Here are four short pieces, samples of my writing in 2015: 1) My Foreword to World –Class Performance, a book by Michael Winston; 2) Press Release of my speech in Dubai; 3) Parable (one of about 30) from my 2015 book Science of Spirit; and 4) Testimony in Church, September 2015, Midway, Utah.
Sample #1: My foreword to World –Class Performance
From Politics to Performance
by Ken Shelton, editor of Leadership Excellence
For most of my 30-year tenure as editor of Leadership Excellence magazine, I have known Michael G. Winston—global head and chief organization and leadership strategy officer at Lockheed, McDonnell Douglas, Motorola, Merrill Lynch, and then Countrywide Financial.
And so I was pleased when Michael informed me that he was writing this book. Both of us have seen and experienced the good, the great, the bad and the ugly in organizational performance. When you witness the rise and fall of leaders and organizations, as Michael and I have done over decades, you learn lessons both in your head and heart. Perhaps nothing, professionally, is as gut-wrenching as seeing your company close its doors, lay off thousands of people, sell off assets, and leave many people with debts.
Leaders of failed enterprises own much of the blame for poor performance—even if they do their best to dodge it, as has Italian Captain Francesco Schettino of the wrecked cruise ship Costa Concordia, which grounded off the coast of Italy after sailing too close to shore, taking the lives of 32 passengers and crew. Captain Schettino was accused of several crimes (abandoning his ship, manslaughter and causing the shipwreck). But now, the master of the ill-fated ship says he’s innocent and that the truth will be told—in his new book, of course. He says that he did all he could do to help—and is sticking to his story that he tripped and fell into a lifeboat. Salvage operations continue at the site.
As eye-witnesses to such business wrecks and salvage operations—and derelict captains of various Leader-Ships, Michael and I care even more about competitiveness, performance, results, relationships, outcomes and sustainability.
For inspiration in writing his book, Michael looked to the 2012 London Summer Olympic Games where Performance is everything (yes, even Politics takes a back seat).
After 30 years of editing Leadership Excellence magazine (some 6,600 articles), I came to realize that organizations tend to have either a political or a performance culture.
I define politics broadly as any activity that diverts, distracts, delays, deters, or destroys value-added performance. One insight that I gained from working with Stephen R. Covey as his writer on 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and Principle-Centered Leadership was this: Most people have far more talent (performance potential) than their companies (political cultures) even allow them to use.
Few managers or leaders are pure politicians or pure performers. We are all composites, but the best of the breed have a bias for high performance and do all they can to ensure that their culture is all about excellent performance in the best interests of all stakeholders (a stock phrase in many corporate mission statements).
Why, then, are politics so prevalent? Why are so many firms more oriented to pervasive politics than peak performance?
In political cultures, the means to getting ahead include game playing, positioning, politicking, parading, palavering, jockeying, backbiting, kissing up, flattering up, stealing credit, and engaging in deceit, treachery, even trench warfare.
Who tends to get ahead in political cultures? The tallest, toughest, biggest, loudest, brightest, most articulate, best dressed, most popular, physically endowed, financially flush, most talented, sociable, savvy and smooth.
Once found out, corporate politicians can be very hard to ferret and flush out because their support structure and systems are sunk like roots into the soil of the culture. Indeed, they may well have the backing of the boss. And even if they lack support from the top, they may get applause from other folks, with whom they share the spoils. They also seek protection in legislation—in laws and regulations governing hiring, firing, promoting, electing, selecting and admitting. They are experts at manipulating the internal recognition and reward system—often seeking and receiving various (but mostly meaningless) awards, honors, medals, badges, and certificates.
And so, once in charge, the politicians play a shell game whereby they keep all players guessing—and few winning. Meanwhile, they make out like bandits, having their hands in several cookie jars and their feet in the soothing spas of passive income streams. The result of all political posturing can best be depicted as a gulf between what we really want and what we settle for. We deserve our fate if we blindly follow political leaders, especially if we are guilty of passive resistance, ignorance, activism, apathy, ambition, silence, aggression, sabotage, or sloth.
So, how do we turn political quagmires into performance cultures?
- Declare your area to be a performance environment—and then see that this declaration is translated into vision, mission, roles and goals. Fight against rules and regulations that compromise your ability to create and maintain a performance environment.
- Set performance standards with people and hold them accountable to measurable or discernible performance objectives and standards.
- Align structure and systems; pay particular attention to reward and recognition.
- Eliminate double standards, sacred cows, political seed beds, exclusive access, preferential treatment, exceptions to the rules.
- Make an example of someone—fire a prominent executive who prizes politics over performance. The message will travel fast.
- Reward, promote recognize the real performers. Sing their praises. Prize their work. Make resources available to them.
Good luck. Replacing politics with performance, like ridding your lawn of weeds, is no small task. But payoffs are immense. As Michael says, the stakes are high, and yet the rewards for world-class, gold-medal performance excellence can be exponential.
Sample #2: Press Release of my speech in Dubai
For immediate release, October 9, 2015, Dubai, Arab Emirates
Global Leadership Excellence
Ken Shelton delivers keynote speech at World Conference.
At the World Leadership Congress, held on October 6 and 7 at Taj Palace, Dubai, Arab Emirates, Ken Shelton, editor and publisher of Leadership Excellence magazine for 30 years, 1984 to 2014, received the coveted Global Business Leadership Excellence Award and delivered the keynote address to some 450 distinguished participants.
“The award is presented to an individual who has crafted leadership with his work and thinking,” says Dr. RL Bhatia, Founder of the Congress based in Mumbai, India. “This iconic leadership award indicates excellence in applying leadership principles to business. The award is intensely researched. Our experienced research committee produces a shortlist of individuals who are doing extraordinary work and tracks their achievements. Then the shortlist is reviewed by a jury comprising of senior professionals from across the globe. This is the highest recognition that World Leadership can confer in the presence of business leaders.”
In his speech, Shelton addressed the theme for the congress: If Not Now, When?
“I thank the World Leadership Congress for posing this provocative question,” said Shelton. “By extension, we might also ask, If not here, where? If not you, who?”
Shelton said that although leadership excellence may be rare, more the exception than the rule, he has seen it and knows what a day-and-night, life-and-death difference it can make. He suggested using three tests to determine the degree of leadership authenticity and shared one story of each test to illustrate the difference that authentic leaders can make.
Test 1: Relationships and Results (people and profit). This test assesses how well the leader works with people (maintains relationships of trust) to produce product, deliver service and achieve results and profits. Example 1: Scripps Healthcare: Chris Van Gorder, President. As President/CEO of one of America’s most prestigious health systems, Chris Van Gorder presided over a dramatic turnaround, catapulting Scripps from near bankruptcy to a dominant market position. The philosophy that drives all of his decisions and actions: people come first. As a leader, Chris has mastered the mysterious paradox: It’s not about me, and yet unless you first take care of the Me (people’s self-interest), you never get to We (cooperation, collaboration and teamwork). Van Gorder began his unlikely career as a California police officer, which instilled in him a sense of social responsibility, honesty, and public service. He has never lost touch with his law enforcement roots. Scripps has regained its status as one of the nation’s top health care systems and a Best Places to Work employer.
Test 2: Mission, Motive and Means. This test measures the degree of alignment between the stated mission (the what) and the motive (why) and means (how). Example 2: High Point University: Dr. Nido R. Qubein, President. Dr. Qubein became the seventh president of High Point University in 2005. In 10 years, driven by courage, faith, optimism and positivity, he continues to lead HPU through an extraordinary transformation that includes: tripling undergraduate enrollment, tripling the size of the campus, doubling the number of faculty, constructing 50 new buildings, raising $220 million without a formal campaign, and boosting investment to $1 billion. HPU academic rankings for a regional university soared from #17 in 2005 to #1 this year. He grew up in the Middle East to a single mother after his father died when he was six years old. In search of opportunity, he came to the United States as a teenager with limited knowledge of English and only $50 in his pocket. His inspiring life story is filled with adversity and abundance, success and significance, having led High Point University through unprecedented growth and accomplishments in the heart of the great recession.
Test 3: Mother Nature, Father Time . This test assesses how well leaders adhere to natural laws and timeless, universal principles. Example 3: W.L. Gore: Terri Kelly, CEO. W.L. Gore is the maker of Gore-Tex weather-proof fabrics, and unique medical, electronic and industrial materials. It is a privately held global company, with $3 billion in annual revenue and 10,000 associates in 45 plants worldwide. Over 80 percent of Gore associates work in self-managed teams. Employees are equals who decide what projects to work on based on their passion. All associates are owners. They feel great responsibility for business outcomes. If they think we’re going in the wrong direction, or a decision is wrong, they speak up. CEO Terri Kelly notes that leaders emerge by expressing a clear vision that inspires others to follow: You become a leader at Gore by having followers. If you call a meeting, and no one shows up, you’re not a leader. Gore uses peer reviews to identify individuals who are growing into leadership roles.
In spite of such great examples of authentic leaders, many people are confused about what constitutes authentic leadership, said Shelton, and thus fall for the shadow side or what he calls Counterfeit Leadership. “There is a dark side to having emotional, social and political intelligence,” he said. “Leaders with social insight can become master manipulators, even con-artists. Sadly I have seen enough cases of counterfeit leaders that I now believe that most so-called leaders are affected (blind) to some degree—and some selfish leaders seem to fit this dark profile perfectly. In such leadership teams, the blind are often leading the blind,” continued Shelton. “What happens is that people often become candidates for management and leadership positions based on curious criteria—appearance, social intelligence, political correctness, professional networks, personality, connections and charisma. In cultures where such criteria trump character and competence, empathy and compassion, counterfeit leadership flourishes.”
Shelton said that he feels compelled to explore the dark side because of the immense damage that manipulative personalities can cause once they gain positons of power. He shared two examples of counterfeit leaders. First, the former CEO of Volkswagen, Martin Winterkorn and his management team deliberately perpetrated the “emissions scam” that tarnished the brand and wiped out 40% of VW’s market capitalization in one month! Second, Angelo Mozilo, former CEO of the U.S. mortgage firm Countrywide Financial, was architect of the 2008 “Lendron” scandal, resulting in the collapse of the housing market and the great recession. Regulators were shocked with the high number of toxic assets on Countrywide’s balance sheets and the bold measures the company took to hide them. Since buying Countrywide in 2008, Bank of America has paid out $117 billion to settle the mortgage mess inherited from Mozilo. For his part, Mozilo was fined $67 million to settle a civil fraud case with the US SEC, but he paid next to nothing from his own pocket, and his net worth is still estimated at $600 million.
“Counterfeit leaders understand what triggers people’s emotions and motivates behaviors and use it to their advantage,” said Shelton. “These master manipulators put themselves first, and will do anything to get what they want. If their keen understanding of human nature is not tempered by empathy and social responsibility, it can be used to take advantage of others and lead to dishonest, deceptive, manipulative, immoral, unethical, illegal and even evil behavior.”
Shelton cited one study showing that about half of all up-and-coming leaders would cheat to win; believe that the end justifies the means; pretend to be someone they’re not; lie about their job title or achievements in a resume or interview; use insincere flattery to get ahead; listen to gossip to gain information; resort to lying, flirting, flattering or using guilt-trips, intimidation, blackmail or manipulation to get what they want. “In other words,” summarized Shelton, “they will lie, cheat and steal—and do just anything devious—to advance their careers.”
In conclusion, Shelton warned leaders to keep their eye on the ball of purpose, people, product, sales and service. “Since there is some degree of counterfeit leader in all of us, we need access to self-awareness and conscience to avoid slipping into dark corners or to excuse lapses of judgment, arrogance, complacency, isolation or ignorance. We need to face with compassionate self-honesty the counterfeit leader within—the part that needs transformation but resists it. We can’t always choose our leaders of teams and organizations, companies and countries, but we can become authentic leaders ourselves and have great influence with the people in our lives.”
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For more information, contact Dr. R L Bhatia, Founder, World CSR Day and World CSR Congress and visit www.worldleadershipcongress.org.
Sample #3: Parable (one of about 30) from my 2015 book Science of Spirit
Parable of the Invited Guest
Once there was a man of some ambition for advancement for himself and his family but of limited means. So, he sought the company of another man—an officer of his organization—someone who could mentor him—open doors of opportunity and windows of insight, knowledge, truth, wisdom, and wealth.
Wanting to meet this distinguished officer in person when he would be in town for a board meeting in a month, the man decided to invite him to his house. Since his abode was humble and dirty, in need of work, he prepared a list of all that would need to be repaired, cleaned, replaced, mended, painted, landscaped, carpeted, and tidied up.
He divided his list into two parts, like bread and water: 1) physical (indoor and outdoor cleaning and repair and appearance); and 2) spiritual (internal change and development). He then prayed for the strength and resources to make it all happen in one month’s time.
Suddenly he began to notice all that needed work—all that he had become blind to seeing before. He had become complacent, settled into a comfort zone, and tolerated sub-standard conditions, as if by a silent, tacit agreement with himself and his wife.
Hoping to impress his guest, the man now wanted everything—inside and out—to be green and clean, neat and tidy, new and novel. He wanted the first impression to be favorable and hoped the man would feel comfortable in his home…that he might abide, even reside in close proximity, for a long season, perhaps even a permanent stay.
So intent was he on making a good impression that he inquired as to what the guest might want to eat and drink for his health and what might make him want to share his wealth. Also, what sights and attractions in the city would best delight him—and not offend him or drive him away or cause him to take his business elsewhere.
And so the work began. The man and his wife worked day and night for a month. In due time, they achieved nothing short of miracle—a transformation of the property, along with their personal appearance—that they might gain the distinguished man’s attention and trust and benefit from his companionship over time.
Finally the day of the meeting arrived. As the man and his wife made one last inspection of their property and their appearance, they vowed to make this condition the “new normal” for themselves, their children and their home and yard.
As they greeted their guest, they exchanged gifts. Humbled by the great worth of the guest’s gift compared to their own, they thanked him profusely through tears of gratitude and joy. “Your mere presence is gift enough,” said the man to his guest.
Happily, so comfortable was the distinguished guest in this humble home and with this man and his wife that he agreed to visit them and the children often. He even told them how they could reach him anytime—so in spirit, at least, he could always be with them.
Sample #4: Testimony in Church, September 2015, Midway, Utah
Why Seek the One?
He or She is the Key to Others.
Testimony by Ken Shelton
I’m remembering 9/11 and wondering: Why leave the 99 and seek after the 1 (or the 11)? Why try to save anyone from burning and tumbling towers (symbolic of all perilous situations) at the inconvenience, expense, or risk of your own life?
After all, what CEO, manager, coach, quality control specialist or systems analyst—or for that matter, bishop or priest—would not be ecstatic with 99 percent? Can’t we rightfully—and righteously—consider the 1 to be inconsequential attrition? With 99 sheep “in” the fold, why worry about or bother with seeking the 1 “out”?
Imagine asking Thomas S. Monson, president and prophet of Christ’s Church, Why have you, daily for the past 60+ years, left the 99 (or 15 million members) and gone out of your way to seek after and minister to the 1?
I testify that President Monson would say something like this: During my days as a young bishop, I learned three important lessons: 1) it’s true what they say: No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care; 2) nothing shows you care like being there, at their side, especially when they need you; and 3) nothing shows the 99 that you care about them as much as when you minister to the one, especially when the one is the last, least, lowest, littlest, lame, or lost.
My neighbor Scott Hammond is a volunteer member of the county Search and Rescue team. For several years, whenever prompted by his beeper, he leaves whatever he is doing and heads straightway to join the search and rescue effort to save one lost soul.
I testify that the true shepherds and servants of Jesus Christ, prompted by the Spirit, voluntarily leave the 99 to search for, rescue, and minister to the one.
In fairness, I must testify that the inverse is also true: Those who are not true shepherds will be satisfied, if not self-congratulatory, for achieving 99 percent—leaving the one to suffer, alone, and perhaps perish.
This week, I slipped into the 9 a.m. Midway church meeting and joined a man (Bill) about my age, perhaps a bit older, sitting alone by the south-side entrance.
Before I spoke to Bill, I read the story written about him by his appearance (out-of fashion clothes, rugged features, weathered face and hands).
Since Bill was sitting next to the programs, I asked if he was the official greeter.
“No,” he said, “I’m just a peon,” implying involuntary servitude, inferior status.
Being somewhat familiar with feudal and caste systems, I replied in like terms, “Hi, Bill. I’m Ken, a peasant in the same camp. Why do you call yourself a peon?
“I’m nobody special,” he said. “I have no calling, no friends here.”
I asked, Are you a member of this ward?
I think so, he said. I don’t come to church often. No one knows me. I’m low life.
In the social stratification of feudal systems, low life—peons, peasants and serfs—were excluded based on cultural notions of purity and prominence. Society was divided into rigid social/economic groups—the lower status basically being a condition of bondage, servitude, or modified slavery—as people who occupied a plot of land were required to serve the Lord of the Manor and in return were entitled to work certain fields for meager subsistence.
In an effort to buoy up Bill, I told him that I, not he, deserved to be considered the lowest-ranking member—of the entire Church. I pled my case: “For the past 30 years I’ve traveled the globe alone, nowhere to call home, and attended Church when and where I could. I’ve had no real church calling for 20 years. In fact, I call myself an outcast—human trash, as dispensable and disposable as a dirty diaper.”
“Yikes,” said Bill, “nothing is worse than a dirty diaper. You deserve to be crowned the lowest ranking member in the Church.”
Of course, in his day, Christ—the Savior of mankind—wore the crown of thorns. He encountered all sorts of prejudice, pride, intolerance, unrighteous dominion, and alleged status of prominence and superiority. Christ then promised dramatic reversals of fortunes in the future (you see, even a dirty diaper—when washed and cleansed—can suddenly be seen as the most valuable item in any household with a baby).
Now, as a former wrestler, I’m familiar with reversals (when you come from underneath and gain control on top of your opponent). As a high school wrestler, I experienced an extreme reversal of fortune—going from being pinned 10 consecutive times as a sophomore to losing only one match as a senior.
Christ taught using parables and contrasts in superlatives—extreme reversals of fortune—from the lowest, last, least, poorest to first, best, highest, richest, greatest.
So, why bother with saving the one? The One lone or lost or lame person may be One of the Lord’s top draft picks, even though we may see him or her as ordinary. As CS Lewis wrote: “There are no ordinary people” (no peons, peasants, serfs or outcasts). “You have never talked to a mere mortal. It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses—to remember that the dullest person you talk to may one day be a creature whom you would be strongly tempted to worship.”
Of many stories I could tell as testimony to the truth of saving one, I think of two:
First, Oseola McCarty from Hattiesburg, Mississippi spent a lifetime washing, ironing and mending dirty clothes, including dirty cloth diapers. Her needs in life were simple. She lived in a small house and economized in every possible way, even cutting the toes out of shoes if they did not fit. Her pay over the decades was small, mostly in one dollar bills and change, but she tithed and saved consistently and one day donated $150,000—in $1 bills—to finance scholarships for poor black students at the University of Southern Mississippi. Local business leaders matched the $150,000. And by the way, the $300,000 has helped dozens of poor students, so far, to improve their lives.
Second, on Friday, Dec. 21, 2012, I was $5K short of making payroll and had other debts—resulting from two cases of affinity fraud and employee embezzlement (one by a neighbor and another by a nephew). I decided to close my 30-year-old business. No one in Utah would have known or cared, except for two remaining employees. It was a painful decision. All that I had worked so long and hard for would be lost—in spite of a blessing given me by Elder Holland that, if I remain faithful, I would receive what I would need to continue, even if the relief came at the last minute by miraculous means.
At about 11 a.m. I was busy preparing to announce the closing, effective at noon, when into the office barged a big man, John Hewlett, who told me in his loud voice that he had driven from Montana to see me, that he heard me speak a decade ago, and that the Spirit had commanded him to give me $5,000 immediately. And by the way, that $5,000 enabled me to stay in business long enough to sell the assets and continue to this day bigger and better than ever, blessing the lives of a half million people worldwide.
Again, why save the one? Because in the Lord’s higher math, in his calculus, 1 is not next to nothing but equal, in eternity, to infinity. Indeed, great is the worth of one soul. One of my sons, as other missionaries have done, invested two years of his life to bring but one soul—a young Chinese chef working in Frankfurt, Germany—into the Church. By the way, that one has since become many—and could become millions.
I testify that all it takes is one true shepherd to bring the light, add the salt, leaven the loaf—and in the Lord’s way and infinite wisdom, over time, this search and rescue will yield exponential returns on investment and extreme reversals; indeed, thanks to the Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ, the so-called Lord of the Manor may some day work for and worship the so-called peon. He who was lost is found, last is first, least is greatest.