Just a little over nine months ago my brother in-law Tim Lynch passed away after a courageous battle with cancer. As much as going through that process was heart wrenching and painful, both Tim and his family were grateful for the time that he had to share his thoughts and feelings with his family and those he cared about. I have reflected on the things that he spoke about and want share them with you as a lesson about what is at the core of performance leadership.
On the weekend that he found out that he had only a few weeks to live he sat on the porch swing overlooking the Red Deer River Valley and the place that had been his home his entire life. With his family and friends gathered around him he felt compelled to speak to some things that he had come to realize as a result of his journey. With tears in his eyes he looked around at his children and shared these things;
1. Don't waste all your time working
2. Take time every day for your family and those you love
3. Let your word be your bond
4. Be respectful to all
5. Be true to yourself
I am sure we have all heard these admonitions before but for me they carried extra import given Tim's circumstances and the fervor in which he communicated them. For Tim some of these admonitions were regrets that he had not taken the time to do them more and other points were just a part of who he was.
So what do these things have to do with performance leadership? In a word, everything! The core of performance leadership is founded on the principles that guide you in your interaction with people be they your team or employees or your circle of friends and loved ones. Let's look at each of these points.
Don't waste all your time working. This speaks to a key principle that your team, your people are there to do a good job but that job does not define them. They want to do right by you and the company but there is so much more to who they are and if you try to prescribe their worth based on hours logged each day you do them and yourself a disservice.
The next point is directly related to the first; Take time every day for your family and those you love. As I wrote about in an earlier blog research has begun to show us that a healthy work environment is key to a better home and personal life not the other way around. As counter-intuitive as that may sound ask yourself, when work is going well don't things at home seem to go better too? Part of your role as a performance leader is to create a work environment that is healthy, acknowledges your staff as people and encourages them in growing in all areas of their lives.
Let your word be your bond. Everyone wants to know how they are doing and where they stand with you, their boss and their peers. You owe it to them to be honest about the things that impact them and to be the kind of leader that sticks to their word. Nothing is more demoralizing than having a leader who breaks promises or worse yet outright lies. We are social creatures and trust is the glue that keeps those social bonds strong whether at work or at home. This also ties into being respectful to all. When someone is struggling it is a huge disrespect to not be honest with them and help them with it. To wait until they fail is really your failure as a leader. How many times have you said "If only they had told me, or if only I had known?" Respect your staff enough to be honest with them.
Lastly be true to yourself. This is not only good advice for you but also something you need to propagate with your team. Companies, or business units or business teams have a nasty habit of forcing people into molds. We begin to use the same language, dress the same way, look at the work and the world the same way and stagnate the same way. You need to foster an environment of letting people not only be themselves but also to ensure everyone on the team does so as well.. (See Be Respectful to All) We need diversity of skills, abilities and perspectives as these are crucial to creating a high performing team.
Ultimately then the core of effective performance leadership is how you treat and lead the people on your team. Are they valued for who they are and the perspective they bring to the group? Do your foster a milieu of respect and honesty and do you take the time to get to know them as people?
These are good things to remember whether at work or at home. And while I know that Tim felt that he had fallen short in some of these he clearly hit the mark on others. He touched a lot of lives as the crowd of over 500 at his funeral could attest to. Be that kind of leader.