[A] clear, practical, and powerful approach for navigating through tough times. Bonnie Hammer, Chairman, NBCU Cable Entertainment and Cable Studios


About Erika Andersen

Over the past 30 years, Erika has developed a reputation for creating approaches to learning and business-building that are custom tailored to her clients’ challenges, goals, and culture.
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Archive for the ‘Work’ Category

Aug
22

How Does Stuff Get Done Around Here?

As many of you know, I wrote a book called Growing Great Employees a few years back.  One chapter focuses on how to get new people started well in your organization. I proposed that, in general, people want three questions answered when they start a new job: Who do I need to know?,  How do things get done around here?, and What’s expected of me?

Not long ago a client of mine turned me on to an article published a few years ago in Business Week about the (then) emerging discipline of Social Network Analysis. I got very intrigued, and continued to research the subject.

Social Network Analysis (SNA) is “the mapping and measuring of relationships and flows between people, groups, organizations, computers, URLs, and other connected information/knowledge entities. The nodes in the network are the people and groups, while the links show relationships or flows between the nodes.”  I got that definition from the website of orgnet.com, a company that’s been doing SNA and providing SNA software to clients for 15 years.

I find this both fascinating and useful: SNA is a way of making visible the answer to two of those three core questions –   “Who do I need to know?” and “How does stuff get done around here?

SNA provides critical insights into how information flows (and doesn’t); who is at the core of networks of people and who’s at the periphery; where there are silos and where interaction happens freely. If used well, it can help companies take best advantage of the employees who are “examplars” – those to whom others turn for advice, knowledge, insights.  It can also help organizations see “blockages” in work and information flow, and focus more usefully on how to get things unstuck.

This isn’t new – many of these concepts are at the core of Seth Godin’s latest books, for instance, and orgnet.com has a big client list – but I love the idea that this way of visualizing organizations is becoming more widespread.  It’s yet another indication to me that what has historically been thought of as “the soft stuff” in organizations is finally getting recognized as key to productivity and profit.

SNA demonstrates, in a very clear and 21st century way, that people really are our most important resource.


Jul
31

Why We Hate Strategy

I have to admit, the general attitude toward strategy – as boring, soulless and impractical – is a puzzle to me.  In my work and in my life, I see the real power of operating with a strategic mindset every single day.  And when we teach our framework for thinking and acting strategically, participants report that it provides a great way for them to bring their focus up out of the weeds, and helps them and their teams stay focused on their vision for success, and on how to address the most critical issues confronting them.

But I digress.  Most people would rather do their taxes than think about strategy.  In fact, when I wrote my second book, Being Strategic, a dear friend of mine in the business book world, for whom I have a great deal of respect, told me he thought it wasn’t the right book for me to write. “You’re so warm and personal,” he said, “and you have such a great way of connecting with your readers.  Strategy just doesn’t seem like you: so heady and cold.”  It turned out he hadn’t actually read the book yet.

I believe his assumptions are widespread. So, without further ado, here are my top 5 reasons why people think strategy is boring:

5) No agreement about what strategy is. I have a google alert on the phrase “being strategic.”  It’s astonishing to me how little overlap there is among the various meanings people ascribe to this phrase.  For instance, some people use it to mean “acting only for your own benefit,” while others think it means “staying mono-focused on destroying the competition,” and still others use it as high-falutin’ way of saying “thinking like I do.”  In this welter of conflicting definition, I believe people just think, I don’t know what it means – and I don’t care.

4) As practiced in most organizations, strategy IS boring.  Have you ever sat in a ‘strategy’ meeting at your company?  I bet you have.  Complicated charts, Ben Stein clones droning on about some obscure algorithm having to do with market share as a function of cycle time, blah blah blah.  And then fat binders get created, and sit on shelves, and get pulled out and referenced (maybe) in excruciating detail once a year.  Oh my god, let’s all just shoot ourselves right now.

3) Mind-numbing language. As above.  Somehow, most people think they’re “being strategic,” if they’re saying obscure, intellectual-sounding stuff.  Here’s a quote from Michael Porter, probably the world’s best-known strategy guru: “Strategic positions emerge from three distinct sources, which are not mutually exclusive and often overlap. First, positioning can be based on producing a subset of an industry’s products or services. I call this variety-based positioning because it is based on the choice of product or service varieties rather than customer segments. Variety-based positioning makes economic sense when a company can best produce particular products or services using distinctive sets of activities.” What, now? Oh, wait, I don’t care.

2) Practitioners who want to seem smarter than you.  See the above. The charts and graphs, the language, the lack of clear definition – all support the strategy consultant’s implied contention that strategy is an arcane and complex body of ancient wisdom, able to be understood and practiced only by the anointed few.  Many CEOs are taken in by this and pay kajillions of dollars to be told what to do and why.  Most of us, again, are thinking, Whatever, dude. Can I just do my job now?

And the number 1 reason people think strategy is boring (drum roll):

1) They don’t see the connection to real life.  Because of the way “strategy” is thought of, talked about and practiced in most organizations, it seem entirely disconnected from people’s day-to-day concerns: how to do a good job; how to build positive relationships with those around them; how to get good results; how to have a reasonably good time doing it.  Even those who are passionate about their jobs or about the success of the company simply don’t see how “strategy” – again as generally practiced – is going to help.

It’s a shame really, because there’s actually something extremely valuable hidden in the midst of all this.  And even Michael Porter (who I love to diss) has said wonderfully clear and accurate things about the value of strategy on occasion. My very favorite quote of his is “the essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.”

Because that’s it: strategy is thinking in a focused way about what’s most important and how to get there, and it can give you critical insights as to the things you shouldn’t be doing that won’t get you where you’re trying to go. How about if we define being strategic simply as consistently making the core directional choices that will best move you toward your hoped-for future. In other words, thinking and acting strategically means figuring out the future you want to create for your enterprise; then getting clear about where you are now; then building a path with your colleagues – making core directional choices – for getting there.  And finally, being consistent about walking down that path together.

That doesn’t sound so boring.  That actually sounds reasonable and very useful.  Let’s do that.


Jul
17

Entrepreneurs Come In Two Flavors

I read a great many posts and articles by and about entrepreneurs. Lately it has seemed to me that there are two basic entrepreneurial mindsets. There may well be more, and there may be variations on these themes, but these two entrepreneurial types seem to cover most of the territory I’ve observed.

Flavor #1 is the “make a killing” (MAK) entrepreneur.  His or her core motivation is to crack the code on becoming wealthy.  This kind of entrepreneur wants to build a better mousetrap not primarily to rid the world of disease-creating vermin, or give people a more humane mouse-removal option, but to exit the mousetrap business altogether with a very fat check in hand, and retire to the South of France. Now, these folks quite often create wonderful new things – but what they really want to do is figure out how to build something that can be scaled up and sold.

Flavor #2 is the “richard branson” (RB) entrepreneur.  He or she is passionately committed to bringing a product or service to the world that’s better, faster, sleeker, simpler, more sustainable, more delightful, easier, etc.  This entrepreneur wants to build a better mousetrap because he or she can see so clearly how much cooler it would be than anything that currently exists.  And this person can’t wait to see how it’s going to happen. Now, this kind of entrepreneur quite often also gets rich (as witness the actual Richard Branson) and sometimes even buys a house in in the south of France – but he or she probably keeps working on the next, even cooler version of the thing while sitting on his or her terasse. Getting rich is not the point – or not the main point.

I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit lately because I’ve been realizing that I’m about
95% RB, and my business partner is about 65% RB and about 35% MAK (I haven’t run this by him yet – he might assess himself differently).  And I see that his infusion of MAK-ness is very good for me and for the business.  Without him, the business wouldn’t be growing as quickly, and we wouldn’t be thinking as much (or as practically) about creating new revenue streams that are more self- sustaining and scalable.

But I’m also watching my son – who is heavily weighted toward the RB side – having lots of difficulty finding an operating rhythm with his business partner, who is a pure, unadulterated, 100% MAK. They have these frustrating conversations where Ian focuses (passionately) on brand and how they can build a business and a reputation by giving their customers an experience and food that are uniquely attractive in a very specific way. And his partner just wants to focus on reducing food and liquor costs, increasing operational efficiencies and getting people in and out quickly, so their restaurant will blow up and turn a big profit. They’re speaking two different languages entirely, with almost no overlap, and I know that each thinks the other is…not wrong, exactly, but just not that appealing.

And it seems to me that if you’re an entrepreneur, it’s important to become aware of your primary flavor. It will help you get clear about what success looks like for you, and it will also help you make sure that your partners share enough of your mindset to speak the same language and be excited about the same future.

Which may very well include that house in the South of France, whatever your flavor.


Apr
29

Being Your Own Support System

Last week I had the pleasure of spending a little bit of time with a lot of wonderful women.  As a part of the Rising Leaders leadership intensive we teach for WICT (Women in Cable Telecommunications) twice a year, I conduct 30-minute “mini” coaching sessions with 50+ women, all of whom are high-potential midlevel cable executives.

In more than half of these individual sessions, we end up focusing on self-talk – that little voice that runs in your head non-stop.  I’ve discovered, over the years, that many (perhaps most) of the problems we run into in our lives have something to do with how we talk to ourselves about situations.  Learning to manage your own self-talk is one of the most useful tools you can have in your self-development toolbox.

Let me give you a poignant and powerful real-life example.  Three of the women I spoke with – very bright, accomplished women – were convinced that they were doing badly at work, that no one was supporting them, and that they were sure to fail.

For all three, the facts contradicted their fears: all had been recently promoted; had been nominated and sent to the program by their boss and HR (a big investment for their company); had gotten great performance reviews; and had scored well on the interpersonal and leadership assessments we provide as part of the class.

So, what was the deal?

All three women had awful self-talk.  That voice in their head was using them as a chew toy.  “You’re doing a terrible job” that voice was saying, or “No one wants you on the team,” or “There’s no way you can succeed.” And, because they were largely unaware of what they were saying to themselves, it was affecting them on a daily basis like pollution leaking into a water system..invisible and deadly.

We taught these women our model for bringing your self-talk to your conscious awareness and revising it. It’s dramatically powerful: whenever you feel hopeless, helpless, defeated, incompetent, or overwhelmed, managing your self-talk about the situation you’re in is almost sure to help.  Here’s how it works:

  • Recognize: The first step in managing your self-talk is to “hear” it.  Unless you’re aware of this internal monologue, it’s impossible to change it.  Start by simply recognizing what you’re saying to yourself.  For instance, let’s say you’ve just gotten a promotion. Rather than being thrilled, you realize you’re feeling anxious and overwhelmed. When you focus on your thoughts about the promotion, you might hear something like, “There’s no way I’m qualified for this – it will be a disaster.” As soon as you “hear” what you’re saying to yourself, that sense of hopelessness or overwhelm makes sense – you’re believing that negative voice in your head.
  • Record:  Writing down your self-talk creates a useful separation; when you see it written down, it feels less like an intrinsic part of you.  If you write down that self-talk statement, above: “There’s no way I’m qualified for this – it will be a disaster,”  you’ll be better able to look objectively at how this negative self-talk affects you: perhaps making you more likely to abandon the project, or to feel cynical or hopeless about the possibility of accomplishing it.
  • Revise: After you’ve recorded any inaccurate, unhelpful self-talk, you can decide how to “rethink” it.   This step is the core of the process. Your goal is to create alternative self-talk that you’ll believe and that will lead to a more useful response.  For instance, if you try to substitute self-talk that’s falsely positive, like, “This will be a piece of cake,” you simply won’t believe it, and therefore it will have no impact on you: you’ll just revert back to your original negative self-talk.  What could you say to yourself instead, that’s believable and that would create a more useful response?  How about something like: “I know this will be a challenge.  But I’m good at learning new things, and I’m really motivated.”
  • Repeat: Like any habit, managing your self-talk requires repetition. Substituting more hopeful and accurate self-talk for your negative self-talk will be helpful the very first time you do it.  And you’ll need to consciously do it again the next time the voice in your head comes up with a similarly unhelpful statement.  And again. This is a process for creating new habits of thought. Whenever you find yourself falling into a pattern of unhelpful self-talk – either overly negative or overly positive –  consciously substitute your revised, more realistic and accurate self-talk.

So that’s it.  Until you try it, you may not see see how powerfully helpful it can be.  Think of it this way: imagine if you had a ‘friend’ who was saying the kinds of unsupportive, unhelpful, negative things you sometimes say to yourself, would you just nod and accept it?  I hope not.  By learning to manage your self-talk, you can make sure you’re not getting in the way of your own success and happiness.


Jan
30

If Something Happens All the Time, It Can Still Be a Miracle

I’ve realized lately that there’s something I love no matter what form it takes: growth. The process of something changing its form to become more complete, more mature, more fully established and able to fulfill its innate purpose – wonderful.

SAM_0407It’s marvelous to observe in nature; it’s why I enjoy gardening so much. Think about it: a tomato seed is tiny, almost transparent, fragile-looking.  (If you’ve never seen a tomato seed, here’s a comparison: a tomato seed is about the size and shape of this capital O.) And that tiny object, when put in the ground and watered, first breaks through the ground as a little green seedling. And then over the next few months – a remarkably short period of time – it grows as tall and wide as an adult person, yields dozens and dozens of tomatoes, each of which is hundreds of times larger than the original seed.

Miraculous.

And I’ve understood that growth – any kind of growth –  requires two things: a framework for expansion and a compulsion to evolve.  In nature, DNA provides that framework.  The tomato seed contains all the instructions needed for the fully mature plant, as the human egg and sperm do for the adult human being.

The compulsion to evolve is the thing that fascinates me.  I see it in all life: it shows up in animals as the urge to survive and reproduce; in plants as breaking through the ground, turning toward the light. It shows up in human beings as curiosity, competition, the will to create a better life for one’s children.

Earlier this week I had the chance to spend a couple of days with a very senior team in a large client company of ours.  I’ve been coaching the leader of this team for the past five or six years. My intention – as is always the case when I coach – has been to offer him good frameworks for growth, and help him get in touch with his own compulsion to evolve. It’s been a joy to observe his growth, as a person and as professional, over these years.

But this time I saw his team evolving, as well, and it was so exciting to me.  Over the past five years, I’ve worked with this team on 3 different occasions. This time, I saw framework + compulsion.  By framework, I mean that they’re finally set up properly: they have the right people in the right roles, they’re clearer than ever on what they’re trying to do and how they’ll do it. We did some work in this session that helped clarify those framing supports even more.

The new thing though, and the most wonderful to see: the awakening of the compulsion to evolve. In previous iterations, there were people on the team who weren’tat all sure they wanted to grow as a team.  This time, every single person in the room genuinely wanted to evolve into a high-performance team that will get great results and have fun doing it.

And to me, that’s as amazing as the tiny seed becoming a gigantic fruitful plant.  That a group of people would come together and make a conscious decision to pool their passion, their experience and their trust in order to evolve into a new thing; a team.

A business miracle.


Jan
15

An Exaltation of Larks

There’s a name for phrases like this: in the English language, collective nouns for groups of a specific animal are called “terms of venery.”  For instance, “a pride of lions,” or “a gaggle of geese.”  As I understand it, this tradition began in Europe in the middle ages – and it became a fun and fashionable thing to do to create whimsical and ever-more-exotic terms of venery.  In fact, in the 15th century there was even a fad for extending terms of venery to groups of human beings (“a sentence of judges,” “a melody of harpers”).

Some of these terms are simply wonderful.  “An exaltation of larks”  is one of my favorites, but I also like “a murder of crows” and “a clowder of cats.”  I love how these terms were created to capture some essential quality of the animal described.

Over the past couple of days, I was in Austin to attend 800CEOREAD’s Author Pow Wow – an absolutely marvelous, fun, useful yearly conference of business book authors and the people who support and partner with us in the creation of our books: publishers, publicists, social media consultants, presentation skills experts, ghostwriters, agents.

It’s so great.  Spending two days with 40 smart, curious, funny, collaborative people who are trying to figure out how to teach and share important ideas in an industry that’s changing faster than we can name the changes: Exhilarating. Inspiring. Reassuring.

So, my extreme thanks to 800CEOREAD, and Pow Wow sponsors Cave Henricks Communications, Shelton Interactive, and Greenleaf Book Group.

And I’ve decided that the proper term for our Pow Wow group is “an insight of business book authors.”


Jan
10

Six Years and Counting

I started this blog six years ago today (time flies when you’re having fun…)  on the advice of a young publicist who worked for the publisher of my first book, Growing Great Employees, which had just been launched.  I remember clearly being daunted by the suggestion: I knew what a blog was, I had actually read some blogs.  But to create my own?

She recommended that I go to TypePad, where there was a really good, remarkably simple set-up-your-own-blog tutorial. A few hours later: voila!  Blogging!

So here we are, six years later, and social media is not only not daunting to me – it’s fascinating, fun and useful.  My social media platform  has become a big part of my brand – this blog, my Forbes blog, twitter, facebook, the Insider List, our LinkedIn group, Pinterest – and a great way to interact with people who share an interest in our work around leader readiness.  A big change in a fairly short period of time.

But, on the other hand, some things are remarkably consistent over time.  My initial post was about Robert Nardelli, who had just gotten fired from Home Depot. And even that specific situation is no longer current, the point of the article (that leaders ignore the “people part” of business at their peril) is still completely relevant. An excerpt:

At the same time, we’ve relegated the actual nuts-and-bolts people part of leadership – finding great people, bringing them into the organization well, providing them with the skills and knowledge they need in order to support the organization’s success – to a kind of second-class citizenship; it’s there, but it’s not nearly as interesting or sexy. Even though we all nodded wisely when Jim Collins told us, in Good to Great, that the first task of a “Level 5 Leader” is to get the right people on the bus, sitting in the right seats (yes, we knew that! we said to each other), we still behave as though people management is a kind of necessary evil; something that middle managers do when they’re not doing their real jobs. Company sloganeering about “people are our most important asset” and “we grow and develop our people” aside, people leadership is just not that cool these days. Executives even say, disparagingly, of other executives, “Well, I guess he or she is a good manager” – implying that the person is a plodder, not innovative, not much of a leader.

I wrote a post a few months ago at Forbes titled “Manage or Lead? Do Both.” – making pretty much the same point.

In other words, 6 years and over 400 posts later, even though social media has evolved dramatically, creating new business opportunities and consumar expectations in its wake; even though the entire media landscape overall is morphing even as we speak; even though national and global economies are transforming; even though a new generation is coming of age…still, the core elements of leading and managing remain the same – they’re based on timeless human needs and aspirations.

In fact, I’ll make a prediction: I believe that six years from now I’ll still be writing about managing and leading well, in a way that inspires and elicits people’s best, that builds strong teams and organizations and creates great results. I’ll be talking about why it’s important, what gets in the way, and how to do it. I’ll be inviting you to share your experiences and insights as well, so we can all keep developing our understanding and putting it into practice.

I’ll see you there…


Nov
14

Talking About Leadership

I know I’m probably not supposed to say this – it’s kind of like saying you prefer one of your children over another – but just between you and me, Leading So People Will Follow may be my favorite of the books I’ve written so far.  I’m so much enjoying talking about it with people – especially the folks who have been interviewing me recently, around the book’s publication.  People are asking such interesting questions – we’re having such good conversations about the nature of leadership, and how people can get to be better leaders.

Yesterday a friend and client was asking me why I like this topic of leadership so much.  I realized that it’s because the idea of leading, and what it means to lead, is right at the heart of my own personal mission of helping people become what they want to become. So many people want to be leaders – not just to have formal jobs leading others, but to be people who can guide, direct and influence others in a variety of professional and personal settings.

I suspect that you might be one of those people – and so I hope you find these interviews useful and interesting:


Oct
24

What I’m Learning From My New Book

This may seem like an odd title for a post from me (e.g., Wait – what?  Don’t you already know the stuff in your own book?), but I’m talking about all the things I’m learning from the experience of publishing it.

Over the last six years, as I’ve lived through 5 pub dates (hardcover and paperback of my first two books, and the hardcover of the new one), the main thing I learned is that an author has to be the CEO of his or her own books. Nobody else will be.  You are the person with the most to gain or lose, and you need to be the keeper of the flame; to be the primary person responsible for assuring success (of course, that also implies that you have to know what success looks like for you – but that’s a whole other post). I feel as though I’ve gotten better and better at this, though I believe I still have lots to learn.

I had a big new ah-ha with this book, though. I experienced much more than in my previous book-CEO incarnations that – just as for the CEO of any company –  the team around that person is critical to the success of the endeavor.

I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have a truly talented and dedicated team on this book.  Now that the initial push for the book has calmed down, I have the bandwidth to reflect on how supported I’ve felt throughout the process – and how well the team has created a foundation for the continued success of the book.

Celebrating the team’s success – at the launch party

Here’s what I mean. At the beginning of the project, as soon as the deal with Jossey-Bass was finalized, the core team – me, my agent Jim Levine, my editor Susan Williams, publicists Barbara Cave Henricks and Kaila Nickel (traditional media) and Rusty Shelton (social media), my business partner Jeff Mitchell, and my assistant and social media wingman Dan Camins – got together to do a ‘mini-vision and strategy session’ for the book.  From that we created a six-month project calendar that included every key deliverable, who was responsible, and when it was due. (Just to give you a sense of the complexity of the endeavor – there were about 120 items on the project calendar.)

But that was just the core team.  There was a whole separate subteam working on creating and validating the Accepted Leader Assessment, based on the six attributes at the core of Leading So People Will Follow.  That team included Sue Gebelein, a great resource who gave us good counsel and connected us with DSI, our assessment partner (they built and manage the assessment online), and their point person/project manager Carol Brekke, and with Marcia Sysma, our validator. The assessment team also included Cindy Franklin, my lovely Proteus colleague who gave of her time to support the validation effort, and Kishauna DeCarmo in our New York office, who is now the administrative queen of the finished ALA assessment.

And that’s still not all!  My savvy, smart and supportive editor at Jossey-Bass, Susan Williams, has brought along her excellent publishing team, as well – Rob Brandt, Amy Packard, Brian Grimm, Alina Poniewaz-Bolton, Bernadette Walter, Adrian Morgan, Carol Hartland and Sophia Ho: marketing, publicity, sales, art, editorial…all so competent, easy to work with and supportive.

And then there’s my own team:  this time, there was a lot more collaboration internal to Proteus, as well.  Jeff and I stayed connected throughout, to focus on how best to support the book’s launch with products and services.  We worked with our consultants to update our half-day Leading So People Will Follow training module (which has been a part of larger Proteus training programs for a number of years), and to create and begin testing our full 1.5 day Leading leadership development program. We also refined our Leadership Coaching offer, a version of our executive coaching program targeted to very senior leaders and including the Accepted Leader Assessment, and will be making that available through all our executive coaches.

Yet another effort in support of leaders – we started a LinkedIn group, Leading So People Will Follow, to offer a community online for experienced and aspiring leaders to ask questions, offer insights, and share learning – and my team mates on that part of the project are my daughter Rachel Van Carpels, who manages and moderates the site, and Cindy Franklin, who (once again out of the goodness of her heart) offers discussion topics and supports conversations.

And the whole Proteus team came together to create and staff our great book launch and awards ceremony party on October 1st – definitely a community effort!

And finally, there’s my darling husband Patrick.  He is core to the success of this book and any other success I might have, in more ways than I can possibly express. His unequivocal and continual support, joy and love, and his daily efforts on my behalf, make all of this possible.

As you can see, it really has been a team effort.  And, back to the title of the post, I’ve learned a tremendous amount about the power of team throughout this process.  And I also like to think that I’ve followed my own advice: I’m doing my very best to be a fully followable CEO — to be far-sighted, passionate, courageous, wise, generous and trustworthy.  It’s a lesson well worth learning, and I’m making the effort every day.


Sep
27

David Seltzer’s Trustworthiness Is A Competitive Advantage

“David Seltzer is another trustworthy leader for whom I have great respect.  David is the managing partner of Management 360, an LA-based artist and literary management company.  In an industry often characterized by questionable dealings, loose lips, and a pronounced lack of ethics, the folks at Management 360 have made integrity one of their key competitive advantages.  David is extraordinarily discreet; I’ve known and worked with him for a number of years, and he has never once revealed to me a single piece of information about any of his celebrity clients.  He doesn’t even drop seemingly harmless pieces of intel about who’s he’s traveling to support or meet with, information that could make him look cool but might possibly compromise his clients’ privacy.

He also has high standards of discretion internally; if one of his colleagues tells him something in confidence – it stays confidential.  I’ve noticed how his colleagues, most of whom have worked with him for many years, rely on his discretion; they share sensitive topics with him without hesitation.  They feel safe to do so.

As with the first two elements of trustworthiness, when leaders keep confidences, it creates an atmosphere of safety and calm; people are more likely to be able to focus on doing the work, as opposed to figuring out how to protect themselves from the leaders’ indiscretion.”

            — From Chapter 8 of Leading So People Will Follow

I really like working with David: I feel completely confident that he will always tell me the truth as he understands it. Over the past few months, I’ve been talking with David and one of his colleagues about some work we may be doing with their partners. It’s a huge relief knowing that if he commits to doing this work, it will happen. And if he doesn’t think it’s a good idea, he’ll tell me why, and it won’t happen.

I suspect that he deals with his clients in the same way (I don’t know for sure, because as I noted above, he never talks about them!)  Imagine, for a moment, that you’re a mega-popular Hollywood artist, and every day most of the people you deal with suck up to you and tell you what they think you want to hear.  Let’s say you’re not the kind of person who wants that; let’s pretend that you actually long for the people around you to be supportive and helpful without being sycophants. That you want people to be reasonably straight with you. How refreshing and reassuring would it be to have someone like David as your manager?  Someone who would be willing to say “I don’t know if that’s a good script for you” or “I’m not sure that would be a great career move.” And if that person, as your manager, said, “This project is just what you need” – even if you disagreed, how great would it be to know that it was exactly what he or she believed, vs. what he or she thought was politically expedient?

As I noted above, I see David’s ethical approach, and that of his partners, as a huge competitive advantage for them.  Especially when your industry doesn’t have a great reputation for trustworthiness (think Hollywood, car sales, insurance, diet and exercise, etc.) if you’re seen as the trustworthy provider, your starting point is miles ahead of the competition.

And trustworthiness has the same impact internally: if you, as the leader, have a reputation for straight dealing, discretion and delivering on your promises, it’s reassuring and comforting to your team in the same way.

Having the opportunity to work with leaders like Pat Langer and David Seltzer has really reinforced for me that trustworthiness isn’t only a moral imperative – it’s a powerful business driver.