Tag Archives: Dave Durand

High power vs. low power

Power and influence are essential in life. Both can be used either as a force for good or a force for evil. In most cases, power-hungry people use their power for evil, whereas those motivated by righteous ideals use power for justice and service.

Dave Durand

Dave Durand

Power and influence ignite strong emotions. On occasion, I’ve heard people reject the notion that power is a worthy goal. They basically stand on the sidelines in life, claiming that they “have no need for power” because they are “simple and want to live a quite humble life.” I can understand their sentiment, but it’s flawed. We all know that evil happens when good people do nothing. So, when it comes to power, we all need to consider how we use it and what happens as a result.

There are two types of basic power. The first is what I call high power: merited power used for good. Less often high power is unmerited power (circumstantial) but also used for good. Low power is unmerited power (circumstantial) used for bad purposes. In rare circumstances low power is merited power but used for destructive reasons.

A great example of unmerited low power can be witnessed when people drive their cars. While some folks daydream in the fast lane, others will intentionally go slow because they want to be first in line. They will block others from passing in order to hold power over them. Some people’s need to feel powerful is remarkable. This happens in countless other passive aggressive ways. Someone who is upset with another may intentionally not answer a call or email that requires a reply. His motivation is not because he’s busy but because he likes the feeling of controlling the other person’s timeline.

Low power is destructive because it serves only one purpose: to fuel the ego of the person levying it. Imagine a police officer who has earned his rank, therefore he has merited power. If he witnesses a crime in progress, he helps the victim by whatever just means necessary including force. He exhibits high power, using merited power for good. On the other hand, if he holds a prejudice of any kind towards the victim and allows the crime to take place, he uses his merited power for evil.

It’s easy to identify low power because low power situations usually don’t make sense. This is a person who in all other ways demonstrates responsibility and competence, then suddenly demonstrates irresponsibility and incompetence, backed up by excuses and other strategies to claim innocence. One of those strategies is deniability. People who relish low power use excuses such as, “I didn’t know” or “there was nothing I could do.” Low power users like to confuse their victims, often by pretending to be concerned, all while doing nothing or, even worse, causing the problem themselves. We know that God is good and he’s the giver of clarity not confusion. Satan, on the other hand, is the father of confusion.

Whether or not power is used for good or evil, it’s generally applied the same way. Power itself is neutral. There are many ways we can exercise power, and in most cases, power is synonymous with influence.

We all have access to many tools in the shed of power and influence. Among them are actual authority (by way of rank or status), knowledge, emotional force, threats and negotiation. Not everyone has authority, yet everyone has power and influence. If you choose to learn more than others on any given topic, you will influence them because of your knowledge. This is a good thing, especially when it’s combined with virtue. The result is merited high power.

The challenge with knowledge is that it tempts the ego. Many people inclined to low power make the mistake of trying to influence others on topics or issues that they know nothing about. They posture and lie to influence others. This is always regrettable, not only for the spiritual toll it takes on people but also because of the temporal effect. Once you’re known to be a liar, you will either lose or degrade your power to influence.

Like knowledge, emotional force can be a source of high power, yet it’s unmerited. We don’t earn our emotions but we do control them. That’s why emotional force, when combined with virtue, is an unmerited high power. We all respond to passions and convictions. Conviction is expressed with emotion, albeit sometimes subtly.

Threats and negotiation are usually used when power and influence are challenged and/or disregarded. This is why merited high power is the greatest way to negotiate or, if need be, threaten. In any case, living in grace and being guided by the Holy Spirit are essential.

DAVE DURAND is an author and the CEO of Best Version Media, LLC.

What your discipline says about your leadership

The chafing that we feel when leaders demand on-time arrivals only to make excuses for their own routine lateness is palpable. These leaders send mixed messages by demanding something from their teams that they themselves are unwilling to provide.

Dave Durand

Dave Durand

Is the leader who is late a hypocrite? Not necessarily. A hypocrite is one who promotes an idea or value that he doesn’t actually believe. It’s safe to assume that any leader worth his salt knows the value of being on time, along with other basic practices of success. It could be that he has a double standard, but it’s likely that he simply lacks discipline.

The gap between what we believe and preach by way of professional practices is something that few are willing to explore. Sales managers often expect things out of their teams that they would never attempt to do. It’s not that all leaders must do all things they promote. A general who sends his troops into harm’s way isn’t obliged to enter the battle on the front lines. It isn’t that he’s unwilling but because it isn’t his role.

The same holds true for teachers who give assignments and coaches who require physical discipline from their players. What’s important, however, is that the standards — which are different from activities — are consistent. In other words, the coach must be disciplined in the activities of coaching. The general must be willing to make the sacrifices relative to his role.

The way we adhere to discipline says much about who we are and plenty about our spiritual lives. Certainly we can use our natural efforts to be disciplined. We see this in people who are professionally successful yet not religious. However, given enough pressure, human limitation will rear its ugly head. That’s when God must be allowed to take over our lives. The Holy Spirit, through the gift of fortitude, often powers discipline.

Leaders who take inventory of their personal disciplines excel. They find ways to improve day after day, year after year. Ultimately their discipline becomes so engrained as a habit that the discomfort of not following through is greater than the pain and effort it takes to be disciplined. This pattern is something we all experience from a young age. Children aren’t naturally disciplined to brush their teeth, clean their rooms and shower. Parents fill in where the child lacks discipline by training the child until, at some point, the child goes from fighting these disciplines to being unable to imagine starting a day without them.

This is a testament to the Catholic concept that grace builds on nature. Where we drive our behaviors into habits, we increase our muscle to do what is good and right, therefore making the effort, well, effortless. The problem is that when the parent is removed from the circumstance, the individual must take over. The initial push to initiate a self-inflicted reward and punishment in order to create a habit or discipline is where most people fail.

I have studied, with inspiration, the disciplines of great people. To be disciplined is to be a disciple. The question is of what or of whom? The word “disciple” can mean student, penitent, sufferer, and even martyr. People often fail to see what I call negative disciplines. The 35-year-old man who lives, unemployed, with his parents, yet masters a video game, is disciplined. Sadly, it’s only to get the high score in a meaningless virtual world. If only he would understand that his disciplines can, in fact, translate to a meaningful life.

Let’s now turn our attention back to leaders who send a mistaken but understandably perceived message of hypocrisy. The weak leader weakens strong people and cripples weak people by failing to demonstrate discipline in his own life.

Coworkers and subordinates value working with smart, creative and resourceful people. However, if polled, most will tell you that all the smarts, creativity and resourcefulness mean nothing without reliability. This is where the rubber hits the road.

It’s impossible to prosper and to inspire for the long term without discipline. Lacking discipline is the kiss of death for life in the world and hope for life in the world to come. That’s why I love being Catholic. It’s God’s mercy, love and intimate knowledge of your soul and mine that has Him provide the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives when natural efforts fall short.

The Holy Spirit is the ultimate giver. When we ask, we receive, but we must be willing to accept and participate in the gift. A gift unwrapped is never enjoyed, and a gift given back insults the giver.

DAVE DURAND is an author and the CEO of Best Version Media, LLC.

The ethics of the heart

DAVE DURAND writes that moral leadership is key to an ethical workplace. If employees can answer “what does it mean to work here” with a moral overtone such as “to do what is right, in the right way, at the right time,” then the culture is secure. The answer should include a standard of behavior that is understood by anyone who hears it . . . .

Dave Durand

Dave Durand

Ethics matter, just as the title of this column presumes. This is an axiom, not an option. But that reality can’t be separated from the hearts of those we lead. It’s imperative that leaders communicate their vision and application of ethical matters so that the culture within the organization doesn’t suffer.

I’m motivated to write about this topic because, time and time again, I witness great leaders implementing ethical procedures without compassion. In most cases it’s done with a poor level of communication. Most leaders who behave this way do so because they have a strong moral compass. I admire that. Their motivation is not in question. However, being “right” doesn’t always substantiate the approach taken to reconcile an infraction.

This conundrum is especially problematic in a day and age when most people aren’t grounded on moral issues. In other words, when a workforce is not morally grounded, it’s important to educate them. It’s imperative to define clearly what moral concerns are prevalent in your work environment.

There is no doubt that black-and-white issues like lying, cheating and stealing are pretty easy for the common person to understand. However, there are nuances in the workplace that can become cloudy. In fact, a 2013 report from the Ethics Resource Center found that 41% of U.S. workers reported that they observed unethical or illegal misconduct on the job.

The majority of the unethical behaviors reported were considered “mild.” This means that they were not robust behaviors that were clearly understood by all parties. To a well-formed Catholic, that might sound absurd (and, in a way, it is absurd). Unfortunately, not everyone is a well-formed Catholic. In fact, most people don’t know how to think ethically. To substantiate that point, consider that the law is the bar that most people use to determine ethical behavior. That is to say, if it’s legal, then it’s ethical and vice versa. We know that is simply not true. Abortion laws make this point easy to understand from a Catholic perspective.

It clearly doesn’t mean that unethical behaviors are “okay” as long as they don’t break laws. It also doesn’t mean that if unknowing participants conduct infractions, it’s okay. What it does mean is that employees must be trained on ethical matters from the perspective of a well-formed leadership team. In other words, from leaders who know better.

The best tools for generating that outcome are culture, policies and procedures. Culture is by far the most important of these tools. A powerfully communicated and lived-out culture becomes an antibody for ferreting out unethical behaviors. This is similar to the way in which a child learns ethics at home. In certain families, lying is permitted by way of example. When a child senses a parent lies in order protect himself, then the child determines that lying is “ethical” if the stakes are high enough or if the circumstance “merits” a lie. In other words, they rationalize that “if my dad did it, then I can do it too.”

On the other hand, if a child is taught that telling the truth is important no matter what pain is associated with the outcome, then she is more willing to tell the truth. And even if she doesn’t, she at least knows better. Therefore she is culpable for her behavior. Taking this analogy back into the workplace, if leaders define the proper way to conduct themselves, then employees will “know better.”

Likewise, policies which prevent unethical behaviors are essential. If these policies are explained from a moral perspective, then when less-defined examples enter into the workday, employees can generalize the standards and apply them. This allows for corrective actions to take place without hurting the culture. In fact, the use of corrective action will enhance and strengthen the culture.

Finally, procedures are important. A procedure is different than a policy because a procedure tells the employee how to go about the action of behaving appropriately, whereas the policy defines the behavior. In the end, the question that most directly defines the power of your “ethical culture” is, “What does it mean to work here?” If employees can answer that question with a moral overtone such as “to do what is right, in the right way, at the right time,” then the culture is secure. There are, of course, many ways to answer that question, but the answer should include a standard of behavior that is understood by anyone who hears it.

As a Catholic, never underestimate the gifts of the Holy Spirit in your own life. If you live out your faith in leadership, those who follow you will be inclined to live it out.

DAVE DURAND is an author and the CEO of Best Version Media, LLC.

Leaders, liars and letting go

DAVE DURAND writes that truly effective leaders need to exercise the cardinal virtues. Leaders find themselves in the midst of all sorts of people — some great, some who will be great, some who lie, others who don’t, some who exhibit virtue, others vice. The challenge dealing with the fact that  most people are a combination of all those things . . .

Dave Durand

Dave Durand

Leadership is complex. It’s filled with paradoxes. On one hand, standards are important. On the other hand, allowing mistakes to happen creates a thriving team.

On one hand, leaders must treat everyone fairly. On the other hand, treating everyone fairly does not mean treating everyone the same. On one hand, servant leadership is crucial. On the other hand, leaders may need to be served from time to time.

These paradoxes (and many more) trouble inexperienced leaders and even confuse mature leaders. How can they be reconciled? The answer can be derived from the age-old adage: “Any idea taken too far becomes a bad idea.” Ironically, even that statement has limitations. Clearly, intrinsic evils and moral absolutes can’t be taken too far. However, the saying’s essence is applicable. In an overarching sense, this challenge is what makes some leaders great and others fail.

Leadership is an art form, not a science. If the lifetime of a leader were tracked with the same graphs used to measure the stock market, you would see ups and downs in rapid succession. However, you would also see the overarching rise or decline over the lifetime of the leader. This longterm rise or fall, illustrated by the metaphorical graph, will be the pass or fail indicator for a leader. For great leaders, the trajectory remains the same but the rapid ups and downs begin to stabilize. This represents learning from experience.

Experience is the best tool for forging great leaders. However, the cardinal virtues are the greatest accelerator for growth. The word “cardinal” comes from the Latin word “cardo,” which means “hinge.”

The cardinal virtues are different from the theological virtues because they are God’s gift to anyone who desires good. In other words, they can be acquired or infused by God whereas the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity are only infused. The cardinal virtues are the hinge from which all natural virtues hang and are used by all great leaders regardless of religious affiliation.

The cardinal virtues — prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance — are the ticket to understanding the paradoxes of leadership. Prudence has an intellectual component and allows a leader to judge correctly. It’s the mother of all virtues because the other virtues cannot contradict it. It therefore drives a leader to seek counsel and understanding. You know you have prudence when you demonstrate open-mindedness, a non-distorted picture of events both past and present — and the ability to foresee the goal and consequences of an action. In business, “thought leaders” often use the analogous term “alchemistic” to describe people with the virtue of prudence because alchemistic thinkers can see how all parts fit together.

Justice allows leaders to make proper judgments as they pertain to individuals, groups and the relationship of an organization to individuals. Oftentimes leaders develop policies that are meant to produce a positive outcome but create injustices. Great leaders understand that a policy for policies’ sake is destructive. Signs that you exhibit justice are seen in attitudes such as obedience, gratitude, equity and friendliness. Justice builds trust in an organization and trust creates speed, which is a tremendous strategic advantage.

Fortitude allows you to stand firm in the midst of challenges while pursuing what is good. You will exhibit fortitude when you move ahead despite being afraid. You will see it in persistence and perseverance which often result in great works.

The cardinal virtue of temperance allows you to keep emotions and passions regulated by reason. A practical way to practice temperance is to “tame your want to’s and fuel your ought to’s.” You know you have temperance in your life if you desire to avoid shame while having a sense of honor.

In order to reconcile the paradoxes, you need to exercise the cardinal virtues. Leaders find themselves in the midst of all sorts of people — some great, some who will be great, some who lie, others who don’t, some who exhibit virtue, others vice. If it were that easy, everyone could lead. The challenge is that most people are a combination of all those things.

However, if you develop the cardinal virtues, you will see things at a deeper level, allowing you to know where to hang on and what to let go. While the cardinal virtues can be acquired, the greatest way to maximize your ability to lead is to live in a state of grace (see page 30 for a related article), which permits the gifts of the Holy Spirit to be infused into your life allowing you to lead supernaturally.

DAVE DURAND is a best-selling author on personal development topics and the CEO of Best Version Media LLC.

It’s the least I could do

Dave Durand writes that a growing number of employees do as little as possible at work. For leaders, the primary tool to help minimalists change behavior is a solid culture. There is a saying that culture eats strategy for lunch. This holds true because a great strategy without a strong culture leads to ruin, but a great culture leads to effective strategy . . .

Dave Durand

Dave Durand

To most of us, “it’s the least I could do” means, “I wish I could have done more.” However, to a sad and growing number of people, it is a goal.

I have a personal policy of attempting to provide solutions whenever I write on a topic that may strike some readers as a rant against an issue which undeniably irritates me. I will provide solutions in this article. But beforehand, I must admit, there may be a bit of a rant. My apologies to those who take offence. But to those who share my irritation, let’s get started!

Minimalist behavior is certainly destructive in relationships and organizations, but it’s the minimalist who suffers the most. Regrettably, I must include myself in this category at times. I think that’s partially why the topic ignites me. It seems that all of us have that tendency on occasion. In fact, during my college years and several years following, minimalism was my way of life when it came to my faith. I basically went to Mass on Sundays, but it wasn’t because I strived to be holy. It was primarily to hedge my bet against going to hell. That admission is embarrassing but true. I learned a lot from that experience.

When it comes to organizations, we have all worked with minimalists — the people who strive to do as little as possible. At work, they show up late, meander around their work day and scoot out as early as possible. Minimalists have a mental block and a retardation of maturity. Above all, they are selfish. The core problem for a minimalist is the lack of ability to suffer for a greater good. When people get trapped in minimalist behavior, they have a difficult time escaping the trap because they form habits which translate into nearly every part of life. At home they do as little as possible to contribute to family life, and asking a minimalist to volunteer is a waste of breath.

In order to free oneself from minimalist behavior, it is necessary to step outside of your own world and see the big picture. This is done by taking stock of the damage that is done and eventually seeing the upside to striving for the greater good. The good news is that we are all capable of this transition.

For leaders, the primary tool to help minimalists change their behavior is a solid culture. There is a saying that culture eats strategy for lunch. This axiom holds true because a great strategy without a strong culture leads to ruin, but a great culture always leads to effective strategy. Culture is formed by keeping the relevant outcomes of any organization front and center. This is done by teaching your team that what each person does at work is secondary to who they become as they do their work. Biblically speaking, we must remember the scriptural truth that it merits man nothing to win the world without saving his own soul. Of course, that was accomplished by Christ’s saving work on the cross, but or participation in that process is significant. In the life of a Catholic, we can feed the poor and spread the gospel, but if we don’t allow God’s grace to transform us, we will fall short.

Similarly, in leadership, if we expect our teams to work hard and sacrifice for the mission but we fail to hold the same standards for our own behaviors, we will be recognized as hypocrites. When hypocrisy is recognized by our teams, they will soon adopt the behavior and minimalism will become the culture. In order to overcome this danger, we must promote the mission and repeat it often in both word and action.

A powerful way to remember this is to know that an A today is a B tomorrow. A first grader’s reading skills, which merit an A in first grade will soon become a B in second grade and a C or D in third grade if progress does not follow. Likewise, our efforts at one stage in life will become less effective as years progress unless we strive to match our character and outcomes as we age. At the core, we are powered by the gifts of the Holy Spirit to avoid minimalist behavior. Stay in the state of grace and pray for the fortitude to strive for the best you can be at work and at home.

DAVE DURAND s the best-selling author of “Perpetual Motivation” and “Say This, Not That.” He is a business executive and trainer of over 100,000 individuals in sales, marketing and business management.

The ‘feel’ of ethics in leadership

Dave Durand writes that leaders can inspire a range of emotions in others — both good and bad, some on purpose and others inadvertently. Even though leading is more important that inspiring positive feelings, leaders should be aware of how they make others feel in order to be fully effective. Ultimately, he says, leaders should lead with humility . . .

Dave Durand

Recently my friend and mentor passed away. He spent 62 of his 88 years in life as an entrepreneur. He taught me many things over two decades. Some lessons were complex, yet others simple.

One primary lesson he shared with me summarizes what he stood for, and I’ll carry it with me for the rest of my life. He often said, “People will not always remember what you said. They will not necessarily remember what you did, but they will always remember how you made them feel.”

The “feel” we convey to others may be the most powerful tool for creating results or destroying possibilities for leaders. In many cases, the way people feel about you actually classifies the way in which they perceive your ethics. People often claim sales people who pressure customers are unethical. However, everyone has a different threshold for feeling pressured. In many cases the sales person is not trying to apply pressure, rather he is just being enthusiastic. So how can such a subjective thing as sales pressure be perceived and labeled in such an objective way as to be called unethical?

The answer is that it doesn’t really matter why because, even though feelings are an unfair evaluation of ethics, they are the primary driver of perception. Most people perceive “your ethics” based on how you make them feel. So paying attention to the way you make others feel is essential. This reality doesn’t mean that leaders should attempt to sugar coat all situations, appease followers, or lead only after taking a poll. It does, however, mean they should be intentional about what feelings their words and actions will convey. It’s tragic when a leader makes an ethical decision but communicates it in a way that weakens his organization’s morale.

Leaders inspire a range of emotions in others — some intentional, others inadvertent. The four primary emotions that produce action or apathy are: importance, empowerment, being belittled or feeling hamstrung. Take note that these feelings are personal feelings, not opinions about the leader. It’s often said that it’s better for leaders to be respected and unpopular than it is to be liked and not respected. This is true but it’s also a distinction that misses the point of leadership and distracts a leader from a better objective. A mature leader pays much less attention to whether or not he is liked or respected and way more attention to how the people he leads feel about themselves, rather than about him. By default, a leader who makes people feel empowered and important will be respected and, in most cases, liked. But those are secondary benefits to the primary goal.

On the other hand, a leader who makes people feel hamstrung can actually, and ironically, be well liked. Consider politicians who tell the message of doom and gloom while promising to “give” help to the helpless. The purpose of such a message is to make followers feel helpless and dependent on the leader. Such leaders intentionally weaken their followers in order to increase their own personal perceived power. On the opposite side of the spectrum, leaders who don’t desire popularity but fail to equip their followers with the tools they need to help themselves, also conjure up the feeling of being hamstrung. Either way, being hamstrung is a feeling that never produces results.

As Catholics, we are taught from a young age that we should know our value because we are children of God who loves us. Obviously, if God loves us we must be important. In addition, the gospel tells us that we can do all things though Christ who strengthens us. God our Father is the perfect example of leadership so we are wise to inspire these feelings in the people we lead.

On the other hand, the evil one can make us feel falsely important — or he belittles us and causes fear and doubt. He attempts to make us feel hamstrung by stripping from us the gifts of the Holy Spirit. His greatest weapon is despair, the ultimate dagger in the back of our thighs. Leaders who emulate him can be popular with those who don’t know better. But given enough time, that leader’s true colors come out and even the deceived become aware.

Key to leaders’ inspiring positive feelings in others are truth and humility. Humble leaders who adhere to the truth empower their followers with feelings of independence and strength. When leaders lead in truth and humility, they have greater odds of being ethical and of imparting feelings that build trust.

Dave Durand is the best-selling author of “Perpetual Motivation” and “Say This, Not That.” He is a business executive and trainer of over 100,000 individuals in sales, marketing and business management. An abridged version of this article appeared in the October 2012 issue of Legatus magazine.

Ethics in a post-Christian world

Dave Durand writes that it’s difficult to separate ethics from morals. This is highlighted, he says, by the fact that most people use both words to define one another. By definition, ethics is almost always rooted in morality, whereas morality is sometimes defined without ethics. Most people define morality based on differing philosophical perspectives . . . .

Dave Durand

It seems that certain issues find their way into my inbox in groups. Recently, ethics vs. morals has become a theme. I’ve been in discussions with business leaders who are working through complex ethical issues. It seems that no matter which direction they turn, on the surface, a moral argument can be made and someone will feel the pain of their decision.

In one meeting an executive, who previously touted her adherence to “high level ethics,” vehemently opposed a colleague who used two biblical passages to support his perspective. She exclaimed, “I’m fine with my ethics but don’t push your morality on me!” It was striking how she separated her ethics from his morality.

How is it that people who use “ethics and morality” as the grounds for their position can see things so differently? In this instance, I deduced that the chaffing in the meeting was a result of the biblical references. In the work place, references to religion can cause a visceral reaction in some people. This is often because they tie morality to religion while they connect ethics to business. But people who claim their own ethics separate from morality are futilely attempting to have their cake and eat it too.

Technically, it is really difficult to separate ethics from morals. This is highlighted by the fact that most people use both words to define one another. By definition, ethics is almost always rooted in morality, whereas morality is sometimes defined without ethics. The real confusion comes in because most people define morality based on differing philosophical perspectives. That method creates different standards and “rules” for behavior that seep their way into the workplace. In the end, it creates moral relativism.

As Catholics, we have access to the proper understanding of morality because we are grounded in natural law and guided by the Church. As simple as that sounds, moral issues can be very complex. For example, we know that in Catholic moral teaching there are situations that fall under the principle of Double Effect. (Click here for a related story) In these cases, a morally permissible action may unintentionally create an effect that, as a primary objective, would be immoral. An example could be the unintentional deaths of civilians in a just war.

The desired outcome of ethical actions may also be a factor that confuses people. In business, many people see profit as the desired outcome. Of course, there is nothing wrong with that outcome. However, if the desire for profit becomes disordered, then self-justification can pave the way to nearly any behavior.

This reduces ethics to a tool instead of a framework. Catholics see morality and ethics as means to holiness; therefore they are used to frame a structure, not simply as a tool or veneer to cover it. “Ethics as a tool” encourages people to “look” ethical rather than be ethical. Thus permitting unethical behavior is fine as long as a profit is realized and, according to them, everyone looks good and no one gets hurt. As Catholics, we know that outcome is impossible and that every immoral action has an effect on our world, even if we can’t see the effect for ourselves. We also know that appearances do not equal holiness.

In the business world, the green movement is an example of a mix of true morality and artificial ethics. I have witnessed organizations make the decision to stop polluting and or wasting resources and materials in ways that are very responsible and necessary in order to be good stewards. The sincerity and sacrifice made by these people is real — and even a heroic correction of poor decisions from past generations.

On the other hand, there are executives laughing all the way to the bank regarding green initiatives. Some corporate officers even quip, during drinks, that the whole thing is malarkey in their opinion but necessary in order to appear politically correct. During meetings they publically proclaim that taking the company green is a moral and ethical issue when in reality their private opinion is that it’s only necessary to maintain a client base, therefore profits. Of course, there is nothing wrong with catering to a customer base but it is dubious to use the boardroom to appear ethical when that is not the actual motivator.

Universities are wise to teach business ethics courses. We may have even avoided the financial crisis had the ideas in these courses been put in practice. But teaching ethics without teaching the fullness of morality as the Church understands it, will always fall short. And teaching both in depth will have little effect if grace is not flowing into the hearts and souls of those who make decisions.

As Catholics we can change the direction of companies and even of nations by doing three simple but not easy things. First, we need to learn the faith. Second, we need to participate in the sacraments and in prayer. Third, we must live out the grace that God bestows on us after we do the first two things.

Tackling moral and ethical issues requires a mix of fortitude, wisdom, understanding and downright worldly strategy. We need to be as cunning as a serpent yet as pure as a dove when we mingle with the world. That means moving people’s hearts and their minds. And in most cases, it’s not the mind in the way of sound moral decisions — it’s the heart and will.

So if we speak to people’s hearts before we speak to their heads, we can win them over. It just may take more time than we want, but morality is beautiful like art — and the most beautiful art takes time to construct. Once it is created, it’s enjoyed by lots of people for many years.

Dave Durand is the best-selling author of “Perpetual Motivation” and “Say This, Not That.” He is a business executive and trainer of over 100,000 individuals in sales, marketing and business management.

Finding the right words

Dave Durand writes that if you use all the right words but you lack the discipline to say things the right way, the words will not work. Leaders who see their work as a vocation rather than a career have a distinct advantage in this regard. Once you embrace the objective to inspire others and to be humble, the Holy Spirit will provide the words . . .

Dave Durand

Leadership effectiveness is filled with paradoxes. One such paradox is the question of what carries the most weight in communications: the words leaders choose or the messages they send (apart from their words).

You may be familiar with Dr. Albert Mehrabian’s famous study that determined words only represent 7% of the message we send when communicating. According to the study, 55% of the message we send to others is communicated via our physiology, while voice quality makes up the remaining 38%. So is it a waste of time to discuss the importance of words? Not at all. As anyone in leadership will tell you, the right choice of words is central to communicating a well-received message, thus the paradox.

Communicating is like financial management. It could be said that 93% of success, when it comes to building wealth, is based on discipline. For the purpose of this analogy, you could say that the discipline of controlling spending would hold the weight that physiology holds in communicating, while earning potential (also a type of discipline) would be equivalent to voice quality. These two financial basics are what enable an investor to pursue the intellectual side of finances such as investment strategy. You may be the smartest person in the room when it comes to investment strategies, but if you lack discipline, your knowledge is useless. However, if you have discipline, then you have the privilege of allowing your financial knowledge to yield a great return.

In the same light, when it comes to communicating, if you use all the right words but you lack the discipline to say things the right way with the correct emotional energy, then the words will not work. The right words are crucial once everything else is in place. Another way of looking at it is that choosing the right investments, like choosing the right words, won’t matter much until the basics of investing and communicating are in place. However, once they are in place, the words, like the proper investments, make all the difference and separate the wealthy from the poor — and the profound from the confused.

So, what are the right words? Are there any standards for communicating the right words that can be universally used? Thankfully, there are a few simple principles to help you make the right choice of words.

One of those principles is quite familiar to Legates because it’s fundamental to our faith — the Golden Rule. The bedrock of treating others as we desire to be treated creates the foundation for finding the right words. We all want to feel respected and secure, so choosing words that make others feel that way is best. That means avoiding derogatory terms or unnecessary criticism. When you use words that inspire others, you will generally be communicating with an inspired person. On the other hand, when you tear others down, you will be communicating with either a defensive person or an insecure person. When people are insecure or defensive, they’re not at their best. So, when possible use words that inspire confidence.

Another communication paradox is illustrated by George Burns’ quip, “The key to acting is sincerity. Once you can fake that, you have it made.” Many leadership consultants tout the importance of authenticity when it comes to communicating. While I believe authenticity is essential for excellent leadership, there are far too many examples of phony leaders who, in the short term, are such talented communicators that they fool their followers with style and articulation. It’s interesting that a talent or “skill” such as communicating can be so powerful that it covers the lack of virtue in incompetent or insincere leaders.

Sophisticated followers are usually able to recognize phony leadership. This  means that insincere leaders generally attract followers they can easily manipulate or control. The best way to attract strong people to your cause is to be truly authentic and then to present yourself with words that are humble and even at times self-deprecating.

Leaders who see their work as a vocation rather than a career have a distinct advantage in this realm because they see their gifts as a glorification of God and not of self. That’s why they have an easier time avoiding words such as “I” and “me” followed by taking credit. Instead, they use words like “they,” “he,” “she” or, if necessary, “we” and “us.” Ironically, words that communicate humility attract the very thing that most people try to attract by using arrogant or egocentric words. Strong people are attracted to strong people. Bullies and weaklings are attracted to bullies and weaklings. So communicate a message of strength by admitting appropriate flaws and by showering praise upon the people who deserve it.

Once you have embraced the objective to inspire others, to be humble in the way you present yourself, to be honest, and to live in virtue, then the words will come to you. Remember also that you need to be divinely inspired. Call upon the Holy Spirit, and God will give you the words you need at the right time.

Dave Durand is the best-selling author of “Perpetual Motivation” and “Win the World Without Losing Your Soul.” He is a business executive and trainer of well over 100,000 individuals in sales, marketing and business management.

The price and illusion of loyalty

Dave Durand says that loyal employees and customers are key to successful business. He contends that we can learn a lot of business lessons from the apostles. John was loyal to Christ throughout His ministry. Peter was disloyal, but repented. Judas was disloyal, but did not repent. A humble person is always loyal, but one who pushes blame is not . . .

Dave Durand

Loyalty is a word that is used often in the business community. Establishing loyal customers is always a challenge and a worthy pursuit. Creating a culture of loyal employees also has its serious and obvious benefits.

Are there really loyal people out there? A skeptic would argue that true, free loyalty is not achievable. He might even add that “everyone has a price,” insinuating that, given enough money, power, or pain, everyone’s loyalty can be purchased or stolen.

To my mind, the most challenging ideas are those which contain enough truth to be nearly undeniable, yet have enough error to destroy their entire theory; the question of true loyalty is one of those ideas. I’m not alone in that I have experienced plenty of betrayal. When people experience betrayal — or even mild forms of disloyalty — they can become jaded, but that is a mistake.

We can learn a lot about loyalty from the apostles. The entire spectrum is represented by the twelve. On one end there is Judas, who put on a good show but lacked loyalty at the highest level. He positioned himself as the kind of guy who was dedicated to Jesus and concerned about the poor, yet his facade was merely a front to hide the fact that he was a thief. Judas traded in his eternal well-being for a few coins. On the surface, his story confirms the skeptic’s theory, but fortunately for us, God’s grace can lift even the lowest heart. In fact, God empowers loyalty beyond comprehension.

On the opposite side of the spectrum is St. John, a great example of supernatural loyalty. His loyalty was stronger than fear. Despite seeing Jesus arrested, falsely accused, scourged, mocked, beaten and crucified, John stayed at the foot of the cross. He must have feared that he too might suffer the same fate by association. His loyalty is not common.

Next to John on the spectrum, but slightly to his left at the time, is St. Peter. He represents the most common type of dedicated loyalty. Ultimately Peter gave his life for Christ, but he grew into that grace after he denied Him. Jesus knew Peter would be weak at that moment, yet He chose him to be His vicar.

What did Jesus see in Peter that we might have failed to see in him ourselves? How many of us, as leaders, might have passed by the fisherman during the “interview” process? How many of us would have fired him for the first infraction of disloyalty because we failed to see the desire and commitment he possessed, despite his temporary weaknesses?

Estimating loyalty is one of the least talked about, yet most important leadership skills that must be gained by anyone with subordinates. There are three simple ways that I’ve learned to estimate the loyalty of people I bring into my life at work.

The first is not a character assessment as much as it is an observation of maturity. There are times when new employees or partners express their loyalty in such absolute terms that I can only surmise that they lack the experience to understand what they’re saying. For example, a new employee will say that he’s committed to my company for “life,” yet he has no experience to know what that means. He reminds me of teenagers who marry right out of high school without a complete understanding of what their commitment actually entails. A sober look at what it means to be loyal builds trust. I try to estimate loyalty based on understanding what loyalty actually means beyond the honeymoon. Can the person in question realistically describe what it means to be loyal when push comes to shove? Does she see loyalty as an emotion like joy or does she see loyalty as a decision?

The second way I estimate loyalty is through humility. A humble person is a loyal person. The disadvantage I have is that I can’t read souls or hearts, so I’m limited to objective observations and my “gut.” One way I identify humility that leads to loyalty is by observing people when they make mistakes. Do they openly and readily own them or do they deny them and push the blame on others? People who push blame are never loyal. That is certain.

The third way I estimate loyalty is by eagerness. Loyal people are eager to advance the cause of an organization. They don’t sit back and wait to be told what to do. They don’t wait to care. They simply care. This is a lasting characteristic. It’s an active participation in the mission.

These three “ways” allow for a few mistakes here and there. They allow for the St. Peters out there to make mistakes but also to rise to a new occasion. I love a comeback story, which is why a second or third chance for the right person can be the right approach. In the end, we can all make mistakes on these estimates. But with openness to the gifts of the Holy Spirit we will get it right most of the time.

Dave Durand is the best-selling author of “Perpetual Motivation” and “Win the World Without Losing Your Soul.” He is a business executive  and trainer of well over 100,000 individuals in sales, marketing and business management.

Tackling lazy leader syndrome

Dave Durand argues that lazy leaders have an obligation to motivate their team despite their own personal struggles. Similarly, doctors have an obligation to give their patients the best advice — even if they’re not following the advice themselves. Priests, too, have an obligation to rail against sin despite the fact that every priest sins . . .

Dave Durand

There is no shortage of sports analogies in the workplace. They are effective because they conjure up appropriate images of hard work, strategy, team effort and last-minute victories.

A less common but practical analogy is that of families. This example is used less often for several reasons, including the fact that the analogy places the leader as a parent and the subordinate as a child. This is an obviously offensive picture to paint for sensitive followers, which is unfortunate because the example can be useful. The analogy works because great leaders, like great parents, should try to protect their respective cells. It’s also a powerful parallel because both children and subordinates expect the highest conduct from their respective leaders.

With this analogy as the backdrop I can remember a liberal parent once quipping to me, “Who am I to tell my kids not to be promiscuous or smoke pot? I did those things. Telling them to avoid them makes me feel like a hypocrite.” No doubt the audience reading this column sees the obvious weakness in this logic. Clearly parents have the duty to guide their children away from making mistakes regardless of their own misconduct. Then there are other parents who smoke cigarettes or marijuana but preach the evils of such vices to their children. These kids will probably fall into the same practice as their parents despite the warnings because, as you know, actions speak louder than words.

So, is it immoral to preach what you don’t practice — or just ineffective? In the case of an illegal substance, the answer is clear. But smoking cigarettes is not necessarily an intrinsically evil act as much as it is simply bad for you. In taking the analogy from the home into the workplace, what happens when a leader — who is not motivated and hides behind a big desk — asks his team to be motivated? Is it wrong? Is it unethical?

While it’s certainly an ineffective leadership position, I’d argue that the lazy leader has an obligation to motivate his team despite his own personal struggles. I’m not sure what emotions or thoughts this concept is triggering in you personally, but I’ve worked with many leaders who struggle with this sort of challenge. Some leaders find themselves privately muddling through their daily responsibilities — which causes them to take a similar position to the liberal parent. They basically tell themselves: “How can I ask my team to be motivated when I’m not motivated myself?” In a twisted way, both the parent and the leader are drawing upon the feeling of hypocrisy. For “ethical” reasons they want to avoid being hypocritical, so they become permissive leaders.

The easy advice here is to tell both the leader and the parent to get their act together and to preach the corresponding behaviors to their followers. This is effective and morally sound, but it is difficult to practice at times. So in the meantime, leaders must preach what is good, no matter what. Interestingly enough, a third analogy makes this point clear: You want your doctor to give you good advice regardless of what she practices in her own life. If she tells you to cut out saturated fat and to quit smoking because it’s causing heart disease, it doesn’t matter whether or not her next act is to order a cheeseburger at a fast food joint and then smoke a cigarette. Her obligation is to advise you appropriately regardless of her personal practices.

In the early fourth century, the heresy of “Donatism” taught that priests who where in the state of mortal sin could not validly administer the sacraments. The Church rebuked this teaching. We know today that the state of a priest’s soul has no effect on the validity of the sacraments he provides. When it comes to preaching, we all know that it’s his obligation to teach the truth of moral conduct regardless of his own practices. He has the duty to provide the whole message regardless of his own personal shortcomings. Obviously, he will be more influential when he acts in accordance with the teachings of the Church, but either way he must deliver the truth in its fullest form.

As a leader, you will be challenged by your own moral struggles, but you must still encourage those you lead to pursue the highest standards. We all struggle. The only true hypocrite is the person who stops trying to improve. Being assigned a position of leadership doesn’t mean that you have arrived at perfection. It’s more likely that you demonstrate the character to improve or to recommit after you fall short. Give your team the gift of full conviction in high standards regardless of your past or current struggles — and then work toward them on your own.

Being aware of your own struggles will empower you with sensitivities to help others overcome their shortcomings in the same way that a spiritual director who receives the sacrament of Reconciliation regularly has the grace to help you — one sinner to another.

Dave Durand is the best-selling author of “Perpetual Motivation” and “Win the World Without Losing Your Soul.” He is a business executive and trainer of well over 100,000 individuals in sales, marketing and business management.