Archive for the 'Leadership' Category

What’s your leadership quotient?

“There are two kinds of people in the world,” Dr. Lyle Sussman began his seminar. “One kind walks into a room and the room lights up. The other kind walks out of a room and the room lights up. Which kind are you?”

Sussman is a Professor of Management at the University of Louisville. He writes and speaks on leadership, motivation, performance and teamwork.

Sussman believes great leadership begins with great followership. His Golden Rule of Management is this: “Are you the kind of employee that YOU would want to manage?”

Self-examination is critical to improving one’s leadership quotient or “LQ”. LQ is Sussman’s measurement of a person’s ability to lead effectively.

“It’s hard to look at yourself,” Sussman says. “It’s easy to stay in that river in Egypt: denial.”

The cure for denial involves asking the people around us for honest feedback about how we act. It is a painful process. It is also a helpful one. Sussman recommends 360-degree reviews where more than an employee’s supervisor comments on the employee’s performance. These reviews should be done anonymously.

Presentee-ism can be as big of a problem as absenteeism, Sussman says. He once asked a seminar attendee, “How many people work in your company?” His reply: “About half of them.”

Management guru Peter Drucker was convinced that most organizations are over-managed and under-led. Sussman agrees. All employees are volunteers, even if they get paid. They have free will and can choose how hard they will work. Managers can buy talent, but they must earn loyalty.

The goal of both managers and employees is to increase value and reduce costs. Value and costs can be in both monetary and non-monetary terms. Non-monetary cost reductions may include resolving conflict or reducing stress.

Volunteer-employees create value for your organization. What are you doing as a leader to make them smarter? Sussman asks. When’s the last time one of them came to you with an idea to make the organization better?

Productivity is the product of efficiency and effectiveness. Efficiency means limiting costs. Effectiveness means getting a job done. Sussman explains efficiency and effectiveness with a quadrant matrix:

1. Not efficient, not effective – This person raises costs, but doesn’t achieve goals (will soon be fired or bankrupt)

2. Efficient, but not effective – This person limits costs, but doesn’t achieve goals

3. Not efficient, but effective – This person raises costs, but at least achieves goals

4. Efficient, effective – This person limits costs while achieving goals

Category 4 is obviously the model employee, but most employees fall into Category 3. Effective coaching can help employees ascend into Category 4.

Unfortunately, good coaching can be scarce. Most managers are more referee than coach. It’s easier to carry a rule book and a whistle than to invest in an employee’s development. That requires courage and self-sacrifice.

With regard to coaching, courage, self-sacrifice and getting out of one’s comfort zone, Sussman had a unique perspective on the growing industry of executive coaching and consulting.

Coaches and consultants are paid to get people to do things they already know they should do. People who actually do what they know really do believe what they know.

We’ve all heard the adage: “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” Hogwash, Sussman says.

“The trick is to make the horse thirsty.”

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. He can be reached at kevin@kwt.info.

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Staying relevant in an evolving world

I had gone down to the hotel lobby for a bucket of ice. In one of the meeting rooms, all my banking seminar classmates were watching a movie that our instructor had assigned for the next day’s class. Somehow, I missed the memo – probably because there was never a memo, only a GroupMe message.

I figured it out four days later, after missing a handful of other class meetings and announcements. And I thought I was being progressive when I listed “text” as my preferred communication method.

I obviously had never heard of GroupMe. Consequently, my group never heard from me. I was, in a way, inconsequential. That is, irrelevant.

Of all the things I’d like people to say about me, “relevant” is on the list. I want to matter – to my kids, to my wife, to my customers, to my employer.

The more the world changes – and the faster it changes – the harder it is to feel relevant. Fortunately, my banking school schedule included a course on keeping bank branches relevant in an internet banking world. It was taught by Dave Martin, a retail banking columnist for American Banker magazine.

Martin said the average American visits a bank branch two or three times per year. That may or may not be the number of times your internet banking system requires you to change your password.

Anyway, what is the need for a physical bank branch when you can do practically every banking task from the confines of your underwear?

Good question, and surely one my employer considered before opening a not-cheap 4,500 square foot banking center for me to run last year.

Cavernous bank lobbies are a holdover from when lines of customers snaked to and fro waiting to deposit paper paychecks. Today, checks are nearly extinct. Less than fifteen years ago, fifteen Federal Reserve check processing centers scattered the country. Only one remains.

Evolution is happening in every industry, Mr Martin observes with both a comforting addendum and a prescient warning: “Evolution does not mean elimination, but failing to evolve guarantees elimination.”

According to Martin, organizational progress gets threatened by three types of people. “Snipers” shoot down every idea that might move an organization or a person forward. They have a form of intelligence but deny its power.

“Historians” remember when every idea failed before. Never mind that the landscape may have changed in a way that will now grant the idea success. Historians are stuck in the good ‘ole days which are “good” primarily because you know how they turned out. The past didn’t kill you so it seems safe now.

“Jetsons” are futurists who saw the answer to every perplexity last night on the Discovery Channel. If you would just buy a new technology system or adopt the latest production technique, your performance issues would be solved.

Relevant people aren’t snipers – they fail more, not less, than average. They aren’t historians – they don’t trip on things behind them. They aren’t Jetsons – they recognize that success stems from the consistent application of good habits, that everything is hard until it is easy.

Mr Martin believes bank branches can still provide a place for people to get straight answers from people they trust about financial questions. They can profitably serve as the human interface of the bank’s online operations. They can stay relevant.

And I can learn to use GroupMe.

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. Contact him at kevin@kwt.info.

Franklin family offers model of service

“God has a sense of humor,” Larry Franklin says. The former CEO of San Antonio-based direct marketing firm Harte-Hanks never thought he’d be working the land at age 73.

“My father sharecropped the same one hundred east Texas acres for 50 years. My goal in life was not to be working in dirt anywhere. I wanted off the farm.”

After graduating in a class of 13 (“ten boys, two girls and a married woman”) from Ladonia High School, Franklin took his young wife and some football talent to East Texas State University.

“Charlotte was from the big city. She was from Paris.” Texas, that is.

“Walking off the field after my last game, she said, ‘You’re going to be a father.’ We eventually took an economics professor’s advice and went to graduate school at Texas Tech. Kelly was born in Lubbock.”

After an MBA, a CPA and 4 years of public accounting, Franklin joined Harte-Hanks in San Antonio, rising over the course of 41 years to the top of the corporation.

During his tenure, Franklin purchased 150 businesses in 37 states across 7 sectors in the media industry, including the San Antonio Express-News and KENS TV. Harte-Hanks’ assets today include mainly direct mail and target marketing businesses.

As the business grew, Franklin wrestled with his purpose:

“One day we all will answer two questions: ‘What did you do with the Lord?’ and ‘What did you do with what he gave you?’ I have felt good about the first question since I was thirteen, but I wasn’t sure about the second one.”

As he approached 60 years of age, Franklin slowed down, thanks, in part, to the power of some praying women.

“I’ve always been surrounded by praying women. First, my mother, then Charlotte, then my two daughters.”

Franklin stepped down as CEO in 2002. At the urging of his son-in-law, Jason Borchardt, Franklin purchased the first ranch he toured: 450 acres 10 miles northeast of Blanco. That was 1996.

Nearly two decades and an additional two thousand acres later, the Franklin Family Ranch annually hosts thousands of day visitors, retreaters, campers, hunters and trail riders. An Easter celebration draws more than a thousand. (“It’s not about eggs and bunnies.”) Boerne-based Still Water Sports Camps has called the ranch home for six consecutive summers.

“It has been an unbelievable run being out here with these kids,” Franklin said as dozens of diverse Still Water campers swarmed around us. “We have seen amazing transformations in kids because college counselors plant seeds and pour into their lives.”

Franklin’s two daughters and their families also live and work on the ranch. Kelly and Neil Hardwick handle the groups who visit. Kristi and Jason Borchardt manage the wildlife which includes several species of deer, antelope and sheep. Franklin’s grandchildren cook and serve meals for campers and guests.

“It just doesn’t get any better than this,” Franklin reflected. “It’s like what the apostle John said, ‘I have no greater joy than to see my children walking in the truth.’”

Son-in-law Hardwick summarized the uniqueness of the arrangement:

“We wanted a different life than what corporate America might dictate. We wanted to work together and live together. We wanted to show our kids through a life of service what it means to have a servant heart.”

Franklin recognizes the divine irony in his situation, “We always thought we’d have a place in New York City. God had a different plan.”

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. Contact him at kevin@kwt.info.

The high cost of entrepreneurship

It was the week before Christmas and I was on vacation two states away. My customer called me from outside his company holiday party. I could tell he was pacing apprehensively.

Even in the bright lights of the season, he was enduring a dark night of the soul, the latest in a lengthening string.

He described a haunting reality. His busy season hadn’t produced enough nuts for the winter. Bills were mounting while billings fell. Checks were set to bounce. Lives were about to change. His company teetered on the edge of collapse.

He called as much for support as for money. His left brain knew I had no more money to lend. His right brain still held out hope – hope that something could be created from nothing. He is, after all, an entrepreneur.

Doubt deepened within him. Yet, inside the party, he had to maintain a sense of normalcy and control, as if the year could not have gone better and the future never looked brighter.

For entrepreneurs, perception is often reality. They specialize in impression management. It’s not that they’re fake. They can be as authentic as apple pie. They just have faith.

They believe they can move mountains. And often they do, dirt contractors and landscapers, in particular.

But the pressure of entrepreneurship can take a toll. On one hand, a self-employed entrepreneur diversifies her risk by serving a plethora of customers, not just one employer.

On the other hand, an entrepreneur’s risk is concentrated in himself. He is a “key man.” Only the key can unlock success’ door. Therein lies the burden and the root of emotional disorder.

In an award-winning 2013 Inc. Magazine article entitled “The Psychological Price of Entrepreneurship,” Jessica Bruder quotes Dr. Michael Freeman, a psychiatrist who has studied the mental health effects of entrepreneurship.

Freeman notes that “people who are on the energetic, motivated and creative side are both more likely to be entrepreneurial and more likely to have strong emotional states” (e.g., depression, despair, hopelessness, worthlessness, loss of motivation and suicidal thinking).

In other words, the chemistry that takes you to the top can also bring you down.

Psychologist John Gartner takes the biology a step further. He claims that because the United States was founded and populated by daring, “self-selecting” people (i.e., immigrants and their children), many of us have “hypomanic” traits in our DNA. We are driven and inventive but also depressive and instable.

Combine genetics with the financial and management strains that come at the top of the organizational chart and you get a roller coaster worthy of Fiesta Texas.

But Bruder describes the increasing willingness of entrepreneurs to open up. Obviously, no leader is going to spill the red ink on the annual report, but showing some emotions at work can make a leader seem more human and trustworthy. It can also provide much needed ventilation.

Other recommendations for business folks in the crucible include staying close with friends and family, taking care of oneself (sleep, diet, exercise) and building an identity outside of one’s work.

As a small business banker, it’s a high honor to venture vicariously through my entrepreneurial customers. Though their risks are high, I often pray their rewards are higher, and not just in monetary terms.

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas Hill Country. Follow him at http://www.kwt.info.

The secret to Lincoln’s greatness

Last month marked the 150th anniversary of the death of President Abraham Lincoln. As John Wilkes Booth pulled the trigger that fateful night, Lincoln’s bodyguard drank whiskey in a saloon across the street. It happened on a Friday, Good Friday.

Only six days had passed since the South surrendered, ending the four-year-long Civil War. The City of Washington and half the nation celebrated. The whole nation mourned its losses. All the while Booth changed his plans from kidnapping to killing.

Lincoln always knew his end might come this way. After his election in 1860, Lincoln traveled a somewhat circuitous route to his first inauguration. From Illinois, he journeyed across the Midwest, up through New York and down the Atlantic coast.

On a stop at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, he made a brief speech about his commitment to the ideas that came to life there four score and five years prior.

The Declaration of Independence, he said, “gave liberty, not alone to the people of this country, but, I hope, to the world for all future time… But if this country cannot be saved without giving up that principle, I was about to say I would rather be assassinated on this spot than surrender it.”

Abraham Lincoln was prepared to live or die on Liberty Hill.

“I have said nothing but what I am willing to live by and, if it be the pleasure of the Almighty God, die by.”

Lincoln believed the principles that sprang forth from Philadelphia in 1776 had the power to change a country, a continent and the world. He was willing to defend them to the death. While the South considered the Civil War an act of northern aggression, Lincoln held a different perspective.

“There will be no bloodshed unless it is forced upon the (U.S.) government, and then it will be compelled to act in self-defense.”

As we know, there was in fact bloodshed and no shortage of it. Seven hundred and fifty thousand men fought and died for their concept of liberty. At each death count,Lincoln was surely tempted to call off the carnage, bring home the troops and resign himself to the coexistence of two nations. He never did.

Lincoln’s greatness stood on this: He knew when to set loose and he knew when to bind up. He set free the slaves and then bound up a torn nation. For the emancipation to live, he knew the division must die.

Through the force of his resolve and the sacrifices of his men, he saw, for six short days, a nation reunited.

After his death, Lincoln’s body backtracked by train to Illinois following roughly the same route by which he came to the presidency. The exhumed remains of WillieLincoln, Abraham’s son who died of typhoid fever three years earlier, joined him on the journey. Like those he had led through the valley of death, Lincoln was no stranger to loss.

By day, open casket viewings of Lincoln’s body drew hundreds of thousands. By night, millions of mourners lined the tracks to pay their respects amidst a bonfire’s glow.

Abraham Lincoln died on Good Friday. In his wake arose a nation more free and more resolved that, in his own words, “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Follow Kevin Thompson at http://www.kwt.info.

Here’s to the coaches

“Those who work the hardest are the last to surrender” read the plastic sign next to the locker room door. Coach King never explicitly instructed us to slap it on our way to the court. We just knew.

Coaches have that kind of power. They hold sway over athletes because they have what athletes want: a spot on the team, playing time, scoring and winning opportunities, the prospect of recognition, even fame.

So, when Coach King said to run at 6 in the morning, I ran. When he said to take notes during team meetings, I wrote. When he said to dive for loose balls, I skinned my knees.

Coach had come to Nashville from rural Pennsylvania to be a country music songwriter. When the industry treated him the way it treats most artists, he fell into teaching and coaching.

He wasn’t your average teacher and coach. He quoted Meatloaf and used words like “denouement”. He was probably the only head high school basketball coach in America who also served as the English department chair. All that made him all the more memorable.

Naturally, I remember what Coach King said. For example,

“Nothing great has ever been achieved except by those who dared to believe that something inside them was superior to circumstances.”

Athletes arguably spend more direct time with their coaches than they do with any other adult, even parents. Sports fundamentals fill much of that time, but life philosophies also shine through. That’s partly what makes a coach’s influence so profound.

“When the Game Stands Tall”, in theaters now, profiles a high school football coach in northern California who prepares young men for life after football. He also happens to win a lot of games. 151 in a row at one point.

Coach Bob Ladouceur preaches love and becoming someone others can depend on. Like coaches across the country, he uses sport as a means to an end.

“The game by itself doesn’t stand tall,” Ladouceur told author Neil Hayes. “Without intangibles, in a certain sense, it’s barbarism. The violence isn’t what attracts me to it. It’s getting kids to play together and get along with each other. The game should be a teaching tool. It doesn’t stand tall on its own.”

Historically, Boerne has been blessed with coaches that inspire excellence on and off the field. Largely credit athletic director and long-time boys basketball coach Stan Leech for this.

I spent a week this summer with one of Leech’s basketball coaching colleagues. Jason Sweatman gave as much energy and effort to coaching underprivileged 10-year-olds as he does to coaching his high school players.

On the gridiron, Boerne High football coach Mike Dormady preaches passion, trust and discipline, the three traits blazoned on his program’s crest.

Dormady’s son, Quinten, plays quarterback for the Greyhounds. He is set to play college ball for the University of Tennessee next fall. One might expect some cockiness from the rising star considering the elevated status Aggie fans now give SEC football.

But while his six foot, four inch frame stands a head taller than most other players, the well-coached Dormady only uses his height advantage for the positive. He’s constantly  slapping the tops of his teammates’ helmets in gratitude for their efforts.

And it’s a pleasure to see. Even in the age of the ego, great coaches remind kids it’s still all about the team.


Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. Follow him at http://www.kwt.info.

 

What a difference a year makes

A year ago we San Antonians nursed our wounds. Tim Duncan’s chance at “one for the thumb” had slipped through the net like a Ray Allen three-pointer. With an aging core, a Finals return seemed unlikely.

Then, Coach Gregg Popovich led the Spurs to the NBA’s best regular season record and a triumph over all Western Conference foes.

And then, Mr Duncan promised redemption. “We’ll get it done this time,” he calmly pronounced after defeating Oklahoma City on May 31.

I had my doubts. The Spurs were again up against the “best player on the planet” and a Big 3 that took its talents to South Beach to win “not two, not three, not four…” but more championships.

Oh, but what joy that basketball inventor James Naismith concocted a team sport! And what a difference a year makes.

Last year at this time, San Antonio entered a collective depression. This year, the celebration hasn’t stopped. Not even headfirst fall from a pickup can keep us down (Google “Spurs fan face plant”).

Last year, Manu Ginobili made more turnovers than an English bakery. This year, he dunked on Chris Bosh and resurrected moments of brilliance.

Last year, a once-dominant Duncan knocked hard on retirement’s door. This year, it looked like he could be an effective role player for another five years.

Last year, Patty Mills waived a mean towel from the bench. This year, he threw daggers that put a languishing victim out of its misery.

Last year, Kawhi Leonard was 21. This year, he was 22. And MVP.

Last year, Heat forward LeBron James rejected Spurs center Tiago Splitter in a series-defining play. This year, Tiago sent Heat guard Dwyane Wade packing.

Last year, the Heat’s supporting cast showed up. This year, they appeared tired of the LeBron show.

Last year, the air conditioning worked every game. This year, a warm June night separated the men from those who cramp.

Last year, LeBron swaggered. This year, he whined.

Last year, a yacht-owning Heat owner accepted the championship trophy. This year, a heavy equipment-dealing Spurs owner accepted it.

Last year, the Spurs ran a stale triangle offense. This year, Coach Pop changed to a 1940s weave.

That was about all Pop changed.

He still spoke concisely in interviews. He still graciously hugged LeBron when it was over. He still thanked the fans. (Last year, it was the thousand who greeted a losing team at the airport. This year, it was 75,000 who celebrated at the Alamodome).

Yet again, Pop represents all that’s right with the Spurs and the world. The love he has for his players. The lightness with which he navigates success and fame. The perspective he brings to the game.

When other NBA coaches would be straightening their ties for the championship photos, Pop took his off. It draped casually around his neck as if to say, “Hold loosely to things that pass.” Fittingly, this philosophy had put his team on the championship stage.

During timeouts, Pop would tell his players, “Don’t let it stick,” referring to the ball and the importance of frequent passing.

The principle orchestrated a Mozartian display of team basketball and a fifth NBA title. Pop knows it will orchestrate a fulfilling life, as well.

 

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. Follow him at http://www.kwt.info.

 

P.S. Related: An open letter to Pop, July 2013 – https://kwtinfo.wordpress.com/2013/07/02/an-open-letter-to-pop/

 


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