I have now had the pleasure to work in the business landscape for over thirty years, most in a variety of sales and marketing executive roles across number of well known consumer products companies. Most recently, I have had the pleasure to advise a large number of senior executives as part of the consulting practice that I now lead. Through all of those experiences, I have had the chance to work with VERY EFFECTIVE as well as VERY INEFFECTIVE/DESTRUCTIVE senior leaders. While I do not believe there is a simple formula or model that leads to effective impactful leaders, I do believe there are a number of key considerations or practices that help effective leaders practice their craft. Today’s essay is about three attributes / practices ( the “active” voice is important in this essay) that I think are critical for leaders to be effective, the attributes / practices that I call ” The Three G’s for Leaders,” Gratitude, Generosity, & Gumption!
The quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.
This attribute is foundational for all of the “Three G’s and in this spirit I have highlighted it first in my list of three. We are NEVER thankful enough, for the resources, teams, businesses, etc that we have the chance to work with in our professional lives, none the less the friends, family, experiences etc. that we have in our personal lives. Always start by saying “Thanks!” Great leaders “get it” that they have unique roles and responsibilities in their roles and should start by being thankful and appreciative of the role and the teams/businesses that surround them. Too often leaders feel like they need to show how smart they are, or how decisive they are, or how powerful they are, … rarely starting by showing how grateful they are to have the chance to lead the business/team at hand. An important element of the definition is the “active voice” of the last two works, “return kindness.” “Gratitude” is not only being appreciative, and being ready to show appreciation but to take action to “return kindness” to the organization /business that surround them. Think to yourself how rarely the phrase “Leadership Kindness” is bantered around as a key trait for successful leaders …. maybe a theme for an upcoming essay ??
The quality of being kind and generous.
This attribute / practice emanates from the first “G”, and is completely active in tone and orientation. As leaders, think about how you are taking intentional action to be “generous” to your direct reports, to your key clients/customers, to your board or your executive team ??? these aren’t considerations that I see very often advising key leaders today, and I saw them rarely across my leadership roles inside of corporations. Leaders that I encounter are always SO BUSY, SO STRETCHED, SO DRIVEN, SO STRESSED, etc. but never “SO GENEROUS.” I totally understand that this is really hard, who has the time to find slots in their over-scheduled calendars to take actions of kindness or generosity?? While I relate to the fact that this one is hard, i want to suggest that it is not something to try to “schedule” into your lives, but to incorporate into your being! We rarely consider that we need to breathe, walk, eat, drink, sleep, use the bathroom, etc. just to live. Could we work to find ways to incorporate “generosity” into our day to day rhythms, to be as regular and natural as getting our morning coffee or commuting to work??
Shrewd or spirited initiative and resourcefulness.
As leaders, I hope that we can all remember the “Three G’s” in good times and bad, working to take action to bring “Gratitude,” “Generosity,” and “Gumption” into our leadership roles in the days ahead.
Note: in the essay above I have used the phrase “attribute / practice” with intent. I don’t want anyone to think that “The three G’s” are learned in some business school class, or are inherent qualities of some leaders but not others! We must all keep practicing the craft of leadership and keep looking for ways to improve our skills and approaches in many areas and certainly in these three!
While this may seem like a crazy title for a blog essay, I wanted to share some insights that are both practical for beachgoers as summer approaches and hopefully helpful to professionals dealing with changing dynamics and “dangerous tides” in their workplaces!
I had the chance last week to be in Florida for a board meeting and after the opening night board dinner, went out for a quick stroll on the beach as the sun was setting. A warm and lovely night, a beach filled with shells and other walkers but no one out swimming in the very warm night air and water. I asked my host why no one was out in the surf and he mentioned the dangerous riptides in the area and pointed over to a warning sign. While not exactly that sign I have included in this essay, nonetheless a notice a warning to swimmers of the dangers and precautions of riptides. the sign stuck with me and thus this story of oceanic metaphors.
While I am hopeful that few of us have encountered actual riptides in the surf, I am certain that many of us have dealt with dangerous “tides” in our companies and organizations. I had the chance to be part of three or four major corporate restructurings during my last few years at Coke and I now have a number of clients and friends dealing with major upheavals professionally. In these circumstances, I want us to reflect on and apply the advice from the sing above and work hard to “Break the grip of the rip” in the ever changing landscapes of our work environments. Lets look at each point of advice from the “Rip Currents” sign and apply them professionally:
1.) “Don’t fight the current.” After just a bit of research I found out that the huge majority of rip tide linked fatalities comes from swimmers trying to “fight the current” and swim directly back to shore, ultimately becoming fatigued and drowning in the waves. The same seems true in the landscape of corporate restructurings. Don’t try to “fight the current” and “swim against the tide” of what the company had decided to do. Organizations so often come to these inflection points for reasons of lack of growth, innovation, lack of competitive differentiation, or lack of productivity and see organizational restructuring as the only way to cut cost and boost EBITDA and EPS. While we can debate those issues in another essay, in these circumstances organizations are often desperate to cut jobs, save costs and improve profitability (and hopefully productivity) and it’s rarely productive to try to “fight” those trends/decisions.
2) “Swim out of the current, then to shore.” As you can see from the helpful diagram, it recommends swimming or floating “with the current”, looking for “escape points” to be released from the tide and head to shore. Often “riptide advice” includes the idea of swimming or floating “parallel” to the beach in order to find a weak spot or a release point of the current. Such good advice to apply professionally! Once in the midst of organizational turmoil, find spots or moments when you are “swimming parallel to shore,” looking for new structures/constructs that you might find productive for yourself or your team. As the sign shows, it may take some time and some”swimming” before the escape points are found, but the only way to find them is to “go with the tide/current” as you are looking for a safe release!
3) “If you can’t escape, float or tread water.” Don’t exhaust yourself needlessly fighting the current! Our ability to float or tread water professionally never feels very productive, but it may be REQUIRED to get yourself in position to find that release point a bit later in the process.
4) “If you need help, call or wave for assistance.” Too often our pride gets in the way of “asking or waving” for help in the work environment. If you don’t feel good about any sources of help from inside your company or enterprise, look outside for coaches, mentors or others that are not “in the rip current” with you, who might have a “fresh perspective” and the strength to help you navigate your way to shore.
Well that’s enough of the “rip current” metaphor for today, but remember that you aren’t in the surf alone, so many have had to deal with this same dynamic, these same dangerous and destabilizing “tides!” Try to remember a few points of this advice and find ways to “break the grip of the rip” professionally!!