You never know where your next good idea will come from so it pays to listen. You’ve also probably heard that listening is a lost art. My latest and most profound lesson in listening came during a recent lunch with a dear adviser and friend. We generally cover lots of topics, so it wasn’t surprising the topic of integrity came up. We discussed the concept of integrity and how many people talk about it, but don’t spend time actually living it. Thus, the idea for this month’s WOW! List was born. Are you letting your actions speak for you or are your words an empty shell? What follows are three key terms rampant in today’s leadership diaspora with ideas from some real smarties about what these words should not only mean, but should truly embody.
You really don’t have anything as an individual, team, or organization if you don’t have trust. I asked acclaimed trust expert and author of “The Trust Edge,” David Horsager, his most pithy way to describe living the topic. Horsager emphasizes that “Trust, not money, is the real currency of business and life,” and “a lack of trust is your biggest expense.” Exactly! If you don’t have trust, you will go broke emotionally, spiritually and financially.
So how can you as a leader build trust in your organization? First you have to live it yourself. “Engender trust, engender trust, engender trust, it really has to do with building empathy and vulnerability in yourself and your team,” says Kate Bednarski, chief experience officer for Live in the Grey. Strong leaders welcome transparency. They’re open to new ideas. When trust exists in your organization, innovation can happen because people willingly share – regardless of title.
Integrity is a word that challenges many people. You might say the word is overused but under utilized. “Doing the right thing is rarely the easy thing,” says Mark Sheffert, CEO of Manchester Companies. A leader and adviser, serving on many boards of directors, Sheffert was inducted into the Minnesota Business Hall of Fame in 2014. His regular duties include deciding how executive teams are living the essentials of integrity. Sheffert says the bedrock for integrity rests in your value system and how you live those values in your daily life. “We often regret the things we fail to do as much as we regret the things we do that we shouldn’t,” explains Sheffert. In helping companies avoid collapse, he may need to impress upon clients how embodying integrity is the only way they can turn around their mess because money, trust or both are in short supply. And often, it comes down to listening to expertise within your own borders. In Sheffert’s words: “It’s a mistake to underestimate the value of experience and corporate intelligence that walks out the door when a key employee or officer isn’t heard.”
Ensuring everyone is heard, allowed to grow, and celebrated really comes down to a brand’s leadership ethos. Seems everyone wants to grow their leadership abilities. I applaud that, but also hope you and your organization aren’t just paying lip service to the term. “My job is really just to make everyone’s job easier,” says Aria Finger, CEO of DoSomething.org. A good mantra to have because it means a leader is using his or her talents and experience to strengthen the whole and uplift those who may need support. It also means sharing the stage and even handing over the stage to those who know more. “If you’re the smartest person in the room, you haven’t hired well,” stresses Rory Brown, president of Bleacher Report. When I think of the best leaders who have gifted their time to help me grow or ones I work with in my executive coaching practice, the common thread is confidence with an elegant handling of people smarts. Skipping the arrogance and going for building teams and boosting talents are hallmarks of the best leaders who truly own their WOW!