Tag: values

Remember What You Ask For

Good day team,
This week’s challenge is about remembering what you asked for and staying true to what’s most important.

Here’s a story that illustrates how easy it is to drift away from core values.

In my first meeting with a prospective client, I often ask these three questions:
1. What’s your vision for what you want to achieve?
2. What lessons have you learned from past experiences that prevented you from achieving a vision?
3. How do you think a coach can help you realize your vision?

The answers to these questions set the foundation of our relationship. They are typically very positive and full of optimism:
“I want to create a profitable company that provides good jobs for others and has a positive impact on the world.”
“I see a team of people who are creating new processes that make our jobs easier to do and the team is happier because of the improvements we’ve made.”
“I want to create a company that is highly innovative – where creativity and new ways of thinking are encouraged in everything we do.”
“I want my employees to feel empowered, come to work everyday because they love what they do, and feel passionate about our products and customers.”
“I want to lead my people but not micromanage them so they continue to feel like we’re in partnership and able to take ownership at the same time.”

We build plans based upon their answers and begin a program of coaching and training to create the kind of environment that makes their visions achievable. This works well until my client starts to veer away from the original ask.

Here’s an example.

Bill is the CEO of a start-up company. He left his job as the lead software engineer and started his own company to get out from under a boss that was too demanding and controlling. He dreamed of creating a company where he could hire a team of smart people who wanted to work collaboratively and loved to be challenged. He came up with a brilliant design for a new product, created a business plan for his start-up and sold the whole idea to some investors. Bingo – Bill had a small office, two partners from his previous company, and enough money in the bank to get his product launched.

The first six months Bill was in business he decided to hire me to help him navigate the tough waters of creating a new business. We worked to articulate a core set of values that would help Bill lead the team , stay true to what was important to them, and put their values into action. We did exercises that helped the team understand one other’s behaviors and strengths, and provided tools that could aid them in their collaborative efforts. As his brand began to develop, we made sure that his vision and values were expressed in all corporate communications – both internal and external. It was a strong start – the product was getting a great response from the public, the team was happy and highly committed, and Bill was living his dream. Year one passed with flying colors – happy team members – happy investors – happy Bill.

Into the second year, given the pressures of running a new business, things began to change. People worked harder and harder and stress levels rose. Under stress, team members spent more time in their back-up behaviors, attacking others and defending themselves rather than collaborating. In a frantic effort to keep up, Bill began to take more control of the day-to-day operations afraid that if he didn’t, the whole thing would crash and burn. He unleashed the autocrat within. He placed more demands on those around him, trusted his teammates less and began to micromanage the entire operation. As his coach, I tried to point out that things were out of control. His behavior ran counter to his expressed values. “I’d like to stay true to my vision and values, said Bill. But honestly, I don’t have time to think about those things right now. I’m the CEO of a start-up and this business is blowing way past any of our original expectations – it’s all I can do to just keep up.”

So, how could I help Bill? How could I help get him back on track?

I asked Bill for a time out. This wasn’t easy for him to do, since he was moving at break-neck speed to keep up with his daily challenges. He was now so involved in other people’s jobs, that he had no time stop and reflect. He was CEO, chief product office, and the head of sales, etc. I needed Bill to step back and re-examine what he intended for his company. Was his behavior reflective of his company’s values? And, most importantly, did Bill see what was being sacrificed in his attempts to have a successful company?

Bill needed to make a choice. He couldn’t go north and south at the same time. He couldn’t take more and more control and become more dominant if he wanted his people to feel empowered. He wouldn’t be able to have a highly successful team if the customers and investors saw Bill as a success but not the team. As one of his original partners said to me, “I’m not Bill’s partner anymore – I’m an order taker.”

Fortunately, Bill was able to stop long enough to hear me and his original partners early one Saturday morning over breakfast. Underneath it all, he knew that he was spinning out of control. He had the best of intentions but he wasn’t the kind of owner, CEO and business partner he had originally intended to be. With the help of his original two partners, he was able to ease up on the reins. He stopped dictating, asked more questions and fostered more dialogue. Even more impressively, he let the investors know that he was not willing to sacrifice the core values of his business in order to meet their short term expectations. He re-committed to the original core values to create a more sustainable environment for the team in the long run. As he said to me, “I was killing the spirit in the place and until I stopped, I was not even aware of it.”

This week, ask yourself if you are becoming more controlling as the demands of your business or your department increase. Are you staying true to your core values and vision? How have your behaviors changed? Do you have a way of getting honest feedback from others? Are you sacrificing the long term health of your company or team for short term gains? Are you dictating or inspiring and empowering others?

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” Antoine De Sainte-Exupery

Have a good week,


© Copyright 2014 Pathfinders Coaching, Scout Search Inc., all rights reserved.

3/11/12 “Effective Interviewing – Part 1”

Good day team,

I’m happy to see that organizations are hiring again and hear about renewed interest in interview techniques. This week and next, I’ll be writing about good interview techniques – this week from the perspective of the employer and next week, from the perspective of the applicant.

First things first – a big part of what results in a good interview depends on how well the hiring manager has articulated the responsibilities and qualifications. Many companies write their job ads using a general view of the skills they want for the job, rather than specifics, e.g.. “Selected candidate will have strong financial analysis  skills” vs. “We require 3 to 5 years of financial analysis with strong business acumen, analytical, problem solving and quantitative analysis skills demonstrated in previous work experience.”

All good job descriptions make a clear distinction between the job responsibilities and the qualifications for the job. If you write, “we’re looking for someone who can thrive in a fast paced environment and communicates well” and you put that under the job responsibilities, you’ve gotten it wrong. Job responsibilities are the specifics of what you want them to do on the job. Qualifications are the specific things they’ve done in the past that qualify them for the job. For example, under the responsibilities heading – “Job responsibilities include communicating effectively in a fast paced environment across many levels of the organization”. And under the qualifications heading – “Advanced communication skills both verbally and in writing are mandatory, with demonstrated ability to work effectively in a fast paced environment with all internal and external customers.”

Most employers don’t include behaviors in their job ads. And yet, behavioral interviewing is highly effective. Specifying up-front what kind of behavior works well within your culture is a smart thing to do. If your company has a values-based culture, that is, a culture that focuses on what’s foundationally important to the company’s mission and the people who are part of it, then state that. For example, Zappos, a company with a very strong values-based culture, points that out in the first sentence of every job they post by saying, “Live the Zappos values and WOW co-workers at all levels, in all departments, customers, and vendors.” Their values are clearly defined. Zappos looks to hire people whose personal values are similar to the company’s and will, therefore, fit well within the Zappos culture. If you read Zappos values, they clearly state the employee behaviors that support those values: http://about.zappos.com/jobs/why-work-zappos/core-values

Once you’ve posted the job and selected some good candidates to interview, how do you conduct behavioral interviews? Resumes can tell us what the person has done and a little bit about how they do it. But, how do we discover what really motivates someone? What do they do on the job that gives them energy? What do they avoid? What happens to their behavior when they’re under pressure? How would others describe what it’s like to work with them? Knowing the answers to these questions is essential to making good hiring decisions.

Here are some examples good behavioral interview questions from an article entitled, “Behavioral Interviews: Use a Behavioral Interview to Select the Best”, by Susan Heathfield (this is for a sales job):
Tell me about a time when you obtained a new customer through networking activities.
Give me an example of a time when you acquired a customer through cold calling and prospecting. How did you approach the customer?
What are your three most important work-related values? Then, please provide an example of a situation in which you demonstrated each value at work.
Think of a customer relationship you have maintained for multiple years. Please tell me how you have nurtured that relationship.
Assume that your manufacturing facility shipped the wrong order to one of your important customers. Describe how you solved this problem both internally and externally.
If you are hired as our sales representative, you may see the need to change the organization of the department. How have you approached such situations in the past?
Give me an example of a time when your integrity was tested and yet prevailed in a selling situation.
And, here are some of my favorite questions to get to the heart of matter:
What excites you most about your job? What are you doing that gives you energy and what do you do that takes a energy away from you? What do you avoid doing?
How have you re-engaged in the past when you’ve felt that your commitment was waning on the job?
What are you most proud of achieving in your last job?
With answers to these behavioral questions, you can compare your candidates based upon how they get the job done and how they performed in real-life situations.
Most of the difficulties we have with our fellow team members are not based on competency issues. Those are relatively easy to fix – often just a matter of teaching them new skills. The real problems arise around their commitment to the job, how they feel about their fellow team members, and how deeply they believe in the company. If they’re not actively engaged, then no matter how competent they are, they will have a negative impact on the rest of the team. On the other hand, team members who are completely on-board and committed to supporting their team will gladly acquire the skills they need to be successful.
The best question I ever received in a job interview was:
“Kathleen, what strengths do you have that would be enhanced by this job and what makes you uniquely qualified to do it?”
I realized, when asked this question, that I’d never thought about how the job would enhance me. I always thought about how I would enhance the organization. By turning it around, the hiring manager encouraged me to talk about how well I knew myself, what worked and didn’t work in a job for me, and what I was most passionate about. In one question he exposed my level of self-awareness, my strengths and qualifications, and what kept me engaged.
I discovered later that part of the reason I got the job was that the other candidates didn’t answer his specific question because they weren’t listening. Their answers focused on what they would do to enhance the job, not how the job would enhance them.
This brings me to the most important thing you can do in conducting successful interviews – listen. Hear every thing the candidate says and note what they’re not saying. Watch them carefully, body language speaks volumes. If you’re conducting a phone interview, listen carefully for changes in tone of voice. If they start speaking faster and seem more animated, you’ve touched on something that has gotten them excited. If they stumble over their words, you’ve hit a spot where they’re not too sure of what they think. Don’t be afraid to explore those less scripted places. That’s often where you’ll discover the real person.

At the next opportunity, try using some of these interview suggestions and job description writing techniques. Don’t forget to ask your human resource professionals for help. They can be an excellent resource when it comes to writing effective job ads and improving interview techniques. A good HR person will also be very clear about what you can say in an interview and what you can’t. Always ask if you’re unsure. Employment law protects individuals from discrimination in the interview and hiring process and is very specific about questions you must not ask.
Think about your culture and what’s most important to your company. Find ways to describe what’s unique about it and don’t be afraid to let people know it’s ‘who’ you are as an organization. You’ll make better hiring decisions and save yourself many hours during the candidate screening process if you articulate up front exactly what types of experience you’re looking for and what behaviors fit well within your organization.

Have a good week!

© Copyright 2012 Pathfinders Coaching, Scout Search Inc., all rights reserved.

2/5/12 “Importance of Culture”

Good day, team.

This week’s challenge comes from a Fast Company article sent to me by a client. The complete article, “Culture Eats Strategy for Lunch” by Shawn Parr, can be found here.

The heart of the piece is about the importance of creating a vibrant company culture that everyone from your CEO down can contribute to and relate to in their daily work lives. Parr writes, “It’s not good enough just to have an amazing product and a healthy bank balance. Long-term success is dependent on a culture that is nurtured and alive. Culture is the environment in which your strategy and your brand thrives or dies a slow death.”

Last week, I had the privilege of working in a two-day summit meeting with a client’s technology team. We spent some time discussing the team’s shared values by first identifying each team member’s individual values (What are the five most important things in your life?), sharing those individual values, translating how they show up in the workplace and, finally, defining the behaviors that best illustrate those values. It sounds like a long, painstaking process, but this exercise of relating core personal values to workplace behaviors is far better than having the corporation post values in the lobby that no one pays any attention to.

Doing this exercise allowed the team to discover that their values are much more similar than different, which means that even when they strongly disagree, they have a way to remind each other of where they do agree. It allows a shared, foundational understanding to become part of difficult discussions, which can then neutralize an argument.

Embracing core values is only one aspect of creating a vibrant corporate culture. The following excerpt from Parr’s article shows us four more important pieces to the puzzle:

Uncommon sense for a courageous and vibrant culture

It’s easy to look at companies like Stonyfield Farms, Zappos, Google, Virgin, Whole Foods or Southwest Airlines and admire them for their passionate, engaged and active cultures that are on display for the world to see. Building a strong culture takes hard work and true commitment, and while not something you can tick off in boxes, here are some very basic building blocks to consider:

1. Dynamic and engaged leadership
A vibrant culture is organic and evolving. It is fueled and inspired by leadership that is actively involved and informed about the realities of the business. They genuinely care about the company’s role in the world and are passionately engaged. They are great communicators and motivators who set out a clearly communicated vision, mission, values and goals, and create an environment for them to come alive.

2. Living values
It’s one thing to have beliefs and values spelled out in a frame in the conference room. It’s another thing to have genuine and memorable beliefs that are directional, alive and modeled throughout the organization daily. It’s important that departments and individuals are motivated and measured against the way they model the values. And, if you want a values-driven culture, hire people using the values as a filter. If you want your company to embody the culture, empower people and ensure that every department understands what’s expected. Don’t just list your company’s values in PowerPoint; bring them to life in people, products and spaces, at events, and in communication.

3. Responsibility and accountability
Strong cultures empower their people. They recognize their talents and give them a very clear role with responsibilities they’re accountable for. It’s amazing how basic this is but how absent the principle is in many businesses.

4. Celebrate success and failure
Most companies that run at high speed often forget to celebrate their victories both big and small, and they rarely have time or the humility to acknowledge and learn from their failures. Celebrate both your victories and failures in your own unique way, but share them and share them often.


This week, take a look at your organization’s culture. Would you call it vibrant? Do your customers know what you stand for? Are your employees actively involved, engaged and empowered? If not, what can you do to influence your team and your company to create a culture that everyone is proud to belong to and where he or she wants to succeed?

As Parr reminds us, “A strong culture flourishes with a clear set of values and norms that actively guide the way a company operates. Employees are actively and passionately engaged in the business, operating from a sense of confidence and empowerment rather than navigating their days through miserably extensive procedures and mind-numbing bureaucracy. Performance-oriented cultures possess statistically better financial growth, with high employee involvement, strong internal communication and an acceptance of a healthy level of risk-taking in order to achieve new levels of innovation.”

Sounds like the kind of culture I’d like to be a part of, how about you?

Have a good week!


P.S. The coach will be on vacation from Feb. 10–15. The next challenge will be published on Feb. 19.

© Copyright 2012 Pathfinders Coaching, Scout Search Inc., all rights reserved.

2/14/11 “Integrity”

Good day, team.

This week’s challenge is about integrity. What does it mean to be a person who has integrity? In my mind, it’s when our external actions match our internal values — what we do and how we behave reflect what’s most important to us. The following is a description of what I mean and the basis for this week’s challenge.

As we’ve all seen, the real estate market in the past few years has challenged anyone who owns property. Because of the rapid decline in property values, many people have had to sell their homes for much less than what they purchased them for. In many cases, people have just walked away from their mortgages simply because they couldn’t sell and didn’t have the money to continue to pay the mortgage. Foreclosures and short sales are a daily occurrence.

A friend of mine bought his first home about six months before he got married. He had a good job with lots of career potential. The house was small, but it was in an excellent neighborhood where they were pretty sure property values would increase over time. My friend’s wife became pregnant shortly after they married. In thinking about the birth, they decided to move closer to his family so that everyone would get to know and enjoy the first grandchild, and his company was willing to transfer him to another position in his home town. The move was a strong indication of his core values. Family was important to him and taking a lesser job just to get back to family was a good demonstration of his integrity.

However, the real estate market had begun to decline and their house had some problems. They couldn’t sell it, so they decided to keep it as a rental property to cover the mortgage and purchase another house in his hometown to live in. Now my friend had the stress of paying two mortgages, plus taxes and all the maintenance expenses that come with owning a home.

The stress continued over the next four years, during which my friend and his wife had another child. My friend’s job situation was pretty stagnant, which was not helping. He decided to take a job with another company in his hometown. He did well in this position, and the company offered him a better job in another city. My friend and his wife had to consider moving the family across the country away from his family. By now, the children had solid relationships with grandparents, aunts and uncles, and extended family. Much of what he hoped his children would experience with his family had occurred. So he decided to take the new job and move his family. I saw this as another display of his integrity. He let his family know that the first move was for family. The next move, when one occurred, would be about career. With a growing family, he had to think about his career progression to be able to provide for them.

The move meant selling the house in his hometown, which was no small feat. The real estate market was at it’s worst. For many months, he had to travel back and forth across the country each week to see his family while he worked at his new job. Eventually the house sold, and they bought a new home in the new city. During this time, he still owned the original house, which was rented by various people over the years, some good and some not so good.

Now comes the true test of integrity. The current renters have decided they want to buy the original house, but at a much lower price than my friend’s mortgage. My friend will have to spend much of his savings to make the deal go through. He could have let the house go a long time ago and been out from underneath that mortgage and responsibility. But, he would have had a hard time living with himself if he had done this. As long as he could manage to pay the two mortgages, he continued to do so. Now, he’s dealing with the dilemma of finally selling the house and spending his savings to cover a short sale or just letting it go into foreclosure.

I know him well enough to know that he will do what allows him to stay in alignment with his inner values and ethics. His situation reminds me of how our personal integrity is tested throughout our lives and how important it is for us to pay attention when this happens. It’s the dilemma of doing what we know is right versus what’s easiest or taking the short cut out of an obligation. Sometimes, we don’t have many choices, and we have to do the only thing we can do. But, when we do have the choice, siding with our inner guide is as important as anything we can do in our lives. Most regrets are born from experiences where we didn’t follow our intuition; our heart and head told us what was right and we did something else instead.

This week, look at your actions and see if they’re in alignment with your inner values. Do you walk your talk? If you say something is important, do you express that in your actions and behaviors? Are you stuck in a situation where you’ve been asked to do something that goes against what you think is right? If you say your family is important to you, does the way you live your life reflect that? Are you willing to say no to someone if they ask you to do something that goes against your true nature? How do you stay in integrity in your life?

As Ovid, the ancient Roman poet and author wrote;

“No man can purchase his virtue too dear, for it is the only thing whose value must ever increase with the price it has cost us. Our integrity is never worth so much as when we have parted with our all to keep it.”

Have a good week!


Kathleen Doyle-White
Pathfinders Coaching
(503) 296-9249

© Copyright 2011 Pathfinders Coaching, Scout Search Inc., all rights reserved.