leadership dot #2932: relationships

In yesterday’s dot, I shared how Nancy Pelosi is able to achieve results. One of the ways she is able to do so is because she masterfully and intentionally seeks to cultivate knowledge about people. (I’ll bet she uses the preferred name I wrote about in dot 2930!)

In Pelosi, Molly Ball writes:

“Not only did she know every one of her members by name – a difficult enough feat in a 435-member body that turns over every two years – but she knew their history, their district, their ideology, their spouse and kids and parents. If she found out your wife was having surgery or you were going through a divorce, she’d call repeatedly to check in. Orchids from her favorite DC florist would appear, for thanks or congratulations or sympathy, before you thought you’d even told anyone what was happening. The most powerful woman in America somehow had time to show up for a child’s school play or a parent’s memorial service. If your mother died, you got a handwritten condolence note along with a poem written long ago by Pelosi’s own mother.” 

 It’s one thing to cultivate relationships on the surface, but another to put in the extra effort to make them personal. Pelosi’s methods reminded me of the film Erin Brockovich in which the title character knows all about her hundreds of plaintiffs and those connections built the trust that was required to persist in the lawsuit against PG&E, and of Sheldon Yellen, CEO of BELFOR Holdings who handwrites 9,200 cards to employees each year as a way to express his gratitude.

Time is such a precious commodity that often we revert to easier ways of fostering and maintaining relationships: a birthday greeting via Facebook, pre-signed holiday cards, or staffing out correspondence rather than adding personal notes. But the energy invested in really knowing people – and personally showing that you care – goes a long way in building a culture of collaboration and connection that paves the way to work together.

Quote from: Pelosi by Molly Ball, 2020, p. 156

 

leadership dot #2882: not less

I worked at four universities that had nursing programs and invariably we saw a handful of prospective students who quickly discovered a mismatch between their image of the profession and the reality. Students would plan to major in nursing because they wanted to “help people” and while that is certainly true, what’s less obvious is that they also had to succeed in one of the most rigorous science curriculums on campus. Nursing is about far more than “being nice” and includes courses in pharmacology, anatomy and physiology, organic chemistry, statistics and diagnostics – just to earn a degree, never mind the extensive clinical hours and state licensing test. Oh yes, and there is blood involved – something that seemed to surprise someone every year!

I think about all this today, on National Nurses Day, and while those in the profession are on the frontlines of the battle against COVID. I wonder how often are they taken for granted or seen as not as important as a doctor when in practice their roles are just as vital. I am reminded of the line Temple Grandin’s mother oft-repeated about her autistic daughter: “She’s different, not less.”

So, in addition to celebrating any nurse you know, keep the “different, not less” mantra in mind when interfacing with others who are not viewed as high in organizational prestige. The receptionist may not be the manager, but she has likely mastered a dazzling amount of information to have at her fingertips in order to do her job well. The mid-level supervisor may not have the glitz of a CEO but is responsible for much of the organization’s productivity. The public works staff may toil behind-the-scenes but their mastery of mechanics and chemicals makes it possible for a city’s infrastructure to function.

Make it your practice to honor others for their contributions, in whatever form they take.

 

leadership dot #2866: essential staff

If you would have asked me a month or two ago what defined “essential” staff, I would have given you the typical answer of managers and facilities leadership, and, more broadly defined, I would have included nurses, teachers, farmers and police. I would have not considered truck drivers, grocery store clerks, restaurant cooks or corrugated-box-makers, but all those have taken on new importance in this unusual time.

 

It’s not that their role has changed or that it has become more important; it’s just that we noticed the jobs they do and the people that do them.

 

Take a lesson from the pandemic and become more conscious of those whose often-behind-the-scenes jobs are the ones that keep your home and organization running. Show appreciation to the people who maintain your infrastructure and feed your supply chain. Take a moment to recognize who should even be on your list and deserving of your recognition.

 

Who’s added to my list today? The mailman, my hairdresser, the clerk doing my grocery shopping for my pick up, the technician keeping my wi-fi functioning and the mastermind behind online banking. Vow not to take for granted those whose work you rely on, even if you never see them in person.

 

leadership dot #2825: first see

In their new book Leading with Gratitude, authors Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton write that there are two aspects to appreciation: seeing it and expressing it. “Gratitude is not just giving credit where it’s due, it’s knowing where it’s due,” they write.

People must cultivate the first skill of seeing opportunities to recognize before they are able to provide that feedback to others. They theorize that managers are often “hyper-focused on finding problems,” and as a result spend more time on what is going wrong instead of going right. Creating a culture of gratitude begins with seeing small wins and creating milestones that will provide reward markers along the way.

Once you see positive behavior, their mantra is “give it now, give it often, and don’t be afraid.” They point out that the championship trophy is given right after the game, not at the next practice or meeting. Immediately tying appreciation to action is a more powerful expression of gratitude than waiting, and, if it’s genuine, leaders can never give too much of it.

Think about on which side of the equation you need to be more intentional. Do you need to work on your “seeing” — paying more attention to what is working, who is making contributions behind-the-scenes or noticing progress along the journey? Or is your challenge “expressing” – taking the time to write a quick note, acknowledging someone’s behavior or publicly thanking a team?

Learning to lead with gratitude – as a manager, parent, coach or in any other role – is a skill that requires practice like any other. Strengthen your “seeing” or “expressing” muscles with a bit more intentionality today.

leadership dot #2771: award

Elton John is about as big of a superstar as you can get – over 50 Top 40 hits, sold over 300 million records, 23 gold albums, and 38 platinum hits – and most of his lyrics were written by Bernie Taupin.

So, I was astonished to learn that the duo won their first major award together with a Golden Globe win last weekend, and it was for a song that played over the closing credits for the Rocketman movie.

Taupin wrote the lyrics for John’s hits such as Rocket Man, Crocodile Rock, Honky Cat, Candle in the Wind, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me and Candle in the Wind, which sold 33 million copies alone. Yet, no Grammy.

 In fact, Elton himself “only” has five Grammy’s whereas Bruno Mars took home six in 2018 alone.

 If you are a musician, winning a Grammy is often idolized as the ultimate prize. But a momentary award – whatever the equivalent is in your field – shouldn’t be your motivation. Even though their mantle is sparse, John and Taupin are both members of the Hall of Fame. They have made millions happy with their music; they have enjoyed decades of friendship, and their legacy will live on for generations.

Don’t pin all your hopes and dreams on receiving external recognition. Take a lesson from Elton and Bernie and concentrate on the internal rewards instead.

leadership dot #2767: where

For a simple warm-up icebreaker, I asked the participants where they would choose to have a gift card from if given one for free. It proved to be a great way to learn something about others in a quick and easy format.

Examples of answers included “DSW – because I’m a shoe nut – it would always be for shoes;” “Aldi – because we’re trying to pay down our debt and then I could use my grocery money to do that;” and “Best Buy – because I’m a techie and like the latest gadgets.” You could definitely get a sense of personality in a light-hearted way.

The next time you’re looking for an opening question for a group, toss out the gift card query. (And if it’s your group, take note of recognition opportunities for the future!) From where would you want yours?

leadership dot #2756: first citizen

Today our town will name the recipient of the annual First Citizen award, a recognition given to someone who has made an impact on the community. There will be fanfare and public recognition but, unlike with most awards, the recipient will not be forgotten.

The newspaper has been running half-page stories for the last 49 days, leading up to today’s announcement of the 50th winner. Each story gives the context that led to the award and includes an update if the winner is still alive. I especially like that all the features include the names of the previous recipients as the border.

So often we recognize people in the moment and then their accomplishments fade into the background. This series has been an excellent way to keep the legacies of the winners alive, educate readers on some of the city’s history and provide a build-up to the new announcement.

Think about how your organization could adapt this concept to share the stories of your past award winners. There is no better way to shape your culture than to hold up examples of those who exemplify what excellence looks like.

leadership dot #2742: goodwill visit

At a meeting of the local city council, an economic development representative from the neighboring community was on the agenda. It was a goodwill visit – just providing updates and not asking for anything at this juncture – but it went a long way to prime the relationship so that it is solid when the time does come for a favor.

Here are some examples of how he did so:

  • Showered great appreciation to the mayor and city administrator for the time allocation on the agenda
  • Shared highlights of economic development success – and gave the council credit as “part of a team that worked together.”
  • Showed deference to all the city officials, referring to them by their formal titles
  • Promised that he would be “candid and unvarnished” in his report and answers to questions
  • Answered with “excellent question” to all of his queries
  • Ended with the statement: “If you are ever feeling down, call me to make you feel good. Seriously, you folks are great. Keep doing what you’re doing.”

He spoke for less than five minutes, but that time was well invested. The council knows who he is, knows that he knows who they are and that he sees them as partners in the economic development efforts. The next time he does need something – and surely, he will – he’s starting from a positive position instead of from scratch.

Think about the relationships that may benefit you down the road. The time is now to invest in them, rather than waiting until you need a favor. Make it a resolution to do a goodwill visit and purely show appreciation to one of your partners, with no immediate requests.

Photo by Christina Morillo

 

leadership dot #2736: digital

So much for the handwritten note – the latest trend in employee recognition is to issue a digital BadgeBot that people can post on their Twitter account. I’m personally not a fan but apparently, there are others who would find this sort of pat-on-the-back appealing.

There are benefits: digital badges allow the sender to include a picture or even short video sharing with the world the accomplishment of the honoree, and they certainly give new meaning to the idea of “public” recognition when the public includes access to the whole world via the web.

For me, a note of appreciation still is the way to go. I like to give a one-to-one acknowledgment of the person’s contribution as it seems more heartfelt and personal. But leaders need to understand the generational differences and preferences of their staff. As part of learning about those your supervise, seek to gain understanding about the type of recognition that is most meaningful to them: public vs. private, time off vs. monetary compensation, and small Purple Clovers that show you know them.

No matter how you do it, recognizing the good work of others is one of the most important things you do as a supervisor. Don’t let uncertainty about the method prevent you from sharing your message.

 

leadership dot #2693: delayed

I received a thank you note yesterday in acknowledgment of a gift I made to the organization – in June. I have made several charitable gifts this year and received varying levels of recognition for them but none that impressed me. Why do organizations fail to show love to those who love them most?

The best way to strengthen donor relations is through a thank you note – sharing how the gift will be used, what an impact it made and providing a sincere appreciation for what the donor’s generosity enabled the organization to accomplish with the funds. A generic tax record does not meet those criteria.

It’s the time of year when seemingly everyone wants my money and it’s exacerbated by the multitude of political candidates still actively pursuing my support. Whether you’re running a campaign, charity or just seeking funds for the marching band, please-o-please put as much consideration into how you are going to thank people for that gift as you put into asking them for it.

How you show your appreciation becomes the background from which you make your next ask. Don’t waste the opportunity.