that during crises, many short-term-minded leaders give in to fear rather than focus? Even the CEOs who divulged their thoughts and feelings in response to both 2008 surveys from The Conference Board allowed the financial turmoil of the times to take their eye off of some very important, long-term success factors, such as leadership development and succession.
In “Predictable Results in Unpredictable Times,” communications maven Dr. Breck England, in partnership with Dr. Stephen R. Covey and FranklinCovey CEO Bob Whitman, outlines in the simplest of terms how organizations must respond today in order to stay at the top of their game. Likening business behavior to the annual Tour de France cycling contest, Mr. England recognizes that we are currently “in the mountain stages” of the race. He points out that, “the Tour is actually a team effort, and losing teams lack the disciplined execution of the winners.”
The book centers on four pressing hazards in the current marketplace and their solutions:
- Failure to execute
- Crisis of trust
- Loss of focus
- Pervasive fear
If you or your organization suffers from any one or more of these conditions, chances are the answer lies in the research and solutions offered in this timely work.
Each chapter is followed by some extremely provocative questions about the reader’s current state. They include:
- What generally makes the difference between the first and second place teams in any competitive situation?
- Why is complete transparency so important to building trust? What is the opposite of transparency?
- In uncertain times, everyone is challenged to do more with less. You say you’re doing more with less – but more of what?
- What are the costs to people and organizations of a “psychological recession?”
As a perennial reader of the Harvard Business Review, I couldn’t help but be impressed by the glowing endorsement offered by Clayton M. Christensen, Professor of Business Administration at Harvard, who said, “This book gave me more insight about how to get the right things done in an organization than any other management book I have ever read.”
My only critique is that the book is quite lean (making for an easy, refreshing read, of course) and leaves the reader wanting – no, needing more details in order to truly follow through on the authors’ advice. However, I understand several more books like this one from FranklinCovey Publishing are on the docket. Plus, there are e-tools and videos for each chapter of this book available online at no charge!
I’ll be embarking on yet another 100-mile bicycle ride next Saturday with a team of friends and family. With this book fresh in mind, you can be sure we’ll be clear about the goal, our need for trust and focus, and the debilitating effects of fear. I predict we’ll finish strong!
In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey recounts a story about turning over the yard-care responsibilities at his house to his young son. “Green and clean,” he explains, are the criteria for success in this new job. When after 2 weeks his son still hasn’t fully accepted the responsibility of this new assignment, Stephen shares a moment of exasperation when he reminds himself of the deeper purpose of his calling as a father – “Raise boys, not grass.” This story came to mind recently, during a moment of frustration of my own.
Monday morning, I found myself in the middle of a steep learning curve, pretending to be a stone mason. I was with my 9-year-old son, Conner, at the house my father is single-handedly remodeling (re-building, is perhaps more accurate) to help Dad finish up the stone façade that would decorate the front of his house. He and Conner were about 75% finished affixing the beautifully cut faux stones to the wall and had asked me to squeeze freshly mixed mortar out of what amounts to an over-sized cake decorating cone into the spaces between the stones. This also requires smoothing out the mortar with a skinny trowel, attempting to even out any lumps and fill in all the gaps. Believe me – this was harder than it sounds.
About 20 minutes into my effort, the thought crossed my mind, “Gee! Why don’t we just hire a couple day-laborers with masonry experience to come and do this; then the three of us can go do something fun?!” We could have been doing anything more fun than working on the house, such as hiking, fishing, or carousing at the local amusement park. This thought no sooner crossed my mind, when it occurred to me what we were really engaged in. This wasn’t just about the work that needed to be done on the house. My dad would certainly not be set back in his construction progress, if Conner and I hadn’t spent those measly 2 ½ hours helping out. Instead, this was much more about building something together. This was about creating a lasting, tangible monument of sorts. This was, more importantly, about learning lessons of hard work and building relationships between three generations of Wangsgards.
Besides, doing something constructive with his hands is my dad’s idea of fun. And to be accompanied by his son and grandson in the process is something he’d much rather do than spend the day engaged in more shallow forms of amusement.
What are you building today? What is the state of your most important relationships? In what ways can you more efficiently “sharpen the saw” and satisfy the need for renewal in all four human dimensions: physical, mental, social/emotional and spiritual?
On second thought, I enjoy “masonry!” There’s nothing I’d rather be doing than molding the mortar of time into the spaces between my most precious possessions – my family, friends, colleagues, and clients.
I’m not exactly sure where I first heard that phrase. It is often attributed to well-known leadership guru, Ken Blanchard. One of my previous managers in the field of organizational development used it often to describe exaclty how valuable feedback is to successful leaders. Dr. Stephen R. Covey has said, “Leaders, beware! The higher you go in an organization, the less likely people are to give you straight feedback. Feedback is your life-support system. Without it, you will eventually fail. Do everything you can to create a culture where it is safe to give you feedback.”
In my own research of the most salient topics for leadership development within a variety of organizations, the ability and propensity to give constructive feedback always ranks in the top five most important leadership skills. When you think of your own best boss experience, chances are he or she was deft at delivering difficult news about your own performance in a way that didn’t hurt, but rather enlightened you. You knew the person giving the feedback had your best interest at heart.
Some feedback is certainly more difficult to deliver than other feedback. For example, it would be less painstaking to tell someone their presentation slides are too crowded than to tell that person he or she has bad breath.
About five years ago I was serving in a corporate position with responsibility for management development across an enterprise with a presence in roughly 23 different states. Mine was the privilege of working with leadership from around the company to develop management and leadership bench strength through a variety of activities, including one-on-one coaching, classroom training, trainer certification, and performance management, among others. One day, a senior vice president of a business group brought to my attention that a general manager in a remote manufacturing center needed some feedback. He suggested I might be the right person to deliver it. To make matters even more challenging, the nature of the feedback would be to help this mid-level leader see how his sub-standard dress and grooming habits were having a negative impact on his personal credibility and the credibility of the business unit. No one in the local facility among his own leadership team had been brave enough to tell him what was obvious to everyone else.
This champion had been skipping breakfast.
Recognizing the delicate nature of this task, I started with the simple, yet profound question – “What is the right way to do this?” I had memorized a simple yet effective formula for giving constructive feedback that I had taught dozens of times in the classroom. I had used it in practice a few times, too. So, this was a natural starting place. How can I ensure that the recipient knew I had his best interest at heart? How could I be specific, yet objective about what was being observed in his dress and grooming? If he had no solution to offer, how would I frame the expected change?
Then it occurred to me. Without the new expectations being delivered by someone whose opinion has teeth, he is not likely to act on the feedback. Part of my strategy then became to tell the senior vice president who had charged me with this challenging assignment that he should be the person to offer this critical insight to the general manager. I was now poised to give the executive feedback on his request for feedback! The whole proposition was feeling more and more career-limiting by the minute.
In the end, this senior leader was very receptive to my idea that he be the one to deliver the feedback. Together we strategized the best way to frame the message, ensuring that the general manager would recognize we cared about him and that his success was our ultimate objective.
The senior leader gave the feedback. The GM’s behavior improved immediately. He also went on to lead even bigger business units with this enhanced self-awareness. Part of his new leadership strategy was to create more open channels of feedback around him and his leadership team, to ensure something like this never happens again.