Chapter Corner

4 Things That Must Be Reinforced by Leaders

Posted in: Features, April 2016

Have you noticed that things tend to slip?

Yeah, you noticed that.

It’s like walking up a sand dune... if you stand still, you’ll start sliding backwards. And that’s reality for all the people in your business.

Among all the issues on your radar, there are four that you really have to reinforce. And I mean all the time. Those four are Values, Processes, Accountability, and Undivided Attention.

VALUES

Notice that I did not say, “Culture must be reinforced.” Your culture is the sum of the values you live out; just like how on a personal level your character is the sum of the values you live out. When you reinforce your values, you are leaning on the levers of culture.

Patrick Lencioni, founder of The Table Group, tells us that 55% of American businesses have “integrity” listed as one of their core values. That value must be reinforced. Buttressed. Shored up.

So how do you reinforce a value?

Simple. You recognize people when they act in line with a value and levy consequences when people ignore or defy a value.

When was the last time you recognized an employee for living out one of your core values instead of for performance or production? If you’re not doing that every month, people will not notice the emphasis.

You can also reinforce a value by telling true stories of how people in your company lived out that value in the past. Dig around and find some good stories; then start telling them. Our stories shape our values.

PROCESSES

Entrepreneurs are the worst at this.

If you started your business or if you consider yourself an entrepreneur, then I’m talking to you. Entrepreneurs are really awesome at starting things, but they tend to be really lousy at following processes – even the ones they invented. Start with yourself and ask, “Am I personally, as a leader, following and reinforcing our processes?”

Processes slip because people relax and begin to cut corners, for example:

  • That requisition doesn’t really need to be filled out. I’ll just tell Bob in purchasing what I need.
  • I don’t have time to find that vacation form. I’ll just email Jill in HR and let her fill it out.
  • I don’t have time to run a full quality check, and besides, the last batch didn’t have any defects, so this one is probably okay, too.

A shortcut in electronics is called a short circuit. It cuts other components out of the loop and may overload or fry components that needed a buffer or filter. Your organization is the same way. Shortcuts in processes leave people out of the loop and overload or fry others.

ACCOUNTABILITY

Bosses think that accountability is about making sure people do what they’re supposed to. Employees know that accountability is about being valued for who they are and for what they do in the organization.

No one likes sending their work or their messages off into a black hole. Lack of accountability signals to people that their work is not valuable, their time is not valuable, and their voice is not valuable. People who are not valued will stop giving their best, and they will start looking for job opportunities in companies that will value them.

To ensure that work gets done and that people feel valued, leaders must constantly reinforce accountability. If you are having trouble holding people accountable, it could be that you need to reevaluate your leadership technique.

UNDIVIDED ATTENTION

All of us have been in another person’s office and had them multitask while conversing with us. They are checking their email, reading or shuffling papers, or even answering the phone. What message is that person giving us by doing this? Is effective communication really occurring?

Exceptional leaders give undivided attention to the person with whom they are conversing. When they do, they are conveying non-verbally that the other person is valuable and what they have to say is important. This fulfills two basic needs that all of us have: (1) to feel important and (2) to be treated with dignity. Without showing this respect to others, leaders lose considerable respect and effectiveness from their employees.

Exceptional leaders also understand that not providing their undivided attention can lead to breakdowns in understanding and full communication. These are some questions to ask yourself to help you determine if you’re truly providing your undivided attention to others:

  • How effective is your communication with another when you multitask during a conversation?
  • Do you shut off your smartphone during one-on-one and group meetings?
  • Are you distracted or do you do other tasks when on conference calls?
  • Do you consciously decide to focus on the other person when the conversation begins?
  • Do you set up your work environment so that you can focus, such as turning off email alarms?

If you cannot answer “yes” to all of the questions above, then you may need to work on providing your undivided attention to others. This will show that you respect them and their opinions.

To be a great leader, you must properly reinforce and practice many different ideologies, but Values, Processes, Accountability, and Undivided Attention should always sit at the top of your list.

Phil Mussallem, CPC, is the president of Electrical Staffing, Inc. Electrical Staffing, Inc., has been a Partner of IEC for over 20 years, as a staffing service for the electrical and associated low voltage contractors. He has also conducted over a total of 50 seminars for IEC National and over 20 for IEC local Chapter meetings, primarily on the topics of employment issues, such as hiring, firing, and jobsite leadership.