The Power of Example – two reasons why it is imperative that we practice what we preach

good-example-good-advice“He that gives good advice, builds with one hand; he that gives good counsel and example, builds with both; but he that gives good admonition and bad example, builds with one hand and pulls down with the other.” Francis Bacon

You can get to the top of our profession and game by being conniving, ambitious, and ruthless. You really can. And it may be something you can live comfortably with. The name of this website may even suggest that I am willing to take the most direct route to success and accomplishment. After all what is more practical than doing whatever it takes to get whatever you want.

But I have not, and have not ever suggested that the validation of effectiveness is results. There are rules by which effective and principle-centered leaders play.

Most of us have worked for Machiavellian leaders at one time or another, perhaps you are working for one right now? If nothing more, you can learn from the power of a bad example. So I’ll say it again just to be sure I’ve said it clearly, expediency, as defined as the quality of being convenient and practical despite possibly being improper or immoral, is not validated by reaching an objective.

Fundamental to my definition and application of practical leadership is not expediency but a noble, worthy, wholesome, and better future gained by means whereby everyone is benefited and no one must compromise their principles to get there.

The ends do not justify the means…never have…never will.

Therefore, effective leaders do the right things in the right way so that the right outcome is realized in the right time.

Leadership is:

To get people to want what it is that you’ve got because you reflect with your life what it is that you say that you ought to be.


Don’t give it to them but show them how to get it for themselves.

Here it is why we practice what we preach:

To get people to want what it is that you’ve got, people have to be able to see it. Your associates and employees are not blind and they certainly are not stupid (well, most of them aren’t most of the time, anyway). Motivation is like an internal combustion engine. The fuel is applied to the right place at the same time a spark reaches the cylinder to cause the release of energy to make the machine produce. You, the effective good example apply some of the fuel and all of the spark. To internalize this, your associates and employees will gain this from your example because they like what they see, identify with who it is that you are and what it is that you stand for. You, by your example create

  1. Inspiration – a dream comes alive
  2. Motivation – energy is released to move in the direction of the dream
  3. Aspiration – effort is applied when the person determines to reach for and attain the possibilities your example has projected.

To maintain the inspiration, motivation, and aspiration you have to reflect what it is that you say by what it is that you do. Okay, maybe the grammar isn’t the most scholarly, but the principle is. You gotta walk the talk. All the time. The fastest way to kill the engine is to reveal that you are not what you’ve led everyone to believe. How do you avoid that? Not by duplicity! I have never suggested and do not suggest now that we as leaders ever engage in manipulation of the facts or circumstances to mislead. It is commonly done and I think it reveals more than the truth about who someone is, what they’ve said, or what they are doing.

It reveals an ingrained disrespect for the associate and employee.  When a boss tries to mislead or hide the truth s/he has little respect for the intelligence of the one(s) s/he is trying to mislead. When a boss tries to mislead or hide the truth s/he has little respect for the worth of the one(s) s/he is trying to mislead. You see, if we leaders and managers hold those who work for us and with us in high regard, we would never live, work, act, talk in any manner except what the circumstances demand ­­­­­- the best always and ever.

On the obverse, what you do is unmistakable evidence of who you are and what you believe. Anyone can say anything, can espouse the most grand and glorious rhetoric. It is what they do that is the evidence of who they are and what they really believe.

There are bad examples up to wazoo…but there are really good ones too. We tend to remember the bad ones more because they are a like a dark stain on a light garment. When the calling is high, the responsibilities upon the leader are heavy.

Now you may object that your role as a leader or manager is not so grand. Perhaps you do not lead an organization. Perhaps you manage a crew that stamps widgets out of whatzits. Well, history has proven the efficacy and worthiness of products well-made. Regardless of the grandness of the title or the exalted position of the office, it is the attitude and perspective of the person with the mantle of leader or manager.

I’d like to hear about the good ones though and so would your fellow readers. Leave a comment below and I’ll post it for the others. I’ve had to disable automatic posting because of spammers who daily fill my inbox with offers of marriage from Russian women and sure thing investment opportunities. But I do look at them all so I’ll read yours too.

6 Bases of Power – the nine characteristics of a Principle-Centered leader

valuesI raised quite a firestorm a few years ago when I wrote an article called “Cardboard Elvis.” (You can check it out here.)

It discusses the disparity between charismatic leadership and principle-centered leadership. They are not mutually inclusive nor are they mutually exclusive. The article explains that while society in general is attracted to charismatic leaders, it is the principle-centered ones that actually build substantial organizations that last and do the most ethically and morally to serve their communities.

But principle-centered leaders are not always flashy. They are not always the best orators. They don’t always attract much attention. They do, however, tend to attract quality people and, here’s the clincher, they tend to keep those quality people over a long period of time.


Well, let’s look at it from two perspectives. First, from the viewpoint of the associate or employee; Money is not the only reason someone takes a job. There is a large segment of the workforce that looks for companies that embrace the same value system and will work for less as long as the values remain consistent and are proven over time to be core values.

The principle-centered leader attracts them because his/her life reflects what his mouth said we should be. Stated as a principle of motivation it is this:

People want what it is that you’ve got because you reflect with your life what it is that you say with your mouth that you ought to be.

You, the principle-centered leader, are genuine, without wax, solid, certain, true, honest, transparent, upright, fair, just, and balanced. A tall order for sure, but the result is lasting power and influence!

From the perspective of the principle-centered leader, s/he will accept nothing less than a whole person. S/he will tolerate no compromise in principles, will demand that the core values of the organization be maintained even if it costs the organization, and will never excuse any untoward behavior by claiming that the end justifies the means.

I am by no means the first person to ever espouse this. Perhaps the most famous was Steven Covey who contrasted Primary and Secondary greatness. Primary is what I’ve called principle-centered. Secondary is what I call charismatic. (You do understand that I am using the term “charismatic” in its generic sense? I am not referring to that branch of contemporary Evangelical Christianity that is, within the jargon of that genre, called charismatic. However, the principles I am defining here apply graphically there too.)

When I first released Cardboard Elvis most of my consulting and training clients were managers and leaders of several charities with religious affiliations. In the article, I refer to one leader in particular without naming any names. My experience with that particular leader had brought home the sharp contrast between charisma and principle in a way that negatively impacted me and a very large number of others.

Even though that person was unnamed and the organization they affiliated with was not mentioned, I received many, many letters and phone calls telling me that they knew who that person was. Every letter or phone call mentioned someone else, dozens of different leaders that headed up different organizations in different parts of the world.

What does that illustrate? That the condition is widespread and visible.

Principle-centered leaders honor their associates, employees, and followers because they live and work in a manner that never betrays their confidence in him or her. Power is created when the values of the leader overlap and coincide with the values of the associate. It becomes a self-igniting source of energy that will drive the wheels of productivity, creativity, and progress. Control is self-control, internal not external because followers believe deeply in the goals communicated to them. Motivation is intrinsic and the dynamics of work become much simpler to manage.

Covey has his eight characteristics of principle-centered leadership. I have nine. You can read his in one of his books or elsewhere on the net. You can see mine right here:

  1. Consistent – They don’t blow hot and cold, positive and negative, righteous and evil.
  2. Balanced – They live to work and work to live, but that’s not all they do. They have home lives of comfort and security, relationships of affection and respect, and schedules that include work and play.
  3. Honorable – They have motives that speak the best of society and are civilization builders. They plant trees they will never sit under, swear to their own hurt, echo all that is good and decent.
  4. Upright – They never stoop to anything, no dirty tricks, no misleading statements, no questionable tactics.
  5. Fair – They treat everyone the same and live and enforce rules the same.
  6. Just – They have high morals and live by them, they know right from wrong and live on the right side.
  7. Sincere – They are never duplicitous, never misleading, never dishonest.
  8. Truthful – They are determined to tell the truth – that which is correct and accurate, the whole truth – leave nothing out, and nothing but the truth – add nothing to it.
  9. Reliable – They are people of their word, make commitments they will keep, and form a solid basis upon which associates, employees, and followers can build their lives.

Who do you know that you can identify as principle-centered? I hope it is more than only one.

6 Bases of Power – Transactional

The desire for an answer  is on everyone’s mind but seldom expressed early on. Every job applicant wants to know how much. Every employer wants to know how little.

The question? The applicant wants to know how much will I get paid? The employer wants to know how little can s/he pay and still get the position filled.

Transactional power is as old and as enduring as time itself. Social and commercial interaction with people has always revolved around give and take. We as owners, leaders, and/or managers have a supply of incentives to offer in exchange for time, talent, effort, and to a limited degree, enthusiasm.

It has been around so long because it works. I’ve taken jobs for the incentives like everyone else. Every business uses them of necessity. Only interns whose ultimate objective is a paying job will work for free in a commercial setting…and they won’t do it for long. The now famous “Show me the money!” underscores just how powerful this is.

It applies in non-profit settings, too. Volunteers may not work for money but they work for some currency. Effective leaders of non-profit organizations understand there must be a pay-off, the volunteer must receive something in return or they won’t volunteer for long. (There is much, much more I have to say about this since this was my field for many years. Stay tuned for future posts.)

There are limits, however. I can buy a person’s time, talent, and energy. It is much more difficult to buy a person’s heart. The endemic motivation to participate with your company and do so enthusiastically is far more subtle. There is a blend of personal values which must match and remain matched to the values of the company. Effective leaders know who works for them and what fuels the fire. Too many leaders are either clueless or they assume all employees are the same, a grave error.

What am I saying? That money is not the only incentive and most certainly not the only fuel for maintaining motivation. Notice I said “maintaining motivation.” Most people are motivated already, the question is what are they motivated toward?

Effective transactional leaders find out.

Finally, transactional power tends to be more individual than corporate. It tends to play best and reinforce individual participation and achievement, almost always because incentives are individual. Team building incentives can work if they are carefully designed to appeal to a small group. Make the incentive governable within a controlled group. Lowe’s Home Improvement Centers has taken away individual incentive and replaces it with their SSEI – Sales Service Employee Initiative. But the matrix for determining pay-outs is so complicated and the result too dependent upon performance for the entire store that most employees have given up because they cannot control the actions and performance of someone on the far side of the store. Many employees consider it to be a shell game. If the incentivized transaction is to work it must be:

Personal – connect with the individual in ways that mean something to that individual.

Manageable – simple enough that the individual can see where to grab hold of it and learn how to make it work.

Meaningful – match values and ideals within the employee.

How well do your incentives work? What have you tried that succeeded? What have you tried that failed?

Check out the video below.


3 Ways to really piss off your associates and employees – When power is abused and misused

frustrated employeeMatt was a high-volume sales associate in a large retail store. He sold custom-built products that required a significant amount of time to prepare estimates and proposals. On one Thursday evening he was working  alone at his desk in his department when the manager from another department in the store came to Matt and asked about the status of one proposal the other department manager had initiated. In that store, sales associates from anywhere could begin the process but it was the responsibility of the specialist to complete the process.

Matt explained that he was not pursuing that proposal because the customer had declined to comply with government-mandated permits for the installation of the product. “This sale,” Matt explained, “is dead. But I do have estimates sitting here on my desk I am working on right now that amount to more than $50,000 worth of sales.”

The interfering manager would not let it go. He kept insisting that Matt drop those projects and return to the project Matt had already proclaimed to be DOA.

“Don’t you care about the store’s reputation to meet customer’s needs?” the manager challenged. And he would not let it go.

Now, if you really want to discredit yourself as a leader and/or manager and if you really want to piss off a productive employee, try something as stupid as that.

Guilt trips always end unhappily. Always!

Matt’s sense of responsibility should have been obvious to that meddling manager from across the store. Matt was not just sitting around. He was working on large orders at that moment. Matt had carefully explained that pursuit of the project in question was futile.  The manager’s interference brought on frustration, resentment, and confusion. Matt now wondered if he was required to pursue futile projects or focus on those promising profit. What mistakes did the meddling manager make?

Mistake #1 – He meddled. He was guilty of trying to direct the actions of an employee not directly his responsibility. While technically, in that company anyway, managers of any department do possess authority over subordinate employees anywhere else, that authority is not absolute. If you do not have a relationship with those outside your domain, and if there is no immediate crisis for which discussion is not possible, issuing orders like he has done only result in misunderstanding BECAUSE THEY ARE BASED ON MISUNDERSTANDING.  A side to side approach will work far better than a top to bottom one.

Mistake #2 – He used an X-style to deal with a Y-situation. I am referring to MacGregor’s X & Y management styles. The X style is direct, dictatorial, and demanding. In some cases this is precisely what is required, particularly when you are addressing the EFFECTS of decisions made and actions taken which result in a crisis demanding immediate and aggressive action to prevent catastrophe. The Y style is indirect, parliamentary, and participative. The meddling manager had no real basis of authority other than on structural grounds. As I wrote earlier in this series, authority is granted upward. The official authority that comes with one’s office must be supplanted by one that comes from one’s character and association. If you try to use X when Y is more appropriate you come off as a bully.

Mistake #3 – He used guilt to try to gain cooperation when logic and reason had proven him to be wrong. Manipulation is manipulation and our employees are too smart to be fooled by a stupid argument like the one our meddler used. Guilt is the result of desperation, used by someone when they have no real basis for their argument. If we gain the upper hand by using guilt, we will plant the seeds of resentment, anger, and rebellion. Cooperation and collaboration are far more effective. Far more!

The objective of all management and leadership is results, to find the most expedient, efficient, and effective path to success and follow it. When a productive and fruitful employee like Matt comes along, don’t screw it up. Let them do their job.

The meddling manager manifested the dog on a walk syndrome meaning he needed to piss on the territory of a neighboring dog to show he was there. This is why I’ve given this post the title it has – 3 ways to piss off your employees.

More next week.

The work ethic and common sense of Elbert Hubbard

col001He started out a dedicated socialist although what he meant by socialist as defined in his own writing would not be what the word generally is understood to mean these days. When describing himself as a socialist he said…

“I believe in every man working for the good of self; and in working for the good of self, he works for the good of all. To think, to see, to feel, to know; to deal justly; to bear all patiently; to act quietly; to speak cheerfully; to moderate one’s voice — these things will bring you the highest good. They will bring you the love of the best, and the esteem of that Sacred Few, whose good opinion alone is worth cultivating. And further than this, it is the best way you can serve Society — live your life. The wise way to benefit humanity is to attend to your own affairs, and thus give other people an opportunity to look after theirs. If there is any better way to teach virtue than by practicing it, I do not know it.”

He finished his life an ardent defender and proponent of free enterprise. Elbert Hubbard (not L.Ron Hubbard the Scientologist) was born June 19, 1856, in Bloomington, Illinois. He died, along with his wife, when the Lusitania, the ship on which they were travelling, was torpedoed by a German U-boat on May 17, 1915.

He sold Larkin soap products and published a number of magazines and books. But he is best remembered for founding Roycroft, an Arts and Crafts movement community in East Aurora, New York in 1895. There he and his artisans produced handsome, if sometimes eccentric, books printed on handmade paper, and operated a fine bindery, a furniture shop, and shops producing modeled leather and hammered copper goods. They were a leading producer of Mission Style products.

It is here that he wrote what has come to be considered his best work, a short story called “Message to Garcia” extolling the virtues of personalcover resourcefulness and responsibility. I have produced a copy of that book available here free of charge with a catch. You will also be signing up for our FREE newsletter. If you already subscribe, you can still get “Message to Garcia.” Just sign up anyway, you will not get duplicate newsletter deliveries. And you can unsubscribe at any time. The link is just below.

The book is a PDF file and includes another Hubbard classic “Get In or Get Out of Line,” an essay based on a letter written by President Lincoln to General Hooker in 1863. I’ve read them both, had them in my library for many years. Those of you who have been reading my posts here or been in any of my workshops and seminars will doubtless see the “family” resemblance. Enjoy this special edition of Hubbard’s most remembered works.

Free Message to Garcia Download

Power Plays – Getting the job done

Power Lines diagram functionA friend once remarked that “It is amazing how much you can get done if you just do it.” A look at a jobs offered column on line or in a newspaper will inevitably turn up several with the qualifier “Must be a self-starter.”  Why? Because you hire people to extend your reach, multiply your effectiveness, and divide your work. You do not, or at least you should not, hire people who make your life and job more difficult or complicated.

I’ve been writing about the flow of power within your department, company, or organization. If you’ve been following along, you are familiar with this diagram. The flow of power starts with and returns to you, the leader and/or manager. You’re the one to get things going, to set things in motion and ultimately to qualify their success.

The act of delegation, discussed in this post, passes a job off to a subordinate or associate.

The key is to pass off a responsibility, discussed here, not simply place someone in a position. The title is not the central focus. The responsibility is.

When the responsibility is defined and assigned, commensurate authority is assigned. In the article I wrote here, I explain how authority is conditional even while it grants some degree of autonomy.

Next, in this post, I discussed how you and those who work with you will define and describe precisely what terms by which the job and their performance will be evaluated. It is very critical that this step not be neglected. Institute a “no surprises” habit. You don’t like being blindsided, your associates don’t like it either.

The reason for and method of accountability comes next. The circuit, the flow of power starts to cycle back to you here. The mechanisms for reporting may be formal such as in written reports or informal such as a verbal report or both, but they need to be there.

Then, once you have defined what you are going to hand off, the person or persons to whom you will assign that responsibility is defined and solicited, the responsibility is defined, the authority is assigned, the evaluation criteria are agreed, and the method of accountability is contracted, then, and only then, do you hand off the task.

Function begins then. Admittedly some associates are well dialed in to what needs to be done and their responsibility in getting it done. Over time you develop levels of experience and trust that can leave some of the above steps implied simply because you’ve covered that ground with that person enough that everyone knows what’s what.

But for new people and new situations, you’ll need to make a judgment call about how much to define. My advice is to err on the side of caution at first. I will discuss how this can become annoying and irksome to trusted people in a future post.

The circuit, necessary for the safe flow of power, is complete. And it repeats itself over and over as you hand off more and more.

Why do you hire someone? Because they possess the skills and personality to do a certain task or set of tasks. Then let them do their job. Meddling is not managing. Pestering is not conscientious oversight.  Leadership is bringing people willingly to a place of growth, contributing to that growth when necessary but allowing those you lead the experience and satisfaction of doing their job. Most people want to do a good job.

But some employees and associates find it difficult to focus. They are easily distracted. They could be eager to please and over-responsible so they get drawn off into another job to help you or someone out. Then they are drawn off into another one, then another and never get back to their original responsibilities. This can be understandable because we all know that we cannot control every minute of the day. There are inevitable interruptions and at least some of our time is at the mercy of someone else.

Or they could be lazy. I worked with someone once who spent huge amounts of time figuring out ways to get out of doing his job. Or they could be in the wrong spot. It might be they don’t have the skills to do what they need to do and are either need more training or to be assigned somewhere else.

But all of that should either be discovered and discussed in the beginning or very shortly thereafter. If they can’t do the job, find someone who can. Remember, this is not personal. It is business. I hired a young man to work as a semi-skilled assistant in my shop. It became evident to me early on that he was not going to be a good fit. A visiting friend  of mine suggested that the poor fellow had a bad family life and needed a father figure to guide him in life. I reminded my friend that I was not a therapist and my shop not a therapy center. I had orders to fill, work to be completed, and hours to bill. If the fellow couldn’t cut it he couldn’t cut it. Nothing personal . Everything business.

The next articles in this series address power systems – how power is wielded, both properly and improperly. See you Thursday.

Power Plays – Accountability

Power Lines accountabilityNot long ago I sat across a desk from a small business owner whose business has experienced rapid expansion in the past two years. Going against the trends in the general economy his company was invoicing $750,000 annually last year and will invoice approximately $2,000,000 this year.

Among the items we discussed, one emerged that seemed to trouble him the most. In the expansion of his business he has hired several new technicians. However, there are two who have been with the company a long time. Neither of them have been able to keep pace with new technology and the inevitable changes in procedures and standards that come when a company expands that rapidly and to that degree.

“What,” he asked, “should I do with those two?”

I explained that the most personally challenging part of managing a business is addressing the problem of employees and associates who fail to keep up with the demands of their position. So here is what I advised:

  1. Business is business and all aspects of it eventually must be addressed as business. Delegate jobs and establish objectives using business objectives, not personal ones. Evaluations are to be made by those objective and subjective criteria that you have already established.
  2. Hold everyone accountable to the same standards if they are doing the same job and by the same standard of standards if they are not. Bricklayers are not plumbers but in both cases there is a level of acceptable work that must be maintained. If a person cannot meet that level, they cannot have the position. It’s not personal, it’s business. Never ever play favorites of any type in any manner.
  3. Morale will suffer and your credibility will begin to fail if you allow standards in one you don’t allow in another. Do not fool yourself. Others can and do see what’s going on.
  4. Every time I let someone slide and made personal and individual consideration for them, it came back to bite me. Take it from a seasoned veteran of the workforce trenches, you cannot expect reciprocity. If you let standards slide, make accommodations, or otherwise personalize a position thinking it will build loyalty and a sense of ownership, it won’t. Investment is made when it costs the investor something, in this case the effort to meet the responsibility. Granting indulgences only sets the grantee up for more grants.
  5. The action of holding accountable subordinates and associates, those to whom you have delegated responsibility, and the manner in which it is done may be the primary indicator of one’s leadership ability. Business ownership and organizational leadership means taking the heat for doing the hard things. That really is why you get the big(ger) money.
  6. There is a reason why the military distinguishes rank. Higher ranks have higher responsibility, can see the big picture, and know how to lead. Higher ranks quickly lose their capacity to command by being one of the guys. They are them and you are you. I am not even remotely suggesting that you remain aloof or be unfriendly. I am suggesting that there is the need to maintain distance. More about this in a future post.

Accountability, which is one of the traits of keepers I wrote of here, is:

  • The obligation to give a record of what has happened or not happened,
  • Accept responsibility for success, partial success, failure or partial failure, and
  • To disclose the results transparently, holding nothing back.

Show your associates and employees the diagram that accompanies these articles. Explain the process, and enforce it. You need to know and they need to be accountable, it’s part of being a responsible component in the organization.

Next week I tackle the final link in the power grid. See you on Monday.

Power Plays – Evaluation

Power Lines evaluationSo far, you have articulated your vision for the company or organization. You have identified your circle of concern and your limited circle of ability. You have listed the tasks that can be delegated to someone else and created a list of people to whom you can delegate those tasks. You have identified and articulated the responsibility in terms of performance and objective and you have agreed contractually or what is to be done, how, where, and when.

Next, you have the responsibility to monitor performance. Now, I am not talking here about a 6 month performance appraisal. If 6 month or annual performance appraisals are all you do, please reconsider. They should NEVER be the only formal evaluation you do. I think they are terrible ineffective and not worth the effort. Get a copy of The One Minute Manager and read it. You can do so in less than an hour and then put it into practice.

Nor am I speaking here in this context of a personal evaluation for a raise or promotion like companies regularly do. You do those and they should be based on criteria you have developed for your situation.

I am speaking here of the evaluation that must be made of delegated tasks and responsibilities.

Thomas Monson – “When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported back, the rate of improvement accelerates.”

Depending on the level of autonomy you’ve been able to grant, schedule periodic performance reviews accordingly. To refresh, here are the six levels of autonomy you can grant I listed in a previous article:

  1. “Look into the problem, report the facts to me. I’ll decide what to do.”
  2. “Look into the problem. Let me know of the alternatives, include the pros and cons of each and recommend one for my approval.”
  3. “Look into the problem and let me know what you intend to do. Don’t take action until I approve.”
  4. “Look into the problem and let me know what you intend to do. Plan to do it unless I say otherwise.”
  5. “Take action and let me know what you did.”
  6. “Take action, no further contact with me is required.”

Be fair. Evaluate against commonly understood criteria. Focus primarily on objectives, less so on techniques. In the end you are not as much concerned about each incremental step as you are the outcome. Indeed, there may well be steps that must be taken to meet safety, procedural, or accounting demands and there is a danger in freestyling. But all being said, you want results and within whatever latitudes you can live with, concern yourself mostly about outcomes.

You are going to evaluate objective and subjective components

Objective components:

  • On Time – make sure everyone knows what it is.
  • On Budget – how much is it and how do we count it?
  • On Spec – what are all the specifications? Make sure everyone who is involved knows all of them.

Subjective components:

  • Resourcefulness – tapping into people and the physical components necessary to get the job done
  • Attitude – cooperative or adversarial
  • Team building – Success in enlisting cooperation and assistance from others if the job demands it.
  • Communicating – providing the right information to the right people in the right time
  • Conflict management – handling friction generated by time constraints, personality clashes, or confusion about roles
  • Strategic thinking – the capacity to see the bigger picture and how an incremental task fits in
  • Making presentations, negotiating, personal habits, friendliness, selling skills, dependability, conscientiousness, pride of work and any other traits if they are germane to the job

Any and all subjective evaluations must be defined in terms of expected outcomes. Do not rely on statistical analysis. For example, I was looking to hire another craftsman for my shop when a man came in with all the right credentials. There could be no doubt he had the hard skills for the position. When I checked references, however, I discovered he had such an abrasive manner that within a very short time he had previous workplaces in complete turmoil and disarray. I did not pursue hiring him.

Team- member evaluation

If the delegated task or the assigned position calls for working with others (almost all of them do), then soliciting the input and evaluation of others can prove useful. If you do be certain that there is never the slightest hint of retaliation or threat. When I worked for a major home improvement retailer the store managers got a lot nicer in August because the corporate evaluation forms hit our store in September. When the forms did come, you had to go to the HR guy who gave you the one with your name on it. Inside there was a code you punched in to a computer program to access the evaluation. Many, if not most, employees flavored their evaluations more favorably to the store because they did not believe that the evaluations were anonymous and they feared retaliation. The store should have provided a box full non-personalized access codes, enough for every employee in the store. Then when an employee came in s/he drew one of the codes, entered it, and completed the evaluation. The corporate suits would have an honest evaluation from that store and the employee would be anonymous. Instead, they actually believed their entries were tied to the number which was identified to be them.


I’ll be honest here and tell you I have never found this to be very reliable. It takes a very self-aware and psychologically secure person to provide a self-evaluation of merit. You can discover how another feels they did and get an idea of their soft-skill attribute of awareness. You can discover how confident they might be. And on occasion you will learn how things are going. But, that being said, this is a tough area to evaluate and I never relied much on it. I did not discount it altogether because it is important to give an associate their say.

The element of evaluation should be discussed and agreed upon at the time the task is delegated or the position is assigned. Institute a no surprises policy. The worst thing you can do is what Kenneth Blanchard calls the “let alone – zap” method of management which means you say nothing until something goes wrong then you lower the boom. Define what is to be done and how you BOTH are going to determine the degree of success or failure.

The element of accountability is next. See you on Thursday.

Power Plays – Authority

Power Lines diagram authorityPower has a source, a circuit, and a purpose. The laptop into which I am entering these words is powered by a battery which receives its power from a wall outlet which receives its power from a power line which is powered by a generating plant.

The circuit is completed when the power flows from the generating plant through the lines into my house into the adapter and into my laptop which completes the circuit by running it through the computers many components and back to ground. Since the generator is connected to “ground” the circuit is complete and made so when the power converts electrical energy into another source of energy which yields the desired results. My document is written and posted where you can read it.

Power without a complete circuit goes no where. The energy remains in the line until work is performed. If there is a short, there are lots of sparks and consequential damage which prevents the completion of work.

Ok, enough about the dynamics of energy transfer. How does that apply to us as leaders and managers?

The power starts somewhere, probably with you. But you might be a component along the way and get the power from someone farther up the line – your boss, supervisor, or board of directors. Your personal engine of competence can’t do everything so you’ve hooked up more tools and are delegating to them this job or that.

By now we have covered the first two components in the distribution of power throughout your department, company, or organization – Delegation and Responsibility. This unit in the series will address the concept and practice of Authority. Delegation is the power outlet, the wall plug-in that connects the power source to the device. Responsibility is the purpose of the device, the reason it’s connected at this time because it specifies its purpose. Authority is the flow of power.

I am a user of If you haven’t used the site, take a quick look (wait until after you’ve finished this article, please). Definitions found there are contextually inclusive for those of us in business or organizational settings. I like what they say about authority:

1. Institutionalized and legal power inherent in a particular job, function, or position that is meant to enable its holder to successfully carry out his or her responsibilities.

2. Power that is delegated formally. It includes a right to command a situation, commit resources, give orders and expect them to be obeyed, it is always accompanied by an equal responsibility for one’s actions or a failure to act.

They agree with me. Authority is forever and always tied to a job, function, or responsibility and it is consequential. It carries with it rewards or penalties.

You know how packaged inside the box of every new appliance there is a list of cautions and directives you are warned to read BEFORE using the device? Well, here is my list of ten things to remember before you start connecting people and handing out responsibilities.

  1. Authority is both delegated DOWNWARD and awarded UPWARD. You authorize someone for a particular job. They grant you authority to oversee and hold accountable.
  2. When a person accepts a subordinate role, they essentially delegate a portion of their personal AUTHORITY and AUTONOMY to their superior (that’s you). Subordinates do not act in a monarchy. They owe you for the responsibility and authority you have yielded to them.
  3. When authority is given, there exists an IMPLIED CONTRACT that says, “If you will commit yourself to accomplish this goal, we will delegate to you the authority you need to achieve it.”
  4. Authority must match the responsibility. Give enough to get the job done as specified, not more, not less.
  5. A leader can never give away all his authority.
  6. Authority should first be given to a POSITION and a FUNCTION (a RESPONSIBILITY) not to a PERSON.
  7. Always state:
    1. What is to be accomplished
    2. How it is to be done
    3. When it is to be accomplished
  8. Always get a VERBAL AGREEMENT on the objective.
  9. Request a WRITTEN PLAN on how the objectives will be reached.

Authority, then, is official or traditional sanction for individuals occupying specified positions to perform certain directive tasks. Malcolm Forbes has said that “Those  who enjoy responsibility usually get it; those who merely like exercising  authority usually lose it.” I concur.  What experience you have had when delegating jobs? How did it work out?

Previous articles in this series:

The Gentle Side of Force

Power Plays – How Power Flows Part 1

Power Plays – How Power Flows Part 2

The Six Principles of Delegating

The Gentle Side of Force – 8 skills of leadership Iearned from my friend the horse whisperer

horse whispererMy friend Steve is a horse whisperer, was one long before Robert Redford made the label famous. Steve’s been a cowboy forever, a genuine, sure ‘nuff, tall in the saddle hand-me-that-rope cowboy. He’s knows his way around a horse, knows how to care for them, and knows how to handle them. If you’re interested you can read about him and horse whispering here.

The fascinating thing about “horse whispering” to me is that it works and works very, very well.  Effective leaders have wonderfully developed skills of persuasion. They seldom, if ever, resort to barking orders. They don’t have to make people do what they want them to do or what needs to be done.

Granted, there are two sides to this. Finding willing, responsible, cooperative, skilled employees is a necessary component. But we don’t always have them, can’t always find them, or shouldn’t always count on having them at our disposal. We might have to get the job done with those who are reluctant or even downright resistant.

Please pardon the obvious correlation between associates/employees and horses. You, being intelligent and intuitive, already understand that I do not mean to imply that associates or employees are brutish or inhuman. I use the parallel in the sense that we must all take people who possess a natural independent will and somehow persuade them to cooperate and contribute to the cause or enterprise in such a way that neither party suffers injury or humiliation.

I always thought that horses had to be “broken.” I’ve seen the TV shows and western movies where the brave cowboy gets on a horse and forces the objecting animal into submission. Thankfully these days our understanding has increased and we approach the subject with more respect for the animal and more understanding about how to gain the role as leader. We have made the same progress in business and organizational dynamics too. I hope the days of the bullying supervisor are over.

I was so interested in Steve the Horse Whisperer’s technique that I researched just how it is he gets an untamed, unfamiliar animal to do what he wants it to do. I discovered that his techniques are remarkably parallel to those of effective leaders who understand how to apply the gentle side of force. 

Here is how it works:

  1. Establish Leadership and Partnership. Show that you are the Leader. Someone has to lead, particularly in our culture. Some cultures favor consensus but even there someone rises to the place of prominence and becomes the visible focus of leadership. Indeed, the capacity to establish leadership is a primary indicator of leadership. It sounds like circular reasoning but it really is axiomatic – leaders lead. Put even a few people together and give them an assignment, even a simple one. If at least one of them does not begin to articulate what needs to be done, if they do not begin to take charge, nothing will happen. I wrote about this awhile back which you can read about it here.
  2. Talk, communicate, establish two-way communication. The gentle side of force does not resort to issued decrees, broadcast statements, or memos. They have their place; in some cases it may be absolutely necessary. But talk to your people, face to face if at all possible. A global survey of senior executives and managers conducted by NFI Research solicited input about methods of communication with staff. One respondent said E-mail is great for scheduling and confirming meetings, phone is good for quick conversations that require two-way communications and a memo is preferred for long background pieces. In-person and scheduled meetings are always the best for any discussion requiring true dialogue and consensus.” Really good leaders know how…and when…to employ all three.
  3. Let the horse communicate when he is ready to accept you as leader. Establish who is the leader and who is the follower. It might take a while. If you’re new on the job or you have a new hire, understand that gaining someone’s confidence might take a day or two, probably longer. Don’t try to be buddies, try to be associates. Maintain the trappings and systems that conduct power safely. Every component has its place. Run the flag up the pole and see who salutes.
  4. Maintain connection and association, do not avoid physical presence. Keep your eyes on each other. The best, most successful, most effective leaders are those who maintain presence. General Patton was everywhere, so was General Bradley. If you want to turn powerful people into allies instead of enemies, keep them close. The emphasis on team building and team dynamics has made MBWA – Management By Wandering Around – popular again. First identified by Tom Peters and Robert Waterman in their big seller In Search of Excellence, the concept manifests itself when managers and leaders stay engaged within the workforce.
  5. Prove that you can be trusted, that you will not harm or compromise them. People are not stupid but they are skeptical. Just about everyone has been had before. Built over time and repeated experience another word for this is integrity. You are who you appear to be. I will pass through this quickly because the subject of integrity deserves a much larger treatment and is on the schedule for inclusion in this series in a few days.
  6. Test respect by asking that followers follow. Salesmen ask for the sale. Leaders ask for the lead. There comes a time, actually there will probably come many times, when you as leader ask someone to follow. You can buy a person’s time and talent, you must earn their respect and enthusiasm.
  7. Ask for a response – do not assume the follower will know intuitively. You will probably still need to point out what needs to be done, who needs to do it, and when it is due. In short, lead. Good delegation technique solicits a verbal contract of agreement, an oral memo of understanding that lays out what is to be done, who will do it, and when it will be completed.
  8. Saddle up and ride! When the gentle side of force has done its work, you can do yours. Lead! Pursue the goals, press forward, get going. You don’t do this just to show who’s the boss. You do this because you have worlds to conquer, places to go, objectives to reach. You’ve gained someone’s trust so make the most of it. 

Power Plays have a point. They deserve my time and your attention for the purpose of the ethical pursuit of noble causes whether they are for business or for charity.