The People Principle
A Revolutionary Redefinition of Leadership
By Ron Willingham
St. Martin's Press Copyright © 1997 Ron Willingham
All rights reserved.
"I'll Work My Butt Off for You!"
Few things help an individual more than to place responsibility upon him and let him know that you trust him.
— Booker T. Washington
John had just been through our Manager's Coaching and Counseling Training with National Car Rental in a Florida city. He was a manager in one of their New York offices. After completing the training he had a visit with one of his people, a man we'll call Archie. Archie was a fourteen-year veteran of that office and widely known for being uncooperative. He was, to be as positive as possible, undistinguished. In fact he was on probation at that time.
Very shortly, John called Archie into his office for a coaching session as our people had taught him to do. Well aware of his reputation, Archie not only dreaded the session but considered the possibility that he might be terminated.
John began their conversation by telling Archie that he appreciated his long-term employment, specifically pointing out a few strengths he had observed. After mentioning these positive traits and actions, John told him that there were some things that needed attention in his work. John assured him that these could be easily worked through and emphasized his value to the operation.
Shocked by the positive tone he heard, Archie was in disbelief. He said, "John, when you called me in, I thought you were going to fire me. I've been with National fourteen years," he went on, "and this is the first time I've ever been told that I've done something right and that I'm appreciated!"
Pausing for a moment, he then looked into John's eyes and said, "I haven't been working as hard as I should have, but ... I want you to know ... that from now on ... I'll work my butt off for you!"
And he did.
Within a year John promoted Archie. He'd earned it by changing from negative to positive. From a "goof-off" to a "go-getter."
What happened? Did John give him a new computer or some other advanced technology? Did Archie learn new product or industry knowledge?
Analyze what John did with Archie. It's amazingly simple. He believed in him.
1. He valued him.
2. He chose to recognize his contributions, although it would have been very easy to focus on his many shortcomings.
3. He looked for, discovered, and pointed out strengths he saw in him.
4. He was up-front and honest about some problem areas but communicated his belief that they could be worked out.
5. He listened to him.
6. He let him know that he cared about him as a person.
It would have been easy for John to do just the opposite — to call Archie in and give him the "shape up or ship out" speech, to revisit his probationary status, or even to terminate him.
But, he didn't! Instead, he not only maximized an asset that they'd invested in heavily, but he helped transform a person's life.
In a sense, John held the power in his hands either to build or destroy Archie. At that time, the very future of a person and a family rested in the balance, either to be saved or gutted. John's values, beliefs, and skills all came together to help a person and to increase his company's productivity and profitability by positively building his people.
That's what this book is about:
increasing your organization's productivity and profitability by building your people.
looking at people and seeing them not as they are but as they can become.
seeing more in people than they see in themselves.
convincing people of their greatness.
helping people climb out of their limited, self-imposed "areas of the possible" to develop new, expanded internal belief systems, thus moving them onto higher levels of productivity.
It's about being the kind of person that others want to follow, about strong values, ethics, integrity, and authenticity. It's about believing so strongly in people that their awareness of your belief in them causes them to rise to new heights of individual growth and achievement.
It's about getting people to say, "I'll work my butt off for you!"
Leadership Ingredients and That "Something Else"
Leadership is the sum of its parts — and something else. This "something else" is variable — it manifests itself differently for different people in different life situations, yet it's essentially the same common ingredient.
In this book, I'll share with you some of the parts of leadership. These are specific skills, behaviors, attitudes, and ways of thinking. Developing these will enhance your leadership skills but will not necessarily make you a leader. To become a leader you must develop these skills, behaviors, and thinking patterns and discover for yourself that "something else."
In these pages I'll lead you through ideas and suggested actions that, if you'll follow, will develop your leadership traits. I will not, however, attempt to tell you directly what that "something else" is. I will hint at it and occasionally drop clues, but I will not share it directly. It must be up to you to discover it for yourself so that it can become yours — in your own life, where you are, with your own values, within the sets of opportunities that you'll create for yourself. When you discover it, you'll know it by the fresh new exhilaration, energy, and sense of fulfillment you'll suddenly enjoy. You'll also know it by your people's positive response and belief in you.
I can only tell you that this "something else" is the chemical ingredient that bonds skills and abilities together to multiply their effectiveness. It is the catalyst that, when added to the other ingredients, causes something new and more powerful to be achieved.
This "something else" isn't intellectually taught; it's experientially discovered. It does not evolve out of our rational, conscious, cognitive, logical, linear world. It functions on a much deeper creative level. It's not gained by education; it's granted as a process of indirection, a serendipity. It mysteriously appears, unsought, as we seek certain other goals of growth and learning.
But, that's enough about this secret of leadership for now — except to say that if you're searching and open to discovery, you'll stumble over it numerous times in this book. Depending on your quest for wisdom, your desire to learn and willingness to practice the action guides I'll lay out for you, you'll either come face-to-face with it, or it'll sail over your head unnoticed.
Values, Beliefs, Skills
How often does the very future of a person like Archie rest in your hands? How often do your decisions and actions influence the direction of someone's life? How do you emotionally deal with this awesome responsibility — the responsibility for a person's future?
That person's life could go one way or another depending on your actions and decisions. It's an incredibly sobering thought, isn't it?
I believe the very future of organizations rests in their leaders' ability to help people become their best. This means that they must nurture, challenge, and build people. They have to select the right people, be able to see potential in each person, then bring out this hidden value. This involves leadership skills that are consistent with a few core values and beliefs.
Let's think more about these core values and beliefs.
Effective Leadership Begins with a Fundamental Belief
The more I learn about leadership and the more I attempt to become a more effective leader, the more I'm convinced that it all begins with a fundamental belief. And this one foundational belief is this:
All people have unlimited potential that has been largely unrecognized and untapped. When discovered and accessed, this potential can lead them to far greater levels of productivity than they ever imagined, causing them to feel better about themselves and enjoy life more.
Now, stop a moment and read this statement again.
Do you believe this? Not only intellectually or conceptually but down-in-your-gut viscerally? Would you stake your leadership future on it?
It's always been this way. You're probably where you are today because someone held this fundamental belief and then went about helping you discover and actualize abilities you didn't know you had.
Leaders' Beliefs Often Become Self-Fulfilling Prophecies
Over thirty years ago a friend, Joe Barnett, expressed a belief in me that totally changed my life.
For six years I had owned a small furniture and decorating business that, because of a deep local economic downturn, was going down the tubes.
Joe, a minister who had just moved to town, was sharp, articulate, and motivated. We became close friends immediately. Finally, after being in denial about my problem for several months, I was at the end of my rope and had to talk to someone and do something. When I told him about my situation, he reflected on some self-help books that both of us had read and some training courses that we had attended. Like me, he was a graduate of the Dale Carnegie Course, and it had caused tremendous growth in both of our lives. I had also attended some courses sponsored by the National Retail Furniture Association.
Joe looked at me, and said, "I think you should get into training.
You'd be great at it. In fact, we need someone to design a leadership development course and conduct it at our church, and I think you can do that."
Wow! I thought. If he thinks I can do that, maybe he sees something in me that I don't see in me.
My immediate response was, "Okay, I'll do it, if you'll help me."
The truth was that I knew absolutely nothing about training or writing. Nothing! But my insides told me that if a sharp guy like Joe Barnett thought I could do it, I must be able to do it. With his help, I put together a very homemade course and conducted it. In doing so I discovered I had natural gifts for training and writing. I don't really know how I knew what to do, I just did.
The participants in the first course I conducted experienced incredible growth. I was so pumped that I made an immediate decision to sell my store and start conducting courses full-time. Which I did. A complete transformation took place. My whole life, my internal view of myself and my goals, changed. Suddenly I was swept into an incredibly exciting life that I'd never dreamed possible.
All this happened because of the belief that Joe Barnett expressed in me.
And you know what? Almost everyone can give tribute to the transforming power of someone's belief in them. Most can trace their success back to people who saw more in them than they saw in themselves, who helped them discover their better selves and actualize this discovery into meaningful careers or actions.
I'll bet it's true for you.
"I See More in You Than You See in You."
Have you had people in your life who saw more in you than you saw in yourself?
I've asked this question to many audiences. Almost every hand goes up. Then I ask, "How many of you can say that you had more than four or five people in your life who did this?" Ninety percent of all the hands go down.
Interesting survey, isn't it? And what a tragedy that so few people exist in our lives.
How about you? How many people in your life saw more in you than you saw in yourself? And then their belief in you helped you discover what they saw in you?
Not many? Then you're average.
I remember Joe Jordan, who was the manager of a supermarket where I worked my junior year in college. I earned sixty-five cents an hour — minimum wage then. Joe was a master at building people. His official title was Store Manager, but it should have been Director of Cheerleading and Encouraging and People Building.
My guess is that he spent 80 percent of his time catching people doing stuff right and then making a big deal out of it. He would walk up to where I was stocking shelves and make me feel like the whole universe had just been made a better place in which to live because of the way I was turning all the cans so the labels faced forward. And, man, you should have heard his accolades at the way I mopped the floors at night.
Joe loved to get us in front of people and brag about us. He had pet names for all the employees, especially the sack boys. All the names were "build-ups" not "put-downs."
It was one of my greatest experiences. He was an incredibly effective leader and builder of people. Everyone loved him and worked hard for him.
Joe saw greatness in people who didn't see it in themselves.
Great leaders — people who get more done through people — have learned the transforming power of belief in people's potential.
Leadership Beliefs and Core Values
Fundamental to effective leadership is a set of Ten Beliefs or Core Values that drive your actions, decisions, and behaviors.
1. Leadership — People want to be led. They don't want to be managed.
2. Vision — People want to know where you're going.
3. Pride — People want you to feel that they count for something.
4. Congruence — People feel right about you when they see you doing the right things.
5. Communication — People perform better when you're open with them and listen to their concerns and ideas.
6. Trust — People need to know that you'll be fair and consistent.
7. Character — People will ultimately find out and be influenced by what you're made of.
8. Responsibility — People feel better about you and themselves when you cause them to make and keep commitments.
9. Integrity — People will respect you when they see that what you preach is what you practice.
10. Wisdom — People will learn most from you when they see you temper your knowledge with good judgment and concern for others.
On a following page is a personal assessment for you to score yourself in the ten beliefs and values. You may even want to photocopy it and ask four or five associates to score you. If you do, please ask them to score you anonymously and give the assessments back to you. It's important that you don't know who scores you and that they know that you won't know. Otherwise, they'll probably skew their responses and not be totally honest. Of course, you need their honesty if the assessment is going to help.
Look at each trait and its description. Ask yourself, "How well do I fill this need that people have?" Ask, "To what extent do my actions show that I subscribe to this value or belief?" If it's never descriptive, place a dot at 1. If it's always descriptive, place a dot at 10, or wherever in between that you think honestly describes your actual behaviors.
Leadership Beliefs and Core Values Assessment
After scoring yourself in each of these ten traits, connect your dots and form a vertical graph.
Values and Core Beliefs Drive Behavior
Why am I making such a big deal about values and core beliefs?
Because your values and core beliefs drive your behavior! Your external actions and responses will usually be congruent with your internal values and core beliefs. These inner beliefs about what's right and what's wrong are the foundation of your personality. They define who you are and how you treat other people. What you value reveals your values. Value people over processes, and they'll get that message, too. Value processes over people, and they'll get that message. Your actions, decisions, and reactions reveal your values — and, believe me, people figure them out very quickly.
A decade ago I couldn't talk to corporate executives about values. Many would have thought that I was an evangelist or trying to convert them to some cultish way of thinking. Fortunately, as change accelerated in the nineties they began to look deeper into what causes human action, and when they looked they discovered that people are multidimensional beings whose major motivation is to seek congruence between what they do and who they are. The more congruent they become, the healthier and more productive they'll be.
Jerry Colangelo, head of the Phoenix Suns, Arizona Rattlers, and Arizona Diamondbacks, is without a doubt the most influential person in Arizona. No one has done more to rebuild downtown Phoenix than he has.
A man of impeccable integrity, he has strong beliefs about the need for high ethics and values in business, industry, and yes, even politics. "We have gotten so caught up in building and growing and expanding ... and the cutthroat business that it's out there, we have lost focus," he said.
"Things used to be a certain way, where there was a real value system," he added. "But I think there is a current readjustment to stronger ethics and values, refocusing; because it became evident that we were missing that. I do think that they're on the upswing."
I asked him what he looks for in people. "... The key word is consistency," he replied. "The probability of an unstable person being successful is not very likely, so, you know, how a person treats his wife and kids in public and at home is probably how he's going to treat his customer or business associates."
"How are ethics communicated?" I asked. "Can they be taught?" (Continues...)
Excerpted from The People Principle by Ron Willingham. Copyright © 1997 Ron Willingham. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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