Grow Where You’re Planted

By Clyde C. Lowstuter

I often find myself caught in the paradox of patience versus action. On one hand, patience is often the key to breakthrough insights and aids coaching clients in their life/career transformations. When working with others it is easy to see how slowing down helps them to explore the nuances of their interpersonal relationships and life aspirations. Change takes time. On the other hand, I can be really impatient with myself. When I set a goal, I am itching to act. I want to do more in less time.

My recent book, 35 Truths, took much longer than I thought. 35 perspectives – what’s the big deal? I live and breathe this stuff; I can whip the book out over a long weekend! 18 months later, it was done and I couldn’t be more proud.

Recently, I was juggling several demanding projects and I found myself growing frustrated with the time/action paradox of my own making. During a trip to visit our West Coast family, I walked along a path in the bamboo forest in Huntington Botanical Gardens. The bamboo grove towers 70 feet into the sky, blocking out the afternoon sun.

Bamboo

While I was there, I learned that some bamboo varietals often take 5 years or more after planting before above-ground growth appears. Before the plant can shoot skyward it must develop a significant root structure to support its pending massive growth spurt of more than 7 feet per year. That day I slowed down – and in the quiet, still space of the bamboo forest, I remembered that many things in life take time to develop and we can’t always rush that growth.

This type of slow but steady growth may resonate with you; nurturing and achieving mastery is more than merely putting in the time. Rather, you get to create your own significant root structure – by exploring, experimenting, examining, and evaluating.

How to start? Take a deep breath and lighten up. Learn to acknowledge and appreciate the patience of waiting for growth over time. When it does come, you’ll appreciate it much more. Indeed, your performance or career breakthroughs may not occur in years one, two, or three. Your massive epiphanies and peak performance may be in your fifth year. Slow down to soak up profound learnings, whenever they may be, so you may grow ever stronger and contribute more significantly to those around you. Best wishes for your root structure!

The Problem with Authenticity?

By Clyde C. Lowstuter

For thirty-three years I’ve been saying that Authenticity is the single most important determinant for personal and organizational success. When the January 2015 Harvard Business Review magazine came out, entitled “The Problem with Authenticity – When It’s OK to Fake It Till You Make It” (highlighting the article, The Authenticity Paradox“), it challenged R|L’s core belief, and naturally I received a lot of queries regarding my position.

Chameleon BusinessmanAuthenticity is a way of being – of thinking, feeling, and behaving – that brings out the best in you and others. The HBR article’s intimation that it’s OK to pretend to be authentic when you’re not flies in the face of what it means to be authentic. While authenticity requires behavioral nimbleness, it doesn’t mean faking it. Problems arise when people start using the word “authentic” as an excuse to do or say whatever they want. If an executive bullies others to submit to his position and claims that he is operating as his authentic self, he is not truly being authentic. In an attempt to disguise his fear of being seen as “less than…” for example, bullies often create disruptive distractions, usually with a lot of blustering.

Operating authentically is about being transparent, straightforward, and genuine. However, being straightforward does not give a person license to intimidate another.  An integral part of being authentic is being fully accountable for the unintended impact we have on others. However, overplayed strengths can become liabilities. As such, unvarnished honesty often feels brutal, and unchecked vulnerability can be the height of naiveté, possibly stalling out your career.  Authenticity has respect at its core—not just for yourself, but for others as well.

Through interacting with thousands of leaders, we have found that the source of inauthenticity is typically the lack of effective role models, lack of transformational feedback, and fear.  Inauthentic leaders protect their egos by being unapproachable, whereas authentic leaders routinely ask directs, peers, and bosses, “How can I better serve you to help you achieve more?” Inauthentic executives conveniently leave out the “brings out the best in others” part of the authenticity formula; authentic leaders know that self-mastery is a lifelong pursuit.  Authenticity isn’t just about one person’s needs. It can’t be, because we live interdependently with others.

Authenticity invites you to be more confident, courageous, and resourceful, while taking complete accountability for your behavioral impact.

As a means of raising your AQ – Authenticity Quotient™ you might ask yourself:  When interacting with others, whose needs am I serving most – mine or others? What perspective might others have on this issue? What is the best way to communicate our similarities and differences? How might I have inadvertently created defensiveness and what do I need to do to clear it up?

Authenticity Success Cycle:

Taking full accountability for your thoughts, feelings, and behavior enhances others’ respect and trust of you.   Fully embracing authenticity allows you to more boldly and confidently contribute to the growth and profitably of your organization – leading to new opportunities and endorsement from others.

Authenticity + Competency + Drive = Success.  All of these factors are important, but Authenticity is the critical cornerstone.

My declarative stance remains:

Authenticity is the single most important determinant for personal and organizational success.  

For the Want of a Nail

by Clyde C. Lowstuter

For the Want of a Nail

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the king was lost.
For want of the king the battle was lost.
For want of the battle the kingdom was lost.
So a kingdom was lost – all for the want of a nail.

While this proverb has had many derivations over the years, the earliest reference highlights the unhorsing and subsequent death of Richard III of England at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485.

HorseshoeThis proverb describes a situation in which the failure to attend to a small detail escalated into a major catastrophe of unseen magnitude. This chain of causality is typically seen only in hindsight. Witness the impact of the groomsman only re-shoeing three horseshoes, not all four, because the heat of the battle was upon them.

Where we sit at R|L, we have seen many CEOs skip over some critical details in their roles because of the rush to launch new products, acquire a competitor, or enter into new markets. As you might imagine, the adverse impact could be and has been huge. While examples abound, here are two biggies:

Winging it with the Board:

Our clients are talented, self-assured, bold, and very capable. However, it’s easy to go into meetings without being fully prepared. Simple, innocuous questions brought up in a board meeting can quickly undermine a new CEO’s credibility. Accordingly, statements that cannot be well articulated, crisply stated, or justified may be the kiss of death.

Not Moving Fast Enough and Being Too Gracious:

Being the CEO does not mean that you are untouchable. However, you might lose your endorsement and credibility with the board if you are too loyal to the old CEO, or if you are not candid nor proactive in revealing bad news. Additionally, you may endanger your role if you delay addressing non-performers and sub-optimized pockets in the company that are resisting change.

Bottom line, some CEOs focused disproportionately on short-term fixes and not on the overall strategic turnaround of the business nor creating allies on the Board, regardless of how confrontational some members might be.

For the want (or lack) of nail a kingdom was lost. For the want (or lack) of the metaview, multiple perspectives, and a sense of urgency, opportunities were lost.

In what areas are you missing nails?

Leadership Fluidity

By Clyde C. Lowstuter

I am on a family vacation in Montreal, Canada. We are staying in a quaint hotel in the old port. The sun is just beginning to peek above the horizon as a fiery red orb. I am wide awake and ready to write. Being in different surroundings is always creatively stimulating for me. Dawn is an enchanting time—it is still and quiet with only a few people on the cobblestone streets. Dawn is alive with purpose and promise.

The rustic stone and wood-paneled restaurant is not open to customers yet, but I’ve been allowed to snag a small, wobbly corner table next to the open double doors overlooking the Saint Lawrence Seaway. Only a few staff were present when I first came in, but now it is much busier.  Baked goods fresh from the oven fill the bistro with enticing aromas. Coffee is perking and griddles are sizzling. There is a cacophony of sounds and smells that awaken my senses.  What was previously a still, muted environment has become increasingly bustling as if I’m seeing my surroundings as sped-up time-lapse photography.  I marvel and appreciate the seasoning of the staff and the invisible leadership that created such a synergistic team.

I’m struck by not only the friendliness of the staff and the beauty of French being spoken, but also the fluidity with which they go about preparing for the customers. There is noChefs in Motion (capital “L”) leader present, but this quaint bistro is filled with (small “l”) leaders. At R|L, we believe that regardless of role or level, every person has the potential to be a leader, if they are allowed to be, by astute managers. There is no one barking orders or commands. The entire staff is cheery and affirming towards each other. As an observer, it’s clear to me that trust is very much in evidence as each person impeccably does his/her part in running the bistro in this 5-star hotel. Umbrellas are raised. Glasses and place settings are positioned perfectly on the tables. Everyone is functioning efficiently, effectively, and enthusiastically. The joie de vivre vibe is alive and well in this place . . . and customers love it! been

I wonder – what could our respective organizations become if every one of us operated as accountable and fluid, as this bistro staff?

How might you model, educate, and influence your staff and others to operate with more accountability and joy (two dimensions that are rarely mentioned in business settings)?

5 Ways to Supercharge Your Career

By Clyde C. Lowstuter

Extraordinary leaders are the men and women that lead amazing teams, create energized cultures, set impossible expectations, and achieve mind-boggling results.  These leaders shape Classic Camarothe world.  We, here at R|L, salute these extraordinary leaders and want to be just like them.

But how?  How can we be extraordinary with an already packed schedule?

Be Visionary:

Without a clear and compelling vision the team and organization are rudderless.  It’s nigh unto impossible to realize ambiguous goals.  Create a vision.  Be passionate and extol radical trust.  If you have an unshakeable belief in what’s possible you will be able to rally talented contributors.  To maintain momentum, continuously communicate your inspiring goals, expectations, and belief in each person.

Be Transparent:

If you are open and straightforward in your communications, you will enhance your credibility and gain greater commitment from others.  People are an organization’s most important resource; don’t waste it by being uncertain and unclear.  Focus equally on strengthening relationships and generating results.

Be Demanding:

Hire, develop, promote, and only keep players that are bold, confident, highly collaborative, and deeply committed to the company’s profitable growth.  Leaders have the responsibility for the well-being and development of every person in their team.  Model, promote, and support cross-functional partnerships.  Look for common interests and intersections for functional teams to work together for the greater organizational good.  Quickly confront disruptive and dysfunctional attitudes, behaviors, or less-than-stellar performance.

Be Committed:

Embrace failure as a pathway to success, not a derailment or dead end.  Mistakes often lead to keen insights and significant innovations, that is, if we pay close attention and modify our approach.  World class leaders are undeterred by setbacks; indeed, they tend to strengthen their resolve.  Don’t be afraid to tinker.  It might lead to enhancing a product, process, or system.

Be Courageous:

If you don’t model it – no one else will. Now is the time to listen to and trust your powerful, positive inner voice.  Don’t accept disempowering self-talk, as it will distract you from what you are trying to accomplish.  Focus only on your empowering beliefs and towering strengths. Be emboldened; you are more resourceful than you can ever imagine.  You can do this.  Say what you’ll do and do what you’ve said.  I’m sure you’ll be amazed at the results.