Holistic Leadership

Great leaders inspire others. How?

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By Jim Funk

Paralympic Skiier

The Winter Olympic Games and Paralympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, were totally inspiring to me. Watching the Shib Sibs glide and dance across the ice in expressive and unified harmony, cheering on Lyndsey Vonn as she sped down the mountain at over 80 mph in her final Olympic Games, and noticing my heart racing as the bobsled teams careened down the icy track.  All of these events and more were amazing feats of athleticism, and they were undeniably inspiring.

But what was it that made them inspiring? To me, it was first and foremost witnessing the awesome capability that each Olympian had developed through years of practice, coaching and persistence. But more than that, it was the stories behind each of the competitors. In every case these athletes had to overcome setbacks and failings, injuries or illnesses, and in the case of Paralympic athletes, conditions that could have prevented them from even leaving the house or driving a car. Yet look at what they were able to accomplish through their tenacity and sheer will. These athletes show that to be inspiring to others, you must be inspired yourself.

So what is it that makes leaders inspired? Do they have to be as competent and persistent as Olympic champions, overcoming incredible challenges and going beyond what seems humanly possible? Leaders who have done that to varying degrees can certainly be inspired through their experiences. But it’s more than that. I believe leaders are inspired through the process of becoming who they are as a person—their characteristics, values and behaviors. When a person is willing to be honest about his or her shortcomings and vulnerabilities, for example, humility is developed. Having the courage to admit faults and overcome them helps build character and become authentic—true to who they are.

Inspired leaders also know they don’t have all the answers, which causes them to seek what they need to make good and wise decisions. Sometimes this comes in the form of patience while they gather information, or they may ask for the opinions of others who have more expertise. With trust in the people around them to use their own talents, as well as to provide honest feedback to the leader, they go forward and take actions they believe to be prudent, and they take reasonable risks. They know that if they fail it won’t be the end of the world. In fact, when things don’t go as they hoped, they learn from their mistakes and become even better.

Inspired leaders are also hopeful. They see the glass half full, and know that even in the darkest of times there is light to be found. In spite of difficulties, they remain positive and believe they will somehow be able to figure out a workable solution. They believe that all will be well, or at least as good as possible under the circumstances.

What makes an inspired leader inspiring to others? In my experience working with leaders who I considered inspired, there were four main areas of inspiration for me:

  • Functional Leadership Competence. Capable leaders build the trust of others because they are able to deliver. They know what they are doing, and they know to engage other talented people in what they don’t know how to do.
  • Mental and Thinking Competence. These leaders are able to learn and assimilate new information quickly, think critically, and apply their knowledge to solve complex problems. They are good decision-makers, and they are skilled at persuading others.
  • Heart and Spirit Competence. This area represents who the leader is as a person—the values, virtues, and character strengths that inform decisions, actions, intent and authenticity. Integrity, initiative, and the ability to build and maintain strong and positive relationships fall into this category.
  • Physical Competence. I am referring here to the physical presence of the leader. This includes how they communicate and listen, what kind of impression they make on others, and their self-awareness. Along with heart and spirit competence, physical competence can either foster a sense of authenticity and trust on the part of others, or it can create distrust if it’s missing.

To me, these competency areas hold the critical leadership behaviors and awareness that enable leaders to inspire others. It is not only what they do, but who they are, that inspires followership and engagement.

Holistic Leader Competencies - InspiredInspired leadership is one of the nine characteristics I have defined in my Holistic Leadership Model. Holistic Leaders embody the competency areas I listed above, and they do so with inspiration. Holistic leaders know how to integrate their character and values into their leadership, and they understand that they bring their whole selves to their leadership role—body, mind and spirit.

How does one become an inspired leader? I would suggest starting with three questions to reflect on, followed by actions that help build inspired leadership.

  1. How willing am I to look critically at myself, and open myself up to honest feedback and self-awareness that will help me discover areas where I need to grow—the characteristics, habits and behaviors I need to change if I want to inspire others?
  2. How open am I to learning from other inspired leaders to understand how they got that way—perhaps through coaching, mentoring, studying and reading?
  3. Am I willing to create a concrete plan of action, identifying what I can do to build the competencies and behaviors of an inspired leader—acknowledging that it requires a lifetime of learning and continued formation and development?

Let me conclude by saying that I don’t think being an inspired leader is optional. Inspired and Holistic Leadership is truly needed to navigate the complex relationships and responsibilities of leaders in the world today, whether in a small company, a large global enterprise, an educational institution, or a governmental entity. The question is, are you willing to make the effort to move outside of your comfort zone, to be a life-long learner and become what the world truly needs: an inspired, holistic leader? Take a lesson from the Olympians. It requires commitment, focus, practice, persistence, willingness to fail, and continuous improvement. Are you up for it?

Jim Funk is a consultant who helps leaders, teams and organizations discover and develop their full potential. He is passionate in believing that strong leadership competence combined with the leader’s personal characteristics, values and virtues are key to achieving goals and driving business results. In addition to his work at J L Funk & Associates, Jim has served on various boards and commissions, and is currently a member of the Economy of Communion in North America Commission. Learn more about Jim’s work at www.jlfunk.com and www.linkedin.com/in/jlfunk or e-mail him at jim@jlfunk.com

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Is servant leadership all that great?

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By Jim Funk

Servant Leadership for Blog

In my years of working with executive teams, I’ve noticed a common expectation that good leaders must be able to do four main things:

  • Empower people
  • Inspire people
  • Create a shared vision
  • Lead change

Although virtually all organizations agree on these baseline expectations, many have set an even higher bar: being a servant leader.

This term can be a bit confusing because people typically think leaders are served by their reports rather than the other way around.  So, who or what does a servant leader serve, and why?

When I ask this question in one of my workshops, a common response is that by being served, people have the support and resources they need from their leader to do the work of achieving results. They cite examples of the servant leader making sure that people and teams have the direction, supplies, time, and talent they need to get the job done. The servant leader ensures everything is in place to make the team successful.

While that is true, when I observe leaders who I would characterize as servant leaders, I see much more than making people and teams functional and successful. I see leaders who have a disposition of service to others, putting others first even at the risk of short-changing themselves. These service-oriented leaders not only make sure people have what they need, they take a personal interest in them and care about their well-being. They put others’ needs ahead of their own. They are willing to sacrifice, and to take less in order to give more.

So, what difference does servant leadership make? Isn’t it the responsibility of everyone to simply do their part, and to be accountable for their results without having to be served? Let me give a few examples of why servant leadership is not only good leadership, it makes a huge difference in what can be achieved.

  • John Mundell is the owner of Mundell and Associates, an environmental consulting firm and Economy of Communion business. John took time and resources from his business to help start and support a non-profit, Project Lia, that gives women who are coming out of prison an opportunity to learn job skills so they can re-enter the workforce. Who or what is John serving: Individuals who are coming from a vulnerable situation, and arguably serving the community itself. The difference it makes: In all likelihood, these women will not commit crimes that would return them to prison. (Another re-entry program in Indiana has been able to reduce the 3-year recidivism rate in the state from the usual 36.1% down to 12.5%.) Instead they will become contributing members of society.
  • Joe Pickard is the executive director of The PEERS Project, which trains and develops peer leaders in high school to share their experiences with middle school students about how to make good decisions and avoid risky behaviors. Although the program went through budget cuts that eliminated funding and positions, Joe took on extra work to keep the program going. Who or what is Joe serving: The peer leaders, the schools, the students, and the program itself. The difference it makes: Without Joe’s selfless commitment, the program would have folded long ago. Instead, the community will continue to benefit from a program that helps local youths.
  • Loraine Brown was the interim vice president and chief mission officer for a major hospital system. Although the role was temporary, she chose to backfill her previous position to ensure things continued running smoothly in her absence. She did this at the risk of not having a position to go back to when her temporary assignment was completed. Who or what is Loraine serving: The people and hospital departments that need the services of her former position, and the mission of the organization. The difference it makes: Important services are provided, and the jobs of her other staff are preserved for as long as possible.
  • Grant Marsh is the general manager of The Guild House, a creative American cuisine eatery in Columbus, Ohio. He gave one of his waitresses the week off so she could see her sister who was moving away, even though it was a busy time and all hands were needed on deck. Who or what is Grant serving: The personal needs of the individual and her family. The difference it makes: The waitress feels cared for as a person, and will likely be a loyal employee for years to come.

These may each seem like small things, but when the leader’s first thought is of others rather than of self, there is an impact that will be felt well beyond the immediate situation and people involved. In each of these examples, there is a positive ripple effect that extends to other people, to the broader organizations, and even to whole communities. Relationships are also built and strengthened through service to others, and loyalty is developed when people experience the care and concern of a leader who is in a position to make a difference in their lives and work.

Holistic Leader Competencies - ServantServant leadership is an important characteristic in the model of Holistic Leadership I have developed that places the person at the center. It is based on the principle that work not only provides income to people and profits for a company, but it gives meaning. People want to contribute to products and services that are good for consumers and communities.

How does a leader develop into a servant leader?  Regardless of whether a leader is new in his or her role, or seasoned with many years of experience, there is always an opportunity to further develop the mind, heart and spirit of a servant. I say mind, heart and spirit because service is not only about taking outward actions, it is about the disposition of the person’s thoughts, feelings, and intentions. Start with these fundamental questions:

  • Do I think of others’ needs before my own?
  • Am I willing to risk losing my own ideas in order to promote the ideas of others?
  • Am I careful not to take credit for work that is done by my team, even though I am their leader?
  • Do I have true care and compassion for the people I lead, and take an interest in matters that are meaningful to them?
  • Do I look for ways I can help the people I lead rather than thinking of what they can do to make me look good?

These are starting points for reflection, but on a longer-term basis developing servant leadership requires genuine humility, love for people, and a desire to give rather than receive. I don’t know if any single workshop or book can develop the mind, heart and spirit of a servant in a leader, but an openness to feedback from others, and seeking a mentor who demonstrates servant leadership will go a long way. Give it a try. If you have ever worked for a true servant leader, as I have, you know it’s not only a good thing—it’s great for people, and great for business.

Jim Funk is a consultant who helps leaders, teams and organizations discover and develop their full potential. He is passionate in believing that strong leadership competence combined with the leader’s personal characteristics, values and virtues are key to achieving goals and driving business results. In addition to his work at J L Funk & Associates, Jim has served on various boards and commissions, and is currently a member of the Economy of Communion in North America Commission. Learn more about Jim’s work at www.jlfunk.com and www.linkedin.com/in/jlfunk or e-mail him at jim@jlfunk.com

How to keep blind spots from derailing your leadership

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By Jim Funk

mirror for traffic collisionAs a leader, what you don’t know CAN hurt you.  Especially when it comes to what you might be doing wrong, even unintentionally.

Take Stanley, who has been a member of the executive team for five years. He is reaching a high frustration level with the CEO, whom he reports to directly. Because the CEO is out of town a lot, he doesn’t make himself available for ongoing conversations once he has delegated a major assignment to his executives. When he returns to the office, however, he decides that projects are not usually done to his liking. He then blames his team for not asking enough questions ahead of time about what the end product should look like.

As another example, Jill is a member of the Human Resources leadership team in a large company. She is a star performer, takes her responsibility seriously, and is known as the “go-to person” for anything having to do with change management. But Jill is unhappy. She doesn’t feel appreciated, and her boss simply isn’t one to give much recognition to his direct reports. He believes that if you just do the job well, that is recognition enough. Jill doesn’t want to go asking for recognition, but her increasing dissatisfaction is getting to her.

Lastly, Kim is a highly productive member of a company’s sales team. After only three years of experience, peers think of Kim as a superstar. But in spite of the strong performance, Kim’s boss is highly critical of her and nitpicks every little thing. Lately, Kim has started to feel literally sick to her stomach when preparing for meetings with the boss. She wants to speak up about her feelings, but she’s seen her boss become irate when she feels offended.

What do these cases have in common? Well, several things that should be troubling to any leader. First, there is a reluctance to come to these bosses with feedback or concerns. Why? Because the employees don’t think their bosses will react well. If honest feedback has not been appreciated or welcomed in the past, employees may have felt cast aside or insecure in their jobs, and are now unwilling to bring up their concerns. Any leader who is not getting honest feedback because people are afraid to provide it is suffering not only from a lack of information, but also from a lack of trust. This can be hugely detrimental to both team and individual performance.

Second, these bosses are not aware of how they are impacting their employees, and have no idea that their leadership style is suppressing creativity and making even their best employees dissatisfied. They have not made an attempt to ask their direct reports specifically how they like to be rewarded, and how they, as their boss, can be more effective as a leader. Again, without the information about what they could do better, these bosses are in the dark, and their blind spots continue.

And finally, as a result of the lack of open communication, trust, and awareness of self and others, some of the best employees and leaders of these companies are nearly ready to walk away.  Replacing them would be a great loss of talent and a large expense. Many times, bosses aren’t aware of how people really feel about them because they don’t ask. And a number of companies either don’t do exit interviews, or don’t get much information because the exiting employees understandably don’t want to burn any bridges.

If you are working in an Economy of Communion business, or are a leader in any organization that wants to follow person-centered principles, you would certainly want to address these kinds of issues. But blind spots are indeed blind—we often don’t even know we have them, or at least we don’t know what they are. Awareness of self and others is critical because it is required for emotional intelligence, which in turn is a good predictor of leadership success. As described by Daniel Goleman in his book, Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ, awareness is key to being able to manage one’s emotions and relationships. When leaders don’t genuinely and openly seek feedback, or don’t receive it well, they can be derailed by what they don’t know. It doesn’t mean that every bit of feedback leaders receive is accurate, but it is a perception—and perceptions are reality for people. They have real impact. And we can’t act on these perceptions unless we are aware of them.

What behaviors do we see in leaders who are more aware of themselves and others? My Holistic Leadership Competency Model (© 2016 by J L Funk & Associates) describes several key behaviors that are observable, and that can be further developed. Leaders who are more self-aware know how to:

  • Learn from their experiences and mistakes
  • Build and manage collaborative and positive relationships
  • Effectively facilitate and mediate conflict resolution
  • Communicate and listen effectively
  • Seek and act on feedback from others
  • Put others at ease through their presence and disposition
  • Regulate their own emotions and make adjustments in their behavior as appropriate
  • Respond appropriately to the emotions of others

Why are these skills important? If we think about what leaders need to be able to do to be effective, it boils down to creating a vision, getting others to follow and actualize the mission and vision, and produce results. People follow leaders they can trust, and who are able to inspire them to contribute to the mission and vision with their full engagement and passion—not just to do a job. But when self-awareness and the accompanying behaviors are missing, fear and negative stress are created in the workplace. Thinking back to our three examples, these leaders are not self-aware. Their inability to effectively communicate and ask for feedback has left them in the dark about their employees’ concerns. As a result, they aren’t getting the full engagement of their team members, who may quietly move on to other job opportunities.

What can leaders do to boost their awareness of themselves and others? Here are 10 ideas you can implement, whether you are in a leadership role or a member of a team:

  1. Ask for feedback regularly, and thank people for giving it (even if it isn’t what you wanted to hear)
  2. Engage in reflective practices, such as meditation and mindfulness to increase focus and concentration
  3. Make an explicit and public statement of your intention to be aware of your blind spots, your presence, and to place a high value on your relationships
  4. Practice stress management techniques and improve your work/life balance
  5. Acknowledge your emotions, learn your triggers for negative emotions, and develop ways to change your emotional reactions
  6. Walk around, be curious about what people are doing and notice their reactions to you
  7. Practice active listening and validate what you are hearing
  8. Practice humility, acknowledging mistakes and asking forgiveness
  9. Check your alignment by comparing what you say with what you do
  10. Take a formal assessment of your Emotional Intelligence with a validated test instrument. I recommend the EQ-i2.0 by MHS Assessments, which must be given by an authorized partner. (There is a cost. Contact me for more information.)

We also learn a lot through our experiences, and from the experiences and stories of others. I invite you to share stories about how you have uncovered your own blind spots, and how you have been able to increase your own awareness. Further, share how this awareness impacted your own effectiveness as a leader. You can reply to this post, or contact me directly by e-mailing me at jim@jlfunk.com.

Jim Funk is a consultant who helps leaders, teams and organizations discover and develop their full potential. He is passionate in believing that strong leadership competence combined with the leader’s personal characteristics, values and virtues are key to achieving goals and driving business results. In addition to his work at J L Funk & Associates, Jim has served on various boards and commissions, and is currently a member of the Economy of Communion in North America Commission. Learn more about Jim’s work at www.jlfunk.com and www.linkedin.com/in/jlfunk.

Is Your Leadership Balanced?

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By Jim Funk

Tightrope Walker Balancing on the Rope
A lot of attention is given to work/life balance these days. But that term suggests there is some magical place where, if we can find it, we are spending just the right amount of time and energy on our career versus everything else.

Of course there is no magic formula for balance, and leaders often find that their work crosses over into many other aspects of their life—whether that means taking work home, staying late at the office, or even taking the laptop on vacation and getting online while sitting under an umbrella at the beach. Granted, the demands of leadership rarely fit neatly into a 9 to 5, Monday through Friday box. Leaders may spend time thinking about their goals, worrying about a struggling employee, or stressing over an upcoming difficult conversation even as they are drifting off to sleep. That is sometimes the work of leadership—to ruminate over problems and generate ideas when they have time to think.

So what do we mean by “balanced” when it comes to leadership, and how do leaders split their time between work and other aspects of life? I would propose that balance isn’t only a matter of how much time is spent on various activities, but it is also about how much mental energy and focus is given to those activities. For example, when you are sitting at the dinner table with friends or family, where are your thoughts? Are you rehashing a conversation you had at work or are you paying attention to what someone is saying to you in the moment? Maybe you’re jumping back and forth, missing parts of conversations while you mentally replay parts of your day. Research shows that the human brain cannot focus well on more than one thought at a time. That’s why the failure to be mentally present is one way leaders become out of balance. It takes discipline to turn work thoughts off when there is something else we need to focus on in the moment, and it also calls for trust in our own capability to address the issue later and not let it distract us in the meantime.

And what about working while on vacation? I must admit that I have exchanged work emails on my smart phone while watching our kids play tennis at our vacation spot. Sometimes leadership and other professional roles are so demanding that a quick response is called for, and we cannot let something wait until we return or have someone else handle it. And yet I would challenge myself and other leaders to make arrangements so that others know when we are not available, and so that we can trust others whom we have put in charge to use their judgment and abilities.

It’s not that I’m suggesting that leaders can or should completely separate work from the rest of their life, or minimize its importance. Work is an important part of one’s life, livelihood, and contribution of talent and skill. Rather, I am talking about balance and focus. It’s about being present with the people in front of us, rather than being a thousand miles away in our thoughts about work. It is also about regularly engaging in rejuvenating and restorative practices, and caring for ourselves so we have the energy and good health to be attentive to all the important aspects of life. That includes taking vacations and finding “down time” when we can put work aside and engage our minds and hearts—and time—in our other needs, and the needs of others.

A danger sign to watch for is negative “isms” that can creep into our lives. These tend to be extreme, and they can get that way before we are even aware of it. Examples are workaholism, dualism, egoism, and hedonism. But what is the difference between a healthy commitment to working hard in a job that sometimes demands many hours of our time, and workaholism? I think the difference is a question of who is in control. Are we really working because we have to, or because we are addicted to the “high” that amazing accomplishments can give us? Are we able to turn off our thoughts about work issues when we need to pay attention to other obligations and commitments, and turn our minds to other things and to the people we love? I suspect there are times when people put undue pressure on themselves at work because it’s become a habit or a compulsion. Achieving perfection can feel good in the beginning, but it can become addictive and pay diminishing returns, especially when other parts of your life suffer.

As I read back over what I have written so far, I must admit it sounds a bit “preachy,” and perhaps comes off as critical of people who work hard. But I am speaking from my own experience. There were years in my early career when I usually worked many hours a week over 40 because I was motivated to do a good job, and I was just doing what I felt was required. Now as I reflect on those years, I can see I was out of balance. I didn’t know how to reign it in.

What can we do to check our balance? Here are some steps, some of which may take courage and an open mind:

  1. Track your time for two weeks, in 15-minute intervals, both at work and outside of work. How are you actually spending your time? When you review the results at the end of two weeks, what surprises you? What would you like to change?
  2. When you are engaging in a project that will take a great deal of your time or cause you to put other important activities aside, ask yourself honestly what will happen if the project doesn’t get done. If it’s a must-do task, explore whether parts or all of it can be delegated. Also check whether the due date is reasonable or negotiable.
  3. Learn to say “no” to work or time consuming activities that are not as important as someone else thinks they are. Every time you agree to do something, you give up time that could be spent on something else. Time is more fixed than money. If you are crafty, you can figure out ways to earn more money, but you cannot create more than 24 hours in a day or 7 days in a week. You can only use it more wisely.
  4. Ask close friends and family what they observe about your work/life balance. Do they feel you are mentally present or preoccupied when you’re with them? Tell them you really want their honest feedback, and thank them when they provide it—even if it isn’t what you wanted to hear.
  5. Do some self-reflection on the aspects in your life that are in balance, and those that aren’t. You can divide them into what could be called the wheel of 8 Fs:

Friends
Finances
Fitness (health)
Firm (work)
Fun (recreation)
Family
Faith (spirituality)
Faithful Companionship (spouse, significant other, etc.)

Which of these could use some improvement? A wheel that is not round is a pretty rough ride. What aspects would you like to get into better balance? You can’t work on everything at once, but pick the top category or two that need the most attention. Remember you may need to pull back on one of the Fs to dedicate more time to an area that’s been neglected. A coach or mentor could help identify some strategies.

Holistic Leader Competencies - BalancedBalance is one of the nine attributes of my holistic leadership model. Holistic leaders understand the importance of balance, and are willing to do what it takes to achieve it. These leaders also know the importance of modeling balance, because they know that others—particularly those who report to them—will often emulate their work habits because they think they will be judged in a more favorable light by their boss.

What habits of balance are you modeling? And if this is an area of difficulty for you, what are you willing to do to make some changes? I invite you to reply to this blog or write to me at jim@jlfunk.com and share your story of balance—perhaps a change you were able to make to become better balanced, and what difference it has made in your life.

 

Jim Funk is a consultant who helps leaders, teams and organizations discover and develop their full potential. He is passionate in believing that strong leadership competence combined with the leader’s personal characteristics, values and virtues are key to achieving goals and driving business results. In addition to his work at J L Funk & Associates, Jim has served on various boards and commissions, and is currently a member of the Economy of Communion in North America Commission. Learn more about Jim’s work at www.jlfunk.com and www.linkedin.com/in/jlfunk or e-mail him at jim@jlfunk.com

Meeting with Pope Francis

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by Jim Funk

31938707243_712b0fa5d6_oI never imagined I would get a chance to meet with the Pope.  When I got the invitation, I thought maybe I was dreaming. As the owner of a business in the Economy of Communion (EoC) network, I’ve run my business striving to follow principles that keep the person in the center of what we do, serve the common good, and attend to the needs of others. Pope Francis has been interested in the success of the EoC model, which is why he invited EoC entrepreneurs to meet with him at the Vatican in February 2017.

Although you may be thinking that the EoC is only relevant for Catholic or non-profit businesses, that’s definitely not the case.  Rather than focusing on religion, the EoC upholds principles that can (and should) apply to all businesses. In the meeting, we discussed how we can drive this message home and make a real impact in the world.

In short, Pope Francis was calling for a new economy. He put the challenge this way: “We must work toward changing the rules of the game of the socio-economic system. Imitating the Good Samaritan of the Gospel is not enough.” (Click here to read the full text of the Pope’s speech.)

Pope Francis started out by acknowledging that contemporary culture does not typically put the words economy and communion together. But he told us that by introducing into the economy the “good seed” of communion, we have begun a profound change in the way of seeing and living business. He said business can edify and promote communion among people, and that the economy becomes “more beautiful” when it’s comprised of the communion of goods, talents, and profits.  Pope Francis went on to say, “Money is important, especially when there is none, and food, school, and the children’s future depend on it. But it becomes an idol when it becomes the aim.” My takeaway from these words is that money must not be an end in itself, but rather a means for individuals and communities to flourish—for people to be able to use their talents to work toward creating good products and services.

In describing the responsibilities of business leaders, the Pope said we need to ensure not only that our profits are used for the good of others, but also that we as leaders give of ourselves. He made it clear that money is only part of the equation. What he said is needed most is our spirit, respect, humility, and a desire to change the structures of the economy.

How can we do this? The Economy of Communion provides five principles for businesses that are a part of their network to follow:

  • Build sound relationships based on mutual respect, care, and open communication
  • Foster participative environments by promoting teamwork and encouraging innovation, creativity and responsibility
  • Build cohesive and healthy organizations
  • Adapt the highest ethical standards
  • Voluntarily share business profits to provide direct aid for people in need, and to develop educational projects to foster a culture of giving

Actually, there are many businesses beyond the 850 or so members of the EoC that follow principles like these, and that have similar statements listed in their mission and core values. And as I have reflected on the message of Pope Francis since returning to the U.S., I feel he was speaking not only to Economy of Communion businesses, but to any business that strives to produce goods, services, and work that are “good” for people and for the world.

How is this accomplished? In every organization, it is the leaders who establish the mission, vision, values, strategic goals, and objectives to produce the desired results. While these leaders must obviously be competent and capable of driving results, I would maintain that they also must be “holistic leaders.”

Holistic leaders bring their whole selves to their leadership role, and they integrate their characteristics into the way they lead. They lead with moral character, humility, justice, compassion, transparency, trust and authenticity, as well as with the absolutely critical functional competencies that lead others to achieve results. These leaders also have the heart of a servant—that is, they have a natural desire to serve others, and to focus on people and their needs.

IMG_1251bThese are the leaders, in my view, who can walk the talk when it comes to implementing these principles, and who can produce the communion of goods, talents, and profits that Pope Francis referred to. But it requires not only a willingness to give; it involves the gift of the entrepreneur’s own person—the gift of self, as Pope Francis said.

How can you implement these ideas in your leadership, or your business?

  • Consider what resonates with you about these ideas, and what would enhance your leadership or your business. Which of the principles discussed by Pope Francis and the EoC would you like to incorporate?
  • You may wish to revisit your mission and values statements, and then identify new strategies or action steps that would align with your mission and values.
  • Learn more about the Economy of Communion, and consider joining. Click here for information.
  • Plan to attend EoC North American events for entrepreneurs and others interested in learning more about the EoC. (Click here for information)
  • Click here to view a short (3 ½ minute) video about the February 4, 2017 meeting of the Economy of Communion with Pope Francis.

Please feel free to respond to this post, or write to me at jim@jlfunk.com. And if you want to spread these business and leadership principles, please “like” and “share” this post!

Jim Funk is a consultant who helps leaders, teams and organizations discover and develop their full potential. He is passionate in believing that strong leadership competence combined with the leader’s personal characteristics, values and virtues are key to achieving goals and driving business results. In addition to his work at J L Funk & Associates, Jim has served on various boards and commissions, and is currently a member of the Economy of Communion in North America Commission. Learn more about Jim’s work at www.jlfunk.com and www.linkedin.com/in/jlfunk or e-mail him at jim@jlfunk.com.

Is Transparency Always a Good Thing?

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by Jim Funk

Businesswoman and question mark on blackboardThe news I received last month was unexpected, disappointing, and maddening. My alma mater, St. Joseph’s College, announced they would be “suspending operations” at their Rensselaer, Indiana campus after the end of the spring semester. This decision was made by the Board of Trustees, based on a dire financial situation at the college that the majority of the members believed could not be turned around. The students, faculty, alumni, and town were all caught off guard. The Alumni Association responded quickly, saying they believe the college can be saved. They are undertaking a major fundraising effort on their own to try and reverse the decision, but only time will tell whether their efforts will work.

There have been criticisms leveled at the Board and Administration for not being transparent about the financial situation, and not acting early enough to properly address the problem. The backlash, and the ultimate result that the school is suspending operations, may be indicators that transparency was needed long before now. The Chairman of the Board recently issued a statement saying that they thought sending out an SOS would have been unproductive. The Board thought that sharing information about the school’s financial hardships would discourage potential donors from giving, rather than encourage them to help. I would also guess there was a lot of discussion about whether students would continue to come to St. Joseph’s if they knew of the financial problems. We don’t know the answer, but we do know that many people are upset, and now the future of the college is in jeopardy.

I know from my years working in Human Resources that there are many situations discussed in the administrative suites and board rooms of companies and organizations—in practically any industry—that beg the question of transparency. When those in charge know certain facts, their communication choices can be critical. For example, in a situation where there are likely going to be layoffs, prudence calls for a well-thought out communication plan that has a clear sequence of steps, timing and messaging. Most leaders easily see why such care and planning is necessary. What about situations that are not so clear-cut, or where there is disagreement among the decision-makers about what information should be shared?

Opening the books: A decision of transparency

I decided to do a little more research on transparency in the business world. I spoke with Anne Godbout, Executive Director of Spiritours, an Economy of Communion business located in Montreal, Quebec. I know Anne to be an honest and forthright leader, so I asked her whether she had ever gone through a time when she found transparency to be a challenge.  It didn’t take her long to think of a situation she recently faced. She told me how her company was not able to meet their financial goals last year, so she had to inform the employees that there would not be a team bonus. Later one of the employees found out that the company had made a significant donation to a charity during the previous year. The employee started telling other employees about it, and suggested it was probably the cause of the financial shortfall that resulted in no bonuses.

When Anne learned of this, she considered sharing the company’s financial records with all the employees—something she had not done before. Of course, a private company has no obligation to open their books to the employees, but she thought that maybe it would help them understand there were other factors involved, and the charitable contribution was not the cause. She worried, though, because she said it’s tricky to show employees financial information that they may not fully understand. Despite the risk of further misunderstanding, she decided to go ahead and review the company’s books with all the employees in order to reassure them and rebuild trust. After doing so, she said she felt right away she had done the right thing. The employees better understood the situation and appreciated Anne’s openness with them. Now she continues to share financial records with them, as she believes they deserve to know more about matters that could impact them, and they deserve to feel trusted. In turn, she finds they trust her more, too.

Holistic Leadership calls for transparencyholistic-leader-competencies-transparent

In my Holistic Leadership competency model, being transparent is one of the nine characteristics that is critical to successful leadership and successful organizations. Holistic leaders are open, honest, direct, and forthright in the way they act and communicate. This doesn’t mean they are indiscriminate with the timing or the information that is shared. Rather, they understand when people are being impacted by certain situations and they willingly share the information that matters at the appropriate time. These leaders communicate clearly in a direct and honest fashion, which earns respect from colleagues.

But is transparency always a good thing?

It is a fair question to ask. Surely everyone isn’t always on a need-to-know basis. How does the leader know when and how to be transparent? Such decisions require the leader to:

1) Take time to reflect on the implications of transparency, and of withholding information;

2) Talk with trusted confidants or other colleagues who can share honest feedback and advice;

3) Display courage in meetings with other decision-makers by speaking up when the decision or the communication plan doesn’t seem right.

Of these three, I would actually list the last one as the most important, and in some ways the most difficult. Courage is not only critical to making good decisions about transparency, but also to the initial decision itself. Leaders must ask themselves: Is the decision the right thing to do? And when we communicate this news, can we do so with honesty and integrity, knowing we made our best decision?

To do what is truly right, there is a sequence, place and time for transparency, so that it does not create unnecessary misunderstandings or pre-empt the elements of a good communication plan.

Going back to my opening story, I hope that St. Joseph’s College will somehow recover from their current financial crisis. I look back fondly on my four years at the institution. I found it to be an exceptional and unique educational experience that prepared me well for my career and my life. I love their motto, “Involved for Life,” which is truly what they teach and encourage in their graduates. If there is an opportunity to take the college into the future, people will expect the leaders to be vigilant about communicating with the transparency that was missing in recent years.

We can all learn from these difficult lessons. Things don’t automatically get better if we avoid sharing bad news. In tough situations, the smartest thing we can do is to consider the people involved and the possible outcomes of disclosing information. Leaders who go through this process will be respected by their colleagues, even when they are faced with delivering bad news.

 

Jim Funk is a consultant who helps leaders, teams and organizations discover and develop their full potential. He is passionate in believing that strong leadership competence combined with the leader’s personal characteristics, values and virtues are key to achieving goals and driving business results. In addition to his work at J L Funk & Associates, Jim has served on various boards and commissions, and is currently a member of the Economy of Communion in North America Commission. Learn more about Jim’s work at www.jlfunk.com and www.linkedin.com/in/jlfunk or e-mail him at jim@jlfunk.com.

Three Secrets to Becoming a Trusted Leader

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by Jim Funk

Teamwork couple climbing helping handTrust must be earned. But how do leaders earn the trust of colleagues, superiors, and the people they lead? To begin with, leaders must be competent. If they don’t possess strong leadership capabilities it is difficult to trust that they will lead their team to achieve the desired results. Secondly, they must have character. Leaders are not only skill sets, but they are people who bring their whole selves and their character traits to their leadership roles. It is the leader as a person who earns the trust of others. And finally, to be trusted, leaders must be vulnerable. They must be willing to be transparent, humble and honest in admitting their mistakes, and acknowledging that they don’t have all the answers.

This may sound good in theory, but to find out how this plays out in the real world I interviewed leaders of three successful organizations who are highly trusted by the people they work with.

  1. Competency

Leaders earn trust by demonstrating their competence. Grant Marsh is the General Manager of The Guild House, one of the restaurants owned by Cameron Mitchell Restaurants based in Columbus, Ohio. Grant earned the respect of several of his team members one evening by demonstrating the competencies of prudent decision-making, effective conflict management, and holding others accountable for their behavior.

As he described it, this situation was a case of “the customer is not always right.” A few guests ended up having too much to drink, and they became demanding, rude and abusive to some of the staff. Grant confronted the guests, and upon assessing the situation he made the decision to ask them to leave. They were not too happy about him taking that action, to say the least.

Some restaurant managers might be reluctant to take that step, lest the guests become angry and later badmouth the restaurant that threw them out. But a trusted leader makes the right decision and does not allow guests to disrespect the staff. Even at a restaurant that proudly proclaims they serve “a lot of love on every plate,” staff should be able to trust that their leader will have their backs. In addition, Grant pointed out that such a decision will also be respected by other guests who witness it, and will build trust with them as well.

  1. Character

When leaders have to make difficult decisions and lead employees through tough times, things go much smoother when they are trusted because of their character. Blake Dye is President of St.Vincent Heart Center in Indianapolis. At St.Vincent, as well as in another facility he previously led, he is consistently described by his fellow executives as a person of character who is highly trusted. I met with Blake to discuss his leadership more in depth, and as we talked, I listened for aspects of his character that enabled him to build trust so effectively.

He gave a specific example of a time when the trust he had built helped employees accept reductions in future retirement benefits, which had to be made because the plan was more costly than the organization could afford. In some workplaces, such a change would bring much discontent and erode trust in the administration, but that was not the case in Blake’s facility. In redesigning the plan, Blake first gathered input about the change and how to best communicate it. He respected peoples’ opinions, and worked with them in a collaborative way. When the decision was communicated, the leadership team was all on the same page, speaking as one voice about the reasons for the change and how employees could best manage it. And it wasn’t just lip service—it was authentic.

The character traits Blake demonstrated in this situation were his value for relationships, people, inclusivity, fairness, compassion, reliability and honesty. As Blake said when we wrapped up our conversation, these are among the character traits critical to earning and maintaining trust. Without them, not only will it be difficult to make the right decision, but there will not be trust.

  1. Vulnerability

John Mundell, President of Mundell & Associates environmental consulting firm, an Economy of Communion business, shared with me an example that illustrates the importance of being vulnerable as a leader. When a recent issue arose with a client, he called a meeting to discuss it. People were intent on offering their solutions, but they weren’t really listening to each other. As the boss, John was tempted to make a final decision and bring the discussion to an end, but he realized his solution wasn’t necessarily the ideal choice. He decided to make sure everyone in the room had a chance to share their thoughts.

After being silent for most of the discussion, one of the youngest and least experienced members of the team finally spoke up. She offered a combination of the ideas that had been presented, along with her own special twist. There was a brief silence when she finished, then one of the senior managers said, in a bit of amazement, “I think she just nailed it!”

As they left the meeting that morning, John knew it was a teaching moment for everyone. No one, not even the boss, always has the right answer. Given the opportunity, anyone can make significant contributions. But that only happens when leaders can be vulnerable and give their colleagues a chance to shine.

Holistic Leadershipholistic-leader-competencies-trusted

In my Holistic Leadership competency model, being trusted is one of nine characteristics critical to successful leadership and successful organizations. If you are a leader, how would your employees rate you on your competence, character, and vulnerability? Consider asking these questions in your next employee engagement survey, or in a 360° appraisal of your performance. The answer just might be a good indicator of how highly you are trusted!

Jim Funk is a consultant who helps leaders, teams and organizations discover and develop their full potential. He is passionate in believing that strong leadership competence combined with the leader’s personal characteristics, values and virtues are key to achieving goals and driving business results. In addition to his work at J L Funk & Associates, Jim has served on various boards and commissions, and is currently a member of the Economy of Communion in North America Commission. Learn more about Jim’s work at www.jlfunk.com and www.linkedin.com/in/jlfunk or e-mail him at jim@jlfunk.com.