Tag archive for "authenticity"

by Richard, Character, Leadership

Chikin, Spice, and Authenticity

No Comments 17 December 2012

Earlier this year, Chick-fil-A, the Atlanta-based quick service restaurant chain, became the unwitting object of a firestorm following President and Chief Operating Officer Dan Cathy’s direct answer to an interviewer’s question about his views on marriage. The interview was in the context of the ongoing national debate on same-sex marriage, spurred perhaps by contributions reportedly made by the Cathy family foundation, Winshape (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WinShape_Foundation) to some not especially LGBT-friendly entities.

The refreshing part of Mr. Cathy’s answer, regardless of content, or anyone’s position on the matter, is that it was direct, and without obfuscation. And, in view of Mr. Cathy’s straight-laced image, it was about as surprising as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s pick for the 2012 Super Bowl.

Nevertheless, outrage ensued with some fresh meat, ‘er chikin (as the company’s bovine advertising mascots spell the word) thrown into the fire. While many accepted Cathy’s right to express views different from their own, others were not as tolerant. The mayors of Boston and Chicago even threatened to block the company’s development in their respective cities (apparently they had all the jobs they needed), until the ACLU, hardly a bastion of conservatism, reminded Their Honors that they really couldn’t do that. It seems that issuing government sanctions in response to protected speech kind of tramples on that First Amendment thing, and so they dialed back the rhetoric.

Since neither Mr. Cathy’s views on marriage, nor ours, are especially relevant to our work, or the reason you subscribe to this newsletter, we’ll spare you the discussion. But we’d like to highlight a few lessons that we can all walk away with.

1. Authenticity Means Being Comfortable in Your Own Skin

Leaders who aren’t comfortable in their own skin tend to become petty tyrants. Frankly, we see too many leaders fall short of their peak because they spend precious time every day twisting in the wind, seeking polished, popular positions on the subject du jour – positions that don’t necessarily jibe with their inner beliefs, if they even have inner beliefs. The end result is messy, because none of us is a good enough actor to pull it off for very long. If nothing else, our people have become good consumers of content, and they recognize bad acting when they see it. For further reinforcement on this topic, just rewind some of the video from the recently completed U.S. election.

2. Say it Loud, Say it Clear

Our work with high performance organizations and leaders of choice (they can usually be found in the same place) suggests in the strongest possible terms that these organizations, Chick-fil-A being but one example, have a crystal clear sense of who they are, where they’re going, and what they stand for. They aren’t bashful about it, and it doesn’t change overnight with their socks. They know that not everyone is going to like their products and services, or the way they do business. And they certainly understand that not everyone’s going to be happy, productive, or successful working there. Accordingly, they take considerable pains to recruit and retain people who are able to work comfortably within their value system.

This is not, repeat, not, a wink and a nod to employment discrimination. The leaders in these organizations know that discrimination on the basis of irrelevant factors is bad form, bad for business, and generally indefensible in legal terms, so they don’t do it.

If your company is a tough place to work, say so, and be very explicit in explaining why and how. The same advice applies to you as a leader. That said, if you can’t consistently find, retain, and engage enough truly great people to work for you, you might want to make some changes.

What Chick-fil-A does seems to work, and work well. The company is growing like a weed and has always enjoyed a stellar workplace reputation, and, not coincidentally, is perennially rated among the very best in customer service for Quick Service Restaurant chains. (Witness recent articles in Fast Company and The Los Angeles Times.) Their annual employee turnover rate has consistently been a fraction of the industry’s triple-digit figure. There’s no indication that this year’s controversy has made the slightest dent in that outstanding record.

As we point out in Contented Cows STILL Give Better Milk (and in all of our books), a company’s decisions about how it treats its customers, and its employees matters, and matters a lot. Not so much for social or moral reasons, but because it drives business outcomes. The market is a wonderful thing. Our latest group of “Contented Cow” companies have 70 billion reasons (as in dollars) each year to remain committed to their people-oriented employment cultures.

 

Richard Hadden is a leadership speaker, author, and consultant who helps organizations improve their business results by virtue of a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He and Bill Catlette are the authors of the popular “Contented Cows” leadership book series, and Rebooting Leadership. Their newest book, Contented Cows STILL Give Better Milk, published by John Wiley & Sons, is now available. Learn more about them and their work at ContentedCows.com.

by Bill, Character, Leadership

A Little Less Hollywood and a Little More Mayberry

No Comments 10 July 2012

We note with sadness the passing this week of Andy Griffith, who though he earned his living in Hollywood, never seemed to forget where he was from.

A visit to a Hollywood film lot (we highly recommend the Warner Brothers tour) comes with the admonition from tour guides, with evidence aplenty, that nothing there is at it seems. In many respects, that has become the norm throughout much of society, such that in so many respects, form, image, illusion, branding, the avatar, the lipstick on the pig takes precedence over reality.

Earlier this week I engaged in a brief (140 character) online joust with a recruiter buddy who was bemoaning what he considered undue focus on authenticity, and not enough on hard accomplishments. I replied to the effect that, whereas I, too have a healthy respect for results, I’d also like to see fewer people (and organizations) trying to appear authentic, and more actually being that way.

It called to mind a very fine presentation by Chick-fil-A’s Andy Lorenzen (Director, Talent Strategy & Systems) at the recent SHRM global conference in Atlanta. Mr. Lorenzen was refreshingly candid in the Q&A portion of his presentation, especially when responding to three different audience members who, each in their own way, asked if the devout Christian beliefs of the company’s founder and owners didn’t in some way (legal, ethical, or operational) cause workplace problems.

Each time, he patiently but persistently noted that Chick-fil-A is a privately held company whose owners do hold certain beliefs dear, and have a prescribed set of values for their business, but that they do not foist their religious beliefs on others. That said, he added, with equal emphasis, that people who are uncomfortable working in an environment where those beliefs shape the operating culture and norms would likely find that Chick-fil-A is not for them. Then, with a smile on his face but dead certainty in his voice, he added that one thing they do foist on people is that if you work for Chick-fil-A, you better be down with “sellin chicken” or chikin, as their billboards playfully put it.

Our work with high performance organizations and leaders of choice (they can usually be found in the same place) suggests in the strongest possible terms that these organizations, Chick-fil-A being but one example, have a very strong sense of who they are, where they’re going, and what they stand for. They aren’t bashful about it, and it doesn’t change overnight with their socks.

With help from John Wiley & Sons Publishing, we released last week the latest in our Contented Cows series of leadership books. Written largely at the request of those who wanted an update of our 1st work, Contented Cows STILL Give Better Milk offers fresh examples, a new and even more compelling business case, and some largely unheralded exemplars that we can all take lessons from. Indeed, one of those lessons is that our authenticity, at both personal and organizational levels represents the greatest key to bridging the trust gap which is perhaps the biggest problem that every business leader faces today.

We hope that you will purchase a copy from your favorite bookseller (it’s available in all popular formats), read it, and then be among the first to review it online at BarnesandNoble.com or Amazon.com.

*****

A pathfinder in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He is co-author of the Contented Cows leadership book series, and Rebooting Leadership. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website, or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ContentedCows

by Bill, Leadership, Think About It...

A Teachable Moment

No Comments 26 July 2009

Recently, three bright, hard working guys got together (sorta) over a simple, residential police call and managed to turn it into a national incident. While the facts remain somewhat muddled, it seems likely that all of them contributed to the fiasco. One perhaps was a little too eager to be a “victim”, another would have done well to simply leave when it was clear that his job was done, and the third opened his mouth a bit too quickly and widely in front of a world-wide audience.

In fairness, the third guy is now proclaiming this to be a “teachable moment” and has invited the other two over to his house for a beer. Let’s hope he’s right and that it goes well. In fact, let’s hope that as they sort this little incident out they (and we, by extension) come away with reminders that:

1. We’re all self-absorbed and wrapped a little too tightly these days. Actually, we’ve been this way for some time, and the manifestations aren’t pretty when the slightest spark arises. Accordingly we would do well to “assume positive intent” as PepsiCo CEO, Indra Nooyi put it in a Fortune Magazine piece describing one of her best life lessons. Even though this is 2009  and everyone is moving at 90 mph, we’re well advised to pause and take a deep breath before initiating or escalating a conflict, any conflict. (After all, that’s how we got into one of our current wars.)

2. Maybe, just maybe after a couple rounds of Yuengling (America’s oldest brewery), these three fellas will each find it in themselves to mouth three little words that can go a long way to establishing personal accountability, not to mention civility. The words are, “I. Screwed. Up.” They need to learn, as do we, that uttering those words doesn’t make you less of a man (or woman), they don’t compromise your point of view, or even make you more susceptible to a lawsuit. Rather, they evidence your authenticity by being big enough to admit a mistake, and thus earn you the benefit of the doubt, both for the moment and in the future. It’s also a lesson that we manager types could stand to remember. Now, come on, guys… Say it!

*****

A thought leader in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website at www.contentedcows.com, or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ContentedCows

by Bill, Leadership

"I Screwed Up"

No Comments 10 February 2009

obama1Two weeks into his term as President of the United States, Barack Obama uttered three words that, in all likelihood, he’d prefer not to have used, but they crossed his lips anyway. The words… “I Screwed Up.” In interviews with CNN’s Anderson Cooper and other media outlets,  Mr. Obama, when questioned about the selection of Tom Daschle and Nancy Killefer, whose nominations were ultimately scuttled by unpaid tax problems, readily took responsibility for a faulty selection process. No equivocation, no weasel words, and no whining.

So what’s the big deal? Well, for openers, that level of forthright candor is all too uncommon coming from those whose corner office equips them with sufficient shields for avoiding such questions altogether, or at worst, a selection of boxes south of them on the org chart to which blame might be more conveniently ascribed. That has certainly been the case with the last two occupants of the Oval Office. And, in thinking about our current banking crisis, I’m hard pressed to recall the first bank executive or regulator who has stepped forward and issued an unequivocal mea culpa.

More importantly, Mr. Obama’s willing use of those three little words  provides a glimpse into something that the American people desperately hope they found with their new president – authenticity. We didn’t mind having an actor as president when he actually had some movies to his credit, but whether at work or in national leadership roles, we’ve come to resent pretenders and folks who just don’t seem comfortable in their own skin.

A thought leader in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website at www.contentedcows.com


ABOUT US

Considered thought leaders in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette and Richard Hadden speak to, train, and coach managers on leadership practices for better business outcomes.

OUR PREMISE: Having a focused, engaged, and capably led workforce is one of the best things any organization can do for its bottom line.

VIEW DEMO VIDEOS

OUR ONLINE STORE

Subscribe to our blog
Enter your email address:

Email:
For Email Newsletters you can trust

OUR BOOKS


Be notified when Bill or Richard will be speaking in your area, and possibly preview or piggyback a program.

Contented Cows on Twitter

SHARE THIS SITE

Share |

© 2014 Contented Cows. Powered by Wordpress.

Daily Edition Theme by WooThemes - Premium Wordpress Themes

Strengthen Your Leadership Bench: Bill's Article on Human Capital Institute's Blog Click here