Ethics, Morals & Values

ethics

I remember being in a Bible Study once and a woman who hadn’t done her homework asked me what I had down for some of the answers. I laughingly said “I think it might be double-wrong to cheat on Bible Study homework!” Of course I was just teasing her and that was not a serious statement levied towards her. She was simply asking about some of the questions that were confusing to her about our study.

When I teach Business Ethics, we always begin with clarification of terms. You cannot talk about ETHICS without considering a few other terms: Morals & Values. We don’t talk much about what we value today. There is discussion in the social circles about values, but the discussion tends to be vague. It is even more difficult to have this discussion in the workplace about Business.

ethicsmoralsvalues
Mintz & Morris “Ethical Obligations & Decision Making in Accounting (2011).”

Ethics are simply defined as what is a Society’s standard of behavior of RIGHT and what is WRONG. MORALS comes from applying those ethics with principles and a framework of VALUES. VALUES are personal beliefs that are chosen or are cultural.

This is so very confusing and gets blurry very quickly! Here’s a way to think about this. We will start backwards. Values are personal. They can include hard work, integrity, honesty, love, servant attitude. It’s personalized and each individual has their own values. You can also have negative values – like valuing money above all else or greed, coveting, etc.

The word “morals” comes from Latin and has the root word “mores (pronounced “more rays”). Mores means societal customs and literally means manners of doing what is right and wrong. Morality becomes “conformity to the rules of right conduct.”

The word “ethics” comes from the Greek word “ethos” which means character. Many times people look at ethics as a moral code that governs the internal decisions of a person and morals as the external code for society. Whatever the case, both are intertwined.

This becomes even more convoluted when you look at ethics, morals and values from a Diversity viewpoint. For example, I did consulting work for a manufacturing company that was having issues with their employees stealing equipment. When I asked what was happening, they told me that they gave each employee a meat cutting knife to use. The employees were stealing these expensive knives ($50+ each) and they kept having to order more. What they didn’t realize is that most of their employees were from another culture where “giving” the knife meant it was theirs to keep. They were simply taking it home and using it in their kitchens. The management did not explain that when they gave the knife, it was to only be used at work. I asked if the employees could possibly take the nice knives home if they promised to bring them back for their shift? They reluctantly said yes, but if the employees did not, they would start fining them. Guess what happened? After a meeting with the employees to discuss the misunderstanding, the knives came back. The rest of the year, they did not have to order any more. This was not “stealing” it was “given.”

So, if ethics is defined as “right or wrong,” how do you make that as a general rule? What is right and what is wrong? If we use Morality, then we use society’s definition of what is right and wrong. Is it wrong to kill people? Most would say yes, it is wrong, yet we have the death sentence and abortion. When is it okay to kill? What about war? What about euthanasia (painless killing of a patient with a terminal disease)? What about suicide? These are very difficult questions that are made even more difficult when you take God out of the picture.

Scripture tells us in Amos 7:7-8 “Thus He showed me, and behold, the Lord was standing by a vertical wall with a plumb line in His hand. 8The LORD said to me, “What do you see,Amos?” And I said, “A plumb line.” Then the Lord said,“Behold I am about to put a plumb line In the midst of My people Israel. I will spare them no longer…” There is a plumb line. For those not familiar with this concept, it’s used in building so that things are straight. You attach a heavy weight to the end of a string and suspend it. It gives you a way to measure and make your walls straight. For us, it is a Biblical Standard for being upright or righteous. It is a way to check yourself and make sure you are measuring up to what God has commanded you to do.

In a world that tells you boys are girls and girls are boys OR there is no “boy or girl” designation anymore, it is difficult to determine right and wrong without a standard. What ruler do you use to measure things? How do you even hang up a picture frame in your home without a standard guide? There has to be an external standard by which we measure.

Many young people tell me that right and wrong are relative. What’s right for you might be wrong for me and what’s wrong for me might be right for you. This is a scary statement for me. If it’s wrong for me to kill (thou shalt not murder – Commandment six), and you think that’s okay, then you threaten my life. These are not things that are arbitrary and left up to us (society = people) to decide. These are things that God Almighty gives us as rules. We need to use some sort of a plumb line in our lives. God is our Plumb Line and the true standard. In the verse above, His warning is to “his people.” In  Galatians 5:1,16-18 Paul says that  Jesus died in our place, thus fulfilling the righteous requirements of the law. Christ “took us out of Egypt,” he took us out of slavery and death. Today we, as God’s People,  have a responsibility to acknowledge what God has already done for us through redemption in Christ for our sins by making an effort to live a pure and upright life according to the standards He has set for us. We are not to look like the rest of the world, but to be set apart for His holy use.

Romans 12:2 ~ Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

1383571650t1occp-i

Advertisements

Being Transparent

1411801594831

There’s a trend in business today to be TRANSPARENT. An organization I have done consulting for goes as far as to have glass walls for their Executive offices so that nothing is hidden from employees. There is a sense of vulnerability there – being exposed for all to see. They can tell when you are on the phone or goofing off on the computer or simply zoning out.

With the Millennial group, the desire to be transparent shows up in church connecting groups, at work and also in friendships. They want to go deep and fast. This can be really off-putting to others who have been told that you should have a line between business and personal, between how much you share and how often. Social media has also impacted this desire to have everything be shared. When I log on to my social media accounts, there are pictures of everything – from what their cat coughed up to the latest pair of shoes they purchased. Do I need to know all that? No. Do I care about all that? Not really (especially not the cat bit). So why share all of it – what’s really behind this?

In Psychology, there is a model used for self-awareness called the Johari Window. This has degrees of what you hide and what you share. Trusting others with information you normally hide will allow you to learn more about yourself that you didn’t know or even understand.

aaeaaqaaaaaaaaxxaaaajdcyzwuwmdc0lwq1owytndlmzi1injrhltk0nzvjzgyynmvlyq

I did some work with a woman who was completely put together. She had a habit of fixing her make up, hair, etc before each meeting even though not a hair was out of place. Her dress and mannerisms were impeccable. To me, she looked like she stepped out of a magazine with her crisp clothes, polished manners and manicured nails. It was a bit intimidating at first to be around her. I felt like the dumpy friend that some girls take on as a benevolence project to help them become more socialized.

As we worked together more and more, on projects that took us long into the night, she began to disclose more about her hidden self. Not many people know much about her. She was sweet and kind, but had a sharp edge to her that came out now and then. One day, I mentioned to her about how immaculate she always appears and how it can be intimidating so someone who doesn’t know her. It seems like she is absolutely perfect.  She looked at me and said “I was homeless. I lived in a car with my mother until I was 8 years old.”

It blew me away!

What a confession. Still, it didn’t explain why and how she behaves and also how she got to this high paying job with an advanced college degree. She said that a woman who lived nearby noticed that there was a little girl who was always in a car when she went to work in the morning (her mom simply drove her to her work and she waited patiently in the car all day long for her to return). The woman stopped one day and asked my friend why she was not in school. She told the woman that she was waiting for her mom and gave her mom’s name. The woman went and found her mother and got them help from others, helped to place my friend in school and have some type of a home. She worked extra hard to put herself through high school and then college. The way she looked was done on purpose. It was a huge facade that she constructed so that no one else would see what she had to deal with and her past would not come up due to her credentials today.

These are the walls that we set up before us so that we don’t have to share certain things that are painful reminders of the past. Not everyone wants to be transparent. Also, being transparent doesn’t mean that you take pictures of your meal and post it online for your 500+ closest friends to see.

Real transparency comes from being AUTHENTIC. Are you who you say you are? Or are you moody, changing your behavior from one meeting to the next? Are you unpredictable to your staff or to family? Do you say you are a nice person and then chew out the cashier who puts your canned tomatoes on top of your bread? These are the things that allow someone to develop trust in others. Trust is the key to building relationships. Without consistency in who you say you are (=Open Self) and then acting in a way that’s contrary without even realizing what you are doing (= Blind Self), you may not be trusted.

being-transparent1
photo from Kingspeech

In business, if being transparent means not having a hidden agenda, not back-stabbing others to get what you want or throwing them under the bus for a poor decision you made, then that’s not only good but also ethical behavior. In life, sharing difficulties you might have and not just the highlights of trips, awards or other accolades to make others feel inferior might be a great way to real – to be transparent. I know that at church, we sometimes don’t share the hard things of life. We don’t share about our children dropping out of school or doing things they shouldn’t do for fear of being cast out. When we begin to let go of a little bit of the Hidden Self, you increase the window of the Open Self. That’s where you can invite others to share what might be a difficult time in their life and help them to heal from hurts.

This is something we can apply daily in our walk. Just like my friend, even though outwards we may look alright, inside we are not perfect people. Stepping away from being transparent via facebook or instagram to being authentic is a good start to building trust and enhancing all relationships. This becomes an exercise in telling the truth, in doing what is beneficial and also in helping one another see their true self – not just the mask they want to hide behind.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. ~Phil 4:8-9

No Thanks

truck
Good Day Turned Bad

I was in such a good mood, humming a tune to myself when a truck wanted to be let in on the side of the road. I waited patiently, smiled and signaled with my hand to go ahead. The dude didn’t say anything, jammed out and then slammed his brakes in front of me, almost causing a wreck.

I don’t know what upset me more – his crazy driving or the fact that he did not follow proper driving etiquette. When someone motions you to go ahead, you should always give a little wave or even a smile or something to acknowledge the good deed you just did… right? I thought everyone knew that! Apparently, Mr. Driver of Chevy Silverado did not know anything about this nor did he care.As we drove along to the next traffic light, it occurred to me that good manners might be a thing of the past and that the word “THANK YOU” is also a relic that I am desperately hanging on to.

In a recent training workshop, I asked the group for non-monetary ways to motivate employees. Recognition came up towards the top, but many didn’t know how to recognize people without making a big production. My suggestion of a thank you note caused a reaction. My questions to the group were “When is the last time you got a thank you from someone?,” “When was the last time you got a hand written note from someone?,” “When was the last time you received a thank you note in the mailbox with a stamp on it?” The last question is the one that caused many to put their hands down.

Saying “THX” on a text might be a start, but it doesn’t do anything for someone. Spelling out “Thank you” on an e-mail is better, but it’s still informal. There is something about paper. There is something about seeing handwriting on a sheet of paper and being able to receive it the old fashioned way. I received a folded up sheet of paper with a hand written note from an employee at Campbell Soup once. He worked in the Tomato Operations plant and there was a small smudge on the top of the note with a piece of tomato on it. It wasn’t disgusting, but so very sweet! To take out the time to find a sheet of paper (hard to do out on the manufacturing floor), take a pen, jot down something thoughtful (one line of what he was thanking me for) and then to fold it up & leave it on your desk. Such an effort, that years later, I still appreciate it. Also, just so you know. I KEEP all my hand-written thank you’s. I am a romantic and love to recall affirmations. It’s sweet to go through and see how you may have impacted someone’s life or just made their day a bit brighter.

A couple things on creating a thankful culture: write a note immediately! I jot down a few things on the back of a receipt for the server, along with a nice tip for service. Keep a small notepad and pen handy in your car. I even have blank thank you cards with envelopes in my car for people.thank-you-note

If you are at work, try dropping off a hand-written card on a person’s desk but don’t discount the heartfelt thank you that is written on a paper napkin or a grocery sack. These are the things that help to make the day a bit better and seem more civil. Someone told me that the thank you notes and personal hand written notes have restored their sense of connection to coworkers.  We are all in this together… so why not do something unexpected and out of the ordinary for someone?

By the way, if someone forgets to thank you, don’t worry too much about that also. It’s helpful to me to remember that we get our thanks in Heaven and should not expect it from mankind (Luke 6:35). It’s not easy to do, especially when you feel like you went out of your way to do something nice for someone, but unless we take the first step in acknowledging, appreciating and serving others – the culture will not change. In fact, it will get worse. This is why I  really did I forgive that man who jumped in and then added insult to injury (that’s why I cropped out his license plate out of the picture! Ha ha!) and then I was prompted to think about what can I do to change some of these things that I see in business and in daily life. I hope that you will also take the time to pass on a small kindness to someone today.

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. ~ Ephesians 4:32

Bridges, Balconies and Burqas

disc-assessment-test

There are always two sides to any story. What we don’t often see is that there is a third side to the story – the community and the observers to the two parties’ argument or conversation. Conflict at its most basic is merely a differing perspective. There isn’t anything wrong with seeing things differently. That is Diversity and it enriches our perspectives. Conflict is something that comes up where one or more parties cannot understand or recognize the other person’s perspective.

This is true for religion, the global situation and negotiations between nations, at our workplace and also in our families. When we feel personally threatened, there is a friction that can come up. The story behind the situation can get lost, while we focus only on our own gains, our own viewpoint and our own needs, the perspective begins to become lopsided.

Building a bridge involves a balanced approach. There are careful measurements and an overall vision that sets the stage for the process. In order to build, both sides need to be worked on at the same time so that they can meet delicately in the middle.

While I’ve never built a bridge (physical one, not metaphorically speaking), I have crocheted socks. How in the world can crocheting of a pair of socks look like building a bridge? They both need to be worked on at the same time, by someone from the outside. This is another way to look at conflicts and negotiation. Action of one entity upon two other entities = third side (or the third party) is not a new idea.

In psychology, the third side or perspective is called the “Mediating Variable.” It helps two things that seem to be linked together to be explained in a better way. In conflict negotiation or mediation, unless you have a third party involved that can help to explain the situation clearly and ask the right questions, it is very difficult to get to a suitable resolution. Authors Heifetz and Linsky have called this to be a “Balcony Perspective.” If you are one of the actors on the stage, it will be very difficult for you to see the whole picture because you only know your part and maybe the part of the person before you and after you so you can be cued in. However, if you choose instead to see the drama unfold from the balcony view, you will be able to not only understand what is going on in front of you but also what the others are doing in the background. The entire scene becomes crystal clear all of a sudden. The same is also true for conflict and negotiation.

So before you jump into a blame game or rush into judgment of a situation, STOP. Take a ladder and climb up to the balcony. Take a fresh perspective of the scene unfolding in front of you. You might just be able to see things you have never seen before or things you were taking for granted in your everyday rush to be heard and to be placed in the #1 seat.

In my walk with Christ, I have found that building bridges between my past and helping people to understand what it was like to grow up in an entirely different culture (Middle East & Asia), with a different religion (Islam), and different family values, there is a lot of ground to cover. There is great fear driven from the media that causes people to become angry towards a certain group. I have met several women who was moderately Christian at the time  (not really attending church regularly and couldn’t really say much about having a relationship with Christ), who told me that she was angered by  Muslims here in the United States and elsewhere.

As all of my family is Muslim, I could have immediately taken great offense at what she said – they have as much of a right to be here as he does, even if they were not born here, but are U.S. Citizens. After taking a deep breath (= going to the balcony), I asked her a few questions: How many Muslim people have you talked to here (answer: none), how many Muslim people have you tried to reach or build a relationship with so you could understand them better (answer: none), how do you know what they believe other than the media (answer: I am well-educated), and finally – why do you feel this way? The last question made her pause. I told him that my family would not feel the same about her, so what was going on? She answered in one word “FEAR.”

This is no different than what happens at work. We take a stand on something and get mad about it, without taking into account someone else’s underlying concerns or addressing the issues below the iceberg. Ninety percent of the time, you will find that the issue at the face of the situation is not the real issue. The real stuff is lying below what the person is saying to you.

Going back to another woman who was fearful, God had a very funny way of taking care of that situation. I hosted a baby shower for a Saudi woman who was new to the country. I didn’t even know who she was, but that a group of Christian women wanted to have a shower but the location fell through. I offered up our home and we had over 30 women attend. The guest of honor came to my front door with her entourage of 8 women- all dressed from head to toe in their black burqa (or hijab). My friend came out from the kitchen and I heard a sharp intake and gasp of a breath. I have to admit – it was kind of a scary sight to have people you don’t know who show up to your door and you cannot see their faces (kind of like Halloween, but not on Halloween…).

u47p5029t2d524770f24dt201211091518531

 

As the women were ensured that no men would be in attendance, they started to take off their veils and covers. Underneath were these sweet-faced 18-20 year old girls dressed in cute trendy dresses, short hair, full make-up. So adorable! I could see a huge wide grin spread across my friend’s face. After the fun party, she and I got to talk. She had tears in her eyes because she felt like the Lord had taken her to a balcony to see a new perspective she would never have considered. What a JOY to have that perception and fear lifted off in one night. That is the way bridges are built…

May we seek ways to bring peace to our homes, families, workplaces, and nation in this way, for blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God (Matthew 5:9). 

 

 

Managing Across Cultures

cultureYesterday, I taught a course on Cultural Intelligence for the State of Oklahoma Office of Management & Enterprise (OMES). Just as your own Intelligence Quotient (IQ) can be measured, so can your Cultural Quotient (CQ). Harvard Business Review defines it as “Cultural intelligence: an outsider’s seemingly natural ability to interpret someone’s unfamiliar and ambiguous gestures the way that person’s compatriots would.”

The biggest thing I noticed when was an immigrant to the United States is that this is such an amazing country with many cultures living side by side. Oklahoma City has a Vietnamese district of restaurants and a large grocery market. There is also a large Southeast Indian, Persian, Hispanic and of course, a rich Native American culture. The universities in the area have flourishing International Studies programs. All of these are reasons why in 2016,  Oklahoma City was named one of the nine metropolitan areas for creating an inclusive culture! Surprised? Don’t be! There aren’t many areas in the US that don’t have a cultural impact (inclusion and race). I usually tell my students that you don’t have to go further than your local Wal Mart to find the varied diversity in any US city. If you are even more curious, go to the Ethnic Food aisle at Wal Mart and see how many languages are being spoken there.

Americans don’t give ourselves credit for taking inventory of how much we already know about a particular culture. Growing up with friends from different areas, educational level, socioeconomic status and even generational differences all account for cultural diversity. However when the term “Diversity” is mentioned, we focus on black and white – we are the ones who make it about race only, missing out on the rest of the things that make diversity exciting.

One can easily measure their level of cultural knowledge by taking a Cultural Intelligence quiz online (there are several free ones available – just do a search!). It’s a quick test that takes a look at the four quadrants of Cultural Intelligence (Drive, Cognition, Meta-Cognition and Action). A high score is NOT what you are after on this test. It’s more to show you where you can improve in each area. This is the first step in developing and increasing your cultural knowledge. Application and adaptation are the next two steps.

CQ is quickly becoming a need for managers and leaders. Knowing how to work across cultures to increase productivity is KEY in any workplace or organization. It’s important to note here that the term “culture” also include generational differences. This is one of the main areas I have had to address over the last few years, as the Baby Boomer population decreases and the Millennials increase in the workplace.

The main question that arose from the Cultural Intelligence session yesterday was how far do you go to accommodate another culture before you blur the lines between who you are and the values you hold?

This is a good question to consider. It is truly based upon your own values, beliefs and also your organizational culture and beliefs. If those are in alignment, then the decision making comes easily. If they are not congruent, then there can be dissonance. As a manager, it’s very important to allow for “reasonable accommodation” for an employee’s ethnicity, religion, or other consideration. Flexible time and PTO help to give tremendous creativity on how that time is used. The issue becomes more blurry when ethics come into play. I believe it’s important to stress that when a leader focuses in on one person’s needs or issue (due to inclusion or diversity needs), that that they don’t alienate the other 99 in the office. So taking the big picture into account is a good way to start. Solving issues in a team is also another approach. This will actually allow others to learn more about the culture and do creative problem solving together. The only caveat to this is if the employee wants the issue to remain confidential, so before taking a team approach, ask employee permission.

The bottom line in any diversity or inclusion initiative is to address each employee with dignity and respect. That is a common ingredient that crosses global, ethnic, and cultural boundaries. If we stop for a minute to think about what is getting ready to come out of our mouth and take time to analyze the situation, then CQ is already at work. The knee-jerk reaction rarely works when all these factors are involved. Take a moment, think, analyze and give benefit of the doubt to the other party. That is something that will help a manager not just handle cross-cultural issues but most communication issues.

 

Bringing LIFE to Work

work-life-balance-millennials-shoes-604-604-337-dd5bf710

The Coca Cola Company published an article about what “Work/Life Balance” might mean today. There is a shifting trend going on with Millennials (those born between 1982 & 2004). The way work is viewed varies from generation to generation. With the advent of technology, those lines are blurred even more. Just last night, before going to bed, I had a meeting request from someone – there are no real set office hours anymore. People can send meeting requests, texts, e-mails when on vacation, on the weekends or in my case, at night before bed.

This is what gets the younger generation up in arms. If I am working at night on a project, or am logging on to do work-related  stuff, then why can’t I take an extra long lunch or come in a bit later in the morning (after all, I was working on your project)? When the traditionalists see office hours as 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, it’s a valid argument. Work is being done at different times of the day – so why shouldn’t there be flexibility during the 9 to 5 hours?

For those of us who have heard the term “Work/Life Balance” for at least a few decades now, still scratch our heads to see how it actually gets balanced out. For me, personally, it means making sure I am there when I need to be and everything in my personal life takes a back seat. That is NOT the case today. If there is flexibility in the time that you can do your work (and I am talking mainly of a desk job, with a computer that can be accessed from anywhere) then you should be able to do work at 3:00 am if you want to and take off from the office for a 3:00 pm Parent-Teacher conference.

PERCEPTIONS

Why is there such resistance to this flexible time notion? Doesn’t it mean that employees could possibly be working more if they are logging on at all hours of the day? According to the Coca Cola article, it’s about priorities and a seeming lack of respect. “I gotta leave” is the comment and there is no request “Hey, could I schedule an afternoon appointment with my child’s teacher or with my chiropractor or could I take a golf lesson?” Many of the Boomer generation did these things on their own time, especially the exercise or golf lesson part. To even think of doing something like that during the workday is unimaginable.

The bottom line is productivity. If Millennials are focused on the outcome of the project, they don’t care how many hours are spent on it – even if they are working into the night. In fact, many of the Millennials I have spoken to are more productive at night, actually preferring the peace and quiet instead of the morning hours when everyone is showing up to the office. The implication here is to take another look at how we view work.

WORK

We were made to work.In Genesis 2:15, God gave Adam a garden to work – even in a perfect setting, he was given something to do. After the Fall (Genesis 3:17-19), Adam was still going to work, except that it was going to require the sweat of his brow. WORK is not a dirty, four-letter word (okay, so it IS a four-letter word, but you know what I mean). It is something that gives both men and women a feeling of accomplishment and also for some, it is their identity. It is something that is a blessing on us that we are able to use the gifts to produce or make something.

If we look at work in this manner, it is appropriate to conclude that if the end-result is what’s desired, then the hours you spend upon it shouldn’t matter. I cannot tell you how many times at the workplace I have found people chatting it up in the break room, the smoke area outside or by the coffee machine. How many people linger on after meetings for 10-15 minutes, catching up on the weekend or the ball game? There is time being wasted at the office but no one seems to mind, as long as you show up. If someone is accessible and is working from home, then what’s the problem?

pink-work-is-supposed-to-sustain-your-life-not-replace-it-badge-1
image from Forbes.com – liz ryan

Social media also blurs the lines between work and personal life. Millennials have grown up with social media and are often the first to know details about a new hire. This gives insight to how they wish to work. It is next to impossible to block out your personal life and not bring it to work, especially if there are big things going on that impact your work. The idea to have a workplace that accepts the fact that you have a vibrant life outside of work, that you CAN bring your laptop to the coffee shop and work there as well as the office, to know that when there is an important meeting, you will be present – but when there isn’t a mandate to be at the office, you might go and do some volunteer work… all those might be the new way to see how the office day might be changing.

In addition, work space has also changed. People don’t need large offices, or even desks. Many are choosing to share space where they plug in their computer and get to work. This is a generation that has grown up on the soccer and sports field. They are used to working in teams. They are okay with not having a corner office.

By taking a fresh look at the use of time during the weekday, we can actually invigorate the work day. The re-defined work day can actually go to after hours, into the night and even past midnight. Creativity and productivity don’t have to be limited to the office area and to the desk or cubicle. Instead of separating out our life from work, we can bring new approaches, new ideas and yes, life to work.

 

Lottery – A Perspective on Decision Making

Delaware lottery

The Lottery was the big topic on Thursday morning and I was doing Corporate Training for a business here in OKC. The participants were even talking about it as I walked in the door. The payout of 1.2 Billion dollars was just inconceivable to me and it reminded me of this decision making example. On the way to training, I was listening to a Christian radio station. It really irritated me that they were ALSO talking about the lottery in the morning. For some reason, I continued to listen and they did something very interesting: They interviewed “regular Joe’s” on the street about what they would do if they won the Lottery. Their answers were pretty much the expected: buy a new car, a new house, etc. One man even said that he would buy a yacht. When the interviewer asked why, he answered “why not?!”

Then they interviewed HOMELESS people. They went out and asked what they would do if they won. The answers got me really choked up! One man said that he would first feed as many people as he could – like a big party for all who were on the street. Then he said he would donate money to some of the organizations that were out there feeding other people like him. He would of course, buy a home and get himself off the street so he could help others get homes to do the same.

The next man said that he would instantly help some of his friends who were living on the streets. He said that most of his money would be donated to the churches that were down in that area who had helped him personally. When the interviewer asked him if he would buy a yacht, he said “What? Why would I do that? A yacht never helped nobody.”

I wanted to talk about this because problem solving and how we make decisions are not done in a vacuum. There are outside influences that shape each and every decision we make. For example, I had everything taken away from me when we moved to the United States – not because my parents were mean, but only because we were moving across continents and could only bring 6 suitcases with us! It was quite terrible for a girl of 10.  Today, I still have a problem letting go of stuff. The only thing that saves me is JESUS telling us to not store things on earth but to store up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:19-20).

19“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20“But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal…

In addition,  I am blessed by the knowledge that all things come to me from God and that I need to give them away. Giving gifts is something that I DO love, so I will accumulate and then one day, go to the Veterans Administration or Cancer Center and give them 20 new crocheted hats or jewelry or pajamas and socks or something like that.

There are reasons deeper than the workplace (or church or soccer team) that can come into play. I think we have to be mindful of that when we see others having control issues or when they hold on to a project or concept and even get angry when you suggest any type of change! It doesn’t always have to revolve around you – they may not be angry or upset at you, but at what that decision may represent for them (letting go of control, insecurity in their personality, or even abuse in the past).

I think  there’s a great lesson to be learned in all this – when you make decisions, you can either choose to look at them as they impact you OR you can choose to look out first and see how they impact others.

LeadHERship

Refinements_gotham_5

What’s the deal with women in power? As a young, driven woman who was just starting out her career,  I made many mistakes and let power get to my head. Some mistakes were small and others could have impacted or even curtailed my career, like the error of not following chain of command in a traditional organization like Campbell Soup Company. Fortunately for me, I had a kind and generous mentor named Chuck Hatz who was able to step in and guide me through management pitfalls.

As I look back on that experience, I realize that not many are blessed to have another give them advice on how to maneuver or even advance on the corporate ladder. In fact, I realized slowly that the ones who were the least helpful in my career path were WOMEN. Before I heap accusations on those women who did not mentor me or even lend a kind word of encouragement, I need to look at my own actions as a manager as well.

When I joined the management ranks, I was a supervisor. I worked mainly with two men, so things were good. When the opportunity to rise higher into a manager’s position, however, the battle lines were drawn and I quickly found out that I didn’t have many friends. In fact, most of my competition were women of equal rank. It was cut throat. I found out after I got the position mainly due to my education, that a woman closest to me had said something personal and derogatory about me to the VP. He thought it to be unprofessional (especially in Human Resources), so he did not even consider her for the position. Her desire to hurt me ended up getting her booted out.

This woman was a colleague. She was someone I had lunch with on a regular basis, so it didn’t rest easy with me. It was around this time that I had been looking at Japanese management traditions of Kaizen (collaborative management) and found that before making any big decision or doing problem solving, they went to their peers individually and got input. I thought that to be a huge waste of time! Why do that when I knew what needed to be done and go do it?

This very thing turned out to be the key in why women were not getting the larger promotions and why there seemed to be a general lack of trust among us. No one wanted to consult with another. All of us were very competitive and sabotaging the other’s efforts. In an attempt to be noticed by Executive management (=men), we were setting each other up for failure and being petty. What an eye-opener for me.

As an HR manager, I knew I could personally do something to change this. Using collaboration and not competition as my incentive, I set about asking the other female management their input on ideas and projects. I was immediately met with distrust, criticism and even sarcasm – what, is this job too difficult for you, that you need to ask for help?

Fortunately, not all of my peers were like this. I found a lifelong friend in Christine who was kind and helpful to me. In addition, I had women in my department who were caring and driven to help others. We formed a small but close-knit team. The easy collaboration in HR training began to be evident as we shared leadership roles. There was a desire to help one another and to share our strengths as a team.Other women began to look to this team as an outreach and support within the organization. Several women began to gain promotions and opportunities to excel, including me.

I share all this to make a point. Until women begin to set aside the competitive nature of business and our own prejudices against other women (she’s not career-minded her clothes are not right, etc), we are not going to be looked at as serious contenders for executive level positions. Women do not have to set aside our feminine qualities of being able to talk to one another, to empathize, to nurture relationships in order to get ahead. We don’t have to be so driven that we get a calloused edge that doesn’t take others into account. In a culture that feeds the “me, me, me” ego, climbing the corporate ladder means stepping on other women’s heads in order to see our own star rise.

As a Christian, this is made even more clear to me by Jesus Christ’s teachings, especially when he said “So the last shall be first, and the first last ” Matthew 20:16. That doesn’t leave much room for corporate ambition, does it? What one doesn’t realize right away is the blessing you get from helping others and putting your desires off for a minute or two. Getting promotions was nice (I won’t lie!) but it wasn’t nice to not have a peer to peer network of women you could trust. Getting recognition was nice, but I didn’t realize that it meant that I took it from others and gave no one else credit. When we started sharing and helping one another, we began to celebrate each other’s contributions and victories. Our enthusiasm, relationships and strength multiplied.

Bill Gates said that “As we look ahead to the next century, LEADERS will be those who EMPOWER others.” So what steps can we take today to help those around us? This Forbes article gives a great list of strengths women have that naturally lend themselves to helping others. In addition, I have a few to add that can apply to both men and women:

  1. Know your strengths and weaknesses. Look for opportunities to help fill the gap.

  2. Ask for the worst assignment. Your colleagues will thank you (& think you’re nuts!) and your bosses will appreciate you.

  3. Be willing to help not only at work, but outside work. When you see your co-worker as a mom, wife, daughter, or in a different role, you will gain respect and learn to set aside any prejudice you may have formed against them.

  4. Pray for them and for yourself to be placed in situations where you have to serve others.

We need to build each other up – both men and women. When you break others down, you get torn down right beside them. There is collateral damage. The true hallmark of a leader is when you help to develop others’ skills and strengthen them. Along the way, your own skills will be strengthened, built and sharpened.

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17

Elusive Happiness

happy-customers-600x400

In the Undergraduate Business class I am teaching this week, as well as in a training seminar on Stress & Time Management last Thursday, the theme of “Happiness in the Workplace” kept coming up. There are so many things out there that are telling us as individuals to be HAPPY – in the 80’s, the song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” sparked a whole marketing array of T-shirts with smiley faces that reminded us to be happy. Pharrell Williams’ song is so HAPPY that I cannot listen to it without wanting to dance! 🙂
The more I ponder this, the more I think that much of that has spilled into the workplace. Leaders and Managers somehow believe that they are solely responsible for the “Happiness” state of their employees and that there should be a general feeling of well-being at the workplace. Employers are also convinced that if their company is not making them happy, maybe they should leave.

Where did this idea come from and is it something that can be achieved?

There are many companies out there that state they love their employees and put them first. I think this is not a bad place to start. Disney is simply amazing in this category of employee well-being! They even have a book called “Inside the Magic Kingdom” and it shares some of the things that they tell their employees to do in order to help make the customers happy. One of the most interesting parts of this book is where they explain to their employees that the whole park is a stage and they are simply characters playing a part. So, if you are a Disney Street Sweeper, you are playing the part of the Street Sweeper and you must do that well!

I have a friend who took her family to Disney World a few years ago. I got so tickled from the story she told me when they got back. While at Epcot Center in France, her elderly mother-in-law asked the Princess Belle from Beauty and the Beast “Where are you from?”  She dutifully answered “I grew up in  a small village in France.” Then, the grandmother said, “you are so very beautiful, is your family here now?” She gave the answers from Beauty & the Beast, about how her father, Maurice was an inventor and he was sent to prison for no reason at all; how she loves to read books and how she ended up at a large estate (the Beast’s) – the grandma never caught onto the fake movie answers… she simply believed it!

I think there might be something to that approach Disney takes. Belle cannot have a bad day (well, she can, but she has an important job to do). If you have your employees, especially those in Customer Service take on a role, they may see things a bit differently. For example, every time I go to teach or train, life is not always rainbows, roses and sunshine! I have had to go into some very tense situations at work. You cannot just bring your own junk to the party. You have to address what is going on and cope with today’s issues.  So, I play the role that I was hired to play that day- as a trainer, teacher and motivator. I have to deal with what I am supposed to be doing that day. Jesus had a saying for that…

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own ~Matthew 6:34

Think about this… if you could just deal with what’s in front of you (instead of going on a flight of fancy for all the other things that you need to get done that week), I think your attitude might be a bit different. A friend once told me that she heard someone ask “What if tomorrow, you would only get the things that you were thankful for today?” Yikes! Did I thank God for my health, my home, my marriage, children, my job, shoes (yes, lots of them!), food, bank account, car…? What if we take just a moment out to think of all the things we should be HAPPY about and not dwell on the negative? Glass half-full is not just a philosophy, but is a commitment to CHOOSE one thought over another. It is known as Cognitive Behavior Therapy in the Psychological world. In the Bible, it’s known as 2 Cor 10:5

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ ~ 2 Corinthians 10:5 [emphasis added]

When will we learn that our thoughts and negative thinking can multiply and poison not only our minds, but of others around us? How about weeding out that negative thought in the mind as it sprouts forward, not allowing it to grow and take over the flower bed? If you do take those thoughts captive, not only will you find happiness, but also JOY – that is a more permanent state of the fleeting happiness we see daily. JOY comes from a deeper place, a calm and restful place that says “It is well with my soul.”

 

 

Careless Trust

Yesterday, I was doing training for a private company on the merits of Mentoring in the workplace. It seemed like every conversation led back to building trust. If you cannot trust your employer or co-workers, you will not have a productive workplace. In fact, it would be quite dysfunctional. In a study done by the founders of Airbnb (an online Craigslist type of site for renting out your home to complete strangers who are traveling), they found that in 1972, 46% of people said that others were generally trustworthy. Today, that number is down to 32%, resulting in a lower trust of everyone – from identity theft, to fraud, to organizational ethical situations like Enron and Sony Executive emails.

There’s no doubt then that employees don’t want to share personal information with others and make deeper connections. But that’s where things get lost. We complain about how management doesn’t understand my needs or lament about lack of communication. The complaining doesn’t stop there either. It trickles down into a lack of trust for your spouse or family relationships. Let’s face it: there is a strong correlation between personal growth and trust.

I love Focus on the Family’s article on building trust in a marriage. I think those rules also apply to the workplace. They said that the Hebrew word Batach (baw-takh’) means TRUST. Not just that, but it has more meanings: bold, careless, confident, secure. You can see the application in Psalm 91:2

I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”

When the psalmist uses Trust here, he is speaking of being careless. This is literally without a care! When was the last time you were without a care or worry? Seems incredible, but that is what true trust means- when we can be at peace in our relationship and not worry that someone is going to talk behind our back or break a confidence at work. When we can trust our spouse to go on a business trip and not worry about them breaking  their vow of marriage, when we can trust that our children are really where they say they are with their friends.

I believe there is a formula for building trust. I call it “The Three C’s.”

Credibility

Confidentiality

Consistency

Credibility – speak the TRUTH. Some take this to mean blurt out what you are really thinking. Please don’t do that. We are called to speak the truth in LOVE (Eph 4:15).

Confidentiality-Keep your mouth shut. So difficult and tempting to share, but that sharing that seems harmless can turn into vicious gossip in about 20 minutes… And then come back around the office to bite you in the behind

Consistency – I had a boss once who was all over the place. She was sweet one day and sour the next. She would lavishly praise your talent and then tear you up for the same thing. It was stressful to be around her. You never knew what you were going to get from one day to the next. Being consistent means being fair. Give benefit of the doubt. Allow your relationship to flourish by building and encouraging, even while giving constructive criticism.

These are not easy to do, but then anything that’s worthwhile takes time. When you start trying to raise your awareness and practice trusting others, while building trust, you will find that you will become careless… In a good way!