PERSONAL NOTE FROM THE LEAD NAVIGATOR
Bittersweet. This is the word that best captures Cathy’s life and mine over the past couple of weeks. As you know, my daughter, Heather, was pregnant with triplets. The babies came early, and sadly, Baby Oliver was not strong enough to live and he died three days later. His sisters, Charlotte Ann and Eliza Lynn, remain in the NICU at Duke University Hospital in Charlotte, N.C.
I want to extend my deepest appreciation for all of you who have offered prayers and support while our family is walking through this difficult time. And yet, while we mourn the loss of Oliver, we are so joyful and thankful for Eliza and Charlotte, and for my daughter’s continued good health.
President and Lead Navigator
GOOD MANNERS MAKE GOOD MANAGERS
People spend years and thousands of dollars to learn how to excel in a particular industry or trade, yet one of the most critical components of success in the workplace — indeed, in life— cannot be learned in college or through professional seminars. That is, in a word, manners. Those who consistently exhibit simple kindness and good manners tend to stand out from the crowd.
I once overheard a conversation between two co-workers. One of the women said, “He’s a nice guy. He makes me feel good about working here.”
This young lady was talking about her new boss. Like many employees, she was more influenced by her employer’s “soft” skills than his technical skills. His interpersonal skills were what mattered most — his ability to communicate, motivate and show genuine concern. These soft skills are an important aspect of creating a good place to work. When a manager lacks these skills, or actively cultivates their hard-edged opposites, workers who have choices will jump ship.
Soft skills reign supreme and are critical for success.
For employees or job candidates, the simple act of sending a thank-you note can give that person a competitive advantage. Joyce E.A. Russell, director of the Executive Coaching and Leadership Development Program at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, wrote an interesting article published Aug. 20, 2010, in the Washington Post. In this article she states that some studies have found that more than 50 percent of people don’t say thanks and few express any appreciation at all. Managers say that manners practiced inside a firm, especially thank-you’s, reveal a lot about how a person might be treating customers outside of the firm, so to managers, manners are especially important.
Unfortunately, most businesses do a miserable job selecting and training their managers. Many management development programs focus entirely on technical aspects of the job and not people skills. Some managers are tyrants and make life miserable for those they are supposed to lead. It is people skills that make the difference.
Some of the assessments I provide through Chart Your Course measure those soft skills as well as personal attitudes, interests and values. Russell said many managers who have taken these and similar assessments do not exhibit high rates of providing recognition to their employees.
“Generally, with these executives, their own staff rate them low in providing recognition or thanks to employees,” she wrote. “In fact, some of the employees said they hadn’t heard a thank-you from the boss in quite some time.”
Management guru Peter Drucker has said that practicing good manners, like saying “please” and “thank you,” ease working relationships while bad manners can cause relationships to sour quickly.
Here’s a personal example that has left an indelible mark on my life and my approach to leadership:
I joined the Army after I graduated from college. My first boss was an exceptional leader. He was a combat veteran and a former Special Forces medic in Vietnam. He was the type of person who always put the needs of others before his own interests. He would not ask you to do something he would not do himself.
As one of the junior officers in my company, I had the odious responsibility of having to “pull duty.” Pulling duty consisted of working a 24-hour shift. As luck would have it, my shift fell on New Year’s Eve – the worst day of the year to have duty. It was considered the worst day because the young soldiers I was in charge of were partying and getting in general mischief all night long. They did all the things young soldiers typically do on New Year’s Eve.
The next morning did not arrive soon enough. I was a victim of a long, sleepless night and could not wait to get home. It was early Saturday morning and I still had several more hours to go before I could leave. The phone rang. It was Joe, my boss. He wanted to know if I had made any plans for lunch. He informed me that he and his wife had prepared something for me to eat and wanted to know if it was OK to bring it over. I want you to know I don’t remember what the food was, but it was a meal I will never forget.
That one small act of kindness showed me he really cared. That one small act taught me more about leadership than all the degrees and diplomas hanging on my wall. There is an old saying in the military: “If you take care of your troops, your troops will take care of you.” The point is, management is an 8-5 obligation, but true leadership is a 24-hour-a-day responsibility.
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