Remarkable leaders know that they must consistently align their decisions and actions with their values and beliefs. In doing so, they show they have integrity and walk the walk, so to speak. Exhibiting this type of alignment is also the only way to build credibility, trust, and respect with those they lead.
In today’s busy world, it’s easy to get sucked into the fire drill of the day. There are a million decisions to make, dozens of conversations to have, and many directions to be pulled. The pressures leaders feel today make it easy for them to lose sight of why they wanted to lead in the first place. This slippery slope is how great leaders go astray and make decisions that go against their values and worse, get them in trouble.
That’s why you should create a leadership credo. A leadership credo is a simple framework that articulates your personal and professional beliefs and what’s important to you as a leader. It combines your values, purpose, leadership style, and vision into a statement that you can refer to and reflect upon when the days are flying by and you find that you need to ground yourself, remembering why it’s essential to lead authentically and intentionally.
A leadership credo can be as simple as your company values. For example, at StoneAge, our credo is called the “OWN IT Mindset.” It’s straightforward yet inspiring: to be successful at StoneAge, each of us must emulate and share the OWN IT Mindset; it’s our passion and purpose. This mindset inspires and guides how we show up each day, how we treat each other, how we serve our customers, and how we value our suppliers and business partners. The OWN IT Mindset is made up of three key elements: Be a Great Teammate, Practice Self-Leadership, and Deliver on the StoneAge Assurance Promise (which means we do everything we can to solve our customers’ problems).
But as a leader, it’s also worthwhile to develop a personal leadership credo. It will help remind you what’s important, especially when times are tough and your leadership grit is challenged. Here is a short excerpt from mine:
“First and foremost, I am a mother. My number one priority is to raise my son to be a kind, compassionate, hardworking, accountable man who can articulately express himself and who will positively impact the world. This takes intentional effort and must always come first.
I believe in working hard and creating value. I want to be known as an inspirational leader who knows how to build an extraordinary company, culture and team. I want to impact my industry, leading change with courage, hard work, and fortitude.
I want to be remembered for always helping others and bringing joy into every interaction…even if the conversation is difficult or emotional. Building relationships is my top priority and I always strive to find a connection in every conversation.”
I have refined this over the years and I refer to it when I need a reminder of why the pain and hard work is worth it. It’s helped me stay grounded and focused when I find myself getting off track. And it re-inspires me when I feel like I am losing steam.
How do you create your credo?
Start by writing down what you believe in. What relationships are important to you? How do you want to be remembered? What are your greatest strengths? What do you believe is the key to your success? How do you want others to experience you? What are your core values?
While your credo should be focused on what you believe, I suggest spending a few minutes thinking about what you don’t believe in and what you don’t want to be remembered for. Take this list and positively restate them to refine your credo.
Once you’ve completed this exercise, take a hard look at each word or phrase. It’s essential to be as precise as possible and exclude items that aren’t really you. Your credo should be an authentic reflection of who you want to be and how you want to show up.
Next, decide what’s the best way to express your credo. It may be in a list of beliefs, value and behaviors. Or it could be a statement like mine or a combination of both. It doesn’t matter as long as it resonates with you.
Finally, put your credo someplace handy, so you can easily refer to it. Share it with people close to you, asking them to hold you accountable to it. Refine it over time and commit to living it every day. There is no doubt you will be a better leader for it.
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Many people describe themselves as empathetic, saying things like, "I feel other people's pain" or "people vent about their problems to me because I am a good listener." These are misguided statements; rather than being emphatic, these well-intentioned people are sympathizing. While nuanced, there are important distinctions between empathy and sympathy.
Sympathy involves feeling sorry for someone, usually pity. It's relatively automatic, effortless, and often sounds like commiserating. "That really sucks. No wonder you're so mad! I would be, too!"
Empathy is the ability to understand other people's feelings because you have a shared experience. You can console because you have walked in similar shoes. Empathy sounds like, "I hear you, I've been there before, too. What can you do to make it better?"
The difference is subtle but important. While sympathy is an appropriate response in certain cases, many times it causes collusion, validating that he or she is a victim of circumstance. This only adds to drama and negativity.
Being empathetic is more effective; it fuels connection and creates accountability to solve problems. As Amy Fortney Parks, educator and psychologist states, "Empathy is when you're down in a deep, dark pit and I climb down with you and say, "It's really dark down here. How are we going to get out of here?" That's empathy. Stepping into someone's shoes, figuring out what he or she is feeling and how to solve the problem."
Here are some tips to be more empathetic:
Don't Give Advice
We naturally want to give advice, but this usually is not what the person is looking for, nor does it help him or her step out of victim mentality. Most people just want to be heard so listen thoughtfully and offer to help develop a solution.
Workplace example: someone just got moved in a company reorg
Don't say: "If I were you, I would put my head down and work hard."
Do say: "This must be very upsetting news for you. Once you've had a chance to process it, I'll help you brainstorm a path forward."
Avoid Saying "You Poor Thing"
Most people dislike being pitied; it makes them feel small. Since empathy is about understanding and empowering, acknowledge the situation and redirect to problem-solving.
Workplace example: someone just received tough feedback from his/her manager
Don't say: "I'm so sorry. That's awful. I feel so badly for you."
Do say: "That sounds like tough feedback and it must have stung. How are you going to address it?"
It's so easy to fall into the gossip trap when there is interpersonal conflict in the workplace. Don't engage, don't collude! Complaining about a coworker behind his or her back is toxic behavior; it tears apart a culture and it not only doesn't resolve the problem, but it also makes it worse.
Workplace example: someone is in a conflict with a co-worker
Don't say: "I would be upset, too. She never pulls her weight on the team. I wish her manager would do something about it!"
Do say: "It seems that you are upset by the situation. What can you do to make the situation better? Can I facilitate a conversation between the two of you?"
Don't Paint a Silver Lining
On a different note, being empathetic isn't about minimizing or putting a sunshiny positive spin on every hard situation. Most people don't want to hear how everything is going to be just fine. Instead, acknowledge the person's feelings and help him or her determine one thing that can be done to make the situation better.
Workplace example: someone is feeling overloaded with work
Don't say: "It's going to be okay; things will slow down next month. You can make it! And at least we are busy; it's job security!"
Do say: "I can imagine you may be feeling stressed about your current workload. What can be done today to make things feel more manageable?"
Empathizing with others will make them feel more respected, connected, and supported while at the same time holding them accountable for finding a solution rather than wallowing in a pity party. It takes intentional practice to be more emphatic but doing so will make you a better coworker, manager and friend.
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Every morning while I am getting ready for work, I think about the day I am going to have. I go through the things I need to get done, the conversations I have to have, and the meetings I need to prepare for. And then I think about how awesome my day is going to be. Even if it’s jammed pack and I am dealing with stressful issues, I imagine myself handling it all with ease and accomplishment. I tell myself I am going to have a successful day, no matter what comes my way. I mentally express gratitude for all the things in my life, including the challenges because they make me stronger.
Then I put a smile on my face.
I do this even when I wake up feeling grumpy, tired, overwhelmed, and generally like I would rather stay in bed and read all day. I refuse to have a bad attitude.
Attitude is a choice. And I choose to have a good one. Why? Because it feels good to feel good. Because I can get more done when I see the positive in any situation. Because people want to be around me when I am in a good mood. What fun is it to walk around grumpy, pissed off, angry, resentful, and being the victim?
Sure, life happens and things transpire that are out of your control. But you know what isn’t out of your control? How you react to what life throws at you. How you respond to the stressors in your daily existence. How you treat those closest to you. The one thing you have complete control over in life is your attitude.
I’ll say it again. The one thing you have complete control over in life is your attitude. Now that is powerful.
It’s easy to allow yourself to become the victim of your circumstance and blame other people (or the government, the weather, the school system, the fill-in-the-blank) for your hurt feelings, bad mood, stressful situation, and negative outlook on life. But it’s a cop out. You give up your power when you succumb to the problems (whether big or small) life throws at you. You can take that power back by simply choosing to view it differently and then respond accordingly.
For some, it’s easy to say, “Ugh, I feel grumpy today and I really dislike feeling grumpy. Better turn that frown upside down!” In an instant, the bad mood is changed to one that’s more positive. For others, it’s much more difficult. It takes a commitment, discipline and accountability to change from a pessimistic life view to an optimistic one. But it can be done (here is wikihows take on how to be more optimistic).
If feeling happier and more content isn’t motivating enough think about this: people with a better attitude are more likely to be promoted, get a bigger raise, be chosen to be on teams, and are generally more successful. Performance begins with you and if you want to perform better, you have to think better. Your mind is your most powerful tool (no, really, it isn’t your iPhone) and you use it so much more productively if it’s focused on finding solutions, making effective decisions, being a team player, and exploring ways to grow and improve.
It’s time we all started being more accountable for how we show up as the world is in desperate need of positivity, peace, productive problem solving, and teamwork. Your attitude has a profound effect on you and those around you. It’s 100% up to you how positive or negative that effect will be. What do you choose? How will you show up in the world?
Thanks for reading! Please like, share and comment to help me spread the word!
A Quick Blurb on what this blog is about.
Welcome to my blog! My name is Kerry Siggins and plain speaking, honest leadership is my mantra. My intention is to help those who lead (or want to lead) become better at saying and doing what needs to be said and done in a way that it can be heard and seen, one person at a time.