Friday, April 29, 2011

Leadership Presence

My attitude is ugly and my patience is wearing thin as I am sitting on my third cancelled flight of the day. I have a better chance of winning the lottery than I do catching the last connecting flight this evening back to Cleveland. It’s been a long few days on the road and I am not displaying very good leadership qualities at this particular moment. While I am not happy about sharing this part of my ugliness, I do think it is a clear demonstration of poor leadership presence.

Leadership presence is all about who we are “being.” That is such a unique word – being. Even when I say it out loud it sounds weird. “Being.” I am being negative. I am being tired. I am being grumpy. And that is just over my personal inconvenience of travel. 

Let’s take the discussion a bit deeper. What about the what happens in the boardroom? Have you ever been in a discussion where you were “being” something other than a leader? Maybe the idea wasn’t yours and you were being defensive. Maybe someone took credit for your work and you were being passive-aggressive. Maybe you were not excited about the conversation or additional workload and were simply being closed to the idea. Regardless of the specific situation, and I know you are thinking of one right now, “being” a leader is a choice we make. We (YOU) have total control over our leadership presence and how we are viewed by others. 

I bring up this painful reality simply because leadership presence is a competency I have focused considerable time on during my nearly two decades of leading teams. I have observed how leaders or aspiring leadership candidates can be their own worst enemies when it comes to career progression and/or development. Bosses and employees are looking to see how leaders respond in a crisis. They watch us when we are required to deliver bad news. They observe how we work in times of ambiguity. They monitor the good, the bad, and the ugly. Unfortunately, many of those data points and inputs script a career progression, not actual results or metric achievements. 

So the next time you are “being” something other than a leader, stop it! Acknowledge what or who you are being. Write it down and note what made you respond in that manner. Document what triggered your leadership presence. With that awareness you will be more apt to fix your perspective the next time a similar situation occurs. And don’t forget to do just that – FIX IT! Progression of competencies like leadership presence only occurs when we allow ourselves to fail and get better. Good luck!

As for me, I am off to see if I can display good leadership presence in order to get on a re-scheduled flight for tomorrow morning.  With any luck and a break in Mother Nature, I’ll be back at the office soon enough to go through another day of practicing leadership competencies. 


Scott Garchar
Division Service Manager
FedEx Custom Critical

Friday, April 8, 2011

Conflicted…about conflict.

So I made a very conscious effort this week to see how conflict is allowed, promoted or suppressed in our lives. I jotted down a few thoughts for you to ponder:

·         My week started with a message Sunday morning regarding “spurring one another on.” Talk about in my face. Hello conflict, how are you? The simple act of spurring brings up thoughts related to action, pain, direction, movement, speed, change, etc. Enough said…I got it. 

·         On Monday I spent several hours with a great mentor of mine. In a discussion focused on relationships, we spent time going through discomfort in order to grow. The chat progressed on to include a deep dive in speaking the truth. My friend challenged me to observe times of pain (in relationships) and ask myself whether I was speaking the truth. He gave some good words: “Live with honesty and truth in every moment.” This is hard to do – why should it be is the real question. Do we just give up as a society instead of allowing or even promoting discomfort?

·         Just yesterday I witnessed a really cool breakdown in a leadership staff meeting. I watched two very talented leaders challenge each other publicly…but stopped the discussion prior to speaking the truth. Why? Because it got sticky. We just don’t spend enough time practicing how to be truthful or honest in a respectful manner. Emotions take over and the discussion becomes personal. In this scenario, the meeting temperature dramatically changed and neither left satisfied or “closed.”

As the week comes to an end I am conflicted not only about conflict, but how we as a society have a fantastic opportunity to change our environment. In the last example, I followed up personally with both leaders to ask why they “stopped” the discussion. Guess what, both were frustrated and tired of the battle. Maybe one of the keys to conflict is prepping ourselves to handle it better (words to use, tone, body language), but also having the energy to conflict properly. 

I hope you all can find the energy, words and conviction to engage in healthy conflict. Please do so in order to spur one another along – and in a truthful, heartfelt manner. 

Good luck!
Regards, Scott

Scott Garchar
Division Service Manager
FedEx Custom Critical

Friday, April 1, 2011

Healthy Conflict

Is there such a thing? I’m not talking about conflict on the way to work, speeding down Route 8 to the office and giving other slower vehicles your version of sign language. No, I’m talking about real, healthy conflict at work.

Yes – healthy conflict. There is such a thing!

In Patrick Lencioni’s book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, the concept of “healthy conflict” is discussed. Conflict that pushes others to get on board with a new direction. Conflict that engages team members and helps communicate a key message. Conflict to grow beyond what you feel is possible. Conflict that brings in an audacious revenue goal or surpasses performance metrics and expectations. Even conflict that brings people together to mend a broken relationship. Good, healthy conflict separate from anger and disgruntlement.

I am fortunate to be a leader for FedEx Custom Critical, a transportation company located in nearby Uniontown, Ohio. At FedEx Custom Critical, many leaders intentionally set the atmosphere to engage in healthy conflict. We will often push our team members and direct reports to think on their own and make decisions through empowered processes. Whenever you empower others to make those decisions, there is the potential for varying viewpoints, which could create conflict. Cool, right? Well, not when being right is sometimes wrong or if your emotions come out sideways.

One key component to promoting healthy conflict is making sure the conflict is not personal. If you are debating a topic at the office, and specifically disagreeing because you feel you are right and they are wrong, abort the mission! A personal debate for the purpose of being right can become disastrous.

Several years ago I recall arguing with a peer in my director’s office where I felt (and convinced myself) that I was right and he was wrong. My director was in the room somewhat monitoring the dialogue and observed the tension developing by the sentence. The outcome? As I started seeing red (come on, you have all been there), my dialogue and conversation got a bit out of hand. I was speaking fast, arguing my points and taking shots where I could get them in. My director became so frustrated with my behavior that he actually left his office stating, “You are on your own on this one.”

I since have learned that while I may have been right, I damaged not only trust with my director, but also with the person I was engaging in conflict. I am sure you aren’t surprised. This is what happens when we are learning how to engage in healthy conflict. Sometimes, it just comes out sideways. And for what reason, just so I could feel better about being right and proving someone else wrong?

There are a few lessons learned here. First, I should have been better prepared mentally to engage in the conflict. I was tense going into the discussion and basically was picking a fight to prove I was correct. I should have planned my discussion and slept on it overnight – maybe even mind-mapped my conversation to make sure my discussion went smoothly. I also could have worked out or done some physical exercise to lower my energy and come into the meeting more focused. Instead, I was impatient and came in with my dukes up, wanting to get my point across at that moment.

The second lesson learned is that while I was engaging in conflict to better the mission of the business, it did not justify how I was behaving. In conflict, you can be honest, straight forward and deliver a tough message. I simply wasn’t mature enough at that moment to do that in a manner that wasn’t aggressive or hurtful. I should have been the leader in the situation (although I had the lowest ranking title in the room) and started the conversation, “Can I give you a different point of view?” Or I could have asked, “Is this a good time to give you an alternative solution?” Even when escalating up, there are appropriate ways to coach, direct or guide a conversation.

So when have you been in conflict at work? Again, not the sign language version on the road, but real good healthy conflict at the office? Was the conflict successful in producing the desired results? Is your company an organization that promotes conflict in order to drive positive change? How about you personally as either a peer or a leader? Do you set the tone and encourage the activity? Can you engage in conflict – even leading a conflicting discussion and not have any negative recourse? Have you ever sat back and analyzed how it went after you were done? Did you behave poorly, or did you lead the situation and negotiate the landmines?

Let me hear from a few of you and we can then take the discussion to another level.



Scott Garchar is the Operations Manager for the Air Expedite and Temperature Control Services department at FedEx® Custom Critical. Focusing on premium air transportation solutions, Scott’s team provides domestic and global shipping options for high value products to a variety of customers located throughout the world.

Scott has held numerous leadership positions during his 17 years of employment in the transportation industry. He has lead dynamic teams in the Surface Expedite, Marketing and Communications areas. Additionally, Scott was named business development manager for the company in 2002 and was instrumental in expanding FedEx Custom Critical service capabilities into and out of Mexico and other countries.