Ask Bracher (Questions &
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on December 5, 2007
Jane Bracher wind below firm's wings
For the past six years, our firm has recognized the valuable contributions of a former employee, Clyde W. Klaumann, by identifying the service-excellence of colleagues. Recipients have exhibited common traits: intensity, sensitivity and follow-through, along side integrity, quality, perseverance, loyalty and professionalism. Regardless of organizational size, structure or function, there is great benefit in recognizing those who have “gone the extra mile.” Acknowledging, publicly, valuable contributions is important, and memorializing them can be magic.
So, thank you to my business partner of 27 years and my best friend and wife of 41 years - Jane K. Bracher - 2008 recipient of Clyde W. Klaumann Award, having recently retired as President of the Bracher Center for Integrity in Leadership.
Jane Bracherdirected the growth and impact of the Bracher Center for Integrity in Leadership, beginning in 2002, an extension of Dimension Five Consultants, Inc., an executive management consultancy, previously founded in 1980. Addressing management and leadership development concerns, for national and international clients, Jane oversaw the expansion of the organization’s impact from a few word-of-mouth referrals, to a resource for identifying talent, domestically and internationally, while building teams for organizational impact and profit. Originally hired, for only two weeks part-time, to manage finances, her responsibilities expanded from accounting to operations, culminating with her becoming President.
Jane directed the building of a respected consulting enterprise, established in 1980, and which, until December, 2007, was located in Monterey, California; now relocated to nearby Carmel. Jane simultaneously has scaled down the firm’s activities from national and international assignments to primarily regional projects.
In 1993, Jane renamed Dimension Five’s individual leadership assessment approach, originally called profiling. She saw ways to better leverage the value-added impact of their executive effectiveness process, building a consulting approach into a brand, called a leadership Portrait. The value-added dimension of this approach would provide clients with a powerful differentiator. Instead of focusing on how people currently behaved, using a standard organizational development approach, Jane saw that focusing on the potential of the individual would better enable clients to capitalize on processing speed, building on the foundation that informed and accurate self-awareness could enable individuals to even more positively impact organizational growth. Jane’s emphasis on positive public relations enabled their consultation approach to be featured on network television, in national newspapers and business journals. Jane and Jim Bracher were the originators of the "Talking with Leaders" symposia, celebrating their first ten years of Dimension Five Consultants in 1990.
Jane’s built and strengthened a consulting business by leveraging her own intensity, sensitivity and follow-through; along side her integrity, quality, perseverance, loyalty and professionalism.
When pet owners respect others, society wins
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on December 26, 2007
A dog owner, old enough to know better, was allowing her dog to relieve itself on the front steps of a bank, at Noontime, as customers were entering the institution. When asked if she would tolerate that very same animal behavior at her front door, she rebutted: "You must not own a dog!"
Since when is the entrance to a bank a dog run, or a cat-box?
Disappointing as your illustration is, it is not shocking, which is sad. Social and cultural integrity depends upon mutual respect – for persons and property – including pets. Just about everyone can tell horror stories of insensitivities, including loud talk in quiet restaurants, unwashed and foul-smelling fellow travelers at 28,000 feet and children run-amok in retail settings. I love children, pets and adults – but certain parameters are appropriate – for each.
As a child, my parents provided me with many pets, some requiring more attention than others; but always, certain rules were in place. We cared for our pets, not allowing them to intrude on the comfort zones of others. One instance involved a visiting family whose teenage daughter was terrified by dogs (including my special golden retriever, Skippy) because she had been mauled by an aggressive dog when she was much younger. When those guests arrived, my Skippy was not allowed to be seen. We simply were practicing good manners and social sensitivity.
We were taught that the social contract between and among human beings should not be violated, including respect for the boundaries between and among people, including behaviors of pets. Violating comfort zones, health rules and personal lifestyles is not a way to build healthy communities, small or large. The “all about me” style – my needs, my priorities and my way – including the prerogatives of my pet – do not encourage civility.
Courtesy is not a complicated concept and your question about respect and animal behavior is really more about how human beings treat one another. Our social contract, including basic self-disciplines encouraging civil discourse and respect for those with whom we live and work, separates us from lower forms of life.
Civilized human beings (and domesticated pets):
- Treat others the way they want to be treated, which is a step above simply treating them the way you would want to be treated – because their expectations might be different.
- Expect few others to treasure what you value, in the same ways.
- Restrict creating chaos (offensive noise and odors) that intrude on the rights, comfort and health concerns of others.
Integrity – including the self-discipline and respect exhibited by pets and their masters – matters!
CSUMB cagers show integrity
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on December 12, 2007
On Dec. 5, the Division I men's basketball team from California State University, Fresno, was within seconds of being upset by Division II's California State University, Monterey Bay, but managed to prevail.
What makes this so interesting is that CSUMB, a small university, even with the loss, communicated that integrity matters.
CSUMB's disappointing 85-80 overtime defeat still demonstrated the team has sufficient heart to put a scare into a far better funded program that has tallied almost as many recruiting violations as wins.
Intercollegiate sports should teach sportsmanship, encourage physical fitness and build school pride.
What might all organizations and their leaders learn from a college basketball program that is currently 1 and 7? CSUMB's loss Dec. 5 exemplifies "integrity-centered" conduct. Playing by the rules, underscores that CSUMB President Dianne Harrison's leadership priorities include doing things right as well as doing the right things. Fair play, tenacity, maturity and sportsmanship are non-negotiables - in both victory and defeat. It also shows that Athletic Director Howard Gauthier transmits these principles to coaches and staff, positively impacting the actions of players and fans.
CSUMB values support integrity in sports and promotes these principles:
- Strive for excellence in all that we do.
- Develop leaders.
- Compete to win championships, always.
- Student-athletes are to attend all of their classes and graduate, while preparing for life after college.
- Student-athletes and their leaders are role models and are expected to present themselves as such all the time.
- Programs are to operate with the highest level of integrity.
- Fiscal responsibility means being good stewards of resources.
- Teams are to be active and engage with the community by participating in reading programs, camps and clinics, food drives, Make-a-Wish and the like.
- Teams show appreciation by giving back.
- Coaches and players will work together as colleagues and partners on campus and within the larger community.
Because wholesome living is more than winning at all costs, let's showcase those exhibiting integrity-centered behaviors everywhere!
Record books should note athletes who doped
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on January 2, 2008
Should sports record books reflect "doping" abuses?
A “yes” answer seems obvious, assuming that ethical principles constitute the foundation for legitimate competition at all levels. When the rules find an abuser, the individual should be the loser! Cheating violates the integrity of sports, amateur and professional. Cheating taints reputations of individuals and organizations, risks both physical and mental health and complicates competition while compromising awards. Cheating fuels anxiety among those who play by the rules because they know they are like to lose to cheaters. Even so, statistics – from drug testing – confirm that most athletes play fairly. So, nice folks don’t necessarily finish last, unless competitors are taking illegal or immoral short cuts. And the abusers seem to have made no exceptions.
Golf, historically, has considered its talent-pool from the Professional Golfers Association (PGA) as the very epitome of a game of integrity. However, today, even the PGA is discussing anti-doping regulations. When glitz replaces finesse and trash talk elbows out graciousness and class – problems are likely to follow.
Athletes, who “juice” themselves, do so, so they say, to excite certain fans with faster running, longer hitting, including ever-more circus-like performances. Superhuman athletic feats create an atmosphere where agents and owners collaborate to reward those who can “raise the bar” to dizzying heights. The tradition of level playing fields and superior leadership behavior by athletes and owners seems to have devolved to money and immediate gratification – with increasing disregard for individual health or sports integrity.
For starters, note the name of the very process of cleaning up sports competition; it is called an “anti-doping” process. Knowing the harm that comes to those who invade the human body with these kinds of foreign substances – to enhance performance - begs the question: do dopes take dope?
The Oxford American College Dictionary defines dope as a drug:
- taken illegally for recreational purposes, especially marijuana or heroin
- given to a racehorse or greyhound to inhibit or enhance performance.
- given to an athlete to improve performance
- and, the final insult, dope is “an informal term for a stupid person.”
The use of dope is unwise and places those who do choose to ingest banned substances, for recreation or performance enhancement purposes, in a very insulting category. Dope is for self-destructive human beings, animals bred for racing and for not-very-intelligent individuals.
Doping is dumb, short-sighted and illegal. The immediate-gratification, including awards, rewards and recognition is small payment for bodies and minds permanently damaged. The ending of doping, in sports-activities and contemporary culture, is about a great deal more than sober proms, holiday parties and fairness of athletic competition - it is about the integrity of society.
Hope, education reduce crime
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on January 9, 2008
How can crime be reduced?
Education! But, even before providing culture-building learning opportunities; the unquestionable need is for hope. Optimism, enthusiasm and confidence must become “givens” for the youngest and most vulnerable members of society. And, who will provide this education for hope? Concerned citizens!
Successful leaders, by nature are optimistic. They own, operate, direct and sustain organizations both public and private - with one goal: do well for and with those they serve. Consistent quality, service and financial strength cause organizations to prosper. Effective organizations provide meaningful work, on-going training, career opportunities, and hope for those on whom they depend for success. Should society-at-large operate any differently? No.
Successful individuals are skilled, with confidence in their abilities. They have no need to lie, cheat, steal or murder. There are disappointing exceptions to that rule, but betting on quality education and optimism remains the odds-on choice.
Hope-inspiring education is step one for success, starting with responsible parents who instill life-affirming family values. Next come teachers and coaches who pass along intellectual, athletic and practical insights. To even further utilize education to build constructive lives, personally and professionally, practical applications must be combined with inspiring and realistic hope.
Crime prevention, according to criminologists, prestigious commissions and research bodies, can be tied to education. They agree that governments must go beyond law enforcement and criminal justice to tackle the risk factors that cause crime. Literacy is key. These experts know prevention is more cost effective and leads to greater social benefits than the standard ways of responding to crime with suppression. Preventing anti-social behaviors requires capturing mindshare, early, and is the best crime-reduction approach for all youth, especially those at greatest risk.
Opinion polls confirm public support for investment in prevention, including education. Mentoring programs can combine information with inspiration – whether through schools, religious institutions or social-service organizations. If you are reading this column, then you can help.
Identify your own skills and abilities, reflecting what has caused you to succeed.
Communicate your desire to help the next generation by offering to:
- Read to young students.
- Lead a youth activity – scouting, sports, debate, fishing, boating.
- Counsel those who want to know “how” to achieve their career objectives.
- Provide financial assistance to goal-directed students.
- Emphasize the importance of preparation, optimism and follow-through.
By offering younger people enriched opportunities, combined with hope, individuals and communities gain strength, reduce crime, save lives and improve productivity.
Clear brand beats hard times
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on January 16, 2008
What is the key to economic success in hard times?
Integrity and hard work! Consistency in performance excellence will win in most competitive situations. When business environments become more challenging, customer scrutiny increases, frequently demanding more, for less. To combat these challenges, in addition to hard work and integrity, marketing savvy is a must.
Effective marketing persuades individuals to make a purchase. When potential-buyers become comfortable with quality, performance, price and on-going service; then the more likely he or she is to buy. Purchasing decisions are driven by knowledge of the product coupled with clarity regarding benefits.
Those who sell successfully create “top of mind awareness” – capturing mindshare; securing the confidence of prospects. Repetition of message, communicating brand, reflecting distinctive competencies, takes time, requiring intellectual effort and discipline.
Brand is the message about the core attributes of a product or service. Brand is reflected in every communication – from the way telephones are answered, emails handled, support materials presented, invoices sent and late payments collected. Brand is literally who the organization was, is and hopes to be. How brand is communicated is a strategic effort, directed by senior management and implemented through each delivery tactic, all the time. In marketing, it is the combination of clarity and consistency that reflects integrity; leveraging brand for success.
The magic in marketing resides in messages that are short, simple and “sticky.” Short messages have impact. Succinct communications confirm clarity, focus and discipline. Organizations, intending to remain competitive, need to articulate their product or service-mission in very few words. Simplicity is not about “dumbing-down” the message; rather it is about remembering President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address: combining everyday words that inform the mind; simultaneously touching the heart. Simple messages, easily repeated, will “stick” in prospects’ minds, more often than not, encouraging them to choose your products or services.
Success, in hard times, is reserved for those who are extremely clear about who they are, what they have to offer and how they operate. Consistency, clarity and simplicity – the essence of effective marketing – assists decision-makers to spend their money, with you.
And, your success depends upon your answers to these three questions:
- What is your brand (ten words or less)?
- How consistently is your brand communicated, internally with those who represent you, and externally to the marketplace you intend to serve?
- What steps are you taking to keep your brand relevant?
Economic success, especially in hard times, is consistently a by-product of integrity-centered leadership. Hard work and effective brand management generate rewards, recognition and impact; regardless of product or service.
Three terms; each reflecting integrity; summarize the necessary behavioral ingredients for success: intensity, sensitivity and follow-through.
New president sign of hope
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on January 23, 2008
My current outlook is somber: $4.00 per gallon of gasoline, costly and cumbersome health care, poisoned political environments, across the nation, matched by self-serving corporate vultures, plundering revenues for themselves. What can be done? Do you see any hope on the horizon?
Yes, and the hope starts at the top. Presidential elections in the United States of America provide an opportunity, every four years, to openly ask leaders to resurrect hope. The 2008 campaign should not become another tedious and repetitive joke perpetrated on a naïve public. Market-tested clichés need to be replaced by a refreshing openness that transforms standard political rhetoric into substantive, integrity-centered promises – that will be fulfilled, in timely ways.
Just as the tradition of New Year’s resolutions is an opportunity to “start with a clean slate” – with the desire to do better, so too is the process of choosing a President. With real estate prices declining nationally and the U.S. dollar in an apparent free-fall globally, the need is now for inspirational and compelling leadership.
Hope is a belief in a positive outcome even when there is evidence to the contrary. Hope implies perseverance, a persistent determination to adhere to a course of action, even in the face of adversity. Leaders owe legitimate hope to those they commit to serve. Hope starts with parental responsibilities to children; employers for employees, public and spiritual officials for constituents; and, yes, friends for friends and neighbors for neighbors. Hope is an emotion; whereas optimism is a conclusion reached through a deliberate thought pattern that leads to a positive attitude. Hope is inspired confidence and galvanizes commitment and action. Should voters settle for less in their leaders?
The next President of the United States needs to embody the magnetic hope that enables individuals, groups, communities and even nations to aspire and achieve – in dramatic and positive ways. Transformational leaders will see possibilities, even those not yet visible to many, and find the energizing framework to lift followers to a higher level.
In November, 2008, the 44th President of the United States of America must:
- see the positive possibilities of what can be
- clarify obstacles - honestly
- articilate the dream - concretely
- communicate a believable strategy
- convince an eager nation to say: “We can do it.”
- operate above partisan divisiveness
- fuel the drive for learning, quality and service
Our children and grandchildren, along with citizens around the world, are looking to us – the voters in the United States – to select the right President; the person who graciously embodies integrity, expressing that value with legitimate, responsible and inspirational – hope. Democracy depends upon an involved electorate – so, please - vote!
Apply 3 principles, ABCs toward achieving success
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on January 30, 2008
What are the steps to success, without compromising integrity?
Three implementation steps will help achieve success, in just about any endeavor, while maintaining constructive values. First, be clear about the purpose of the activity. Know what you want to accomplish, whether to build an enterprise, serve a customer, help nurture a child, or simply to have a good time. Know what RESULTS you intend to achieve and make sure others understand, appreciate and accommodate them; and vice-versa.
Two, communicate your commitment to uphold your principles in all aspects of the interaction. When your operating values are challenged, or simply ignored, whether about timeliness, quality and interpersonal sensitivity – push back, graciously and clearly. By so doing, you confirm your intention to live and work in a values-affirming environment.
Three, perseverance, consistent follow-through, is the standard that separates those with good ideas from winners who achieve results. An effective, and successful, Chief Executive, who for a decade utilized our consulting services, said that his primary job was to attend meetings and repeat things. His primary job was to make sure those who were to carry out the mission need to be reminded of the vision and values, regularly. Is this not the same for parents, elected leaders, bosses, partners and friends?
Parents, teachers, friends, spouses, employers, employees, entrepreneurs, public servants and spiritual leaders, in fact, conceivably just about all people have certain common values and priorities in their lives: the desire to do well and to do right by those with whom they associate. Each role carries responsibilities, even obligations that transform activities into legitimate partnerships.
So, here, once again, are the steps to success – A to Z:
Affirm values in all behaviors, all of the time.
Broadcast vision with enthusiasm and clarity.
Communicate mission through operational bench marks.
Dedicate toward victory as continuous improvement.
Examine obstacles beginning with self awareness.
Frame a winning strategy that galvanizes into tactics.
Gain support from colleagues and adversaries.
Handle resistance graciously.
Inspire acceptable options.
Join personal and professional priorities and seek integration.
Know when you have won; when enough is enough.
Listen for sources of self-doubt.
Master a process to conquer challenges.
Neutralize fear with clarity of direction.
Orchestrate resources respecting all stakeholders.
Prepare for emergencies and proceed with risk-taking awareness.
Question rigidity while respecting commitment.
Refuse to abdicate beliefs: values, vision, mission, objectives.
Savor achievements while remaining vigilant.
ransform boulders into building blocks, enemies into advocates.
tilize the wisdom of friends and loved ones.
alidate appropriate behaviors with timely recognition.
eld values to vision and leaders to people.
-ray your own motives and act only with integrity.
ield opinions to convictions.
ero-in on top priorities and celebrate success.
You recently celebrated your 41st wedding anniversary. What does it take to make a marriage lasting and meaningful?
On December 18, 2007, my wife, Jane, and I celebrated our 41st wedding anniversary. For marriages to last, while remaining vital and inspirational, integrity-centered friendship is essential. Being married to a saint helps!
In reality, prudent husbands and wives operate on the assumption that 100% partnerships are built on 80-20 give-and-take, each acknowledging that the other partner is likely and regularly giving the 80%. Not only does this assumption that the other person is doing most of the giving encourage extra tolerance when things become tense, but also this feeling frequently guarantees sincere indebtedness (healthy guilt) that sustains balance in the relationship. Appreciation and mutual respect open the doors for honest and constructive dialogue. Planning, problem-solving and implementing priorities demand sacrifices, that, when made graciously, solidify many relationships.
Reflecting on our marriage of 41 years, four inspiring behaviors were and remain – essential: listen, learn, laugh and love.
Listening, the magic of giving undivided and empathetic attention solidifies trust between a husband and wife. Effective listening is more than simply taking notice, it requires taking action on what someone says. Such singular focus on another individual creates powerful connections with spouses, family members, friends and yes, in the work world, key associates.
Learning is a life-long pursuit for those committed to growth, health and vitality. Learning extends to openness regarding inevitable changes of one’s marriage partner. The person we marry will unlikely stay the same, given the challenges, opportunities, sacrifices and experiences that are a part of life. Exposure to new ideas and friends can keep the mind and spirit curious. Continuous learning prevents hardening of the arteries, and the calcification of attitudes.
Laughing with one another is critical. Humor can defuse tension, challenge arrogance and humble haughtiness, while softening anger, disappointment and sorrow. Heartfelt laughter is neither insensitive nor dismissive and helps partners find the lighter side of circumstances, reducing stress. Smiles lighten loads and lift spirits along with words like thank you.
Love provides marriage partners emotional and physical bonds. And, when friction tests the metal of the relationship, slowing down long enough to weld the broken connections has incredible impact. Love requires time, space and respect. Children are the first to feel the love and first to notice its absence – even when they are young. Love is the generous and gracious investment of energy in another human being.
Spouses and mentors, teachers and business leaders – personally and professionally, practice love – unmeasured amounts of giving and caring that inspires aspiration and hope.
So, why not assume these same integrity-centered behaviors can be leveraged in other areas?
Be sure to keep your hopes up
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on February 13, 2008
What is your response to those suggesting your integrity approach, with its focus on the positive, is naïve?
They have an excellent point because there are many times when the cynics get and seem to keep the upper hand. Negativity is a powerful weapon; but it is no match, over the long haul, for positive attitudes, steady enthusiasm and relentless perseverance.
On January 24, 2008, the New York Times, A-16, mentions that “voters are showing a darker side than eight years ago. One individual, Susan Powell, a 47 year-old training consultant who lives in a Kansas City suburb, said that what she feels is not so much hopelessness as doom.”
Even though my reaction to current events is not despair, one can only wonder just how many folks are reacting in similar ways. What impact is their fear, uncertainty and doubt having on the youngest and most vulnerable – the children? One thing can be sure, optimism will not be riding high. Yet, it needs to be. Certainly, we do not live in the worst of times. And, even with the real difficulties we face, we have the capabilities to capitalize on the obstacles, making lemonade from lemons. A hope-filled approach will help!
Without HOPE, life quickly becomes pretty miserable. HOPE is the key to success for learning, leadership and leveraging life’s opportunities to the fullest. HOPE needs to come early and often and can transform anxious, uncertain and insecure individuals, young or old, into mission-driven and motivated powerhouses. HOPE is the by-product of time graciously invested in listening, supporting and encouraging those on whom we depend to pass along constructive and productive cultural values. Leaders know that spreading HOPE is essential – personally and professionally.
HOPE reminds individuals of all ages that Hard-work Overcomes Powerful Entrance-blockers!
HOPE confirms that mentors Help Orchestrates Purposeful Energy.
HOPE, provided by gracious mentors, facilitates Heroic Optimization Propelling Effectiveness.
HOPE inspires Honesty, Operational-transparency, Professionalism and Enthusiasm.
Parents, friends, instructors and peers can serve as integrity-centered role models who teach, coach and sustain HOPE.
Optimism, which encourages success, comes to those who know who they are and the value of what they have to offer. Successful individuals and organizations understand their brand – leveraging its power, clearly and consistently. Powerful and profitable behaviors that create success include intensity, sensitivity and follow-through. Over and over, brand clarity trumps economic, social, political and cultural challenges.
Success is created and sustained by hope, along side reality, preparedness, brand clarity and perseverance. Integrity is at the heart of the effort, every moment. Three bold and reassuring words of a social movement, from days gone by, still inspires hope, galvanizing a “can-do” attitude: We shall overcome!
Honoree shapes integrity template
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on February 20, 2008.
Where do you get ideas for your Integrity Matters columns?
Integrity-centered leadership responses are best developed by listening and observing admirable individuals and organizations. On February 13, 2008, the Salinas Chamber of Commerce selected recently retired attorney, Tim McCarthy, as its Citizen of the Year. After hearing accolades offered to praise Mr. McCarthy’s accomplishments, his Stanford and Harvard degrees and his many years of public service – what made the biggest impact was his response. Tim’s gracious acknowledgment was an outline for leaders, everywhere.
His bottom line:
- Blessed by his marriage to his wife, Candy, the love of his life, for nearly 38 years, whose steady encouragement enabled him to get involved and make a difference.
- Blessed by his relationship with his law partners (Anna Caballero, Susan Matcham and Helen Hempel) with their shared business vision giving each partner the freedom to serve the community.
- Blessed by a faith tradition that has instilled in him from his earliest memories, a sense of service by teaching and giving back – shaped by a God of love that unifies all of life.
- Comfortable in the belief that we are all brothers and sisters regardless of the color of our skin, religion, language or where we live.
- Knowledge that there are right and wrong ways to act toward one another and that each of us is called to act in the right ways.
- Talking the Talk is not nearly as challenging as Walking the Walk.
- On a daily basis, each of us is presented with opportunities to be of service to others and youth are a case in point because they really need us. If you want to know how the kids are going to act . . . then watch how the adults behave.
- Therefore, when we are with or around younger people, we need to be at our best; and this includes our own children, our grandchildren, nieces and nephews or neighbors.
- Whether we live in Toro Park or North Salinas, in Prunedale or Gonzales, in South Salinas or East Salinas - we really are in this together, and it is OUR collective future that is on the line – being our best is a must.
- Tim asked attendees to join him in his daily prayer to become bridge builders and not wall builders; united by our commonalities, able to celebrate our differences; knowing that our words and deeds should emerge from loving hearts, not from hate or fear
- And, when faced with an opportunity to serve especially youth – that we might – each of us – say Yes!
Tim McCarthy’s integrity-centered “accountability” message is for every leader – whether in the public or private sectors.
Positive attitudes, behavior motivate positive outcome
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on February 27, 2008.
On January 30th, 2008, Mayor Dennis Donohue, Salinas, California, invited me to attend his 3rd Annual Faith Community Luncheon. His objective is to transform a city of 150,000 people into a peaceful community, where each citizen feels confident, cared for, safe and positive. Purposeful behavior is not an accident. Over and over, community leaders emphasized that positive attitudes play a major role in the successful achievement of any worthy goal – inlcuding building a peaceful city, county and world.
People make a difference with constructive leadership behaviors, and, whencoupled with responsive follow-through; they transform lives. For those who know me, such simplicity smacks of a bad case of Pollyanna-ish thinking. And, it does. But, it works.
Given my persistent search for effective ways to communicate the Integrity Matters message, on a weekly basis, in my newspaper column – aha, yet another treasure was discovered.
Below is a summary of what was provided to each of the several hundred attendees on January 30- on an anonymously-produced plastic credit-sized card. Sound management principles, effective ways to maximize talent and profits, are really quite simple human relations practices.
Good business and good citizenship can be built on straight-forward integrity-centered behaviors. As you read through the two lists, consider how you might modify personal behaviors to more effectively harvest maximum results; especially if you find your responses are negative. In contrast, positive attitudes and behaviors motivate.
In order to harvest – or, in more businesslike terms, to capitalize on:
Productive relationships, practice forgiveness, leveraging team unity for maximum results.
Peace, plant or exhibit patience and leverage order.
Security, plant humility and leverage acceptance.
Friendship, plant respect and leverage admiration.
Confidence, plant honesty and leverage trust.
Self-control, plant responsibility and leverage maturity.
Strength, plant commitment and leverage perseverance.
Success, plant discipline and leverage character.
Or, you can work on the negative side and create:
Bitterness from unforgiving responses that generate disunity.
Confusion from impatience magnifying disorder.
Anger that often arises from dishonor establishes an environment of rejection.
Loneliness, a by-product of disrespect spawns enemies.
Suspicion created by lies and deceit cascades distrust.
Recklessness, from irresponsible behaviors, sanctions immaturity.
Weak performance emerges from uncommitted role models and telegraphs insecurity.
Disorder is the result of undisciplined efforts and creates disastrous disruptions.
Public servants like Mayors and Peace Officers or members of the faith community – in partnership with every citizen – whether at home or in the workplace – as senior executives or front line employees – attitude sets the tone. Positive treatment of others; directly or behind closed doors; determines the health, vitality and sometimes even the success of marriages, families, communities, social institutions and business organizations.
Leadership is an integrity-centered attitude shaping productive behaviors!
Evaluate bothersome boss
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on March 5, 2008
My boss is getting on my nerves, any suggestions?
Depending upon the severity of the situation, and how long you have been irritated, assess the situation carefully before taking action. Either cut the boss some slack; ask for a one-on-one opportunity to clear the air, or find a different place to work. Humans don’t change their primary behaviors much after age five, so you need to determine whether you can “fit in and flourish” or “bail out before the frustrations do you in.” My Mother frequently reminded us that half of the people are placed on the earth to irritate the other half, and that they are successful.
Even so – don’t forget that successful teams and leaders are rewarded because they sustain high performance levels, increasing productivity while controlling overhead, even reducing costs. Tenacious and uncompromising measurements generate profits in business and victories in other areas. Stress, from intense and constant scrutiny, a dynamic essential for peak performance, is often a by-product of success. To compete effectively in a local, regional or global economy, continuous improvement is not simply an option, but a necessity. Is your issue with your boss a predictable casualty of demanding standards, time constraints and fierce competition? Organizations have strong and weak quarters, even years. Is the current pressure likely to change and will that enable you and the boss to work with less irritation? Only you know the answer. Seeking to understand your total working situation is a wise first step.
Certain coaches and bosses handle critique graciously, discreetly; while others routinely leverage intimidation – seemingly oblivious to the destructive fallout from their public humiliations. Both kinds have been victorious and successful. Which kind of boss do you have? Is a significant part of your irritation related to his or her management behavior? And, simply because you disapprove of your leader’s style does not mean that you cannot continue to prosper in such an imperfect environment. However, should you conclude your supervisor’s behaviors are eroding your confidence, peace of mind and enthusiasm – then evaluate carefully the risks and rewards of addressing your frustrations, directly. Are you ready to risk your job in order to improve it? If not, seek advice and proceed carefully – whether you stay or go.
Finally, how much of the problem you are having relates to your own circumstances? Are you carrying additional stresses related to changes in your life; including marriage, family, divorce, health, surgery, personal finances, or loss of a loved one? If your own stress factors are significant, then consider backing away, take a breath. Usually, waiting 72 hours before making important decisions is prudent, including dealing with a boss who gets on your nerves.
Enough with the fighting talk
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on March 26, 2008
Seems candidates for public office feel compelled to tell us, over and over, that they are eager to “fight” for us. Their combative tone disturbs me. Based upon their stories of battling on behalf of their constituents, one might assume they would carry hideous scars from wounds inflicted upon them by their sworn enemies; other elected officials. However, we elect them to work for us, represent us, guide us, inspire us – but fight? Our nation has a military that fights. So, what is the deal with the pugilistic language of these talkers? They get paid to discuss issues, refine laws and serve as advocates. Those assignments, really responsibilities, do not sound all that dangerous. And, fighting, after all, should be a last resort, right?
Presidential candidates, at least this time around, seem to be promising to “fight” for me more than they ever have before. Just listen to them. Given our nation’s current economic situation, our global image and the relatively low confidence the public has for many in government service, seems they might not be very good fighters. So, on what basis should they keep their “fighting” jobs?
Maybe they should start by turning down the volume of their “battling” rhetoric. Even kindergartners are taught to listen and not interrupt, and never to attack someone personally. Disagreements are to be handled politely and graciously, and to only fight as a last resort – and, even then to do so fairly. My immediate advice for those who would want to be my leader, personally, professionally, politically and culturally; how about listening to me? It is unlikely that what I want or need is unique, or that my observations and complaints have not been heard before, but, please dignify me with thoughtful and sincere attention. Not only do I deserve your respect and gracious attention, in many cases, I am paying for it. So, start by listening!
And, when you have assured me that you have heard me, reassure me, thank me and then help me. Stop with the “fighting” vocabulary! Effective leaders, including friends and family members, provide:
- Vision and values (direction with appropriate behavior constraints)
- Mission, Objectives and Goals (measurable milestones of success)
- Tools (understanding, knowledge, skills and coaching)
- Empowerment (encouragement and the freedom to succeed and fail)
- Support – (financial, operational and emotional)
- while simultaneously -
Obstacles and barriers – real and perceived
Bureaucracy that stifles innovation and initiative
Uncertainty – resulting from lack of leadership.
Fighting is the activity of beasts. Humans, at their worst, do fight; but, humans at their best listen carefully, discuss thoroughly and resolve productively; serving the common good graciously.
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on March 12, 2008.
Regardless of age or circumstance, we are involved in the interviewing process – a significant part of our lives – being evaluated and conducting our own assessments. So, what are some effective ways to capitalize on such opportunities?
Having conducted career counseling sessions, usually one-on-one, primarily with senior executives for 27 years, our consulting organization has received lots of constructive critique. Here are five essential interviewing behaviors:
- Know something relevant about the other person
- Incorporate real-time observations– adapting seamlessly
- Ask appropriate questions
- Follow-up– sooner rather than later – saying thank you and asking for help in how best to remain in contact.
So, what additional actions might enhance interviewing-impact – to secure a position, a promotion, or make a sale? Having recently been invited to join Marc Rosen’s team of volunteers at Alisal High School’s Career Center for “mock” interviews for graduating seniors; my interview skills were improved. Mr. Rosen and his colleagues have structured an impressive disciplined process that includes volunteer orientation and focused interview-feedback interaction with open discussion. The observable impact on student-participants was remarkable. Young people sit face-to-face with successful community leaders, presenting their credentials, asking for a job offer and then absorbing specific recommendations on how to improve their interviewing skills. In addition to the direct interaction, students are encouraged to follow-up, after the session, individually.
These “mock” interviews, according to Mr. Rosen, are life-changing. Certainly, participating in the process is its own reward. In my case, whatever contribution made was greatly outweighed by what was received. Below are 13 tips for effective interviewing:
- Remember, you are “on stage” the moment you approach the interview – clothing, grooming, posture, resume, letter of introduction
- Never exaggerate experience or knowledge; simply report the facts, objectively
- Enunciate, be clear and avoid slang (like totally, dude, cool, etc. – for sure)
- Be on time, even a little early, to show respect
- Take notes, communicating an interest in the ideas of others
- Make eye contact, allowing those with whom you meet to feel a connection
- Listen carefully and actively, seeking to understand more than being understood
- Focus on the positive, personal assets and opportunities that might arise
- Speak no ill of previous employers, (avoid bad-mouthing about anything)
- Do your homework on the organization and its values and people
- Be prepared to ask questions that are job and organization specific
- Be present – stay focused on what is being discussed and don’t let your mind wander
- Shut off cell phones and pagers, minimizing distractions
To help Alisal seniors fine-tune their interviewing skills, contact Mr. Marc Rosen: 831-796-7650 and volunteer a few hours of your time.
Spitzer's fall isn't devil's fault
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on March 19, 2008.
The crime-fighting Governor of New York resigned. Ex-governor Eliot Spitzer claims that his expensive sexual behaviors were an addiction. This former state attorney general and prosecutor developed a hard-nosed reputation for rooting out evil-doers; and, according to members of the New York state legislature, he has become like the lawbreakers he put behind bars. So, what does his behavior indicate about the integrity of leadership – specifically in politics?
Really, not much! Certain people are arrogant – in many and sometimes strange ways. Mr. Spitzer appears to be one of those people. Hubris is an egotistical self-justification drug, all-too-common to powerbrokers. And, regardless of their activity or station in life, they really do believe they can “outsmart” others including family members, voters, investors, partners and the law. Destructive misbehavior includes sociopaths disguised as petty thieves, pedophiles, prostitutes, con artists, crooks of various stripes – including public servants, cheating marriage partners and dollar-churning financial wizards. Fortunately, most people don’t behave that way.
Years ago, on his weekly television variety show, comedian Flip Wilson cleverly explained away his inappropriate behaviors invoking his favorite “”don’t blame me” retort: “the-devil-made-me-do-it.” We laughed at the utterly ridiculous phrase, because down deep, where we hold our values near and dear, we knew his “cop-out” phrase was just that, a cop out. However, today, with commonplace acceptance – or at least tolerance - of rudeness, crudeness, out-of-bounds actions, immaturity, sloppiness and irresponsibility – not enough people are standing up to say:
Enough, this is wrong! We expect more from you and we are demanding you take responsibility for what you are doing. Hiding behind ‘RE-HAB’ does not replace personal accountability.
Media spotlights transform slime-behavior, catapulting folks who should be isolated from society into instant-millionaires with tell-all book contracts and lucrative speaking tours. Today’s “pseudo-news” platform includes a pen with ink, talk-show microphones, film crews hungry for glitzy-teases to capture a ratings-improving audience and photographers with low-rent pictures, eager to make a fast-buck from tabloids. Electronic and print organizations combine interactive dollar-generating and celebrity-creating chemicals, too often creating a toxic disaster – especially for impressionable young people. Message: despicable behavior makes money!
Sports television has learned how to reduce the disgusting antics of attention-craving fans running onto playing fields, interrupting competition. Camera-operators no longer video their misdeeds, refusing to make disruptive-chumps appear like courageous rule-breaking-champs. Why not the same reaction by the media when individuals break their social contract – in business, politics or anywhere else?
Once inappropriate behavior has been “caught” - it is the responsibility of legal authorities to administer appropriate disciplines. Turning individuals who exhibit inappropriate behavior into famous and rich folk heroes is a signal every child understands. Destructive role models are still role models! Help isolate them!
Adams had it partly right
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on April 2, 2008
John Adams; 2nd President, United States of America (1797-1801) is credited with having said, in 1775: “Most men today, (read: human beings way back in the 18th Century) are weak, evil and vicious.” The forty-year old farmer, attorney and emerging political leader, Adams, was helping to forge a new nation from loosely-affiliated states. And, yes, the politics and the pressures were real as were the palpable tensions surrounding life-and-death decisions of our nation’s earliest leaders. Nearly 235 years later, such observations about our basic nature still create a stir.
Some dismiss Adams’ comments as overly harsh and judgmental. Others, unaccustomed to the rough and tumble world of hand-to-hand political intensity might never have experienced the sometimes brutal maneuverings of single-minded operatives. Whether for better or worse, today’s around-the-clock news reporting repetitively portrays many of our least admirable traits, underscoring the wisdom of the strong-willed legislator from Massachusetts. Mean spirited selfishness, thankfully still co-existing with thoughtfulness, courage, kindness and generosity, is alive and well – effectively propelling self-serving individuals and organizations.
Born October 30, 1735; the two-term Vice-President from Massachusetts – serving with President George Washington, was elected to the nation’s highest office at age 62. In his era, he was considered elderly, managing to serve only one term. He was then defeated in his bid for re-election by Thomas Jefferson. However, before he died on July 4, 1826; he was able to see his son, John Quincy Adams, sworn in as the 6th President of the United States in 1825.
So, what can be learned about the present, and the future, by looking backwards?
- Effective leadership is not easy, never was and never will be. Knowledge, courage, discipline and sacrifice are the building blocks of substantive leadership – however they are learned and in whatever context they are refined.
- Integrity is not a once in a while activity, but is required, all the time, with everyone.
- Dealing with weakness, whether one’s own or the vulnerabilities of others, requires objective self-awareness, clear vision, perseverance and tremendous strength. Capitalizing on vulnerabilities serves as a springboard for personal development and organizational impact.
- Overcoming evil can be accomplished by acting courageously upon the counsel of wise mentors – leveraging their insights while maintaining substantive faith, implementing a thoughtful plan with exquisite and uncompromising timing.
- Viciousness is neither new nor nearing extinction. John Adams was hounded by some of the worst of the worst. His adversaries were cruel, nasty, brutal, ferocious, fierce, inhuman, violent and sadistic. And, he overcame them by maintaining his intensity, sensitivity and follow-through.
While we may not achieve perfection – integrity can remain our aim – personally, professionally and – in this election year – politically as well.
Success requires eye of the tiger
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on April 9, 2008
Certain golf observers speak with disdain about the tremendously competitive approach exhibited by possibly the greatest golfer ever. And, whether or not one is a fan of Tiger Woods – his ability to reach and sustain peak performance is magnificent. My concern is about those who utter the words, “he expects to win every tournament” as if anyone intentionally enters any contest, seriously, as an amateur or professional, without intending to win. An individual might know that the odds of winning every time are not high, however, the intention to perform at the highest level must be there, or why else compete?
My objective is not to convert sports enthusiasts into the Tiger Woods fan club. Rather it is to open a discussion on the importance of proper disciplined preparation along with focused execution-excellence. Tiger Woods is a sports phenomenon. He was carefully prepared, by his parents, to exceed expectations – beginning as a very young child; and, it appears that he did not disappoint them. So, what is the lesson to be learned?
Performing consistently at the highest levels of excellence is not an accident. The situation in which Tiger Woods finds himself – continuously rewriting the record book in golf – is something to be studied and admired – for current and future generations – as worthy of emulation, if not duplication. And, why not! He is pursuing his passion: golf. He has made the sacrifices necessary to continuously improve, in order to win.
Who can one name, in any walk of life, known as a winner, who lacks the spark and fire of competition? They have one goal in common: to be the best that they can be and help those around them on their team to be the best that they can be. Basketball superstar Michael Jordan, NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon, Microsoft CEO Bill Gates, Entertainer Bob Hope, any serious Presidential candidate, special education teachers and others we have met along the path of life: supportive parents, responsible members of the clergy, mentors, leaders of civic clubs, public servants, and yes, our precious close friends.
So, why not go out each day, like other high performers, with the same intensity?
- Set goals that demand superior performance
- Prepare and follow-through; playing by the rules
- Solicit feedback, frequently, making performance-improving adjustments
- Pass along appropriate insights and disciplines, enabling others to do even better
- Encourage a winning approach through personal example
- Praise successful achievement, wherever it appears
Honor excellence – personally and professionally – celebrating the importance of integrity-centered successes. Winners deserve to win because of their work ethic and their code-of- conduct – in sports, academics, business, politics, public service and interpersonal relationships.
Wealth helps solve poverty
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on April 30, 2008
Economic indicators, from media reports, appear weak and consumer confidence is down. More and more people are described as living closer to the poverty line. Is the United States heading for a recession, or worse?
Recession and depression depend upon one’s perspective. The example is that if you lose your job and struggle with making ends meet, that is a recession. However, if the same thing happens to me, then we are in a depression. So, what is the solution to hard economic times?
In my office, there is quote: “When the wind stops, row!” Translation: when life serves up lemons; and puckering up is not your preferred response; then make lemonade, lots of it.
Recession and depression, reflecting negative cash flow, personally or nationally, can create poverty. And, everyone knows that the solution to poverty is wealth. The poverty can include a shortage of ideas, relationships, hope, physical strength and, yes, money. Regardless, the solution to poverty, even the fear of shortages, is abundance, wealth.
To make the definition of wealth clear – please consider the term to include six attitudes that will trump poverty. WEALTH means: Wisdom, Enthusiasm, Application, Luck, Thoughtfulness, and Health
Successful achievement, in good times and bad, at least among the 8000 managers and executives with whom we have consulted, embraces these six constructive behaviors.
- W-isdom – learning from others, taking notes, keeping a record of what works well and monitoring performance, continuously soliciting feedback from objective observers – who have achieved success in their respective area
- E-nthusiasm – directed and steady energy focused on all of the tasks that need accomplishing, whether a part of one’s true passion; or simply the demanding requirements necessary to deal with challenges at hand.
- A-pplication – continuous learning involves a willingness to “do what it takes” – ceasing with theories and talking about what needs to be done – leveraging one’s mind and energy, and not counting the hours or days, but accepting the reality of hard work and sacrifice as the essential differentiator between success and failure.
- L-uck – when preparedness meets opportunity, some folks call it luck. Or, as others have said, the more thoroughly they prepared the luckier they were. And, there is the dimension of staying alert to those who can and will help – when they are asked.
- T-houghtfulness – includes graciousness, consideration of the needs and feelings of others and is most clearly observed in how caringly people are treated who least effectively are able to push back.
- H-ealth – keeping minds, souls and bodies refreshed and strong requires careful feeding and nurture; including formulating and living personal values, listening to new ideas, reading broadly, exercising, relaxing, meditating and laughing.
Recession shouldn't cheapen Integrity
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity Matters newspaper column on April 23, 2008
The University of Michigan’s April, 2008, consumer sentiment index plunged unexpectedly to 63.2; the lowest since 62.0 in March 1982. Consumers have awakened to the probability of recession, more job losses and even tighter credit. A drop of this magnitude – 20 points since September 2007 – will likely be followed by a decline in retail spending.
So, what is a person to do? Step one is to get a realistic handle on expenses and income and determine what must be done to survive until prosperity returns. Whether as an employer or employee, certain actions can transform recession-based stress into an integrity-restoring and constructive response.
Employers: assume that transparency is more than a politically-correct concept about openness.
- Listen to the concerns of your employees and share your own.
- Be up front about your plans to keep your doors open, retaining everyone. Sometimes, an across the board “reduction in hours” can keep most and maybe even all employees on board – with health insurance and other benefits - until the dust settles and the economy gets stronger.
- Make sure any sacrifices requested of employees start, first, at the top.
- Lead by example; accepting the reality that while employees may work fewer hours, owners and managers are likely to work longer and harder, for less.
- Confirm that your commitment is to honor current sacrifices by rewarding those who will share in the short-term pain for longer-term gain.
- Deliver in a timely way on all promises made.
- Smile frequently, offer encouragement and remain upbeat.
Employees: go the extra mile with energy, commitment and attitude.
- Determine, realistically, just how much your income can be reduced and still enable you to stay with your employer, while maintaining your fundamental commitments to those who depend on you. These are hard times, so be sure to distinguish between “nice to have items” versus the necessities.
- Find ways to work smarter, reducing waste, increasing efficiencies. Customers, clients, patients and prospects are all in a “buyers market” – so go the extra mile to communicate your organization’s desire to provide superior service:
Reassure your supervisor that you are remaining “on board” – assuming that you are - willing to stay the course and help your organization to weather the storm, confident that the economic rewards will be shared when ownership receives them.
- Answer phones enthusiastically and promptly.
- Greet customers/clients/patients warmly.
- Respond to requests immediately, with accurate information, graciously.
- Follow-up promptly to all questions and complaints.
- Avoid shifting blame by owning problems while sharing credit.
Employers and employees addressing mutual challenges together, relying upon integrity-centered leadership, are more likely to prosper despite recession pressures.