Excuses won’t help you, reasons will.

“Ninety-nine percent of the failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses.” George Washington Carver

Excuses won’t help you, reasons will. Why? Those who hired you and look to you don’t care how rough the water is, they expect you to bring the boat in.

Yes, you.

Leadership is a problem solving proposition which requires a fairly comprehensive set of skills. Effective leaders need insight, understanding, courage, honesty, and more to be able to negotiate the rough waters of business and organizational leadership.

When things are going well, anyone can “lead.”


No leading happens, no leadership is exercised unless and until there are challenges to face, problems to solve, decisions to make, and consequences to endure. Something has to be at stake. Risk has to be faced. Leadership does not and cannot occur absent either risk. To lead means to take someone else from one place to another, negotiating the challenges along the way.

That is why effective and superlative leaders are three dimensional. They contain depth of character, deep reserves of knowledge, and verified evidence of courage under fire, as it were. These days we tend to be impressed by two-dimensional leaders, those whose skills of oratory and charisma cause them to standout.

But it is depth of character that causes a leader to stand up. He or she rises to a challenge and tackles it. If they don’t…or can’t…then frankly they are not leading.

One key indicator is the response of the person in charge. If they make excuses –“it was the previous leader’s fault”, “no one will cooperate with me”, “the dog ate my briefing on the subject”, or anything even remotely resembling answers like those, they are not leading.

  1. Leaders accept responsibility; they do not excuse themselves from it by blame-shifting.
  2. Making excuses is one thing, explaining reasons is another.
  3. Blame-shifting and excuse-making do more than just sound weak, they signal weakness in the one trying to shift blame and make excuses. Nobody, and I mean nobody, likes a whiner.
  4. Those we lead do not care how rough the water is, they expect us to bring the boat to its destination.

Effective leaders know there will be challenges. They know they will have to build alliances, win over opponents, and overcome obstacles. They may explain what we’re up against and even help us understand how we got there, but they offer courage and inspire confidence by their ability to get us moving ahead. Explaining reasons helps others know that you understand just what is going on. Making excuses assures others you don’t.

It was Benjamin Franklin who said “He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.”

Don’t engage in blame-shifting or excuse-making…ever.



How to measure confidence

17695242-meter-with-the-words-you-re-in-control-illustration-designConfidence, on the job, is the result of adequate self-esteem and a certainty of one’s ability to fulfill the job requirements. Confidence within an employee or an associate is directly related to their likelihood of fulfilling a task. Therefore, confidence is one of the two components you as a leader will need to be able to evaluate.

In a previous post, I wrote about the two components – competence and confidence, so I won’t repeat what I wrote. I do want to address the necessity to estimate another’s confidence.

It is not a precise science and there are no number scales that I know of to help you do this. Nor are there any tests one can administer that would measure it. But, having said that, it seems obvious that a simple observation of skill will help measure competence. If the skill is there, then confidence should be relatively simple to measure.

Let’s take, for example, the situation I described in the post I made last Friday. An apprentice had been working in a restoration shop for several months before the owner gave him a complete project of his own to manage.

We can assume that the owner and the apprentice’s immediate manager had been watching him and evaluating the work he had turned out. Since they were releasing to him greater responsibility, we can also assume that the apprentice’s work had been up to the standards required and possibly exceeded them.

At no time and in no way I am suggesting that a conscientious and responsible manager or leader simply guess about the ability of an associate, employee, or subordinate. It would be foolhardy to hand off responsibility to an untried, untested, unevaluated person and expect anything more than disaster. Indeed, if the unevaluated subordinate proves to be competent and responsible, then you were just lucky.

No, hand off responsibility, well, responsibly. So for the sake of measuring the second component – confidence – let’s assume that the person in question has been working with you long enough, or has sufficient references and experience from previous jobs that you can assume the best as far as competence goes.

Here’s a hint – in the case of the reluctant and unsure apprentice in the restoration shop, his reluctance and uncertainty could have been alleviated at least somewhat had he been receiving regular feedback. I do not like and do not advocate annual or semi-annual performance appraisals. It may be okay to evaluate progress toward agreed upon goals periodically, but performance appraisals should be done every minute of every day. As soon as you see or discover something being done right, say so. Every minute of every day you should be on the job, in the workplace, looking around catching people doing things right…and then letting them know. This is the number one way to build a positive and thriving work force.

So then, how do you measure one’s confidence:

  1. Rate their enthusiasm for the job they do and their enthusiasm to accept the job you are offering. If you see hesitation, make a value judgment as to whether it is a lack of confidence.
  2. Check out the types of questions they ask. Are they asking for reinforcement and reassurance? Do they seem unsure of their own personal ability to make a decision? If so, confidence is lacking.
  3. What kind of risks are they are willing to take? An unwillingness to take risks is almost always a sign of a lack of confidence. But you need to be honest here. Are they lacking confidence in themselves, in you, in the company, or what?

You can help by doing these 5 things:

  1. Be very explicit about what the job requires.
  2. Be very explicit about what the deadlines and standards are.
  3. Be very explicit about what the budget is.
  4. Be very explicit about what limits there are to the delegate’s authority and power. Remember the case a few years ago when a low level clerk in Singapore brought down an entire international investment company simply because there had been no limits placed on clerks in trading securities.
  5. Be very explicit about what you will do to support them in their responsibility and at the very least imply what you won’t do.

It could go like this:

Here is this project I want your help on. Look over the job, let me know your suggestions and report back to me so I can decide what to do.


Here is this project I want your help on. Look over the job, put together a project plan and let me see it before you act on it. The budget is $XXX, look over the job and let me know if it is enough or too much.


Here is this project I want your help on. Look over the job, let me know in a week how you’re coming along.


Here is this project I want you to handle. Let me know when you think you can get it done , who you will need to help, and how much you think it will cost. After we talk about those things, you can get started.


Here is this project I want you to handle. I need it in 9o days. Can you do it? If you are confident you can, report to me every 2 weeks.

Confidence is different from self-esteem. Confidence is the measure of certainty we have in being able to complete a responsibility. Self- esteem is how we feel about ourselves. Low self-esteem almost always accompanies low confidence. But people with high-self-esteem may lack confidence in a particular task or responsibility. You can fix that by how you relate to them and work with them. Confidence breeds confidence. You confidence in them goes a very long ways in imparting to them the confidence they need to get the job done. Be smart about it, but don’t minimize your role.


3 types of confidence leaders must measure

confidence catOn the Velocity Channel I watched a reality show about a classic car restoration shop in Canada. In the episode I saw, the owners of the shop had hired an apprentice mechanic. After a few months on the job they considered him worthy of increased responsibilities, so they gave him a project to manage.

As I watched I found the apprentice’s reaction telling. I am reasonably confident he was more than capable of doing the work because the owners of the business have a reputation for high quality work and they are an old and very profitable company. They did not achieve success by being foolish.

The apprentice accepted the project then began the task of examining the vehicle to be restored so as to determine the scope and sequence of the project. For the next several minutes he called in more seasoned and experienced people around the shop, one by one, to look over the project, asking of them a series of questions. Most of the questions were the same ones he asked of the others.

So what was the problem?

Confidence, or more accurately, a lack of it.

It is entirely to be expected given his inexperience and short time with the company. He seemed to be a conscientious person so I am certain his motivation was to fulfill his responsibilities and complete the project on time and on budget. But it was a big jump in responsibility and he needed assurance and reassurance.

I heard the exchange between him and his boss when the boss gave him the project. The producers might have edited some of the conversation out so I cannot be certain I heard all of it. What I did hear seemed reassuring enough. But obviously he was not completely confident.

But there are three types of confidence that leaders must understand.

The first is Self-confidence – that certainty one has of their own abilities, judgment, authority, and standing within the company or organization. Let’s look briefly at each:

Confidence in one’s own abilities – the knowledge of and acceptance of one’s gifts and talents and the level of refinement of them proven by experience. It also implies an acceptance of one’s limitations. For most people, especially younger workers, there may be a large unknown factor here that contributes to a lack of self-confidence. Conversely, one with an inflated self-opinion may be over-confident because of a lack of confrontation with challenges in life.

Confidence in one’s own judgment – job satisfaction and happiness with life choices play into this. It is impossible to keep personal and professional lives entirely separate. We are what we are and what happens outside of work affects how we feel which affects how we perform on the job. If people have made good decisions they are confident of making more. If not, well then, their abilities to pull the trigger on hard choices will be affected. Whether on the job or off, decisions one has made either build self-confidence or erodes it.

Confidence in one’s own authority – This has to do with how well a person has been backed up by superiors when they’ve had to make decisions. The right to make decisions and pursue actions is critical to developing capable people. People need to know…and be confident or…the power that have to do the job. Keeping folks on a limited power budget (limiting their right to make independent decisions) indicates a lack of confidence (this may be perfectly called for. I am NOT suggesting that you give complete autonomy to anyone unless you have complete and utter confidence in them.) I am suggesting that most employees and associates know there are limits. Not knowing can promote a lack of confidence. The unknown, in any realm, almost always provokes fear and fear promotes caution and slows the pace.

Finally there is confidence in one’s standing within the company and relates to authority. In the case I wrote of in the beginning – the apprentice was assigned a complete project – his challenge was to understand the extent and limits of his authority and what he can and cannot do. And he needs to know what the company will do if something goes wrong and how they will reward him if it goes right. If he suspects he is being set up or manipulated, confidence will drain away quickly.

Self-confidence, in the context of the workplace, directly impacts Task-confidence, that certainty one may feel about their ability to complete the job. I am convinced that most employees and associates really do want to be successful and do a good job. Indeed, a study of Millennials here in the US has shown that job satisfaction, the feeling one gets from doing a good job in a position that matches personal values, is as high on the scale of importance as is monies earned. An otherwise confident and self-assured individual may become quite quivery when they are asked to embark in a new and untried area.

Company-confidence is the certainty one has that the company will not surprise them. No one likes surprises. Leaders don’t like them. Employees and associates don’t like them. It is best to be completely frank in the very beginning about expectations and dangers.

So, what about the apprentice and his many questions? Well, his response is clear evidence of a lack of confidence. Since I was not there when the project was given to him and I will assume that the producers edited everything for time and content, I cannot know for sure what was said. What I heard sounded good enough. The boss sounded like he had confidence in the young man. But there is always a need to consider how we communicate and reinforce confidence in our charges. We must be explicit and say precisely and completely how we feel.

Words mean things. Words are absolutely critical. When you are handing of a responsibility to someone, say exactly what you expect, when you expect it, and what you will do or not do.

But implicit expressions are very important too. How you conduct yourself after the hand off, whether you are meddling, inquiring, or pestering them or whether they feel abandoned, or whether they know you are a resource for them communicates how you really feel.

Developing people is your major job. Measuring the confidence levels of others is an oft-employed skill. How do you do that? I’ll tell you on Monday.


The quality of confidence – lessons from Flight 1549


confidenceChesley Burnett Sullenberger, was born January 23, 1951 in Dennison, Texas, to a dentist father and an elementary school teacher mother. An exceptional student with a brilliant mind, he joined Mensa at the age of 12.

After graduating from high school, he entered the US Air Force Academy. Already a competent pilot, he was selected to be a flight instructor by the end of his first year. After a career in the Air Force, he became a commercial pilot for U.S. Airways and its predecessors. Logging more than 20,000 hours flying time, his proven competence yielded a high level of confidence in himself, and a confidence in him by those who flew in his flight crews.

All went reasonably well until January 15, 2009. In command of an Airbus A320 leaving New York’s La Guardia for Charlotte, North Carolina, Flight #1549 hit a flock of birds shortly after take-off. Losing power in both engines it quickly became apparent that a return to La Guardia or a diverted landing to Teterboro Airport in New Jersey was not feasible. Informing the passenger to brace for landing, Captain Sulley flew the Airbus to a water landing in the Hudson River. All passengers and crew survived.

Listening to the flight recording (below) is a graphic example of cool confidence under dire circumstances.


Confidence is the ability to take the information you have right now, make a decision, and take action. Indeed, that perfectly summarizes leadership itself – understand what’s what, know what to do next, then do it.

It comes as the result of self-awareness and experience. In an interview with news anchor Katie Couric, Captain Sulley said, “One way of looking at this might be that for 42 years, I’ve been making small, regular deposits in this bank of experience, education and training. And on January 15 the balance was sufficient so that I could make a very large withdrawal.”

When you have self-confidence, it will manifest itself in the speed and certainty of your decisions. Tentativeness and uncertainty does not inspire confidence in those who look to you for leadership. And if your followers do not have confidence, they will not follow enthusiastically, perhaps not follow at all.

If confidence is “full trust; belief in the powers, trustworthiness, or reliability of a person or thing,” then what can you do that will promote that in yourself and your followers?

  1. Celebrate achievements with humility. Bravado and bluster does not inspire confidence. Instead it often provokes others to wonder what you are covering up.
  2. View inexperience with optimism, seeing it as merely things you have not yet had the opportunity to do. Superlative leaders do not view new things with fear, they view them opportunistically.
  3. Surround yourself with experts not sycophants. Find people who will complement you, adding to what you are not or cannot do and be. If your ego is weak and you need people to flatter you, remember that compliments are not the same as complements. The absolute last thing you want is to work yourself into a situation where you’re in way over your head and have few or no resources to get yourself out.
  4. Be aware of how you talk to yourself. Some people are too critical of themselves. Yes, we all have apprehensions. Yes, we all have failures. And that’s the point. The feelings you have are universal. You are not alone nor are you unique. Speak honestly to yourself but not with condemnation.
  5. Look the part. Why do you think airline pilots don’t show up for work in Bermuda shorts, Hawaiian shirts, and sandals? Because it would not inspire confidence among the crew or the passengers! Leaders need to look like leaders in the context in which they lead. Whatever the socially acceptable standard is in your industry, meet it.
  6. Act the part. Speak with decorum, avoid unsavory jokes, eliminate offensive speech. Don’t qualify every edict or order by sounding tentative. Being “iffy” works against you.
  7. Don’t fall apart. Keep your head about you in times of crisis or challenge. This is where superlative leadership really shines. Thankfully, few of us will ever face what Captain Sully did, but we will face challenges. Keep your head about you. After all, in quietness and confidence is your strength.


The Principle of Good Faith

handshakeBack when I wrote a series called Power Plays, one of the articles dealt with the practice of authority (read it here). I made the following points within that article:

  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.

Accepting the premise that power is not absolute and that the authority that we as leaders possess and wield derives from our position, our responsibility, and our character, we can say the same principle exists when it comes to our capacity to influence others, either positively (motivation) or negatively (demotivation or discouragement).

When someone comes to work for us or with us, there exists a slate of unspoken but nonetheless binding assumptions. Those assumptions are as old as civilization and never seem to vary. Those who work for us and with us grant to use a line of credit. They function within the principle of good faith. They hold the belief that their trust in us and their willingness to yield personal autonomy by granting us authority over them will be worthy of their trust and good faith.

So we can define good faith as honesty and veracity of word and intention. We mean what we say and we can be relied upon to back up what we say, follow through with what we promise, and fulfill our responsibilities to them. The opposite of that has two expressions.

First is duplicity, dishonest behavior meant to trick someone. I see this every time I look at job listings when would-be employers suggest one can make $50,000 a year while stuffing envelopes. The lie is so brazen, so bold I would think no one would be fooled, but apparently many people are.

Why? The principle of good faith. People want to grant others credit. They want to put a positive balance in the bank account of belief and relationship and will readily do so until…but I get ahead of myself. The “until” comes in a few paragraphs.

Second there is pretense, a claim of having a particular quality or ability or condition that really is not true. This usually manifests itself in pretending to be what one is not. Some people are quite schooled in this having been people of pretense all their lives. Other manifestations are the real nature of a business when the proclaimed and professed values do not hold up in real life. Non-profits are more susceptible for this, not because non-profit organizations are deceitful. No, not at all! But those who come to work in non-profits usually hold very high expectations, sometimes expectations that are next to impossible to meet.

The principle of good faith means that people come to work for and with us with little or no other assurance other than what we say or what an employment agreement may contain. Those potential workers grant to us a line of credit. They extend to us the benefit of the doubt. They are willing to invest time and talent for the promise of return and reward.

What should we do? Like applying for a loan, never prevaricate on the loan application. Never promise anything that is not true. Never play on a person’s assumptions. Explain, illustrate, define, and detail what is what. And maintain that line of credit by continuing to do so.

Next up, the principle of deposits – you gotta put something in before  you can take something out. Later this 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

Keeper Trait #11 – Truthfulness

360_lie_detection_0713The tasks of evaluation, decision-making, and determining action are constant for leaders and managers. We must, from start of day to its close, gather information, qualify that information, and prescribe appropriate responses.

This requires intelligence and I mean that in the broader sense of information and intelligence gathering not just in the “smart” sense. Leaders and managers need information and should demand it, should settle for nothing less.

This is where trait #11 comes in. The people we assemble into work teams and staffs must be truthful with us and with themselves.

A truthful person is:

Honest about what they do, have done and consequently will do. They build a track record of reliability in the capacity to accurately report what they have done thus we can trust what they tell us about what they can do and consequently what they will do.

Honest about what has happened. When giving account (trait #2), their account is accurate in three dimensions:

                They have told us what happened (the truth),

                They have included everything in their report (the whole truth),

                They have neither embellished nor interpreted the facts (nothing but the truth.)

In so doing they have become reliable witness upon whose testimony we can rely and from which we can make the best decisions and take the most appropriate actions.

Honest about how things are because you need information based on facts not fabrication. You need to make decisions and take action based on facts not speculation. Peril awaits on either side – exaggeration or it’s opposite, minimizing.

We need to fight and defeat immaculate perception. There exists within just about everyone an inclination to magnify the importance and validity of our own ideas. I call it immaculate perception, the tendency to ascribe to one’s opinions the attributes of omniscience and consequently the belief in one’s omnipotence. In short, we think too highly of our own ideas and truthful people are a balance to that.

We need truthful people because we cannot be everywhere all the time and we cannot know everything. Corporate structures are guilty of insulating decision-makers from reality because they are often physically removed from the places where decisions are put into practice. The TV show Undercover Boss substantiates this. In every case, bosses discover that their decisions have been both useful and harmful.

Information, accurate information, is on our side. It is not our enemy. Truthful associates make the company stronger. Truthful information does not weaken the company, it only shows us where the weakness is.

Truthfulness is sought here as a manifestation of good judgment because being truthful will imply that the person knows what to say, when to say it, to whom to say it, and how it should be said. Now, the question arises here about why people who work for you and with you do not tell you the truth. It could be because they are dishonest people. Those do exist and you know what to do about it. But it could be that they are afraid to tell you the truth because of you.

It might be that the way you react to the truth has shut down the flow of information. If that is the case, the world of fantasy will gradually displace the real world and the consequences can be dire.

Many surveys show that truthfulness is a key component of leadership because it implies reliability, trustworthiness, and credibility.

Frankly, truthfulness is not a valued trait in some workplaces. The powers that be have given themselves to delusion and want to hear only information and input that supports that delusion. Other leaders are insecure and must be continually propped up by sliver-tongued sycophants.

What do you do when someone tells you the truth? How do you react? What do you do when you discover someone has been dishonest? What can you do today to encourage truthfulness in your company or organization?

Trait #13 is stewardship. See you in a few days.

Keeper Trait #3 – Emotional and Psychological Security

confidenceYou’ve encountered them, those insecure types who have a point to prove, weight to throw around, and a chip on a shoulder they are just hoping someone will knock off. Ok, it does sound like a cliché festival but it is true. (Clichés became clichés because their observations are both obvious and common.)

Remembering that the singular objective for all associates and employees is to solve problems. Their problem-solving skills must always exceed their problem-creating leanings. This series is laying out those 16 traits that are found in keepers, those not-so rare individuals who make life better. There are plenty of them around, perhaps most of them are thus. It seems odd to me that so many employers, leaders, and managers keep the less than best ones on the rolls. Skill for the job is critical but by no means the only criteria. Yes, I know there are labor laws that must be honored and having run my own businesses with employees, I know what they are. But the initial probationary period can and should reveal much so don’t squander that time.

In the early days of my millwork business I was interviewing potential shop workers. One man came in with impressive credentials. After he left the interview, my business partner revealed that he knew the man having worked with him earlier. It seems that the man’s ability is beyond question. However, my business partner explained that within one hour in the shop he would have everyone in there angry at him and each other. The guy’s personality was so abrasive he just could not fit in anywhere.

So, why am I telling you this? To encourage you that problem employees can possibly be redeemed. But failing the best efforts of yourself and whatever assistance you can muster, do not hesitate to put the needs of the business or organization ahead of an associate’s obvious need for growth and maturing at best, for therapy at worst.

I’ve written about it before here at TPL because it has been a recurring theme of mine for decades. The theme is that those people who join my team are there to:

Extend my reach

Multiply my effectiveness

Divide my work

Anything less cannot be ignored. It is a philosophy and a commitment that has always rewarded when followed and penalized when not.

This is part three of my series on Keepers, those people whose abilities and personalities are what you want to be permanently part of your team. The first two were:

Trait #1 – Resource-fullness

Trait #2 – Aggressive accountability

This post is about emotional and psychological insecurity. As is often the case, we can see qualities of light when it contrasts with dark so let’s look at the symptoms of an insecure employee or associate first.

  • Lack of confidence revealed by a reluctance to venture into new territory. This could be from a fear of failure (see the point that just follows) or it could be from fear of success (indicating deeper psychological issues) or it could come from unfortunate past experiences where venture was slapped down.
  • Evading responsibility when something they did goes wrong.
  • Fear of failure evidenced when an associate takes a failure to heart instead of to mind. You and I know that everyone fails from time to time, but that does not make them a failure. We know that failure keeps our feet on the ground but it does not and should not bury us under it. We know that failure shows us what will not work. Insecure people take it to heart and regard themselves as losers. The mere possibility of this provokes all sorts of defensive and evasive mechanisms, well beyond the scope of this post.
  • Over-dependency demonstrated by the employee’s constant checking in with you to be sure everything is ok. Accountability is one thing, an insecure need for continual positive feedback is another. It indicates either a lack of confidence in their ability or lack of clarity in your expectations.

Not so surprisingly, insecure employees often do not act insecure. They can seem confident, even boastful. They can be loud to the point of domination. They can be outspoken and opinionated. They can be Cliff Claven types ready with an answer for questions no one asks… or cares about.

Dr. William Menninger, co-founder of the Menninger Clinic and the Menninger Foundation lists out these characteristics of an emotionally secure person:

1. Ability to deal constructively with reality.

2. Capacity to adapt to change.

3. Few symptoms of tension and anxiety.

4. Ability to find more satisfaction in giving than receiving.

5. Capacity to consistently relate to others with mutual satisfaction and helpfulness.

6. Ability to direct hostile energy into constructive outlets.

7. Capacity to love.

All of them are important signs of emotional maturity. They have been the subject of volumes of material so we are free to narrow our focus to the context of working relationships and job performance, particularly working with you as their leader or manager or both.

First, when an associate or employee can confront a problem and respond with more objectivity than subjectivity, s/he has the ability to deal constructively with reality.

Second, change is constant. Secure associates can manifest whatever skills and attitudes may be mandated by present circumstance and modify them again as the next set of changes emerge. Insecure people retreat into routine and process for security. Secure people find security in their capacity to meet the challenge and adapt as necessary.

Third, aside from the odd and unusual genetic predisposition to ulcers, secure people don’t develop them. They handle problems and change calmly and objectively. Insecure people can’t. One non-profit I worked with had an extremely capable secretary whose high degree of competence made her a great part of the team. She was, however, fragile in the sense that any variation in the process, however slight, became a big, big deal. Fortunately, she worked in an office completely by herself which insulated others from her. Anxiety and nervousness has a way of going viral.

Fourth, secure people are contributors. They are team players and consensus builders. They are not users. They do not manipulate others to gain advantage for themselves. They seek advancement for the whole not the part.

Fifth, they bring others along, share information, show the way, and give assistance without expecting a return.

Sixth, they fight fairly. I do not want to even imply that secure people never disagree. They do, and probably should from time to time. But when they do, they do so constructively. They offer a counter perspective, substantiate it with sound logic, and offer a solution.

Finally, they are people who genuinely care about someone other than themselves. They are just nice people to be around. They are not abrasive and would be missed if they were gone.

Emotionally secure people are not rare but they are in demand. When you find them and can recruit them, keep them.

The next trait is personal and organizational loyalty. Check back in a couple of days.