Posts Tagged trust

Forgiveness.

I’ve heard quite a bit about forgiveness recently which made me start to think about how much I forgive and how much I don’t.  Forgiveness is not one of those clear-cut, black and white emotions.  For example, I can be quick to forgive my close friends for actions or words but not be able to do the same for someone I just met.  Instead of laughing off a sarcastic comment from a friend, a stranger’s words might spur hurt feelings.  Why is it I can quickly forgive my friends but it is harder for strangers? Does it matter the severity of the hurt – words or actions? Let’s explore this topic a little.

In my opinion, I can forgive my friends quicker because of longevity.  Quite simply I’ve known them longer.  We have history and a relationship that builds a bond of trust.  It is that bond of trust that keeps words from stinging or actions from hurting more than they should.  It also means I can extend the hand of forgiveness quickly, sometimes without even thinking.  With an established relationship, there is trust.  Once again, trust leads to the strength of all interactions.  However, I submit that the severity of the hurt also plays a part in the ability to forgive.  Let’s say that a long-time friend forgets my birthday. Honestly, I wouldn’t even think twice about that.  But if that long-time friend spreads a vicious rumor about me, that may take longer to forgive, maybe because the bonds of trust have been stretched or broken.

Then I question – what is forgiveness? Merriam Webster says that forgiveness is a noun meaning “the act of forgiving someone or something”. That doesn’t help because what does it mean to forgive? Back to the dictionary I go.  To forgive is a verb meaning “to stop feeling anger toward (someone who has done something wrong); to stop blaming (someone)”. Okay – now we are getting somewhere.  When we look at the definition of ‘forgive’, it is entirely personal. It means that I must stop feeling anger outwards, not that someone else must act.  It is internal for me to forgive and for me to calm my own emotions.  No one can do that for me and I cannot do that for someone else.  A much bigger and much deeper question is how do we forgive?  That is a great question but one that I am totally unqualified to answer.  I will share that I struggle with forgiveness.  I can easily move past wrongs from certain people and not others. Notice my choice of words – move past and not forget.

I don’t remember every single time I’ve needed forgiveness or forgiven others but there are those deep hurts that I’ve chosen to let go.  I probably will not be able to ever forget them but I can do my best to let go of the anger.  I also admit that deep hurts may be forgiven, not forgotten, and therefore shape my relationship with that person in the future.  I may continue to have a friendship with someone but for deep hurts, I’ll do my best to never allow that situation to happen again – good or bad, right or wrong.  There are a lot of questions about forgiveness so this may come up again.  I’d like to share how motivation and intent play into forgiveness, or some ways it has been hard for me to forgive.  Those thoughts are for another time.

Lori Buresh

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Peace and Comfort.

               PeaceMy son is afraid of thunderstorms. On nights when the lightning flashes and the thunder booms, it is a given a little boy will be climbing into “the big bed” within a short period of time.  Sometimes I even get ahead of him and curl up with him in his bed first.  Either way, he always turns over either to hug or embrace me in his sleep. Even just a touch of his foot on my leg is enough for him to feel safe.  Once he knows he has mommy or daddy nearby, he can sleep through anything – not that we get much sleep after that.  Last night was one such night, and as I pondered my son’s calm, I thought about how that same sort of peace is provided by great leaders.

                My son feels comforted because he knows his protectors are close at hand.  He has trust that his parents will do their best to ensure no harm comes to him.  He is a brave boy on his own, but he needs a little extra help with a touch or a cuddle during a storm.  Leaders can do the same for us if they have the same basic relationship of trust with their team.  When a team has no trust or confidence in its leader, they find no comfort in the direction or the path of the team.  As with any discomfort, it is irritating and drives our attention away from other, more important things.

                Leaders do not need to “cuddle” their teams, but they do need to build that trust and confidence relationship.  I know that when I listen and follow leaders I truly believe in, I have no doubts or concerns about the path ahead. While I can’t say that I phrase it as peace and comfort in those situations, I can say that I am not concerned about the leadership – just the mission and goal.  I am focused and ready to perform knowing that my leaders have the situation under control, and I just need to do my part.  In the case of my son, he needs to calm down and sleep during a storm – mission accomplished.

Lori Buresh

The Professional Development Team

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Broken Processes and Broken Promises.

             brokenchain  Broken processes are like broken promises – they cause frustration and unnecessary anguish. What I mean by broken processes is organizational procedures that are specified one way yet occur another way in reality.  Two of my most hated phrases are “should have” and “supposed to”.  For example, “It should have happened like this (but that’s not how we really do it)” or “It is supposed to go through these steps (but we never do that)”. When we start injecting “should have” and “supposed to” into describing our procedures, it means we are ignoring the truth of what is actually going on. 

                When we view our procedures and practices through rose-colored glasses–laying out the perfect plan yet not adhering to it–we set ourselves and our teams up for failure.  As a process is established, the expectation is those are the steps that should occur to reach the desired outcome. When we have broken processes, like broken promises, what we expect and what we experience do not match. Using a simple example: A door marked Exit should allow us to leave a location. If the door does not open and stops us from leaving, we have to find another way around, which is aggravating.  We expected the door to open since the sign indicated it was an Exit.  However, the door did not open, and upon further investigation, it is missing a handle and needs repair.  This hypothetical situation gets even more frustrating if other people knew about the broken Exit door; yet the door remained out of order, and everyone else just found another Exit.

                Broken procedures and broken promises lead to a lack of trust. By specifying procedures and policies, we are stating the methods that are expected to accomplish goals. When those procedures are ignored or altered by us as leaders or by our team members, the precedent is set that following procedures is optional or just a suggestion.  While some organizational processes can be altered based on the situation or the person, many should be followed for safety, regulatory requirements, consistency, quality or other reasons.  The importance of this is that broken processes can directly affect the productivity of the team either through inefficient work or through an undercurrent of mistrust in the team. So the question is, what do we do about it as leaders?

                The first thing is to make sure we are leading by example. If there is a procedure, we need to follow it first.  Second, if the process occurs in an alternate way other than stated for whatever reason, we need to investigate and not turn a blind eye to it.  Potentially, it was a one-time occurrence due to extenuating circumstances, but if the process continues to flow in a manner that is not expected, it is our responsibility to figure out why.  Maybe the new process flow is actually better! In that case, it is up to us to handle the change management so the entire team is aware and expectations are realigned. 

                However, many times processes are altered because the specified flow was not feasible in the first place, and people just did what they had to do to get the job done.  With that type of situation, we need to be honest with ourselves and our teams.  We need to figure out the true state of affairs and outline what needs to happen and then create the action plan to change over.  The important thing is to communicate to the team, our superiors, and the organization so that broken processes, like broken promises, can be repaired.

-Lori Buresh

CEO, The Professional Development Team

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The Value of Integrity

                 Your word. Your bond. Your reputation.  In itself, integrity is an intangible thing.  It is impossible to hold out an arm and say, “Touch my integrity”, and yet we feel it and experience integrity just as much as a part of our being.  Integrity is one of those abstract concepts that we use to define our sense of self and our sense of right and wrong.  Integrity is not something that anyone can take from us, yet many times we are free to compromise our integrity or give it away.  Then we have to wonder, does integrity matter? I submit that the short answer is – yes.  The long answer explains why. 

                 As I stated, our integrity gives us a sense of self, along with our sense of duty and sense of pride.  Even the poorest person can maintain his or her integrity and keep that part of their esteem whole.  The reason is because it is an emotion, the difference is integrity is one people can control purely for his or her own sake.  There are many other emotions that make us who we are, but integrity is one that we keep for ourselves.  By holding fast to those promises and values that we believe in, we are able to maintain our dignity, even in tough spots. 

                When we do not value our integrity and are willing to compromise ourselves, the impact can be two-fold – how we feel about ourselves and how others view us.  Many lessons can be gained from how we behave and the choices we make when no one else is watching.  When we are ready and willing to cheat or to debase ourselves in private, I believe it is no better than doing so in public.  Just because there were no witnesses doesn’t mean we didn’t allow ourselves to give in to temptation – whatever that temptation may be.  When someone does find out about our transgressions, the impact can be swift and severe depending on the situation.  In all cases, if people go back on their word or is ready to back down from their convictions, it sows the seeds of doubt in others.  There will always be a question of trustworthiness from that point on which may never be fully forgotten.   

                As leaders, we are looked at to do the ‘right’ things in tough situations.  We are the example for others to follow. If we allow our integrity to be tarnished, we have lowered the standards for our teams.  I know that I value my integrity above all else.  I would rather hold myself to the true path and course, even if that means failing rather than cheating and having an empty victory.  One last point to keep in mind: Never be afraid to fail if it means keeping your integrity intact. Failure is a lesson taught only through a short-term battle, but maintaining your integrity is the way to win the long-term war.

 

-Lori Buresh

CEO, The Professional Development Team

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Why do we Strive for Leadership Roles?

               A friend of mine posted this question on Facebook, and it is an excellent question.  Why do we look to be in positions of leadership?  What makes a position of leadership so appealing?  There is a rush of adrenaline to think that you either chose or were selected to be in that position of honor and responsibility.  When we are the leader of a team, we are in charge.  There are several underlying facets to the statement “We are in charge”, and that is what I want to explore a little further. I am not a psychologist, nor will I pretend to be.  However, I know my own personality traits that drive me to desire positions of leadership; so I approach this question from that angle.  

                I would say the biggest obstacle when I am not the leader is trust in whoever is in charge.  It may be safe to say that for anyone who has a new manager or boss, trust does not come easily; trust has to be earned. I feel more comfortable approaching problems from a position of earning the trust of others than giving out my trust freely.  That is probably because I am aware of my own strengths, weaknesses and knowledge.  For that reason, if there is any doubt about who should be guiding a team–if it is appropriate for my skills and talents–I will volunteer.  It should be noted, though, that the old adage “To be a good leader, you have to be a good follower” is true.  If there is someone else more qualified, better prepared and ready to step up, I gladly defer to his or her expertise. In that case, those of us on the team know how to be excellent support partners and team players, because we understand what that leader is facing.

                To be fair, many people do not want a position of leadership.  They may go so far as to directly shun such a position. That may be because of the other half of leadership – the responsibility.  Some situations are easy, fairly cut and dry with little decision making involved.  However, when the stakes are high and money or lives are on the line, leadership takes on a much bigger burden.  There is no shame in rejecting that kind of accountability, but bottom line, someone has to do it.  In that moment, the ones who strive for leadership will step forward and take the reins.  From then on, it becomes a challenge and an adventure to see what the team can achieve.   

-Lori Buresh

CEO, The Professional Development Team 

 

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Dealing With Disappointment – Part 2

                There was quite a bit of chatter going around concerning the behavior and breakdown of the Army’s quarterback following the Army/Navy game.  I would like to address this situation directly with this blog post.  For those of you unfamiliar with the Army/Navy game, let me take a moment to try to set the scene so the rest of this story makes sense.  Army and Navy are brothers and sisters in arms on the battlefield – we will stand and fight side by side gladly and willingly every single day of the year, except one.  The Army vs. Navy football game has been played 113 times.  It is a deep-rooted tradition between the two service academies that is so ingrained that the phrase Beat Army is loudly shouted after singing the Naval Academy school song. Any time Army and Navy compete, there is a higher sense of purpose and drive to win.  In this particular case, Army has been losing in football to Navy for ten years in a row; this year made eleven.   The truth is Army was poised to win this year. They had the ball and were headed down the field, Navy unable to stop them very well.  Unfortunately, with about one minute left in the game, the quarterback and running back did not have a good exchange and the ball was fumbled, ultimately recovered by Navy.  That meant the end of the game and the loss for Army.  What happened next is the true point of this blog – the quarterback sat on the sideline and sobbed.  Not only did he sob during the last minute of the game, but he sobbed during the singing of each school‘s song as well as afterwards.  He was inconsolable, even by Generals on the field.

                Okay, now that the scenario is out there, let’s dive into the leadership aspect.  From the various forums and Facebook postings, I am willing to say a majority of the spectators of the game felt the quarterback was blubbering, past the point of compassion.  It did not help that CBS decided to focus on this guy’s breakdown throughout the final fifteen minutes of airtime; so we all got to watch the snot drip down his nose.  The other perspective, though, is that this is a highly charged, emotional game and this guy may feel responsible for the loss, and/or he is a senior who never saw Army beat Navy in football. After devoting so many years, sweat and hard work into something, be on the brink of success, then see it slip from your grasp is tough for anyone to take.   

                So let’s bring this topic back up one level instead of just this one football game.  Like this quarterback, we as leaders are looked up to for guidance, strength and handling the performance of our team.  In some ways it is a good thing for us to show we are not made of stone to our teams – we have hearts and they do break.  Teams work together and as such should support each other.  Leaders are not excluded from this concept; so it is not only appropriate but encouraging to think a team would rally around a leader who needs consolation.   What seems to be a defining limit, though, is when the leader is unable to regain composure and remain the leader. 

                In this type of situation, leaders have to keep two things in mind: 1. Bearing and 2. Perspective.  Those who have served in the military are well aware of the concept of military bearing. It means to keep your composure and focus no matter what else is going on around you.  I submit this is not an idea that should be limited just to the military.  Any leader would benefit by remaining focused and composed, especially during a crisis situation.  Teams look to leaders for clear-headed thinking and direction; remaining composed helps leaders provide that guidance, which builds the confidence of the team members for the leader.  If the leader is unable to stay composed, in essence, the role of the guide is subconsciously passed on to whoever steps up at that time.  The potential impact on this shift could affect future crisis situations, where the trust and confidence in the leader is shaken but not in the other team member who came through when someone was needed to lead. 

                The other point is perspective.  This one is tougher because it reaches back to another of my previous blog posts about perception. At the end of the day, what is the most important point for the leader and the team to remember?  What is the focus or direction for leaders in order to continue to move forward with their teams?  Should we look at the one failure or the overall accomplishments?  To state what may be obvious, leaders must find the positive within the negative. In some ways, this technique just eases the sting of defeat, but as a leader, isn’t that part of what we need to do?

                 In the case of the Army quarterback, he was devastated, but again, it was a football game.  I am in a position to say ‘just a football game’ because I’ve seen Army beat Navy during my time as a midshipman.  When I graduated in 2000, the series went 2-2 so I know what the sting of defeat feels like in this rivalry; something the mids of today do not know.  The bigger picture is the Army fought a tough battle, and while they should feel sad for the loss, they should hold their heads up high for playing so well.  Today, after the game, Army cadets and Navy midshipmen are back in class, preparing for finals.  When they graduate, they will serve our country with honor and distinction, not as athletes but as Soldiers, Sailors and Marines.  God Bless each of them and the future of our country. 

-Lori Buresh

CEO, The Professional Development Team   

 

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Focus Please!

                 I’ve started and erased this blog several times now.  Usually I can sit down with a topic and whip out a blog post in about twenty minutes that I’m happy with.  I don’t seem to have the focus that I normally have.  So that is now my topic!  I think I know why though – like much of the United States, I’ve been keeping tabs on Hurricane Sandy and its effects on the East Coast.  This type of storm brings up many emotions.  I rode out a Category III hurricane about ten years ago in Virginia so there are the memories of that storm.  No major damage to her house but it was an experience!  My husband and I have many friends that live on the East Coast so we are concerned for their safety.  Lastly, I have the utmost empathy for the people affected by the storm right now due to our experience with the Joplin Tornado last year.  I saw firsthand what massive devastation looks like, as well as the outpouring of humanity and good will from fellow human beings helping each other during a time of need.   Why would I bring this up in a blog that normally centers on leadership thoughts? Because this is the perfect time to talk about how leaders have to deal with people when they are sidetracked.

                I won’t go into the leadership aspects of a catastrophe. I think we all can understand the need for solid leadership during a crisis.  I want to focus on everyone else when they are distracted by personal emotions and issues.  Right now, my mind is thinking of many other things than focusing on my work at hand.  To put it bluntly, that is unacceptable, especially when there is work to be done.  However, as leaders we have to deal with the fact that people are emotional and everyone has their own individual history and issues.  If someone on the team is having a hard time at home, it is likely that struggle will impact his or her performance at work.  Work performance problems will likely spill over and affect other members of the team which just cascades the issue.   

                    This is not an easy line to walk for leaders.  We want to support our people because we care about them but we are all working because it is work.   Many times, people in leadership are looked to for all of the answers – both at work and at home.  I admit, I’ve given advice to people regarding their personal issues because I thought I could help.  Unfortunately, that may not have been the wisest of choices.  Now that I’m a little more seasoned I see two big problems with being overly helpful in that type of situation: 1. I am not a trained counselor.  While I have the best of intentions and may have experienced a similar situation, I need to leave that type of thing to the experts.  2. By offering support that delves into someone’s personal life, there could be an impression of favoritism towards that particular team member which breaks down the trust relationship between the entire group.   We, as leaders, need to get the focus back where it belongs but do it in a supportive manner.  

                  It is silly to expect a leader to ignore the fact that life happens and people need help.  In fact, leaders can have a great impact to help a team member, but it should be in line with the established precedents and policies for the group.  For example, if someone is struggling in their relationship at home, the leader could help him or her get counseling.  The counselor could then deal with the relationship issues, and the leader could support the team member by arranging the time off needed or being more flexible with assignment due dates.  The leader is then supporting that particular team member in ways that are appropriate without damaging the rest of the team.  In this way, the entire team can get their heads back in the game and re-focus on the work at hand.  Now look at this.. I am refocused and feel good about my blog for today!  I still have my concerns but I am also getting my work done – it can happen!   
– Lori Buresh

CEO, The Professional Development Team

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Empowerment – Let People Make Mistakes

 Like parents for children, sometimes we as leaders have to let our teams think and do for themselves.  This means they may make mistakes or stumble along the way but it is necessary in order for our people to learn valuable lessons.  We have to be ready to let go and entrust our people with responsibility and authority to get the job done their way.  Deciding when it is appropriate to let others have control and possibly make mistakes is a tough balance; especially when we know as leaders that any negative fallout will rain down on our shoulders first.  Doesn’t that mean we should take charge at all times?  

       John Maxwell talks about The Law of Empowerment in The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.  He states “If leaders want to be successful, they have to be willing to empower others…To lead others well, we must help them to reach their potential.”   To me, this includes letting people make mistakes.  Maxwell uses Henry Ford as an example of the Law of Empowerment; Henry Ford refused to let anyone change his Model T for almost 20 years. Maxwell is specific about what he calls ‘barriers to empowerment’ – issues that prevent leaders from empowering others.  They are:

  1.      Desire for Job Security
  2.      Resistance to Change
  3.      Lack of Self-Worth

          Looking at these three barriers, any one of them can stop someone from becoming a great leader.  By focusing on job security, a person is concerned with their own success or future – leaders have to be more self-sacrificing than that.  Resisting change is almost the antithesis of leadership since true leaders are ready to embrace change and guide others through change.  Low self-worth is the same as low self-esteem, something leaders cannot afford to have.  Leaders must have confidence in their teams and in themselves to provide trust and credibility to move forward on the path ahead. Leaders can only become great when they are ready to give up control and power in order to allow others to achieve. 

-Lori Buresh

CEO, The Professional Development Team

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Communicating Decisions – A Case Study

            Let’s face it, not every decision we make as leaders will be popular.  How do we handle those situations?  I was witness this weekend to an example of how NOT to do it.  First, you have to understand the circumstances of the decision and this is the story.  On Saturday, September 1, 2012, Notre Dame played Navy in Dublin, Ireland in what was titled the Emerald Isle Classic.  This was just the second time this game had ever been played outside of the United States and it is a fairly significant rivalry.  Due to the time difference, the game was slated to start at 9am EST/8am CST.  Being big Navy fans, my family and I (okay, me..) were excited to spend our morning cheering our team.  Also, in my particular area of the United States, USNA does not get much attention by the local schools, this was an opportunity for the area to get to see more of the Naval Academy (in propaganda form). I checked the local guide the night before to make sure I knew the right time and channel for the next day.  After waking up with the kids and making homemade cinnamon rolls, we were ready to go however instead of the advertised Notre Dame vs. Navy football game; we were subjected to Doodlebops and all of the other morning cartoons.  I voiced my displeasure via email to my local television station and via Facebook.  What happened next was amazing, shortly after I got done pouting (not really) there was an announcement posted on the local television station’s Facebook page from the president and general manager explaining his decision making in pre-empting the football game.  He explained that the FCC has rules regarding how much air time must be devoted to children’s shows and to other programming.  He specifically stated that “we can’t please everyone” therefore he chose to keep the regular Saturday morning family viewers happy and not air the game. 

                The power of the internet is underestimated.  From what I could gather from the president’s message, there were A LOT of upset Notre Dame fans which stands to reason since there are only about 6 Navy fans in this region.  There was an immediate and immense response on both sides of the issue.  There were emotions running high on this particular topic which was amazing to watch.  There were comments related to the failure of the television station to broadcast something that was unavailable on any other channel while children’s shows were readily accessible all over the stations. Opposing those comments were the people who believed children’s Saturday morning programming was critical to family happiness and to let the kids watch their shows. There were direct questions to the president asking why all of the other regional affiliates neighboring our region were able to handle the FCC guidelines and air the game.  The response was so powerful, the president of the station turned off the children’s shows an hour early to turn on the game (time delayed) however that decision upset the people who were waiting to watch the US Open Tennis match, then he turned off the game and went back to tennis.

                The president of the station was right, we can’t please everyone all the time.  In fact, sometimes we have to make choices that we know will make at least a section of our customers unhappy.  The mistake the president made was not to communicate this change.  Number one issue – the programming guide stated the game would be aired.  That set up the expectation by the customers (including me) that the game would be on at the scheduled time.  When it was not shown, with no explanation as to why, I was disappointed and confused which led to a more emotional response.  It was only after there was a large backlash by the people that there was any notification or communication regarding the programming change.  This made the president look foolish and the television station was railed against on the internet. 

                In this case, the president had every right to make the choice he did but the failure was the lack of communication to the customers.  Maybe he underestimated the popularity of the game or the response by the people but the consequence of his actions means his television station took a big hit in confidence and support in this area.  What should have happened was a correction in the scheduling guide or at least earlier notice through social media to alert people.  This particular example shows when there is an expectation that is not delivered upon, the response is always negative.  Not that people would have agreed with his decision had he communicated it earlier, but the credibility of the station would not have been damaged as much as it was. 

-Lori Buresh

CEO, The Professional Development Team

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Acceptance – A Leadership Challenge

                In the town where I live, there are two rather large divides across sections of the community.  The first is cultural, with a growing Hispanic population that is not well integrated into the town as a whole; the second is generational, with the older population striving to keep our town more historic and serene instead of growing with ‘box stores’.  Both of these problems are stifling the ability of our town to grow and may in fact cause it to shrink in population and revenue.  I sat down recently with the Director of the Chamber of Commerce to talk over some of my thoughts regarding these divides.

                One of the main hurdles to overcome is acceptance. This is a two-fold issue in regards to the cultural diversity – acceptance by the community for cultural differences and then acceptance by the Hispanic community of efforts to better join all members of the town together.  Acceptance though means trust.  We can only accept that which we trust either as safe or as truth. It comes down to leadership to establish the necessary trust relationship.  In this case, top down is the way to go.  The community leaders from all facets of the town have to work together to bridge the gaps.  By demonstrating the efforts and benefits of melding instead of isolating, leaders will set the example for others.  With an issue as emotional and personal as cultural diversity, it will take time and perseverance for trust and acceptance to build on both sides of the divide.  I believe that all of the community leaders see the value in the efforts but it will take a lot of work to build the necessary relationships for a long lasting and supportive community. 

                As mentioned above, cultural diversity is only half of the battle – the other half is generational.  The town has deep roots from the Civil War and the Route 66 era.  There are indications of the rich history all over which many people enjoy and want to maintain.  The issue is not that the community should destroy the history or cover it up, but there is a sentiment that if more industry or larger stores are brought in to the area that the quiet, peaceful nature of our town will be corrupted.  Again it is up to leaders to build the trust relationships with community members to prove the goal is to grow in meaningful ways while not forgetting our past.  It takes leadership to show that accepting growth for the future does not mean history is lost. 

– Lori Buresh

CEO, The Professional Development Team 

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