In my last post we discussed the need to courageously face the brutal facts and resist the temptation to “bend the map”. So, for leaders, the obvious follow-up question’s are:
- Where do we find this courage?
- What’s the solid foundation we can plant our feet on?
- Where do we find the confidence that, regardless of the outcome of our decisions, we can rest knowing we made them based on strong values and clear convictions?
It’s in this last question that we find the foundation to having the courage to make those tough decisions. We need to seek, find and articulate both our personal and our organizational values and beliefs. So to that end, let’s take a brief look at both core values and beliefs and the critical role each play in making tough decisions.
Core values answer the question – what’s most important? What are the things we’re willing to work and sacrifice for, and never compromise on? What’s so important that we’ll defend these values even if it causes great pain and loss? Think of the great price paid by the men and women of our military to defend our nation’s core values of liberty and freedom. Core values, when used in decision-making, provide a guide on what we’re willing to do and not to do.
The second half of our foundation for courage is knowing our core beliefs. Core beliefs answer the question – what do we believe to be true? They’re different from core values because they’re found outside of ourselves or our organization not from within. Though they’re similar to core values, because when they’re core we’re willing to defend, sacrifice, and suffer pain and loss because of them. However we must remember that core beliefs are true regardless of whether everyone values or believes them. Articulating core beliefs is an act of acknowledging the reality in which we live and work and gives us a solid foundation to face and make difficult decisions. It keeps us from “bending the map” and helps assure we’re making decisions that match up with the realities of the world.
So as leaders we have the dual responsibility of knowing and articulating both our personal as well as our organization’s core values and beliefs. They provide us the foundation for the courage we need to make tough decisions, the peace of mind we seek during difficult times and the guard rails to keep us on track.
If you’ve never articulated your personal and your team’s core values and belief’s I encourage you to begin the process as soon as possible. Taking time before the new year begins will help you and your leadership prepare for the inevitable tough decisions that will come your way in 2016.
Tough decisions have their birth when a leader’s faced with what Jim Collins calls the brutal facts. Brutal facts are those stubborn, nasty little realities that scream at us “leader, you have serious problems”. And serious problems always require making the tough decisions to solve them.
Which is the problem for so many leaders – when we’re faced with the brutal facts we must do something with them, we’re compelled to act, to make tough decisions. So one of the first and most courageous steps a leader must take is simply to face the facts and accept them for what they are – reality. But there’s a strong temptation to explain away the facts that will cause us difficulty, pain, extra work, or we simply don’t like.
This temptation has the same elements as the temptation people often faced with when they become lost, it’s a phenomena psychologists call “bending the map.” It’s when a lost person stops believing their map because it doesn’t line up with what they think their reality should be. They explain away the inconsistencies between what their map is telling them and where they find themselves. They chose not to believe their map but instead to believe their own distorted reality. This happens because the fear of being lost is such a powerful emotion that people will disregard all the facts, talk themselves into believing what is false all to stave off that fear, even if the result’s to become more lost.
From my experience the phenomena of bending the map doesn’t just occur when people are lost. Something similar happens when leaders bend their financial maps because they can’t accept their financial results, or they bend their people maps when they can’t believe people would act or perform in a certain way, or they bend their performance maps because the key indicators don’t line up with their expectations. When leaders lose the courage to face the brutal facts they begin to explain away and rationalize that their maps are wrong and their indicators are off base. They chose bending the map instead of taking the very courageous step of facing the brutal facts and admitting their lost.
So the very first step in making the tough decisions is to resist the temptation to bend whatever map you’re looking at and instead to face the brutal facts. To embrace the reality your map is telling you and, more importantly, to accept the responsibility to change course by making the tough decision.
Is there any place in your leadership where you are or have bent the map, where you’ve failed to face the brutal facts? What have you done to find the courage to accept the harsh reality staring you in the face?
I just finished one of the most inspiring leadership books I’ve read in a long time – Dare to Serve – How to Drive Superior Results by Serving Others by Cheryl Bachelder, CEO of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, Inc. It’s so good that it now sits on my book shelf right next to my signed copy of Max De Pree’s leadership classic – Leadership is an Art.
So what makes this book so inspiring, engaging and helpful?
First, is Cheryl’s thesis – “When you choose to humbly serve others and courageously lead them to daring destinations, the team will give you their very best performance” p. 9. Cheryl’s value based, people centered leadership philosophy is not only right on, it’s a desperately needed message in the celebrity driven, leader centered culture found in so many organizations today.
Second, there’s Cheryl’s courage. Think about it, how many CEO’s of a multi-billion dollar publicly traded company, would dare to proclaim such a contrarian idea as one that says – you can lead teams to great performance by serving them? And, of course, courage in others is always inspiring.
Third, Cheryl is not only a student of leadership, she is a leader. Her book isn’t filled with theories but reflects what she’s learned by actually leading people and organizations. Which means this book is a case study in leadership and, specifically, in leading the turnaround of a struggling organization.
Finally, I’ve spent some time with Cheryl, so I can vouch for the fact that, as a leader and, more importantly as a person, she’s the real deal, which only affirms that her book is the real deal.
So if you’re a leader of any kind or aspire to be one, Dare to Serve gives you a great roadmap to become a better leader. It will inspire you to lead humbly and courageously so that you and your team will win.
Over the last couple of months I did something that literally gave me nightmares. I read Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas while listening to The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany by William L. Shirer.
If you’re not familiar with Bonhoeffer, it’s an award-winning book about the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. It tells the story of this courageous resistance leader in Nazi Germany, who also happen to be a brilliant theologian, compassionate pastor, and committed follower of Jesus Christ. The story is inspiring and challenging.
On the other hand, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich‘s considered one of the best histories of Hitler and Nazi Germany. It’s a fascinating story, filled with details, about one of the darkest times in the history of the world. Even after listening to the book, it’s still impossible for me to grasp the true evil perpetrated by Hitler and the Nazis.
But it’s where these two books intersect that I had my nightmares. I would dream on the nights after a day of listening to and reading both books. And my dreams were always the same – I stood by while people were mercilessly being killed and, by doing so, I shared the guilt of the murderers.
So I’ve become convinced that the source of these nightmares lay in the challenge of Bonhoeffer’s life, and in my doubts about my own convictions and courage – would I see evil around me and stand up to it, even it meant death? It’s a question that’s haunted my dreams, and my waking hours, over the past few months. And every morning I found myself praying “Lord, if I ever need it, please give me just an ounce of Bonhoeffer’s courage, so I too can stand against evil in this world.”43.928283-85.286682