Milestone Blog

Lead Like a President (No Politics Necessary)

Posted by Milestone Leadership on Jul 3, 2019 11:08:38 AM

As we celebrate our nation’s independence, it brings to mind the kinds of leaders who helped to create and sustain the ideals of the United States of America. Political parties and individuals who rise in influence through the processes of our democracy can be extremely polarizing, yet it is important to remember that leadership of a place so vast, diverse and powerful as our nation is an unimaginably complex and Herculean task.

The tone of good leadership and consistent actions to reinforce it must come from the highest levels of any organization—but these qualities are relevant to all of us, regardless of our personal or professional roles. Here are six quotes from past United States Presidents that are as true now as the day they were spoken, and serve inspiration for qualities of leadership to which we should all aspire:

1) "It's amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit." - Harry S. Truman

The power of not taking credit is often underestimated. When leaders and peers openly take joy in the accomplishments of others and demonstrate the satisfaction of seeing team members achieve goals or spark innovation, the results can be highly motivating within an organization. People want to work harder when they know they are appreciated and the value of their contributions are celebrated.

2) "The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today." - Franklin D. Roosevelt

Constant self-doubt can quickly derail leadership. It’s important to recognize that while self-awareness and ongoing evaluation of how we’re doing is key to growth as leaders, it is equally important to remember that rising to a place of leadership comes about because of recognized capabilities and skills. Make informed decisions and take actions with confidence, look for peers to offer validation, and reflect occasionally on past successes that might have once seemed unattainable.

3) "If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader." - John Quincy Adams

When a leader gives others the chance to dream, they are offering team members the power to determine how tomorrow can be better. Aspirational thinking generates fresh solutions, new products, improved services and a healthier work environment. Encouraging others to learn more shows a belief in the value of knowledge and the impact of personal and professional growth—which in turn builds loyalty and confidence. Leaders who inspire others to do more are delegators who are ultimately communicating the belief that their teams are competent, productive and meet high standards. Team members who are guided to become more are able to grow in their abilities and talents, benefiting themselves and the organization as a whole.

4) “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” - Theodore Roosevelt

Successful leaders are able to assess and capitalize upon what they do have, rather than focus only on what they need. Regardless of resources, time and circumstances, there are always ways to make an impact at any stage of an organization’s lifecycle. The best leaders look for how to take the current state to the next level, ultimately growing in strength, improving the status quo and earning increased resources over time.

5) “There are men and women who make the world better just by being the kind of people they are. They have the gift of kindness or courage or loyalty or integrity. It really matters very little whether they are behind the wheel of a truck or running a business or bringing up a family. They teach the truth by living it.” - James Garfield 

Leaders exist in every role or capacity and have the potential to influence and inspire others. Living one’s values through steady, consistent actions and words is powerful. It is important to not only cultivate and exhibit our own gifts in ways that support others, but to also recognize the capabilities and contributions of others—no matter where they may be.

6) "Whenever you do a thing, act as if all the world were watching." - Thomas Jefferson

We never know who we may inspire and encourage, or who we may disappoint and disillusion. The strongest leaders understand that every action has consequences and we are solely responsible for the attitudes and actions we perpetuate. Leading with kindness and unwavering ethics will never fail a person, even in the face of difficulty or crisis.

Our team at Milestone Leadership has the honor of growing and guiding leaders worth following, and we are inspired every day by the actions and accomplishments of those we serve. We know it’s not necessary to be at the very top of an organization—or a nation—to make an impact.

What is at the heart of great leadership is just that: HEART.

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Topics: Professional Development, Productivity, Growth, Initiative, Living Your Values, Motivation, Employee Engagement, Leadership, Honesty, Candidness, Tone at the Top, Advice, Management, Empowerment, Effectiveness, Reflection, Values, Feedback, Boss, Organization, Company Culture, Tips, innovation, Emotional Leadership, Success, Organizational Change, Intentionality, Workplace, Teams, Change Management, Milestone, Sacrifice, Team Health, Heart, Vision, Change, Problem Solving, Legacy, High Performance, Bravery, Aspirations, High Performing Teams, Dreams, Courage, Challenge, Strategy, Learning, Powerful Influencers, Relationships, Values & Ethics, Practical Tips & Tricks, Employee Development, Personal Development, Creating Culture, Leader Worth Following, Communication, Affirmation, Service

Leaders in the Trenches: Unexpected Influencers

Posted by Milestone Leadership on Jun 27, 2019 10:15:00 AM

Sometimes the most influential leaders step up not because position demands it, but because it’s the right thing to do even when the path ahead is foggy and feelings of uncertainty about how to proceed are intense. On occasions when a person unexpectedly comes forward to do more than is required, it can reveal his or her true capabilities and worth. Leading during crisis or upheaval takes commitment, flexibility and heart—and the outcome can mean big wins for the organization, as well as individual team members.

“Not long ago, I was working as an associate on a team that was enormously impacted by a major organizational transition and realignment. Our group significantly decreased in size, we lost our manager and had no direction or strategy for how to move forward in the new reality. Needless to say, the situation was scary and very uncomfortable. We all well understood that the financial stakes were really high, but our group felt completely lost and disconnected.

“At a point when we were feeling especially insecure, one of our accounts receivable analysts, Wayne Johnson, stepped forward to say he would be willing to volunteer to assist the team. An individual contributor without a team of his own, Wayne said he would be happy to stand in temporarily as someone to report to if anything was needed. His ultimate actions and commitment to the team, however, resulted in a much greater impact than we initially expected.

“Wayne took it upon himself to deep dive into our processes and figure out what needed to be done within our new organizational climate. Recognizing our roles were evolving and had to adjust to meet the changing needs of the business, he tested and reshaped our processes multiple times according to what was required, as well as what felt correct for the wellbeing of the business and our customers. His influence ensured we were able to keep things moving correctly.

“Yet, as much as he helped keep our team on track during an uncertain time, Wayne’s influence actually had a much larger impact on me personally. He recognized I was determined to learn and trusted me to take ownership in my role and run with it, all the while pushing me to expand my abilities and improve where I could do – and be – better. His consistent actions, unwavering encouragement and gentle guidance allowed me to be successful and gain visibility. My resulting growth and development led to my receiving a promotion.

“Wayne’s own drive and determination, combined with his openness, honesty and servant leadership mindset is inspiring. He pushed me to participate in more activities, resulting my pursuit of a graduate degree and participation in a Milestone Leadership experience. Both endeavors opened my eyes to the possibilities of how I, too, can lead. Having recently completed my MBA, I have been reflecting back on what helped me achieve this monumental goal. Wayne’s leadership and dedication to helping others to grow to their desired potential is at the pit of the fire that fueled my success.

When I see Wayne, I always try to thank him for the opportunities and drive he gave me. He would say, ‘It’s all you…you did the work,” but I know his kind insistence that I could achieve more really made the difference. I know now that leadership is a mindset, not just a position. I’m actively looking for ways I can make a difference, offer solutions and be the kind of inspiration Wayne has been for me.”

Melanie Suber, MBA—Lead Business Analyst – Post Audit, Genpact

At Milestone Leadership, experience tells us that anyone can step up as a leader, whether they hold the title on an org chart or not. Here are some ways to be a leader worth following, even if you’re not the one “in charge:”

  1. Look for gaps in processes or procedures that, if resolved or improved, could make everyone’s jobs easier. Take the initiative to suggest changes and help communicate or clarify what comes next.
  2. Be observant of where coworkers are struggling or feeling overwhelmed, and offer assistance. Don’t wait until a situation is critical; offer a hand.
  3. Set the tone for how you want team members to feel and behave toward you and each other. Establish a personal reputation for being welcoming, responsive and encouraging—and work to reinforce that same behavior within your group.
  4. Look for tasks that may be overlooked or going undone because others say, “That’s not my job.” Step in to carry a bit of extra weight when appropriate, even if it’s not explicitly spelled out in your job description.
  5. Pull up out of the weeds and look into the future. Rather than focus every moment on the to-do list for today, regularly consider and talk about what is ahead and develop an attitude of optimism and vision.
  6. Think beyond yourself and only what concerns you. Envision what is best for everyone and work to implement it. What’s good for the group will ultimately benefit each individual.
  7. Teach others. If you know how to do something well, share the wealth and improve your team’s overall capabilities by expanding the knowledge of your peers.
  8. Give credit and offer praise where it’s due. Not only acknowledge to a peer that you’ve noticed their achievement or great work—also take the time to tell their manager.
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Topics: Women in Leadership, Determination, Professional Development, Productivity, Growth, Initiative, Candor, Living Your Values, Motivation, Employee Engagement, Leadership, Honesty, Candidness, Tone at the Top, Advice, Management, Empowerment, Effectiveness, Reflection, Values, Feedback, Boss, Organization, Company Culture, Tips, innovation, Emotional Leadership, Success, Organizational Change, Intentionality, Workplace, Teams, Change Management, Milestone, Sacrifice, Team Health, Heart, Vision, Change, Problem Solving, Legacy, High Performance, Bravery, Aspirations, High Performing Teams, Dreams, Courage, Challenge, Strategy, Criticism, Learning, Powerful Influencers, Relationships, Values & Ethics, Practical Tips & Tricks, Employee Development, Personal Development, Creating Culture, Leader Worth Following, Communication, Affirmation, Service

Go Ahead and File That Under "Happy"

Posted by Milestone Leadership on May 23, 2019 11:45:00 AM

 

 

More years ago than I care to consider, I started my own quiet little office tradition. I can’t claim the idea as uniquely my own, but I do know the concept came to mind for me on a particularly challenging day that was made unexpectedly, 180-degrees better by a simple handwritten letter from someone I only fleetingly met once. I don’t remember what the work crisis du jour was that had me momentarily out of sorts, but I certainly do remember that note, who it was from and what it said.

The letter became the very first document to go into my Happy File. A couple of decades later, that file is pretty fat. And it has gone with me to every job since—increasingly a little rough around the edges but more loved and appreciated with the passing years.

My Happy File is filled with cards, emails, formal letters and a few sticky notes. Each of those tokens represents a person whose path crossed mine, some on a daily basis and some only once. Some of those people are no longer with us. Every message is filled with encouragement, appreciation, affirmation and thanks; every message reflects another person’s consideration towards me and an understanding that a personal sentiment or simple handwritten thanks is worth more than its weight in gold.

When self-doubt creeps in or I’m feeling a little overwhelmed, a quick look through my Happy File can be a pretty powerful thing. I believe when other people put down in words what a great job you did or how much your efforts benefited them, the intent is undeniable and indelible. Reading messages like these again after time has passed is an effective reminder of your capabilities and impact—and can help us regain a bit of lost mojo.

So, here’s the leadership lesson in all of this. YOUR words are so meaningful to others; share them. Take the time to recognize what your team members do well and put it down in writing. I would like to challenge you as a leader to kindle this tradition in your own workplace or where you volunteer—and actually give your direct reports or peers their own starter Happy File…with the first letter or card from you.

At Milestone Leadership, we know leaders worth following take the time to recognize and reinforce the positive things their team members do. Great leaders know that high functioning organizations result when people feel appreciated, acknowledged and confident. Don’t leave others to wonder if they’re making a difference—tell them.

 P.S. If you decide to take this challenge, would you please let us know how it goes?

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Topics: Growth, Initiative, Worth, Candor, Employee Engagement, Leadership, Honesty, Authenticity, Candidness, Tone at the Top, Advice, Management, Empowerment, Reflection, Values, Feedback, Boss, Company Culture, Tips, Emotional Leadership, Success, Intentionality, Workplace, Teams, Milestone, Ping Pong, Truth, Team Health, Heart, Legacy, Stories, High Performance, High Performing Teams, Challenge, Mentors, Learning, Powerful Influencers, Relationships, Values & Ethics, Employee Development, Personal Development, Creating Culture, Leader Worth Following, Communication, Affirmation, Gift

Minds are Like Parachutes: Best When Open

Posted by Milestone Leadership on May 9, 2019 8:57:27 AM

 

One irony of human nature is the tendency we have to believe everyone around us should be open-minded about our opinions and behaviors, yet so frequently we struggle with people who don’t think and behave the same way we do. On occasion, we encounter someone who demonstrates genuine openness to hearing new perspectives and is uninterested in qualifying everything as good or bad, black or white. Spending time around such a person can have an enormously positive impact, as it gives others tacit permission to express thoughts and capabilities without fear of being judged as right or wrong. 

This leadership story helps illustrate the value of having and encouraging an open mind:

“I was a 19-year old college freshman at a tiny liberal arts college, and I decided to take a public speaking course during a short winter term. The faculty was small, so some members covered a variety of subjects—and in this case we had a philosophy professor teaching us the topic.

“The class was made up of almost entirely traditional students, except for one single mom who seemed so much older than the rest of us (in reality, she was probably only in her thirties!) It was this woman’s turn to give her presentation, and part of the routine was for other class members to offer feedback at the conclusion of each speech. We took turns giving our suggestions, but as one member of the class was offering his not-so-constructive comments, the professor promptly interrupted him with this statement, “Be careful what you say. Have an open mind. If your mind is open, it leaves more room for the good stuff.”

“At the time, my professor’s remark didn’t seem all that profound. It was, though, and that guidance and management of the situation has literally stayed with me for decades. I realized her words were actually a kind, yet pointed, way of stopping unpleasantness in its tracks—and a simultaneous reminder that what we fill our heads with is a large determiner of what kind of person we will be. If we keep an open mind, we give ourselves the space to be positive and flexible to different ways of thinking. If we fill our minds with negativity, the likelihood is that we’ll behave in negative ways. I have been inspired by that simple statement and have called it to mind in countless situations over the years.”

-Laura Mabry, Manager of Corporate and Foundation Relations, University of Arkansas

A number of qualities are inherent to open-mindedness: continuous learner, curious spirit, knack for seeing things from fresh perspectives and respect for differing beliefs of others. People who authentically demonstrate these characteristics frequently have a special charisma and way of making those around them feel comfortable and confident.

At Milestone Leadership, we know open-mindedness is an important trait among leaders worth following. They inspire the best thinking, creativity and behavior in others. When followers are encouraged to be their genuine selves, the result is a greater degree of trust among team members, resulting in collective confidence and willingness to take calculated risks, communicate more effectively and bring their best efforts to the group.

Have you pulled the parachute ripcord for your team?

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Topics: Productivity, Growth, Candor, Motivation, Employee Engagement, Leadership, Honesty, Authenticity, Candidness, Tone at the Top, Advice, Management, Effectiveness, Reflection, Values, Feedback, Self Awareness, Boss, Company Culture, Tips, Emotional Leadership, Success, Workplace, Teams, Milestone, Truth, Team Health, High Performance, High Performing Teams, Dreams, Criticism, Powerful Influencers, Relationships, Values & Ethics, Personal Development, Creating Culture, Leader Worth Following, Communication

Teachers in the Trenches: A Brief Look at Receiving the Gift of Feedback

Posted by Milestone Leadership on Apr 15, 2019 2:08:03 PM

 

For this installment of “Teachers in the Trenches: A Brief Look at Real Leadership Stories,” we share with you a quote about the power of hearing and accepting input from others and the way one leader has been able to both teach and inspire his followers through a consistent, positive message.

“A number of years ago I was a newbie at P&G, and my leader at the time was Mike Graen, director of Information Technology. He had a huge impact on my career for a number of reasons, not the least of which was that he demonstrated what it is to be a true servant leader—always willing and ready to get in the trenches with his team. He had a wonderful way of empowering us to find solutions to complex issues. Mike taught me to push beyond the obvious, and his encouraging way of doing that, and his confidence in my abilities to do so, has given me lasting confidence.

“Mike had an impactful phrase he used, which has become somewhat of a mantra for me, ‘Feedback is a gift.’ Those words I’ve repeated many times, and the meaning is something I’ve taken to heart. That simple phrase taught me that hearing feedback can be incredibly valuable and critical to success. We have to own what we hear from others about the work we do—and we have an obligation to ask questions to gain clarity about that feedback. We must listen without defensiveness and learn to take action based upon what others share with us. Receiving feedback in the right spirit helps us build our toolkits and improve our work.”

-Suzanne Herzog Owens, Chief Product Officer, WhyteSpyder

Leaders worth following know how to provide constructive feedback that is actually motivating and beneficial to their team members—and they have to be open to receiving feedback, as well. Some of the best lessons that leaders can hope to receive come from their followers and peers. It is critical to internalize and act upon this feedback in the spirit it is intended.

Whether you’re leading or following (or both), here are some ways to graciously accept and use feedback as the gift it is meant to be:

  • As you’re hearing feedback, take a second to remind yourself that you’re gaining insight for ways you can improve your effectiveness or make something you’re working on better.
  • Listen fully and try not to let your brain race to the point that you’re not hearing what is being said. Once the person has shared their thoughts, restate what you believe you were told to make sure you’re on the same page.
  • Don’t go on the defensive. Don’t argue. Stop, listen and acknowledge what you’ve been told.
  • Ask clarifying questions and inquire about possible solutions for addressing any issues.
  • Thank the person who has taken the time to share feedback with you. It might not have been easy for them, but by acknowledging politely and sincerely, you are showing your respect for their assessment—even if you may not fully agree.
  • Afterwards, consciously look for examples of your behavior or activities that relate to the criticism and actively address them. If you find ways to improve and take specific action to do so, it’s great to follow up with the person who provided feedback to demonstrate your progress.  

 

At Milestone Leadership, we recognize feedback is a necessity, and like all communication, it’s best when it flows both directions. Building a culture that embraces and cultivates feedback invites trust and meaningful interaction among team members—which leads to innovation, productivity and loyalty.

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Topics: Productivity, Growth, Candor, Living Your Values, Employee Engagement, Leadership, Honesty, Authenticity, Candidness, Tone at the Top, Advice, Humility, Management, Empowerment, Effectiveness, Reflection, Values, Feedback, Passion, Organization, Company Culture, Tips, Success, Intentionality, Experience, Workplace, Teams, Milestone, Truth, Team Health, Top Down Leadership, High Performance, Purpose, High Performing Teams, Recognition, Learning, Relationships, Values & Ethics, Personal Development, Creating Culture, Leader Worth Following, Communication

Teachers in the Trenches: A Brief Look at Real Leadership Stories

Posted by Milestone Leadership on Apr 4, 2019 9:09:42 AM

 

No matter where we are in life or how we arrived at that point, from start to finish there are always people along our path who teach or influence us—especially when we are open to learning and embracing a bit of healthy introspection. Sometimes lessons are conveyed very intentionally, and at other times we learn by simply observing someone’s behavior, demeanor or direct actions. This article is the first in a series of blogs where we will share a quote from someone who describes a real-life instance of something their current or past leader said or did that has impacted their own leadership journey.

“My first full time boss was an old Army Sergeant who has served in Vietnam. Warm and cuddly he was not, but he knew how to GSD (get stuff done.) He sat me down when I became a leader for him (dispatcher) and told me that the company we worked for ran long before I got there and will run long after I leave...so don't think that I can't be replaced if I screw up or didn't work as much as it took to get the job done.

“That was shocking to a 19-year old, but really stuck. Though it was meant to be a threat (veiled or otherwise) and I'm no longer with that company...which is no longer in business...I've taken that nugget and made it my own. I now encourage my people to take care of themselves and use that same phrase to show them that though they feel like what they are working on is the most important thing right now, it will all still be here when they get back and are rested.” 

-Zac McCool, Senior Manager of Engineering and Technology, J.B. Hunt

The leadership lesson gained from this originally negative comment took on a valuable meaning as the person’s career progressed. Encouraging team members to take time to occasionally refuel both mind and body has enormous benefits for overall long-term productivity. It’s true—the work and the organization will still be there when someone returns from vacation or takes time to recover from an illness—but the reward is increased creativity, enhanced focus, more energy and greater loyalty to the team. Encouraging team members to balance their time and work load to take care of themselves and their families is a small price to pay for attracting and retaining top talent in a tight labor market. 

If you have a leadership example you would like us to consider featuring, we would sincerely love to hear it! Please respond in the comments of this post, and we’ll reach out to hear your story. At Milestone Leadership, we understand that teachers and mentors come to us in all sorts of ways, both formally and informally. We also know leadership lessons are best shared so we can all grow together—and the most effective way for us to become better leaders is to clearly understand and embrace what influences and inspires our followers. Who inspired you? What is your leader worth following story?

 

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Topics: Productivity, Growth, Living Your Values, Employee Engagement, Leadership, Tone at the Top, Advice, Management, Empowerment, Effectiveness, Reflection, Values, Passion, Organization, Company Culture, Success, Intentionality, Experience, Workplace, Teams, Milestone, Truth, Team Health, Top Down Leadership, High Performance, Purpose, High Performing Teams, Recognition, Learning, Relationships, Values & Ethics, Personal Development, Creating Culture, Leader Worth Following, Communication

Tell Me a Story

Posted by Milestone Leadership on Mar 29, 2019 9:55:59 AM

 

Ask any group of leaders what robs them of sleep, and you’ll likely eventually hear something about challenges related to connecting with their team or peers—and struggles with how to more gracefully guide others through the stresses of change that are inevitable and inherent to any organization. Successfully managing through these issues requires finesse and acknowledgement of the importance of possessing some of the more intangible soft skills. One of those capabilities may seem insignificant on its face, but when appropriately used can actually wield enormous influence: Storytelling.

For many of us, our long-ago childhood bedtime rituals frequently included a story to coax us into our dreams. We revelled in the cozy simplicity of the voice of a parent or loved one reading aloud, making up a tall tale or sharing a treasured vignette about when they were once small themselves. Everything else would become still, and we listened intently—our minds filling with images and ideas that would usually last well beyond the telling.

Fast-forward to now, and it’s likely you still love a great story. We get pulled into them in spite of ourselves—on social media, television, movies or perhaps just overhearing someone while waiting in line at the DMV. National Public Radio even names their best, most captivating stories Driveway Moments because they’re so interesting we stay in our cars to listen to the end after we’ve already arrived at our destinations.

Work environments are no different, and leaders who are good storytellers have a real edge when striving to be relatable to team members and peers. The right story at the right time can be extraordinarily powerful. It has the potential to generate emotion, energy and establish a personal connection. Well-executed stories can frame up what needs to be learned or achieved by allowing listeners to create a relevant vision in their own minds that is memorable and relatable to a broader subject.

“Good stories surprise us. They make us think and feel. They stick in our minds and help us remember ideas and concepts in a way that a PowerPoint crammed with bar graphs never can.”      - Joe Lazauskas and Shane Snow, The Storytelling Edge: How to Transform Your Business, Stop Screaming into the Void, and Make People Love You

Not everyone is a natural storyteller, but leaders worth following know a great story has the potential to jog memories well into the future and can influence behavior and actions in a positive way—or even reinforce the organization’s vision and values. With practice and intention, there are several techniques that can help almost anyone craft good stories:

  1. Every story needs an identifiable beginning, middle and end—and the best stories bring it all home by tying the end back to the beginning in some form of resolution or connection. Open the story with a bit of context so people understand why it’s being told.
  2. Make sure the subject of the story is identifiable to the audience—and it shouldn’t always be about you. If you do talk about yourself, a bit of self-effacing humor can help curb what might otherwise been seen as egotistical or self-promoting.
  3. Stories about failures overcome are highly relatable. We’ve all felt the crush of defeat or embarrassment and it’s commonly accepted that people learn more from mistakes than successes.
  4. Appeal to emotion when appropriate. Not only does this connect the storyteller to the audience, people tend to remember how someone or something made them feel.
  5. When done telling a story, allow a moment for it to sink in. (Just like brief silence in a negotiation is a powerful tool, so is a moment of reflection after a story.)

At Milestone Leadership, we know people never outgrow a great story, whether it be around a campfire or on a long road trip—a sermon or a podcast—or simply in the breakroom over coffee. We hope you’ll tell yours.

“A well-told Story is a gift to the reader/listener/viewer because it teaches them how to confront their own discomforts.”  - Shawn Coyne, The Story Grid

 

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Topics: Productivity, Growth, Living Your Values, Employee Engagement, Leadership, Tone at the Top, Advice, Management, Empowerment, Effectiveness, Reflection, Values, Passion, Organization, Company Culture, Success, Intentionality, Experience, Workplace, Teams, Milestone, Truth, Team Health, Top Down Leadership, High Performance, Purpose, High Performing Teams, Recognition, Learning, Relationships, Values & Ethics, Personal Development, Creating Culture, Leader Worth Following, Communication

How a Hotel Chain Snagged a 96% Employee Approval Rating

Posted by Milestone Leadership on Mar 22, 2019 9:44:15 AM

 

There’s a list any company would be proud to find its name topping—the annual ranking of Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For. This year’s list is full of variety, representing everything from tech companies to grocery chains, financial firms to telecoms. In the number one spot for 2019 is Hilton, rising considerably from #33 in 2018.

At Milestone Leadership, we know that defining and constantly reinforcing an organizational culture which embraces values that benefit both customers and team members is fundamental to a company’s success. To see a well-known company in the highly competitive hospitality industry (known for an annual turnover rate topping 70%) manage to consistently land on Fortune’s annual list, it made us stop to wonder what values Hilton’s leadership has instilled to cause a whopping 96% of its employees to report “this is a great place to work.

Hilton has made it easy for team members to remember the company’s values—in fact, they actually spell it out in the form of an acronym:

H        Hospitality       We’re passionate about delivering exceptional guest experiences.

I          Integrity           We do the right thing, all the time.

L         Leadership      We’re leaders in our industry and in our communities.

T         Teamwork       We’re team players in everything we do.

O         Ownership      We’re the owners of our actions and decisions.

N         Now                  We operate with sense of urgency and discipline.

Much could be said about any one of these solid core values, but because Hilton was ranked as the best place to work largely based upon what employees reported in a 60-question survey, we wondered what they were so positive about with regard to their work experience. This is what they reported:

98%   When you join the company, you are made to feel welcome.

97%   I’m proud to tell others I work here.

96%   I am treated as a full member here regardless of my position.

96%   When I look at what I accomplish, I feel a sense of pride.

96%   I feel good about the ways we contribute to the community.

So, what’s the secret sauce? Simply put, the company has committed fully to finding tangible ways over the past decade to treat every team member—regardless of role or pay level—as well as they treat the guests at their properties. The results are clear: team members bring their best selves to their jobs, which means improved service, growing profits and rising stock values for Hilton even as the overall hotel industry is experiencing increased competition from Airbnb and other short-term rental options.

One way Hilton has shown employees they’re valued has been to implement programs that directly benefit team members at every level. Back-of-house spaces like break rooms have been renovated to look and feel as special as the spaces designed for guests. Hilton also allows employees to stay at its properties around the world at steeply discounted prices, a benefit that is coveted by team members and has allowed many to fulfill lifelong dreams. Yet, the company recognizes that beautiful facilities and travel accommodations can feel pretty empty unless there is a constant commitment to hiring managers who can inspire the best from their teams every day. Hilton seeks to find leadership talent who treat direct reports as equal peers; the expectation is that this degree of positive interaction and support starts in the C-suites and cascades outward.

Ultimately, Hilton recognizes the importance of building and retaining a network of leaders worth following who are empowered to act in accordance with the company’s stated values. The result is loyal, engaged people who are recognizing their greatest potential on the job.

It surely feels good to be #1.

 

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Topics: Productivity, Growth, Living Your Values, Employee Engagement, Leadership, Tone at the Top, Advice, Management, Empowerment, Effectiveness, Reflection, Values, Self Awareness, Passion, Organization, Company Culture, Success, Intentionality, Experience, Workplace, Teams, Milestone, Truth, Team Health, Top Down Leadership, High Performance, Purpose, High Performing Teams, Recognition, Learning, Relationships, Values & Ethics, Personal Development, Creating Culture, Leader Worth Following, Communication

Unvacationing: Don't Lead by Example

Posted by Milestone Leadership on Mar 14, 2019 11:55:46 AM

 

You started dreaming more than a year ago. You read a ton of blogs and began planning the perfect vacation. You saved up and then secured all the travel arrangements. You packed for every possible scenario.

You’ve arrived in your version of paradise, and the accommodations you booked are just what you’d hoped. You’ve scouted the perfect restaurants and excursions to enjoy. Everything is just what you anticipated—maybe even better—and you’re so ready to truly relax so it can all sink in….

EXCEPT YOU DON’T.

You check work email. You look at your phone again and again, making sure more texts aren’t coming in from your department. You promise yourself you’ll keep your responses short and only when necessary—but back at the office, because they saw you responded even when your out-of-office reply said you were unavailable, you’ve clearly indicated things are still “game on” for you. And the emails don’t let up. A few voice messages trickle in, usually starting something like, “Heyyyyy, I know you’re on vacation, BUT…” 

How do you feel when you read this? Does this sound too familiar, perhaps your own behavior or something you see regularly from your team members?

There is ever-growing scientific evidence indicating preoccupation with work and the inability to unplug is detrimental to productivity. Pushing ourselves constantly to do one more (and one more) task, to send just a few more emails, and to make a couple of last quick calls until we don’t remember where the time went…ultimately causes our brains to rebel against us. We find our usual creativity to be lacking, our quick thinking to have slowed and words start to escape us. We become irritable and listless, distracted and more easily frustrated.

According to a report by the U.S. Travel Association’s Project: Time Off Coalition’s report “The Tethered Vacation,” only 27% of U.S. employees actually unplug from work during their vacations and 78% say they are more comfortable taking time off if they know they can access work. More than a fourth of employees say they check back in hourly or several times a day. Employees who maintain more frequent contact with the office during vacation generally fear work will pile up and no one else can handle their responsibilities—and the fear of taking time off only increases as they advance professionally. Fifty-one percent of those who check in frequently report stress in their home life, compared to the 36% who actually unplug on vacation. Those stress levels ramp up substantially more at work.

Organizations have the ability to create cultures that support unplugging, and the benefits are very real. The fact is that employees in supportive environments are significantly more engaged. 69% feel valued for their contributions, 64% feel their employer cares for them as a person inside and outside of the office, and 73% feel their jobs are important to the company’s mission. Engaged employees who are able to unplug on vacation are the same ones who are willing to put in the extra time later under tough deadlines or when a project necessitates.

As a leader, you may wonder how much you can truly influence the culture of your organization when it comes to unplugging.  Research cited in “The Tethered Vacation” indicates managers and their behaviors have an enormous influence over direct reports’ time—actually more than their own families. The fact is that managers who don’t disconnect when on vacation (86%) are frequently putting pressure on direct reports to do the same. In the end, the push for continuous productivity and constant connection ultimately results in an opposite effect: employees who feel their leader places pressure on them to stay connected to work are generally less likely to be truly engaged. In other words, they’re present…but they’re not really there. And not only are they not really there, 40% of employees in unsupportive cultures are planning or already looking for new jobs.

Leaders worth following set the tone within their organizations. When leaders actively model behaviors they expect to see in team members and establish rules of engagement that benefit everyone, the outcome is overwhelmingly positive. Through proactive planning and shared responsibility, it is possible to establish work environments that allow all employees the opportunity to take time needed to recharge and refresh—and in so doing actually increase productivity while building loyalty.

Time to dust off that passport and turn off those mobile phone notifications for a few days—be the change!

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Topics: Professional Development, Unplug, Technology, Growth, Balance, Living Your Values, Employee Engagement, Leadership, Advice, Fun, Empowerment, Effectiveness, Reflection, Values, Organization, Company Culture, Success, Intentionality, Experience, Workplace, Burnout, Teams, Milestone, Truth, Team Health, Change, Top Down Leadership, Team Dysfunction, High Performance, Dsyfunction, Role Models, Learning, Relationships, Values & Ethics, Personal Development, Creating Culture, Leader Worth Following, Vacation

A Millennial’s Perspectives on Leadership

Posted by Milestone Leadership on Mar 7, 2019 11:30:49 AM

 

Leaders worth following know their greatest influence and capabilities evolve as a result of consciously internalizing and applying a lifetime of experiences, both personal and professional. Some lessons arrive in the form of epiphany moments, out-of-the-blue realizations that render certain things crystal clear. Other lessons come about more slowly—through formal education or by learning to identify patterns and actions over time that begin to inform how best to guide and support others.

We have the honor of observing people at various career stages learn and grow in an array of settings. A particularly special group, the Soderquist Fellowship program, brings us new talented students each year who work with Milestone Leadership as project coordinators while pursuing their Master’s degrees at John Brown University. These bright individuals learn an enormous amount through applied academics and constant exposure to executives who are leading corporations and nonprofits at the highest levels. And the truth is, our seasoned professionals learn just as much from working with these students—and are inspired and invigorated by their enthusiasm, passion and idealism.

One of our Soderquist Fellows, Meaghan Ranz, successfully completed the program and earned her MBA in Organizational Behavior. She then stayed with Milestone for an additional year to work as a fulltime special projects coordinator. Meaghan is moving on to follow her passion for social work and to support efforts to help abused and neglected children, but pursuing new avenues does not lessen her love for what she has gained through her time with Milestone Leadership. We asked Meaghan to share a bit about what she has learned from supporting, observing and interacting with an array of leaders over the last few years.

Why did you initially decide to apply to become a Soderquist Fellow?

In 2016, I had just graduated with my undergraduate degree in family and human services (social work) and a minor in management. During my senior thesis and throughout college I was struck by how stretched thin nonprofit leaders and their organizations are. Many of the leaders we interviewed did not have enough time, resources, or training to strategically think about their organization or leadership. Several did not know if their organization was successful because data and feedback was not a luxury they had. This began my passion to understand the foundation of what makes a business and leader successful. I so desired to spend time gaining the education, skills, and training that would empower me when it was time to head back into the world of social services. 

What did the experience teach you about yourself on a personal level?

I am a completely different person now than I was before I started the fellowship, in the best way possible. My experience in the fellowship was something like a pressure cooker. I was challenged, given incredible responsibility, and treated like a professional. At the same time, the ingredients to succeed were all there, and the support from my team and our partners was amazing. Even in the most challenging times, I knew people had my back. In the end, I am loving the person I became through the process! I trust quickly, pursue excellence, view my teammates like family, desire to improve, do not put as much pressure on myself to be perfect, and feel much more confident walking into a difficult and stretching next role. The fellowship program has formed me into someone who knows her limits and isn't afraid of healthy boundaries—but also someone who is ready to break down barriers (with help!) and seek the type of professional and personal life that is worth following.

What professional skills did you gain from your time as a Fellow and through Milestone Leadership?

This list goes on and on! I gained incredible professional experience including but not limited to: written and verbal communication, networking with a wide range of leaders across industry lines, confident humility, continuous feedback loop with supervisors and teammates, leading meetings, strategic direction and execution, time management, delegation, reflection. Truly, I could keep going! The fellowship provided me with a framework to view leadership and my role, professionally and personally, as so much more than simply showing up and completing tasks. It has been about asking the difficult questions and beginning my journey of becoming a leader worth following

What would you encourage other 20-somethings to do which you believe could make the greatest impact on their professional futures?

Be vulnerable. Don't be afraid to not know all the answers: In the last year, about 80% of my job consisted of things I have never done before. I found that it is so important to first ask the question "What do I want this to look like once the problem is solved?" Then I bit the bullet and walked into the offices of many superiors and peers, as prepared as possible, but still saying something like, "I'm not even sure if I'm asking the right question or language around this...but here is how I understand it to the best of my ability. But you are the expert and I'm ready to learn so that we can tackle this problem together!" I was amazed at how much I learned, how quickly I grew, and the trusting relationships I built along the way with incredible people! I do not have the answers...not even a little bit! But I am creative and resourceful and not afraid to ask for help. We are better together!

Get to know yourself: Some of the most important moments in the past few years have not been working in professional environments...don't get me wrong, those have been great! But the best has been the lunches, coffee dates, counseling sessions, and meetings with people who help me reflect and get to know myself. Why do I do what I do? What informs my choices? How do I react when under stress? What do I value? These are the reflections that make real change. These questions help me know who I want to become and remind me that I'm not alone!

What will you miss most?

The people, absolutely! Our team shows up in trials and celebration, and they are some of the most supportive people I've ever met. I will be forever grateful for the role they've played in my life and professional journey. I'll especially miss having to make a nerf basketball shot before I leave the office...because it usually took at least 15 minutes. Ha!

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Topics: Professional Development, Growth, Candor, Leadership, Honesty, Authenticity, Candidness, Advice, Empowerment, Reflection, Career Building, Values, Feedback, Success, Experience, Workplace, Milestone, Truth, Purpose, Mentorship, Role Models, Mentors, Learning, Relationships, Values & Ethics, Personal Development, Creating Culture, Leader Worth Following, Service

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