Achieving Business Excellence with John Spence

Practice This Skill and Become a Much Better Leader

In this video, I’m going to challenge you to practice an extremely important leadership characteristic that many people struggle with. If you can master this skill it will create more trust, risk-taking, candor, and innovation within your organization.

I hope you follow through on my challenge, and as always, if you find this video helpful please pass it along to your network.

Thanks so much – John

Strong Culture through Vision, Value, and Voice

strong culture vision value voice

When working to make positive changes or keep the “right” kind of people within your organization, it’s important that you have a strong set of company values and direction.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this concept lately and took a few minutes to talk about it in my latest video. Check it out or read through the written format below.

 

 

I think most business leaders understand that culture is a critical element in the success of their organization.

A culture of engagement with employees who have an ownership mentality, who are satisfied, loyal, proactive – those are the sort of cultures we try to build because, as I like to say, culture equals cash. It’s one of the biggest areas in most businesses that you can improve the bottom line.

And as I look at culture, there’s a ton of stuff around: There’s the Gallup poll, the Great Places to Work Study, the Firms of Endearment Study – all of which show, unfortunately, a very high level of disengagement and even actively disengaged employees who are basically trying to sabotage their company.

But, to me, there are a few fundamental things you have to have in place before making positive changes or putting “icing on the cake.”

3 Things Every Relationship Needs

Several years ago, I was talking to a friend of mine that’s a psychologist and he said, “John, there are 3 things that everybody looks for in all the most important relationships in their lives: Safety, belongingness, and appreciation.”

Safety

Folks need to know they’re physically safe.

People need to know things like they’re not going to get their arm caught in a machine and that it’s safe to walk in the parking lot at the end of the evening.

They also need to feel psychologically safe. They need to know people aren’t going to yell at them, scream at them, intimidate them, and, at some level, that their job is safe and that the company’s not going to go under tomorrow. They’re not going to go out of business. They’re not having a massive layoff.

So, they need to have an underlining idea of safety.

Belongingness

People want to feel like they’re wanted on the team, that they belong as part of the tribe, and that they’re an integral part of the company.

Appreciation

People need and want appreciation for the work they do. They want appreciation for bringing a positive attitude to work every day and appreciation for their ideas and the things and diverse ideas they bring to the table.

 

So, safety, belongingness, appreciation: These are the elements that must be present in any given relationship.

Vision, Value, and Voice

I was listening to a podcast this week, and they were interviewing a gentleman named Mike Stallard. He had 3 other things that he focused on.

I think these match up very, very, well, and I liked what he said.

His 3 elements were vision, value, and voice.

Vision

People think, “If I’m going to be engaged in the company, I need to know what the vision is. What’s the direction?”

The way I always phrase this is that people need a vivid, compelling and well-communicated vision and strategy for growth.

If you’re not doing those things, if you can’t communicate where your company and your team are going, why certain things are, what and what you plan to achieve, you’re missing something.

You must have a clear, vivid, well-communicated vision and strategy for growth.

Value

I’m taking my friend’s model and changing it slightly, by splitting it into 2 things, value and values.

The first one, value, means that people need to know that the company values them, that they’re important, that their work is valued and they’re respected, that they’re treated with dignity and that they play an important role within the company. Their work is valued.

Values, also align with the values of the company. These folks believe in the things the company says are important, and when they go to work every day, they’re proud of where they work, and what the company stands for, and hold their team members and other colleagues accountable for living the values of the organization.

This is one of the big things we talk about in hiring now: You really have to hire for a values fit as well as some skills, experience, aptitude, and a positive attitude.

Voice

The last one is voice. People need to know they will have a voice within the company. If there’s an issue, or problem, or a challenge, they have faith that people will listen to them,

But equally as important or more important is, they have a voice and a stake in the outcome. They know their voice will be heard about the vision, the mission, the value of their work, projects, teamwork, customer focus, and that they can speak up and say what’s on their mind.

Bringing It Together

So, I believe, if you want to build a really strong culture at the foundation, you have to have safety, belongingness, appreciation, vision, value, and voice.

My question to you is, How well does your organization do those 6 things?

 

The Role Of A Leader

It was 36 years ago but I remember it like it was yesterday. I was a pretty good football player in high school, not a star, but at least one the key starters. I played nose guard on defense and when we were in the red zone close to the goal line I would sometimes go in as a running back to punch the ball across the line. I was a big guy even back in high school, a good athlete, but not the best… then everything changed.

In my senior year the head coach came to me and said that he was going to make me the captain of the defensive squad. I was excited, honored, and proud… I was going to be one of the team captains! Then he explained something about my role as a captain. He said, “John, if you’re going to be one of the captains you have to lead by example. You’re going to need to work harder than everyone else, play the best you’ve ever played and help the rest of the team to be excellent. That means coming to practice early, studying the playbook, supporting the coaches, working hard in the weight room and always coming in in the top three on sprints and long runs.” As I said earlier, I was a pretty big guy in high school, I think the word would be fat, and I had never, ever come in anywhere close to the top three on any running drill. Coach must have seen the fear in my eyes and said, “You can do this Bear (my nickname in high school), I have confidence that you can stand up and be a real leader for this team. Can I count on you?” I immediately answered, “Yes Sir.”

The next day, after the coach announced that I was one of the team captains, I started coming in in the top three in every drill. I ran faster than I ever had, I pushed myself harder than I ever had, every time I got tired I just kept saying to myself, “I’m the captain, I have to set the pace, I have to lead by example.” The metamorphosis was amazing, I literally changed my performance, dramatically, overnight. That’s when I realized it… I could have done it all along. Apparently, I had always possessed the ability to run fast and for long distances, but when I was just one of the guys on the team it was easy to come in last, there was always a few of us “heavy guys” bringing up the rear. But the minute I accepted a role as a leader I knew that everybody on the team was watching, all the coaches would be watching, everyone in the school would be watching me, and I could not let them down.

It is the same thing in my business career when I’m running a company I understand that I live under a microscope. My team sees everything I do, they see what I don’t do, they hear what I say, and they hear what I do not say. It is 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year – everything you do has an impact on how you are perceived as a leader. I love this, because it pushes me to perform better than I might on my own, just like on the football team I have to run faster, work harder, do more homework and deliver the highest level of excellence I can, because if I didn’t I couldn’t ask anyone else on my team to do it either.

Over the years, based on this experience, I have developed my own definition of leadership.

“Leadership is being a living example of what you hope your followers will one day become.”

I hope you found this helpful and will share it with your network. Thanks – John

 

Do You Have A Culture Of Purpose

Do You Have A Team Charter?

I have been teaching quite a few high-performance teams workshops in the last several months and have been surprised to discover that not one group I worked with had ever created a “team charter.” By this I mean, a written list of rules and expectations that the team all agrees to and guides the way they work together. I believe this is an essential document to help people clearly understand their role on the team, what behavior is appropriate and what things will not be tolerated. Without a charter, members of the group are simply guessing at how they are supposed to act and behave together as a team, leading to assumptions, politics, rumormongering, conflict, lack of accountability and ultimately lack of results. To help your organization avoid these issues here are a few ideas of what a team charter might look like:

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review recommended that a team charter should include these basic foundational tenets:

  • I agree to be on time, realizing everyone’s time is limited and extremely valuable.
  • I agree to show respect to every other member of the team and give them the benefit of the doubt.
  • I agree to give my best effort in accomplishing every task, the team’s mission, and our shared purpose.
  • I agree not to engage in any gossip about my team members and to put a stop to it if I encounter it.
  • I agree to communicate early and often pertaining to any time off needed for my personal life.
  • I agree to handle disputes, perceived offenses, or conflicts with dignity and professionalism.

This is the charter from a nonprofit organization I worked with:

  • Be accountable
  • Think before you speak
  • Ask for clarification
  • Set clear expectations
  • Treat people with dignity and respect
  • Empathy
  • Ask for help
  • Be direct and loving
  • Look for the positive first
  • Create safety zones where people can be honest in their feedback without fear of retribution
  • Be present
  • Check up on folks
  • Helpful and supportive
  • Communicate professionally
  • Spend time together
  • Have fun

This list is from a manufacturing company that I assisted:

  • Listen to each other with an open mind without interruption
  • Share knowledge, information, and experience with those who can benefit
  • Take key decisions based on reasoning, not rank
  • Express concerns only to those responsible for dealing with them
  • A responsibility culture, not a blame culture
  • Base our work on the ‘customer’
  • Strive for continuous improvement
  • Behave with integrity
  • Positively challenging dishonesty or destructive behavior
  • No ego

These are just a few ideas to help you in creating your team charter, however, it is essential that you develop a written, clear, and well-communicated charter that everyone on the team is fully committed to and agrees to support at all times. Without this document, it is impossible to build and sustain a high-performance team.

Please let me know if you have any questions or comments and if you found value in this article I hope you will share it with your entire network.

Thanks so much – John

How To Lead Four Generations At Work

A great new book from Kelly and Robby Riggs.

Buy it from Amazon HERE

Five Things To Focus On For 2018

At the beginning of every year I put together a video with what I feel are the most important things to focus on for business success in the coming year. For 2018 I have five major things that I believe will be extremely important for you and your business. I have also added the video from 2017 for you to view. There are some very powerful ideas in these two videos, things that I know will help you as a professional and your business.

Also, please share this blog with your network, I’ve dedicated my life to helping businesses and people be more successful, so I want to get these ideas in front of as many people as possible.

Thank you very much and I hope that 2018 is an absolutely wonderful year for you and your organization.

 

Four Fabulous Business Books

I shot this video around Thanksgiving, before I had left for London and Kraków, and forgot to post it! However, better late than never. Here are four book recommendations that would be excellent holiday gifts. Bear in mind that the book by Chester Elton and Adrian Gostick on great teams will not be available until February, but you can preorder it now (and you should). I really loved all four of these books and I hope you will too.

And if you have not read it, this is a pretty good business book too;-)

Four Great Questions About Leadership

A few weeks ago, a student named Joey Brodsky, who is studying business at the University of Florida and is taking a class from a close friend of mine, Dr. Alex Sevilla, sent me some questions about some of the things he was learning about management and leadership.  I thought the questions were excellent and that you might find my answers of some value.  Here is the conversation between myself and Joey.

 

Mr. Spence,

Currently I am taking a senior leadership course taught by Dr. Alex Sevilla here at the Heavener School of Business. We are working on both theoretical and application based leadership strategies, learning how to combine them with our skills to become better managers.

Some questions I have for you below are about how you implement specific leadership theories in your work (or don’t), experiences you have had being an influential leader from such a young age, and certain challenges you have faced overseeing and motivating individuals. My goal is to relate some of the topics I’ve learned in my course to real world experiences. I’ll keep them brief as I know your time is valuable, but any information you feel would be influential I would love to learn from!

Questions:

  1. One of the first topics we discussed in class was the differences between trait leadership and process leadership ideologies. Trait leadership having to do with personality traits that influence one’s skill of leadership and process leadership being more interaction based. Do you find leadership to be a more inherent quality to individuals, or would you say it has more to do with the way someone interacts with their ‘followers’?

If I’m reading this correctly, it seems that you are asking the age-old question, “Are leaders born or made?”  I believe that if someone has good values – they are honest, they act with integrity, they show respect, they have empathy and concern for others – I can send them to a class to learn most of the process skills they need to be a good leader. However, if someone lies, cheats, steals, manipulates and doesn’t care about others – there is no way they will ever become a truly effective leader.  

Also, there are many people that talk about extroverts versus introverts as leaders.  I have seen many leaders that are highly motivational and inspiring, that can get up in front of a group and move them to action – I’ve also seen many leaders that are quiet, humble and introspective. But they have a burning passion for what they are doing and that passion creates highly loyal followers.  

In my opinion, a leader must be superb at two skill sets: they must be absolutely excellent at what they do, their actual job description, and they have to have strong leadership skills.  

Lastly, remember that leadership is not only the purview of the people at the top of the organization, every person in an organization leads at some level.

  1. Another interesting concept we have learned is the difference between an assigned leader (a leader because of a formal position) and an emergent leader (a leader because of the way others respond to them). Being such a young CEO at 26 when working with the Rockefeller Foundation I would expect you were very influential among your peers and showcased your leadership earlier on. Can you tell me a little about how you leveraged your leadership skills as an emergent leader into a more formal leadership role so early in your career? What are some of the characteristics you displayed that you think helped you to stand out?

Almost immediately after joining the foundation I became the “right-hand man” to the CEO (not Mister Rockefeller, a professional manager who was running the company on his behalf).   I spent a lot of time watching him, learning what to do, and learning what NOT to do.  At this point in my career I was reading every single business book I could get my hands on and listening to 4-5 business books a week.   In a meeting with our Board of Directors, one of the key directors asked a question that the CEO could not answer – and then the director (a multibillionaire) turned to me and asked me if I knew the answer – which I did.   Then, the board started asking me for my opinion more often, and when the current CEO began to stumble, they put me in as an interim CEO – which eventually led to me becoming the permanent CEO.  

Very frankly, I was in no way ready to lead an organization at that age, I was woefully unprepared.  I realized that I could not be successful if my team was not successful.  For my part, I studied, read, worked and did everything I could to learn as much as I could about leadership and business success.  I tried to model the behavior of lifelong learning and always striving to do your best.  I also went to my team and asked for help and focused a great deal on empowerment.  In the early days, I was very immature as a leader, but as I faced more situations I slowly learned how to run the business and be a better leader to my team.

  1. One quote from Professor Sevilla that really resonated with me was “It’s not about you [the leader] . . . it’s about them [the followers].” He said if there were to be only one thing we take away from this class, let it be this statement. In your professional experience, how important has it been to focus more directly on the group and achieving common goals, rather than just using subordinates to achieve more personal objectives?

Dr. Sevilla is 1,000% right.  This is a concept known as servant leadership, where the leader understands that they are actually there to serve their employees.  As to your question about common goals or personal objectives – it’s not an Either/Or – it is a Both/And.  Everyone in the organization must be focused on the vision, strategy, and a set of common goals they are all aligned to as the do their work.  It is the job of the leader to ensure that they execute the strategy with discipline and continuously deliver superb business results.  ALSO, the leader needs to help each person grow as an individual and show them how their work directly ties into the success of the overall organization.  

  1. Over the last few decades you have become one of and got to work with many of the greatest business leaders in the world. I don’t expect there to be a catchall answer on how to become a powerful and respected leader in the business world, but what are some of the strongest traits or strategies you see these leaders (and yourself) using to motivate others? Are there some particular things you think are more important for a young leader, like myself, to help showcase my skills to companies?

Rather than give you just my opinion, here is a list of traits that have emerged from the thousands of leadership classes I’ve taught and the great leaders I have had the honor to spend time with.

Honesty – tell the truth all the time – period.  Another word here would be integrity.

Excellent communicator – asks great questions and is an intense listener.

The courage to be vulnerable, to admit that you don’t have all the answers. Another word here would be authentic.

Competence – you must be exceedingly good at what you do.  My favorite phrase in this area is, “be so good they can’t ignore you.”

Great team player – treats their employees as partners and peers.  Shows them respect and gives them trust.

Compassionate – shows a genuine concern for their people and their personal and professional growth.

Visionary – has a vivid, compelling vision and strategy for growth that is well communicated across the entire organization.

Passionate – another word would be inspiring.

Innovative – a lifelong learner who is a good creative and strategic thinker.

 

Joey, I hope you found these answers helpful, let me know if you need any more information.

I wish you every possible happiness and success – John