You are here: Home - get smart - GET SMART: A CONVERSATION WITH ROBERT H. THOMPSON (PART 1)

GET SMART: A CONVERSATION WITH ROBERT H. THOMPSON (PART 1)

Posted by on June 7th, 2012 with 0 Comments

Robert Thompson is the author of The Offsite: A Leadership Challenge Fable (Jossey-Bass, 2008) and host of Robert Thompson’s Thought Grenades – a leadership podcast.  His website claims, “Robert’s fusion of real-life stories and conversational techniques connect with his audience at an intimate, intense and individual level” and I can assure you that the description is accurate.

Over the next four weeks, Robert and I will talk about how goals impact leadership and leadership impacts goals – particularly SMART goals (defined as Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound).

Part 1: Show Up

Glenn: Welcome, Robert. You’re the author of “The Offsite: A Leadership Challenge Fable”, and the host of “Thought Grenades”, a leadership radio show and podcast featured on BlogTalkRadio and iTunes. Tell us a little bit about each project and the goals you had for each.

Robert: Glenn, I’ve been working in the leadership development field for about 20 years now. The book was a natural outgrowth from that effort. The Offsite draws on the leadership theories from the best-selling business classic The Leadership Challenge, the groundbreaking work of my colleagues Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner. The story centers on a three-day meeting of two former rival pharmaceutical companies taking the first step towards creating a joint sales strategy. The two groups come to rely on The Five Practices that form the heart of The Leadership Challenge. Since I culled a great deal of the storyline for the book from my actual involvement with clients over the years, readers find that they can relate well to the characters since they’ve probably worked with one or more of them.

My goal in writing the book was to add my voice to the leadership mix. If you read the Introduction, I’ve shared the details of the process. It seemed to take forever with lots of starts and stops. However, it was worth the effort. The Offsite has allowed me to tell my story, so people may better understand the concepts I’ve studied through the behaviors of characters they can visualize and relate to. The overarching goal of the book is to help the reader truly understand that leadership is not about title, tenure or the corner office. It’s about growing leaders, beginning with your self. Glenn, I’ve learned over the years, that leadership is for everyone, not just the rarefied few. It’s how we should live our lives.

The radio show has been a weekly event for a little over two years. My career has included radio, television, print and digital media, so it was a perfect fit when I looked for ways to broadcast my message and help others at the same time. With my colleague and co-host, Mike Neiss, we interview authors, thought-leaders and newsmakers each week. Our guests usually have a connection to the leadership field, but not always. It’s fun to do, plus we get great feedback from our listeners who love to hear the authors talk about their books and work. I love the idea that people can subscribe on iTunes and have the weekly show pop up on their phone or media player.

Glenn: As I’ve become familiar with your work, I’ve often heard you use a four-part leadership mantra, “Show Up, Step Up, Speak Up, Serve Up”. This week, I’d like to focus on ‘Show Up’. What does it mean for a leader to ‘Show Up’?

Robert: Yes, Show Up is the first pillar of my The Four Commitments model. As you might imagine, Show Up means much more than just punching a time clock and taking up space. It’s about having the real you, with all of your strengths and weaknesses, present and accounted for in real time. To Show Up means that you allow your personal values to be seen, heard and felt. It’s important to truly walk your talk. Doing so creates your veracity…your credibility…a trust with those around you allowing your voice to be, not just be echoed in the hallways of the workplace, but respected.

Glenn: Can you give an example of ‘allowing your personal values to be seen’?

Robert: Well, I think values are seen and felt every day and in a variety of ways. But let’s start with the above example of family. If family is a high priority, then it follows that those around us would see actions that correspond to that priority. As an example, they might note that I leave the office in a timely way, so I can be at my child’s soccer game or, if I am the boss, I encourage others to do the same. Or, if I say trust is a high priority for my team, but then my behavior reeks from the stifling stench of micro-management, well they can see and feel the horrid result.

Glenn: And what is the relationship between showing up and leadership?

Robert: If you are not Showing Up in life, you are wasting precious potential for yourself and those who choose to be with you. If you can’t walk your talk, then you might as well zip your lips. Effective leaders, those who Show Up, always check in with those who join with them to see how their behavior is influencing others. This constant feedback is the only way to truly understand how your leadership actions ripple through the organization and, perhaps more importantly, through those who work along side of you. And please note, I said join, not follow. I’m not a big believer in having followers. And it’s not just semantics. I’d rather have folks willingly join with me to accomplish great things together versus follow me around like little ducklings.

Glenn: It sounds, then, like showing up really is the first step – as you mention – since I won’t join someone I know nothing about. So, let’s suppose that a would-be leader does understand and communicate his or her beliefs. In the book, you talk about the frequent gap between beliefs and behaviors. What happens when there is a gap here?

Robert: Unfortunately, no matter how hard those of us toil in the leadership development field; we see this growing scourge globally. The result is a growing and ever-deepening lack of trust in our leadership and institutions. You can’t read your favorite news source without seeing how large the gaps are between stated beliefs and behaviors in both the business and the political worlds.  In The Offsite, readers meet a character named Joe. He’s probably the character with the biggest gap between stated beliefs and subsequent behaviors. We’ve probably all worked for a Joe at one time or another in our career. Much like some of our Wall Street “friends”, Joe would have zero problems fudging or altering the truth, so something could work out in his favor. And, we don’t have enough space here to talk about many of our so-called leaders who are elected officials. Like those before him, President Obama has had several moments where a gap between actions and words was glaring. However, watching Mitt Romney dance around facts about his past beliefs or actions has been truly mind-boggling. He’s like a weather vane. Politicians seem to rely on an old assumption that the public doesn’t really pay attention (except after Labor Day). I think with so much access to personal video available tied to social media, the days of obfuscation and misdirection are, thankfully, coming to an end. It’s going to be an interesting few months, indeed. And with serious implications, I might add.

Glenn: You mentioned earlier that leaders need to know and share their personal values. I’ve had many “leaders” tell me that their ‘work values’ are different than their ‘personal values’. What are your thoughts on having two sets of values?

Robert: Two sets of values? Really? Tell me more. I’m not sure what they mean by that. Values are what we stand for, what we believe in and how we live our life. We do have core values that arise from our upbringing and environment through the years.  And some of those can shift with new awareness, phases of life, etc. However, are the “leaders” you mention less trustworthy at work than at home or vice versa? Do they tell their children or their colleagues one thing and do another?  Perhaps you can help me understand their perspective better?

Glenn: Sure. As you know, we have a training exercise called “Values Sort”. We ask participants to sort through 40 or 50 values cards to choose their top 5. Often, attendees will want to create two separate sets. For example, ‘Family’ may be the number one value in their personal life, but won’t make the top 10 in their professional life. They struggle to understand why they should bring their personal values into the workplace. What do you say to them?

Robert: Just because they try to sort between the two intellectually doesn’t mean that the two are separate. Over the years, I’ve had many conversations with people about this false choice. I think those who attempt to separate their personal life from their professional life are in denial, just like Gwen in The Offsite. We have one life. And, of course, we do live it in different settings i.e. work and home. However, generally speaking, for most people the ultimate reason they work is to support their family. Right? That’s values in action. And sometimes they hate what they do, which is disturbing. However, they persist to put food on the table and college diplomas in their children’s hands. My guess is that when doing a Values Sort they rationalize their different feelings, actions and behaviors by saying to themselves “this is for work” and “this is for home.” The Values Sort exercise is important. It throws a spotlight on the glaring differences between what you think your values are versus how you spend your time. That’s the key. If you say family is your highest priority but you spend far more time at or with your work…that’s an alarm most people don’t want to hear. It’s another Beliefs versus Behaviors red flag. And that’s where the denial comes in. They feel if they can separate the two, they don’t have to claim any ownership for the gap. Make sense?

Glenn: Absolutely. Later in The Offsite, Charlie builds on that when he asks people to think about where their ethical line is…

Robert: Yes, Charlie is referring to “your mortgage or your integrity line”. It’s another way to say is keeping your job more important than your integrity? For instance, when is something always okay, sometimes okay or never okay? Is it okay to accept gifts from a customer? Should you say nothing versus telling the truth, so you stay out of an incident? Should we bend the rules for those colleagues we like versus those we don’t? Do we shred documents even though we know we shouldn’t? Is being a whistle-blower being a tattletale, or an act of bravery? I think we are confronted regularly with moments of should I or shouldn’t I. Sometimes people fess up under duress that paying their mortgage is more important because they have a family to house and feed. It’s a hard call. I understand their perspective. But isn’t that one of those slippery slopes? We saw results of that greasy slope with Enron and the recent economic meltdown to name just two of the most infamous. Unfortunately, there are plenty more we could point our finger at.

Glenn: How can goals help or hinder a leader’s ability to Show Up?

Robert: Well, from our previous conversation about values above, you and I both know that if people allow a goal to dictate who they are (values) they will quickly find themselves on a very slippery slope into an inauthentic abyss and a meaningless, shallow life. That might sound a bit harsh, but an abundant life is jam-packed with passion-filled, energy-creating goals that change the world for the better for themselves as well as those who join with them (family and colleagues). Sometimes when I’m feeling a bit more provocative I ask people if they are living their life in each moment like they hoped they would when they were 12 years old? Are they settling for the mediocre or shooting for the monumental? Are they building their masterpiece or letting others color in the lines of their life? If their life that day appeared on television’s 60 Minutes, would their mother be proud of them or shocked? Would they let their kids watch? These questions make people squirm. They cause personal reflection. And that’s good, right? Once they find themselves squirming, they can create a goal to change things, however, not just any goal, a Smart as Hell Goal.

Glenn: Exactly! In SMART as Hell, we’re really focused on goals that ‘move the needle’. Does this goal “Scare the competition”? Does it “Engage the team”? Does it “Thrill the customer”? Without that fuel, the engine can’t run.

So this is not a ‘chicken and egg’ dilemma, is it? A ‘would-be’ leader must have their personal goals and values before becoming a ‘true’ leader. Is that the connection between Showing Up and Goals?

Robert:  Well, the potential for leadership is in anyone. And those who strive to lead others should be constantly working on self-awareness, understanding themselves and how their behavior (and voice) ripples out into the world. However, let’s be clear. You don’t go grab goals and values from the “life closet” (or even from your favorite guru) and then proclaim you are now a leader and take your seat in the big chair in the bigger office. Lately, people have been resonating with my comment that “at the end of the day, leadership is not what you or I say it is, but rather what it’s ‘experienced’ to be.” That makes more sense for me. There are so many definitions of leadership out there, many created by my colleagues. I even have one. However, I now realize that a definition truly doesn’t matter one iota. It’s all about how others “experience” the leader’s behavior. Leadership happens with a sudden ignition of passion around change that brings out the goals to make that change happen or attract the joiners to help you fight the good fight.

In The Offsite, Gwen, one of the key characters, has an epiphany of sorts. She is living and working in a deep, murky puddle of mediocrity. Her results are not what she or her boss were hoping to achieve, and she is paralyzed with doubt about how to change. Her “ignition” comes through separate conversations with Sam, the guru, Abby, the facilitator, Jerry, her current boss and Gordon, a leader with a competing firm. Together they help Gwen understand the true value of what being a leader means. She has been diving down the rabbit-hole of management and is suffering the caustic consequences. When she finally finds her leadership voice, the team rallies to her side and together they commit to climbing over any obstacle that gets in the way of success.

I don’t think there is a leader alive who doesn’t have goals, both short and long term. I think leaders need to have stretch goals in all areas of life: personal, professional, family, financial and spiritual as well. That’s how you create more balance in your life. Real leaders are never satisfied with what is. They always want better. They want what can be. So, to change, keep up with change or to help others change, you must have a direction and an outcome in mind. Something to work towards that is specific and so powerful that it draws you and others towards it like a magnet. Real leaders set goals worth struggling for. So, understanding who you are and what you’re passionate about is critical if you are going to lead others. But that’s just the start. Once you understand what drives you, you need something to drive.  Glenn, you have helped clarify the goal process with your recent work. I’m sure we’ll chat more about that when we talk about Stepping Up and Speaking Up.

Glenn: As Sam would say, “Perfect”. Next week we’ll talk about Stepping Up.

Learn more about Robert and his work through the resources below:

 

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

SMART as Hell

With a mission to help "Change Your World One Goal at a Time", SMART as Hell provides books, videos, coaching, and training programs for individuals, teams, organizations, coaches, and facilitators.

Download the SMART as Hell catalog

SMART as Hell TV

Death Valley and Goals

A Graphic Guide to Writing SMART as Hell Goals

Cover - A Graphic Guide to Writing SMART as Hell Goals

A Graphic Guide to Writing SMART as Hell Goals

A Graphic Guide to Writing SMART as Hell Goals follows Mickey, a new employee, on his journey from SMART to SMART as Hell. In this fast paced comic book by award-winning author Glenn Hughes, you’ll watch Mickey rebound from a failed meeting with his boss Amy, by getting clarity around his

Buy Now

Buy This Book Online

Cover - A Graphic Guide to Writing SMART as Hell Goals

Find A Local Bookstore

,

Read More

SMART as Hell Advice

Front Cover for SMART as Hell Advice by Glenn Hughes

SMART as Hell Advice

Do your goals lack punch? Are you struggling for the motivation to realize your dreams? Do you sometimes wish you could get a nice pat on the back AND a good kick in the butt? SMART as Hell Advice is your antidote. In this book, award-winning goal expert Glenn Hughes gathers

Buy Now

Buy This Book Online

Front Cover for SMART as Hell Advice by Glenn Hughes

Find A Local Bookstore

,

Read More

Photo Jolts!

Photo Jolts! Award Winning eBook Cover

Photo Jolts!

Looking to increase clarity, creativity, and conversation?  Photo Jolts! shows you how to leverage the power of photographs to improve yourself, your team, or your organization. Master trainer Thiagi and SMART as Hell.com founder Glenn Hughes share 51 activities (with over 300 variations) that are tested and proven to help participants

Buy Now

Buy This Book Online

Photo Jolts! Award Winning eBook Cover

Find A Local Bookstore

,

Read More

Follow Us!

Archives